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.
There has been growing consternation about the threat of a major meltdown in corporate debt. The Fed, in particular, has been very troubled by the amount of corporate debt in the economy, which has led to speculation by Wall Street that there could be a blow up. Goldman Sachs has been more sanguine, saying debt levels look healthy. Now the Fed appears to be taking a more mild view as well. In a speech this week, Chairman Powell said that the comparison to pre-Crisis debt levels are not convincing. “Most importantly, the financial system today appears strong enough to handle potential business-sector losses, which was manifestly not the case a decade ago with subprime mortgages.
FINSUM: Debt levels seems high, but profits are margins are good to. The question is what happens when the economy turns south. We are especially concerned about the BBB market.
There was a beautiful four-month window between December 2018 and May 2019 when everything looked positive. The trade spat with China looked increasingly mild and economic data was strong. It was a mirage. Even the hefty 3.2% GDP growth figure was mostly because of an incredible buildup in inventories, which when stripped away leave growth at 1.5%. Further, revised data shows that industrial production has dropped 1.2% since December. Even though this counts for a small portion of the economy, it is highly indicative of the business cycle. Some areas like auto production and machinery are down much more at 5%.
FINSUM: The glorious rally of the first third of the year seems to have stalled and the bad news is piling up, with the trade war exacerbating everything.
Economic data this year has mostly surprised to the upside. However, recently, things have started to disappoint. For instance, Citigroup’s basket of economic indicators has fallen to its lowest level since the Financial Crisis. Even the Atlanta Fed is bearish, recently forecasting GDP at 1.6%. Bond King Jeffrey Gundlach agrees, saying he believes the odds of a recession in the next 24 months are “very high”. He believes the chances of a recession within 12 months are 50-50.
FINSUM: We think Citi’s indicator is definitely overstating the situation. However, there are legitimate concerns about the economy, especially if you start to consider the possible implications of a trade war.
The Fed has a big new worry that is not presently on the market’s radar. With all the worries about headline economic data and the trade war, very little attention has been paid to the potential shock equities and bonds may feel from climate change. The Fed, however, is very focused on the risk. The Fed says that climate change can have a jarring effect on the economy that may “affect national economic output and employment”. “As such, these events may affect economic conditions, which we take into account in our assessment of the outlook for the economy”, says Fed Chairman Powell.
FINSUM: Calculating climate risk is tough because it can have short-term effects, but also much longer and more challenging ones, such as migration and agricultural output. That said, no one is expecting a climate change-induced financial crisis.