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?
Many articles have been written about which stocks and sectors will do well or poorly if Trump or Biden wins/loses. Generally speaking, these articles are useful but repetitive. A more interesting idea is to look at the sectors/assets that will do well no matter who wins. With that in mind, here are a few ETFs poised to thrive when either candidate emerges victorious. One surprising area that should prosper in either scenario is clean energy. Biden plans to invest heavily in the area, but even if he does not win, this group of companies have finally become profitable. Couple that with rising pro-green public sentiment, and their long-term outlook is positive. Another area is infrastructure stocks. Both Biden and Trump have big infrastructure spending plans in their agenda ($1.3 tn vs $1 tn), so that appears to be a win-win.
FINSUM: Just as there are winners in either situation, there are also losers. Pharma, for instance, would be under attack in either presidency.
Cloud computing is a red hot area of tech. Amazon’s AWS division gets most of the attention, but the whole sector has grown greatly in total revenue over the last couple of years. Heavy growth is forecast to continue through the early 2020s, but there is an x-factor that may give a big boost to cloud stocks which the market is not pricing. That x-factor is the fact that work-from-home is sending the demand for cloud services much higher than baseline forecasts. With distributed workforces, the need for cloud-based computing is higher than if workers were in offices. For example, Audi’s cloud spend grew 12% in just a month between March and April.
FINSUM: So WFH is a great tailwind for cloud computing. The only challenge is that the costs for companies have been soaring so much that they are trying to renegotiate them back down. Overall, seems a big net positive.
Because of how the polls are trending, very few seem to be thinking about the fact that a Republican sweep of all three chambers of the government could happen. When you step away from the polls and think about the fact that Republicans currently control two of the three chambers, it becomes more realistic; and even more so when you consider that polls are likely skewed towards Democrats because of “silent” Republican supporters. If the Republicans sweep, or even just if Trump wins, then the sectors that will surge are energy, banks, healthcare, and defense. In particular, think names like Marathon Petroleum, Bank of America, Pfizer, and Northrop Grumman.
FINSUM: This may be unlikely, but it is not as wildly unrealistic as some make it sound. Perhaps smart to have a portion of the portfolio in these sectors headed into the election?
Even though cases and deaths are still rising rapidly across the European continent, many governments within the EU are planning their re-opening from the Covid lockdown. Spain, Italy, Austria, and more are undertaking and/or announcing plans to reopen as soon as this coming Monday. The rollouts don’t look likely to be rapid anywhere, but their announcement may be received as an important turning point both socially and economically.
FINSUM: Markets are up big today and this is a significant part of it. Might the US start to re-open in a 2-3 weeks (?)—that is the question on investors’ minds.
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.
The Fed announced an unprecedented monetary stimulus package this morning. The central bank declared that its new bond buying program was unlimited, and that it would immediately start buying hundreds of billions of different types of bonds in an effort to unclog credit markets. They also extended lending facilities to new markets such as municipal bonds.
FINSUM: The Fed has been far from shy to in reacting to this crisis, but nothing it is doing seems to be helping markets much. Post-announcement, the Dow is already down over 3%.
Anyone who has been looking at the bond markets is likely to be shocked at the recent moves in the space. Many “high yield” bonds (it is now necessary to use quotes) are yielding what very high quality investment grade bonds were just months ago. A recent sale saw $1 bn of new issuance for a BB+ company at a 3% yield. The huge move downward in bond yields is the result of the Fed’s unprecedented stimulus action, and in particular, their mandate to backstop corporate bonds.
FINSUM: The Fed’s actions have been so warping that they have called into question the very definition of a high yield bond. If every bond is backed by the Fed, then it makes perfect sense that their yields would equalize. In this way the market’s reaction is entirely predictable.
LPL has been a true leader on the recruiting front in 2020. One should expect no less from the largest independent broker-dealer. As one of their new initiatives, they have just launched a program—called the “independent employee” model—to try to attract new advisors who want some of the benefits of being independent, but also want to be a W-2 employee. Such models have been around for a long time, and are most prevalent at Raymond James and Ameriprise, but LPL thinks there is an opportunity to scale it up. The program is designed to appeal to wirehouse advisors who like being W-2s but want to earn higher payouts. Payouts for the program range from 50-70%.
FINSUM: If an IBD is a halfway house between being a wirehouse advisor and being an independent RIA, then this is a one-quarter-way house. It does seem like this might be a smart move—W-2 benefits with higher payouts.
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.
Financial advisors often wonder about the best way to get client money into private equity. The industry has long had very high hurdles for investing directly in funds, and publicly traded funds that try to replicate private equity returns are still nascent. However, there is another good way to get PE like returns by proxy—buy publicly traded private equity company stocks. KKR is a very well known firm that is currently trading very cheaply and seems like a good buy. The stock rose 50% last year but badly trailed its rivals in a year that saw many PE companies double in value as they shifted from partnerships to corporations.
FINSUM: The market seems to be underpricing KKR’s ability to create management fees based on its dry powder, which is causing the weaker valuation.