The credit market taught investors a very good lesson in the Crisis (not that many of them were paid attention to). One of those lessons was that the first signs of weakness in the market should be taken seriously, as they can be indicative of a pending meltdown. This occurred in 2007 before the cataclysm in 2008. It appears to be happening again now, as both US and European credit marks are showing some fault lines. For instance, the downgrade of GE is seen as a sign of weakness very similar to what occurred with Ford and GM in 2005.
FINSUM: There has been an extraordinary credit boom since the Crisis and there are bound to be consequences. The question is what the extent of those consequences will be. The market is starting to feel a bit like musical chairs.
Here is an interesting fact for investors—municipal bonds tend to hold up well during periods of rising rates. The underlying tax benefits of the bonds mean their demand is well insulated even in such periods. The question is where to commit capital. Well, year-end tax loss selling is creating some interesting opportunities in closed end muni funds, says BlackRock. Some funds are selling at significant discounts to the NAVs, sometimes 10% or more. These funds tend to bounce back in the new year, which is called the “January effect”. The discount to NAV allows one to gain even if the prices of the underlying assets don’t budge.
FINSUM: Closed end muni funds look like a great place for some bargaining hunting until the end of the year.
This is a tricky environment for income investing. On the one hand, rising rates generally mean better yields, but at the same time, the chance of rate-driven losses is high. What if investors wanted to get safe 5% yields? Doing so is a little bit tricky and requires a blend of riskier credit and a mix of durations. However, investors can get pretty close with some individual ETFs. For instance, BlackRock’s iBoxx $ Investment Grade Bond ETF yields 4.39% and has shorter dated maturities with comparable credit quality to other funds.
FINSUM: This seems like a good choice, but there are also a number of rate hedged ETFs that have similar yields and almost no interest rate risk.
Those worried about rate hikes will be happy to hear this news. Ever-hawkish Jerome Powell is finally starting to sound just a bit more dovish. Powell says the economy is strong, but could face “headwinds”. He says the Fed is discussing how much and how fast to raise rates and acknowledged that the Fed’s actions could inhibit the economy. He said the Fed’s goal is to “extend the recovery, expansion, and to keep unemployment low, to keep inflation low”.
FINSUM: It is good to hear some public consideration that rates might get in the way of the economy. While we would not exactly say this is dovish, it is certainly less aggressive than previously.
With all the volatility of the last month, and midterms, less focus has been on one of the most ominous of economic signs—the yield curve. Well, Goldman Sachs has just weighed in, warning investors that a yield curve inversion is looming. Goldman went further than to say that 2-years might be flat or overtake 10-years, the bank said that spreads between 2- and 30-year bonds would fall to zero. To put that call into perspective, it would be a narrowing of 50 basis points versus now. Goldman highlighted the move in its top themes to watch for 2019.
FINSUM: We have to give Goldman Sachs a little credit here as they have been consistently hawkish about rates for at least a year and are sticking to it. We tend to agree with this view.
One of the guiding mantras of small cap investing has always been that small caps tend to outperform their larger peers over the long-term. While always cyclical, small caps have outperformed large caps over the last several decades. However, in recent years that has all changed. In fact, since 2005, the relative performance between the two share classes has been trendless, with no discernible relationship. This is directly counter to the almost century-long trend that preceded it. One CIO explained the change this way, saying “Market-cap tilts have historically been about catching, and riding, strong and persistent performance waves … Over the last 13 years, in an unconventional fashion, the opportunities to add performance from cap tilts have been relatively small and have required frequent and expert timing”.
FINSUM: Interesting change for small caps. We suspect the change has to do with a combination of the pre-Crisis boom and the extraordinary liquidity thereafter.