Real rates matter to equities
We are carefully watching U.S. real rates (nominal rates less inflation, which we measure using 10-year breakeven rates) as they have begun to move higher. Real rates have critical implications for a variety of asset classes and equities are no exception: this relationship has strengthened over the past 5 years, and even more so in the past 12 months with certain sectors being highly sensitive to these rate moves. We view real rates approaching positive territory as problematic to equities and would note that sharp moves are more important than small incremental moves.
The inequality effects of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated income inequality in the United States, and we expect the Biden administration to prioritize redistributive policies in the coming months. The Democrats have an ambitious, progressive agenda that will likely include tax increases to ensure at least partial funding for the new spending programs, including the infrastructure bill that the Senate will look to pass during the summer. Incorporating tax increases should allow their policy changes to be permanent (as opposed to temporary COVID-19 relief) and would also serve to redistribute wealth. We expect markets to be sensitive to headline risks associated with tax hikes as the story evolves.
Less money, more problems (for emerging markets)
We view the topping out in global liquidity (using global money supply as a proxy) as a tactical headwind for Emerging Markets equities. Global liquidity has slowed markedly, with the deceleration in balance-sheet expansion from the Federal Reserve and the People’s Bank of China being major drivers of this dynamic. In particular, we see declining liquidity as an obstacle for the manufacturing sector, and given that Emerging Markets still depend heavily on that industry, we caution that the slowing growth of money supply may be a threat to both emerging market activity and earnings.
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