Volatility is back, according to the Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW) 1Q15 preview report released April 15.
KBW analysts cite global central bank divergence as the “single biggest catalyst” for the turn in volatility. The strong dollar and weaker euro have changed the near-term market outlook. With the U.S. anxiously awaiting new interest rate hikes and the first several weeks of the EU’s massive quantitative easing program underway, global monetary policy is more divergent than any time in recent memory.
Increased volatility isn’t necessarily a bad thing for earnings season, though.
“As we look toward first quarter earnings releases for the exchange and order execution stocks, we expect generally upbeat discussions about good operating environments for top-line growth,” KBW states in the report. “The overall trend has been generally positive, especially in rates, energy, corporate bonds, and foreign exchange asset classes,” they add.
Each asset class has responded to newfound market volatility differently. U.S. futures and U.S. IG corporate bond volumes were up roughly 10% year-over-year, thanks to interest rate volatility early in the quarter.
While some asset classes are doing well, others are struggling to pull themselves up.
U.S. exchange stocks are among these, though they were up 5% on average and outperformed last quarter, trading volume is low.
“We continue to look for this asset class to participate in the recovery in trading volume and volatility with the catalyst of a new rate environment later this year,” KBW states.
So are U.S. options. Volume fell 9% year-over-year, and cash equity ADV was flat. Despite this small setback, modest growth is expected before the end of 2015.
While estimates were lowered for a handful of prominent exchanges including the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and Nasdaq (NDAQ), bright spots remain.
For instance, ICE and NDAQ are expected to outperform in the coming months, despite a less-than-stellar start to the year.
“We think that ICE has good levers to deliver double digit earnings growth for the next couple of years helped by the recovered volatility in oil trading, the cost synergy delivery, and capital management,” the report writes.
KBW also raised estimates for several groups, including BGC Partners.
KBW’s “Outperform” rating for BGC comes following a bidding war, shareholder vote against a competing bid, and ultimate BGC acquisition of GFI Group.
BGC’s addition of 56% of GFI ownership to their portfolio has increased the group’s estimates.
“We think this deal could be significantly more accretive when BGCP is able to fully integrate the GFIF brokerage, which should also yield much higher cost synergies,” the report states. “We also look for a dividend increase of a couple of cents per quarter from BGC in the upcoming earnings release.”