A lot of investors may be asking themselves whether stocks will be directly impacted by a trade war. In the last several trading days, the market seems to have shrugged off the increasing trade tensions. However, JP Morgan is warning that the burgeoning trade war may wreak havoc on the market. The rising tariffs now occurring globally follow 50 years of increasing free trade, so there is little modern precedent for what is occurring.
FINSUM: In our view, the market does not have a good feel for pricing the risk of a trade war because it has been so long since investors have seen anything like it. Beware.
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.
One of the market’s big worries over the last few years has been centered around the idea that ETFs may have some sort of implosion the next time there is a Crisis, or at least some major volatility. However, S&P has just come out with a report saying that won’t be the case. The piece cites the numerous instances of when major volatility hit markets, including this past February, and ETFs held up just fine. That said, ETFs do have the potential to be distortive, and they have been implicated in some major flare ups, such as that linked to the CBOE Volatility Index this winter. S&P concluded that “There’s not much cause for concern for systemic risk … But we have been able to quantify that there’s some minimal impact”.
FINSUM: Our feeling is that equity ETFs should be fine. However, for less liquid fixed income and other low liquidity areas, ETFs could theoretically have a “liquidity mismatch” which might cause some issues.
Most of the indicators that the media is discussing at the moment have to do with a recession (e.g. an inverted yield curve). But today, there is an important one that speaks directly to a bear market—flows in pension funds, insurers, and sovereign wealth funds. There is a combination of factors happening which shows markets have reached the end of this cycle. On the one hand, pension funds and insurers are pulling money out of public markets in order to chase private investments (e.g. real estate and infrastructure). But at the same time, the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds are now pulling out of private market investments because there is too much money chasing too few deals. In other words, valuations have gotten too high everywhere and some of the world’s biggest investors are moving into cash.
FINSUM: When the world’s biggest investors are getting out of both public and private markets, it seems to indicate that the end of the market cycle is near. That said, this bull market has revived itself many times.
US financial shares might be in for a quick ride higher. Bank of America’s earnings came in 33% higher than last year, leading to a blowout for the sector. The news followed strong earnings from JP Morgan and Citi. BAML’s shares rose over 4% on the news with one analyst commenting that the numbers were “almost all you could have hoped for”. Rising interest rates were a key factor in the increasing earnings, as banks earned more from net interest margins.
FINSUM: These are great numbers, but they may only be temporary. Consumers have not yet started demanding higher interest payments on savings, but once they do (and we think they will), then banks’ net interest margins will start shrinking again.
The market is currently facing a large number of headwinds: higher rates, a flattening yield curve, a growing trade war, and a high degree of international political tension. Yet, according to Barron’s, the path of least resistance for the S&P 500 may be higher. The reason why? Despite all the hovering the market has done this year, one big thing has fundamentally changed very recently—market breadth is increasing. In other words, the number of stocks which are advancing versus declining is improving. When the market does so, it is often a sign of better things to come.
FINSUM: We do take increasing breadth as a positive sign, as it reflects that investors across all sectors are feeling better and not just a handful hiding out in a few places.