There are some very worrying signals coming out of the high yield sector. In particular, stocks at the riskiest end of the market have been underperforming. Bonds rated CCC, CCC+, and CCC-, which are the three lowest rungs before default, have been underperforming all year and that weakness has now reached an “unprecedented size”. What is worrying is that very lowly rated bonds are usually the most influenced by economic perceptions, and it is unusual that with junk rallying so much this year that this cohort has not taken part.
FINSUM: So there are two options for what this could mean. Either it means investors are just being cautious, or much more negatively, that credit conditions are tightening, which would be a sign of a pending economic downturn.
Deutsche Bank has just gone on the record with a bold prognostication. The bank says that the global economy is “bottoming out”. While that may sound grave without further context, what Deutsche actually means is that the global economy has already seen the worst of the current downturn. The bank expects that the world’s economy will be improving next year, meaning we may have finally turned the corner on slowdown fears. “Key to our optimism is that the risks of trade wars and Brexit are evolving in positive ways, and the possibility of a radical policy shift to the far left in the U.S. and the U.K. after their respective elections seems remote”, says Deutsche Bank’s research team.
FINSUM: So did we just go through a “recession” and now the economy and market are ready to turn the jets back on? Quite optimistic (especially after a 25% gain in the S&P this year), but not altogether unlikely.
The economy has been in a rough patch for about a year, with major economies and emerging markets all slowing. But things may be poised to turn around. Markets have gotten very excited about the prospect for an upturn after the IMF said it expects 2020 to be better than 2019. One economist from Macquarie summarized sentiment this way, saying “As 2019 draws to a close, the market is pricing in economic recovery, with equities in the US hitting new highs and long yields well off the recent lows”. Global trade is now stabilizing, which begs the question as to whether the economy has already weathered the worst of the storm.
FINSUM: When it comes to the economy, things are very hard to forecast, but on balance the situation is looking better than worse.
The car industry is the epicenter of the current economic slowdown. The car business is both the culprit and a victim of the biggest economic downturn since the Crisis. It is not just in Germany, but also in Asia and Detroit. The industry uses so many raw materials and supplies from many adjacent industries, that the contraction in the auto sector is is dragging the whole global economy down with it. The chief executive of VW says “This trade war is really influencing the mood of the customers, and it has the chance to really disrupt the world economy … Because of the trade war, the car market [in China] is basically in a recession . . . That’s scary for us”.
FINSUM: What is curious about the car downturn is that consumers are very strong. Therefore, from our view, the weakness in the auto sector is more concerning because it could be a leading indicator.
Most of this summer was dominated by the dual fears of a trade war and a recession. A weakening of underlying economic data backed up the view that we may be headed for a recession, and the long yield curve inversion only heightened those fears. However, new economic data is providing a pretty strong rebuttal to those ideas. The last four economic releases, including home sales, jobless claims and beyond, have all come back more strongly than forecast.
FINSUM: The economy never looked that bad, as it was mostly the yield curve and trade war that pushed fears of a downturn. Accordingly, we don’t think these recent data releases will have much of an effect one way or the other.