New data just released shows the US economy is a bit weaker than everyone expected. Second quarter GDP data has been revised downward, showing that the US expanded at only 2.0% in the quarter instead of the first-reported 2.1%. Government spending, weaker exports, and private inventories weighed on the numbers. However, the very good news in the data is that consumer spending increase was the strongest in 4.5 years.
FINSUM: Consumer spending is at its highest levels since 2014 at the same time as bond yields are at extraordinary lows and everyone is worried about a recession. Either a recession will arrive or there will be some big losses in bond markets.
Pimco is probably the most respected name in fixed income, and the firm just went on the record warning about the economy and encouraging the Fed to act. The asset manager argues that the US economy is in worse shape than many think and is admonishing the Fed to cut rates more aggressively than expectations. Pimco says that momentum in the labor market is slowing, the trade war is showing little sign of abating, and the risk of financial excess caused by lower rates appears minimal. According to Pimco, “We can’t emphasise enough that labour market momentum has decelerated more markedly than most forecasters were previously expecting”.
FINSUM: We actually are on the opposite side of the fence as Pimco. We think the market is blowing things out of proportion about the economy and is overly worried. We surely hope we are right.
The bond market is doing something that it usually doesn’t—it is scaring stocks. Generally speaking, big sell offs in stocks drive moves in bonds, but rarely do moves in bonds spook stocks. Except for right now, that is. The ten-year yield dropped to 1.48% recently, below the two-year’s 1.51%, signaling another 2y-10y inversion which is a classic recession indicator. But the 3m-10y is even scarier as it touched a fresh new low of negative 51 basis points.
FINSUM: The bond market thinks a recession is coming and that Fed policy is too tight. The velocity with which that sentiment is driving yields is spooking stocks, and rightly so.
There are a lot of worries in the market that a recession may be headed the way of both the world generally, and the US more specifically. However, two analysts from well-respected Ned Davis Research have a different opinion. Of their 10 recession indicators which they watch, only one is signaling a recession. In particular, they dismiss five of the market’s biggest worries: the inversion, market breadth, deteriorating economic signals, earnings deceleration, and the trade war.
FINSUM: These guys seem overly optimistic. One of our big questions is whether some weakening signs in the economic actually point to a recession, or are they just part of a temporary ebb.
Negative bond yields dominate the globe, and US yields are headed inexorably lower. The bond rally that has unfolded year is hard to over-state, with the 30-year Treasury at an all-time low. However, all those gains look likely to reverse sharply, as signs are on the horizon that US inflation is about to jump. The trend in CPI looks likely to show a bump after a series of lower annual highs. The movement is exactly the same as the one that preceded gold’s big jump this year. According to the data, CPI looks likely to rise to 2.5%, which would virtually eliminate the possibility for negative yields on the 30-year bond.
FINSUM: While calling higher inflation is a dangerous game in the post-Crisis world, the general analysis here is reflective of the fact that yields are way too low for how healthy the economy looks in data.
This is a tough market. Stocks are right near all-time highs and bond yields are near all-time lows. So how can an investor find steady current income and keep the door open to capital appreciation? Enter an underappreciated asset class—convertible bonds. Often referred to as “equities with training wheels”, convertible bonds have a lot of the upside of stocks due to their conversion feature, but also the downside protection of bonds because of their income feature. According to a convertible fund manager at Franklin, “You don’t get all the equity upside, but you can only fall so far because you have the downside protection of the bond”. Look to find converts with 7% of the equity upside of stocks, but only 50% of the downside risk.
FINSUM: Converts have actually outperformed a 60/40 balanced portfolio historically (by almost 2% per year with a similar level of volatility!). Some funds to look at include FISCX, PACIX, and AVK.