We think we might have found an area when Democrats and Republicans might agree. Here is an interesting argument—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac distort the housing market and negatively affect renters. This is a conclusion from the Wall Street Journal, which found that the subsidized loans from the agencies artificially lowered interest rates on multi-family properties (apartment buildings), which helped developers in acquiring them. The developers then go on to raise rents. In some cases, owners of big units refinance using agency mortgages and are therefore rewarded for raising rents.
FINSUM: From the left’s view, this hurts everyday Americans by raising rent prices. From the right’s view, this is an example of how big government distorts the economy. All that said, in single family housing, the agencies still seem to have benefits that outweigh their negatives.
As our readers will know, we spent the better part of last week at the Inside ETFs conference. As part of our time there, we are planning to feature a couple of ETFs which we think might be interesting to advisors. The first one we want to feature is a special fund from Legg Mason, the fund is called the Legg Mason Low Volatility High Dividend ETF (LVHD). We were lucky enough to meet with one of the fund’s specialists, Josh Greco, at the conference, and his passion for the fund’s approach really shined through. The fund’s own words describe it best, it seeks to track “the investment results of an underlying index composed of equity securities of U.S. companies with relatively high yield and low price and earnings volatility … LVHD may benefit investors who want income but are concerned about the volatility that can come from traditional equity income investments”. Basically, the idea is to get yield and upside, without so much of the volatility that is traditionally associated with equities. Mr. Greco contextualized the utility of the approach succinctly and convincingly, explaining that as clients’ lives elongate they are going to need to stay in equities longer to get capital appreciation. Accordingly, this fund seeks to de-risk some of that necessary exposure while still giving significant upside and yield. The fund has about $600m in AUM, is widely available, has an expense ratio of 0.27%, and a dividend yield of 3.48%.
FINSUM: In our mind, this fund does an excellent job of fusing some of the best elements of fixed income (yields and less volatility) with the best part of stocks (capital appreciation). It may be a great fit for older clients that need to keep a significant allocation to equities. It is also quite affordable at 0.27%.
Is the US headed for a major slowdown? That is the big question, especially as the economic clouds darken around the globe. The rest of the world, from Europe to China, is slowing, but the US continues to hum along nicely. So are we the last ship that is going to sink, or will the US manage to defy the tides and keep growing strongly? Looking to markets, yields around the world have fallen (including a dramatic increase in negative yielding European bonds), showing that investors are growing more bearish about the economic outlook.
FINSUM: With the Fed paused, we do not see an imminent recession by any means. We do, however, feel the US economy and markets lack a strong narrative at the moment, which makes us slightly nervous.
FINSUM is at the Inside ETFs conference in Hollywood, FL this week, and we wanted to bring you a little live coverage. Yesterday, there was a major session at the event discussing the outlook for fixed income. The consensus was that even though the Fed has paused, there is now way to tell when rates may rise again. Further, while China’s economy looks weak right now, that could turn around rapidly in the event of a trade deal with the US. Finally, all of the five panelists discussing fixed income said the ”liquidity mismatch” between ETFs and fixed income instruments is overblown and that there is not nearly as much to worry about as some think.
FINSUM: Fixed income’s outlook is murky right now. On the one hand, the Fed has paused, but on the other, rates could start rising anytime. On balance, we do think the risk-reward is slightly in favor of a shorter-duration long position.
Hate him or love him, you have definitely heard of him and may respect him. Paul Krugman is one of the most famous economists in the world, and he has just put out a warning we think investors need to hear. Krugman’s big fear is that trouble is building in the economy and the Fed doesn’t have much firepower to help stimulate things if and when growth heads backwards. “There seems to be an accumulation of smaller problems and the underlying backdrop is that we have no good policy response”. Krugman argues that hiking rates was never “grounded in the data” to start with and that “Continuing to raise rates was really looking like a bad idea”.
FINSUM: What we know is that a recession will come at some time, what we don’t know is when. Krugman has given sometime in the next two years as his timeline, which to us wreaks of a lack of confidence.