Eq: Total Market
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.
The big bull market of the last decade is now coming to an end, according to Morgan Stanley. The bank says that the US market cycle has moved into a “downturn” phase for the first time since 2007. The bank says the change in its cyclical indicator adds to “a litany of downside risks we see for the markets”. The bank says the change of phase typically means a bear market is coming. The call on markets came in a report delivered to MS clients on Sunday and follows May’s big 6%+ drop in stocks.
FINSUM: In our view, it is a particularly hard time to make a call on markets. Things do seem to be worsening in the data, but most of the negativity is colored by the trade war, which could conceivably end abruptly. That hint of positivity aside, it seems best to be positioned defensively.
The chances of a war breaking out with Iran are not minute. They are probably not high, but significant enough that it is worth having a plan. It may be unseemly to think about asset prices during armed conflict, but just because a war has broken out does mean one’s duty to protect clients ends. The key thing to remember is not to panic. Selling into a panic is a bad idea, and historically speaking, the market tends to be higher six months later anyway. Generally speaking, that is the trend in past armed conflicts. There is an initial fall in stocks, only to be followed by a subsequent rise over the next six months to above the starting level.
FINSUM: We do not think a war with Iran will happen. This seems more like simple political wrangling.
The market has been worried that the trade war may prove inflationary. Higher tariffs would mean higher prices passed along to customers, in turn raising inflation. This is scary because it means the US could get caught in a stagnant economy with higher inflation, which would keep the Fed from cutting. However, the reality is that the trade war may in fact be deflationary instead. The reason why is two-part. Firstly, governments, businesses, and consumers are likely to take actions to off-set the rise in costs; and secondly, the economic toll may hurt the economy so that prices cannot rise.
FINSUM: We do not think tariffs will be inflationary. Thinking of them as automatically inflationary is very narrow-minded, as it does not actually take into account the effects tariffs will have on aggregate demand.
For most of this year and last, the idea of a nasty full-blown trade war was like a boogey man that stalked investors, but still seemed a slightly distant threat. That is no longer the case, as an ugly trade war has rapidly developed into the status quo. Accordingly, many top analysts, such as at JP Morgan and Nomura, are saying that high US tariffs on China are here to stay. Market volatility is likely to continue as new news continues to stream out.
FINSUM: There is a lot to worry about in this trade war, but one of our immediate, but less discussed, concerns is about the intersection of tariffs, the Fed, and inflation. The tariffs are likely to raise US inflation by boosting prices for goods, which could keep the Fed from hiking, trapping us in a difficult environment.
Bonds and stocks are at odds right now. Yields have dropped considerably as the bond market is predicting pain to come. Stocks have sold off, but are still around all-time highs. If you look at how money markets are currently priced they imply a whopping 20% decline in stocks. There is not a much macro data to support the money markets’ pricing, but it is certainly a sign to pay attention to. “The rates market has probably overreacted relative to other asset classes in the last two weeks. However, the macro backdrop is fundamentally more uncertain today”, says Deutsche Bank, continuing “The renewed trade tensions create downside risks which were deemed to be negligible 2 months ago”.
FINSUM: Stocks are going to react to economic data and the trade war, so the current forecasts for stock prices are only as good as one’s ability to prognosticate those factors.