Dow closes above 16,000-An All Time High

By General

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 16,000 for the first time Thursday, extending a rally that has the blue chip-index on pace for its best year in a decade. With Thursday’s gain, the Dow has advanced 22% so far this year, putting it on pace for the biggest annual rally since a 25% gain in 2003. The blue-chip index is up 144% from its 2009 low. The latest 1,000-point move in the Dow took just 139 trading days, the sixth-fastest 1,000-point gain for the Dow.

Among Dow components, Boeing Co. has led the way higher over the last 1000 points, rallying 40%, highlighting strong demand for commercial aircraft as the global economic recovery takes hold. 3M Company, meanwhile, has risen 20.6% during the same time frame.

This year, all but two of the 30 Dow stocks have gained ground this year except two: Caterpillar Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. and have declined 8.5% and 4.1%, respectively year to date.

Gains on Thursday came after Janet Yellen moved a step closer to becoming the next Federal Reserve leader and a better-than-expected report on the jobs market boosted sentiment.

Behind the broader push that took the Dow through this latest milepost: seemingly greater confidence in the stock market’s ability to withstand a scaling back by the Federal Reserve of the bond-market purchases it has been employing to stimulate the economy. More broadly, bulls point to continued expansion in the U.S. economy and recovery in corporate profits as drivers of the rally. Years of ultralow interest rates have bolstered corporate balance sheets and boards have rewarded investors by buying back stock and boosting dividends.

As such, investors are paying more for stocks relative to the underlying companies’ earnings, making it harder to argue stocks are cheap. The price to earnings ratio for the S&P 500, a broader measure of large U.S. companies’ stocks, stands at about 16.1, up from 13.7 at the start of the year but little above its 10-year average of 15.6, according to FactSet.

Goldman Sachs Top Ten Market Themes for 2014

By Market Outlook

The 10 points “represent a broad list of macro themes from our economic outlook that we think will dominate markets in 2014.”

Here they are, with the key quotes pulled from the note.

1. Showtime for the US/DM Recovery

Our 2013 outlook was dominated by the notion that underlying private- sector healing in the US was being masked by significant fiscal drag. As we move into 2014 and that drag eases, we expect the long-awaited shift towards above-trend growth in the US finally to occur, spurred by an acceleration in private consumption and business investment.

2. Forward guidance harder in an above-trend world

Despite the improvement in growth, we expect G4 central banks to continue to signal that rates are set to remain on hold near the zero bound for a prolonged period, faced with low inflation and high unemployment. In the US, our forecast is still for no hikes until 2016 and we expect the commitment to low rates to be reinforced in the next few months.

3. Earn the DM equity risk premium, hedge the risk

Over the past few years, we have seen very large risk premium compression across a wide range of areas. While not at 2007 levels, credit spreads have narrowed to below long-term averages and asset market volatility has fallen. Even in a friendly growth and policy environment such as the one we anticipate, this is likely to make for lower return prospects (although more appealing in a volatility-adjusted sense). In equities, in particular, the key question we confront is whether a rally can continue given above-average multiples. We think it can.

4. Good carry, bad carry

Our 2014 forecast of improving but still slightly below-trend global growth and anchored inflation describes an environment in which overall volatility may justifiably be lower. Markets have already moved a long way in this direction, but equity volatility has certainly been lower in prior cycles and forward pricing of volatility is still firmly higher than spot levels. In an environment of subdued macro volatility, the desire to earn carry is likely to remain strong, particularly if it remains hard to envisage significant upside to the growth picture.

5. The race to the exit kicks off

2013 has already seen some EM central banks move to policy tightening. As the US growth picture improves – and the pressure on global rates builds – the focus on who may tighten monetary policy is likely to increase. As we described recently (Global Economics Weekly 13/33), the market is pricing a relatively synchronised exit among the major developed markets, even though their recovery profiles look different. Given that the timing of the first hike has commonly been judged to be some way off, this lack of differentiation is not particularly unusual. But the separation of those who are likely to move early and those who may move later is likely to begin in earnest in 2014.

6. Decision time for the ‘high-flyers’

A number of smaller open economies have imported easy monetary policy from the US and Europe in recent years, in part to offset currency strength and in part to compensate for a weaker external environment. In a number of these places (Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Canada and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand and Sweden), house prices have appreciated and/or credit growth has picked up. Central banks have generally tolerated those signs of emerging pressure given the external growth risks and the desire to avoid currency strength through a tighter policy stance. As the developed market growth picture improves, some of these ‘high flyers’ may reassess the balance of risks on this front.

7. Still not your older brother’s EM…

2013 has proved to be a tough year for EM assets. 2014 is unlikely to see the same level of broad-based pressure. The combination of a sharp downgrade to expectations of China growth and risk alongside the worries about a hawkish Fed during the summer ‘taper tantrum’ are unlikely to be repeated with the same level of intensity.

8. …but EM differentiation to continue

2013 saw countries with high current account deficits, high inflation, weak institutions and limited DM exposure punished much more heavily than the ‘DMs of EMs’, which had stronger current accounts and institutions, underheated economies and greater DM exposure. This is still likely to be the primary axis of differentiation in coming months, but in 2014 we would also expect to see greater differentiation within both these categories.

9. Commodity downside risks grow

Last year we pointed to the ongoing shift in our commodity views, ultimately towards downside price risk. The impact of supply responses to the period of extraordinary price pressure continues to flow through the system. And we are forecasting significant declines (15%+) through 2014 in gold, copper, iron ore and soybeans. Energy prices clearly matter most for the global outlook. Here our views are more stable, although downside risk is growing over time and production losses out of Libya/Iran and other geopolitical risk is now playing a large role in keeping prices high.

10. Stable China may be good enough

Expectations of Chinese growth have reset meaningfully lower as some of the medium-term problems around credit growth, shadow financing and local governance have been widely recognised over the past year. Some of these issues continue to linger: the risks from the credit overhang remain and policymakers are unlikely to be comfortable allowing growth to accelerate much. But the deep deceleration of mid-2013 has reversed and even our forecast of essentially flat growth (of about 7.5%) may be enough to comfort investors relative to their worst fears.

World Stock Market Capitalization Chart from Pre-crisis level

By General

World Stock Market Capitaliation Jan'96 to Oct'13

The Paris-based World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), an association of 58 publicly regulated stock market exchanges around the world, recently released updated data on its monthly measure of the total market capitalization of the world’s major equity markets through the end of October. Here are some highlights:

1. As of the end of October, the total value of equities in those 58 major stock markets reached $62.64 trillion. That was just slightly below the all-time record monthly high of $62.77 trillion for global equity valuation in October 2007, several months before the global economic slowdown and financial crisis started, and caused global equity values to plummet by more than 50% (and by almost $34 trillion), from $62.8 trillion at the end of 2007 to only $29.1 trillion by early 2009 (see chart above).

2. Global equities gained almost $2 trillion in value during the month of October, and increased by 3.2% from September.

3. Compared to a year earlier, October’s world stock market capitalization increased by 19.6%, led by a 22.2% gain in the Europe-Africa-Middle East region, followed by gains of 20.8% in the Americas and 15.4% in the Asia-Pacific region.

4. By individual country, the largest year-over-year gains for October were recorded in Greece (118%), Ireland (53.2%), Bermuda (47.3%), the UAE (40.4%) and Taiwan (37.3%). In the US, the NYSE capitalization increased by 25.7% and the NASDAQ by 27.2%. The biggest losses in equity value over the last year were posted in Peru (-15.9%), Turkey (-14.5%) and Cyprus (-14.5%).

Compared to the recessionary low of $29.1 trillion in February 2009, the total world stock market capitalization more than doubled (115.3% increase) to the current level of $62.64 trillion, recapturing almost all of the global equity value that was lost due to the severe global recession and the various financial, mortgage and housing crises in 2008 and 2009. The global stock market rally over the last five years has added back more than $33.5 trillion to world equity values since 2009, and demonstrates the incredible resiliency of economies and financial markets to recover and prosper, even following the worst financial crisis and global economic slowdown in generations.

Endowment Wealth Management-Weekly Market Update as of November 15, 2013 by Prateek Mehrotra

By Weekly Capital Market Updates No Comments
Weekly Market Highlights:

 

•Domestic stock prices posted gains once again this week. Stock prices climbed on Fed chairman nominee Janet Yellen’s statement that the central bank should not withdraw stimulus too quickly. The S&P 500 has gained about 25% on a year-to-date basis, its best showing in a decade.
•Global markets were somewhat higher for the week. World markets posted a mix bag of performance, with European equities lagging due to slower-than-expected GDP growth during the third quarter. Germany’s growth slowed, while France unexpectedly contracted. Emerging markets stocks halted a 10-day slide on Thursday after Yellen’s remarks. Asian markets were mainly soft following last weekend’s China plenum, which disappointed investors looking for stronger reform measures.
•Treasury prices were little changed this week. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was modestly lower following a mixed bag of data.
•Commodity indices were mixed on the week. Crude oil slipped slightly, but natural gas rose; gold softened, and grains were little changed.

 

A Macro View – Do the Value and Small Cap Premiums Remain?

Over the past three decades there has been a significant amount of academic research done on various “risk premiums” that appear in data on stock returns. Eugene Fama and Ken French published in 1992 what is probably the best known study identifying factors that explain stock returns over time. Their research showed that small cap stocks tend to outperform large caps, and value stocks outperform growth stocks. The so-called Fama-French three-factor model shows that these two factors, combined with market exposure, explain more than 90% of stock returns. Since the Fama-French paper was published, numerous other studies have confirmed the results and have even identified other potential factors such as momentum and liquidity.

While the existence of the small cap and value premiums is evident, the reasons why they occur is much less apparent. One school of thought proposed by efficient markets adherents is that small cap and value stocks present additional risks that result in higher returns. The primary alternative view is espoused by the behavioral finance camp, and that is that the  excess returns are really anomalies resulting from investor behavior: investors tend to overvalue “glamour” companies (growth stocks) and higher market capitalizations. The question as to which theory best explains the small cap and value premiums is still up for debate.

One logical question that arises is whether these premiums should be expected to be arbitraged away over time. After all, knowing these premiums exist, wouldn’t investors bid up the prices of both small cap and value stocks such that the excess returns would disappear? Based on data obtained from Ken French’s data library, the average annualized value and small cap premiums from 7/1926 through 12/1992 (the year the Fama-French study was published) were 4.5% and 2.3%, respectively. Since that time, the premiums have declined somewhat, but still exist: from 1/1993 through 9/2013 the respective value and small cap premiums were 2.8% and 2.1%.

The table and graphs below indicate that the premiums have existed after the Fama-French research was published, so that it doesn’t appear that the anomalies are likely to be arbitraged away. One of the implications for investors is that an orientation of the portfolio toward these factors may provide superior outcomes.

Style Premiums

Value-Rolling 36 Month Excess Return

Small Cap-Rolling 36 Month Excess Return

Has the U.S. Household deleveraged fully post the 2008 crisis?

By General No Comments

U.S. household debt climbed 1.1 percent during the third quarter as borrowing for mortgages, education, car purchases and on credit cards all increased, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey.

Consumer indebtedness rose $127 billion to $11.28 trillion, the biggest increase since the first quarter of 2008, according to a quarterly report on household debt and credit released today by the Fed district bank. Mortgage balances climbed $56 billion, student loans increased $33 billion, auto loans were up $31 billion and credit-card debt rose by $4 billion.

“We observed an increase of household balances across essentially all types of debt,” Donghoon Lee, senior research economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement. “With non-housing debt consistently increasing and the factors pushing down mortgage balances waning, it appears that households have crossed a turning point in the deleveraging cycle.”

Americans have slashed their debt from a peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, according to the New York Fed.

Delinquency rates continued to drop in the third quarter, with 7.4 percent of outstanding debt in “some stage of delinquency,” down from 7.6 percent in the second quarter, the New York Fed said. There were about 355,000 new bankruptcies during the period, about the same as in the comparable timeframe in 2012.

Is Quantitative Easing responsible for higher stock prices?

By General No Comments

There is no evidence that the Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying effort has led U.S. stock prices higher, according to a report released on Wednesday by the economics research arm of McKinsey & Company. Instead, study co-authors Richard Dobbs and Susan Lund found that the biggest impact of quantitative easing by the world’s major central banks has been the cost-savings delivered to governments. Since 2007, bond-buying programs in the United States, the UK and the euro zone have reduced costs for governments by a total of $1.6 trillion. The finding will come as a surprise to many investors who attribute the rise in stock prices in the United States and elsewhere since the 2007-2009 financial crisis at least in part to easy central bank policies. All told, major central banks have added $4.7 trillion to their balance sheets over the past five years in an effort to push down long-term borrowing costs while keeping short-term interest rates low. The findings are sure to resonate among central bankers as they debate when and how fast they may be able to scale down the monetary stimulus they have used to keep deflation at bay and try and pull ravaged economies from the depths of recession.

While the entire study is over 70 pages long, the rather counter-intuitive findings regarding QE and stock prices can be found on pages 32-36 of the PDF:

The impact of ultra-low rate monetary policies on financial asset prices is ambiguous. Bond prices rise as interest rates decline, and, between 2007 and 2012, the value of sovereign and corporate bonds in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Eurozone increased by $16 trillion. But we found little conclusive evidence that ultra-low interest rates have boosted equity markets. Although announcements about changes to ultra-low rate policies do spark short-term market movements in equity prices, these movements do not persist in the long term. Moreover, there is little evidence of a large-scale shift into equities as part of a search for yield. Price-earnings ratios and price book ratios in stock markets are no higher than long-term averages.