Top of the Pops: What will be the market’s Christmas No.1?

Just when you thought risky assets could not go any higher or quantitative easing any better, welcome to 2017: the year of the relief rally. The year when asset returns made the TMT bubble of 2000 lore palatable if not possible. Among the cornucopia of rising risk assets, which one will end the year on top?

We might have the tried and true US Equities. A bit like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, this one’s an easy crowd pleaser. While maintaining historically high margins of nearly 10%, US S&P 500 earnings have grown 10.4% through Q3 2017[1] and are expected to grow slightly higher in 2018 with the majority of earnings growth coming from the IT sector.

Or alternatively, the Christmas number one could go to an asset class coming in from the shadows, like EM equities: a bit like the comeback of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, one of this year’s favourites in homage to George Michael. The last calendar year MSCI EM equities topped the asset class charts was 2009.

Normally the winner of X Factor does well on the Christmas list. This year’s contender is Rak-Su and give it to me or “Demelo”. The market wanted inflation and a strong USD in 2017 but got neither of them in spades. Not surprisingly, with negative real rates, cash is a strong contender for worst asset class of 2017. Holding onto cash in most major currencies would have lost you money in real terms. The Zero Lower Bound (ZLB) turned out to not be a lower bound after all with negative short-term nominal rates in Japan, Europe, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark during 2017.

The odds on favourite for this year’s Christmas number one is Ed Sheeran’s remix with Beyoncé of “Perfect”. And our Christmas chart wouldn’t be complete without the perfect asset class stocking stuffer, the bitcoin. According to COINBT:SS the lead crypto currency is up 1,575% year-to-date.

Stormzy’s “Blinded by Your Grace” might apply to the impact of currency if you valued your assets in US dollar rather than sterling in 2017.  Based on the negative sentiment in the options market, the historic trade deficit and/or stubborn fiscal deficit the GBP lost nearly 10% against the USD. Despite a formal end to QE and the first serious Federal Reserve rate rises since 2006, the USD surprised the market and lost nearly 10% of its value over the year. [2] So to hedge or not currency hedge became a serious question again for investors.

Jason Lejonvarn – Investment strategist, Mellon Capital

[1] Bloomberg, as at 30 September 2017

[2] Bloomberg YTD as at 13 December

Just when you thought risky assets could not go any higher or quantitative easing any better, welcome to 2017: the year of the relief rally. The year when asset returns made the TMT bubble of 2000 lore palatable if not possible. Among the cornucopia of rising risk assets, which one will end the year on top? We might have the … read more

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The comeback king: Shinzo Abe and Japan’s reinvigorated economy

Between 2006 and 2012, Japan had no less than seven prime ministers; more than one a year. November’s landslide election of Shinzo Abe for a record-breaking third term signals a decisive end to an era of political instability and bodes well for a reinvigorated economy.

Immediately after Abe’s recent victory , the Nikkei 225 hit a 21-year high, building on a run that saw Japanese equities comfortably outperform European and US stock markets since the start of September.

On the macroeconomic front, too, the picture looks rosy. Corporate profits and business sentiment are up. GDP has risen for seven quarters in a row, its longest spell of interrupted growth for 16 years. Nominal GDP was almost 11% higher in the third quarter of 2017 than it was five years earlier.  We see this spurt of growth as a major milestone. For the first time since 1997, nominal GDP is now above ¥533 trillion, meaning the economy has finally recovered the ground lost over two long decades of stagnation.

If you step back and look at what the government promised on the economy and what it has actually achieved since it launched fiscal and monetary stimulus in 2013, it’s pretty impressive. We think it points the way to a positive outlook for investors.

Miyuki Kashima – head of Japanese equity investment, BNY Mellon Japan

Between 2006 and 2012, Japan had no less than seven prime ministers; more than one a year. November’s landslide election of Shinzo Abe for a record-breaking third term signals a decisive end to an era of political instability and bodes well for a reinvigorated economy. Immediately after Abe’s recent victory , the Nikkei 225 hit a 21-year high, building on … read more

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Bitcoin gains new ground

Despite initial controversy, more and more major companies and payments systems are starting to accept Bitcoin as a valid currency. The advantage of Bitcoin is that it is seen as being a currency that is finite in nature which cannot be manipulated by central bank policy politics. With Bitcoin you can’t just print money out of nowhere – it is tethered to a finite resource, as the ability to ‘mine’ it is designed to resemble a precious metal such as gold. In this regard it seeks to replicate the approach to currency typified by the gold standard.

Paul Markham – global equities manager. Newton, a BNY Mellon company

Despite initial controversy, more and more major companies and payments systems are starting to accept Bitcoin as a valid currency. The advantage of Bitcoin is that it is seen as being a currency that is finite in nature which cannot be manipulated by central bank policy politics. With Bitcoin you can’t just print money out of nowhere – it is … read more

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Could the globalisation elephant begin a stampede to protectionism?

Popularly known as the globalisation elephant thanks to its shape, the chart above describes how, between 1988 and 2008 the real incomes of both the world’s richest and poorest people soared. In contrast, lower earners in developed countries saw their real incomes fall. Since then, the global financial crisis and its aftermath have seen average worker real incomes in much of the developed world stagnate. In the UK, average weekly earnings are still significantly (7.7%) below their 2008 peak in inflation-adjusted terms.

We think the chart helps explain why populist politics have taken root in developed markets. If you’re part of that ‘squeezed middle’, globalisation is likely to have been less a force for good and more a source of anxiety over the past three decades. No surprise, then, if people have turned to new political voices in search of solutions. Certainly in the US, President Trump has made clear his desire to put America first – but in other countries too, a shift in grass-roots opinion suggests the developed world’s middle classes are questioning whether free trade is in their best interest.

Yet this kind of rhetoric ignores a fundamental problem, namely the much higher cost of labour in developed markets. If more tariffs were put in place in the US, for example, this would just increase the cost of these goods for US consumers. And even if some manufacturing production were re-shored, this would likely be automated to a very high degree with few additional jobs created. Finally, given the potential for retaliatory measures from other countries, we think any rise in protectionism would be a lose/lose situation, with a very real possibility of higher inflation and lower GDP growth.

Douglas Reed – Newton, a BNY Mellon company

Popularly known as the globalisation elephant thanks to its shape, the chart above describes how, between 1988 and 2008 the real incomes of both the world’s richest and poorest people soared. In contrast, lower earners in developed countries saw their real incomes fall. Since then, the global financial crisis and its aftermath have seen average worker real incomes in much … read more

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How Argentina came in from the cold

Upon assuming office in 2015, President Mauricio Macri and his economic team immediately set about reforming Argentina’s economy – dismantling capital controls, allowing the currency to float freely and settling a long-standing dispute with creditors. Argentina now reaps the benefits of these reforms with growth and confidence returning once more.

These reforms have also led to positive developments for Argentina’s debt markets, a fact that was perhaps most clearly observed last year when Argentina announced its return to the international bond market with a record-breaking US$16.5 billion dollar-denominated issuance.

Less observed, however, has been the development of, and increased demand for, Argentinian peso-denominated paper as the government’s efforts to rebuild the local currency bond curve start to bear fruit.

We think investors will remain willing consumers of these bonds as long as they can continue to hedge the currency exposure with no impediments to capital repatriation. While for Argentinian corporates, the ability to issue in domestic currency eliminates liability currency mismatches.

Argentina’s debt markets have undergone a remarkable transformation against a backdrop of profound economic and political change. The confluence of development of sovereign, local currency, corporate and foreign exchange markets provides a unique opportunity for investors to gain exposure to this improving story and access what we think constitute some of the most attractive and compelling yields around.

Oliver Williams – Insight, a BNY Mellon company

Upon assuming office in 2015, President Mauricio Macri and his economic team immediately set about reforming Argentina’s economy – dismantling capital controls, allowing the currency to float freely and settling a long-standing dispute with creditors. Argentina now reaps the benefits of these reforms with growth and confidence returning once more. These reforms have also led to positive developments for Argentina’s … read more

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Could these EM challengers displace Silicon Valley?

Could US tech stocks be eclipsed by a new wave of emerging market (EM) challengers? We think that’s a key question for the coming months and years as China and India pick up the pace in their adoption of new technologies.

We note, for example, that China has some 40% of the world’s artificial intelligence (AI) scientists as well as five of the 10 most highly valued tech ‘unicorns’.*

Global internet usage and e-commerce statistics paint a similar picture. In 2015, for example, India displaced the US as the second largest internet user population. India is also building a global lead both in its number of smartphone users and the number of e-commerce sales transacted on mobile phones.

We think this highlights an important point. For all their status as the darlings of Wall Street, the current crop of US tech leviathans face a serious challenge. As EMs create their own centres of expertise, we believe investors may be well served by looking beyond the narrow confines of Silicon Valley to a wider world of global innovation.

Drew Guff – Siguler Guff, a BNY Mellon company

* Unicorns’ are defined as unlisted tech companies with a valuation above US$1bn.

Could US tech stocks be eclipsed by a new wave of emerging market (EM) challengers? We think that’s a key question for the coming months and years as China and India pick up the pace in their adoption of new technologies. We note, for example, that China has some 40% of the world’s artificial intelligence (AI) scientists as well as … read more

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Can China maintain its role as an engine of global growth?

Since its accession to the WTO in December 2001 China has accounted for an increasing share of the global economy. Helped by fast export and investment growth it remains an engine of trade and is expected to generate some 35% of global growth over the next two years, according to the World Bank’s latest forecast.

The country is also plagued by structural challenges however, most notably the uncomfortable legacy of a massive state-inspired credit expansion in the wake of the global financial crisis. As such, it’s attempting a tricky transition from a credit-fuelled growth model that is overly reliant on investment to one more driven by private consumption and services. It remains unclear how the dynamic between cooling credit growth and supporting GDP growth will ultimately unfold.

The good news is that China’s economy has been gradually but demonstrably rebalancing towards a growth model that is less reliant on investment, with new industries coming to the fore. Our base case is therefore for China to continue to slow down structurally, with growth being supported as necessary by the authorities as they manoeuvre policy settings to bring this about gradually.

We believe this provides an opportunity for investors to gain exposure to companies benefitting from China’s rapidly expanding services industry and fast-growing middle class. We remain cautious on banks given the probability that asset quality becomes more problematic as the cycle continues.

Douglas Reed – Newton, a BNY Mellon company

Since its accession to the WTO in December 2001 China has accounted for an increasing share of the global economy. Helped by fast export and investment growth it remains an engine of trade and is expected to generate some 35% of global growth over the next two years, according to the World Bank’s latest forecast. The country is also plagued … read more

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The remittances spike and its impact on global capital

Remittance flows have become an increasingly important element of global capital flows. As labour markets have become more globalised, workers move from developing countries in order to obtain higher salaries in the developed world. Often these workers continue to support family members in their country of origin and regularly send a portion of their salary to them. In countries such as Mexico and India, governments have worked with the banking industry to lower transaction costs and make the process more efficient. As labour markets in developed countries tighten, so the upward trend should resume. One danger is that the size of these flows is now drawing political attention in some developed countries and could become a discussion target for trade negotiations if imbalances become too high. That said, we don’t believe we are quite at that stage yet.

Colm McDonagh – Insight, a BNY Mellon company

Remittance flows have become an increasingly important element of global capital flows. As labour markets have become more globalised, workers move from developing countries in order to obtain higher salaries in the developed world. Often these workers continue to support family members in their country of origin and regularly send a portion of their salary to them. In countries such … read more

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Which US states have greater GDP than other nations?

Unlike many countries where public infrastructure is planned, financed, construct and maintained by national governments, the majority of US infrastructure is the responsibility of states, cities, counties and public agencies. Each can issue their own bonds, which gives investors opportunities to invest in quasi-sovereign debt from jurisdictions whose economic output rivals that of many countries. This map shows how the individual states’ GDP equals the national GDP of various countries. With sovereign debt yields around the world remaining stubbornly low, higher yielding US municipal bonds can present an attractive, higher yielding, quasi-sovereign option for global investors.

Standish, a BNY Mellon company

Unlike many countries where public infrastructure is planned, financed, construct and maintained by national governments, the majority of US infrastructure is the responsibility of states, cities, counties and public agencies. Each can issue their own bonds, which gives investors opportunities to invest in quasi-sovereign debt from jurisdictions whose economic output rivals that of many countries. This map shows how the … read more

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Emerging Markets: busting the myths

The introduction of India’s first infrastructure investment trust, called IRB, in May underscores the expectation infrastructure spend will be a key driver of the country’s growth over the next few years.

The IRB trust, which holds six toll roads, features a 10-12% yield and it is likely to be the first of many such listings. To put this in context, just 10% of the Indian market’s large cap stocks yield more than 3%.

The government has plans for some US$20bn infrastructure spend on roads but we think trusts like IRB may benefit from more than just increased government spending.

Aviation, for example, is another key focus for the government. In 2016 there were some 150 million domestic flight journeys in India, compared to c900 million in the US and around 500 million in China. Air travel may cost more but it takes around 1/6th the time. As such we expect to see the number of airports increase and they are likely to go private (as public-private partnerships).

Naomi Waistell – Newton, a BNY Mellon company

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The introduction of India’s first infrastructure investment trust, called IRB, in May underscores the expectation infrastructure spend will be a key driver of the country’s growth over the next few years. The IRB trust, which holds six toll roads, features a 10-12% yield and it is likely to be the first of many such listings. To put this in context, … read more

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