Energy, Healthcare and Communications in the spotlight
Elections don’t change things, except when they do. The combination of the Saudi oil cut and Democrat control of the Senate could usher in a period of materially higher oil prices. The Senate victory also means that social media companies may be threatened with more regulation and even a possible break-up. But does the new administration have the political capital to take on Big Pharma at the same time? The outlook for the Healthcare sector may be more hopeful than the Blue Wave doomsters suggested.
Investors need a process which highlights what they don’t know
One of the great virtues of our process is that it is sensitive enough to identify sudden changes in the relationship between risk and return, which have no apparent justification in real life – until the news story which prompted them finally breaks. We have just had a classic example of this with the resignation of Prime Minister Abe, which was announced in late August, eight weeks after our weighting in Japan was suddenly reduced. There is always an explanation, even if you don’t what it is, and this note highlights ten other recent moves at sector or country level, which we think are only partially explained.
Is the Boris trade close to its peak?
In Q3 2019 a group of housebuilders, utilities and dollar-sensitive industrials began to outperform the UK index on hopes that the Conservatives would win a general election. This created a powerful long momentum effect, but our analysis says that we are now close to maximum exposure. For the Boris trade to become more powerful, we need greater consensus on which stocks to underweight/short.
Three half-full glasses and an alternative
The result of the UK election has made the country more attractive to international equity investors, but not to domestic investors, except in the sense that equities everywhere have become more attractive relative to fixed income. We do have substantial overweight positions in cyclical sectors like Industrials, but these are funded by underweights in other cyclical sectors like Materials. We expect to upgrade Small Caps to overweight in the near future, but we have already done so in Japan and the Eurozone. It’s all a bit underwhelming. But our models are clear that if you think that the UK will prosper outside the EU, you should buy Ireland.
Concerns over US earnings, China slowdown, Euro banks
Before the ECB’s announcement today, nothing very important had happened in financial markets for several weeks. We get nervous when it’s this quiet, so we prepared a list of issues to worry about. They range from the benign, like a melt-up in risk assets caused by a sell-off in US Treasuries to the borderline catastrophic, like a Eurozone banking crisis. Our main point is that the current directionless environment is likely to end in the near future. Whether investors believe in any, or all, of the scenarios listed below is up to them.