For many years Pimco was the undisputed leader in bonds. While that reputation may now be arguable given Bill Gross’ departure, Pimco is still undoubtedly highly respected. Therefore, their warning this week is worrying. The firm says it is shunning corporate bonds because of the big risk of a quick fall in prices. The firm’s CIO, Dan Ivascyn, says “The credit sector has been well behaved but if people begin to really fear recession, we can see underperformance quickly … this is the sector most prone to overshooting on the downside”. Pimco is also worried about Treasuries as they see no further room for a rally and instead are favoring agency MBS.
FINSUM: Total debt has grown hugely and a lot of it is of borderline credit quality, so a real downturn in economic expectations could lead to a lot of selling and downgrades. We tend to agree with Pimco here.
Probably the world’s most famous hedge fund manager, Ray Dalio, who runs the largest hedge fund in the world, has just made an interesting comment about equities. Dalio, who runs Bridgewater, says that he does not see a big bust coming in equities, just a “great sag”. Speaking about corporate debt levels and the risk of a blow up in fixed income, Dalio says “Those extremities we are reaching are not such that it is likely to have a debt crisis. But you have reached the limits of that so it creates a big sag versus a big bust”.
FINSUM: We think this is a pretty nuanced view. A big meltdown similar to 2008 does not seem likely, but a long-term growth overhang from too much debt does seem a distinct possibility.
China’s newest GDP data has just come in and it is shockingly weak. Third quarter GDP growth was the lowest in has been since the early 1990s and appears to show the sting of US tariffs. Growth was just 6%, a major sign of the weakening state of the global economy. That is the same level of growth as in the late 1980s, though China’s economy is now far larger. Those paying attention will know that China’s economy grew at around 7-8% per year since the Crisis.
FINSUM: So this is an admitted 6%. Beijing keeps very tight control of its economic data, so it is not inconceivable that the real number is actually lower.
A lot of demographers think there is going to be a coming baby boom, as Millennials finally have children. There is some disagreement over this as many think the boom is already a bust, but the reality is that there is likely to be a lot of babies born the next few years as Millennials make a last push to have children. The parents are likely to be older, which means more disposable income, and more spending. Therefore, buying into baby-oriented stocks seems like a good idea. Take a look at Carter’s, Bed Bath & Beyond (which has a baby unit), and Children’s Place.
FINSUM: We think there will be a baby rush over the next five years as Millennials try to have kids before aging out. That presents an opportunity for the baby sector.
The US is considering some new rules that could cause a stock market calamity in China. The government is considering putting new restrictions on US capital flowing to the Chinese mainland. The move is considered the third and worst-case-scenario stage for Chinese markets in the current trade war. In particular, the big risk is that MSCI de-lists Chinese stocks from its broader indexes, meaning all that capital would need to be pulled out. That amount is currently around $50 to $60 bn.
FINSUM: This is not hugely massive, but it is certainly enough to hurt markets on a technical front, but perhaps even more from a perception angle.
If you are looking for some good muni bonds to add to your portfolio, take a look at an interesting new offering from a group of US universities. Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers have all issued “century” muni bonds, and they may prove a good investment. Rutgers’, as an example, yields 3.9% and has an A+ rating, a significant spread to the typical 3.2% yield on other long-term muni bonds. Even BBB bonds, which are in a tenuous position, are only yielding 3.2%.
FINSUM: The yield is great, but your great grandchildren will be getting the principal back!