The media and many bond market gurus would have you think the ceiling is caving in on bonds. Talk of a massive bear market, surging inflation, and big losses abound. How to make sense of it all? The answer, if there is one, is that reversals in rate environments tend to take a long time, and have historically lasted 2-3 decades before reversing back. Therefore, bond yields may continue to climb steadily, but this shouldn’t be bad for the stock market, so big losses may be avoided. In fact, slowly rising rates can spark structural bull markets. It would also be helpful for pension funds to have higher yields as they could be safe in assuming better returns, helping fund the huge national pension deficit.
FINSUM: We just are not that worried about bonds. The Fed still seems fairly timid, there is high natural demand for yields because of demographics, and inflation and growth aren’t all that strong.
While most publications have been running stories arguing that it may be time to get out of the FAANGs, Barron’s has a run a piece to the contrary, saying that they have more room to run. While the piece admits that the group of stocks is under a lot of pressure and is highly priced, it contends that it is not time to pull out yet. The argument is that despite accusations of misbehavior and threats from Trump, the sector will remain the centerpiece for growth investors. If the economy continues to chug (meaning stay under 3% growth), then tech’s steady growth will remain attractive.
FINSUM: We tend to like this view. Despite how richly these companies are valued, we think there is still room for medium-term value growth as regulation is still a way off and their fundamental businesses are solid.
A lot of investors are looking for income, and over the last several years it has been hard to come by. While yields are rising, they are still very low by historical standards. With that in mind, Barron’s has run a piece selecting the best income stocks from a sector not considered as much as it should be—biotech. Many biotech companies have strong overseas cash flow, and solid yields. For instance, Pfizer, which rose just over 13% last year, sports a 3.7% yield. Abbvie and Amgen are also good looking stocks, both offering dividends just below 3%. Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol-Myers Squibb are also names to look at.
FINSUM: These are definitely some good names to look at, especially as there has not been much focus on biotech for income over the last year.
For the last year there has been increasing public frustration with tech companies. Gone is the general perception of Silicon Valley being inherently good, replaced with an angry skepticism over data leaks, election manipulation, and automation. Now there is tangible change in the air amongst investors too. Jana Partners, along with Calstsrs, have just begged Apple to investigate the iPhone’s impact on kids, and it seems representative of a larger trend against the tech industry. There is also rumbling about regulation on the fringes, and increasing skepticism about the social impact of Amazon, in particular its effect on Main Street, jobs, and inflation (although the general public NEVER misses inflation).
FINSUM: We think there is a big change brewing for the tech industry, and that the next decade will likely be a lot more difficult than the last.
The big bond gurus of Wall Street, Bill Gross and Jeffrey Gundlach, both struck fear in the hearts of bond investors yesterday, saying that the recent Treasury sell-off confirmed that a bond bear market had begun. However, Morgan Stanley is now pushing back against that assertion, saying that Treasuries are still offering value and should be fine. “This isn’t the bear market you’re looking for” says Morgan Stanley. MS says that the Fed is not likely to react sharply to inflation and that the Chinese aren’t going to stop buying Treasuries outright, both factors which will support the market.
FINSUM: While there are some headwinds related to possible tightening, on the whole there are a number of fundamentals which seem likely to continue to support both Treasuries and credit (like demographics—we know we often mention this point).