There is big risk to the muni bond market that you are probably aren’t thinking about. That risk is how increasingly frequent weather-related calamities are befalling US cities as the climate changes. The market is already starting to price these risks, and according to BlackRock, many current muni bond issuers could see 1% knocked of their economic output. According to the head of muni bonds at BNY Mellon, “The risk has been identified by market participants … Looking at the severity of storms picking up . . . it will start to be factored in”. When choosing bonds, investors need to start demanding or checking on plans from issuers. “What plans are they making? Are they hardening their infrastructure . . . are they trying to insulate central services? If they’re just stating the obvious, that’s not sufficient”, says BNY Mellon.
FINSUM: This is an important consideration for all those that hold munis. Think of the weather-related calamities that have happened lately and consider the implications (e.g. Houston).
Gold has been surging on the back of fears of rising tensions between the US and Iran. The metal just hit $1,600 per ounce, its highest level in almost seven years. However, what is going to drive gold once all of this fear calms down? Gold has been known to spike in times of fear, but the positive effect on its price usually fades quickly. What will really drive gold is the same thing that always does: Treasury yields and their outlook. Ever since the Crisis, the relationship between gold and Treasury yields has been pretty strong. When yields rise, gold falls.
FINSUM: We don’t see a lot of upward pressure on rates right now, which taken on its own might make one think gold has a solid path ahead of it.
There have been two huge beneficiaries of the increased tensions with Iran in recent days: oil and gold. The shiny metal is now at its highest level since 2013 at almost $1,600 per ounce. The difference between the two is that gold seems likelier to stay elevated. Goldman Sachs argues oil would actually need a physical disruption to supply in order to stay elevated, while historically gold is likely to keep rising. According to the bank, “In contrast, history shows that under most outcomes gold will probably rally to well beyond current levels”, says Goldman’s head of commodities research.
FINSUM: Gold certainly has a longer runway than oil for staying high as its rise in prices has nothing to do with a possible supply disruption, which means one doesn’t need to materialize in order for prices to keep moving higher.
For around a year now, the yield curve has been scaring investors. The inversion of the curve sent a grave warning sign to the market that a recession may be on its way. Many investors fled the market for fear of a big reversal. However, as we enter 2020, the yield curve is sending a very different signal—optimism. The curve is at its steepest level since October 2018, showing investors’ increasing confidence in the US economy. One CIO described the situation this way, saying “If the stock market is right that everything is amazing, I don’t see how long rates can stay as low as they are … The stock market is rallying on hope. Hope that things will inflect higher with this trade deal and Fed accommodation”.
FINSUM: If there is one thing we have learned in the last decade, it is that the Fed does not want to over-hike on rates. Overall, we think this is a very healthy direction for yields.
Which stocks dominated the 2010s? It is an easy question, not a trick—tech stocks. The FAANGs absolutely ruled in the past decade, but such patterns rarely continue and the best stocks in the next 10 years might be very different. Instead, UBS recommends stocks that focus on sustainable investing, genetic therapies, digital transformation, and alleviating water scarcity. The world and its governments and investors are likely to move towards sustainable tech in the next decade, which should support this nascent space, says UBS. Meanwhile technologies like 5G and gene-based therapeutics will revolutionize the technology and healthcare sectors. The world also has a significant supply and demand issue in water (mismatches between where water is and where it is needed), which will create significant revenue opportunities.
FINSUM: This is quite a progressive view, especially in respect to the water and sustainability forecasts. That said, it does seem like a good thesis.
Gold had a great first nine months of the year, rising 25%. Since September though, it has been quite bad, falling 7% versus an S&P 500 gain of 10%. So where is it headed? Godman Sachs says the metal still has a strong case. The bank’s research team says “gold’s strategic case is still strong … We expect ‘Fear’-driven investment demand for gold to be supported by late cycle concerns, political uncertainty and high [developing market] household savings”. Even if the Fed increases rates, GS thinks gold will be solid because rates still remain so low, which is a positive for the zero-yielding metal.
FINSUM: If you think the risk-on rally will continue, then stay away. However, if you think the market is going to be flat in 2020 because of political and economic uncertainty, then gold is at a decent buying point right now.