Eq: Total Market
Not only did the stock market fall 3-4% yesterday, but something very unusual happened alongside it—yields rose. Historically speaking, it is rare for yields to rise when there is a big stock selloff, as investor generally flee to the safety of Treasuries. Selloffs can portend economic weakness to come, which makes bonds seem more attractive.
FINSUM: This is quite a worrying development and is reflective of the current environment. No one can get comfort from the “safe haven” of Treasuries because it seems very likely yields will keep rising on the back of the strong economy. In other words, there is no place to hide (other than in hedged investments).
One of the most ominous signs surrounding the equity market this year are the inflow numbers into stock funds. In 2017, $517.2 bn of new money flowed into US ETFs and mutual funds from the start of the year through September. This year that number is down by almost 50% for the same period, as only $281.7 bn has flowed in. Actively managed mutual funds are seeing net withdrawals. According to Deloitte “It feels like investors are in the early stages of positioning themselves for a potential downturn … [they] are returning to cash and relatively defensive positions”.
FINSUM: Retail inflows and outflows have never been a very good indicator of coming market performance (much like sentiment), so take these figures with a grain of salt.
Most investors are worried about the potential impact of the trade war, not to mention rising rates and yields. However, there is one stock that should shine through all of it—Weight Watchers (not what you were expecting, right? Us either). The company, now called WW, seems poised to gain. As one financial reporter puts it “This is a subscription-heavy company relying on decent employment rates, a country in need of wellness advice, and a charismatic spokesperson (Oprah!) trading at a below-growth multiple”. The company is looking to improve its revenue by a quarter by 2020 to $2 bn, 80% of which is subscription-based.
FINSUM: There does not seem to be any reason that WW would be at the mercy of many of the forces hurting markets right now. It could be a good bet.
Is this a watershed moment for the equity market or just another small blip in the exorable march higher? That is the question investors are asking themselves this week after the losses of the last few trading days which occurred as a response to quickly rising yields. Many analysts and Wall Street veterans think that heavy pressure will be on equity prices as yields move towards 3.5%. According to BNY Mellon, as yield move higher is hurts “investors’ ability to call this stock market reasonably valued”. Some investors are more sanguine, believing the market can handle higher rates.
FINSUM: One of the biggest signs here does not have to do with yields themselves. Rather, some big money managers are admitting that they are rotating some money out of stocks and into bonds to reap the gains of higher yields. That will likely be the biggest challenge for stocks.
ETFs are a product that has been growing at breakneck speed. AUM in the product is approaching $4 tn, which is astonishing given that it has really only taken a decade to get there, but still quite a bit smaller than the $16 tn in mutual funds. Experts say that the ETF market is going to increasingly resemble the mutual fund market as offerings diversify into smart beta, thematic ETFs, customizable ETFs, and fixed income. The last area—fixed income—is where creative indexing makes the most sense, as doing so can account for the common weighting issues that are much riskier in bonds than in equities (you don’t want your largest holding to be the issuer with the most debt).
FINSUM: The logic for fixed income ETFs is very strong, especially given how illiquid and restrictive buying bonds directly is. However, smart beta and other active ETFs (which are more expensive) don’t really have a big leg up on experienced mutual funds.
The midterm elections are just around the corner and there is some anxiety over how they might impact stocks. The last few days have been poor, while the preceding month had been good. Barron’s argues that the election will be bullish for stocks. The reason why is that no matter what happens, stocks look likely to rise. Even when the sitting president’s party loses seats, stock tend to gain, and the year after such a loss tends to be the best year of a president’s term. One of the reasons why is that the party in power typically undertakes economic stimulus after their defeat. The Wall Street Journal summarizes “Either way, many believe that stocks will get a boost after the midterm elections as investors will be contending with one less uncertainty”.
FINSUM: We think the election will be good for stocks as well. If the democrats see success, there is less risk of a brutal trade war. If the Republicans win, there is probably more pro-business policies put in place.