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?
Yes, you read that right, Bank of America is forecasting a 35%+ GDP fall for the YEAR, not just Q2. The bank thinks the Coronavirus downturn is so bad that the US economy will shrink 7% in Q1, 30% in Q2, and 1% in Q3, a cumulative 35.55% for the year. The downturn would be the worst to ever strike the US.
FINSUM: This is by far the bleakest projection we have seen. Goldman, for instance, sees 19% growth in Q3. So if the economy shrinks 35% this year, what is fair market value for the S&P 500?
Investors have made cash the only thing that matters in markets. The Dollar is surging and investors are fleeing assets in favor of cash. Cash is a scarce and valuable asset in this downturn, and which companies have a ton of it—tech companies. While the Silicon Valley giants will take a hit from lower consumer spending, the reality is that the shutdown of normal life is pushing things ever more online—their domain. As this crisis eventually abates, giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have huge cash reserves (currently $350 bn) that will help them attract shareholder capital, and also grab market share as competition gets weeded out.
FINSUM: Tech is probably going to be in a stronger position in a year than it was six weeks ago. Their fortress balance sheets will be key.
The “mini Super Tuesday” results are in from yesterday’s six primaries, and Joe Biden has taken an even more commanding lead. The biggest prize he won yesterday was Michigan, giving him a very strong lead heading into next week’s primaries, which includes Florida. He is almost untouchable at the point, but a win in Florida—which is forecasted—would make his advantage insurmountable.
FINSUM: Two thoughts here. Firstly, Sanders is the most successful non-winning candidate ever. He changed the party and galvanized the center, which ultimately led to his losing, but transformed the vision of the party. Secondly, Biden is more dangerous for Trump. He has the right middle-of-the-road policies and demeanor to attract moderates and those whose eyes might be wavering from the president.
New data on the EU economy has just come in and it isn’t pretty. Overall, the bloc grew just 01% in the fourth quarter, while Italy and France actually contracted. According to Commerzbank, “The spectre of recession is back … Economic growth in the eurozone came to a virtual standstill at the end of the year . . . The ECB is likely to view this with concern”. Ironically though, this may be positive for market as the ECB is likely to take an even more dovish approach.
FINSUM: It feels like we just did a time warp back to around 2013, when central banks were ready to stick to ZIRP for years. We all know how stocks performed then!
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%.
Income investors have been frightened by the extent to which the current Coronavirus downturn is going to cause an economic downturn and thus a big cut to dividends. The only good news on this front recently has been that companies are suspending buybacks before dividends. In assessing the damage, Goldman Sachs says overall dividend payouts are going to be slashed by 25% this year. That figure includes a 38% fall for the next nine months added to the 9% rise in dividends in the first quarter.
FINSUM: This is big, but it would be far from catastrophic levels.
Fixed index annuities, like other annuities, have developed somewhat of a bad reputation for poor sales practices over the years. Many agents sell fixed index annuities by saying things like “7% annual gains, no downside”, which in reality is a gross misrepresentation of how income riders work. So why should one buy annuities, and how in turn should they be sold responsibly? The reality is that fixed index annuities are best bought for what they guarantee, not what they might offer. That means CD-like returns with full principal protection. Any upside gains are a bonus, but should not be the core reason for buying the annuity, or the principal way they are pitched.
FINSUM: This will obviously be second nature to those experienced with annuities, but there are plenty of advisors whose clients are starting to ask them about the product (given the environment), so this is just a reminder for those dealing with unfamiliar inbound requests.
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.