Investors have gotten so used to low inflation that it is sometimes hard to imagine seeing it rise. However, Morgan Stanley is warning that inflation is rising across the globe and investors need to keep an eye on it. In Europe, Asia, and the US, inflation has risen from 1.1% to 1.4%, and it is bound to move higher, according to Morgan Stanley’s chief global economist. Interestingly, MS argues that the Euro area and Japan will see a higher rise in inflation than the US.
FINSUM: If inflation rises more strongly in other developed markets than the US, will that lead to even more foreign buying of US bonds because yields in those locations are so much lower? In other words, will there be even more demand for US bonds?
It is not going to be a huge crash, but Morgan Stanley thinks US stocks will struggle in 2020. The bank thinks the US is clearly “late-cycle” and that its growth will wane from 2.3% to 1.8% next year. It believes the Dollar will weaken and stocks will struggle. The bank thinks most of the benefits of the Fed’s rate cuts have already been priced into the market. “In 2020, the economy will grow more slowly as the bulk of the positive lift from lower interest rates will have been absorbed and households balance higher income with higher prices from tariff”, says Morgan Stanley. The bank says emerging markets are likely to outperform.
FINSUM: Of all the forecasts we have seen lately, this one seems the most realistic. We don’t see a big bust coming, but a plateau seems very believable.
Apple has been on an absolute tear lately. All the bearishness which preceded the newest iPhone launch set the company up for a great run. The stock is up a mind boggling 65% this year. To put that $450 bn of value appreciation in perspective, it is equivalent to adding the market caps of SalesForce, IBM, and SAP on top of what Apple already was at the end of 2018. So where does it go from here? The thing is, Apple usually continues a big upswing after an iPhone launch, so history is on its side right now.
FINSUM: iPhone sales may continue to surprise to the upside but the medium- to long-term question is whether investors will buy into Apple’s pivot into credit cards, gaming, and streaming.
In any interesting twist, President Trump has announced that he may personally testify in his impeachment probe. Trump has indicated he is interested in the idea of being able to set the record straight himself. He says “Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”. Trump’s comments came at the urging of House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request for him to testify. The president could testify via writing or in-person.
FINSUM: We doubt this will happen (Trump’s lawyers would probably be remiss in letting him testify in person), but it is an interesting turn. Imagine the media frenzy!
After three and a half years of chaos, it is finally going to happen—the British people are going to get a chance to vote on Brexit. No, it will not be in the form of a second referendum, but rather in the form of a general election. After fighting the option for months, the Labour party has been forced to give in to a general election that will pit Boris Johnson against Jeremy Corbyn, and likely decide the future of Brexit. No date has yet been set for the election, but it looks very likely to be in early December.
FINSUM: The trick of this election is that Brexit is probably going to happen no matter who wins because even top Labour leaders actually want the UK to leave.
While many are worried about the domestic economy and whether the US is headed for a recession, those invested in emerging markets should perhaps be even more concerned. One of the fears specialists in the area have is that there is probably about $200 bn of unreported Chinese loans on the books of emerging market borrowers. China is not obligated to report these loans anywhere, so no one is quite sure of the size of the exposure. The risk is that as the economy sours, and these credits debts become distressed, China could impose some severe conditions on borrowers, which could cause emerging markets to seize up.
FINSUM: We could see this becoming an issue, especially because China will be feeling distress itself, which means it is likely to use a heavy hand. Even if nothing comes of this, it will likely weigh on EM asset prices in the near-term because of the uncertainty.
Jay Powell, head of the Fed, has been working on a year-long project to overhaul one of the Fed’s most important goals. That goal is full employment. The Fed only has two mandates, stable prices in the economy, and maximum employment. Yet the definition of maximum employment is now up for debate. At the core of the consideration is the idea that having a job is different than having a good job. The difference between the two means the Fed may use a different calculation for measuring employment. That potential change has huge implications, as it would likely lead to looser monetary policy both in the immediate future and further out.
FINSUM: We think there is a big difference between the quality of different jobs in the economy which needs to be accounted for by the Fed. The current way of measuring employment was designed when most jobs were permanent and full-time, but with the rise of the gig economy, measuring methods need to shift to account for the changing nature of the labor market.
One corner of the bond market, or rather credit market, is having a tough time and it may be a negative sign for the rest of fixed income. CLOs, or collateralized loan obligations, which have been a star for several years, recent tumbled. In aggregate, CLOs dropped 5% in October, and those close to the market see more volatility to come. According to Citigroup “We think there’s more volatility coming … We recommend investors reduce risk and stay with cleaner portfolios and better managers”. CLOs are a key funder of the leveraged loan market, and weak demand there can flow through to boost borrowing costs to all corporates.
FINSUM: This is akin to a warning coming out of the high yield market, as what it reflects is worries about how leveraged companies might handle a downturn.
Whether or not you are a supporter of Elizabeth Warren and her aggressive tax plans, one has to worry about the recent arithmetic that is coming out of her campaign. In particular, what is emerging is that many wealthy Americans would have tax rates over 100%. In many cases they would be as high as 158%. The reason why is a combination of the tax rates Warren favors, but critically, also her goal to tax unrealized gains. That means taxes would need to be paid in cash on investments that have not realized cash gains.
FINSUM: In our view, this is little more than divisive and punitive, not to mention rife with bad logic that will create unintended consequences. We are not in principle against the idea of some moderate level of redistribution to help strengthen the country and economy, but this is highly unfair.
Gold has been doing well this year alongside all the market turmoil and uncertainty. While one could construe recent progress on a trade deal with China as potentially bad for gold—given its status as an uncertainty hedge—the reality is that rates are headed lower via Fed cuts. This means the Dollar will weaken, and in turn help gold. Societe Generale, for instance, is advising a maximum allocation to gold, saying investors should have 5% of their portfolios in it. Additionally, a resolution to the trade war would probably also weaken the Dollar as there would be less desire to take advantage of its safe haven status.
FINSUM: Basically Soc Gen is arguing that gold will benefit from both lower rates and a risk-on trade. The former aspect seems sound, but gold benefitting from less anxiety? Sounds a weak supposition to us.
Sometimes we just have to run a story for fun that has no relevance to markets or investing. This is one of them. Evidently, last week a plane flowing over Siberia (Yakutia to be exact) had its cargo hatch break open. When it did, $368m worth of gold bars, silver, and diamonds fell from the sky down onto the frozen landscape. The “drop” happened right near the airport and the company who owned the goods had to get trusted staff to recover the bounty, but not before going through metal detectors before they went home. Now locals think that not all the gold has been recovered and flights to the area are sold out all over Russia as treasure seekers come to the frozen region.
FINSUM: Sorry for the irrelevance of the story, but treasure falling from the sky and oversold flights full of treasure hunters was too much not to share.