Our investment professionals share and challenge each other’s views, creating a diverse marketplace of ideas for the Wellington Blog.
I believe that regional differences in COVID vaccination rates, government policy goals, and the ensuing trade-offs have led to a global economy that can now broadly (and imperfectly) be divided into three distinct ”blocks,” each moving at very different speeds and via very different catalysts: 1) the ”boosters”; 2) the COVID “racers”; and 3) the ”reformers” (Figure 1).
In my view, investors should track the dynamics of each block separately in order to successfully navigate the current phase of the global economic recovery. All three will also affect the markets to varying degrees and with varying effects.
The countries in this group have made substantial progress on vaccine provision, which has increasingly allowed them to…
A key pillar of my largely favorable outlook for China, including potential asset-price outperformance, lies in my directional view on the Chinese yuan (CNY). I continue to believe the CNY is likely to appreciate, or at least remain stable, over the next 12 to 18 months and beyond. Indeed, I think one of China’s challenges over the next few years will be how to contain its ongoing currency strength, rather than how to defend against currency weakness.
Here are the five reasons why I’m still bullish on the CNY.
1. China’s relative interest-rate differential is near the top of its historical range and may stay elevated going forward. For example, the spread between China’s 10-year government bond yield and that of the 10-year US Treasury note was recently at a decade-long high. As a result, I expect Chinese fixed income assets to…
Whiffs of the long-awaited “taper talk” around US monetary policy are finally in the air. The Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC’s) June 2021 statement and press conference indicated that the FOMC has discussed when it ought to start tapering its large-scale asset purchases amid the ongoing economic rebound and mounting inflationary pressures.
The FOMC upgraded its US growth and inflation forecasts, yet kept its unemployment rate forecast unchanged, as labor supply shortages in an environment of strong consumption are leading to higher inflation than the FOMC previously anticipated. The increasing inflationary risks also resulted in the median FOMC participant now expecting to hike interest rates twice during…
As I consider various potential sources of market volatility over the coming months, the one I believe poses the biggest threat to today’s constructive backdrop for risk assets is so-called “bad inflation.” The costs of intermediate goods and inputs to production are climbing at their fastest pace in decades, which presents a likely headwind to corporate profit margins. Additionally, commodity prices are all rising in unison, be it coffee, corn, lumber, sugar, wheat, or gasoline, further straining corporate and consumer budgets.
The US Federal Reserve (Fed) has repeatedly stated its intention to “look through” the inflationary surge we’re seeing today, which it views as transitory. The Fed seems to assume that supply will quickly come back online as the economy reopens and recovers, allowing pricing pressures to abate. I hold a different view. I suspect that productive capacity for commodities in particular will not bounce back as swiftly as the Fed is forecasting. To be clear, I believe much of today’s bad inflation is being driven, either directly or indirectly, by these rising commodity prices and will therefore prove “stickier” and more stubborn than the Fed expects.
As I see it, the public companies that have been rewarded the most over the past decade have behaved more or less like rent-seeking monopolies. Many investors covet steady, predictable cash flows to which they can apply a low discount rate. Conversely, some of the best…
The job gains cited in the May 2021 non-farm payrolls release fell well short of what the market had hoped. A fluke? Maybe, but this disappointing jobs report suggests to me that US inflation dynamics are beginning to shift from “demand-pull” to “cost-push” inflation.
Demand-pull inflation is the upward pressure on prices that occurs when aggregate demand outpaces aggregate supply. Cost-push inflation, by contrast, is caused by increased costs for raw materials, wages, and other inputs to production. The latter type of inflation tends to be much more harmful to an economy, as it forces companies to choose from among three distinct (and all undesirable) options:
The most probable scenario, in my judgment, is…
The global macro discourse has shifted over the past few months to a debate around “good” versus “bad” inflation. I think there is a better way to frame it. In my view, as we look ahead, the question should be: will we see a continuation of the status quo or are we on the verge of a regime change? I think there is a high chance it will be the latter.
Over the past 20 years, there have been a number of instances when inflation has jumped higher. Often this has been due to higher energy costs, occasionally a response to strong demand and sometimes tax changes. Each time, the jump has proved short-lived, but has acted as a tax on consumers, eroding the purchasing power of households by squeezing real wages. In response, consumer spending has slowed, and the economy has cooled. In effect, these temporary bouts of inflation acted as an automatic stabiliser on the economy. Was that bad inflation? For households, yes — but not for…
The Wellington Global Cycle Index1 points to an upturn in global economic activity but, in my view, even that positive prognosis is underestimating the bounce that’s ahead. Over the next six months, I predict that growth numbers almost everywhere will be exceptionally strong.
Almost all analysts now have the same broad roadmap for 2021 as we have — strong growth, with a gradual rise in inflation through the second half of 2021. All list the same set of risks: upside risks are attached to a full household-savings unwind and another round of fiscal support, while downside risks are attached to public health. All assume US growth leadership. What is striking is how there is actually very little discussion of inflation.
As economies reopen, it will be difficult for the market to distinguish between…
Most of the past decade-plus has been characterized by declining interest rates and tightening credit spreads. Against this backdrop, many traditional fixed income benchmarks have performed well, particularly those with longer durations and meaningful credit components.
However, we believe 2021 could mark a transition to a new fixed income reality wrought by ongoing structural changes, potentially leading to more frequent dislocations across market sectors. Here we describe the secular forces that we believe are driving these changes, to be followed by a proposed solution for fixed income investors in our next blog post.
The COVID-19 crisis has driven increased adoption of technology and structural shifts in consumer behavior, some of which are…
Hopes and expectations for generous fiscal stimulus to be delivered by the Biden administration are largely baked into the current market narrative. More broadly, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has provided fresh justification for many of the social and economic policies long proposed by US Democrats — health care for all, stronger safety nets, entitlement protections. For the most part, I have viewed such proposals as fodder for future negotiations with Republicans, but as politically unrealistic given the partisan divide in Washington.
However, I now believe there’s a big paradigm shift in the making. It’s becomingly increasingly clear to me that economists close to the new administration want to fundamentally redefine how people think about government spending and responsible fiscal policy. If they can rewrite that narrative, so to speak, it could be…
My team and I often say recessions wipe the slate clean and create new investment patterns that will likely be dissociated from the last cycle. If there was a dominant theme of the last cycle — from the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008 up to the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 — it may have been “secular stagnation,” which I define as low nominal economic growth due to shortfalls in aggregate demand. Naturally, this begs the question of whether or not secular stagnation will still have legs in the post-COVID era.
I don’t claim to have a simple “yes” or “no” answer yet, but for now would like to share my latest thinking on the topic, to be followed by deeper dives on specific aspects of it (and hopefully more definitive answers) in additional blog posts throughout 2021.
By way of context, it’s helpful to consider how we got here in the first place. Economists have attributed secular stagnation to…
I think the US Federal Reserve (Fed)’s newly unveiled framework for its long-run goals and monetary policy strategy, combined with its recent statements, signals a fundamental change in how the central bank will conduct monetary policy from here on.
Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed would tend to hike interest rates when the unemployment rate fell below NAIRU.1 The Fed’s latest statement made clear that this is no longer a sufficient reason to raise rates, unless accompanied by inflation exceeding its target in order to deliver a 2% average inflation rate.
In general, the communique was dovish in that the Fed is basically saying that it will need to see both low unemployment and above-target inflation before it will consider hiking rates. The Fed’s policy rate is likely going to be…
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