Rather than centuries of experience of managing the flat-lands, only a juvenile decade has passed since the Great Financial Crisis felled interest rates, $13tn and counting of bonds trading at sub-zero rates now standing in for economic life below sea-level. However, unlike the Dutch, there is little evidence that swamp drainage is a virtue which the captains of the world’s central banks can lay claim to.
The Sino-US trade and tech war has entered a new and more concerning phase as July marked the first anniversary of its initiation – when President Trump imposed a 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. A year of on-and-off negotiations – and respective up-and-down headlines driving the markets – has seen this escalate to some $300 billion now.
When the lights go out, investors clasp tight to their chests any stocks which helps them sleep well at night. These “Teddy Bear” stocks can most easily be found in Consumer sectors selling everyday items such as drinks, food or pills to cover our daily needs. We have need of them whatever the economic storms are. The “lights going out” in economic terms can be seen in the rate of interest which central banks set.
Geopolitics and sentiment shifts in 2018 whiplashed investors and the fourth quarter of the year especially gave new meaning to ‘risk-on’ and ‘risk-off’ trades within the global equities market. To put this into context, when investor sentiment is optimistic about the economy, geopolitics and industry, riskier assets tend to get pricier – ‘risk-on’. Conversely, when uncertainty and negativity hits the market, investors tend to sell riskier assets and buy ‘safer’ ones that are typically less vulnerable to weakening investor confidence – ‘risk-off’.