If financial shares are any indicator of the coming stock market environment, asset prices look set for a long rough patch. According to Morgan Stanley, financial shares are suffering as “The carefree days of rising rates and pristine credit quality could be coming to an end”. The bank’s research team continued, “We cannot ignore the growing risk of a bear credit market next year preceding a recession as well as the negative impact of weaker economic growth”.
FINSUM: Banks stocks are trading like the economy is headed towards a bear market, and we can’t help but think it may not be a bad call.
Stock markets are taking a pounding right now. Where should investors turn? One’s first instinct is probably to look for ten-year Treasuries. However, that safe haven may have finally worn itself out given the current rising rate paradigm. So where should investors turn? Look at short-term (two years and under) securities, both sovereign and corporate. The two-year Treasury yield is now 2.82%, and funds at the very short end of the curve have positive returns for the year even though the rest of fixed income has had a tough time.
FINSUM: Short-term bonds look very favorable right now. Yields are strong and they have little rate sensitivity. So long as one avoids too much credit risk, they look like a good safe haven.
The credit market taught investors a very good lesson in the Crisis (not that many of them were paid attention to). One of those lessons was that the first signs of weakness in the market should be taken seriously, as they can be indicative of a pending meltdown. This occurred in 2007 before the cataclysm in 2008. It appears to be happening again now, as both US and European credit marks are showing some fault lines. For instance, the downgrade of GE is seen as a sign of weakness very similar to what occurred with Ford and GM in 2005.
FINSUM: There has been an extraordinary credit boom since the Crisis and there are bound to be consequences. The question is what the extent of those consequences will be. The market is starting to feel a bit like musical chairs.
Stock markets have been taking a beating lately. Between worries over trade and rising rates, as well as the fading effects of tax cuts and the prospects of weaker earnings, stocks have been getting hammered. Now there could be another material blow coming: corporate deleveraging. For years, companies have gorged on debt to fund buybacks and dividends. However, as rates a rising, they are now under pressure to deleverage, and there will be increasing plans for paying down debt. All of that means companies will be spending less in equity markets and on growth.
FINSUM: This is bad news. Stock buybacks have been one of the main drivers of returns the last few years, and the evaporation of that stimulus will add pressure.
How to protect against the next recession? This is a difficult question. Since it may be rate induced, it will be hard to hide out in Treasuries, and gold has not inspired much confidence. Well, SkyBridge Capital thinks the big money maker is to short high yields. “Our largest short position right now is in high yield, and it’s not because we think we’re going to make money this year or next year … It’s to protect against the eventual recession or [a] surprise recession”, says a portfolio manager there. “If you’re looking to put on [a] relative cheap short position, it’s hard to figure out how you lose money given how tight spreads are”.
FINSUM: High yield has seen a big expansion of credit and a decline in quality, and when the next recession rolls around there are going to be some big losses.