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Tuesday, 17 March 2020 08:00

Fed Makes Huge Cut to Save Economy


The Fed sent a big message yesterday (or at least it tried to). The US central bank made a surprise Sunday move on interest rates, slashing them to near zero and announcing more asset purchases. The cut amounted to a full percentage point in addition to $700 bn of asset purchases and various liquidity boosting measures. Despite the efforts, markets have not reacted well to the news. Two circuit breakers have been hit already since the announcement and the Dow was down as much as 10% in early trading today.

FINSUM: The Fed is taking the right steps, but doing them in the wrong way. Better guidance and signaling would have been very welcomed.


All the market focus has been on the Dow, but small caps beat the bigger index into a bear market. Even before the big falls of the last few days, the Russell was down 25%. Small companies account for about half of US economic activity and tend to feel the strongest effects when the economy falls, explaining the sharp decline. However, small caps also tend to outperform in the three months after such falls, as they also disproportionately benefit from an economic recovery.

FINSUM: Small caps were trading at all time highs right before this plunge, and as this situation begins to clear, it seems like a very good buying opportunity.

(New York)

Even advisors who use fixed index annuities frequently may not be aware that under the new SECURE Act, the products have gotten some preferential new tax treatment. In particular, clients can now rollover 401ks, 401bs, IRA, or pension payment into a fixed index annuity tax-free. This obviously comes in addition to the fact that FIAs are tax deferred to begin with.

FINSUM: This seems like a very useful addition to the FIA universe provided by the Secure Act. Advisors should be aware.


Generally speaking, when oil prices fall it is considered good for the economy as it unleashes excess consumer spending. This is what happened in the last big drop in 2014-2015. However, this time around, there are likely to be no winners from the drop. Because the huge fall in prices is coming at a time of significantly reduced economic demand because of the coronavirus, it is hard to imagine that much excess economic activity will be created to account for the drop in oil-related industries.

FINSUM: Supply and demand are tumbling simultaneously across the economy (not just in oil), so it does not seem this will be a net positive like it has been in the past.

(New York)

Markets are in a very rough place right now, with benchmark indexes approaching bear market territory on Monday. Energy and travel have been the epicenter of losses, but every sector s getting hit badly. With that in mind, what is the best sector to invest in right now? The answer may be—somewhat surprisingly—financials, and XLF in particular. Whereas the S&P 500 as a whole was in the 99th percentile of valuations historically before the big fall, financials were only in the 60-70% range. Now with the big tumble in prices, financials are in the bottom 1% of their ten-year valuation range.

FINSUM: So rates and yields are super low, which obviously hurts banks’ net interest margin and has led to financial stocks getting pummeled. However, they are so cheap that this is a very good long-term entry point.

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