Okay so here is the trick: the Dollar should be getting stronger, but it isn’t. In fact, it is getting weaker quickly, and is at its lowest point in three years. The economy is getting stronger and rates look likely to rise, but the Dollar is weakening. What does this mean for stocks and the economy? The answer is that, in general, a weaker Dollar is good for earnings, as American companies, especially the largest ones, tend to get a lot of revenue from overseas. However, some think the Dollar is falling because of higher inflation expectations, which could mean that it is a sign of weaker financial markets to come.
FINSUM: One would think that slow to moderate inflation with a high likelihood of rising rates and a strengthening economy would be ideal for Dollar appreciation. But the opposite is happening.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a coming US and global trade war. A lot of the focus has been on China, but also NAFTA. Well Bloomberg says the idea of a looming trade war is wrong, because it is already here. Over the last few months the US has already added some stiff barriers to trading with Canada. The moves show that the US is not afraid to throw up tariffs even in trading relationships that are pretty balanced.
FINSUM: Trump and the US government are now taking a very firm line on trade by increasing tariffs and launching investigations into potential violations. We like the idea of the making US trade more fair after years of undermining ourselves, but do have some concerns it could backfire in the long run.
InvestmentNews has run a very ominous article. The piece cites recent evidence published by the Wall Street Journal showing that large discount broker-dealers often mislead clients by saying they do not have incentive fees when they do. Firms like Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade often brand themselves in a very positive light, saying things like being “champions of investors" and putting clients first etc. However, such misleading behavior may lead to the current or future fiduciary rules being extended to cover broker-dealers entirely, not just regarding disclosing conflicts of interest.
FINSUM: We don’t think the current DOL rule is going to be extended in any way, but it does seem likely that the SEC might take this into account as it creates a new, more comprehensive rule.
Speaking at a large ETF conference yesterday, the head of Vanguard has a big warning for all advisors. He said that the industry needs to change rapidly or face a huge loss of jobs. Citing evidence that almost 60% of advisor jobs may be lost to automation. He argues that portfolio construction and rebalancing are now super cheap commodities and that advisors should instead focus more on managing client behaviour, which will be a continued niche.
FINSUM: This was a pretty grave warning for advisors. We are not sure the outlook is so bleak.
A lot of analysts and market gurus are currently talking down the high yield sector. Credit spreads have been rising and it does look like we are headed into a higher rate environment, so the arguments seem reasonable. However, Barron’s says there is still time to get in on high yields. One of the best parts of the market right now is that only 10% of it is comprised of CCC rated bonds, way below its average of 15-20%. That means credit-worthiness is better. Additionally, junk firms have been refinancing for years at ultra-low rates, which will keep default rates pinned. Finally, oil and gas firms, which comprise a high share of the market, are in better shape as prices have been recovering.
FINSUM: There are definitely some strong points here, but it would be a highly contrarian view to say that the prospects for the sector look good after surging for so many years. At best, the fundamentals look solid, but the macro environment looks poor.