US investors are growing increasingly interested in European equities. The reasons are many. Europe has undertaken huge levels of stimulus and its economy seems to be recovering from the pandemic more quickly than the US’. Further, the Stoxx Europe 600 is still down 10% on the year versus a 6% rise in the US, which means continental stocks may have more room for gains. Another interesting aspect to note is that the continent’s mix of equities has changed markedly over the years and is no longer dominated by banks. This means higher trending earnings and less volatility.
FINSUM: So you have an economy that might get out of recession faster than the US and returns that are 16 points behind, all with very accommodating monetary and fiscal policies. Investing in Europe makes sense!
Advisors need to start thinking about what the post-election tax landscape might look like for clients, especially high earners. The proposed Biden/Democratic tax package is even more stringent than many think, as when you diver deeper it becomes clear that the increases are quite extensive. One core element that is less understood is Biden’s Social Security Payroll tax of 12.4%, which applies to all income with no cap (all income between $137,000 and $400,000 would be taxed at the same level). Combining that with a raised federal tax rate of 39.6%, and state taxes means that some residents of high tax states could see punitive-levels. For example, in California, which has a 13.3% top tax rate, the total tax burden for high earners would be over 65%! Even in states without state taxes, income taxes could be 52%. Furthermore, Biden intends to eliminate capital gains tax rates for those who earn more than $1m, effectively doubling the capital gains tax rate.
FINSUM: There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is obvious. The good news is that because of the state of the economy and the need for fiscal stimulus, Democrats are unlikely to pass these measure until we re-reach full employment, which could be years.
The wild market over the last four months has caused a lot of elation and anxiety among investors. It has also caused a rethink of what kind of recovery we may be experiencing. Almost everyone thought we would have a V- or U-shaped recovery, but the way things are shaking out, it looks like we may have a “k-shaped” recovery. What this means is that almost all companies took a big dive at the start of the pandemic. However, after that point the fortunes of certain sectors have diverged markedly, forming a “k” shape to the market recovery. IT, consumer discretionary, and communication services have been the big winners, while energy, financials, utilities, and real estate have suffered.
FINSUM: So the interesting question here is the degree to which the market recovery might end up mirroring the economy’s recovery. So far the patterns make sense.
You know the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”? It couldn’t be further from the truth as it concerns the current stock market. The S&P 500 is just about flat, yet if you take a close look, 337 of its component stocks are down. The index is only being held up by a 1% gain from Apple and minor gains from the other 4 stocks that comprise 20% of its entire value. The lack of breadth has been a consistent feature of the recovery over the last several months.
FINSUM: Investors are not expressing any degree of bullishness about the economy, which would be reflected in breadth. Frankly, all the recent gains seem to be simple momentum bets on a small handful of stocks, making the whole recovery feel hollow.
For the last few weeks the market has had somewhat of a respite from the constant stream of vaccine-related market yo-yoing. However, it looks like it is going to start again as several COVID vaccines are reaching a critical stage of testing. Multiple vaccines, one from Pfizer, are entering phase 3 of their trials and some anecdotal evidence says Pfizer’s version is getting better. Johnson & Johnson has a vaccine in a similar position. Markets have shown significant volatility in the past when news about vaccine trials has been released.
FINSUM: The economic implications of a successful COVID vaccine are monumental, so expect significant volatility on material vaccine news, especially as these vaccine trials enter later stages.