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?
The election may still be ten months away, but the whole year is likely to be framed by it, markets being no exception. With that in mind, Morgan Stanley has some advice for investors. The first thought they offer is that in this case, being reactive is probably better than being proactive. If you reflect on 2016, everyone thought that a Trump victory would hurt stocks. The exact opposite happened. In this case, don’t assume a Democrat victory would be bad. Accordingly, it may be wise to wait until the election and then allocate as seems fit at that time. The other thing to bear in mind is that a Democratic sweep could be surprisingly good for stocks. According to Morgan Stanley, ““We would expect that a Democratic sweep in 2020 could deliver the greatest impulse to the economy” because of its greater odds of bringing a fiscal stimulus than when the government is divided between parties.
FINSUM: We really like this line of reasoning from MS.
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.
It has been more than 18 months of brinksmanship in the making, but the US and China are apparently set to seal a phase one trade deal. The deal will be signed at 11:30 am in the White House. The deal leaves out a lot of the most difficult and contentious issues between the countries, but is a sign that things are improving. The FT summarizes the substance of the deal this way, saying “It commits China to making $200bn in additional purchases of US goods, including farm products, and other pledges on currency and intellectual property, in exchange for a small rollback in some tariffs and an indefinite hold on further punitive measures out of Washington”.
FINSUM: The key thing here is that both countries want this work out and this deal is a step in the right direction. We find this quite positive in the grand scheme of things.
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.
It has taken a long time for bond ETFs to begin getting even a tiny bit of the attention stock ETFs have gotten, but the trend has finally taken hold in earnest, and that s good news for investors. While active bond funds have done well in recent years (perhaps due to it being considered easier to outperform a bond index than a stock index), bond ETFs have now started to surpass them in growth. This is adding much more liquidity to bond funds, which benefits investors substantially. Both active and passive bond funds have taken in over $200 bn each in 2019.
FINSUM: While “liquidity mismatch” worries will continue to linger, the fact is that bond ETFs make a lot of sense (perhaps even more than stock ETFs?) because they circumvent minimum-buy and illiquidity issues, allowing many more people to access hard-to-reach corners of the bond market.
At this point it might seem natural to think that the stock market simply rises a bit everyday. Stocks have been so steady and so quiet for so long that it is almost disconcerting. The current “quiet” streak is one of the longest ever. The current number of days without a 1% move is the sixth longest streak since 1969 and the third longest since 1995. One analyst described the situation this way, saying “Right now it’s very, very tough to fight this trend … There’s a reinvigoration in the idea that we will see better growth”.
FINSUM: The huge rise in stocks from the Crisis through the last decade was generally characterized by steadiness. We don’t see this as any surprise.
Rollovers are one of the key areas of focus for advisors within the new SEC Best Interest rule (“Reg BI”). This is not just because of their importance for advisors generally, but because there was still a good degree of uncertainty over how the new rule would be applied to the area. Recent edits to the rule clarify its application, and the results are likely to seem a little unfavorable, as they are more strict than previously. In the past, rollovers were only subject to Rule 2111 if securities were to be bought or sold in the plan. This left a bit of wiggle room. However, the new Reg BI has been modified and Rule 2111 now applies to any situation, regardless of whether securities are involved. Thus, rollover recommendations by broker-dealers are now completely governed by the best interest standard in all scenarios.
FINSUM: Not unexpected, but many were hoping for more flexibility. At least there is now confirmation.
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.