Market Updates

PWA presents Chris Bainbridge from Pie Funds
PWA presents Chris Bainbridge from Pie Funds

PWA presents Chris Bainbridge from Pie Funds

Market Update
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Chris will share an overview of how Pie have been investing over the past year or so, including sectors focussed on and lessons learned since COVID. Chris will also include how Pie’s Australasian funds are currently positioned with a few stock specific case studies and details on the outlook for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.


Click here to watch the video

September Market Update
September Market Update

September Market Update

Market Update
These are all unprecedented valuations, as are many other measures in global markets. The valuations are also closely correlated to the level of quantitative easing we have seen globally. We now see markets respond positively to bad economic news, and negatively to good economic news. This is due to good economic news equalling a faster end of Quantitative Easing and higher interest rates. 
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Market Commentary (September 2021)

NZ back in Level 4 lockdown – what does this mean for our economy?

On the 17th of August, New Zealanders ability to move freely around our country was once again curtailed as we were placed back into the dreaded Level 4 lockdown. As you well know, this was due to the more infectious and harmful Covid-19 Delta variant being found within our community.

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Global Stringency Index. Source: University of Oxford, Macrobond, ANZ Research

  

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ANZ Business Outlook Activity Index. Source: ANZ Research

We have seen much debate in the media around why this was required and how slow the vaccination programme is progressing. We will not be debating this. Rather, what we will look at is how this lockdown is forecast to impact the New Zealand economy. All the discussion below is based on a belief that we will manage to get the community spread of Covid Delta under control by the end of September, and the economy starts to reopen. 

NZ economy forecast to bounce

ANZ’s excellent research team has recently produced a report covering the expected impact of this lockdown on the strong recovery we have been experiencing since March 2020. They note that in the current environment it is impossible to forecast with any level of confidence. If we instead continue to slide in and out of level 3 & 4 lockdowns, then the economic data discussed below will get worse, and interest rates will stay lower for longer. 

ANZ is forecasting that this time we will see GDP drop by 6% in the September 2021 quarter but recover in a timely fashion due to the fiscal stimulus provided by the government during this period. As we saw in March 2020, we can again expect GDP to be boosted by pent up demand on reopening.

NZ’s unemployment rate is forecast to hold at 4% for reasons stated above, as well as businesses now being better positioned to retain staff that were proving difficult to secure pre-lockdown. 

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GDP Forecast – post lockdown.  Source: Stats NZ, Macrobond, ANZ Research


     

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Unemployment and participation.  Source: Stats NZ, Macrobond, ANZ Research


Official Cash Rate increases – still coming

Sustainably low NZ unemployment (an RBNZ target) has been achieved, with the figure currently sitting at 4%. This demonstrates that New Zealand has very little spare capacity within its economy, which is likely to lead to domestic non-tradable inflation pressures. 

We are also seeing global inflation pressures being passed onto New Zealand consumers from our trading partners. This is due to the rising cost of goods and the difficulty in getting the goods shipped to New Zealand. ANZ are forecasting headline inflation will peak around 4% y.o.y. This is above the RBNZ’s second target to keep inflation between 1% and 3% over the medium term. 

Lastly, we are seeing unsustainable growth in the NZ property market. Driven by record low interest rates, and the RBNZ’s fiscal stimulus. 

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NZ CPI forecast. Source: Statistics NZ, Macrobond, ANZ Research

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) held their quarterly Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) meeting on the 18th of August, only a day after NZ went into Level 4 lockdown. They have now exceeded all their official targets. This means that we can expect the RBNZ to reduce stimulus measures, and start raising rates over the coming year, with the first rate rise maybe coming as soon as October (assuming NZ has Delta infection rates under control). 

At the meeting, the RBNZ made it very clear that even though they were on hold as they awaited more data on the impact of the current lockdown, they did not expect this to slow their forecast rate rises. Markets agree and continue to forecast the OCR moving from its current 0.25% to 1.75% over the next 2-years.

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RBNZ OCR forecast vs. bond markets. Source: Bloomberg, RBNZ, Macrobond, Harbour Asset Management

RBNZ expected to lead the developed world on rate rises

As discussed, markets are pricing in a much faster increase in short-term interest rates in New Zealand than we see in most OECD economies. As shown in the chart below, markets are now pricing in the first 0.25% increase in the Official Cash Rate (OCR) by November 2021, with a combined total rate increase of 1.00% (increase the OCR to 1.25%) by November 2022

When comparing this to Australia, the US or Europe (which suggest the first rate rise may be as far away as 2023), we can see that New Zealand’s forecast rate rises are well ahead of our trading partners. The reasons for this variance are that we are likely to have less transitory inflation due to price pressures from our global trading partners, house price inflation is again at excessive levels, and local inflation pressures are rising, i.e., wage inflation. 

                 

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Market pricing for central bank rate risesSource: Bloomberg, ANZ Research 


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Global economic data by region.  Source: Harbour Asset Management, Bloomberg, Macrobond

Across most of the developed world, inflation is now above each country’s Central Bank target, with Turkey having the highest annual inflation rate of 18.95%. There are several exceptions, such as Japan which continues to fight against deflationary pressures. 

The inflationary pressures seen across the developed world are driven by demand exceeding supply, as countries ease up on lockdowns and consumers spend their saved funds. These surplus funds are an outcome of the unprecedented level of fiscal stimulus that was pumped into the system to allow economies to weather the Covid lockdowns. As an example of the inconceivable nature of the levels of stimulus, 40% of all the money the US has ever printed was produced in 2020

As vaccination rates increase and more economies open up, we can expect these inflationary pressures to persist for at least another 6-months. Some economists are already highlighting that inflation is exceeding most forecasts and may be proving to be much more difficult to get under control. Once again of course, this is all Delta dependant (or some new strain of Covid). 

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Global Inflation Rates & Central Bank Targets. Source: Brandywine Global


NZ mortgage rate forecasts

As the expectation of OCR increases has become more certain, we have now seen term deposit and mortgage rates start to increase in New Zealand. Mortgage rates are now expected to increase, with most fixed term rates forecast to rise almost 2% over the next 2-years

NZ Mortgage Rates Climbing

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NZ Mortgage Rates Climbing. Source: RBNZ, Macrobond, ANZ Research 


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 House Price Inflation forecast to slow. Source: REINZ, ANZ Research

These may all sound like large interest rate movements, but it is important that we put them in perspective. At present, interest rates in New Zealand are at historically record low levels. An increase of 2% will simply take them back to the low levels they were at the start of 2020 (pre-Covid). 

This will still be a stimulatory level for the NZ economy, and while these mortgage rate increases may lead to some buyers (who have stretched to maximum lending level in the last year) struggling, most borrowers will be able to afford the higher rates. 

These potential increases are therefore unlikely to cause house prices to drop in New Zealand, but they are likely to provide a headwind to further property price rises. Inflation would have to move much higher, forcing the OCR to move beyond these forecast levels for us to see forecasts for property prices declining. 

Transitory Inflation?

Most central banks views remain that the spike in inflation is driven by a shortfall of supply as demand increased around the world post the end of Covid lockdowns, with supply expected to meet and exceed demand in the next 12-months. We have seen this cycle before in the last decade.

Given this view, Central Banks around the world are looking through this short-term spike in inflation and are all using the word “transitory” to describe their view. As shown in the chart below, the high inflation readings are mainly due to the cost of energy (oil prices rising), transport services (flight fares) and transport costs (used cars) which have all spiked due to the US economy reopening - and hence are likely to be transitory. Meanwhile, food and shelter costs, which make up a much higher weighting in the inflation basket, have remained at or around the 1.50% - 2% mark

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The transitory thesis still holds….just! Source: Harbour Asset Management, Bloomberg, Macrobond


Housing Price Inflation – less transitory

When calculating US inflation numbers, “shelter” costs make up around 33% of the inflation calculations weighting. As shown in the table below, shelter costs are now starting to move a lot higher, with single home rents up over 12.50%. Add to this US wage inflation which has increased by 4.30% over the last 12-months, and the transitory inflation discussion starts to look questionable. 

The wage inflation, and house price inflation in the US is a direct result of the fiscal (not monetary) stimulus that was pumped into the system in 2020. The fiscal stimulus led to a strange anomaly where unemployment benefits exceeded the minimum wage in US. This in turn led to minimum wage workers not wanting to return to work, where they would earn less than they were by staying at home. 

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US rental price inflation. Source: WSJ, Yardi Matrix, The Daily Shot

If these inflation pressures do prove to be less transitory than most economists forecast, then we may see interest rates in the US rise faster than expected. To date, the US Federal Reserve has started public discussions around how and when they might start to exit their most recent fiscal and monetary programmes. We can expect interest rates to push a bit higher in the US as they start their tapering. 

The next move to control inflation pressures will be the raising of the cash rate. As discussed above, New Zealand is forecast to commence raising cash rates as soon as October. The US is not forecast to raise rates until the start of 2023. 

Summary – share markets defy gravity

The world share markets continue to defy gravity and test new highs. We have seen a record level of US$676 billion in funds flowing into global share markets so far this year. This is an amount more than the previous 15-years of funds flows combined. This is mainly due to TINA (There is No Alternative) meaning that investors are coming to share markets to get yields that are higher than those they can get on bonds. 

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Global share funds flow. Source: TopDownCharts.com

This fund flow has seen Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, Apple & Nvidia (FANGMAN) move to a total market capital value of US$10.35 trillion, or 25% of the total S&P500. The top three are Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Apple remains the largest company in the S&P500, with a market cap of US$2.75 trillion, or 6.27% of the total S&P500 index, followed closely by Microsoft (US$2.20 trillion), and Amazon (US$1.76 trillion). 

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FANGMAN Market Cap - Sept 2021. Source: Bloomberg

These are all unprecedented valuations, as are many other measures in global markets. The valuations are also closely correlated to the level of quantitative easing we have seen globally. We now see markets respond positively to bad economic news, and negatively to good economic news. This is due to good economic news equalling a faster end of Quantitative Easing and higher interest rates. 

There is a high level of uncertainty in the markets at present around how sustainable the current rise in inflation will be. Research we have seen to date still supports the theory that inflation will be transient, but as discussed there are some components of this calculation that need close monitoring. 

There is still much debate about how long we will be in this tightening cycle with several commentators now starting to discuss a possible second recession in early 2024 – 2025 as the global economy progresses through the large stimulus we saw in 2020/2021 and back into a higher ‘more normal’ interest rate environment. 

One thing we can be reasonably sure of is that financial markets will continue to be volatile as investors position for either rapidly rising interest rates, or lower growth and lower interest rates for longer. 

June Market Update
June Market Update

June Market Update

Market Update
“It’s a mirage, basically. In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending.” - Warren Buffett
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Crypto-Calamity

May 2021 was a tumultuous month for ‘investors and traders of cryptocurrencies, as Chinese authorities cracked down on Bitcoin trading (and mining) which sent prices of all crypto tumbling.

Bitcoin was one of the better performing cryptocurrencies, but still fell 17% on a single day in the month and at the time of writing was down 50% from its all-time high.

Bloomberg Crypto index
Bloomberg Crypto index (Source: Bloomberg, Al-Jazeera.com)

The Chinese announcement banned Chinese financial institutions and payment companies from providing services relating to crypto transactions – although it stopped short of barring individuals from actually holding crypto. The announcement led to several of the largest crypto mining operators suspending their Chinese operations. This is a big deal for crypto coins as China accounts for up to 70% of the worlds crypto mining.

Adding to the woes of the sector, the US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell also stated that cryptocurrencies pose risks to financial stability and indicated that increased regulation might be required. If you are wondering why authorities are looking to crack down on crypto this chart might help explain.

Cryptocurrency payments by type of recipient
Source: Chainalysis, The Daily Shot

What could possibly go wrong from a market that is favoured by criminals, and has variants such as ‘Dogecoin’ invented out of thin air one day as a joke and worth ‘billions’ the next?

NZ doing well?

Our domestic economy appears to be faring well at present, and one of the reasons is that we suffered a very small dip in GDP last year. In fact, our largest trading partner (China) managed to grow their economy over 6%, whilst our 2nd largest (Australia) fared similar to ourselves.

The following chart highlights how fortunate we were on the economic front in 2020.

GDP Growth by country - % for calendar year 2020
Source: Macrobond, ASB

However, there are a couple of things we in New Zealand need to keep an eye on. Firstly, according to the chart below, which shows the percentage households around the world are saving of their net current incomes, we appear to be among the worst savers in the developed world.

At least we aren’t in negative territory (as we were through the first part of this century), however this is not the type of measure we want to be last in. The chart below indicates we may not have much capacity to tolerate a sustained shock or recession.

Global Net Household Saving Rates Percentage
Source: OECD, Refinitiv, Financial Times

We have discussed inflation extensively in our recent commentaries however, it remains one of the key factors that is likely to shape markets going forward, with continued uncertainty around if the forecast spike in inflation later this year will be transitory or sustained higher inflation.

The latest inflation indicators from ANZ (based on the correlation with their Business Outlook pricing intentions survey) look sobering. There is a clear indication that companies are now likely to start passing on the inflationary pressures they are seeing in the manufacturing and shipping of goods both globally and locally.

NZ Business Pricing Intentions

When interest rates do begin to experience a meaningful rise, it will be interesting to see the impact on those who have become accustomed to the lowest mortgage rates we have ever seen in this country. As shown below house prices have historically been reasonably well correlated with interest rates.

As shown below, over 60% of all mortgage holders are currently choosing to be fixed for 12-months or less, meaning any change in interest rates will be felt by most borrowers almost immediately after they start to rise. We have also recently seen the NZ 5-year mortgage rates start to move higher, which is potentially a concerning indicator of things to come.

NZ Residential Mortgage Rates
Source: RBNZ, ANZ Research
NZ Mortgage fixed terms
Source: RBNZ, ANZ Research

NZ Mortgage rates vs. NZ House price index
Source: Westpac

Global Markets

It was a rather ‘topsy-turvy’ performance from financial markets through May. There was little overall change in US Equities, however they did experience a mid-month sell-off as a higher-than-expected annualised inflation figure of +4.2% was announced. This was largely shrugged off through the 2nd half of May, and US Equities edged their way higher.

The key question of when the US Federal Reserve might start ‘tapering’ back its Quantitative Easing (keeping the risk-free rate of return lower) continues to be debated. Below is a chart showing that the market expectation of when the US fed will start tapering was pulled forward with the majority of those polled suggesting we could see this as soon as the first half of 2022.

When will the Fed raise rates?

Source: Bloomberg Finance, Deutsche Bank Asset Allocation

This is important because Quantitative Easing comprises approximately half of the US$12 trillion stimulus injected into the US economy since early 2020. This stimulus has been the key driver for supercharged returns from shares and property as interest rates have fallen around the world.

Fiscal & Monetary Stimulus Feb 2020 – March 2021
Source: Cornerstone Macro Research, The Daily Shot

The impact to growth from Covid lockdowns

On the Covid front, we are seeing some significant 2nd and 3rd waves across parts of world, with Asia (ex-China) being amongst the worst affected. India has been receiving the most news, however even those countries that had previously done very well containing Covid (i.e., Taiwan) are now experiencing strict lockdowns as they struggle to keep a lid on the latest waves.

However, for financial markets these Covid outbreaks have been offset by the successful vaccination rollouts in major western nations. The United States has led the way, and as such Westpac has recently upgraded its growth forecasts for the largest economy in the world for an expected 6.5% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2021 and 4.1% growth in 2022. In 2023 and beyond economists are forecasting the US to return to slow and low growth meaning the high growth that we are seeing in 2021 and 2022 are simply an outcome of record stimulus, and an economy reopening after a year of rolling Covid-19 lockdowns.

Global GDP Growth Forecasts
Source: Westpac, Stats NZ, IMF
Source: Westpac, Stats NZ, IMF

As we should all be aware the US has demonstrated strong political disparity between Democrats and Republicans over the past few years. This has played out in views expressed around wearing a mask, and getting the Covid-19 vaccine, with Republicans demonstrating a high lack of trust in government and scientific recommendations.

As at the time of writing this commentary 164 million Americans, or 50% of the population has had at least one Covid vaccination shot. We are now seeing the number of US citizens turning out to get their first shot declining and the US government resorting to different approach to try and encourage people to come and get vaccinated.

One interesting strategy that a number of US States are undertaking are ‘vaccination lotteries. A 22-year-old from Ohio made headlines when she won that State’s US$1 million lottery that is open to all people who have had at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

Not to be outdone, California has announced they would fund a US$116.5 million vaccine incentive programme intended to motivate their population to get a jab. Of this funding, US$100m is in the form of $50 prepaid cards for the next 2 million people who get vaccinated and $16.5m will be given out in cash prizes to some of those vaccinated Californians!

US Vaccination Cash Splurge
Source: www.covid19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win/

Summary

Global share markets had a reasonably volatile month through May, ending up around where they started the month. This was due to investors starting to focus on when the US Federal Reserve may start discussing tapering their Quantitative Easing Programme.

Investors in cryptocurrencies had a rude awakening, as regulators began to turn up the heat which has sent prices nosediving. We continue to watch this with a high level of interest (and scepticism) to see if this new investment vehicle proves to be a stable long-term investment. To date it appears to be one of the more volatile ways to invest.

Most importantly, the fear of sustained inflation, and consequences resulting from this scenario (chiefly higher interest rates/bond yields) continue to be the primary concern and focus of the markets. Global economies continue to forge ahead and produce strong GDP growth numbers – particularly those economies leading the charge on vaccinations. This is likely to result in strong earnings figures over the coming months – the key question for markets might be how much of this is already baked into prices?

We certainly continue to live in historically significant times. The investment markets both bonds and shares continue to trade in a tight range. Only time will tell how they receive any news about the end of the US QE programme. As has become common over the past 24-months we continue to recommend clients proceed with caution and have a solid understanding of what they are invested in and the potential upside and downside risk/return payoffs.

Private Wealth Advisers believes the information in this publication is correct, and it has reasonable grounds for any opinion or recommendation found within this publication on the date of this publication. However, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage incurred by any person as a result of any error in any information, opinion or recommendation in this publication. Nothing in this publication is, or should be taken as, an offer, invitation or recommendation to buy, sell or retain any investment in or make any deposit with any person. The information contained in this publication is general in nature. It may not be relevant to individual circumstances. Before making any investment, insurance or other financial decisions, you should consult a professional financial adviser. This publication is for the use of persons in New Zealand only.

Responsible Investing
Responsible Investing

Responsible Investing

Education
The Responsible Investment Association of Australia state “Responsible investors all understand that companies or assets won’t thrive whilst ignoring environmental issues (pollution, climate change, water and other resources scarcity), social issues (local communities, employees, health and safety), corporate governance issues (prudent management, business ethics, strong boards, appropriate executive pay) or ethical issues.”
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Why investors should be concerned about a dam bursting in Brazil?

The Responsible Investment Association of Australia state “Responsible investors all understand that companies or assets won’t thrive whilst ignoring environmental issues (pollution, climate change, water and other resources scarcity), social issues (local communities, employees, health and safety), corporate governance issues (prudent management, business ethics, strong boards, appropriate executive pay) or ethical issues.”

On November 5th, 2015 a dam co-owned by BHP burst, killing 13, injuring hundreds and impacting thousands. Brazil’s government has subsequently filed a law suit against BHP and Vale for $5.2b USD to compensate those affected. Investing ethically is no longer about being a ‘green, tree-hugging hippie’, it is about understanding that companies who cause catastrophic disasters will be hit where it hurts, usually in the form of billions of dollars, which in turn, hurts the shareholder.

BHP price post 5th November 2015
BHP
source: Bloomberg

HOW SUSTAINABILITY CAN DRIVE FINANCIAL OUTPERFORMANCE

The University of Oxford and Arabesque Asset Management have undertaken a study which analyses the links between “responsibility and profitability”. There is a drive for transparency for the stockholder. Here are some examples:

  • Vehicles have CO2 emissions listed as a standard (Volkswagen anyone?) – Now France have introduced mandatory carbon reporting on financial institutions. Imagine when you are considering a managed fund, say a KiwiSaver fund, comparing fees, performance, investment style and carbon emissions!
  • Screening of industries, historical ‘black listed’ stocks have been tobacco, fossil fuels, gambling, alcohol, human rights abuses, pornography, weapons and now… sugar.
  • Some of the largest sovereign wealth funds are ‘divesting’ their portfolios of various industries, such as the Norwegian Government Pension Fund dumping 122 coal company stocks.
Report Highlights
ESG
Source: Arabesque.com
Responsible Investment Returns
SRI funds

Source: Responsibleinvestment.org

February Market Update
February Market Update

February Market Update

Market Update
It is very likely that US share markets are now in “bubble” territory. Bubble means shares are trading at historically expensive valuations. At present, many longer-term valuation measures show that S&P500 shares are trading at valuations higher than levels reached in 2000.
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If it looks like a bubble...

It is very likely that US share markets are now in “bubble” territory. Bubble means shares are trading at historically expensive valuations. At present, many longer-term valuation measures show that S&P500 shares are trading at valuations higher than levels reached in 2000. The record high valuations in 2000 were the precursor to the “Tech Wreck” which saw the S&P500 fall by 44.70% over the next 2.1 years.

S&P500 valuations stretched
Source: Bloomberg, Yale/Robert Shiller, John Hussmann, John Mauldin


It is easy to point to the markets and conclude we are in a bubble. The next question is: how big will this bubble get, and will it pop? As the famous economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

We are anticipating increased volatility in the US sharemarket in 2021, but are also cognisant of several possible reasons the markets will push higher:

There is No Alternative (TINA).

The bond and cash markets are offering investors negative returns. As shown below, there is now almost US$20 trillion worth of global bonds trading at interest rates below 0%.

US$19 trill in negative yielding bonds


Cash is flowing into share markets at record levels.

At the end of 2020, we saw the largest 2-month inflow of cash into global shares in history. There is also still a large percentage of cash and bonds held in institutional portfolios. We can also expect some of this to make its way into shares as the managers hunt higher yielding investments.

US$200 bill flowed into global shares over 2-mth Large sum still held in cash (MM) and bonds
Source: EPFR, Haver, Deutsche Bank, The Daily Shot


Source: EPFR, Haver, Deutsche Bank, The Daily Shot


Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) moving higher.

The global PMI is set to test record highs, with consumers hopefully coming out of lockdowns as vaccinations continue into late-2021. Historically, fund flows into shares are closely correlated with global PMI.

Global PMI vs. Global share flows US Fed Dot-chart
Source: Deutsche Bank, The Daily Shot


Source: Bloomberg Finance, The Daily Shot


Central Banks expected to leave short term interest rates low.

The US Federal Reserve has given strong indications to the market that their primary focus is reducing the unemployment rate in the US, and that they will look through short term spikes in inflation to ensure they keep the economy growing.

One of the committee members has also suggested that if inflation were to move above 3% p.a. that they would want to see it remain at this level for a period of 12-months before they would consider moving interest rates to slow the inflation down. They could also act to devalue the US currency which would have a similar impact in slowing growth without increasing borrowing costs.

Lastly, the Fed “dot chart”, which is a chart showing where each Federal Reserve Committee member is forecasting future interest rates, suggests that we will not see short term interest rates move higher until 2023 at the earliest.

Only a fool would try to forecast when a share market bubble will pop, but as valuations climb higher, the chance of further upside gains declines, and the chance of higher downside losses increases.

The rise of the empowered retail investor

Over the past year, we have seen a large increase in the number of retail traders. Trading platforms such as Robinhood have allowed micro investors into a market previously only accessible to larger investors, and previously only via brokerage and account fees. Robinhood offers access to global share markets to retail investors for free. The platform’s success is apparent in the growth of its accounts, which numbered 340,000 when it first opened in 2014. The number of accounts has since grown to over 13 million as at the end of 2020.

This rise in retail investors, who are meeting in global chat rooms to discuss the next best investment idea, has led to a massive increase in their influence in the markets. As at mid-January, “small traders” (10 or less contracts) were in excess of 12 million, versus “large traders” at 5 million. According to data from a recent Bloomberg study, “small traders” now make up over 9% of all contracts on the New York Stock Exchange, up from just under 1% in 2016.

No. of options US share market – millions US share account margin trading
Source: Deutsche Bank Research, The Daily Shot
Source: Finra, www.wolfstreet.com, The Daily Shot


Alongside this rise in retail investors, we have seen a large increase in traders using margin trading accounts which allows investors to buy shares with borrowed funds. US margin debt has increased from around $475 million in March 2020 to just under US$800 billion at the start of 2021. So not only are retail investors pouring their own funds into the share market, but they are also borrowing heavily to do it.

On the 7th of Jan 2021, Elon Musk tweeted “use Signal“. He was referring to a messaging app called Signal. The retail chat rooms lit up with some investors finally deciding Elon must be referring to Signal Advance, a company that sells signal detection units. As shown below, as retail investors flooded into this stock, the share price went vertical rising 1,100% before investors finally figured out it was the wrong company. As they started selling, the poor investors that had bought at the top would have lost 84% of their capital, and if they used a margin account likely lost 100%+ of their capital. Retail investors continue to take these somewhat questionable risks using the battle cry YOLO (you only live once) in chat rooms to justify their behaviour. You may only live once, but debt stays with you forever.

The risks of trading on a “tip”
Source: CNBC.com, PWA


Global debt across all sectors (public and private) increased by just under US$20 trillion in 2020, with global Debt to GDP ratio rising from 330% in Jan 2020 to over 365% at the end of 2020. As an interesting side note, Australia was one of very few countries that saw a reduction in their household debt through 2020, reducing by about 4%.

Change in Debt to GDP (end of Q4 2019 – end of Q3 2020)
Source: www.visualcapitalist.com, IIG, Deutsche Bank, World Economic Forum


As shown in the table above, Canada had the largest increase across all measures with the level of debt in that country moving higher by 80% over the first three quarters of 2020. New Zealand’s total debt increased by c.30% over the same period, with NZ having the second largest increase in household debt of c.15%.

While the Debt to GDP increase in NZ is large as a percentage, the actual sum of government bonds being purchased by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (c.$35 billion) equates to only a small blip when compared in dollars to the sum being held by other central banks.

G10 Central Bank government bond holdings
Source: Nordea & Macrobond, The Daily Shot

2021 global growth forecast

As we move into 2021, governments and central banks of the world continue to support the recovery with both quantitative easing (QE) and fiscal stimulus (benefits and infrastructure spending). The level of support is at unprecedented levels. The combined stimulus that has been pumped into the US economy over the last 8-months is greater than the total stimulus given in the last 5 US recessions combined.

Another example is from 2008 (when the US Federal Reserve first started QE) to 2014, when the US Fed placed a total of $3.66 trillion into the markets. In the first half of 2020, the Fed pumped in an incredible $4.9 trillion in only 6-months.

It is fair to say that global economies are getting unprecedented levels of support. How this plays out over the coming 5-years is going to be interesting. However, with this level of support and the option to extend or continue it, we can certainly expect economies to recover.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has produced a GDP forecast for 2021, which supports the market view that we are unlikely to see a double dip recession from the US or China. Indeed, Chinese GDP is forecast to grow at an impressive 10.70% in the 2021 calendar year.

IMF country GDP forecast – ending 2021
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook Jan 2021, The Daily Shot


The main risk to this recovery is likely to be central banks’ ability to continue to provide stimulus if inflation does surprise to the upside in 2021. At this time, most economists are forecasting a spike in inflation as economies open, but this is expected to be a short-term blip and is forecast to decline again into the start of 2022.

Given the asset bubble across shares, bonds, commercial property and yes even residential property has been wholly driven by the central banks’ stimulus, an unexpected end to this due to out-of-control inflation would likely be very bad for most asset prices across the world.

NZ Property

You cannot go to a BBQ or catch up over a beer/wine without property prices coming into the discussion. There is a strong belief in New Zealand that investing into houses is…..well “safe as houses”! Given the fanatical belief that New Zealanders have in this sector, it is unsurprising to see anecdotal evidence of cash moving into this sector due to the banks record low interest rates.

There are several reasons stated for property prices to be where they are today. Some of these are:

  • A shortage in housing vs. the higher demand.
  • Ex-pat Kiwis returning home with profits from their offshore work.
  • Favourable tax treatment for property investors who borrow (leverage) large sums to purchase residential property.
  • Falling interest rates (lower mortgage rates).

All these reasons have in some way driven house prices higher, but one can be shown to have had the greatest impact, and this is falling interest rates.

Below is a chart from Westpac’s economists showing house price and rent inflation over the past 19-years. This shows that house prices are up over 3.6 times (c.7% p.a.) over this period whereas rents have only increased by about 1.8 times (c.3% p.a.).

This supports the argument that current house price increases are NOT being driven by a shortage in available properties, as if this were the case then we could also expect rents to be increasing by a similar sum. Rents inability to keep pace with house prices has also led to residential rental yields being at record low levels with central Auckland’s properties averaging 3.8% gross p.a. as of October 2020, according to data from REINZ.

NZ House price & rent inflation NZ mortgage rates and house price inflation


The main driver for house prices in NZ, and indeed around the world, has been the rapid decline in interest rates providing an ability to borrow greater and greater sums.

The chart above from Westpac’s economics team shows the direct correlation between average mortgage rates (average of 2 yr. and 5 yr. mortgage rates) and house price inflation. As shown, any drop in interest rates has a corresponding spike in house prices in the following quarter. The drop in borrowing costs in NZ has been the major driver of property markets over the past 20-years.

Given the recent continued fall in interest rates in NZ on the back of unprecedented quantitative easing from the RBNZ, economists are now forecasting low double digit increases in house prices in 2021. Assuming interest rates stay at these levels, we can also expect further increase in house prices in 2022. Westpac is currently forecasting house prices finally flattening in 2024, on the assumption that interest rates should be rising by then.

NZ House price forecast


Summary

Warren Buffet famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” We are certainly in a “greed” period in markets with asset prices in the US testing new high valuations, but as discussed above, bubbles can last a lot longer than a sensible investor would think possible, so we continue to proceed with caution.

Share markets have started off the year positively, and are looking through short-term noise, focusing on a successful roll out of the vaccine and continued stimulus from governments and central banks. Share markets have already priced in an economic recovery, so any news to the downside could see markets reprice lower in 2021.

While it could be argued the sharemarket is ‘expensive’, low interest rates are leading to TINA (There Is No Alternative) supporting continued funds flowing into shares in a hunt for yield. This could well push share markets higher in 2021.

There are still some clouds on the horizon, especially in longer dated bonds as yield curves steepen in anticipation of rising inflation over the next 3-5 years.

There are currently several known unknowns in the market, and obviously some unknown unknowns that will no doubt eventuate, but we start this year more positive around economic recoveries and the sharemarket than we were middle of 2020.

The progression of vaccinations will likely be directly correlated to each country’s economic growth in 2021. Barring some unforeseen issue, we expect the world to start to return to some level of normalcy into the end of the year and early 2022. However, we will keep one eye on the inflation numbers as central banks continued support is key to asset prices and the speed of this “V-shaped recovery”.

April Market Update
April Market Update

April Market Update

Market Update
Property Update House price inflation is rampant in NZ with +22% y.o.y. for the period ending February 2021. This sort of growth increases the risk of a major disruption to the wider NZ economy when the $1.5 trillion property bubble finally bursts. How could we address this rising risk? Enter Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern!
Read more

NZ Property Update

House price inflation is rampant in NZ with +22% y.o.y. for the period ending February 2021. This sort of growth increases the risk of a major disruption to the wider NZ economy when the $1.5 trillion property bubble finally bursts. How could we address this rising risk? Enter Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern!

The biggest news in the past month for NZ investors has to be the changes to property investing announced as part of Labour’s Housing Package by PM Ardern on the 23rd of March. The major changes were:

1. THE EXTENSION OF THE BRIGHT-LINE TEST TO 10-YEARS

Previously, if you purchased an investment property after October 2015 and sold it within 2-years, you may have to pay income tax on the change in property value. This was then increased to 5-years in March 2018 and has now been extended to 10-years from the 27th of March.

Bright-Line Test evolution
Source: KPMG Housing tax changes – March 2021

To keep things complicated (and accountants employed):

  • The bright-line test will remain at 5-years for “new builds” acquired after the 29th of March. This is designed to encourage support of new property builds.
  • If you purchased a residential owner-occupied property before the 29th of March and occupied it for more than 50% of the bright-line period, it was exempt from capital gains tax.
  • Under the new rules, owner-occupied properties that are purchased after the 29th of March, then sold prior to the 10-year bright-line period will have their capital gains taxed for the percentage of time that the property may have been a rental property; i.e. a property that was owner-occupied for 60% of the time and a rental property for 40% of the time will have to pay personal income tax on 40% of the gains in the property value if sold within 10-years of the purchase date.

These changes by themselves would be unlikely to dissuade individuals to invest into residential property in NZ. The change in the bright-line term to 10-years would simply mean that investors would now aim to hold properties longer than this period.

2. THE CESSATION OF INTEREST COSTS BEING DEDUCTIBLE

For residential investment properties purchased after the 29th of March, the interest on the mortgage used for the purchase will no longer be deductible against the property’s rental income from the 1st of October.

Investment Property Tax Deductible table
Source: KPMG Housing tax changes – March 2021

For residential investment properties purchased before 29th of March, interest deductibility will remain but will reduce over the next four-years. From the 1st of October, 75% of interest costs will be deductible. For the tax year ending 2024, this reduces to 50% and then 25% for the tax year ending 2025. All interest deductions will be completely removed from 1st April 2025.


This will have a meaningful impact on property investors that relied heavily on borrowings to fund their property purchases. According to early forecasting by ANZ, these changes may lead to investors offering 5% – 15% less for properties to maintain their previously expected yields. Another option that has been widely publicised is for landlords to pass on this increased cost (from loss of tax credit) to tenants by putting their rents up. It is most likely that it will be a mixture of both.

3. THE NEW KAINGA ORA FUND & HOMES AND COMMUNITIES LAND FUND

The government will now offer $3.9 billion to councils to fund infrastructure costs that will allow for faster growth in subdivisions. This is designed to help purchasers by increasing the supply of residential properties and deal with the supply shortfall in NZ.

According to latest government figures, there are more than 22,000 people on the housing waitlist. This is 7,000 more than prior to the pandemic. The government has offered $2 billion to be used for the purchase of land for social housing needs. This is designed to help reduce the level of homelessness in NZ.

According to economist Shamubeel Eaqub, these two initiatives have the potential to produce 80,000 serviced sections over the next decade. This will go some way to address the shortfall of 60,000 – 90,000 properties that Shamubeel estimates exists today.

4. APPRENTICESHIP FUNDING

The government has extended the Apprenticeship Boost payment until 2022. The payments are $1,000 per month for first year apprentices, and $500 per month for second year apprentices. This is designed to support trade companies grow their apprenticeship programs and to ensure that NZ has a larger number of qualified trades people to meet the construction demands.

It was never going to be possible to please 100% of New Zealanders with these changes, but some of these initiatives have received wide support. Unsurprisingly, the removal of interest costs being deductible has met with much criticism from property investors and some commentators in the wider market.

ANZ has produced the below table to show their forecasted impact from all the Housing Package initiatives. As shown, they are forecasting a minimal impact to NZ house price inflation, with the heat taken out of the current cycle slightly earlier than previously forecast.

The message received by the market from these changes is that the government no longer wishes to support people who pursue a property investment business. Property investors make up c.30% of all property purchases.

It is expected that those most affected by these changes will unfortunately be the tenants who will see their rents increase. This in turn may impact the poorest in the community who can now only just afford rent. Potentially, one of the negative outcomes of these changes could be a rise in homelessness.

House price forecast – post Housing Package changes
Source: REINZ, ANZ Research

GLOBAL MARKET VIEWS

Below we have included a table showing the current views of a pool of fund managers around where different parts of the US economy are currently at.

The question around the US economic cycle produced the most division, with 25% of respondents stating we were at the start of an economic recovery, followed closely by 22% of respondents who felt we were at the start of a decline.

Across the remainder of the questions, most respondents believe share markets are approaching the current peak of this cycle, debt markets are starting to decline, and commodity markets are now in a rising market.

Fund managers’ view on where we are in current cycles
Source: Pregin, The Daily Shot
POST LOCKDOWN INFLATION

The Bank of America recently completed a survey of global fund managers’ views. Managers were asked what they thought the biggest risks for a major “tail-end” share market correction were. Thirty-six percent of respondents put higher than expected inflation as the largest risk. Within the survey, over 70% of respondents were expecting higher global inflation. The last time inflation expectations were this high was May 2004.

What are the biggest global risks facing investors?
Source: Bank of America Global Fund Manager Survey, The Daily Shot

The high expectation of rising inflation is mainly due to economies starting to come out of lockdown as they vaccinate their citizens. This is leading to an increase in demand for goods as consumers look to spend some of their savings. The lower level of supply to meet this demand is the main reason most economists are forecasting a spike in inflation in late 2021.

SO, WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH INFLATION EXPECTATIONS?

In the RBNZ February Monetary Policy Statement (MPS), they provided updated guidance on their forecast for expected inflation over the coming years. They, like all developed economy central banks, are forecasting a rise in inflation in 2021 to a possible high of 2.50%.

NZ Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) forecasts
Source: RBNZ, Statistics NZ, ANZ Research

Again, like most central banks, they are forecasting that this spike will be a temporary anomaly with inflation reducing back down to 1.50% in 2022. This means the RBNZ will not feel pressure to increase interest rates until they are certain that our economy has achieved ‘escape velocity’ to confirm any economic recovery is sustainable.

THE RISE OF LONG DATED BOND YIELDS

As the risk of higher inflation increases, global bond investors have started demanding a higher return on their longer dated bond investments. As shown below, when bond yields rise, the capital value reduces. The US 10-year bond yield has risen by just over 1% since its low in mid-2020. This has led to the resale value of the 10-year bonds purchased mid-2020 to drop by over 10% in value.

US Government 10-year bond yield
Source: PWA, www.investing.com

Investors had been expecting a rise in interest rates due to rising inflationary pressures, but it is the speed of the rise that has caught most investors unawares. This has led to the MOVE index (bond volatility) increasing vs. the VIX indices (share volatility) which remains low. Remember, bonds are supposed to be the safe part of a diversified portfolio!

The US 10-year bond rate is used as the “risk free rate” for investments with an expected duration of 10-years or more. Investors then demand extra interest above the risk-free rate to compensate them for the perceived higher risk of other investments. As an example, if we were trying to determine the yield we needed from a share, we would start with the risk-free rate (1.66%) and may require an extra 3% (spread) to justify the higher risk of the share. This would equate to a required yield of 4.66%.

Both the risk-free rate and the spread can move, hence the yield required can change. If the risk-free rate increases, then the required yield from the share investment would increase as well. The share yield can increase either from a higher dividend being paid, or the capital value of the share declining.

WHY DO RISING INTEREST RATES MATTER?

We have seen share markets around the world dip on the back of the rise in longer dated interest rates. This is due to the increase in the risk-free rate causing a squeeze in the share/bond yield spread, which is the percentage difference between the yield being offered by shares vs. that being offered on the risk-free rate (government debt).

Historically, each time we have seen a meaningful rise in the US 10-year bond rate share markets decline. The difference that we may see this time if interest rates continue to rise is not only a falling share market but falling bond prices as well.

Share capital values are not likely to drop by the same level as bond values should yield increases continue because most companies are producing earnings and announcing profit upgrades. Therefore, the yield is supported by a higher dividend which means the share price does not have to drop as much to retain the historical spread.

US 10-year yield – 1985 to 2021
Source: Bloomberg Finance, The Pain Report

Over the page is a table showing a survey of global fund managers and economists. They were asked to predict what level the US 10-year government bond rate would have to rise by to trigger a 10% or more decline in the US share markets. As shown in the table, the majority felt 2.00% on the US 10-year government bond could be the trigger level. This is only 0.34% above the current US 10-year bond yield.

What level on the US 10-yr. will cause +10% market correction?
Source: Bank of America Global Fund Manager Survey, The Daily Shot

Will the US 10-year reach the dreaded 2.00%? Will this be the trigger for a wider share market sell-off? All this is unknown, but what we do know with a higher level of certainty is that the US Fed is not planning to raise interest rates anytime soon.

The US Federal Reserve can also act to drive the longer dated interest rates/bond yields lower as well. They can easily do this by moving their quantitative easing (QE) programme from short-dated bonds to longer dated bonds. If they did this the yields curve would flatten, and markets would likely rally due to a stronger belief in lower interest rates.

WHEN WILL THIS PERIOD OF LOW INTEREST RATES END?

The question on all investors’ minds right now should be, “when will interest rates normalise?” To qualify what normalise means, there is “normalise” back to pre-Covid-19 stimulus levels, and “normalise” back to before Central Banks pumped QE into the markets.

As shown below, the current yield for the US 10-year government bond is now 1.66% and the pre-Covid-19 “normal” yields for the US 10-year bond were about 2% p.a., so interest rates only need to move a bit higher to reach these levels. If we look back to the start of 2008 for “Pre-Quantitative Easing” levels, the interest rate then was 3.60%, which is 1.20% higher (or over double) than the current US 10-year yield.

We do not see any end to the QE from central banks in the next 2-years. Indeed, governments cannot afford for interest rates to move higher as this would end up costing them more in interest than they could maybe afford, due to the record high levels of debt most central banks carry. So, when might this stimulus end?

US Debt to GDP & Interest Costs to GDP
Source: Mizuho Securities USA, Dept of Treasury, @SoberLook, The Daily Shot

The US Federal Reserve has confirmed that they do not plan to raise rates in the next 12-24 months and are primarily focused on ensuring their unemployment rate comes down. In the latest reading in mid-February, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased.

US Fed Dot-chart – Feb 2021
Source: CME, Federal Reserve, Oxford Economics, Bloomberg Finance, The Daily Shot

While it could be argued sharemarkets are ‘expensive’, low interest rates are leading to ‘TINA’ (There Is No Alternative) and supporting continued funds into shares in a hunt for yield. Fund flow into US shares is now at record levels of just under US$75 billion per month. This supports share markets at current levels and could well push share markets higher in 2021.

The only question is when will this reverse? To answer that we need to first know when interest rates will move higher, and to answer that we need to know what inflation is going to do. These are all unknown factors currently. We (and all investors) will be watching these indicators with great interest, and we can expect that as the picture becomes clearer markets will move quickly to price in new information, both positive and negative.

US share monthly fund flow at record levels
WHAT DOES “DOWNSIDE RISK” MEAN?

If you are talking to any investment adviser, at some point during your conversation the term “downside risk” will be used. What does this actually mean to you and how big is the risk? The answer is (as always) it depends. If you are new to investing and have only been invested for the past 5-years, then downside risk likely means between a 20% – 30% fall in share markets, with full recovery of capital in the next 2-3 months. As shown below, the Covid-19 crash and recovery only shows as a small blip on the table. So small in fact that they must expand the section out to highlight the correction.

US share market crash timeline – $1 invested in US stock market – Real Peak values
Source: Morningstar, The Daily Shot

Looking further back in history, the more likely drawdowns are 50%+, and it can take as long as 10-years to recover your capital value from any drawdown. Most investors, and even some investment advisers, are not aware of the mental fortitude required to navigate through such periods.

Drawdowns have a meaningful impact of longer-term compounding returns and are more difficult to recover from than most investors are aware. As an example, if you had $100 invested and this dropped by 50% to $50, you would now need to secure a return of 100% just to get the capital value back to break-even.

For investors that do not draw income from their investment portfolios, major share market corrections are difficult to navigate, but for those that draw income in retirement, it is much more unbearable and any major fall can have a meaningful impact on an individual’s ability to fund their retirement.

Why are we telling you this? Because we want our investors to be informed around what real downside risk looks and feels like as this will better prepare you for the difficult decisions that need to be made during such times.

Are we forecasting a major market correction? As shown in the table above, a major market correction is inevitable according to history. The only issue is we have no idea when it will occur, or what might be the catalyst for the end of the current share market rally. The best we can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best.

SUMMARY

We have seen differing outcomes with vaccination programs globally. The US has managed to secure an exceptionally high number of vaccine shots, and equally have had a solid vaccination program operating since President Biden took office. The progression of vaccinations around the rest of the world is less successful, but as more vaccination shots are made available, we can expect this to accelerate.

This can be expected to lead to a rapid rise in consumerism, which could see the forecast spike in inflation. What happens from there is still anyone’s guess, but at present, most economists are forecasting only a temporary spike in inflation meaning there will be little pressure on central banks to raise rates.

No. of vaccinations administered per 100 people
Source: Our World in Data, WSJ, The Daily Shot

Warren Buffet famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” We are certainly in a “greed” period in most markets with asset prices in the US testing new highs. However, as discussed above, bubbles can last a lot longer than a sensible investor would think possible, so we continue to proceed with caution.

Private Wealth Advisers believes the information in this publication is correct, and it has reasonable grounds for any opinion or recommendation found within this publication on the date of this publication. However, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage incurred by any person as a result of any error in any information, opinion or recommendation in this publication. Nothing in this publication is, or should be taken as, an offer, invitation or recommendation to buy, sell or retain any investment in or make any deposit with any person. The information contained in this publication is general in nature. It may not be relevant to individual circumstances. Before making any investment, insurance or other financial decisions, you should consult a professional financial adviser. This publication is for the use of persons in New Zealand only.

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