Economy & Capital Markets
The S&P500 fell 35% and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank cut effected funds rate from 1.59% to 0.25% in 24 trading days. This followed a reversal of Western Governments response to airborne COVID-19 (first globally reported on new years eve), initially failing to impose “cheap” measures pre-boarder, then enforcing delayed internal draconian ones. Government treasuries price rose then moderated, as the size of fiscal expansion further elevated borrowing levels on a diminishing or slowing income tax base. Although an opportunity to move to fiscal surplus and improve savings rates were missed during the previous decade, we maintain a lack of inflation accommodates both monetary and fiscal easing to combat the immediate slowdown in economic growth.
Multiple companies have identified potential vaccines for COVID-19 expected by year end and doctors are already sharing best “non-approved” remedies. Evidence from Japan and Korea support (as the secondary strategy) local authority social distancing orders to protect and bolster health service facilities and internally develop supply for testing, remedial and protective equipment. After which the spreadability can be embraced so non-vulnerable and non-infected citizens are released from quarantine back to normal activities. From mid-April individual economies can stagger start to accelerate through the end of the year. It is likely there will be no significant (5%) variance in 2020 from the death rate in 2019 (2.8m Americans in 2018).
Remodelling supply lines, to reduce exposure to China in favour of its low cost neighbours and home production, is anticipated to accelerate. International travel is expect to have health prescreening enforced similar to terrorism after 9/11, adding to cost and duration. Communication and broadcasting providers are likely beneficiaries. A large number of previously loss making business are not expected to reopen.
In the quarter OPEC and Russia could not agree production limits while Brent crude oil prices fell sixty percent.
As we expressed during the 2008 recession (http://sjc.capital/blog/index.php/2019/08/10/the-cohenplan/), economic disruption takes the form of an absence of liquidity and moral hazard brought about by the inability of commercial financial institutions to distribute funds made available to them by central banks. If central banks are unable to LEND directly to the general economy, governments should provide generous loan facilities underwritten by central banks and administered by the commercial banks, based on tax registration of LOW INCOME individuals and previously PROFITABLE business taxed entities. The moral hazard of bail-out and need for massive fiscal stimulus could then also be avoided. Once the liquidity crisis is over commercial banks should then be forced to adopt these loans.
Over the last 12 months our net exposure to equities fluctuated around the zero mark due to excessive valuations. As an investing portfolio the minimum holding period for any position is three months, therefore when western governments preparations for the epidemic proved to be “the Emperors New Clothes” we were unable to react, in response we have accelerated development of AI market sentiment tools. During the quarter we had overexposure to the transport sectors and underexposure to energy sectors that balanced out, with a marginal exposure to equities. The net performance of the strategy over the last three months was -3.5% providing a 39 month performance of +32% with 0.8 sharp ratio, compared to the S&P500 performance of -20%, +15% and 0.3 respectively.