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.
About a month ago, we flagged a buy signal on spot corn for clients. Corn has rallied about 10% since then and more upside is ahead. Corn prices have been a strong downtrend since mid-2012 declining to the same levels seen in 2009-2010 before the rally in 2011. Looking at the technical picture this may now be about to change.
We have seen strong coincident activity in the UK in recent months, helped in part by a government-engineered boost to the housing market, which has lifted consumer spirits and caused retail sales to surge. Our leading indicator anticipated this upturn in the economy, and it continues to see no blots on the horizon (ie over the next 6 to 9 months), although this month it has leveled off slightly rather than continuing to climb.
Small business confidence in the US has improved from the depth of the crisis in 2008/09, but has moved sideways in the past 12 months. A return of confidence to pre-crisis levels has been identified by many as one of the key missing components of the recovery to date. We are getting closer, but it seems that investors need to wait a bit longer.