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?
The President and his team are working furiously on plans for how to open the $22 tn US economy after its unprecedented lockdown. “We’re looking at the concept where we open sections of the country and we’re also looking at the concept where you open up everything”, says Trump. In particular, the White House is looking to open the economy entirely within 30 days, or possibly 60 days, with different schedules being considered. The new strategy is to open the economy based on much more widespread and rapid testing. This will allow workers to be verified as having (or not) the virus and sent back to work.
FINSUM: Just as the coronavirus is a nearly unprecedented occurrence, so is the reopening of the world’s largest economy. It is going to take exceptionally good planning to balance the competing priorities of public health and economic restoration.
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.
A lot of financial advisors are small business owners, and thousands of them are likely looking for the government’s Payment Protection Program assistance right now. As anyone involved in applying for the program knows, things have been very frustrating and uncertain, with that stress exacerbated by the fact that it is a first come-first serve program. However, there is some potential good news on the horizon. The White House and Senate leader Mitch McConnell are trying to get another $250 bn of loans approved by Congress, which would add to the $349 bn that is already being deployed (apparently it is already being deployed).
FINSUM: It appears as though demand is exceeding supply, so this additional funding is likely to be very necessary.
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%.
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.
Dear readers, like you we are concerned for the longevity of small businesses across the country and are eager to receive the Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans and EIDL grants that hundreds of thousands of small business owners have applied for across the US. Seemingly everyone who has applied is frustrated and confused because of all the issues that the SBA, lenders, and the government are having in issuing the loans. We know thousands of financial advisors are also small business owners and have applied for these loans. Because of this, we have started a site – covidloantracker.com – to track the application and issuance of PPP and other loans. This will help business owners understand when and how many loans are actually being paid and will hold media and the government accountable to provide the aid they have promised. Our aim to is to share this site with as many small business owners as possible and then share results with the media on a daily basis as a way to track what percentage of applicants have received their loans.
Please visit covidloantracker.com and fill out the 60 second form.
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.