Fundamentally, we don’t have much new to say on the disaster that Energy-sector equities have become. Mostly, we want to illustrate the danger of assuming that the stocks of commodity producers will necessarily follow the path of their underlying commodities.
Will this economic cycle end with “fire” (overheating) or “ice” (a whiff of deflation)? Interestingly, hedges against both outcomes have performed well in recent months, with both gold and Treasury bonds spiking. For many reasons, though, we believe the U.S. expansion is more likely to end in a deflationary bust.
Late in the cycle, blue chip indexes like the DJIA and S&P 500 can fool investors by hiding subtler deterioration in the broad list of stocks. That’s been underway in the last couple of months, but it’s nothing in relation to the divergence that’s opened in the commodity market, where there’s an almost 20% YTD performance gap between the headline S&P/GS Commodity Index and its non-Energy components (Chart 1).
The S&P 500 record median profit margin of 10.3% is now almost a full percentage point above the last cycle’s peak of 9.4% (second quarter of 2007). Trends across S&P sectors are not as uniform as one might expect, though, with only half of the ten sectors last quarter at profitability levels that exceeded their 2001-2007 expansion highs.
We examine Emerging Markets from both the top-down and bottom-up perspectives as we try to identify where to move and what to expect. We check in on two successful EM thematic group ideas as well.
For more than two years we’ve discussed the supply-side risks to commodity producers stemming from capacity built during the manic “Third Act” of last decade’s Three Act Play in commodities. Commodity-oriented equities have indeed underperformed since 2011, but to date, most pundits have laid blame squarely on the demand side.
Commodity producers seem to believe that last decade’s commodity boom is set to repeat. This belief itself probably ensures that it won’t.
Alternative assets have attractive return rates since 1994. But their portfolio diversification benefits have diminished as they become more equity like, though their correlations to bonds have fallen.