By Bryan Rich
November 16, 2016, 4:00pm EST
Yesterday we talked about the missing piece in the pro-growth rally in markets. It’s oil. A pick-up in demand and growth, tends to also accelerate demand for oil.
But the market is holding out for the November 30 OPEC decision. They’ve told us they plan to cut. The inventories have jumped in recent weeks, suggesting producers are ramping up production into a cut (taking advantage while they can). And Russia’s energy minister said today he thinks OPEC members will agree to terms on a production cut by the November 30 meeting.
With that, oil spiked this morning, but fell back from the highs — still hanging around the $45 area.
Today I want to talk about the performance of small caps over the past week compared to the broader market. If we consider a Trump economy where regulation will be peeled back, a few areas come to mind as being among winners:
Banks: Banks have been crushed by Dodd Frank, made into utility companies. This is the legislation that responded to the global financial crisis – where banks had become hedge funds, taking massive-leveraged-speculative bets against their deposit base. When the black swan event occurred, they became exposed and were bailed out to keep the financial system alive. Those days should never return, but the pendulum swung too far in the other direction on Dodd Frank. In a Trump economy, risk taking will almost certaintly return to the banking system again. The XLF, bank ETF, is up 10% in the past week.
Energy: The energy industry has been crushed under the weight of clean energy policies. Billionaire Carl Icahn, one of Trump’s biggest advocates and once thought to be a candidate for Treasury Secretary, penned a letter to the EPA a few months ago saying their policies on renewable energy credits are bankrupting the oil refinery business and destroying small and midsized oil refiners. Icahn happens to own a controlling stake in one, CVR Energy (CVI). The stock is up 30% in the past week.
Small caps: The common theme in the above two industries is that all companies have been hurt, but the burden of increased regulation has been far a greater economic and financial cost to small companies. That’s why the Russell 2000 (small cap index) is racing higher in the President elect Trump era. The small cap index is outperforming the S&P 500 by 5 to 1 since Tuesday of last week.
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By Bryan Rich
November 14, 2016, 4:45pm EST
We talked last week about the Trump effect on stocks. With a new President promising aggressive growth polices and a supportive Congress in place to make it happen, the Trump plan is now being coined as Trumponomics.
As we discussed last week, the markets are reflecting this hand-off, from a Fed driven economy to a pro-growth government driven economy, positively — pricing in a period of hot growth. And it couldn’t come at a better time — in fact, it may come at the perfect time.
The Fed has been able to manufacture stability but not demand and inflation. Fiscal stimulus is designed to fill that void — to boost aggregate demand and inflation. That’s why the bond market has shifted gears so dramatically, now reflecting a world with a trillion dollar infrastructure spend on the table, tax cuts, deregulation and incentives to get $2.5 trillion of U.S. corporate capital repatriated. Prior to last week, despite all of the best efforts from global central banks, and a Fed that was telegraphing a removal of emergency policies, the bond market was reflecting a world that was in depression, with the 10-year yield well below 2% in the U.S. and negative rates throughout much of the world. Today the U.S. 10 year traded above 2.25%, returning to levels we saw last December, when the Fed made its first post-crisis rate hike.
As we’ve discussed, growth has a way of solving a lot of problems, including our debt problem. Politicians and economists love to scare people by emphasizing the enormity of our debt (close to $20 trillion). But our debt size is all relative — relative to the size of our economy, and relative to what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Take a look at this table…
|General Government Gross Debt as % of GDP|
Source: Billionaire’s Portfolio, TradingEconomics.com
You can see, in a major economic downturn, debt tends to rise. And it has for everyone. The downturn has been global. And the rise in debt has been global.
The fears that a big debt load will lead to a dumping of the dollar, hyper-inflation and runaway interest rates don’t fit in this picture of a broadly weak recovery from a paralyzing global debt bust. Coming out of the worst global recession since World War II, inflation hasn’t been the problem. It’s been deflation. Inflation will be a concern when the structural issues are on the mend, employment is robust, confidence is high and the real economy is working. That hasn’t happened. But an aggressive and targeted government spending plan can finally start changing that dynamic.
And the markets are telling us, an inflationary environment is welcomed – it comes with signs of life.
Gold is the widely-loved inflation hedge. And gold isn’t rising out of concerns of overindebtedness. It’s falling hard in the past week, in favor of growth.
With this in mind, we may very well be entering an incredible era for investing – after a long slog. And an opportunity for average investors to make up ground on the meager wealth creation and retirement savings opportunities of the past decade, or more. For help, follow me in our Billionaire’s Portfolio, where you look over my shoulder as I follow the world’s best investors into their best stocks. Our portfolio is up 16% this year. That’s 2.5 times the performance of the broader stock market. Join me here.
By Bryan Rich
November 8, 2016, 4:00pm EST
As we head into the election, everyone involved in markets is trying to predict how stocks will perform on the results. When the Clinton email scandal bubbled up again, the stock market lost ground for nine straight days, the longest losing streak since 1980. Since the probe has allegedly ended, stocks have been up.
Does it mean Clinton is good for stocks and Trump is bad for stocks? Not likely.
Big institutional money managers think they have a better understanding of what the world will look like under Clinton than Trump, and therefore feel more compelled to go on with business as usual heading into the event (i.e. allocating capital across the stock market) with the expectation of a Clinton win, and conversely, they’re not as compelled to do so with the expectation that Trump might win (i.e. they sit tight and watch).
When they sit on their hands, liquidity in markets shrinks, and speculators can push the stock market around.
With that, is there any predictive value in the either moves in stocks of the past two weeks? Not likely. No matter what the outcome, your 401k money will continue to flow to Wall Street, and stocks will be bought with that money. Moreover, central banks have been in control and remain in control. They’ve been responsible for the global economic recovery of the past nine years, and for creating and maintaining relative economic stability. And stable to higher stocks play a big role in the coordinated strategies of the world’s biggest central banks. Neither the economic recovery, nor the stock market recovery can be credited much to politicians.
If anything, politicians (both parties) have been a drag on recovery, which has lead to the threatening “stagnation forever” malaise that is saddling economies across the globe. From mis-spending early fiscal stimulus, to ignoring central banks cries for much needed targeted spending programs, they’ve proven to be an impediment in the economic recovery.
In this environment, in the long run, the value of the new President for stocks will prove out only if there’s structural change. And structural change can only come when the economy is strong enough to withstand the pain. And getting the economy to that point will likely only come from some big and successfully executed fiscal stimulus.
Now, as we head into tonight’s results, as we’ve been told, a Clinton win remains the clear favorite (a known quantity). And Trump has always represented the vote that the unknown is better than the known.
This vote for some time has looked very much like the Brexit vote (the UK’s vote to leave the European Union), and the Grexit vote (Greece’s vote against austerity). As with the Trump vote, the buildup to both Grexit and Brexit were accompanied by threats from trusted officials of draconian outcomes for the people. But as we know, the Greek and British shocked the world by voting for the unknown, over the known.
Let’s take a look at how things looked going into those votes and how it compares to today’s election…
As we headed into the Greek vote in July of last year. It was thought to be a done deal that the Greek people would vote in favor of another bailout package from the European Union (and accept more austerity for fear of an apocalyptic outcome from voting no). The bookmakers put the “yes” vote at 71% chance of occurring. A UK bookmaker paid out those voting “yes” four days before the vote. The “no” vote won, shocking the world with 61% of the vote.
And then there was Brexit …
The UK vote was about trade, immigration, ability to work and live in other EU countries – perhaps mostly about control and politics.
The bookmakers had the chances of a “leave” vote as slim (at about 70/30 favoring the ‘stay’ camp). When voting day arrived, the chances of a “leave” vote had dropped to just 25%. But the British people shocked the world, voting to leave by 52% to 48%.
Going into today’s vote, the chances they’re giving Trump are spot on with the Brexit odds going into the day of the referendum. Of course, it’s not a popular vote. The electoral vote creates a bigger hurdle for voting the candidate of the “unkown” in this case.
By Bryan Rich
November 4, 2016, 4:00pm EST
It was a rough week for global markets. Across the markets, there was clear evidence of big investors reducing exposure. The theme was persistently risk-off (which means some money moving out of stocks and into bonds, out of broader commodities and into gold).
Unusually, it had nothing to do with economic data or central banks.
It had everything to with politics.
With the perception that the gap has closed on the presidential race this week, the uncertainty surrounding the outcome has elevated. And that’s being reflected in some skittishness across markets. And all we hear from Wall Streeters is that they don’t like uncertainty, and can’t calibrate properly on the potential outcomes on the presidential race might bring — as if they’ve been operating with such certainty and precision for the past eight years.
The reality: As we’ve seen over and over, throughout the crisis period, the global political environment has been anything but predictable. The economic environment has been anything but predictable.
If we think about all of the events along the way, over the past eight years: we’ve had the near global economic apocalypse, there was Cypress, Greece, the near defaults of Italy and Spain, the debt ceiling sagas, government shutdowns, Russia/Ukraine, threats from North Korea, the Ebola scare, an oil price crash, Brexit, and more.
Each has brought a potential shock to a global environment that was already on very shaky and uncertain footing, within which some semblance of stability and recovery was only present because it was being manufactured and managed carefully by the world’s biggest central banks.
With that, little, if any, credit can be given to the current President for the economic recovery. And it’s unlikely that the next Presidency will move the needle much either, unless it can come with a supportive Congress, to approve big and bold fiscal stimulus.
By Bryan Rich
November 3, 2016, 4:00pm EST
As we head into the election, there’s one sector in the stock market that looks especially interesting.
Healthcare stocks have been beaten up over the past two years. It’s the worst performing sector on the year. Biotech is down around 20% over the past two years. And it’s driven by fear of price regulations and threats from the Democratic presidential race and nominee. Clinton cracked biotech stocks about a year ago when she tweeted that she would take on price gouging in the industry. But that was after Bernie Sanders presented a bill to curb prices. The perception for the industry is that Clinton would try to curb “excessive” profits at the pharma and biotech companies.
With that, you can see in the chart above, the damage that has been done to pharma and biotech stocks – and healthcare in general.
That said, it’s probably time to buy. It looks like a classic “sell the rumor, buy the fact.” As we know, regardless of who wins the White House, the promises and threats on the campaign trail rarely become policy. And Clinton is known to be friendly to the industry (collecting money for industry speeches in the past). A Trump win would almost certainly send this sector on a tear higher.
Warren Buffett wrote a famous op-ed piece in the New York Times in October 2008 in which he that said the following:
“A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors.”
This is the mindset of a great investor and how great investors react when there are opportunities like we’re seeing in this beaten down sector. They buy when others are selling.
The point of Buffet’s piece is that you don’t get rich buying into a high market or selling into a falling market. You can get rich though, buying into market corrections and beaten-down markets. When everyone was running from bank stocks in 2008-2009, Buffett was buying. When everyone was running out of energy stocks earlier this year, Buffett was buying. I suspect the same is happening with healthcare stocks as we head into the election, and will continue in the aftermath.
By Bryan Rich
November 1, 2016, 4:15pm EST
The Fed is on deck for tomorrow. The RBA (Australian central bank) was a bit more upbeat overnight, as expected, per our discussion yesterday.
The BOJ stood pat as well overnight, though they extended the timeline on hitting their 2% inflation target. That too, wasn’t much of a surprise. Both the ECB and the BOJ have vowed to do “whatever it takes” for “as long as it takes.” Still, for those looking for more easing out of Japan, they didn’t get it. As we discussed yesterday, their latest policy move to peg the Japanese 10-year yield at zero is in the early days, but is working thus far. It’s flipped the switch on the global market perception of an ever-deepening negative rates world. And it’s led to a weaker yen and higher Japanese stocks. Both good for the BOJ.
So ahead of the Fed tomorrow and the U.S. election results next week, the markets were pricing in a little more risk today. A broad “risk-off” day means stocks go lower, yields lower, crude oil lower, gold higher and the VIX (a good market measure of uncertainty) higher.
As we discussed yesterday, the Fed has all but outright told us a hike is coming in December. But they have explicitly shown us that they are as much, if not more, concerned about a shock to the system, as they are jobs and inflation in this environment. And a hit to confidence, and therefore stocks, qualifies as a shock threat in their view.
With that in mind, they should be a bit more upbeat tomorrow, telegraphing the December move, but they are surely concerned about any confidence shake-out surrounding the election.
By Bryan Rich
October 31, 2016, 4:15pm EST
As we discussed on Friday, the dominant theme last week was the big run-up in global yields. This week, we have four central banks queued up to decide on rates/monetary policy.
With that, let’s take a look at the key economic measures that have been dictating the rate path or, rather, the emergency policy initiatives of the past seven years. Do the data still justify the policies?
First up tonight is Australia. The RBA was among the last to slash rates when the global economic crisis was unraveling. They cut from 7.25% down to a floor of just 3% (while other key central banks were slashing down to zero). And because China was quick to jump on the depressed commodities market in 2009, gobbling up cheap commodities, commodities bounced back aggressively. And the outlook on the commodity-centric Australian economy bounced back too. Australia actually avoided official recession even at the depths of the global economic crisis. With that, the RBA was quick to reverse the rate cuts, heading back up to 4.75%. But the world soon realized that emerging market economies could survive in a vacuum. They (including China) relied on consumers from the developed world, which were sucking wind for the foreseeable future.
The RBA had to, again, slash rates to respond to another downward spiral in commodities market, and a plummet in their economy. Rates are now at just 1.5% – well below their initial cuts in the early stages of the crisis.
But the Australian economy is now growing at 3.3% annualized. The best growth in four years. But inflation remains very low at 1.7%. Doesn’t sound bad, right? The August data was running fairly close to these numbers, and the RBA CUT rates in August – maybe another misstep.
The Bank of Japan is tonight. Remember, last month the BOJ, in a surprising move, announced they would peg the 10 year yield at zero percent. That has been the driving force behind the swing in global market interest rates. At one point this summer $12 trillion worth of negative yielding government bonds. The negative yield pool has been shrinking since. Japan has possibly become the catalyst to finally turn the global bond market. But pegging the rate at zero should also serve as an anchor for global bond yields (restricting the extent of the rise in yields). That should, importantly, keep U.S. consumer rates in check (mortgages, auto loans, credit card rates, etc.). Also, importantly, the BOJ’s policy move is beginning to put downward pressure on the yen again, which the BOJ needs much lower — and upward pressure on Japanese stocks, which the BOJ needs much higher.
With that, the Fed is next on the agenda for the week. The Fed has been laying the groundwork for a December rate hike (number two in their hiking campaign). As we know, the unemployment rate is well into the Fed’s approval zone (around 5%). Plus, we’ve just gotten a GDP number of 2.9% annualized (long run average is just above 3%). But the Fed’s favorite inflation gauge is still running below 2% (its target) — but not much (it’s 1.7%). Janet Yellen has all but told us that they will make another small move in December. But she’s told us that she wants to let the economy run hot — so we shouldn’t expect a brisk pace of hikes next year, even if data continues to improve.
Finally, the Bank of England comes Thursday. They cut rates and launched another round of QE in August, in response to economic softness/threat following the Brexit vote. There were rumors over the weekend that Mark Carney, the head of the BOE, was being pushed out of office. But that was quelled today with news that he has re-upped to stay on through 2019. The UK economy showed better than expected growth in the third quarter, at 2.3%. And inflation data earlier in the month came in hotter than expected, though still low. But inflation expectations have jumped to 2.5%. With rates at ¼ point and QE in process, and data going the right direction, the bottom in monetary policy is probably in.
So the world was clearly facing deflationary threats early in the year, which wasn’t helped by the crashing price of oil. But the central banks this week, given the data picture, should be telling us that the ship is turning. And with that, we should see more hawkish leaning views on the outlook for global central bank policies and the global rate environment.
Our Billionaire’s Porfolio is up over 15% this year — three times the return of the broader market. And each of the billionaire-owned stocks in the portfolio continues to have the potential to do multiples of what the broader market does — all led by the influence of our billionaire investors. If you haven’t joined yet, please do. Click here to get started.
By Bryan Rich
October 28, 2016, 5:15pm EST
Remember, up to mid 2015, there were reasons to be optimistic about the outlook for the global economic recovery. The U.S. economy was improving. With the job market hitting targets, the Fed was preparing the world for the first rate hike, to begin moving away from emergency policies. The BOJ was keeping its promises of going full bore into an aggressive easing program which had driven the yen much lower, and stocks much higher, which was beginning to reflect in the economic data. And the European Central Bank had finally started an aggressive easing program to deal with deflationary malaise in the European economy. Better data plus continued aggressive global stimulus was reason to believe better times ahead.
But then came a jolt to markets by the Chinese making an about face on their currency (from strengthening to weakening). That created question marks about the health of China. Were things there worse than people think? And is China beginning to respond with a mass currency devaluation? That shook markets and confidence. And then we had the oil price bust early this year. That threatened mass industry defaults, and a spread to the global financial system. That shook markets and confidence. And, of course, we’ve had the surprising vote from the UK to leave the European Union (Brexit). That shook markets and confidence.
In this environment, stocks (especially U.S. stocks) are a key barometer of confidence. And it becomes self-reinforcing. When confidence shakes, stocks go lower. When stocks go lower, confidence wanes more. Weak confidence starts reflecting in weaker economic data. Weaker economic data pushes stocks lower. And the circle continues.
With this said, for much of the year, there has been speculation of another recession coming. The interest rate market had been pricing in a deflation forever story, with $12 trillion worth of global government bonds in negative yield territory at one point this past summer.
And despite the fact that the intensity of the macro concerns has abated, the fall back in the interest rate market was still sending a very cautionary signal to markets. That caution signal looks like it’s lifting. U.S. 10 year yields look like a run back above 2% is coming soon. And most importantly, the yield on German 10 year bunds (another key global benchmark interest rate) has been on a tear, exiting negative yield territory this week and running up to levels not seen since the day of the Brexit vote.
This move higher in rates, from record low levels, should be good for confidence, good for the economic outlook, and therefore good for stocks (as it removes the another cautionary cloud over sentiment).
Our portfolio is up over 15% this year — three times the return of the broader market. And each of the billionaire-owned stocks in the portfolio continues to have the potential to do multiples of what the broader market does — all led by the influence of our billionaire investors. If you haven’t joined yet, please do. Click here to get started.
By Bryan Rich
October 27, 2016, 3:15pm EST
Last week we talked about the set up for a move in global bond yields. And we discussed the case for why the bond market may have had it very wrong (i.e. rates have been too low, pricing in way too pessimistic a view on the current environment).
Well, today rates have finally started to remind people of how quickly things can change. The U.S. 10 year yield finally broke above the tough 1.80% level and is now trading 1.85%. German yields have now swung from negative territory just three days ago, to POSITIVE 19 basis points at the highs today. Importantly, German yields are now ABOVE pre-Brexit levels.
Still, we’re approaching a second Fed rate hike and U.S. yields are almost 1/2 point lower than where they traded just following the Fed’s first hike in December of last year. As for German rates (another key benchmark for world markets), we found with the Fed in its three iterations of QE, that QE made market rates go UP not down, as people began pricing in a better outlook. That’s yet to happen in Germany. The 10 year yield was closer to 40 basis points when they formally kicked off QE – still above current levels.
But remember this chart we looked at last week.
In the white box, you can see the screaming run-up in yields last year. The rates markets had a massive position squeeze which sent ten–year German bond yields from 5 basis points (near zero) to 106 basis points in less than two months — a 20x move. U.S. ten–year yields (the purple line in the chart below) moved from 1.72% to 2.49% almost in lock–step.
This time around, as we discussed last week, let’s hope a rise in rates is orderly and not messy. Another sharp rise in market rates like we had last year would destabilize global markets (including the very important U.S. housing market).
But the buffer this time around should be the Bank of Japan. Remember, the Bank of Japan, just last month announced they would peg the Japanese 10 year yield at zero. Even with the divergent monetary policies in Europe and Japan relative to the U.S. (central bank rate paths going in opposite directions), the spread between U.S. rates and European and Japanese rates should stay tame. That means that Japan’s new policy of keeping their 10 year yield at zero will/should prevent a run away U.S. interest rate market – at least until there is a big upgrade in the expectation in U.S. growth. On that note, we get a U.S. GDP reading tomorrow.
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By Bryan Rich
October 26, 2016, 4:15pm EST
As of the end of last week, 78% of the companies that have reported earnings for the most recent quarter have beaten estimates.
That’s on about a third of S&P 500 companies that have reported thus far. Remember, FactSet says on average (the five-year average), 67% of companies in the S&P 500 beat their analyst expectations. And they beat by an average of 4%. So the numbers in this earnings season are running a little hotter, albeit on a lowered bar.
We’ve talked quite a bit in the past week about the run up to Apple earnings, which came in yesterday after the market close. The earnings number beat expectations. But it was by a slim margin.
The stock was lower on the day. Still, on the second quarter report, this past July, Apple was a sub $100 stock (trading at just above $96). Today it will close above $115. That’s 20% higher in the span of one quarter, and it was on a report that was very much in line with the report we heard yesterday. And the report included only a few weeks of the new iPhone7 release. And it doesn’t reflect implosion of Apple’s competitor, Samsung.
As the media and analyst tend to do, especially when the macro news front is quiet and market volatility is quiet, they picked apart and speculated on the future of Apple today as a company that may have peaked.
Let’s just take a look at the stock, and not pretend to have better visibility on the future of the company than the people do inside — the same one’s that put a transformational supercomputer in our pockets.
The stock still trades at 13x earnings. The S&P 500 trades at 16x. Apple trades at 13x next year’s projected earnings. The S&P 500 trades at 16.5x. Clearly it’s undervalued compared to the broader market. What about Apple’s monster cash position? Apple has even more cash now — a record $237 billion. If we excluded the cash from the valuation, Apple trades at 8.6x earnings. Though not an apples to apples (pun), and just as a reference point, that valuation would group Apple with the likes of these S&P 500 components that trade 8 times earnings: Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial, Bed Bath & Beyond, a Norwegian chemical company (LBY), and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. It’s safe to say no one is debating whether or not Hewlett Packard is at the pinnacle of its business. Yet, if we strip out the cash in Apple, AAPL shares are trading at an HPE valuation.
Apple still looks like a cheap stock.
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