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What will drive markets in 2020?

What will drive markets in 2020?

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The first theme in our 2020 Global outlook, Growth edges up, heralds a modest pickup in global growth. This provides a decent tailwind to Canadian economic activity after a year of steadily slowing global growth. Our BlackRock Growth GPS for Canada rose throughout the second half of 2019, even as growth weakened elsewhere, and indicates consensus estimates for Canadian economic activity may be too dour. A cheap currency boosted exports at a time when geopolitical uncertainty weighed on business investment and indebted households showed some signs of fatigue. We think Canadian growth can remain steady next year, especially if industrial production and manufacturing have reached a bottom and trend higher.

Our second theme, Policy pause, calls for economic fundamentals to drive global markets, rather than monetary surprises or fiscal stimulus. We think the same frame broadly applies to Canada, but would note that Canada has greater monetary and fiscal policy flexibility than other developed markets in the unlikely event the economy hits a rough patch. The Bank of Canada (BoC) now boast the highest policy rate in the developed world and never resorted to balance sheet expansion. This gives the BoC much more ammunition to respond to soft economic readings at a time when global financial conditions have already eased. Moreover, the newly formed Liberal minority government may tinker with new spending initiatives on priorities it shares with the New Democratic Party, after most political parties shelved balanced budgets for the foreseeable future.

After 2019’s banner year for bonds – a year when we stressed the benefits of Raising resilience – we’ve debated just how much ballast fixed income securities provide with yields having fallen back to near cycle lows. Our third 2020 theme, Rethinking resilience questions the opportunities in European and Japanese government bond markets where yields are already near the lower bound. By contrast, Canadian government bonds would likely still offer some protection against declines in risk assets. They offer comparatively compelling yields across the curve, like those in the U.S., and an even rarer triple-A credit rating. That said, an improved cyclical outlook would tend to bias yields higher and weigh on government bond performance at a time when an inverted Canadian yield curve already makes longer-maturity bonds less attractive.

Our expected improvement in the cyclical outlook supports a moderately pro-risk stance, which we express through a modest global equity overweight and a preference for emerging market (EM) debt within fixed income. We have also raised our EM and Japanese equities allocations thanks to higher operational gearing to improving growth next year as well as less demanding valuations. We funded these moves by downgrading the U.S. to neutral and Europe to an underweight. We also retain our preference for the quality style factor for its exposure to healthier balance sheets and stronger return on equity. Even though growth appears to be bottoming, there is a certain comfort that comes from tilting towards financially stronger companies during the latter stages of the business cycle.

We have been skeptical of Canadian stocks and their potential to outperform the U.S. in recent years, but now take a more constructive view. The improved global cyclical backdrop, ample fiscal and monetary policy space (and a willingness among policymakers to use it), very reasonable valuations (in this edition we also upgrade value to neutral) and a conservative estimate for 2020 Canadian earnings suggest potential for Canadian equities to outperform next year. We would also note that the dividend yield of the S&P/TSX Composite Index is twice the level of the 10-year Canadian government bond yield, which further enhances the allure of equities.

Stable-to-firmer oil prices, a modest uptick in global economic growth and a moderately pro-risk investment stance would tend to support the Canadian dollar. However, there’s a chance the Bank of Canada could cut rates if it viewed currency appreciation as a threat to the economy. Therefore, we expect the Loonie to trade in its long-standing range between the mid to upper 70 cent level. Given this, we retain our preference for unhedged currency exposure to global stocks as a structural volatility dampener for Canadian investors.

Kurt Reiman is a Managing Director and BlackRock’s Chief Investment Strategist for Canada. Kurt is a regular contributor to The Blog in Canada.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of the date indicated and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any of these views will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader. © 2019 BlackRock Asset Management Canada Limited. All rights reserved. iSHARES and BLACKROCK are registered trademarks of BlackRock, Inc., or its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere. Used with permission. MKTGM1219C-1034117

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How much more financial pressure can Australian mortgagees take?

Talk to anyone on the street these days and the conversation will inevitably turn to how inflation is increasing their cost of living in some form or another….

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Talk to anyone on the street these days and the conversation will inevitably turn to how inflation is increasing their cost of living in some form or another. Inflation has risen steadily since the beginning of 2022 despite the determined efforts of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to bring it back towards its target range of 2-3 per cent.

In less than 1 year and 11 interest rate rises later, official interest rates have risen from 0.10 per cent to 3.85 per cent but inflation remains stubbornly high at 7 per cent. Interest rates have never risen this fast before nor from such a historically low level either.

As previously outlined in an earlier blog entry on Commonwealth Bank (ASX:CBA), the big four banks of Australia have just under 80 per cent of the residential property mortgage loan market. In “normal” economic times of rising interest rates, banks should be natural beneficiaries of these conditions. However, these are not normal times.

The business model of banks has generally stayed the same for centuries, i.e. borrow money from one source at a low interest rate and lend it to a customer at a higher rate. Today, the Australian banks generally get their funding from wholesale and retail sources. However, the banks were offered a one-off funding source from the RBA called the Term Funding Facility (TFF) during the COVID-19 period to support the economy. This started in April 2020, priced at an unprecedented low fixed rate of 0.10 per cent for 3 years with the last drawdown accepted in June 2021 for a total of $188 billion. Fast forward to today and the first drawdowns from this temporary facility have already started to roll-off which means that these fund sources need to be replaced with one of considerably more expensive sources, namely wholesale funding or retail deposits. As a result of this change in funding, bank CEOs have unanimously declared that net interest margins, and hence its effect on bank earnings, have peaked for this cycle despite speculation that interest rates may still rise later in the year.

Prior to the start of the roll-off of TFF drawdowns, the entire Australian banking industry engaged in cutthroat competition for new and refinancing mortgage loans in a bid to maintain or grow market share. In the aftermath of the bank reporting season, two of the big four banks have stated they are no longer pursuing market share at any price, with CBA and National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) announcing they will scrap their refinancing cashback offers after 1 June and 30 June respectively.

Turning our attention back to the average Australian, the big bank mortgage customers have been remarkably resilient. The Australian dream of owning the house you live in is still alive for now, with owners willing to endure significant lifestyle changes in a bid to keep up with mortgage payments. The big banks have reflected this phenomenon with a reduction in individual loan provisions and only a modest increase in collective loan provisions.

Time will tell how much more financial pressure Australian mortgagees can take, especially with the RBA still undecided on the future trajectory of interest rates. What has been agreed on by the big banks, is that things are not going to get easier. At least not in the short-term.

The Montgomery Funds own shares in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank. This article was prepared 29 May 2023 with the information we have today, and our view may change. It does not constitute formal advice or professional investment advice. If you wish to trade these companies you should seek financial advice.

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U.S. Breakeven Inflation Comments

I just refreshed my favourite U.S. breakeven inflation chart (above), and I was surprised by how placid pricing has been. This article gives a few observations regarding the implications of TIPS pricing.Background note: the breakeven inflation rate is …

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I just refreshed my favourite U.S. breakeven inflation chart (above), and I was surprised by how placid pricing has been. This article gives a few observations regarding the implications of TIPS pricing.

Background note: the breakeven inflation rate is the inflation rate that results in an inflation-linked bond — TIPS in the U.S. market — having the same total return as a conventional bond. If we assume that there are no risk premia, then it can be interpreted as “what the market is pricing in for inflation.” I have a free online primer here, as well as a book on the subject.

(As an aside, I often run into people who argue that “breakeven inflation has nothing to do with inflation/inflation forecasts.” I discuss this topic in greater depth in my book, but the premise that inflation breakevens have nothing to do with inflation only makes sense from a very short term trading perspective — long-term valuation is based on the breakeven rate versus realised inflation.)

The top panel shows the 10-year breakeven inflation rate. Although it scooted upwards after the pandemic, it is below where is was pre-Financial Crisis, and roughly in line with the immediate post-crisis period. (Breakevens fell at the end of the 2010s due to persistent misses of the inflation target to the downside.) Despite all the barrels of virtual ink being dumped on the topic of inflation, there is pretty much no inflation risk premium in pricing.

The bottom panel shows forward breakeven inflation: the 5-year rate starting 5 years in the future. (The 10-year breakeven inflation rate is (roughly) the average of the 5-year spot rate — not shown — and that forward rate.) It is actually lower than its “usual” level pre-2014, and did not really budge after recovering from its post-recession dip. (My uninformed guess is that the forward rate was depressed because inflation bulls bid up the front breakevens — because they were the most affected by an inflation shock — while inflation bears would have focussed more on long-dated breakevens, with the forward being mechanically depressed as a result.)

Since I am not offering investment advice, all I can observe is the following.

  • Since it looks like one would need a magnifying glass to find an inflation risk premium, TIPS do seem like a “non-expensive” inflation hedge. (I use “non-expensive” since they do not look cheap.) Might be less painful than short duration positions (if one were inclined to do that).

  • Breakeven volatility is way more boring than I would have expected based on the recent movements in inflation. The undershoot during the recession was not too surprising given negative oil prices and expectations of another lost decade, but the response to the inflation spike was restrained.

  • The “message for the economy” is that market pricing suggests that either inflation reverts on its own, or the Fed is expected to break something bigger than a few hapless regional banks if inflation does not in fact revert.

Otherwise, I am preparing for a video panel on MMT at the Canadian Economics Association 2023 Conference on Tuesday. (One needs to pay the conference fee to see the panel.) I have also been puttering around with my inflation book. I have a couple draft sections that I might put up in the coming days/weeks.

Email subscription: Go to https://bondeconomics.substack.com/ 

(c) Brian Romanchuk 2023

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“What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism”: BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

"What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism": BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Two years…

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"What's More Tragic Is Capitalism": BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Two years ago, I wrote columns about companies pouring money into Black Lives Matter to establish their bona fides as “antiracist” corporations. The money continued to flow despite serious questions raised about BLM’s management and accounting. Democratic prosecutors like New York Attorney General Letitia James showed little interest in these allegations even as James sought to disband the National Rifle Association (NRA) over similar allegations. At the same time, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors cashed in with companies like Warner Bros. eager to give her massive contracts to signal their own reformed status. It now appears that BLM is facing bankruptcy after burning through tens of millions and Warner Bros. cut ties with Cullors after the contract produced no — zero — new programming.

Some states belatedly investigated BLM as founders like Cullors seemed to scatter to the winds.

Gone are tens of millions of dollars, including millions spent on luxury mansions and windfalls for close associates of BLM leaders.

The usual suspects gathered around the activists like former Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias, who later removed himself from his “key role” as the scandals grew.

When questions were raised about the lack of accounting and questionable spending, BLM attacked critics as “white supremacists.”

Warner Bros. was one of the companies eager to grab its own piece of Cullors to signal its own anti-racist virtues.  It gave Cullors a lucrative contract to guide the company in the creation of both scripted and non-scripted content, focusing on reparations and other forms of social justice. It launched a publicity campaign for everyone to know that it established a “wide-ranging content partnership” with Cullors who would now help guide the massive corporation’s new programming. Calling Cullors “one of the most influential thought leaders in American public life,” Warner Bros. announced that she was going to create a wide array of new programming, including “but not limited to live-action scripted drama and comedy series; longform/event series; unscripted docuseries; animated programming for co-viewing among kids, young adults and families; and original digital content.”

Some are now wondering if Warner Bros. ever intended for this contract to produce anything other than a public relations pitch or whether Cullors took the money and ran without producing even a trailer for an actual product. Indeed, both explanations may be true.

Paying money to Cullors was likely viewed as a type of insurance to protect the company from accusations of racial insensitive. After all, the company was giving creative powers to a person who had no prior experience or demonstrated talent in the area. Yet, Cullors would be developing programming for one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world.

One can hardly blame Cullors despite criticizism by some on the left for going on a buying spree of luxury properties.

After all, Cullors was previously open about her lack of interest in working with “capitalist” elements. Nevertheless, BLM was run like a Trotskyite study group as the media and corporations poured in support and revenue.

It was glaringly ironic to see companies like Warner Bros. falling over each other to grab their own front person as the group continued boycotts of white-owned businesses. Indeed, if you did not want to be on the wrong end of one of those boycotts, you needed to get Cullors on your payroll.

Much has now changed as companies like Bud Light have been rocked by boycotts over what some view as heavy handed virtue signaling campaigns.

It was quite a change for Cullors and her BLM co-founder, who previously proclaimed “[we] are trained Marxists. We are super versed on, sort of, ideological theories.” She denounced capitalism as worse than COVID-19. Yet, companies like Lululemon rushed to find their own “social justice warrior” while selling leggings for $120 apiece.

When some began to raise questions about Cullors buying luxury homes, Facebook and Twitter censored them.

With increasing concerns over the loss of millions, Cullors eventually stepped down as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, as others resigned.  At the same time, the New York Post was revealing that BLM Global Network transferred $6.3 million to Cullors’ spouse, Janaya Khan, and other Canadian activists to purchase a mansion in Toronto in 2021.

According to The Washington Examiner, BLM PAC and a Los Angeles-based jail reform group paid Cullors $20,000 a month. It also spent nearly $26,000 on meetings at a luxury Malibu beach resort in 2019. Reform LA Jails, chaired by Cullors, received $1.4 million, of which $205,000 went to the consulting firm owned by Cullors and her spouse, according to New York magazine.

Once again, while figures like James have spent huge amounts of money and effort to disband the NRA over such accounting and spending controversies, there has been only limited efforts directed against BLM in New York and most states.

Cullors once declared that “while the COVID-19 illness is tragic, what’s more tragic is capitalism.” These companies seem to be trying to prove her point. Yet, at least for Cullors, Warner Bros. fulfilled its slogan that this is all “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/28/2023 - 16:00

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