At this point it might seem natural to think that the stock market simply rises a bit everyday. Stocks have been so steady and so quiet for so long that it is almost disconcerting. The current “quiet” streak is one of the longest ever. The current number of days without a 1% move is the sixth longest streak since 1969 and the third longest since 1995. One analyst described the situation this way, saying “Right now it’s very, very tough to fight this trend … There’s a reinvigoration in the idea that we will see better growth”.
FINSUM: The huge rise in stocks from the Crisis through the last decade was generally characterized by steadiness. We don’t see this as any surprise.
For many, many years muni bonds have been the go-to for tax-free income. While their yields were lower than conventional credits, there was usually a significant cost-savings by investing in the bonds because of the lack of taxation. However, the muni market is so over-bought that it is very difficult to find bonds where that is still the case. Prices have moved yields so low that there are virtually no savings versus Treasuries. 2019 saw muni bonds experience their highest inflows since 2009, and according to Morningstar “For most taxpayers, there’s no longer a significant yield advantage for muni funds after you take taxes into account”.
FINSUM: Weak yields and no savings, which is going to push investors to buy ever riskier munis. Boom time coming for lower-rated credits?
It has been more than 18 months of brinksmanship in the making, but the US and China are apparently set to seal a phase one trade deal. The deal will be signed at 11:30 am in the White House. The deal leaves out a lot of the most difficult and contentious issues between the countries, but is a sign that things are improving. The FT summarizes the substance of the deal this way, saying “It commits China to making $200bn in additional purchases of US goods, including farm products, and other pledges on currency and intellectual property, in exchange for a small rollback in some tariffs and an indefinite hold on further punitive measures out of Washington”.
FINSUM: The key thing here is that both countries want this work out and this deal is a step in the right direction. We find this quite positive in the grand scheme of things.
The stage was set for Goldman to knock it out of the park. JP Morgan had just released the best US bank earnings ever and other banks were looking strong heading into earnings season. Goldman has a new CEO and has made big changes to its business. It felt like this might be the start of a new era for the bank signified by some great earnings. Instead, it all fell flat. Goldman’s net income fell a whopping 26% and missed earnings per share estimates by a mile. That said, revenues did rise 23%, but litigation costs hurt the bottom line.
FINSUM: It wasn’t meant to be this quarter, and don’t be fooled by the big revenue growth as it mostly came from a huge surge in fixed income revenue, which is not sustainable quarter to quarter.
Rollovers are one of the key areas of focus for advisors within the new SEC Best Interest rule (“Reg BI”). This is not just because of their importance for advisors generally, but because there was still a good degree of uncertainty over how the new rule would be applied to the area. Recent edits to the rule clarify its application, and the results are likely to seem a little unfavorable, as they are more strict than previously. In the past, rollovers were only subject to Rule 2111 if securities were to be bought or sold in the plan. This left a bit of wiggle room. However, the new Reg BI has been modified and Rule 2111 now applies to any situation, regardless of whether securities are involved. Thus, rollover recommendations by broker-dealers are now completely governed by the best interest standard in all scenarios.
FINSUM: Not unexpected, but many were hoping for more flexibility. At least there is now confirmation.