Investors look out, it is time to go on the defensive, at least according to JP Morgan. The top strategist at JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management, Michael Cembalest, has just told investors that the growing trade war and its threat to markets and the economy means investors need to be very worried. Cembalest points out that this will be the first sustained rise in tariffs across the global economy in 50 years and it is a profound shift away from decades of historical precedent. If the US proceeds with a further $200 bn tariff package on top of its $34 bn package, then markets could be in for a wild ride, says JP Morgan. They advise to focus on consumer staples and tech stocks.
FINSUM: This is a pretty stark warning from JP Morgan and it does make sense. Because there is little recent precedent for trade war, the market may not be accurately pricing the threat it poses.
Are you worried about an inverted yield curve and the arrival of a recession? Morgan Stanley thinks you should be, as the bank has just called for a big bust coming to markets and the economy. MS thinks the Fed will end its contraction of its balance sheet soon, which will be supportive for long-dated Treasuries. Accordingly, with short-term rates still rising, the yield curve will invert soon; by mid-2019 says the bank. Morgan Stanley recommends investors to be overweight US Treasuries and underweight corporate credit.
FINSUM: The spread between two-years and ten-years is only 27 bp right now. We think it will much less than a year before an inversion, especially given the hawkishness of the Fed coupled with the threat of a trade war.
Everyone knows it has not been a good year for bonds, especially Treasuries and long-dated bonds. However, did you know that it is July and the bond market is on pace for its worst annual performance in a century? (yes you read that correctly). Global bonds are on pace for an annualized loss of 3.5%. So the question is how can one keep money in the market, but not get hammered. The answer is high-grade, short-term bond funds. Floating rate corporate loans and high-yield municipals seem like good areas of focus. Remember that shorter duration bonds are less susceptible to interest rate risk, which makes them safer as the Fed raises rates.
FINSUM: These picks seem spot on to us. Higher-yielding, shorter duration, and floating rates all appear to be good selections for the current environment.
It was only a matter of time until US industry started to feel the pain of the current American-led trade war. Now it is happening. US manufacturers are reporting rising costs and difficulties in sourcing ahead of the tariff deadline. These companies say that the metal tariffs, combined with the threat of falling export business, all caused by tariffs, is threatening to make them stop hiring or making new investments. “We had a good year last year, and we’re in the middle of a good year this year. But we are very concerned about the tariffs”, says an Ohio manufacturer of excavation equipment.
FINSUM:That penultimate sentence is the most scary of all—that manufacturers may stop hiring and investing. That would be a leading indicator of a coming recession, especially if it has a trickle down effect to other sectors.
You have heard it before, and while you might not want to, you need to hear it again. All signs point to the fact that ETFs will likely be the epicenter of the next big market blow up. Investors will be familiar with the argument that the “liquidity mismatch” between ETFs and underlying bonds is a big problem, but the reality is that this is also the case in stocks. While small caps and other less-liquid stocks pose a big threat to ETFs which track them, in a market downturn, even quite liquid shares might be set alight by forced panicked selling by ETFs. Bloomberg gives and an example “Imagine that one big investor in an ETF with, say, a 10 percent stake is forced to sell a large part its holding in a single day. There might not be ready buyers for such a large holding, causing the ETF to fall to a price below the value of the assets it owns. This price impact may be exaggerated, as ETF activity intensifies both upswings and downswings”.
FINSUM: The fact that there are also big risks in equities really opened our eyes. We knew about the bond liquidity issue, but the fact that it extends to both small and large cap equities is quite concerning. Then again, there is a fatalistic logic where this all makes sense: ETFs have been the big growth driver since the Crisis, so it makes sense they would be the epicenter of the next one.