Posts tagged ‘election’

New Year’s Resolutions and Vaccine Distributions

Many people were ready to flush 2020 down the toilet after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic dominated the daily headlines, but panic eventually turned into optimism. With last year and a new year celebration now behind us, the annual tradition of creating a New Year’s resolution to better one’s life will be a challenge for many in 2021. Why? Well, from a financial perspective, the stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 index, finished the year at another mind-boggling, all-time record high (+16% for the year), making 2020 a tough act to follow.

One area of the stock market performed exceptionally well. With millions of employees, students, and bored Americans locked down for much of the year, demand for computers, mobile phones, and internet-connected televisions swelled. Due to a flood of sales into devices, gadgets, equipment, and software, technology stocks became huge beneficiaries in 2020. The performance of this sector can be gauged by the results of the tech-heavy NASDAQ index, which skyrocketed an astounding +44%.

Countering the Confusion

Given this unexpected surge in stock prices, many casual observers are asking how is it possible the Dow Jones Industrial Average capped off a year above the 30,000 level (best ever) after a year when 80 million people contracted COVID-19 and almost 2 million humans died from the virus?

This month, we will try to answer this confusing question. We shall explore the factors behind the unprecedented collapse early in the year and the subsequent recovery in stock prices surrounding this perplexing virus.

We’ve experienced a lot over the last year: death, destruction, an emotionally divisive presidential election, social distancing, face-coverings, Amazon deliveries, Netflix binging, DoorDash food deliveries, hand-sanitizer stocking, toilet-paper runs, and endless pants-less Zoom video sessions. After all this insanity, here are some reasons for why your and my investment accounts and 401(k) balances still managed to appreciate significantly last year:

  • A COVID Cure: Although roughly only 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date (after a 20 million goal), the government has contracted for the delivery of 400 million vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Moderna Inc. (MRNA) by summertime. With these two FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approvals alone, these doses should be enough to vaccinate all but about 60 million of the roughly 260 million adult Americans who are eligible to be inoculated. Even better, each of these cures appear to be over 90% effective. What’s more, in the not-too-distant future, additional relief is on its way in the form of further vaccine approvals by the likes of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Novavax Inc. (NVAX), AstraZeneca (AZN), and the Sanofi (SNY) / GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
  • Fed Firemen to the Rescue: As the COVID flames are blazing with record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, the Federal Reserve firemen have come to an economic rescue by providing accommodative monetary policies. By effectively setting the benchmark Fed Funds Rate to 0% (see chart below), our central bank is not only stimulating loan activity for businesses, but also lowering the cost of mortgages and credit cards for consumers. In addition, the Fed has been providing support to financial markets and invigorating the economy through its asset purchases. More specifically, the Fed outlined its activities in its most recent December statement:

The Federal Reserve will continue to increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency mortgage-backed securities by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward the Committee’s maximum employment and price stability goals.

  • Economic Recovery is Well on its Way: In addition to the unmatched monetary policy stimulus from the Federal Reserve, we have also experienced an unparalleled $4 trillion in fiscal stimulus to trigger a sharp rebound in economic activity (see red line in chart below). There have been multiple rounds of PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans given to small businesses, millions of direct checks distributed to unemployed individuals, along with a host of other programs covering the healthcare, education, and infrastructure industries. As a result of these measures, coupled with the vaccines unleashing massive amounts of pent-up demand, pundits are forecasting above-trendline economic GDP growth in 2021 approximately 4% – 5% (e.g., Merrill Lynch +4.6%, Goldman Sachs +5.9%, and the Federal Reserve +3.7% to +5.0%).
Source: Calculated Risk

As part of the recovery, the banner year in stocks has also helped catapult consumer household balance sheets to over $120 trillion dollars, while simultaneously reducing debt (leverage) ratios (see chart below).

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Flies in the Ointment

It’s worth noting that not all is well in COVID-land. Unemployment rates remain at elevated recessionary levels and industries such as travel, leisure, and restaurants persist in devastation by the pandemic. Politically, the hotly contested 2020 presidential election has largely been resolved, but a Georgia runoff vote this week for two Senate seats could swing full control of Congress to the Democrats. With the stock market at fresh new highs, a Democrat sweep in Georgia would likely be interpreted as a mandate for President-elect Biden to increase taxes for many people and businesses. Under this scenario, a temporary downdraft in the market should come as no surprise to any investor. However, any potential tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy should be accompanied with more infrastructure spending and fiscal spending, which could offset the drag of taxes to varying degrees.

Although Sidoxia Capital Management is still finding plenty of opportunities in the stock market while considering these record low interest rates (yield on 10-year Treasury Note of only 0.92%), areas of vulnerability still exist in recent high-flying, money-losing IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) such as Snowflake Inc. (SNOW), Airbnb Inc (ABNB), and DoorDash Inc (DASH).

Other cautionary areas of excess speculation include the hundreds of SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) deals totaling more than $70 billion in 2020, and the reemergence of Bitcoin froth (up greater than +300% this year). The recent rush into Bitcoin has been fierce, but industry veterans with memory greater than a gnat recall that Bitcoin plummeted more than -80% from its peak to trough in 2018. Suffice it to say, Bitcoin is not for the faint of heart and buyers should beware.While there was a lot of pain and suffering experienced by millions due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, there was a lot to be thankful for as well, including vaccines to cure the global pandemic. Even though we had another record year at Sidoxia Capital Management, there is always room for improvement. At Sidoxia our New Year’s resolution is always the same: Provide superior investment management and financial planning services, as we build sustaining, long-term relationships with our clients.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (January 4, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in AMZN, NFLX, MRNA, ZM, PFE, NVAX, and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in DASH, JNJ, AZN, SNY, GSK, SNOW, ABNB, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

January 4, 2021 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

Election End + Vaccine Victory = Dow 30,000

There are many variables that affect the direction of the stock market, but there were two factors that pushed the stock market to a record high of 30,000 on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The mathematical equation solved last month was the following: (Election End + Positive Vaccine Data) = Dow 30,000.

Election Clouds of Uncertainty Lifted

Former Vice President Joe Biden secured 81.1 million popular votes and 302 electoral votes, while incumbent President Donald Trump earned 73.9 million popular votes and 232 electoral votes. President Trump has filed numerous lawsuits in various states challenging the validity of the election results and he has claimed voter fraud in numerous states. However, if the Electoral College certifies the results on December 14th, reversing the election outcome by President Trump will become even more challenging. With President Trump getting 47% of the total versus 51% for President-elect Biden, the country largely remains divided, but investors have gained significant confidence now that the clouds of election uncertainty have lifted.

Vaccine Optimism

Investor optimism was further buoyed by 95%-effective vaccine data released by pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Inc. (PFE), BioNTech (BNTX), and Moderna Inc. (MRNA), which helped the stock market surge last month to an all-time record high of 30,000 in the Dow Jones Industrial average (see chart below) before slightly dipping at the end of the month to 29,638 . More specifically, the Dow soared +12% (3,137 points) for the month; the S&P 500 index 11%, and the NASDAQ +12%. For the year, the Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ have climbed +4%, +12%, and +36%, respectively.

Source: Investors.com

Rotating Growth for Value and Large for Small

Given a new president variable with President-elect Biden, stock market investors have reassessed which economic factors and new legislative policies will affect future stock market returns. As I have been discussing with Sidoxia Capital Management clients and Investing Caffeine readers for years, the level of outperformance of “Growth” stocks over “Value” stocks, and “Large-cap” stocks over “Small-cap” stocks has been staggering. If you consider the Russell 1000 Growth index (IWF) has outperformed the Russell 1000 Value index (IWD) by 102% (120% vs. 18%, respectively) since 2016, and the S&P 100 index (Large-cap) outpaced the Russell 2000 (Small-cap) by 33% (67% vs. 34%), you can appreciate the benefit investors have enjoyed by investing with the Large-cap Growth formula in the stock market. But as I have previously pointed out, this level of outperformance is not sustainable forever, historically. Last month, we saw this gap narrow as Small-cap stocks advanced +18% (IWM – Russell 2000) and Value stocks +13% (Russell 1000 Value). Embedded within the Value segment, the energy sector (XLE) skyrocketed +28% for the month and financials (XLF) by +17%.

What Now? Politics Focus on Georgia

Another significant contributing factor to the recent rally has been the election gridlock outcome in Congress. Leading up to the elections, political polls incorrectly predicted a “Blue Wave” of Democratic victories in the House of Representatives and Senate. Under that scenario, Democrats would have had a blank check mandate to push a broad liberal agenda across America. That did not happen. Republicans actually gained more seats than Democrats in the House, and Republicans only lost one seat in the Senate.

All eyes are now on the Georgia Senate runoff election in January. As things stand currently, we effectively have a stalemate in Congress, meaning Democrats will have to fight tooth and nail to pass any new legislation and/or institute higher taxes. If both Democrat candidates win in the Georgia runoff, President-elect Biden and the Democrats will have a narrow majority in Congress, which could lead to more progressive measures, including tax hikes on the wealthy.

Economic Rebound Intact

Despite the uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the economic rebound keeps moving forward. In fact, recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecasts for the fourth quarter of 2020 are expected to exceed an average of +6%. As you can see in the chart below, corporate profits have bounced back to record high and remain relatively high to the slower recovery in GDP.

Source: Calafia Pundit

The economic resurgence experienced has not been limited to the United States. The global expansion, especially in China, has shown up in the upturn of World Trade Volume (see chart below).

Source: Scott Grannis

Between the Dow hitting 30,000, the millions of votes counted in the elections, and the vaccine effectiveness rates, there have been many numbers to contemplate last month. Suffice it to say, however, the mathematics of these figures show that investors are using this formula to earn all-time record results in the stock market.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (December 1, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFS), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

December 1, 2020 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

GDP Figures & Election Jitters

Ever since the beginning of 2020, it’s been a tale of two cities. As renowned author Charles Dickens famously stated, “It was the best of times and worst of times.” The year started with unemployment at a “best of times” low level of 3.5% (see chart below) before coronavirus shutdown the economy during March when we transitioned to the “worst of times.”

Source: Statista

With the recent release of record-high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures of +33.1% growth in Q3 (vs. -31.4% in Q2), and a +49% stock market rebound from the COVID-19 lows of March, a debate has been raging. Is the re-opening economic rebound that has occurred a V-shaped recovery that will continue expanding, or is the recovery that has occurred since March a temporary dead-cat bounce?

Source: Business Insider

For many people, the ultimate answer depends on the outcome of the impending presidential election. Making matters worse are the polarized politics that are being warped, distorted, and amplified by social media (see Social Dilemma). Although the election jitters have many stock market participants on pins and needles, history reminds us that politics have little to do with the long-term direction of the stock market and financial markets. As the chart below shows, over the last century, stock prices have consistently gone up through both Democratic (BLUE) and Republican (RED) administrations.

Source: Yardeni.com

Even if you have trouble digesting the chart above, I repeatedly remind investors that political influence and control are always temporary and constantly changing. There are various scenarios predicted for the outcome of the current 2020 elections, including a potential “Blue Wave” sweep of the Executive Branch (the president) and the Legislative Branch (the House of Representatives and Senate). Regardless of whether there is a Blue Wave, Red Wave, or gridlocked Congress, it’s worth noting that the previous two waves were fleeting. Unified control of government by President Obama (2008-2010) and President Trump (2016-2018) only lasted two years before the Democrats and Republicans each lost 100% control of Congress (the House of Representatives flipped to Republican in 2010 and Democrat in 2018).

Even though Halloween is behind us, many people are still spooked by the potential outcome of the elections (or lack thereof), depending on how narrow or wide the results turn out. Despite the +49% appreciation in stock prices, stock investors still experienced the heebie-jeebies last month. The S&P 500 index declined -2.8% for the month, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite index fell -4.6% and -2.3%, respectively. It is most likely true that a close election could delay an official concession, but with centuries of elections under our belt, I’m confident we’ll eventually obtain a peaceful continuation or transition of leadership.

Regardless of whomever wins the presidential election, roughly half the voters are going to be unhappy with the results. For example, even when President Ronald Reagan won in a landslide victory in 1980 (Reagan won 489 electoral votes vs. 49 for incumbent challenger President Jimmy Carter), Reagan only won 50.8% of the popular vote. In other words, even in a landslide victory, roughly 49% of voters were unhappy with the outcome. No matter the end result of the approaching 2020 election, suffice it to say, about half of the voting population will be displeased.

Despite the likely discontent, the upcoming winner will be working with (or inheriting) an economy firmly in recovery mode, whether you are referencing, jobs, automobile sales, home sales, travel, transportation traffic, consumer spending, or other statistics. The Weekly Economic Index from the New York Federal Reserve epitomizes the strength of the V-shaped recovery underway (see chart below).

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

It will come as no surprise to me if we continue to experience some volatility in financial markets shortly before and after the elections. However, history shows us that these election jitters will eventually fade, and the tale of two cities will become a tale of one city focused on the fundamentals of the current economic recovery.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (November 2, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFS), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

November 2, 2020 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

Politics & COVID Tricks

Thanks to a global epidemic, trillions of dollars instantly disappeared during the first quarter of this year, and then, abracadabra…the losses turned into gains and magically reappeared in the subsequent two quarters. After a stabilization in the spread of the COVID-19 virus earlier this year, the stock market rebounded for five consecutive months, at one point rebounding +64% (from late March to early September) – see chart below. However, things became a little bit trickier for the recent full month as concerns heightened over the outcome of upcoming elections; uncertainty over a potential coronavirus-related stimulus package agreement; and fears over a fall resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Although the S&P 500 stock index fell -3.9% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped -2.3% during September, the same indexes levitated +8.5% and +7.6% for the third quarter, respectively.

Source: Investors.com

Washington Worries
Anxiety over politics is nothing new, and as I’ve written extensively in my Investing Caffeine blog, history teaches us that politics have little to do with the long-term performance of the overall stock market (e.g., see Politics & Your Money). Nobody knows with certainty how the elections will impact the financial markets and economy (myself included). But what I do know is that many so-called experts said the stock market would decline if Barack Obama won the presidential election…in reality the stock market soared. I also know the so-called experts said the stock market would decline if Donald Trump won the presidential election… in reality the stock market soared. So, suffice it to say, I don’t place a lot of faith into what any of the so-called political experts say about the outcome of upcoming elections (see the chart below).

COVID Coming Back?

One of the reasons stock prices have risen more than 50%+ is due to a stabilization in COVID-19 virus trends. As you can see from the charts below, new tests, hospitalizations, and death rates are generally on good trajectories, according to the COVID Tracking Project. However, new COVID cases have bumped higher in recent weeks. This recent, troubling trend has raised the question of whether another wave of cases is building in front of a dangerous, seasonally-cooler fall flu season. Traditionally, it’s during this fall period in which contagious viruses normally spread faster.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project

Regardless of the trendline in new cases, there is plenty of other promising COVID developments to help fight this pandemic, such as the pending approvals of numerous vaccines, along with improved therapies and treatments, such as therapeutics, steroids, blood thinners, ventilators, and monoclonal antibodies.

Business Bounce

From the 10,000-foot level, despite worries over various political outcomes, the economy is recovering relatively vigorously. As you can see from the chart below, the rebound in employment has been fairly swift. After peaking in April at 14.7%, the most recent unemployment rate has declined to 8.4%, and a closely tracked ADP National Employment Report was released yesterday showing a higher than expected increase in new private-sector monthly jobs (749,000 vs. 649,000 median estimate).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

From a housing perspective, house sales have been on fire. Record-low interest rates, mortgage rates, and refinancing rates have been driving higher home purchases and rising prices. Urban flight to the suburbs has also been a big housing tailwind due to the desire for more socially distanced room, additional home office space, and expansive backyards. Adding fuel to the housing fire has been record low supply (i.e., home inventories). The robust demand is evident by the record Case-Shiller home prices (see chart below).

Source: Calculated Risk

There are plenty of industries hurting, including airlines, cruise lines, hotels, retailers, and restaurants but the economic rebound along with government stimulus (i.e., direct government checks and unemployment relief payments) have led to record retail sales (see chart below). Spending could cool if an additional coronavirus-related stimulus package agreement is not reached, but until the government checks stop flowing, consumers will keep spending.

Source: Calculated Risk
Besides trillions of dollars in fiscal relief injected into the economy, the Federal Reserve has also provided trillions in unprecedented relief (see chart below) through its government and corporate bond buying programs, in addition to its Main Street Lending Program.

Source:The Financial Times

There has been a lot of political hocus pocus and COVID smoke & mirrors that have much of the population worried about their investments. In every presidential election, you have about half the population satisfied with the winner, and half the population disappointed in the winner…this election will be no different. The illusion of fear and chaos is bound to create some short-term financial market volatility over the next month, but behind the curtains there are numerous positive, contributing factors that are powering the economy and stock market forward. Do yourself a favor by focusing on your long-term financial future and don’t succumb to politics and COVID tricks.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (October 1, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFS), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 1, 2020 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

Half Trump Empty, or Half Trump Full?

glass

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (December 1, 2016). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

It was a bitter U.S. presidential election, but fortunately, the nastiest election mudslinging has come to an end…at least until the next political contest. Unfortunately, like most elections, even after the president-elect has been selected, almost half the country remains divided and the challenges facing the president-elect have not disappeared.

While some non-Trump voters have looked at the glass as half empty, since the national elections, the stock market glass has been overflowing to new record highs. Similar to the unforeseen British Brexit outcome in which virtually all pollsters and pundits got the results wrong, U.S. experts and investors also initially took a brief half-glass full view of the populist victory of Donald Trump. More specifically, for a few hours on Election Day, stock values tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average index collapsed by approximately -5%.

It didn’t take long for stock prices to quickly reverse course, and when all was said and done, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the month higher by almost +1,000 points (+5.4%) to finish at 19,124 – a new all-time record high (see chart below). Worth noting, stocks have registered a very respectable +10% return during 2016, and the year still isn’t over.

dji-2016

Source: Investors.com (IBD)

Drinking the Trump Egg Nog

Why are investors so cheery? The proof will be in the pudding, but current optimism is stemming from a fairly broad list of anticipated pro-growth policies.

At the heart of the reform is the largest expected tax reform since Ronald Reagan’s landmark legislation three decades ago. Not only is Trump proposing stimulative tax cuts for corporations, but also individual tax reductions targeted at low-to-middle income taxpayers. Other facets of the tax plan include simplification of the tax code; removal of tax loopholes; and repatriation of foreign cash parked abroad. Combined, these measures are designed to increase profits, wages, investment spending, productivity, and jobs.

On the regulatory front, the President-elect has promised to repeal the Obamacare healthcare system and also overhaul the Dodd-Frank financial legislation. These initiatives, along with talk of dialing back other regulatory burdensome laws and agencies have many onlookers hopeful such policies could aid economic growth.

Fueling further optimism is the prospect of a trillion dollar infrastructure spending program created to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, while simultaneously increasing jobs.

No Free Lunch

As is the case with any economic plan, there is never a free lunch. Every cost has a benefit, and every benefit has a cost. The cost of the 2008-2009 Financial crisis is reflected in the sluggish economic growth seen in the weak GDP (Gross Domestic Product) statistics, which have averaged a modest +1.6% growth rate over the last year. Scott Grannis points out how the slowest recovery since World War II has resulted in a $3 trillion economic gap (see chart below).

us-real-gdp

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

The silver lining benefit to weak growth has been tame inflation and the lowest interest rate levels experienced in a generation. Notwithstanding the recent rate rise, this low rate phenomenon has spurred borrowing, and improved housing affordability. The sub-par inflation trends have also better preserved the spending power of American consumers on fixed incomes.

If executed properly, the benefits of pro-growth policies are obvious. Lower taxes should mean more money in the pockets of individuals and businesses to spend and invest on the economy. This in turn should create more jobs and growth. Regulatory reform and infrastructure spending should have similarly positive effects. However, there are some potential downside costs to the benefits of faster growth, including the following:

  • Higher interest rates
  • Rising inflation
  • Stronger dollar
  • Greater amount of debt
  • Larger deficits (see chart below)

trumpdeficit

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Even though President-elect Trump has not even stepped foot into the Oval Office yet, signs are already emerging that we could face some or all of the previously mentioned headwinds. For example, just since the election, the yield on 10-Year Treasury Notes have spiked +0.5% to 2.37%, and 30-Year Fixed Rate mortgages are flirting with 4.0%. Social and economic issues relating to immigration legislation and Supreme Court nominations are likely to raise additional uncertainties in the coming months and years.

Attempting to anticipate and forecast pending changes makes perfect sense, but before you turn your whole investment portfolio upside down, it’s important to realize that actions speak louder than words. Even though Republicans have control over the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), the amount of control is narrow (i.e., the Senate), and the nature of control is splintered. In other words, Trump will still have to institute the “art of the deal” to persuade all factions of the Republicans (including establishment, Tea-Party, and rural) and Democrats to follow along and pass his pro-growth policies.

Although I do not agree with all of Trump’s policies, including his rhetoric on trade (see Free Trade Boogeyman), I will continue paying closer attention to his current actions rather than his past words. Until proven otherwise, I will keep on my rose colored glasses and remain optimistic that the Trump glass is half full, not half empty.

investment-questions-border

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

www.Sidoxia.com

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in  any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

December 3, 2016 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

The Invisible Benefits of Trade

Source: PhotoBucket

Before the Brexit, 28 countries joined the European Union since its inception in 1957, without a single country leaving. The story is similar if you look at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has witnessed more than 160 countries unite, without one country exiting since it began in 1948. Are the leaders of these countries idiots and blind to the benefits of trade and globalization? I think not.

For centuries, the advantages of free trade and globalization have lifted the standards of living for billions of people. However, pinpointing the timing or attributing the precise actions leading to these tremendous economic advantages is difficult to do because most trade benefits are often invisible to the naked eye.

Today, populist sentiment on both sides of the political aisle has demonized trade, whether referring to TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement), trade with China, or announcements by corporations to manufacture goods internationally.

Although it would be naïve to adopt a stance that there are no negative consequences to globalization (e.g., lost American jobs due to offshoring), myopically focusing on job displacement is only half the equation.

While I can attempt to articulate the economic costs and benefits of free trade, and I’ve tried (see Productivity & Trade), Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute explains it much better than I can. Here is a more eloquent synopsis of free trade (hat-tip: Scott Grannis):

“The case for free trade is not obvious. The benefits of trade are dispersed and accrue over time, while the adjustment costs tend to be concentrated and immediate. To synthesize Schumpeter and Bastiat, the “destruction” caused by trade is “seen,” while the “creation” of its benefits goes “unseen.” We note and lament the effects of the clothing factory that shutters because it couldn’t compete with lower-priced imports. The lost factory jobs, the nearby businesses on Main Street that fail, and the blighted landscape are all obvious. What is not so easily noticed is the increased spending power of the divorced mother who has to feed and clothe her three children. Not only can she buy cheaper clothing, but she has more resources to save or spend on other goods and services, which undergirds growth elsewhere in the economy.

Consider Apple. By availing itself of lowskilled, low-wage labor in China to produce small plastic components and to assemble its products, Apple may have deprived U.S. workers of the opportunity to perform that low-end function in the supply chain. But at the same time, that decision enabled iPods and then iPhones and then iPads to be priced within the budgets of a large swath of consumers. Had all of the components been produced and all of the assembly performed in the United States — as President Obama once requested of Steve Jobs — the higher prices would have prevented those devices from becoming quite so ubiquitous, and the incentives for the emergence of spin-off industries, such as apps, accessories, Uber, and AirBnb, would have been muted or absent.

But these kinds of examples don’t lend themselves to the political stump, especially when the campaigns put a premium on simple messages. This is the burden of free traders: Making the unseen seen. It is this asymmetry that explains much of the popular skepticism about trade, as well as the persistence of often repeated fallacies.

The benefits of trade come from imports, which deliver more competition, greater variety, lower prices, better quality, and new incentives for innovation. Arguably, opening foreign markets should be an aim of trade policy because larger markets allow for greater specialization and economies of scale, but real free trade requires liberalization at home. The real benefits of trade are measured by the value of imports that can be purchased with a unit of exports — our purchasing power or the so-called terms of trade. Trade barriers at home raise the costs and reduce the amount of imports that can be purchased with a unit of exports.

Protectionism benefits producers over consumers; it favors big business over small business because the cost of protectionism is relatively small to a bigger company; and, it hurts lower-income more than higher-income Americans because the former spend a higher proportion of their resources on imported goods.

…Even if there were a President Trump or President Sanders, rest assured that the Congress still has authority over the nuts and bolts of trade policy. The scope for presidential mischief, such as unilaterally raising tariffs, or suspending or amending the terms of trade agreements, is limited. But it would be more reassuring still if the intellectual consensus for free trade were also the popular consensus.”

 

Fortunately, Ikenson supports the case I’ve made repeatedly. The power of presidential politics is limited by the Congress (see Politics and Your Money). Frustration with politics has never been higher, but in many cases, gridlock is a good thing.

The destructive impacts of protectionist, anti-trade policies is unambiguous – just consider what happened from the implementation of Smoot-Hawley tariffs in 1930 around the time of the Great Depression. U.S. imports decreased 66% from $4.4 billion (1929) to $1.5 billion (1933), and exports decreased 61% from $5.4 billion to $2.1 billion. GNP fell from $103.1 billion in 1929 to $75.8 billion in 1931 and bottomed out at $55.6 billion in 1933.

It’s important to remember, any harmful downside to trade is overwhelmed by the upside of growth. Greg Ip of the WSJ used Doug Irwin, a trade historian at Dartmouth College, to make this pro-growth point:

“If two million American workers lose $15,000 in annual income forever—an extreme estimate of the impact of trade with China—while 320 million American consumers gain just $100 from trade, the benefits to all of society still exceed the costs.”

 

The benefits of free trade may be invisible in the short run, but over the long-run, the growth advantages of free trade are perfectly visible, despite protectionist, anti-trade rhetoric and propaganda dominating the presidential election conversation.

investment-questions-border

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

www.Sidoxia.com

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), and AAPL, but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

August 13, 2016 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Equity Quicksand or Bond Cliff?

The markets are rigged, the Knight Capital Group (KCG) robots are going wild, and the cheating bankers are manipulating Libor. I guess you might as well pack it in…right? Well, maybe not. While mayhem continues, equity markets stubbornly grind higher. As we stand here today, the S&P 500 is up approximately +12% in 2012 and the NASDAQ market index has gained about +16%? Not bad when you consider 15 countries are offering negative yields on their bonds…that’s right, investors are paying to lose money by holding pieces of paper until maturity. As crazy as buying technology companies in the late 1990s  for 100x’s or 200x’s earnings sounds today, just think how absurd negative yields will sound a decade from now? For heaven’s sake, buying a gun and stuffing money under the mattress is a cheaper savings proposition.

Priced In, Or Not Priced In, That is the Question?

So how can stocks be up in double digit percentage terms when we face an uncertain U.S. presidential election, a fiscal cliff, unsustainable borrowing costs in Spain, and S&P 500 earnings forecasts that are sinking like a buried hiker in quicksand (see chart below)?

I guess the answer to this question really depends on whether you believe all the negative news announced thus far is already priced into the stock market’s below average price-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 12x’s 2013 earnings. Or as investor Bill Miller so aptly puts it, “The question is not whether there are problems. There are always problems. The question is whether those problems are already fully discounted or not.”

Source: Crossing Wall Street

While investors skeptically debate how much bad news is already priced into stock prices, as evidenced by Bill Gross’s provocative “The Cult of Equity is Dying” article, you hear a lot less about the nosebleed prices of bonds. It’s fairly evident, at least to me, that we are quickly approaching the bond cliff. Is it possible that we can be entering a multi-decade, near-zero, Japan-like scenario? Sure, it’s possible, and I can’t refute the possibility of this extreme bear argument. However with global printing presses and monetary stimulus programs moving full steam ahead, I find it hard to believe that inflation will not eventually rear its ugly head.

Again, if playing the odds is the name of the game, then I think equities will be a better inflation hedge than most bonds. Certainly, not all retirees and 1%-ers should go hog-wild on equities, but the bond binging over the last four years has been incredible (see bond fund flows).

While we may sink a little lower into the equity quicksand while the European financial saga continues, and trader sentiment gains complacency (Volatility Index around 15), I’ll choose this fate over the inevitable bond cliff.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in KCG or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

August 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment


Receive Investing Caffeine blog posts by email.

Join 1,806 other followers

Meet Wade Slome, CFA, CFP®

More on Sidoxia Services

Recognition

Top Financial Advisor Blogs And Bloggers – Rankings From Nerd’s Eye View | Kitces.com

Wade on Twitter…

Share this blog

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to Blog RSS

Monthly Archives