Eq: Dev ex-US
The future of the EU is an open question, and one that seems to be growing bleaker once again. Much of the cultural mood that preceded Brexit is now taking hold in Germany. German media is angry at the ECB about robbing its savers of income with very low or negative interest rates. News outlets refer to the “expropriation” of German assets (a term with huge historical resonance). Altogether, the German people are angry about their wealth funding the rest of an EU they see as squandering it.
FINSUM: Germany has benefitted disproportionately from the Euro as it keeps their currency artificially weak. Yet it is also true that hard working Germans have been subsidizing the irresponsible finances of southern Europeans for years. It seems a way off, but Germany could be the next EU domino.
In a very worrying report from the EU< European manufacturing is in a “free fall”. Data from Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, shows that the country’s manufacturing industry is declining rapidly. “In manufacturing, the business climate indicator is in freefall”, said the head of a highly regarded economic research group. The chief economist at Commerzbank added that “there is far and wide nothing to be seen of the second half recovery hoped”, continuing “Germany is in a grey area between a marked growth slowdown and a recession”.
FINSUM: Europe certainly looks headed for a recession (unless the ECB can save it). Will the US catch the economic flu this time, or remain Teflon America?
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.
One the tail risks for markets right now is the sharp downturn that is supposed to happen to the stock buyback market. Huge levels of corporate buybacks have been supporting US equities for years, but that is forecast to drop dramatically. While that may wound US stocks, it poses a major opportunity for another area: Europe. European stocks don’t see much in the way of buybacks, which has left them much less loved than the US recently. However, the declines in US buybacks are likely to make Europe look much more attractive.
FINSUM: European valuations are significantly more attractive than in the US, which means that if the playing field gets levelled by decreased buybacks, there is probably a good opportunity here. That said, Europe has a lot of economic issues right now.
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.
The journey of Brexit has been long, winding, and utterly confusing at times. However, it is all headed for a dramatic conclusion. PM May has called for a Parliamentary vote on her plan on March 12, just a couple of weeks before the UK is supposed to formally depart the EU. However, the pushback on the left has been so strong that opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn now looks poised to call for a second referendum on EU membership. He announced the position yesterday, marking a major change in position.
FINSUM: We absolutely dismiss the view that holding a second referendum is “undemocratic”. The vote was almost three years ago now and no one could have foreseen the deal Britain might get, so it only makes sense to have another vote.