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.
Many emerging markets were in recession last year and are only slowly emerging. Tight financial conditions and flat to inverted yield curves will make the recovery slow and fraught with risks. Global growth will be lower as a result.
The composite eurozone January flash PMI showed accelerating expansion led by Germany, but the PMI readings are still only showing moderate growth, considerably below the momentum achieved, for example, in the 2009/2010 green-shoots revival. What growth we do see will be low in comparison with earlier times and if real money growth continues to lose momentum, we might even see renewed weakness.
The debate on EM economies (and equities) is heating up. Initially this week, we had the financial world equivalent of the pillory with the widely reported closing of a high profile US hedge fund’s EM fund due to heavy losses in 2013. Solemn nodding followed by EM naysayers suggesting that this is truly a sign of the death-knell of EM as an asset class. The stakes are being raised elsewhere too with the media pitting seasoned investment professionals on both sides of the fence in recent weeks.
Global growth has been well supported going into this year, and short-leading indicators had intimated this would continue into the latter part of the first quarter. However, data has become more mixed with some releases giving cause for concern. Some…
The AUD has been under strong pressure in the past 12-18 months. A slowing Chinese economy, an unwinding housing and mining boom and a dovish RBA have all been contributing factors. Many of these reasons are still valid reasons to be fundamentally negative on Australia, but as we have pointed out since the beginning of the year the AUD was due a tactical rebound.
Gone are the days when financial advisory could boast the same professional stability as a well seated doctor or lawyer. Herding people through the door and offering them a standard 60/40 portfolio invested in the in-house equity and bond funds was a simple and lucrative business model but it does not work anymore. Competition and technical innovation have already changed the industry of professional personal investment advisory and it will be sure to effect radical change for years to come.