The wealth management industry has been holding its collective breath for the last week or so. Ever since DOL chief Acosta resigned, it became very unclear what sort of Fiduciary Rule might be released later this year. Would it be a more onerous version, or a more lenient one? Well, the answer seems very likely to be a lighter-touch version of the rule. That is because Trump has just announced his nomination to the position—Eugene Scalia, son of the former Supreme Court Justice. Scalia has a long and quite conservative track record, and is seen as likely to deregulate more quickly than Acosta.
FINSUM: Scalia seems like an ideal choice for those hoping the DOL’s new Fiduciary Rule is significantly lighter than the 2017 version. Perhaps he even scraps it altogether?
Small caps socks are having a rough year relative to the S&P 500. The Russell 2000 is up 15%, but behind the 19% gain of large caps. However, one area of small caps is doing great—momentum small caps, which are ahead of even their large cap cousins. Funds like the Invesco DWA SmallCap Momentum (DWAS), are up 26% this year through Wednesday. The fund aims to match the performance of the best 10% of stocks in the Russell 2000. Speaking broadly on the performance, the head of research at Nasdaq Dorset Wright says “Momentum can thrive in a market where you have a wide range of dispersions, and that’s especially true in the small-cap space, where you can have a big difference between the best and worst performers”.
FINSUM: There is a quite a variance in performance and financial conditions of small cap companies, and given the prevailing environment, that is creating highly differential results, which is great for momentum funds.
Falling yields are having a very positive effect on gold. The metal is already enjoying its best first half in years, and the fundamentals for gold look solid. Potential weakness in equities and worries about growth are both stoking gold demand, while lower yields and a weaker Dollar are also supportive. Gold is now being used as a hedge against equities in a way that bonds have traditionally been employed. “The bond market is not acting as a reliable hedge against equity weakness in the way that everyone expected it to and it hasn’t operated that way since 2008. Gold is providing better protection against potential equity weakness right now than bonds are”, says the head of gold strategy at State Street Global Advisors.
FINSUM: Gold seems like it has a nice path to keep its performance going. That said, we are worried rate cuts might spark a more risk-on equity market, which would pull money out of the metal.
There have been a lot of stories, admittedly in this publication too, that have diminished the threat of the current trade war with China for the US economy. In a very direct sense, that may be true, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Chinese economy. Most people think that China is currently slowing because of the trade war with the US, but that is not really the case. The much bigger issue is that the country’s credit boom has run its course and the government is running out of options to boost growth. The credit boom was caused by the government needing to stimulate consumer spending in an effort to spur a domestic consumption economy, but credit has more or less reached it limits, and therefore, so has the economy.
FINSUM: If China has a big contraction/meltdown, it will ripple across all the countries who are part of its ecosystem, including all the EMs in the region, Africa, and then ultimately the big developed economies with which it is now inextricably linked.
Markets breathed a big sigh of relief at the G20 a few weeks ago when Trump announced that after meeting with Xi, China had agreed to return to the negotiating table with the US. This sent expectations surging that a trade deal between Washington and Beijing was within reach. However, all that hope seems to have been for nothing, as Trump and China are reportedly having trouble even making it back to the table because of being at odds over Huawei.
FINSUM: To be honest, we think the US and China are so at odds over trade that it is hard to imagine they will be able to resolve these tensions any time soon. Some are even saying this is going to be the Cold War 2.0.