The twelve financial ramblings of Christmas
What follows is a series of twelve facets in the financial markets for 2015. I'm pretty sure you won't be able to sing this as a carol.
1. One Fed Hike. They did it. Finally. Probably a bit late too. The Federal Reserve hikes interest rates for the first time in nine years! We have been at microscopic rates for so long it's beginning to feel like Japan.
2. Two Markets Diverging. Growth has been beating value for some time. In fact in 2015, the Russell 1000 Growth index has returned about 5 per cent versus a negative 5 per cent return for the Russell 1000 Value Index. This 10 per cent differential is rare and pretty much unprecedented. In fact, value typically beats growth by about 2 per cent per annum over time. Will this reverse?
3. Three (“Third”) Avenue Sinking. The junk bond market has had a tough year and Third Avenue's Focused Credit Fund has had to suspend redemptions. Client assets have been frozen until the holdings are liquidated. Lesson: liquidity is an often underappreciated factor in investing. It often pays to make sure that what you invest in lets you get your money back when you want it.
4. Four Sectors Rising. Four of ten sectors in the S&P 500 are flashing green so far this year: healthcare (5 per cent), technology (4.5 per cent), consumer staples (4.3 per cent), and consumer discretionary (9.3 per cent). Commodity related sectors were punished severely as well as utilities.
5. Five Golden Stocks. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet (formerly Google), and Starbucks had incredible years in 2015. So good, in fact that the S&P 500 would have returned over 4 per cent less in 2015 without their contribution. The breadth in the market has been horrible with about 60 per cent of stocks in the S&P 500 below their 200-day moving average. The average stock is losing money this year.
6. Six Markets Not Laying an Egg. There was really nowhere to hide for stocks this year. As of this writing, only three major exchanges in the developed world and three major exchanges in the emerging markets posted gains: Shanghai (5.8 per cent), Russia (1.23 per cent), Israel (3.96 per cent), Nasdaq (5.63 per cent), Spain (0.15 per cent), and Japan (7.34 per cent). All other major exchanges are in the red.
7. Seven Per Cent GDP? China's GDP looks like it may breach the 7 per cent level this year but it's close — estimates are for 6.9 per cent. This change in trajectory has caused problems for the traditional beneficiaries of rapid Chinese investment growth. Emerging markets, commodities and some exporters have felt the brunt of the change.
8. Eight Per Cent Yields Leaping. High yield bonds (especially energy related issues) suffered immensely in 2015. Falling over 11 per cent for the year. Yields now rest solidly north of 8 per cent for the asset class. Is this a warning of economic weakness to come or an opportunity to find yield in a yield-starved market?
9. Nine Yields a Plunging. This year saw nine countries have two-year sovereign bonds yielding NEGATIVE amounts. Switzerland's two-year notes offered a negative 1.43 per cent at their lows. You needed to pay the Swiss over 1 per cent to hold your money.
10. Ten Currencies Falling. The US dollar was king this year. Every single G10 currency is down versus the dollar. The Canadian dollar has plunged over 16 per cent, while the Swiss Franc is only marginally down by about 1 per cent.
11. Eleven Unicorns Prancing. This year, 2015, is becoming the year of the “Unicorn”. A unicorn is a term in the investment industry, and in particular the venture capital industry, which denotes a start-up company whose valuation has exceeded $1 billion. Here is a list of 11 with valuations of greater than $10 billion: Uber ($51bn), Xiaomi ($46bn), Airbnb ($25.5bn), Palantir Technologies ($20bn), Snapchat ($16bn), Flipkart ($15bn), Didi Kuaidi ($15bn), SpaceX ($12bn), Pinterest ($11bn), Dropbox ($10bn), and Lufax ($10bn). I don't want to use the world “bubble” but ….
12. Twelve Days of Christmas Index Flat. The 2015 PNC Christmas Price Index was almost flat, registering its lowest growth rate in six years at 0.6 per cent. The gifts in “The 12 Days of Christmas” would cost $34,130.99, up $198 from 2014. Nine items did not change in price. Turtle Doves, however, jumped 11.5 per cent in price while a partridge in a pear tree rose 3.5 per cent. The 32nd annual analysis from PNC Financial Services Group Inc likely reflects the deep drop in energy costs, lower inflation and steady albeit slow economic growth.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great festive season and a prosperous New Year!
Nathan Kowalski CPA, CA, CFA, CIM is the Chief Financial Officer of Anchor Investment Management Ltd. and can be reached at email@example.com. Disclaimer: This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions vary