11 August 2017 · 3 min read

North Korea: A problem not of Trump’s making

Missile development program slowly shifts the political balance

North Korea’s recent successful test of a missile capable of reaching much of the US mainland is clearly a concern but it is not because such an attack is imminent or likely. The history of military rocket development suggests that it will still be some years before North Korea could be assured of a successful, let alone multiple, strike on the US or even Guam. However, in the event of any attack, the overwhelming superiority of US forces would undoubtedly ensure the destruction of North Korea. Therefore in many respects Trump’s most aggressive comments this week were a statement of the obvious and investors should accordingly not over-react, even as volatility has risen during thin trading over the holiday season.

Read more...
17 July 2017

Fed policy: Don’t forget your flip-flops

US inflation and growth numbers undershoot expectations

It is just a few weeks since the US Fed raised interest rates and central bankers globally opined on a removal of monetary accommodation (albeit slowly) as the global recovery gathered momentum. Unfortunately, some inconvenient facts are already casting their shadow. The Atlanta Fed US GDP nowcast for Q2 17 has fallen to 2.4% from 4% at the start of June, with disappointing US retail sales contributing to the downgrade. Furthermore, core CPI has undershot expectations with the year-on-year figure now at 1.7% for June, compared to 2.3% at the start of the year. Fortunately for central banks, the holiday season has started and the focus may be elsewhere. However, some re-calibration of the trajectory of US monetary policy may already be necessary.

Read more...
29 June 2017 · 7 min read

A tipping point as monetary policy shifts

Central banks on both sides of the Atlantic appear to be becoming more hawkish

In recent weeks, policymakers at each of the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and ECB have become notably more hawkish. This is a new development as throughout the period 2010-2017 central bank balance sheets have been steadily expanding as the quantitative easing (QE) baton was passed around the globe. With asset prices rising strongly over this period many commentators have been quick to infer that the end of QE signals market trouble ahead. While certainly a headwind, we believe investors should not rush to judgement. There remain many acts to play out in this story before it is finished.

Read more...
21 June 2017

Equity risks are rising: economic surprises turning lower

Economic surprise turns lower and positive earnings momentum easing in Europe

We are viewing with increasing concern the building evidence of disinflation in industrial commodity and energy markets. Economic surprise indices have turned sharply lower on a global basis, a move which cannot be fully explained by seasonal factors. In this context we were surprised by the relatively hawkish recent policy statements by the US Federal Reserve and Bank of England. For the US Fed, it was very much a case of one and not done at the recent FOMC meeting, where US rates were increased again. For now, earnings growth forecasts near 10% for each of the US, UK and continental Europe remain intact but we also detect ebbing momentum in this data compared to 6m ago.

Read more...
12 June 2017 · 3 min read

Fed rate decision: One and done - or not done?

One and not done would spook markets in our view

On Wednesday 14 June, we believe the US Fed is highly likely to raise the target range for the federal funds rate by a further 0.25%. We believe the opportunity the move policy rates further away from the zero “lower bound” will not easily be passed-up as US unemployment figures improve and as importantly without spooking markets, which have priced this move in. However, a signal of “one and done” for 2017 – or at least “one and wait and see” will be critical to keep markets buoyant. In addition, investors will be watching for benign comments in respect of any adjustments to the Fed’s balance sheet policy.

Read more...
9 June 2017 · 2 min read

UK election: Another step-up in political risk

A tactical blunder does not mean the end of Brexit or the Conservative administration

UK PM Theresa May’s strategy of consolidating power when the Labour opposition was seemingly in disarray and the Conservative poll lead unassailable has seriously backfired. The likelihood now is that the UK will be governed by a minority Conservative administration with support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). May’s future as leader of the Conservative party remains in serious doubt following a number of campaign mistakes, not least the failure to recognise importance of appeasing the older voter. Much now remains open for debate over the next few weeks.

Read more...