Stories by Mark Heppenstall
By Mark Heppenstall | November 9, 2017
After five years of disappointing returns, this year’s double-digit gains in gold prices have surprised many investors, especially in light of the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) continued monetary policy tightening. Conventional wisdom held that as the Fed hiked short-term interest rates, the higher opportunity cost to own gold would put additional downward pressure on prices.
By Mark Heppenstall | September 7, 2017
This week’s chart highlights the dramatic shift in credit quality for the corporate bond market during the past 30 years. Investment grade rated corporations have been on a 30-year borrowing binge judging by the increasing weight of BBB-rated credits in the Bloomberg Barclays Corporate Index. U.S. companies are taking advantage of lower and lower borrowing costs and embracing the use of higher leverage. Nearly half of the index is made up of BBB credits today ─ double the level from 30 years ago. Despite more than 60 companies being rated AAA in the 1980s, only Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft remain as the two U.S. companies with the top rating.
By Mark Heppenstall | August 30, 2017
While trading slowed during the summer months, as it historically does, the headlines did not! From squashed healthcare reform to placing sanctions on North Korea to the Amazon/Whole Foods deal, there was no shortage of market-moving news in the last several months. Before we unofficially say goodbye to summer next week, we checked in with CIO Mark Heppenstall for his take on what’s been happening in the news cycle and its impact on markets as well as what investors can expect leading into the final quarter of 2017.
By Mark Heppenstall | July 13, 2017
The Misery Index, developed in the 1960s by Yale University economist Arthur Okun, has been a widely followed measure of national economic performance. The Index is calculated by simply adding together the trailing 12-month inflation rate and current unemployment rate. This week’s chart shows a 70-year history of the Misery Index in the U.S.
By Mark Heppenstall | May 18, 2017
The Federal Reserve (Fed) Bank of St. Louis provides investors a weekly gauge of financial stress in the markets with its publication of the St. Louis Fed Financial Stress Index. The Index is constructed using 18 different financial market indicators: seven interest rate series, six yield spreads and five others indicators, including equity and fixed income market volatility. Readings above zero indicate above-average financial stress while values below zero suggest below-average financial stress.
By Mark Heppenstall | March 23, 2017
Despite recent signs of accelerating growth and inflation in the global economy, central bank monetary policy remains very accommodative. Short-term rates are stuck near or below the zero-level across most of the developed world, and more than $8 trillion in sovereign debt still trades with negative yields. Even BB-rated Portugal can issue 2-year bonds at just over 50 basis points (bps) today, less than half the rate paid by 2-year on U.S. Treasury notes.
By Mark Heppenstall | February 16, 2017
The Trump Trade has emerged as new vernacular across the investment world since Election Day. In just three months, the Trump Trade has led to the Dow Jones Industrial Average breaking 20,000, a S&P 500 Index market capitalization in excess of $20 trillion and—maybe most remarkably—a hawkish Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen.
By Mark Heppenstall | January 20, 2017
Nearly eight years into one of the most unloved bull markets ever for U.S. equities and credit, the rally now appears ready for “extra innings.” Despite increasingly full valuations and an earnings recession for U.S. companies during a recent five-quarter stretch, proposed economic policies under the Trump administration will be supportive of domestic economic growth and corporate profits.