For a while there it was looking less likely that the Fed might hike aggressively. Weak jobs numbers seemed to indicate that the economy might be headed downward instead of upward, which would have put rate hikes on hold. However, investors are now once again increasing their bets that rates are going to rise. Many investors now expect the Fed to hike three to four times this year. According to Allianz, “You have this tug of war with the Fed trying to match policy to rising inflation expectations without taking the wind out of the sails of the economy”.
FINSUM: To be totally honest, we don’t think Powell is going to be hawkish enough to hike 3-4 times this year.
One of the world’s most respected economists has just explained something all investors need to hear—why a trade war with China is impossible to avoid. Stiglitz says that so long as the US does not accept China’s right to develop its economy, there will be no meaningful agreement. Because of the path China is on, and the US’ position—led by Trump—no durable trade deal can be achieved. Fundamentally, the US does not accept that China is a “developing country”, rather it sees it as a large and mature nation, and this conflict will keep any serious deal from getting done.
FINSUM: There may be a short-term deal to save public face, but the US and China seemed destined to square off on trade for the foreseeable future.
Despite a very poor three months, there have been increasing amounts of articles arguing that Bitcoin may be a tipping point where it moves higher. However, Bloomberg has published a piece saying it is at a so-called death cross. The cryptocurrency’s 50-day moving average has dropped to its nearest point to its 200-day moving average in nine months, a move which spells doom for technical analysts. If it crosses below the 200-day threshold, it would signal the “death cross”.
FINSUM: While this does seem significant, we would argue that technical analysis is not as relevant in Bitcoin. The reason why being that the fundamentals of the market (e.g. a sound regulatory environment) are unstable, and there is little trading history from which to weigh technical indicators.
Those close to Michael Cohen and the situation say that the lawyer seems poised to turn on his friend, Donald Trump, if put under pressure by investigators. At least that is what long-time Trump legal advisor, Jay Goldberg, is telling the president. Goldberg was a former prosecutor who has advised Trump since the 1990s. Trump reportedly called Goldberg asking for advice, and the Wall Street Journal quotes Goldberg as saying “On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen ‘isn’t even a 1,’”. He explained that if Goldberg were faced with criminal charges, he would tell all.
FINSUM: So it looks like Goldberg is going to tell all, but what nobody knows is how much of value he might really have to say.
For the first time in half a century, Sweden is seriously prepping its country for the possibility of war. Growing national anxiety over the threat of Russia has led the government to send out 4.7m information pamphlets to all households informing them of what to do in the event of war. “All of society needs to be prepared for conflict, not just the military. We haven’t been using words such as total defence or high alert for 25-30 years or more. So the knowledge among citizens is very low”, says the government. The country is also considering whether it should join NATO.
FINSUM: The Baltics and Scandinavia are particularly exposed to possible Russian military aggression, so it makes sense they are nervous.
Something monumental, and very troubling, happened in China his week. The central committee there recommended scrapping the two-term limit for leaders, meaning Xi Jinping will stay in power indefinitely. This has “has put us back 30 years”, said one Chinese commentator close to the situation. One Australian academic comments that “We’ve had so many steps backwards [under Xi] … Media controls have become stricter, internet controls have become stricter. And now one of the few seemingly effective checks on a senior leader’s power — that he can only be in power for two terms — is now just being completely cast aside”.
FINSUM: Even for a country with no elections this seems quite authoritarian. We don’t suspect any immediate fallout, but this could be a slow-building drama.
As we have told readers, we have been keeping our antennae up for signs that an economic downturn may be on its way. Well, the biggest one of all just showed its head, and investors need to take notice. An important part of the rates market just showed an inverted yield curve. The one-month U.S. overnight indexed swap rate is now inverted, and this implies some expectation of a lower Fed policy rate after the first quarter of 2020, says JP Morgan. The Bank summarizes the situation this way, saying “An inversion at the front end of the U.S. curve is a significant market development, not least because it occurs rather rarely … It is also generally perceived as a bad omen for risky markets”.
FINSUM: If the market thinks rates are going to be lower in 2020, that means parts of the bond market are expecting a recession between now and then. Take notice.
This was supposed to be the year when stockpickers would finally have their way, grabbing control of the fund management market away from passive ETFs as correlation fell away and analysis of individual stocks paid off. So much for that. No sooner than investors imagined a different market, correlation has returned in a big way. Correlation has once again surged, and markets are moving more in-sync than they have at any time since the stock market crash of 1987.
FINSUM: The rise of passive investment vehicles seems relentless, and the one thing that seemed like it might get in its way has evaporated. In many ways the rise of correlation makes sense though, as when the market worries about macro issues, stocks tend to move in the same direction.
The wealth management industry will likely find itself pleased today, as many may sense victory in the long battle against the DOL’s fiduciary rule. The SEC has just released its own proposal for a new fiduciary rule, and the rule looks favorable. The new rule would place less onerous restrictions on brokers and advisors. It will not ban any single conflict of interest, but would place a responsibility to disclose certain conflicts of interest to clients and take steps to mitigate their effects. The rule does not contain a specific provision allowing clients to sue their brokers for misbehavior. The SEC would also disallow the use of blurred titles, such as “financial advisor”. The SEC approved the rule by a 4-1 vote and it will now have an official comment period.
FINSUM: The one dissenting vote blasted the rule as a continuation of the status quo. To be honest, the proposal sounds quite favorable to the industry and we were not expecting such a mild rule. We think Congress will likely come down hard on the SEC. This is far from a done deal.
Sometimes looking at raw materials is a great way to get a signal on the economy, especially as they are frequently leading indicators for what is coming. Well, one metal is screaming of bad times to come—silver. Gold is priced at 82x silver, the highest level in two years, which is a seen as a poor indicator. “Money managers tend to favor gold when they think markets might turn rocky and discard silver when they are worried about slower global growth crimping consumption”, says the Wall Street Journal. 55% of demand for silver is for industrial purposes, which links it more with fundamental metals like copper.
FINSUM: So this is an interesting insight, but because silver is not a pure industrial commodity (it is also somewhat of a value store), this comparison does not seem quite as pertinent. Gold to copper would be more interesting.
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.