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?
There has been a lot of bearish sentiment over the last couple of months, with more of a positive trend lately. Put this piece in the positive bucket. The argument in question is from Capital Group, a $1.8 tn manager, who contends that while we are in the late stage of an economic cycle, there should still be a couple years of good earnings growth and returns. The late stage of an economic cycle typically lasts 1-3 years, says Capital Group, and that shouldn’t be any different this time. According to the the firm, “Given that this expansion has been pretty measured, I think we’re expecting that the late stage of the cycle will probably also be quite measured as well … And it doesn’t have to end in a recession”.
FINSUM: We really like that final thought. Everything about this market and economy has been steady for years. A slow and steady end makes sense.
Apple has a big problem on its hands. While the company debuted its new suite of iPhones last year, with the largest and most expensive models getting much of the attention. One of Apple’s work horse phones, the lower priced iPhone XR, has not been selling nearly as well as Apple hoped. The phone, which is priced well under the top models, has particularly been facing weak sales in China, Apple’s most important market. Home grown competition has stolen much of the middle market which the phone is supposed to occupy.
FINSUM: This Wall Street Journal puts it nicely—the phone is being passed over by both bargain hunters and status seekers. In other words, it doesn’t have a niche.
The Democrats are mulling one their biggest risks heading into 2020. That huge decision is whether to make Medicare for all part of their platform for the next election. The House currently has no less than eight proposals for how to make Medicare available to all. None of them are likely to pass in the next two years as the Republicans have control of the Senate. However, adopting the goal of Medicare for all would be a major signal about the direction of the Democratic party headed into the future. The idea is popular with liberals, but more contentious with swing voters.
FINSUM: This is a high risk/high reward strategy. It could either become a major rallying cry or another reason for those in the middle to abhor the left-most leanings of the Democrats. Speaking from a politically neutral position, we do think this would be a good strategic move for the left, as one of the big challenges for the party is that President Trump and the right have grabbed the reins on shaping the vision for the future of the nation. This would be a chance for the Democrats to start to put forth their own cohesive vision.
So far Brexit has been the complete mess everyone expected. The whole deal looks like it is hurdling towards a chaotic no-deal departure. Parliament looks very likely to reject PM May’s deal, a vote on which she has delayed in order to save face. However, the EU has just extended a major olive branch by virtue of its judiciary. The top EU court just ruled that the UK can unilaterally back out of Brexit at any time despite the fact that they have formally enacted Article 50, or the official leaving process from the EU.
FINSUM: All they have to do is hold a Parliamentary vote or second referendum and this whole mess would be over. IT is a long way from something that simple happening.
Alongside the renewed fall in equities, EMs and especially EM currencies have been taking it on the chin. With western markets seizing up and oil prices tumbling it is a double whammy for emerging markets. EMs are hurt by declines in oil, but are doubly wounded by the risk-off mood that is pervading markets. Treasuries have seen big yield declines as investors flooded in, and that has meant outflows from EMs, which have seen their currencies drop considerably. The Rand and Lira have been hurt most.
FINSUM: This ship probably won’t be righted until western markets exercise their demons.
The reality is that the Fed has been hiking steadily, and investors should expect 2-3 more hikes in 2019. That means that adjusting one’s portfolio is a must. One thing to remember is that there are now plenty of ETFs that are designed to not lose from rates rising and still give an easy 2-3% yield. This is a big change from the post-Crisis paradigm, where safety meant negligible yields. One conservative way to play the environment is the SPDR Barclays 1-3 Treasury Bill ETF (BIL). Another is the iShares Floating Rate Bond ETF (FLOT), which only yields 2.5%, but with very little rate risk. One much more intriguing option is the WisdomTree Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Negative Duration ETF (AGDN). This fund holds a long bond position coupled with a short Treasury position with a target duration of -5 years, meaning it is designed to gain when rates rise.
FINSUM: This is a good selection of ETFs, and that Wisdomtree option looks quite interesting. It truly seems a way to profit as rates rise.
The US auto industry has a huge problem, and if you’ve ben paying attention, you should already be starting to become aware. Consider this: the US economy has been doing great and the employment market is tight, yet US automakers are closing factories and cutting their workforces left and right. The disconnect comes down to an important issue—US auto factories are not aligned with customer demand. Traditional sedans are rapidly losing market share, yet US auto plants are set up to produce them. SUVs are taking over American car purchases, but automakers aren’t equipped to meet demand.
FINSUM: This is an eye-opening issue, but surely the problem of shifting demand is better than demand falling in aggregate. It does seem like there are going to be some rough years as automakers play catch up.
Something very odd is happening at both the DOL and SEC. Ever since the fiduciary rule was killed by the courts earlier this year, a renewed sense of purpose seems to have washed over both agencies. While many thought complacency and a light hand would be the guiding approach of both regulators in the Trump era, somehow the opposite has happened. Now, industry lawyers say both regulators are pursuing enforcement at “epic levels of tenacity”. The focus has increasing been on the 401(k) business, but attention and activity has expanded across the board.
FINSUM: When the DOL declined to push its rule further, and the SEC stopped short of using the word “fiduciary”, most somewhat suspected there was going to be a lighter touch approach. Something has really changed.
Gold has been in an extraordinary multi-year slump. From its peak of around $1,900 a few years ago, the shiny metal has sunk into a multi-year bear market, recently settling at around $1,200 an ounce. However, a couple of factors are coming together that may mean the bad times are over. The first is that there has been consolidation in the mining sector, but secondly, because the pending trade wars have meant that central banks have been buying more gold as a safe haven. This type of demand rose 8% since last year, and gold buying by central banks is off to its best start since 2015.
FINSUM: Unfortunately, we have to disagree with this article. Buying gold as we move into a higher-rate and stronger Dollar period contradicts all the fundamentals of the market. Furthermore, we think if gold was going to benefit from trade war fears, it would have already started.
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.
The new Apple iPhone X has gotten a lot of hype in media. Aside from all its new features, which are admittedly extensive, its ~50% price hike to $1,000 has received a great deal of attention. That price hike is testing a long-held economic principle which says that as prices for a good rise, demand falls. However, for the last 100 years there has been a view that rising prices could raise demand for certain goods because they amounted to “conspicuous consumption”, or saw their demand rise as prices did because owning them signaled wealth and status.
FINSUM: Apple’s new iPhone X, with a lofty $1,000 price tag, may just prove conspicuous consumption true.