Eq: Large Cap
While most banks try to stay bullish on market, Bank of America just couldn’t help but get gloomy this week, very gloomy. The bank says that record high prices and placid volatility mean a big correction looms. They believe the market is underpricing the risk of a Fed policy change, and when that comes, it will hit like a hammer. They even gave a name to these bouts of volatility/correction: “fragility shocks”. According to the bank, “We believe the US equity market is underpricing the risks of a looming tapering cycle. After all, the equity market has feasted on record monetary support post-COVID, and the Fed's outlook remains impaired by the extreme uncertainty in the macro forecasts on which they base their decisions”.
FINSUM: This unfortunately makes quite good sense. However, the opposing force here is that the buy-the-dip mentality is strong right now, which could provide support in any short-term sell-off.
ESG has grown exponentially over the last couple of years as trillions of dollars have flowed into the sector. However, as the sector has grown, some gaps in its coverage have emerged. One big glaring hole is in income-focused ESG funds. Traditionally, it has always been thought that an investor who cares about income, just wants income and doesn’t care much where it comes from. This helps explain how out of 439 ESG funds aggregated by Morningstar, only 8 had an income focus.
FINSUM: The lack of ESG income funds makes sense as income-focused products often cater to retirees—the current age of whom generally makes them less interested in ESG. But opportunity awaits.
Usually big Wall Street banks are pretty moderate in their outlooks, and they are mostly bullish in general. Well, Bank of America Merrill Lynch didn’t hold back this week when they said the S&P 500 was at risk of a 16.5% tumble in the near term. The bank said that it expects the S&P 500 to fall 20 to 30 bp for every basis point increase in the ten-year Treasury. The bank thinks yields will rise 55 bp by the end the year, implying an up to 16.5% tumble in stocks. The bank says valuations are overstretched by almost every metric.
FINSUM: The bank did point out three sectors it felt were safer, which are energy, communications services, and health care.
By any reasonable measure, high yield bond markets look very scary right now. The way that yields have plummeted, the way that covenants have weakened, and the general ease of accessing credit are all reminiscent of 2005. Spreads over Treasuries have fallen to just 300 bp. A year ago they were at 600 bp. Companies have successfully weakened investor protections in new issues without penalty, and crucially, default rates will likely fall below 1% this year. The picture was the same in 2005.
FINSUM: By the Crisis, default rates hit 14% and high yield investors got killed. However, a big correction in high yield would take a catalyst. Is it a sooner-than-expected Fed pullback?