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Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire While Russian-made Missiles Continue to Fire

Four sports leisure stocks to acquire while Russian-made missiles continue to fire feature a U.S. motorcycle company, a sporting goods provider, a large…

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Four sports leisure stocks to acquire while Russian-made missiles continue to fire feature a U.S. motorcycle company, a sporting goods provider, a large health club operator and a wildlife entertainment business.

The four sports leisure stocks to acquire should benefit from renewed interest among people to venture out of their homes and resume many of the activities they enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the companies still need to surmount growing economic problems that include high inflation, continuing interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve and recent layoffs, especially in the technology sector and financially struggling social media business such as Twitter Inc., which billionaire Elon Musk recently purchased.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is creating a humanitarian crisis as temperatures drop below freezing in the capital of Kyiv and plunge even further in the countryside. The four sports leisure stocks to acquire are not as vulnerable to the conflict as many other companies that either do business in the area of the fighting or had operations they own disrupted by the continuing conflict.

In addition, Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been decimated in many places and severely impaired by Russia’s attacks in many parts of the country. The situation deteriorated so badly that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently announced $53 million in new aid to help restore Ukraine’s power grid.

Russia’s continuing attacks of neighboring Ukraine even led to the death of two Polish civilians on farms when Russian-made missiles hit their village roughly four miles, or 6.4 kilometers, west of the Ukrainian border on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15. The Russian missiles reportedly came from Ukraine while fending off Russia’s attacks or misfires and unintentionally reached Poland. Regardless of how missiles killed the two civilians in the NATO nation of Poland, they died because of Russia’s so-called “special military operation” that began on Feb. 24 and has killed more than 100,000 people on each side of Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to Mark Milley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He further estimated Russia’s invasion caused 15 million to 30 million Ukrainian civilians to become refugees.

Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire as Russian-made Missiles Still Relentlessly Fire

Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HOG), a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1903, is rated a ‘buy” with a $60 a share by BofA Global Research. The valuation is based on 11-12x the investment firm’s fiscal year 2023 earnings per share estimate of $5.15. Key reasons for the optimistic outlook include new rider interest, increased focus on per unit profitability with a goal of improving Harley-Davidson Motor Company (HDMC) margins to 2014-2015 levels and demographics shifting to a tailwind as the U.S. population of people aged 35-55 grow to add core customers for HOG U.S. retail sales.

Supply chain constraints have dramatically restrained new motorcycle sales, but total new and used motorcycle sales, according to IHS registration data, are up. BofA’s HOG full year 2022 new motorcycle sales forecast assumes worldwide shipments are more than 10% below 2019 levels. Due to HOG’s recent production shutdown, 10,000-12,000 shipments were impacted in 2Q 2022, but BofA predicted HOG should recapture lost production in the second half of the year.

Mark Skousen, PhD, has successfully recommended Harley-Davidson in the past through his Home Run Trader advisory service. The last time he did so, subscribers who followed his advice should have achieved a 12.64% gain in the stock and 144.44% in related call options.

Mark Skousen, Forecasts & Strategies chief and Ben Franklin scion, meets Paul Dykewicz.

Skousen, who also leads the Forecasts & Strategies investment newsletter, is a free-market economist who uses his knowledge of emerging trends to help him invest in sectors when they have favorable tailwinds. The recent share-price performance of Harley-Davidson shows the company’s prospects are on the rise.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire: Demand Signals Stay Strong 

Harley-Davidson recently reported third quarter 2022 earnings per share (EPS) of $1.78, compared to BofA’s estimates of $1.52, led by a 19% year-over-year increase in global shipments, which jumped 57,061 versus estimates of 56,469 as HOG recovered the lions share of volume from a second-quarter production shutdown. Motorcycle and related revenue increased 23.8%, and the financial services earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margin reached 38.3%. 

Michelle Connell, a former portfolio manager who leads Portia Capital Management, of Dallas, Texas, spoke favorably about the outlook for Harley-Davidson, which no other motorcycle brand exceeds in reputation and prestige. Ownership of a Harley motorcycle is seen as an entrance into an elite club of members seeking adventures, she added.

Those purchases play into the theme that consumers are seeking experiences when buying the products, Connell continued. They aren’t simply motivated by purchasing “things,” Connell counseled.

Concerns of Harley-Davidson losing relevance with baby boomers is not valid, Connell opined. The company has established programs that help their motorcycles appeal to younger riders, including females, she added.

Michelle Connell heads Portia Capital Management, of Dallas, Texas.

“Harley-Davidson is starting to reap the rewards of the five-year plan that it announced in May 2020,” Connell conveyed to me. “This plan is three-plunged in approach: expansion of the Harley-Davidson brand into new markets and buyers, as well as products; improve profitability; and introduce electric motorcycles.”

Due to its solid brand recognition, five-year corporate plan and its compelling and attractive financial metrics, Connell said the stock has a place in a long-term investor’s portfolio that needs consumer discretionary names. But on weakness, she recommended, to capture potential upside of 20-25% by the end of 2023.

Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire: Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS)

Pittsburgh-based Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS) is the largest sporting goods company in the United States and offers differentiated product lines and elevated private label assortment, according to BofA. The investment firm gave the stock a $140 price objective and a “buy” rating. The company continues to benefit from the shift to solitary leisure activities, as well as improving demand for the footwear it sells.

Downside risks to meet that price objective are a weakening of the macro environment and rising gas prices, as well as potential secular headwinds in the golf category, weakened customer traffic trends, higher-than-expected cost pressures and the risk of a more competitive pricing environment. The company’s stock has surged since the summer but has further room to rise, BofA assessed.

Connell said she likes Dick’s Sporting Goods but prefers Harley-Davidson for the reasons she provided. Dick’s Sporting Goods sells virtually every imaginable athletic product and is where I bought my last softball glove. 

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire: Planet Fitness Positioned as Health Club Leader

Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT), of Hampton, New Hampshire, is one of the world’s largest health club companies. BofA ranked it as the top-positioned fitness company in a recession. Key reasons include club use exceeding 2019 levels for clubs opened since 2017, according to foot traffic data. Plus, membership sign-ups should follow as fitness club members likely return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022 or early 2023, BofA forecast.

Jim Woods, who leads the Bullseye Stock Trader advisory service and the Successful Investing newsletter, is a weightlifter and fitness buff who previously recommended Planet Fitness. Subscribers to his Bullseye Stock Trader service who followed his guidance could have notched returns of 23.54% in the stock and 100.76% gain in the related call options he chose.

Paul Dykewicz, head of Bullseye Stock Trader meets with Jim Woods in Washington, D.C.

Downside risks to BofA’s price target are near-term headwinds related to club closures caused by COVID-19, the competitiveness of the fitness industry, execution risks related to club growth, risks associated with its franchise model and high financial leverage, according to BofA. Other challenges are macroeconomic concerns that could hurt membership growth, same-store sales growth largely dependent on expanding its membership base, heavy reliance on one major vendor for equipment and mergers and acquisition risk, the investment firm added.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

With COVID becoming less of a problem than during the past couple of years, fitness aficionados like me may be tempted to consider joining health clubs again. I canceled my previous membership with a relatively upscale club that provided a towel service and that tried to keep its fitness equipment modern and clean.

However, other members and I noticed the condition of the clubs in that regional chain deteriorating. Those who became my friends as we worked out about the same time in the evening talked about canceling our memberships or changing clubs. We likely were not alone, especially when COVID struck with a vengeance.

William Blair’s Sharon Zackfia, CFA, an analyst who covers lifestyle and leisure brands, also recommends the stock to outperform the market.

Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire: Skousen Does Backflips for SeaWorld

Another stock that Skousen likes is SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE: SEAS), of Orlando, Florida. The theme park and entertainment company is a key beneficiary of the post-pandemic economy, he added.

The company’s revenue hit $1.7 billion over the last 12 months, while third-quarter earnings jumped 32% on an 8.4% increase in sales, Skousen cited. Shares of SeaWorld further have soared nearly 300% over the past five years, despite the pandemic. With U.S. lockdowns over and consumers choosing to spend more on experiential services, the outlook for SeaWorld is exceptional, Skousen wrote to his Home Run Trader advisory service subscribers.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Michelle Adams recently purchased 39,000 shares at $51.03, an investment of nearly $2 million. She now owns more than 75,000 shares.

In addition, Chief Commercial Officer Christopher Finazzo purchased 8,950 shares a couple weeks later. He owns over 72,000 shares.

These are two savvy insiders, Skousen wrote to his Home Run Trader advisory service reader. He advised his subscribers to own the stock, too.

Plus, Skousen’s daughter Hayley, a professional figure skater, is performing in a principal role in the SeaWorld Christmas show in Orlando, Florida. The following link shows her doing a backflip. Her husband, Pablo, also works with her at SeaWorld as a musician.

The company’s recognized brands include SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sea Rescue. The latter entity rescues and rehabilitates marine animals that are ill, injured or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild.

China’s COVID-19 Lockdown Protests Intensify

China’s security apparatus moved quickly to quash mass protests that followed strict lockdowns as cases of COVID-19 swept the country during the past week. Police patrolled streets, checked cell phones and called some demonstrators to warn them against continuing their civil unrest. That response has reduced protests about the country’s zero-COVID policy that is slowing economic growth and had led many people to publicly oppose the controversial zero-COVID policy of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Cases in the United States totaled 98,676,688 and deaths reached 1,079,888, as of Nov. 30. America has the dreaded distinction of amassing the most COVID-19 cases and deaths of any nation. Worldwide COVID-19 deaths totaled 6,633,364, as of Nov. 30, according to Johns Hopkins University. Global COVID-19 cases reached 642,731,461.

Roughly 80.7% of the U.S. population, or 267,804,921 people, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of Nov. 24, the CDC reported. People who obtained the primary COVID-19 doses totaled 228,390,445 of the U.S. population, or 68.8%, according to the CDC. The United States also has given a bivalent COVID-19 booster to 36,001,216 people who are age 18 and up, accounting for 13.9% of the U.S. population in that age group.

Despite Russia’s leaders calling their country’s attacks against Ukraine that began on Feb. 24 a “special military operation,” firing into Ukraine unrelentingly and recently causing the death of two Polish civilians, good investment opportunities exist. The four sports leisure stocks to acquire highlighted in this column give investors a way to navigate risk and pursue reasonable returns amid growing economic risks.

Paul Dykewicz, www.pauldykewicz.com, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street JournalInvestor’s Business DailyUSA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, Guru Focus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of StockInvestor.com and DividendInvestor.com, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Special Holiday Offer: Paul is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is great holiday gift and is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many othersCall 202-677-4457 for special pricing on multiple-book purchases.

The post Four Sports Leisure Stocks to Acquire While Russian-made Missiles Continue to Fire appeared first on Stock Investor.

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a…

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a large administrative state is the mischief agencies can get up to when no one is watching.

Specifically, they highlight the overreach of the Agriculture Department, which expanded food-stamp benefits by evading the process for determining benefits and end-running Congressional review.

Exhibit A in the over-reach is the fact that the cost of the federal food stamps program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased to a record $119.5 billion in 2022, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

Food Stamp costs have literally exploded from $60.3 billion in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, to the record-setting $119.5 billion in 2022.

In 2019, the average monthly per person benefit was $129.83 in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That increased by 78 percent to $230.88 in 2022.

Even more intriguing is the fact that the number of participants had increased from 35.7 million in 2019 to 41.2 million in 2022...

All of which is a little odd - the number of people on food stamps remains at record highs while the post-COVID-lockdown employment picture has improved dramatically...

Source: Bloomberg

If any of this surprises you, it really shouldn't given that 'you, the people' voted for the welfare state. However, as WSJ chided: "abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that."

In its first review of USDA, the GAO skewered Agriculture’s process for having violated the Congressional Review Act, noting that the “2021 [Thrifty Food Plan] meets the definition of a rule under the [Congressional Review Act] and no CRA exception applies. Therefore, the 2021 TFP is subject to the requirement that it be submitted to Congress.” GAO’s second report says “officials made this update without key project management and quality assurance practices in place.”

Abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that. The GAO review won’t unwind the increase, which requires action by the USDA. But the GAO report should resonate with taxpayers who don’t like to see the politicization of a process meant to provide nutrition to those in need, not act as a vehicle for partisan agency staffers to impose their agenda without Congressional approval.

All of this undermines transparency and accountability for a program that provided food stamps to some 41 million people in 2021. The Biden Administration is using the cover of the pandemic to expand the entitlement state beyond what Congress authorized.

The question now is, will House Republicans draw attention to this lawlessness and use their power of the purse to stop it to the extent possible with a Democratic Senate.

And don't forget, the US economy is "strong as hell."

Tyler Durden Sat, 01/28/2023 - 09:55

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Week Ahead Alchemy: Can Powell Turn a Quarter-Point Move into a Hawkish Hike?

The new year is still young, but the week ahead may be one of the most important weeks of the year. The divergence that the market has been anticipating…

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The new year is still young, but the week ahead may be one of the most important weeks of the year. The divergence that the market has been anticipating will materialize. The Federal Reserve will most likely hike by 25 bp on Wednesday, followed by half-point moves by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England the following day. On Friday, February 3, the US will report its January employment situation. It could be the slowest job creation since the end of 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also will release the preliminary estimate of its annual benchmark revisions. 

The markets' reaction may be less a function of what is done than what is communicated. The challenge for Fed Chair Powell is to slow the pace of hiking while pushing against the premature easing of financial conditions. In December, ECB President Lagarde pre-committed to a 50 bp hike in February and hinted that another half-point move was possible in March. With the hawks showing their talons in recent days, will she pre-commit again? Amid a historic cost-of-living squeeze that has already kneecapped households, can Bank of England Governor Bailey deliver another 50 bp rate hike and sell the idea that it is for the good of Britain, for which the central bank does not expect growth to return until next year?

United States: The Federal Reserve has a nuanced message to convey. It wants to slow the pace of hikes, as even the hawkish Governor Waller endorsed, but at the same time, persuade the market that tighter financial conditions are necessary to ensure a times convergence of price pressures to the target. Indeed, Fed Chair Powell may warn investors that if it continues to undo the Fed's work, more tightening may be necessary. The market has heard this essentially before and is not impressed. Financial conditions have eased. Consider that the 2-year yield is down 20 bp this year, and the 10-year yield has fallen twice as much. The trade-weighted dollar is off by more than 1.5%. The S&P 500 is up 4.6% after a 7% rally in Q4 22. The Russell 200 has gained nearly 7% this month, on top of the 5.8% in the last three months of 2022.  

Last year, Powell drew attention to the 18-month forward of the three-month T-bill yield compared to the cash 3-month bill as a recession tell. It has been inverted for over two months and traded below -100 bp last week, the most inverted since the tech bubble popped over two decades ago. The market seems more convinced that inflation will fall sharply in the coming months. The monetary variables and real economy data, including retail sales, industrial production, and the leading economic indicators, suggest a dramatic weakening of the economy. Yet just like most looked through the contraction in H1 22, seeing it as primarily a quirk of inventory and trade, the 2.9% growth reported in Q4 22 does not change many minds that the US economy is still headed for weaker growth, leaving aside the fuzzy definition of a recession.

The median forecast in Bloomberg's survey is for a 188k rise in January nonfarm payrolls. If accurate, it would be seen as concrete evidence that the jobs market is slowing. This is also clear by looking at averages for this volatile series. For example, in the last three months of 2022, the US created an average of 247k jobs a month. In the first nine months of the year, nonfarm payrolls rose by an average of 418k a month. Average hourly earnings growth also is moderating. A 0.3% rise on the month will see the year-over-year pace slow to 4.3%. That matches the slowest since June 2021. The decline in the work week in December to 34.3 hours spurred narratives about how businesses, hoarding labor, would cut hours before headcount. Yet, we suspect it was partly weather-related, and that the average work week returned to 34.4 hours, which is around where it was pre-Covid. 

Benchmark revisions are usually of more interest to economists than the market, but last month's report by the Philadelphia Fed raised the stakes.  It looked more closely at the April-June 2022 jobs data. After adjusting for updated data from the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, it concluded that job growth was nearly flat in Q2 22. It estimated that only 10,500 net new jobs were created, a far cry from the 1.05 mln jobs estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Business Employment Dynamics Summary (released last week) was starker still. It points to a job loss of nearly 290k. Lastly, we note that US auto sales are expected to have recovered from the unexpected almost 6% decline (SAAR) in December. However, the 14.1 mln unit pace would still represent a 6% decline from January 2022, when sales spiked to 15.04 mln.  

The Dollar Index continues to hover around 102, corresponding to the (50%) retracement of the rally recorded from January 2021 through September 2022. It has not closed above the 20-day moving average (now ~102.80) since January 3. It remains in the range set on January 18, when it was reported that December retail sales and manufacturing output fell by more than 1%. That range was about 101.50-102.90. Although we are more inclined to see it as a base, the prolonged sideways movement last month saw new lows this month. That said, the next retracement target (61.8%) is near 99.00.

Eurozone:  The ECB rarely pre-commits to a policy move, precisely what ECB President Lagarde did last month. Apparently, as part of the compromise with members who at first advocated another 75 bp hike in December, an agreement to raise rates by 50 bp was accompanied by an agreement to hike by another 50 on February 2 and explicitly not rule out another half-point move in March. There was a weak effort to soften the March forward guidance, but the hawks pushed back firmly. The swaps market has about a 70% chance of a 50 bp hike in March rather than a 25 bp move. 

The ECB's deposit rate stands at 2.00%, and the swaps market is pricing 125 bp of hikes in the first half of the year. In contrast, the Fed is expected to raise the Fed funds target range by 50 bp. This has been reflected in the two-year interest rate differential between the US and Germany, falling from about 275 bp last August to around 160 bp now. We had anticipated the US premium would peak before the dollar, and there is a lag of almost two months. The direction and change of the interest rate differential often seem more important than the level. In late 2019, before Covid struck, the US premium was near 220 bp, and the euro was a little below $1.12.

There has been a significant shift in sentiment toward the eurozone. The downside risks that seemed so dominant have been reduced. A milder-than-anticipated winter, the drop in natural gas prices, and successful conservation and conversion (to other energy sources) lifted the outlook. Some hopeful economists now think that the recession that seemed inevitable may be avoided. The preliminary January CPI will be published a day before the ECB meets. The monthly pace fell in both November and December. The year-over-year rate is expected to ease to 5.1% from 5.2%, while the core rate slips to 5.1% from 5.2%. The base effect suggests a sharp decline is likely here in Q1, but divergences may become more evident in the euro area. This could see a reversal of the narrowing of core-periphery interest rate spreads. 

The EU's ban on refined Russian oil products (e.g., diesel and fuel oil) will be implemented on February 5. It is considering imposing a price cap as it did with crude oil. Diesel trades at a premium to crude, while fuel oil sells at a discount. There have been reports of European utilities boosting purchases from Russia ahead of the embargo. Separately, reports suggest that the EU was still the largest importer of Russian oil in December when pipeline and oil products were included. However, at the end of December, Germany stopped importing Russia's oil delivered through pipelines. This does not count oil and refined producers that first go to a third country, such as India, before being shipped to Europe.  

Pullbacks in the euro have been shallow and brief. Most pullbacks since the low was recorded last September, except the first, have mostly been less than two cents. That would suggest a pullback toward the $1.0730 area, but buyers may re-emerge in front of that, maybe around $1.0775. On the top side, the $1.0940 is the (50%) retracement of the euro's losses since January 2021. The euro rose marginally last week, even though it slipped by around 0.2% in the last two session. It has risen in eight of the past 10 weeks.   

UK: Without some forward guidance that stopped short of a pre-commitment, the market is nearly as confident that the Bank of England will deliver another half-point hike in the cycle to lift the base rate to 4.0%. The BOE was among the first of the G10 countries to begin the interest rate normalization process and raised the base rate in December 2021 from the 0.10% it had been reduced to during the pandemic. The swaps market projects the peak between 4.25% and 4.50%, with the lower rate seen as slightly more likely.

High inflation readings and strong wage growth appear to outweigh the economic slump. The BOE's forecasts see the economy contracting 1.5% year-over-year this year and output falling another 1% in 2024. The market is not as pessimistic. The monthly Bloomberg survey (51 economists) founds a median forecast for a 0.9% contraction this year and an expansion of the same magnitude next year. The survey now sees only a 0.2% quarterly contraction in Q4 22 rather than -0.4% in the previous survey. The median forecast for the current quarter was unchanged at -0.4%. 

Sterling continues to encounter resistance in front of $1.2450, which it first approached in mid-December. Although marginal new highs have been recorded, like the euro, it has been mainly confined to the range set on January 18 (~$1.2255-$1.2435). We are inclined to see this sideways movement as a topping pattern rather than a base, but it likely requires a break of the 1.2225 area to confirm.

Japan:  After contracting in Q3 22, the Japanese economy is expected to have rebounded in Q4 (~3.0% annualized pace). Reports on last month's labor market, retail sales, and industrial production will help fine-tune expectations. This month's rise in the flash composite PMI moved back above 50, pointing to some momentum. Still, Tokyo's higher-than-expected January CPI warns of upside risk to the national figure due offers good insight into the national figure, which may draw the most attention. We expect Japanese inflation to peak soon. The combination of government subsidies, the decline in energy prices, including the natural gas it gets from Russia, and the stronger yen (which bottomed in October) will help dampen price pressures. We look for a peak here in Q1 23. 

Last week, the dollar moved broadly sideways against the yen as it continued to straddle the JPY130 area. It repeatedly toyed with the 20-day moving average (~130.40) last week but has yet to close above this moving average for more than two months. Rising US and European yields may encourage the market to challenge the 50 bp cap on Japan's 10-year bond. A break of the JPY128.80 area may spur a test on the JPY128.00 area. However, the market seems to lack near-term conviction.

China:   Mainland markets re-open after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. There may be two drivers. The first is catch-up. Equity markets in the region rose. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose every session last week and moved higher for the fifth consecutive week. The JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index rose about 0.40% last week and is trading near its best level since mid-2022. The euro and yen were little changed last week (+/- <0.20%). The second driver is new news--about Covid and holiday consumption. The PMI is due on January 31, and the median forecast in the Bloomberg survey is for improvement. It has the manufacturing PMI rising to 49.9 from 47.0 and the service PMI jumping to 51.5 from 41.6.  The offshore yuan edged up 0.3% last week, suggesting an upside bias to the onshore yuan, against which the dollar settled at CNY6.7845 ahead of the holiday. 

Canada:  After the Bank of Canada's decision last week, the FOMC meeting, and US employment data in the days ahead, Canada is out of the limelight. It reports November GDP figures and the January manufacturing PMI. Neither are likely to be market movers. The Bank of Canada is the first of the G7 central banks to announce a pause (conditional on the economy evolving like the central bank anticipates) with a target rate of 4.50%. The central bank sees the economy expanding by 1% this year and 1.8% next. It suggests that the underlying inflation rate has peaked and, by the end of the year, may slow to around 2.6%. The swaps market has 50 bp of cut discounted in the second half of the year. 

The Canadian dollar held its own last week, rising by about 0.5%, which was second only to the high-flying Australian dollar. The greenback approached CAD1.3300, its lowest level since last November when it traded around CAD1.3225. Quietly, the Canadian dollar has strung together a six-week advance, and since its start in mid-December, it has been the third-best performer in the G10 behind the yen (~6.2%) and the Australian dollar (~6.1%). We are more inclined to see the greenback bounce toward CAD1.3400 before those November lows are re-tested. 

Australia:  The market's optimism about China recovering from the Covid surge, with the help of government support and attempts to help the property market, has been reflected in the strength of the Australian dollar, which leads the G10 currencies with around a 4.4% gain this year. Yet, changes in the exchange rate and Chinese stocks are not highly correlated in the short- or medium-term. The surge of inflation at the end of last year, reported last week, lent greater credence to our view that the Reserve Bank of Australia will lift the cash target rate by 25 bp when it meets on February 7. In the week ahead, Australia reports December retail sales, private sector credit, and some housing sector data, along with the final PMI readings. The momentum indicators are stretched after a 2.5-cent rally from the low on January 19. It is at risk of a pullback and suggests a break of $0.7080 may be the first indication that it is at hand. We see potential initially toward $0.7000-$0.7040.

Mexico:  After falling by nearly 5.25% in the first part of the month against the Mexican peso, the dollar is consolidating. The underlying case for peso exposure remains, but there are two mitigating conditions. First, surveys of real money accounts suggest many are already overweight. Second, the dollar met key target levels in it late-2019 (~MXN18.80), even if not to the February 2020 low (slightly below MXN18.53). On January 31, Mexico reports Q4 GDP. The economy is expected to have expanded by 0.5% after 0.9% quarter-over-quarter growth in Q3 22. Growth is expected to slow further in Q1 23 before grinding to a halt in the middle two quarters. The following day, Mexico reports December worker remittances. These have been a strong source of capital inflows in Mexico. Remittances have a strong seasonal pattern of rising in December from November, which sees remittances slow. However, after surging for the last couple of years, they appear to have begun stabilizing. Also, the optimism around China is understood to be more supportive of Brazil and Chile, for example, than Mexico.  

We do not have a very satisfying explanation for the two-day jump in the dollar from about MXN18.5670 to MXN19.11 (January 18-19) outside of market positioning and the possibility of some large hedge working its way through. Still, it seemed like a transaction-related flow rather than a change in the underlying situation. The greenback has trended lower since then and has fallen in five of the last six sessions. It fell to nearly MXN18.7165 ahead of the weekend. Latam currencies, in general, did well, with the top two emerging market currencies coming from there (Brazil and Chile). The Mexican peso rose about 0.4% last week.   Last week, the Argentine peso's loss of almost 1.2% gave it the dubious honor of the worst performer among emerging market currencies. It is now off nearly 4.6% for this month. Mexican stocks and bonds extended their rallies. A firmer dollar ahead of the February 1 conclusion of the FOMC meeting may see the peso consolidate its recent gains.

 


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Spread & Containment

How far could UK property prices drop and should investors be concerned?

The more pessimistic analysts believe that UK house prices could drop by as much as 30% over the next couple of years.…
The post How far could UK property…

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The more pessimistic analysts believe that UK house prices could drop by as much as 30% over the next couple of years. Property prices leapt alongside most other asset classes over the long bull market that ran relatively uninterrupted over the 13 year period from the start of the recovery from the international financial crisis in 2009 and last year.

Average prices across the country almost doubled from £154,500 in March 2009 to just under £296,000 in October last year, when the market hit its most recent record high. Global stock markets had been in a downward spiral for almost a year while property prices kept climbing.

Source: PropertyData

However, a combination of rising interest rates, up from 0.1% in late 2021 to 3.5% in January 2023 and further hikes expected this year, soaring inflation putting pressure on household budgets and nerves around a recession has seen house prices ease. There still not far off their record highs of late 2022 but the trend is downward.

chart

Source: BankofEngland

The big question for homeowners and property investors is just how far could UK residential property prices drop over the next couple of years? How long prices might take to recover from a drop is another important unknown.

First time buyers struggling to get onto the property ladder may welcome a significant drop in UK house prices. Even if higher interest rates mean monthly mortgage costs don’t change much, lower sales prices should reduce the minimum deposits required to secure a mortgage.

However, for anyone who currently owns a home, especially if purchased in the past couple of years towards the top of the market, a significant drop in valuation would be extremely unwelcome. That is particularly the case for home owners at risk of falling into negative equity, which means the market value of their property is lower than the outstanding sum due on the mortgage.

Falling house prices, if the decline is steep, could also create a wider economic crisis and spill over into other parts of the economy and financial markets.

But not everyone agrees UK house prices will drop by anywhere near 30%. Let’s explore the factors that would affect the residential property market over 2023 and beyond and different opinions on how serious a market slump could be. As well as the wider potential consequences that could result if the dive in home valuations turns out to be in line with more negative forecasts.

How much will UK house prices fall by?

The short answer to that question is that we don’t know but the most pessimistic outlook is for drops of up to 30% over the next couple of years. However, there are a number of factors that mean there is a high chance valuations will slide by less. But let’s look at the negative scenario first.

A 30% drop in home valuations sounds like a lot and it is. However, against the backdrop of the last couple of years that kind of fall looks a little less extreme. Prices are up 28% since April 2019 and a 30% fall would take the average price of a home in the UK to around £210,000, where it was in 2016. A less severe 20% drop in prices would see the average price settle at around £235,000, where it was just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Bank of England dropping interest rates to just 0.1%.

Mid-term interest rates are likely to have the biggest influence on house prices. At the BoE’s current 3.5% base rate, the best mortgage deals available are 2 years fixed at 4.8% compared to 1% deals available until recently. At an LTV of 60% on a £400,000 mortgage, that would push the monthly rate up to £2300 a month from £1500 a month.

For some borrowers, that is likely to prove problematic. It is also likely to mean lower demand for properties from buyers who might have otherwise decided to move up the property ladder and first time buyers. A drop in demand at higher price brackets due to affordability thresholds being passed will see property prices fall.

Will demand drop enough to lead to a 30% fall? That depends on factors that are currently unknown. How high interest rates go will have a huge influence and that will depend on inflation. There are signs inflation is easing and today the Fed’s preferred gauge for inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, rose 5.0% in December from a year earlier. That was slower than the 5.5% 12-month gain as of November and the lowest level since September 2021.

In the UK, inflation has also eased from 11.1% year-on-year in October to 10.5% in December. It’s still much higher than in the USA but will hopefully now maintain a consistent downward trend helped by easing energy prices.

There are hopes the Fed will pull back on further interest rate rises from March and that would set a tone that the Bank of England may well follow with a slight delay. The Fed’s base rate is also already higher than in the UK at 4.25% to 4.5%.

If interest rates and, more importantly, mortgage rates do not rise by more than 1% from where they are today it is unlikely valuation drops of as much as 30% eventuate. But if they did what would the consequences be?

What happens if UK house prices fall 30%?

The good news is that even a house price fall as extreme as 30% would be unlikely to lead to systematic issues in the UK’s financial services sector. More people own their homes outright than have a mortgage – 8.8 million to 6.8 million homes. Lloyds Bank, one of the UK’s biggest mortgage lenders recently reported the average LTV of its mortgage portfolio is just 40%.

Even if average LTV is a little higher for other banks, a wave of defaults is unlikely to threaten their stability and infect other areas of financial markets or the wider economy. Mortgage lenders are also reluctant to repossess homes they’ve lent against as it’s an expensive process for them. They will do as much as they can to work with borrowers who are struggling to meet increased mortgage payments.

What does falling property prices mean for investors?

For property investors, it’s really a case of if rental income will continue to cover mortgage payments, or get close enough to mean the investment still adds up. If mortgage payments are likely to exceed realistic rental income over the next few years investors may consider selling up. Unless the property was purchased in the last 2-3 years, that could still mean walking away with a reasonable return.

For investors in the wider financial markets, it seems unlikely that falling property prices, even if up to 30% is knocked off valuations, will see serious contagion spread and spark a crisis.

It’s not impossible that UK property prices could fall by as much as 30% over the next couple of years as a result of higher interest rates and tighter household budgets but the likelihood is the average drop will be less. And in the worst case scenario, wider fallout should be limited. A repeat of the systemic crash that led to the 2008 financial crisis does not seem like a real prospect. Lenders are well capitalised and the system looks strong enough to cope.

The post How far could UK property prices drop and should investors be concerned? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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