By David O'Malley | April 24, 2017
The results of the first round of French elections sent stocks around the world higher in early trading on Sunday. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will advance to the… Read More
The equity market has been very quiet so far in 2017. Year-to-date, the S&P 500 has posted a daily decline greater than 1% only once (on March 21), and the realized volatility for S&P 500 has reached the lowest point in the last 50 years.
The backdrop for the low volatility is widely recognized: the U.S. economy is growing a little above trend, a new pro-growth president was elected, inflation is rising but still remains low, the risk for a hard landing in China is lower, Europe and Japan are growing at the fastest pace post-crisis, and most importantly, low inflation allows the Federal Reserve (Fed) to intervene whenever we have some volatility in the market.
Geopolitical issues took center stage last week as stocks fell again and Treasury bond yields dropped to their lowest level in 2017, as tensions surrounding North Korea and with Russia over the U.S. attack in Syria had market participants worried about the impact of the Trump administration’s domestic agenda.
In today’s tight spread and low interest rate environment, the search for relative value opportunities can be challenging. The commercial real estate market has experienced strong growth in recent years as evidenced by continued property price appreciation, rising occupancies and rent growth across major property types.
Penn Mutual Asset Management CIO Mark Heppenstall contributed an article to The Hill where he outlines how the “Trump Trifecta” of taxes, regulation and infrastructure stand to impact markets. Despite the recent failure of Trump’s healthcare reform plan, Mark notes the stock market continues to look past headlines and toward the president’s pro-growth policies. He expects the financial sector will be best positioned to benefit from the new administration’s economic agenda.
PMAM Chief Investment Officer Mark Heppenstall appeared on CNBC “Closing Bell” last Friday amid the day’s breaking news of a surprisingly weak March employment report and unexpected geopolitical news. He offered his thoughts on safe-haven plays, noting the markets have been quick to shake off politically-driven news from Washington D.C., but investors are still looking for safety. He points to treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPs) as an option for investors, since they pay a current income and are especially attractive as inflation pressures build.
Last week’s March employment data release disappointed market expectations as the economy added 98,000 jobs–about 100,000 less than estimates and the average gains experienced over the last six months. Average hourly earnings remained stable at a 2.7% year-over-year gain. On the positive side, the unemployment rate fell by 0.2% to 4.5% in March, which is the lowest rate since 2007.
Over the last several years, there has been a rather large shift in the amount of gross leverage corporate credits have been willing to endure. Today’s chart shows over 50% of investment-grade corporate debt in the JPMorgan non-financial universe had gross leverage under two times EBITDA* at the end of 2012. By the end of 2016, this fell substantially to 20% of the universe. At the other end of the spectrum, this period saw debt levered over four times EBITDA go from 11% to 25%.
On Friday, PMAM’s Chief Investment Officer Mark Heppenstall appeared on Fox Business “Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman” to discuss the market’s resiliency throughout the first quarter despite setbacks, such as the failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also shared his outlook for the second quarter, noting the financial sector stands to benefit from the “Trump Trifecta” of taxes, regulation and infrastructure, as well as rising interest rates.