Stock buybacks have been an important feature of the equity rally. Companies have used low rates and easy credit to borrow money and used it to buy their own shares back.
Yield curves almost everywhere have been flattening. At the long end of yield curves, bonds have been rallying all year. This is to be expected in Europe, where growth remains lacklustre, inflation is very weak, and the ECB is firmly in easing mode. However, even in the UK and the US, where the market has been gingerly pricing in the beginning of (perceived) hiking cycles, long bonds have been rallying.
Eurozone growth goes from setback to setback with last week’s GDP number being just the latest in a long line of similar disappointments. Soft indicators have consistently overstated the strength of this year’s recovery, and the unpleasant truth is that as one country after another has swooned under the summer heat we are down to Spain as ‘last man standing’. Our leading indicators are pointing to anaemic growth ahead for much of the eurozone and Russia’s recent food sanctions on European agriculture will only add to the downturn.
The key message from our leading indicators is that US inflation and wages continue to turn up. This was one of our core themes for 2014 we discussed in December last year and is bearing out. Core inflation and headline inflation are positive, while wages are turning up sharply. This has implications for profit margins. Wage increases inversely lead US corporate profits by two years. We have with very high likelihood seen the peak in profit margins, and we would expect them to fall.
While markets are fixated on the threat of deflation and “lowflation” (a dumb word if ever there was one), our leading indicators are pointing towards modest core inflation ahead. Furthermore, our leading headline inflation indicator is rising moderately as well. We don’t have hyperinflation,…
Profit margins in the US have hit modern-day record levels, and this has been used to help justify high equity valuations. Consensus estimates are for profit margins to remain steady, or even increase from current levels. We disagree for ironclad…
Much has been made of the made of Chancellor George Osborne’s success with austerity and the UK’s eruption back into growth, confounding his critics. However, ‘austerity’ has been more of a publicity exercise. Government spending as percentage of GDP has fallen only slightly, but is still higher than it ever was before the financial crisis.
One of the points we have been emphasizing to clients in recent months is that US small caps are looking increasingly less attractive compared to large caps. Small caps have benefited from excess liquidity and a belief that as the US economy recovers, smaller companies, with their greater domestic focus, are the place to be. Yet price and valuations are making it more and more difficult to justify the trade.
One of the themes we have been tracking in the past 6 months is the slowdown in global money growth and excess liquidity. The focus on the second derivative is important here. The level of growth in liquidity and money growth indicators is decent but the annual growth rate is rolling over.
One of the equity themes we have been highlighting in the recent month is ongoing mismatch between high expectations in Europe relative to lacklustre growth in profitability and growth. European equities are overvalued based on what our models are telling us about earnings and revenue growth this year.