Is it a huge deal or not? No one seems to be able to decide. The issue at hand is that the new SEC Best Interest rule explicitly requires brokers to consider costs when recommending products to clients. That is potentially a very big change. However, some say brokers have already been doing this as part of suitability rules, so it may not change practices much. It is important to note that brokers do not need to recommend the cheapest product to clients, but they must take cost into consideration.
FINSUM: Considered in a vacuum, taking cost into consideration has long been a no-brainer. The bigger question is how the SEC decides to enforce this standard. Hindsight will always be 20-20 in an investigation and this could be a big disadvantage to brokers.
A few weeks ago there was a great deal of press, and some investor anxiety, about simultaneous anti-trust probes being launched from the FTC and DOJ into America’s biggest tech companies. Before those efforts seem to have even gotten off the ground, the investigation seems to be backtracking. The head of the FTC said this week that the integration of Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp will likely stymie any effort to break up the social media giant. The TFC chief also acknowledged it would be hard to get the courts to reverse a merger that the FTC itself had already approved, which is the case with Facebook and its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
FINSUM: This seems like a pretty notable surrender after only a few weeks of work. We wonder why the FTC is changing its tone so strongly?
We guarantee that we have a great recession signal in hand that you have not been paying attention to: RV sales. Yes, you read that right, RV (recreation vehicle) sales. Elkhart, Indiana is the epicenter of motorhome production, and their product has proven to be a reliable recession indicator. “The RV industry is better at calling recessions than economists are”, says one economics professor at Ball State University. The big worry is that shipments of RVs are down 20% this year, a big drop.
FINSUM: This seems like a classic consumer discretionary spending leading indicator. And it is not looking good right now.
Anyone who has even glanced at WeWork’s disclosures prior to its forthcoming IPO should be worried. The company’s obfuscation and highly suspect share and governance structure look worrying. But here is an even more tangible reason to stay away—the company is overvalued by about 20x. Unlike other big tech IPOs recently, WeWork has existing publicly traded competitors, so there are comparables. Check out IWG (formerly known as Regus which is likely a more familiar name). It has $1.6 bn of revenue and $64m of profit. Its market cap is $4.45 bn. The company went public in 2000 and was called a disruptor back then. The company struggled during the recession and its US unit filed for bankruptcy.
FINSUM: There is not much new about WeWork other than branding and hype. The prospects for this IPO and WeWork’s future returns are dimming.
There are a handful of safe haven stock sectors that investors tend to rely on during market downturns. Healthcare, utilities, and REITs come to mind. Lately, some have been saying bank shares may also prove a good defense. However, investors should be very wary of two of those just mentioned: healthcare and banks. While on the surface healthcare stocks look very good for a recession—it is not as if people stop getting sick—the reality is that there has never been more regulatory pressure on the sector (from both sides of the aisle), which means it is far from safe. Additionally, the idea that banks have become safe, utility-like dividend machines is flawed, as bank earnings are very exposed to the economic cycle, and thus will likely see big moves in both price and yield.
FINSUM: We agree with this assessment entirely. Healthcare is more vulnerable than it has been in memory and banks are a long way from being dependable utilities (excellent PR job by Wall Street though!).