How does a big global housing meltdown sound? Crappy. Well, that is exactly one of the things that the IMF is currently warning investors about. Americans will already be well aware of the several month downturn in real estate, but what is likely much less well understood is that many markets around the world, including emerging markets, look at risk of a major housing bust. One of the big worries of the IMF is that a real estate downturn will spark a banking crisis in overseas markets that could then bubble over to the rest of the world.
FINSUM: We don’t tend to think of real estate as a particularly globally-correlated asset class. However, the banking industry that underpins it certainly is, so the risk is definitely there.
American investors generally don’t pay enough attention to merging markets. We have such a big economy and markets that investing abroad often feels foreign and unnecessary. However, the diversification benefits of doing so can be huge, and right now may be an excellent time, says Morgan Stanley. The bank’s lead emerging markets strategist, Ruchir Sharma, is changing tune. For the last decade he said US shares, and particularly tech, would outperform. Now the pendulum is swinging back, with EM likely to take the lead.
FINSUM: EMs have obviously been beat up over the last decade, so there is certainly value to be had. The big worry for us is about global trade policy and how that constrains EM growth.
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US markets hit five-month highs as major averages climbed steadily up and to the right throughout the day. A day after the Fed announced a very dovish position, tech shares (Apple) and positive earnings led domestic equities higher. At the close, the S&P 500 (SPY 1.13%), the Dow (DIA 0.89%), and the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ 1.56%) all gained.
Jobless claims were down W/W (and below consensus estimates) and the Philadelphia manufacturing survey had mixed results. Current conditions rebounded from last month, buoyed by increases in new orders and shipments. However, future expectations fell to a three-year low. Meanwhile, the Conference Board Leading Indicators Index rose for the first time in five months, primarily due to a bounce in equity markets and accommodative financial conditions.
Earnings & Movers: Micron Technology (MU 9.62%) was up big after beating estimates after yesterday's close while Apple surged (AAPL 3.68%) and hit a four month high on several analyst upgrades. Darden (DRI 6.87%) was up on an earnings beat before the bell and Nike fell after hours on a revenue miss. It was a bad day for Biogen (BIIB -29.23%) after its Alzheimer's drug was discontinued due to ineffectiveness.
Small-caps (IJR 1.31%) edged out large-caps (IVV 1.12%) but mid-caps (IJH 1.35%) led all sizes (and still do YTD). With 10 of 11 sectors gaining, tech (XLK 2.51%) provided leadership on the shoulders of Apple while Financials (XLF -0.31%) lagged again, pushed down by banks (KBE -1.03%).
Emerging markets (EEM 0.14%) narrowly outperformed developed ex-U.S. (EFA -0.06%) as global regions were mixed. Latin America (ILF -1.70%) was dragged lower by clouding uncertainty surrounding Brazil's (EWZ -2.30%) pension reform after former Brazilian President Temer was arrested on corruption charges. The U.K. (EWU -0.18%) fell along with Developed Europe (IEV -0.27%) as EU officials deliberate over possible extension deadlines for Brexit.
Treasury yields remained largely unchanged with the 10-year settling at 2.54%. Muted movement in yields had the Ag (AGG 0.02%) mostly flat while Investment Grade (LQD 0.19%) bested High Yield (HYG -0.02%). While the 10-2 year spread remains at ~13 basis points, the spread between the 10-year and the 3-month T-bill dipped below 10 basis points for the first time since 2007.
The move towards passive management has been worthy of the term “flood”, with investors pouring funds into ETFs and out of mutual funds. Fees have been a major part of that shift, but performance has been too, as active management performance has been broadly weak over the last decade. However, there are some areas where mutual funds have significantly outperformed passives—international funds. Especially in emerging markets (e.g. India and Mexico), but also in developed ones like the UK and Italy, 10-year track records show significant outperformance for active managers. The opposite is true in US funds.
FINSUM: Sifting through market opportunities gets harder and harder (and finding alpha alongside it) as you move into less liquid markets. Accordingly, we think there is a lot of benefit to using actively managed funds for international stocks.
Where to put one’s money in 2019? That is the difficult question every investor must face at the moment. For a long time “TINA”, or “there is no alternative”, was the mantra which kept guiding capital into stocks alongside miniscule yields. Now with rates and yields rising and stocks having seen big losses, where should investors turn? The reality is that bonds seem likely to outperform stocks next year, at least according to JP Morgan. The bank thinks EM debt is likely to have a good year as once the Fed stops tightening the Dollar will likely weaken, giving a boost to EM assets.
FINSUM: In our view, a lot of damage has already been done to stocks and there are now some very interesting buys. Furthermore, short-term debt has seen yields rise high enough that you can get decent returns without a lot of interest rate risk.