We thought it would be good to add a little European flavor to today’s coverage. The Financial Times has written a very insightful piece about the EU and the effect Brexit has had on it. In particular, it cites Donald Tusk, one of the EU’s top policymakers, who says that Brexit has been a “vaccine” against anti-EU parties across the continent. “As Europeans see what Brexit means in practice they also draw conclusions … vaccine against anti-EU propaganda and fake news”.
FINSUM: The EU has seen what Brexit has done to quell any anti-EU sentiment within the Union, which means it will never let off the gas pedal in making Britain’s departure a hellish ordeal.
It happened quickly, more quickly than almost anyone expected. The SEC redrafted its “Regulation best Interest” rule and put it to a vote yesterday, with the new version being approved by a 3-1 vote. The new version is a fairly large departure from the previous one, and went in the complete opposite direction versus expectations. Instead of tightening the rule to put more fiduciary duties on brokers, it did the opposite, eliminating language regarding best interests and seemingly watering down the current suitability standard itself. The vote against the rule came from the SEC’s only Democrat, who said “Rather than requiring Wall Street to put investors first, today's rules retain a muddled standard that exposes millions of Americans to the costs of conflicted advice. Even worse, contrary to what Americans have heard for a generation, the commission today concludes that investment advisors are not true fiduciaries. Today's actions fail to arm Americans with the tools they need to survive the nation's retirement crisis.”.
FINSUM: In addition to the changes mentioned above, it is also worth noting that the new rule significantly expanded the language regarding “solely incidental”, meaning many more brokers do not fall under the rule’s purview. Now it remains to be seen what the DOL does.
Some of the market’s most important indicators are sending warning signs. Both oil and gold are trading in a way that has traditionally signaled that a big downturn is headed our way. Oil has fallen to near a bear market on concerns over growth, while gold has shot higher on the same worries. The extent of the moves is unique and has often presaged nasty movements in broader asset prices. In both the Dotcom bust and the Financial Crisis, oil and gold behaved similarly, so the question is whether they are sending the same message now. One market analyst noted, “Only three other times in history precious metals surged while oil plunged! All of them happened during severe bear markets and recessions … Buckle up, folks”.
FINSUM: It is odd to think that this has not happened more often as it is exactly what you would expect in times of anxiety about growth. Accordingly, this must be noted.
The market is overly reliant on a rate cut, say UBS and Goldman Sachs. Both banks think investors are banking too strongly on the Fed cutting rates. The market is currently forecasting three 25 bp rate cuts by the end of the year. Treasury markets have surged, but too far says Goldman. UBS believes “Markets now imply that the Fed will cut rates by around 70 basis points this year and 35 bps next year. We find this excessive … We believe it would take a recession to provoke the magnitude of rate cuts currently being priced by the market, and this remains unlikely in our view”.
FINSUM: We do not believe the Fed will cut rates this sharply unless there is a recession, but maybe that is exactly what markets are expecting (just look at the yield curve).
Everyone is trying to figure out how to protect their own and clients’ portfolios from a trade war. “Which sectors will be the hardest hit”, “and by how much” are common questions. Well, a small Virginia based ETF provider has just come to the market with a new fund that is designed to protect investors from that very issue. The new ETF, TWAR, is designed to track 120 companies who are likely to outperform the market during a trade war because of “government patronage”, or special contracts or subsidies which insulate them.
FINSUM: There is some skepticism in the market about this approach, but it does stand to reason that companies who are less exposed to global trade will suffer less than the market.