S&P 500 Rallies As U.S. Dollar Pulls Back Towards Weekly Lows

Key Insights
The strong pullback in the U.S. dollar provided significant support to stocks.
Treasury yields have pulled back after touching new highs, which served as an additional positive catalyst for S&P 500.
A move above 3730 will push S&P 500 towards the resistance level at 3760.
Advertisement

Pfizer Rallies After Announcing A Huge Price Hike For Its COVID-19 Vaccines
S&P 500 is currently trying to settle above 3730 as traders’ appetite for risk is growing. The U.S. dollar has recently gained strong downside momentum as the BoJ intervened to stop the rally in USD/JPY. Weaker U.S. dollar is bullish for stocks as it increases profits of multinational companies and makes U.S. equities cheaper for foreign investors.

The leading oil services company Schlumberger is up by 9% after beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Schlumberger’s peers Baker Hughes and Halliburton have also enjoyed strong support today.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna gained strong upside momentum after Pfizer announced that it will raise the price of its coronavirus vaccine to $110 – $130 per shot.

Biggest losers today include Verizon and Twitter. Verizon is down by 5% despite beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Subscriber numbers missed estimates, and traders pushed the stock to multi-year lows.

Twitter stock moved towards the $50 level as the U.S. may conduct a security review of Musk’s purchase of the company.

From a big picture point of view, today’s rebound is broad, and most market segments are moving higher. Treasury yields have started to move lower after testing new highs, providing additional support to S&P 500. It looks that some traders are ready to bet that Fed will be less hawkish than previously expected.

S&P 500 Tests Resistance At 3730

S&P 500 has recently managed to get above the 20 EMA and is trying to settle above the resistance at 3730. RSI is in the moderate territory, and there is plenty of room to gain additional upside momentum in case the right catalysts emerge.

If S&P 500 manages to settle above 3730, it will head towards the next resistance level at 3760. A successful test of this level will push S&P 500 towards the next resistance at October highs at 3805. The 50 EMA is located in the nearby, so S&P 500 will likely face strong resistance above the 3800 level.

On the support side, the previous resistance at 3700 will likely serve as the first support level for S&P 500. In case S&P 500 declines below this level, it will move towards the next support level at 3675. A move below 3675 will push S&P 500 towards the support at 3640.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

How to Analyse Financial Performance in Investment Property

When looking at a commercial property of any type you need to spend time on the financial aspects of the property before you form an opinion about the price that you think that you can achieve. The financial aspects of the property can have a major impact on the price and or the interest of purchasers. The financial aspects of a building or a property can impact the asset for many years and for this reason must be analysed and identified.We have detailed some of the major aspects of financial concern in a property purchase or sale scenario. Whilst these are not the only categories of activity and concern, they are the major ones in most circumstances.We recommend that you create a checklist from these items so that your property review and inspection process is suitably enhanced and professional.The Asset Schedules: The property will contain many fixed and moveable assets. These will normally be detailed on the asset register. A well maintained commercial property will have an up to date asset register for your review. Obtaining the asset register at the early stage of sale consideration is productive as it will tell you in detail what you are selling and later become part of the due diligence process.

Bank and Personal Guarantees: An investment property comprises leases and other documents which support tenant occupancy. A normal leasing process would involve and create some form of guarantee to be provided by the tenant to the landlord for the duration of the lease. It is important that this guarantee has both strength and substance to reimburse the landlord in situations where the tenant defaults under the terms of the lease. At the time of property sale, these guarantee documents should have some form of ability to be transferred or re-issued to the incoming purchaser. This process is called an assignment of the guarantees. You should consult with the landlord’s solicitor to identify the types of guarantees involved and the ease in which this can be achieved at time of sale.

Capital Expenditure: Major items of plant and equipment which are replaced in a commercial property are usually regarded as capital expenditure and are separately itemised for the purposes of taxation and depreciation over a period of time. Taxation laws in your location will stipulate the depreciation terms as they apply to different types of capital expenditure. For example, a computer that is purchased for the building control system will depreciate far quicker than the air handling unit which was purchased for the air conditioning plant. Well maintained property records will include a detailed capital expenditure register and the date at which the capital item was purchased. Purchasers to the property will be interested in the depreciation that this register provides against the cash flow in coming years.

Taxation and GST: Every country and property location has its own unique taxation laws and requirements relating to property and particularly investment property. In the sale process, it is important to understand that these matters have been correctly handled and are up to date. It is sometimes necessary to view the net returns for the property for the last few years that were applied to the taxation statements and lodgement process. You can also seek written confirmation from the owner of the property that all taxation matters are up to date.

Income and Rent Analysis: The income for the property is a reflection of the leases and occupancy licences therein. It is essential to understand that the rent has been collected in accordance with the leases or licences and that all rental matters are up to date. Part of this process will also involve the checking of the rent review profile and the expiry profile of all leases. A property with a volatile leases or leases that are soon to expire is likely to impact the price or the buyer interest. When reviewing tenant occupancy against leases, you should review the original documents and cross reference this to the tenancy schedule and any discussions or information provided by the landlord.

Independent Valuation: Many property owners will obtain a valuation regularly in support of their property financing package. It is not unusual for such valuations to occur annually. Importantly they are done by a qualified and registered valuer. If you view this documentation and take it into account in the pricing process for the property, it is wise to consider the true independence of the valuation when it was done and its relevance to the current market. Some valuations for financing purposes may not be in parity with the existing market conditions. It pays to sometimes seek a true independent valuation at the time of sale or in preparation for sale.

Land tax issues: Property land tax has a direct impact on the investment aspects of commercial real estate. In different locations, the recovery and payment of land tax is impacted uniquely by local legislation. In some circumstances the land tax can or cannot be recovered from the tenants within the property. This will have immediate impact on the bottom line and net return from the property; this then impacts the price. Consulting with the financial adviser for the owner of the property, or the taxation office, will achieve clarity in this taxation impact. Given that most agents and brokers are not taxation experts, you should involve other professional taxation people as appropriate.

Lease disputes: Rarely is there a property that does not have an existing lease dispute or has been impacted by a previous lease dispute. For this reason it pays to question the matters of lease dispute and resolution. If in doubt, seek a copy of correspondence and any subsequent agreement between the appropriate parties. Unresolved lease disputes can jeopardise or slow the process of property sale.

Mortgaged interests: Most commercial real estate properties will have a mortgage of some type to a financier. When a mortgage exists, it is necessary to understand how it will be handled or discharged in the process of sale. The client should consult with the mortgagee to clarify these matters for you. In a situation of distressed properties, the sale of the property may need to realise a particular price before clear title can be achieved.

Operational expenditure: The running of a commercial property will involve the operational expenditure attributed to running costs. Most of properties of particular types in the same location will have similar operational expenditure. If however a property has excessive operational expenditure which is above the averages in the area, then the property is likely to be difficult to sell. Most purchasers of properties understand the averages of property expenditure deemed to be realistic for each property. This also says that real estate agents and brokers should be well aware of the expenditure averages and analysis process that should apply in this situation. Operational expenditure is analysed on the basis of $’s per m2 or $’s per ft2 (depending on your location, monetary base, and country)

Statutory charges: These are commonly referred to as rates and taxes. These will involve matters such as water rates, land tax, council rates, and any other form of charge which is raised by the statutory bodies. Importantly the charges so raised must be analysed for parity to similar properties in the same region. Part of the rating process involves a statutory valuation of the land on which the building and property is located. Whilst some property owners like to think that their valuation is high and justifiable (and therefore gives substance to the sale price of the property), it is this valuation that is the foundation for the charging and payment of statutory charges. The astute property investor will always question this statutory valuation undertaken by rating bodies in an endeavour to restrict or lessen the amount of statutory rates and charges paid each year.

Rent reviews: A significant concern in the sale of a property is the size and stability of future rent reviews. It is the rent reviews which will underpin the cash flow and hence the attractiveness of the property to purchasers. It is essential that the real estate broker or agent read all of the leases, before any assessment of price or method of sale is given. It is quite possible that the rent reviews projected and detailed in the leases can either hinder or attract purchasers to the property.

Rent arrears: Existing rent arrears should be identified with the owner of a property. Any matters of associated legal pursuit should also be identified. It is possible that the property has had a history of rent arrears and instability. Look for these matters and question the cash flow stability. A history of financial performance from the property over the last few years is the best way to achieve this.

Current building budget: This will involve a budget of income and expenditure as it applies to the building currently in the existing financial year. A good building budget will be written and supported by sound property strategy, projections, and controls. At the time of any potential property sale, it is important to understand that the current financial performance is in line with the expected building budget. If there are any shortcomings or overflows, it is necessary to clarify the reasons for such. If you do not do this, the purchaser of the property will.

The side agreements or deeds: Property occupancy and usage can involve supplementary side agreements and deeds. This can be with tenants or neighbouring properties. Documents of this nature will have impact in the sale even though they may not be registered on the title of the property that you are to sell. Documents of this nature will usually be supported by aspects of common law. If in any such arrangements exist, you must seek further detail and clarity as to how they will be handled at the time of sale. One of the common events here is the existence of rental incentives provided to tenants at the commencement of the lease. When these situations exist, the most common method of resolve is the discharging of the arrangement by the landlord prior to settlement. This can become a term of the contract.

Sinking funds: It is not uncommon for sinking funds to exist on larger properties. The fund is essentially established to set aside money to cover the cost of major items of repairs and maintenance. This would not normally include items of a capital nature. As an example, sinking funds may be used to cover the cost of painting the exterior of a large building such as a shopping centre every five years. If a sinking fund exists, it is important to understand how it will be handled at the time of sale. Consultation with the client’s solicitor and accountant is essential to the process.

Taxation depreciation schedules: The property will have a taxation depreciation schedule. When correctly maintained, these schedules have the ability to lessen the net property income in forthcoming years. This is an immediate taxation benefit to the purchaser of the property who will assume the depreciation schedule as part of the sale and settlement. As the broker or agent in the sale you should check the existence of such documentation and identify what benefits it brings to the sale process. A well constructed and detailed depreciation schedule will make the property sale more attractive.

Short term leases: Many properties have short term leases or casual occupancy active at any point in time. It is vital to know the mechanism under which this occupancy occurs and how it will be terminated. You do not want a short-term occupancy to jeopardise the stability and processes of the sale.

Un-documented lease occupancy: Some may call this a casual lease; however a casual lease can create concern and uncertainty in the process of sale. Some tenants may claim a long-term occupancy from the existence of a previous casual lease arrangement with the landlord. Claims of this type must naturally satisfy the requirements of law to be sustained or upheld by the courts; however you should be cautious in such circumstances given that it can slow down or even jeopardise the sale process.

Warranties and guarantees: When properties are constructed, the normal process of warranties and performance guarantees apply from the construction process. At the time of sale, you need to know if any such matters apply or exist. Copy of the documentation is essential. Further to this, in an existing building where recent fit out activity has created newly constructed premises, it is likely that warranties and guarantees exist for the tenancy construction. These will transfer to the new owner of the property in most circumstances however the documentation to allow this to occur must be suitably constructed. This is a matter for the solicitor acting for the client.

Utilities costs and supply: Every commercial property will be supported by the supply of water, gas, electricity, and communication systems. The process of supply needs to be understood together with the cost of the process. Obtaining copies of recent accounts for those services will help you here. It is possible that some utilities will be supplied direct to the tenants and some others will be supplied direct to the building owner. Any differences in supply should be identified and documented. The costs of supply should be compared to the averages of other properties in the area.This brings to an end the matters relating to financial due diligence. These are the major issues that apply in the sale of commercial real estate; however you should look for any other items given that each property is unique in its performance and financial structure.Your review of these items should include the gathering of all original documentation as part of the checking process. Your notes taken of any comments and findings should be well maintained to protect you in the event of any disagreement or dispute. Given that commercial real estate involves large cash flows and extensive legal documentation, the frequency of disputes is reasonably high. The only way to protect you here is in your quality notes, a questioning mind, and good documentation.