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?
Investment bank research teams all over Wall Street have been sounding the alarm about how untether from reality markets seem to be. Many are warning investors of another big fall in stocks, and at the same time are telling corporate customers to tap markets for funding as much as they can before another fall. Now hedge funds are joining too, saying it is time to pull back. One manager said “The markets are priced to perfection … The stability in equity markets does not reflect the job losses and the insolvencies ahead of us globally”. Paul Singer of Elliott Management made a specific call, saying “our gut tells us that a 50 per cent or deeper decline from the February top might be the ultimate path of global stock markets”.
FINSUM: In principal a big fall seems warranted, but it is hard to fight the Fed.
One of the things that makes Amazon such an extraordinary company is that it is always on the look out for the next great business opportunity, and always seems to be one step ahead in executing it. AWS anyone? Now the champion of Seattle may be eyeing a new target—ride-sharing. Amazon is considering the acquisition of Zoox, a well-known autonomous vehicle company. If it were to acquire Zoox, it would immediately be in competition with Uber and Lyft in the soon-to-be autonomous ride-sharing market.
FINSUM: We assume Amazon also has some yet-to-be-understood purpose for this beyond just competing with Uber and Lyft. For instance, autonomous delivery/logistics vehicles?
Twitter took a very big step in its ongoing confrontation with President Trump this week. Over the last couple of years, the social media site has taken some steps to block Trump tweets that were barred under its policies. However, yesterday it took what feels like a monumental step—it started putting warning signs and links on posts that it said contained misleading information. Trump has exploded in his response, saying he could shut down social media companies.
FINSUM: We are of two minds about this. On the one hand Twitter was founded as an alternative source of news and a way for people to express their opinions outside the filter that mainstream news provides. On the other hand, it does not seem right that various social media platforms are being used as unchecked fake-news propaganda machines by both parties.
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%.
May was a rough month for dividend stocks. Many companies announced the suspension of dividends or at least a cut. However, 11 companies in the S&P 500 announced dividend increases. That is an interesting group to look at because it likely means their businesses are thriving. Ten of those are: Medtronic, PepsiCo, Clorox, Cardinal Health, Chubb, Expeditors International of Washington, Baxter International, Northrop Grumman, TE Connectivity, Ameriprise Financial.
FINSUM: Pepsi and Clorox are the most interesting of the bunch for us. Both are consumer staples and because of their unique positioning, both seem likely to thrive.
A whole squad of industry players are trying to stop the SEC’s new Reg BI in its tracks. From individual firms (like Michael Kitces’) to trade groups, many are filing lawsuits to stop the implementation of Reg BI. One of the critical arguments seems to be that the new Reg BI does not sufficiently protect investors under the rules of the Dodd-Frank Act. One principal at XY Planning Network says, simply, “Reg BI makes it more difficult for customers to differentiate between financial planners who are bound by fiduciary obligations and for broker-dealers who may consider their own financial interests”.
FINSUM: Both broker-dealers and RIAs are against this rule. For the former, it complicates life, and for the latter, it muddles some of their “fiduciary” thunder. Nonetheless, it seems the rule is likely to implemented on schedule.
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.