DJ Lessons from the GameStop Affair -- Barrons.com
This commentary was issued recently by money managers, research firms, and market newsletter writers and has been edited by Barron's.
What GameStop Taught Us
The Weekly Speculator
Marketfield Asset Management
Feb. 4: After all is said and done, one of the most lasting effects of the GameStop (ticker: GME) episode will be to educate many market participants about the key role and ultimate power held by the clearing institution, the Depository Trust Company. One of the stranger aspects of the affair has been the attempt to paint it as some form of moral crusade, or an opportunity for the "little guy" to get even with Wall Street. The truth is that some large investors lost a great deal of money, while others were well rewarded, just as some small investors will have reaped life-changing sums while others will have lost funds that may prove to be equally impactful. In this sense, the market is a meritocracy, which isn't quite the same as saying that it is always fair in delivering outcomes.
What is also clear is that late January saw a very significant degrossing of levered hedge-fund investors, without causing a deep correction in the equity market. The S&P 500 essentially respected support at the 50-day moving average, and didn't need to move down to 3600, which we had set as a "worst case" target. The Nasdaq 100, Russell 2000, and MSCI Emerging Markets Index didn't need to touch their corresponding trend support, and all three indexes managed to generate a positive return in January, unlike the S&P 500, which registered a small loss. The subsequent bounce has been rapid and broad, as would be expected from a catalyst that was both technical and ephemeral in nature.
That it is not a wholly positive or inconsequential affair. The long bull market is now showing signs of developing into a historic mania. This doesn't mean that a market peak is imminent, but the normative process -- whereby what is "appropriate" is ultimately influenced by extremes -- means that the levels of risk being taken by the average investor are probably significantly higher than they were pre-Covid.
--Michael Shaoul, Timothy Brackett
The Aden Forecast Weekly Update
The Aden Forecast
Feb. 4: Silver caught on fire by zipping up to the August highs near $30 on Monday during the Reddit buying frenzy. Silver was strong anyway, and it's been holding up well, so whoever pegged silver knew what they were doing. Silver shares also got a big boost upward, and while they have since calmed down, it looks like volatility will stay with us. Silver has been holding above its 15-week moving average since December, and it'll remain strong by staying above it at $25. The next milestone to surpass is the $30 level, the highs for this bull market. If clearly broken, another leg up will be underway. Keep your silver and silver share positions.
--Mary Anne and Pamela Aden
How to Play Oil's Recent Rally
Feb 4: The recent oil rally will have consequences for asset prices beyond the energy market. While higher oil prices benefit oil exporters, they hurt the economies of oil importers, often with a lag.
A great example of these dynamics is China. The Chinese economy is a large oil importer; hence, rising oil prices act as a tax on Chinese growth. Moreover, Chinese A shares massively overweight tech stocks, which receive no benefit from higher energy prices. In fact, over the past four years, increasing Brent prices reliably lead to a decline in on-shore domestic markets by roughly three months. The current setup is reminiscent of early 2018. Back then, Chinese A shares had been rallying for a few months after oil prices had started to rally. Ultimately, a deceleration in Chinese growth and cautious policy making from Beijing resulted in a powerful selloff of Chinese equities. Today, Chinese growth is once again decelerating and Beijing is conducting some significant regulatory tightening, while the People's Bank of China is draining liquidity. Thus, a significant correction in Chinese shares is likely this spring.
A lower-octane strategy to play these dynamics is to go long United Kingdom equities relative to Germany's while espousing the implicit currency exposure. German equities are extremely underweight energy, and Germany imports its entire oil consumption. Meanwhile, the U.K. benchmark is replete with energy stocks and the U.K. remains an oil producer, even if it imports some of its oil (rising Brent represents a comparatively smaller tax on the U.K. economy). As a side benefit, the pound is very cheap against the euro and the U.K.'s vaccination campaign is massively ahead of the eurozone's, which could result in earlier economic dividends north of the Channel and hurt the euro/pound in the process.
--Mathieu Savary and Team
Carret Credit Insight
Carret Asset Mangaement
Feb. 3: At year-end 2020, the iBoxx High-Yield Index yielded 4.23%, an all-time low. Spreads also registered record tightness. Low yields aren't a surprise as investors globally reach for income. The Federal Reserve has backstopped the "fallen angels," allowing many high-yield (HY) companies to refinance at ever-lower rates and extend upcoming maturities for another day. Strong equity markets are forecasting an earnings rebound, and the vaccines will bring brighter days soon. We continue to find attractive values in the short/intermediate portion of the high-quality HY market.
We want to share a recent academic study with you regarding the risk and returns in the HY bond market: George Mason University recently published a report on HY bond-fund returns and volatility relative to equities (S&P 500). Since 1990, the average HY bond fund has delivered average annualized returns of 7.1% with a volatility of 7.7%. Over the same time period, the S&P 500 delivered an average annualized return of 7.8%, but with almost double the volatility of 14.5%. The conclusion: HY bonds have paid total returns near those of the U.S. stock market with half of the volatility. We believe the HY market will offer competitive returns in the decade ahead, as equity valuations have risen and Treasury yields have plummeted. Our ability to utilize busted convertibles, preferreds, and special-situation income investments enhances our cash-flow opportunities.
--Jason R. Graybill, Neil D. Klein
Emerging Markets Blast Off
Peak Capital Management
Feb. 1: So far, 2021 has been a good year for emerging-market equities. Year to date, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund (EEM) is higher by roughly 8%, compared to a gain of approximately 3% for the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, emerging markets collectively have woefully lagged U.S. equities.
What could propel the asset class higher in 20201 and beyond? In the long term, the likely catalyst is demographics. Developed markets such as the U.S. and Europe have aging populations, which could suggest lower productivity and gross-domestic-product growth over the next decade compared to emerging-market economies.
In its most recent capital-markets report, JPMorgan projected GDP growth across emerging markets to be 3.9% in 2021, compared to 1.6% across developed markets. The report suggests China and India will drive GDP growth, and emerging markets' productivity and human capital will gradually converge to developed-market levels.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 05, 2021 19:44 ET (00:44 GMT)
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