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Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

As the following chart from Bloomberg shows, for six consecutive quarters,…

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This article was originally published by Zero Hedge
Third Quarter Earnings Season Begins Tomorrow: It Could Be Ugly

As the following chart from Bloomberg shows, for six consecutive quarters, earnings season provided the antidote to all the stock market ills (if not on fundamentals but because stock stubbornly tracked the relentless growth of the Fed's balance sheet which rose by $120BN every month like clockwork). But that perfect record is about to get its biggest test yet at a time when uncertainty is swirling among equity investors, and not just because a potentially ugly earnings season is on deck but because the Fed's liquidity cannon is about to see its first "tapering" since the covid pandemic unleashed trillions and trillions in liquidity.

Looking back, the large and persistent earnings beats over the last 5 quarters...

... prompted record upgrades to forward earnings estimates.

The market has moved higher in lockstep with these upgrades...

... leaving the forward multiple remarkably flat at very elevated levels since May of last year. And as Deutsche Bank's Binky Chadha warns, "the market is priced for these large beats and upgrades to continue" but can Q3 earnings season deliver?

And so, as jittery investors brace to comb through the corporate tea leaves for clarity on everything from the impact of rising rates and commodity inflation to broken supply chains, setting the stage for a particularly dramatic serving of results, below we take a loot at what Wall Street expects as 3Q earnings kick off tomorrow when JPM reports bright and early.

Following another huge beat in 2Q, 3Q EPS has risen 3% over the past three months to $49.06 (+27% YoY), down from an eye-popping 94% Y/Y surge in Q2; typically this estimate falls by 4% into the quarter. According to BofA, consensus forecasts imply the 2-year growth rate falling sharply to +16% vs. +27% in 2Q amid supply chain issues and the delta variant-driven slowdown (the just released news about Apple slashing its iPhone production due to chip shortages being the latest case in point).

In a conspicuous break from the last 4 quarters which saw upgrades, DB notes that Q3 consensus estimates are being downgraded ahead of the earnings season, marking a return to what has been the historical norm. Downgrades have largely been driven by the pandemic-loser group on delta variant concerns, and by insurers following the impacts of hurricane Ida. But even excluding these lumpy impacts, estimates have stayed flat in contrast to the upgrades of recent quarters.

As is typical, the consensus sees a drop in earnings sequentially (-4.5% qoq excluding loan loss provisions)...

... with nearly all sector groups seeing declines. But that's usually the case and in the end, earnings growth usually comes in positive.

Cutting to the chase, DB notes that amidst a macro backdrop that is a little less supportive than over the last 4 quarters, the bank sees earnings continuing to rise but only modestly so (+1.5% qoq), beating consensus by 6%, far lower than the 14-20% range of the last 5 quarters and closer to the historical average beat of 5%

Expect no beat this quarter

In Q2, S&P500 companies delivered another monstrous beat topping consensus by 17%. With the strong beat, 3Q EPS estimates have risen 3% over the past three months, but BofA sees increased headwinds heading into 3Q, primarily driven by supply chain issues, delta-driven slowdown, and continued inflationary pressure.

That said, while there are reasons to be cautious, earnings misses are extremely rare: since 2009, there have been only two quarters (out of 50) when earnings missed consensus (2Q11 & 1Q20). And with consensus expecting a meaningful moderation in the 2-year growth rate to 16% from 27%, BofA's 3Q EPS estimate is in line with consensus, representing the worst earnings season since COVID and below the historical median beat of 3.5%.

BofA generally agrees with DB, and expects earnings to come in in-line with consensus and revises its 3Q EPS down by $2 (to $49) and 4Q by $1. But, as has been the case for much of the past year, one of the top questions will be around guidance (which started to soften) and 2022 EPS will be revised lower.

Another core question: who is best positioned to weather the surging input costs: “What we are going to be laser-focused on in this earnings season is pricing power,” said Giorgio Caputo, senior portfolio manager at J O Hambro Capital Management. “What we’re seeing is that getting the machine back up and running -- those who thought it would be an easy quick fix are being disappointed now.”

Which leads us to the most important variable of Q3 season: profit margins. As we noted at the time, although margins expanded to record highs in 2Q, companies highlighted increasing difficulties passing through cost inflation. Since then, issues have worsened: supply chain news stories increased 74% and freight rates from China rose 20%...

... with record backlogs at the West Coast Ports. In 3Q, we also saw a near-record number of profit warnings stories (third highest since 2011), only after 4Q15 and 1Q19.

In those quarters, earnings beat consensus by 0.6% and 4.9%, respectively, but subsequent quarter earnings were revised down by 9.3% and 2.2% mostly due to supply issues.Incidentally, we predicted that this would happen.

To be sure, consumer demand remains robust but soaring inflation poses downside risks. While analysts have baked in margin  contraction this quarter (non-Financials net margins -70bps QoQ), both BofA and Morgan Stanley see big risks to 2022 numbers, where analysts expect record margins, an outcome which is virtually impossible unless all the input cost inflation is passed through to consumers.

It's not just broken supply chains: wages are surging too; indeed as BofA writes, "wage inflation is just as big of a headwind (if not
bigger)" than supply chains. The BEA estimates wages are as much as 40% of total private sector costs. At the same time, slowing China and its property sector issues also pose risks to US multinationals. And while higher oil prices have historically been positive for S&P earnings (every 100bps move up in WTI added 50bps to S&P earnings growth), but Energy companies’ capital discipline could translate to a lower earnings multiplier (i.e. less revenue for energy capex beneficiaries). Soaring gas prices also add pressure to Chemicals and Utilities. In other words, higher oil could be a headwind rather than a tailwind this time.

Mentions of “inflation” on 2Q earnings calls topped 1Q levels and jumped to a record high, based on BofA's Predictive Analytics team’s analysis. On a YoY basis, inflation mentions rose more than 900% YoY, in line with the increase we saw last quarter.

Notably, supply chain mentions rose the most among inflation categories tracked in 2Q, more than doubling YoY (along with labor mentions). Since then, supply chain issues have worsened: news stories on “supply chain” increased 74% since the 2Q earnings season according to Bloomberg, and freight rates from China also rose 20% (Exhibit 10)

And yet, amid all these rising margin risks, analysts are expecting margins to hit a new peak in 2022!

Consistent with recent developments, consensus does point to a 70bps drop in net margins (ex-Fins) to 12.0% in 3Q, which does reflect some conservatism. However, they then expect the margin compression to stop there – with flattish margins in 4Q21, and expanding margins in 2022 to new record highs (above 2018 peaks).

Analysts expect margins to hit new highs in 4 of 10 sectors, excluding Financials (Exhibit 14). BofA disagrees and expects current headwinds to last well into 2022, and sees risk to consensus numbers.

As the bank cautions, "analysts have consistently underestimated margins over the past five quarters, but given the worsened macro environment for corporate profits (more below), we do not expect those big margin beats to repeat in 3Q."

And with good reason: the early reporters have shared mixed data at best. So far, 21 companies (primarily “early reporters” with August quarter-end) have reported 3Q results. Early reporters are concentrated in Consumer, Tech and Industrials, but can often give a read on the full quarter’s results: BofA has found a 71% correlation between the proportion of early reporter beats on EPS and sales and the proportion of full-quarter beats on EPS and sales. So far, 67% have beaten on EPS, 76% on sales and 57% on both. This is weaker than last quarter (67%/94%/67%), but still above the historical average (since 2012) of 70%  EPS beats, 63% sales beats and 49% both beats. The median EPS beat so far has been 4.0%.

More ominously, BofA's 3-month guidance ratio (# of above- vs. below-consensus guidance instances) sharply fell from a record high to 2.6x in September, albeit it remains well above the historical average of 0.8x. The more volatile 1-mo. guidance ratio also fell to 1.2x, representing the lowest level since Jun 2020, as companies warned about rising inflationary pressure. Meanwhile, guidance instances have picked up to the highest level in a decade in September.

But perhaps the most troubling indication of what to expect comes from companies themselves after what BofA notes was peak corporate sentiment. According to BofA’s Predictive Analytics team overall, corporate sentiment dipped from a record high, potentially indicating peak corporate sentiment amid inflation concerns and the Delta variant. Consumer sectors had the weakest sentiment compared to their own history, while Materials and Real Estate had the worst sentiment on an absolute basis.

Similarly, companies' mentions of business conditions (ratio of mentions of "better" or "stronger" vs. "worse" or "weaker") indicate slightly weaker business conditions vs. the peak level last quarter. Mentions of optimism also plummeted from record highs in the prior two quarters.

Putting it all together, below is a handy list of what to expect courtesy of Deutsche Bank:

  • The macro backdrop is a little less supportive. After having been strongly positive for over a year, data surprises turned negative in late-July. Earnings estimate revisions have historically been tied to data surprises. Consensus Q3 GDP estimates have also been revised downwards from over 7% at the end of Jul to 5% now. DB economists also cut their Q3 GDP forecast for growth from 8.9% to 4.7% in early September. The sales-weighted G4 manufacturing PMI, a preferred measure of global growth, rose sharply from its trough of 42.4 in Q2 2020 to 59.3 in Q2 2021. In Q3 so far, it has stayed flat (Jul-Aug average of 59.4). The US dollar is also up slightly in Q3 after 4 quarters of declines.
  • Secular growers (MCG+ Tech) earnings likely to flatten at an elevated level. Earnings for MCG+ Tech have been boosted well above trend by a broad cyclical lift as well as from being direct beneficiaries given the realities of the pandemic. The cyclical component which is tied to global growth and the US dollar is likely to stay flat. With re-opening having gathered steam through the quarter, the idiosyncratic pandemic-related benefit should arguably start to wane, but even if the full benefit were to remain intact, it would still point to earnings overall staying largely flat (0.4%). With consensus seeing a drop (-4.5%), DB sees a beat of about 5.2%, a sharp slowdown from the 10-17% beats they posted over the last 5 quarters, but in line with the historical average of 6%. Notably, earnings remaining flat would also mean a modest move back towards their historical trend with the gap shrinking from a record +25% in Q2 to +22% in Q3.
  • Cyclicals earnings almost back to trend. The consensus sees losses for the pandemic losers diminishing in Q3 (-$6.6bn to -$2.4bn) as mobility rose albeit not as quickly as initially expected. Outside of the direct pandemic losers, the rest of the cyclicals in our view should continue to post modest growth (+1.7% qoq sa) as activity levels remain robust at elevated levels. Consensus sees earnings for cyclicals declining modestly (-0.4%), implying a beat of 8%, a sharp slowdown from the 14-38% range seen in the past four quarters, but ahead of the historic average level of 5.2%. If realized, cyclicals earnings would be almost back to their pre-pandemic trend, a strong and fast recovery after being over 70% below in Q2 last year
  • Defensives earnings likely to move back down towards trend. Earnings for the defensives were significantly above trend in Q2 (+7%), as they continued to benefit from a pandemic boost. We see earnings retrace halfway back to trend in Q3 implying a modest  (-1.5% qoq sa) decline, while the consensus sees a larger -6.3% drop, pointing to a potential 5.1% beat in the quarter. If realized, this would be the weakest aggregate beat since the start of the pandemic, which has seen surprises in the 7-18% range, but at about the average level of pre-pandemic beats (historical average of 4.4%).
  • Financials to continue posting outsized beats as benign credit costs remain a tailwind. Banks released large amounts from loan loss reserves in the past two quarters ($13.8bn in Q1 and $9.5bn in Q2), boosting earnings, and that is expected to continue given benign credit conditions. However, the consensus sees banks adding to reserves in Q3 ($3.8bn). Moreover, excluding loan-loss provisions the consensus sees earnings fall to the bottom of their 2013-19 trend channel. Together this points to a massive 29% beat again this quarter, in line with the 13-36% range of the last five quarters and way ahead of the typical +4.2% average.
  • Energy. Oil prices have risen from $69/bbl in Q2 to $73/bbl in Q3 on average. The consensus forecasts Energy sector earnings to grow 22.5% (qoq) in Q3, which is somewhat ahead of what is implied by the increase in oil prices. DB sees lower earnings growth of 12.8% qoq, which could see the sector miss (-8%) in the quarter, in contrast with the solid double digit beats of the past four quarters and a historic average beat of 6.4%. Energy earnings beats historically have tended to be extremely volatile.
  • Overall beats to remain robust but returning towards the historical norm. DB sees earnings for the S&P 500 rising modestly by +0.8% and EPS coming in at $53.6/share in Q3 2021. This compares with the consensus at $49.2/share, or a beat of 9%, significantly lower than the 14-21% range of the last 5 quarters. Excluding the outsized contribution from lumpy loan-loss reserve changes, DB expects a beat of 6.3%, close to the historical average of 5% and compares to the 10-21% range of the last 5 quarters

In conclusion, and as noted earlier, huge beats and upward revisions kept the forward consensus rising steeply over the last 15 months according to DB's Chadha. Since then, consensus estimates for 2021 have edged slightly lower over the last few weeks (-0.2%), while 2022 estimates have flat-lined. The 4 quarter ahead growth rate of consensus estimates has now fallen to the steady pre-pandemic average (around 14%). In the absence of upgrades, current forecasts point to the growth rate falling well below (11%) over the next 2-3 quarters. As beats and forward earnings look to be returning to historical norms, will forward valuations follow?

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/12/2021 - 18:55

Economics

Larry Summers Slams “Woke” Fed “Losing Control” Of Inflation

Larry Summers Slams "Woke" Fed "Losing Control" Of Inflation

You know it’s bad when you’ve lost Larry Summers…

It appears the so-called…

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Larry Summers Slams "Woke" Fed "Losing Control" Of Inflation

You know it's bad when you've lost Larry Summers...

It appears the so-called 'progressives' push to ever more signaling of their virtue and cradle-to-grave dependence on bigger and bigger government (as long as you 'obey' the narrative) is just too much for the former Treasury Secretary who warned that monetary policy makers in the U.S. and elsewhere for paying too much attention to social issues and not enough to the biggest risk to inflation since the 1970s.

Speaking to a virtual conference organized by the Institute of International Finance, Summers rebuffed the newly 'woke' Fed:

“We have a generation of central bankers who are defining themselves by their wokeness,” Summers, who is now a professor at Harvard University, said on Wednesday.

They’re defining themselves by how socially concerned they are.

Read that again and consider the source - Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary and head of the National Economic Council in the early years of the Obama administration!!

His fear is simple: Fed talking heads are too focused on social justice that they are taking their eye off the ball that is their mandated job of managing inflation and jobs.

“We’re in more danger than we’ve been during my career of losing control of inflation in the U.S.,” the 66-year-old Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg, said.

“We’ve gone even further towards losing it in Britain and I think we’re at some risk in Europe.”

Summers also - quite ironically for someone who has supported fiscal expansion as a means of promoting macroeconomic stability - blamed the Fed and other central banks for not preparing investors for the tough steps policy makers will probably have to take to rein in inflation.  

“If those actions come, they’re going to be very shocking and very painful in financial markets,” he said.

This is not the first time Summers has raised a red flag. As James Caton writes at The American Institute for Economic Research, in February, Summers participated in a discussion with Paul Krugman where he outlined his concerns. He notes that:

  1. The stimulus of 2020 was about twice the size of the output gap in the same year. The proposed stimulus for 2021 was, at the time, 4 times the size of the projected output gap.

  2. Unemployment compensation provided to the bottom 30% of earners was more than double their losses from Covid-19.

Elsewhere, Summers explains that the current labor shortage will drive up wages and that we have already seen monthly rents for new tenants increase by 17 percent, on average, above the rents paid by previous tenants. 

Summers believes that the “toxic side effects of QE” are not being recognized by policymakers. In an interview, Larry Summers used a rather peculiar metaphor to describe this situation.:

So, I look at that dwindling hole. Then I look at expenditures that aren’t hard to add into the multiple trillions, and I see substantial risk that the amount of water being poured in vastly exceeds the size of the bathtub.

When I heard Summers use this metaphor, my mind was drawn to a passage I first read over a decade ago from Benjamin Anderson in his reflection on the Great Depression. In referring to monetary policy that preceded the initiation of the Great Crash in October 1929, he wrote:

When a bathtub in the upper part of the house has been overflowing for five minutes, it is not difficult to turn off the water and mop up. But when the bathtub has been overflowing for several years, the walls and the spaces between ceilings and floors have become full of water, and a great deal of work is required to get the house dry. Long after the faucet is turned off, water still comes pouring in from the walls and from the ceilings. It was so in 1928 and 1929. 

Consistent with both statements is the belief that the monetary policy provided more stimulus than was merited by prevailing economic conditions. And consistent with Summers’ belief that excessive monetary support can be toxic, Anderson bemoans the extensive damage that can occur when the water spigot is left on for too long.

Instead of racial 'equity' or climate change, The Fed needs to concentrate on monetary policy. This is a serious job that requires serious focus. Perhaps Summers recognizes that the post-2008 monetary framework has created a fiscal Fed. Or maybe he will. 

Summers’ demands for limits to the aims of monetary policy might be politically feasible under the old Volcker-Greenspan regime. Under that monetary regime, inflationary pressure placed strict limits on the expansion of the balance sheet. The political incentives now faced by both politicians and Fed officials promote precisely the sort of oversized fiscal expansions that we have observed in the last two years, the same expansions that Summers decries. 

The post-2008 framework has incentivized the destabilization of monetary policy. The sooner we recognize this fact, the sooner we can seriously discuss a solution to the problem.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/14/2021 - 19:40
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Economics

Treasury Official Warns Using Stablecoins For Payments “Raises A Whole Set Of Issues”

Treasury Official Warns Using Stablecoins For Payments "Raises A Whole Set Of Issues"

As bitcoin prices surge in anticipation of the SEC finally…

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Treasury Official Warns Using Stablecoins For Payments "Raises A Whole Set Of Issues"

As bitcoin prices surge in anticipation of the SEC finally approving a bitcoin ETF (after years of turning down one application after another), one top crypto regulator from Treasury - Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang - offered a frank explanation for why the Treasury Department sees stablecoins as an important locus for crypto regulation. The issue is that stablecoins solve a critical problem for crypto: they're rarely volatile, by design. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that tether, one of the biggest stablecoins, appears to be a massive Ponzi scheme. Although it saw some volatility in response, on Thursday, tether was trading right around $1.

Why is it that tether didn't collapse after being accused of being a Ponzi scheme (not like this is even the first time)? Because stable coins like tether have become a central part of the crypto-trading economy, allowing traders to move easily into and out of positions in different coins without ever needing to re-convert their crypto to US dollars. As Liang put it, stablecoins play a "foundational" role in the crypto economy. While they're mostly used for trading right now, the Treasury is keeping a close eye on whether stablecoins start being used for commerce, something that might trigger a backlash from the Treasury since it would be a sign that a real competitor to the US dollar might actually be emerging.

As Liang added, stablecoins being used for payments (like Mark Zuckerberg infamously tried to do) "raises a whole set of issues".

“We believe they’re kind of foundational to crypto and future crypto services,” Liang said Thursday during a virtual event sponsored by the Institute of International Finance. “They’re being used mostly for crypto trading currently. They also have the potential and have started to be used for payments -- and may be widely used for payments, and that raises a whole set of issues that the President."

“They’re being used mostly for crypto trading currently. They also have the potential and have started to be used for payments -- and may be widely used for payments, and that raises a whole set of issues that the President’s Working Group wanted to focus on,” she said.

At this point, more regulation for the crypto community seems virtually inevitable with Janet Yellen running Treasury and Gary Gensler running the SEC. President Biden and his advisors have even considered imposing an entire new regulatory framework for crypto via executive fiatn (no pun intended).

Liang  is a member of the President's Working Group on crypto regulation. For those who aren't familiar with it, the working group includes the heads of Treasury and several other federal agencies. The group is planning to issue a report on stablecoins by the end of the month. In addition to the policy-setting team, the DoJ has put together a task force to combat cryptocurrency-related crime as well.

Media reports have suggested that the Biden Administration plans to regulate stablecoins like banks. He's also reportedly considered hiring a "crypto czar"

But whatever happens, keep in mind: whatever lip-service federal policymakers give about stablecoins (including the FedCoin which is being studied by the central bank) being a key part of innovation, in reality, they see it as one thing: a threat.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/14/2021 - 19:20
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Economics

US stocks close higher on strong earnings reports

Benchmark US indices closed higher on Thursday October 14 boosted by strong quarterly results of major banks and upbeat economic data that helped alleviate…

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Benchmark US indices closed higher on Thursday, October 14, boosted by strong quarterly results of major banks and upbeat economic data that helped alleviate investors’ concerns.

The S&P 500 was up 1.71% to 4438.26. The Dow Jones rose 1.56% to 34912.56. The NASDAQ Composite rose 1.73% to 14823.43, and the small-cap Russell 2000 climbed 1.44% to 2274.18.

The US stock market has been volatile in recent weeks over concerns about inflation, rising energy costs, and economic slowdown. Money-managers interviewed by Wall Street Journal have downplayed Thursday’s rally, stressing that markets could expect more bumpy road ahead.

On Thursday, the Labor Department said that US jobless claims fell to 293,000 in the week ended Oct 9 from 329,000 in the previous week.

Basic materials and technology stocks were the top gainers on the S&P 500. All the 11 stock segments of the index rose on Thursday. Industrials, financials, healthcare, and real estate stocks were among the top movers, while consumer non-cyclicals, energy, and utilities were the bottom movers. Investors were motivated by strong quarterly results of major banks reported Thursday.

The Bank of America Corporation (BAC) stock jumped more than 4% after reporting strong third-quarter results before the opening bell. Its revenue rose by 12% to US$22.8 billion in the quarter.

Global investment bank Citigroup, Inc. (C) stock  rose 0.75% in intraday trading after reporting a 48% jump in third-quarter net revenue to US$4.6 billion, boosted by lower credit costs. CEO Jane Fraser said higher consumer spending and growing engagement across digital channels lifted the results.

Shares of Morgan Stanley (MS) jumped 2.67% in intraday trading after its revenue rose to US$14.8 billion in the quarter from US$11.7 billion a year ago. Its net income also rose to US$3.7 billion from US$2.7 billion in the same period last year.

Wells Fargo & Company (WFC) stock fell 2% after reporting revenue decline in the quarter. It fell by 2% YoY to US$18.83 billion. Its net income rose to US$5.12 billion from US$3.2 billion a year ago.

Domino's Pizza, Inc. (NYSE: DPZ) stock was down 0.30% after reporting its quarterly results. Its net income rose 21.5% YoY to US$21.3 million, in the third quarter, helped by strong global retail sales. However, its same-store sales in the US dropped 1.9% YoY.

In healthcare stocks, UnitedHealth Group Inc (NYSE: UNH) jumped 3.93% after raising its full-year guidance. Its third-quarter revenue beat Wall Street forecast. It was up 11% YoY to US$72.3 billion.

In technology stocks, Taiwan chipmaker TSMC (TSM) rose 1.95% in intraday trading after its third-quarter net profit surged 13.8% to US$5.56 billion on strong global demand for semiconductors.

Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) rallied more than 7% after the pharmacy chain reported a revenue boost of 12.8% to US$34.3 billion from the year-ago quarter. It also announced to acquire a controlling stake in primary-care network VillageMD.

Also Read: Wells Fargo (WFC), Morgan Stanley (MS) Q3 profits beat estimates

Also Read: UnitedHealth (UNH) raises guidance on strong Q3 growth, revenue up 11%

Industrials, financials, healthcare, and real estate were among the top movers, while consumer non-cyclicals, energy, and utilities were the bottom movers. 

Also Read: Fed signals bond-purchase taper by mid-Nov as inflation worries weigh

Futures & Commodities

Gold futures were up 0.15% to US$1,797.35 per ounce. Silver was up 1.71% to US$23.567 per ounce, while copper rose 2.08% to US$4.6098.

Brent oil futures increased by 1.25% to US$84.22 per barrel and WTI crude was up 1.28% to US$81.47.

Bond Market

The 30-year Treasury bond yields fell 1.05% to 2.020, while the 10-year bond yields declined 2.25% to 1.514.

US Dollar Futures Index decreased by 0.10% to US$93.983.

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