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Investors eyeing Europe for opportunities as it continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic have another reason to pump money in the region.
What’s happening: European Union leaders have agreed on a blockbuster stimulus deal following almost five days of fractious discussions in Brussels, described as some of the most divisive in years. The €750 billion ($858 billion) recovery plan includes €390 billion ($446 billion) in grants to struggling countries in the bloc, with the rest of the money made available as loans.
That’s lower than the €500 billion ($573 billion) in grants initially proposed by the European Commission. The headline figure was reduced to appease a group of fiscally conservative northern European nations — Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark — known as the “Frugal Four.”
But the agreement is still a huge show of unity and a big step toward the kind of strong fiscal coordination investors have long clamored for.
“With the biggest-ever effort of cross-border solidarity, the EU is sending a strong signal of internal cohesion,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, told clients Tuesday. “Near-term, the confidence effect can matter even more than the money itself.”
It bodes well that Germany and France — the two largest economies in the bloc — worked closely together on the initial proposal, Bert Colijn and Carsten Brzeski of ING added.
Investor insight: Though a deal had been anticipated by markets, assets in the region moved higher on the news. Benchmark stock indexes in Spain and Italy, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, both gained 2% in early trading, while the euro ticked up 0.1% to nearly $1.15. The currency has hit its highest level since early 2019 this week.
Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes thinks some investors may take profits on the euro in the near term. But he believes there could be a “more meaningful rally” starting in September in light of the agreement.
European stocks — which many investors have said are undervalued compared to their US peers — could get a boost, too.
Remember: Analysts have noted that while high-frequency data suggests the recovery has stalled in the United States, activity is still improving in Europe, which entered lockdown sooner. That means corporate earnings could be due for a faster recovery, especially with lots of stimulus cash now available.
Demand for European equity funds picked up for the week ending July 15, according to Goldman Sachs. The investment bank described the deal as “welcome, supporting our view that the European economy is well placed to recover from the Covid shock.”
“Given effective virus control, a strong rebound in the data and a favorable macro policy backdrop, we expect a steeper and smoother rebound in the Euro area than elsewhere, including the United States,” economists Alain Durré and Sven Jari Stehn told clients Tuesday.
So far, earnings aren’t as bad as expected
All things considered, second quarter earnings season isn’t going as badly as expected. Should the trend hold, it could lend support to the spectacular rally in US stocks, even as cases shoot up across much of the country and investors give European assets a second look.
See here: Just 9% of S&P 500 companies had reported earnings as of last Friday. But 73% beat Wall Street’s expectations of profit, according to FactSet analyst John Butters.
It’s early, but data shows that second quarter earnings season is outperforming the five-year average “in terms of companies beating on the top and bottom line,” said Nicholas Colas, cofounder of DataTrek Research.
Colas notes that margins in the tech sector are looking particularly robust, largely holding up despite the onset of a health and economic crisis.
Tech is the single most profitable US sector excluding real estate “by a long shot,” he said. This could support those investors who have bet the huge run-up in tech stocks can continue, driving the Nasdaq up 56% from its March low. The index rose 2.5% on Monday.
“While one can question the tech sector’s valuation, there is no argument that this group’s profitability is in a league of its own,” Colas said.
Earnings per share plunged 31% from the same period in the last year — but that’s not as bad as analysts had forecast. Cloud computing revenue was a bright spot, jumping 30% compared to last year.
Why Jack Ma’s Ant Group chose China for its IPO
One of the tech industry’s most highly anticipated IPOs is coming to China.
The latest: Jack Ma’s Ant Group announced Monday that its public offering will take place in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s Star Market, China’s answer to the Nasdaq, my CNN Business colleague Sherisse Pham reports.
The decision to shun Wall Street comes as Chinese companies are facing heightened scrutiny because of rising geopolitical tensions. And it’s a vote of confidence in Hong Kong, whose status as Asia’s premier financial hub is in doubt after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law.
A big deal: Ant owns Alipay, one of the most popular payment apps in China, and also offers online financial services such as loans, investments and credit scoring systems. The Hangzhou-based company is worth some $150 billion, according to CB Insights.
Ant is affiliated with e-commerce giant Alibaba, which raised a record $25 billion when it debuted on Wall Street in 2014 — still the world’s second largest IPO to date. The combined offering from Ant could also be one of the largest ever, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Watch this space: Ant’s announcement coincided with news that the Hang Seng will get a new index to track the 30 largest tech firms that trade in Hong Kong. The company would very likely be included.