Welcome to The Outlook archives, where you can view several past issues featuring our investment and economic thinking. The Outlook is available in both PDF* and HTML format. We recommend that you review the PDF format, as it is closer in appearance to our printed version.
Volatility, Valuations and Debt
“There are going to be market reactions whenever you’re shifting from an economy that has had very low interest rates for a long period of time to an economy that has more normalized interest rates. While that is a positive story overall, there is a possibility that it will be a bumpy ride.”
– Boston Federal Reserve President, Eric Rosengren in a recent WSJ interview
Investment Opportunities Within An Unbalanced Global Economy
The global economy is undergoing an adjustment process that has increased market volatility while presenting specific investment opportunities for investors who understand the complexity of today’s paradigm shift. There is a lack of pricing power, and in certain industries there are deflationary forces resulting from surplus capacity, aging demographics, excessive borrowings and rapid technological advances. Therefore it is important to have an understanding of the subtle impacts that pricing changes will have on corporate profits and to identify industries and companies that are positioned to prosper in this environment. A focus of our team in 2015 is to target investments in companies that can maintain or even improve profit margins. Importantly, companies that can improve profitability in a world of increasing pricing pressures should command premium valuations in the market, and those shares should be purchased on any market pullbacks.
Quick Take on the Franc, the Euro and the Greek Election
In the past two weeks, two big economic changes and one big political change occurred in Europe. On January 15th, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) surprised the markets by freeing its currency, the franc, from its link to the euro causing the franc to instantly increase in value and setting the stage for Switzerland’s export-driven economy to go into recession. This recent change was in anticipation that the European Central Bank (ECB) would expand its quantitative easing (QE) program to ward off deflation and recession in the Eurozone. The ECB, on January 22nd, did exactly that announcing monthly purchases of 60 billion euros through September 2016 or until the ECB sees a sustained adjustment in the inflation rate to its target of below but close to 2%. Then on January 25, 2015, the people of Greece elected the anti-austerity party setting up a fight between Greece and its creditors. The SNB policy action is emblematic of the currency wars which are a consequence of insufficient global demand resulting from the lack of appropriate fiscal policy. The ECB policy action is illustrative of the challenge facing governing institutions in the Eurozone as they attempt to address the growing imbalances, structural deflation and insufficient fiscal policy support. The very important Greek election is the direct result of seven years of a shrinking economy which has led to record high levels of unemployment, particularly for youths. Shrinking economies have also resulted in lower living standards and increased resentment throughout the European community. This is a tipping point for Europe’s governing bodies in determining the outlook for the Eurozone.
Amid Global Divergencies, the U.S. Reaffirms Its Role as Engine of Global Growth
As we enter 2015, the fundamental economic forces in the developed world are the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the euro and yen, declining interest rates, collapsing oil prices and falling inflation rates. In the developing economies, we are witnessing decelerating growth accompanied by declining currencies and rising interest rates. These forces have led to increasing market volatility and are defining our current Outlook for investors. Against a backdrop of a prolonged period of slowing global growth, the United States has reaffirmed its role as the most vibrant and dynamic major economy after several years in which global growth was driven by the developing world. The U.S. resurgence is a consequence of its resilience and technology leadership as well as its reduced dependence on imported oil which are contributing to its growing productive capacity. The U.S. is better positioned to meet its energy needs today than at any time in the past 45 years.