Investing.com -- Saudi Arabia kicks off the Aramco IPO, McDonald's fires its CEO and Wilbur Ross makes nice on auto tariffs, sending Asian and European markets flying. Plus Christine Lagarde heads to the lions' den (Berlin) to deliver her first speech as head of the European Central Bank. Here's what you need to know in financial markets on Monday, 4th November.
1. Saudi Arabia starts Aramco IPO; details still unclear
Saudi Arabia finally started marketing the much-delayed initial public offering Saudi Aramco, the world’s most profitable company – albeit one whose vulnerabilities have been exposed in recent months by attacks on key infrastructure installations.
The kingdom is hoping to raise as much as $60 billion, at a valuation of $2 trillion. Bankers on the deal have routinely been cited saying that a valuation of between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion is more realistic. It isn’t clear yet whether the sellers will accept a lower price in order to raise more money, or whether they will prune the IPO size to defend their valuation.
For comparison, the $60 billion being sought is only a whisker less than the $62.8 billion in net inflows to U.S. stock funds in the whole of 2018 (figures from Morningstar), so it’s a fair bet that asset managers will be liquidating plenty of other positions to free up cash for Aramco, even though the listing will initially be confined to the local Tadawul index.
2. Ross Ignites Asian, European markets with trade talk
European and Asian markets flew higher in overnight trading after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross raised hopes that Washington will drop its threats of import tariffs on foreign cars.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Ross, who has previously taken a hard line in reducing the U.S.’s deficit in autos, referred to “very good conversations with our European friends, our Japanese friends, our Korean friends, and those are the major auto-producing sectors.”
"Our hope is that the negotiations we've been having ... will bear enough fruit that it may not be necessary to put the 232 [Section 232 of a 1962 trade law] fully into effect, may not even be necessary to put it partly in effect,” Ross added.
The comments drove Nikkei futures 1.2% higher (the cash market was closed for a national holiday), while Korea’s KOSPI rose 1.4%, with Europe’s Stoxx 600 and Germany’s auto-heavy DAX both hitting 22-month highs.
3. McDonalds punishes Easterbrook for side dish
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) said its board had voted to fire chief executive Steve Easterbrook over an affair – which it described as consensual – with an employee.
McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) shares have fallen over 10% in the last couple of weeks since the company reported stagnant sales and a drop in profits that reflected heavy investments aimed at keeping pace with changes in the restaurant sector, as customers increasingly opt for healthier items, and for delivery. Some of Easterbrook’s changes have been unpopular with franchisees, and the company has steadily lost market share in recent years to rivals such as Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG).
Even after the last two weeks' performance, the shares have doubled since Easterbrook took over in March 2015, outperforming other stalwarts of the sector such as Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) and Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR).
4. Stocks set to open at new record highs
U.S. stocks are set to post new record highs at the opening, as Commerce Secretary Ross’s comments add to the recent positive-sounding news on trade.
By 6: AM ET, Dow futures were up 129 points or 0.5%, while S&P 500 Futures were up 0.5% and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.6%
Heading today’s earnings roster is Uber, which reports after the closing bell. It’s expected to report a loss of 70 cents per shares on $3.63 billion in revenue, at a time when there’s a harsh spotlight on high-profile market debutants in the wake of the WeWork IPO fiasco and the sharp drop in Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) and Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) last week after investor lockups expired.
Also reporting are Marriott International, Ferrari, Occidental Petroleum, Sprint and Under Armour, the last of which was reported over the weekend to be the subject of federal investigations into its accounting practices.
5. Lagarde makes her ECB debut - in Berlin
Christine Lagarde will make her debut speech as president of the European Central Bank at 2:30 PM ET (1930 GMT).
The location and event are particularly piquant: she’ll be speaking in Berlin at an event to honor Wolfgang Schaeuble, the former German finance minister whose hard line in the repeated bailout crises of the euro zone earlier in the decade exposed the euro zone's most dangerous structural shortcomings.
As managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Lagarde repeatedly argued both for a more integrated fiscal policy at eurozone level, and for Germany in particular to stimulate growth with its own fiscal policy. Those calls fell on deaf ears for most of the time, but have gathered more support as the eurozone economy has stalled this year, not least due to a likely recession in Germany.