First, here is Rosie's Investment Outlook for 2013:
- We remain in a classic post bubble 'fat-tailed' distribution curve, where the range of possible outcomes is much wider than in past recovery phases. This will remain the case in 2013, and until such time as all the major global debt imbalances have been fully resolved.
- Near-6% U.S. output gap: 3%+ global gap. The world is still awash with excess capacity across labour and product markets. As such, disinflation themes will keep trumping inflation themes. This puts preservation not just of capital, but of cash flows, front and centre in terms of core investment strategies.
- Fed likely to keep rates near 0% through 2018 (according to our analysis): Interest rate volatility minimized; long-short credit strategies should remain core to any bond strategy.
- $1.7 trillion in cash on U.S. corporate balance sheets: Even though yields have plunged in the past year, corporate bonds remain a solid investment given prospective low default risks, especially given still-wide spreads relative to the government sector
- Fed to replace Operation Twist with outright bond buying: Treasury yields to head even lower, making dividend yield and 'bond proxies' in the equity market that much more alluring.
- Real interest rates to remain negative: This is a very powerful positive thrust for the precious metals complex, and should help establish a firmer floor under the stock market given the implications for "discounted' earnings growth (i.e. a lower cost of capital).
- Stephen Harper around until April 2015 (at the least), Barack Oba ma around until .lanuary 2017: Along with diverging monetary policies, the stark political divide is bullish for the Canadian dollar
- Geopolitical tensions — Middle East, China's political transition. Greek default risks. LS_ fiscal issues, high and rising youth unemployment rates in Europe and
- Japan-China rift: Exposure to raw materials is a good hedge against these recurring flare-ups.
- U.S. energy self-sufficiency: Still a forecast, but this has positive implications for the manufacturing renaissance story.
- Malthuslan population dynamics: That two billion more people to feed in the next 35 years means we need 70% more food: an agrarian revolution is in its infancy stages.
Next, below are the 35 charts that best encapsulate Rosie's thoughts about 2012 and his view on 2013 and onward, but first his overarching views:
The Fed has also completely altered the relationship between stocks and bonds by nurturing an environment of ever deeper negative real interest rates. Therein lies the rub. The economy and earnings are weak, and getting weaker, but the Interest rate used to discount the future earnings stream keeps getting more and more negative, and that lowers the corporate cost of capital and in turn raises the present value of expected future profits. It's that simple.
Beneath the veneer, there are opportunities. I accept the view that central bankers are your best friend if you are uber-bullish on risk assets, especially since the Fed has basically come right out and said that it is targeting stock prices. This limits the downside, to be sure, but as we have seen for the past five weeks, the earnings landscape will cap the upside. I also think that we have to take into consideration why the central banks are behaving the way they are, and that is the inherent 'fat tail' risks associated with deleveraging cycles that typically follow a global financial collapse. The next phase, despite all efforts to kick the can down the road, is deleveraging among sovereign governments, primarily in half the world's GDP called Europe and the U.S. Understanding political risk in this environment is critical.
With regard to global events, we continue to monitor the European situation closely. Euro zone finance ministers have given Greece an additional two-year lifeline and the Greek parliament just passed another round of severe austerity measures, which I think will only serve to make matters worse there from an economic standpoint, but I doubt that the creditors are going to let Greece go just yet. So this never-ending saga remains a source of ongoing uncertainty, but at the same time. Is a key reason why the Fed and the Bank of Canada will continue to keep short-term interest rates near the floor, and all that means is to build even more conviction over income equity and corporate bond themes.
As for something new, after a rather significant slowdown in China for much of this year that put the commodity complex in the penalty box for a period of time, we are seeing some early signs of visible improvement in the recent economic data out of China and this actually has happened even in advance of any significant monetary and fiscal stimulus. And while the Chinese stock market has been a laggard, if there is one country that does have the room to stimulate, it is China (make no mistake, however, China's economic backdrop is still quite tenuous, especially as it pertains to the corporate sector - excessive inventories, stagnant profits, rising costs and lingering excess capacity are all challenges to overcome).
Keep in mind that much of this slowing in China was a lagged response to prior policy tightening measures to curb heightened inflationary pressures - pressures that have since subsided sharply with the consumer inflation rate down to 2% (near a three-year low) from the 6.5% peak in the summer of 2011 and producer prices are deflating outright. What is providing a big assist to this sudden reversal of fortune in China is a re-acceleration in bank lending as a resumption of credit growth and bond issuance has allowed previously- announced infrastructure projects out of Beijing (railways in particular) to get incubated.
The nascent economic turnaround we are seeing in China, if sustained, is Positive news for the commodity complex and in turn resource-sensitive currencies like the Canadian dollar, which I'm happy to report has hung in extremely well this year even in the face of all the global economic and financial crosscurrents. Just consider that the low for the year for the loonie was 96 cents - you have to go back to 1976 to see the last time intra-year lows happened at such a high level.
To reiterate, our primary strategy theme has been and remains S.I.R.P. - Safety and Income at a Reasonable Price - because yield works in a deleveraging deflationary cycle. Not only is there substantial excess capacity in the global economy, primarily in the U.S. where the "output gap" is close to 6%, but the more crucial story is the length of time it will take to absorb the excess capacity. It could easily take five years or longer, depending of course on how far down potential GDP growth goes in the intermediate term given reduced labour mobility, lack of capital deepening and higher future tax rates. This is important because what it means is that disinflationary, even deflationary, pressures will be dominant over the next several years. Moreover, with the median age of the boomer population turning 56 this year, there is very strong demographic demand for income. Within the equity market, this implies a focus on squeezing as much income out of the portfolio as possible so a reliance on reliable dividend yield and dividend growth makes perfect sense.
Gold is also a hedge against financial instability and when the world is awash with over $200 trillion of household, corporate and government liabilities, deflation works against debt servicing capabilities and calls into question the integrity of the global financial system. This is why gold has so much allure today. It is a reflection of investor concern over the monetary stability, and Ben Bernanke and other central bankers only have to step on the printing presses whereas gold miners have to drill over two miles into the ground (gold production is lower today than it was a decade ago - hardly the same can be said for fiat currency). Moreover, gold makes up a mere 0.05% share of global household net worth, and therefore, small incremental allocations into bullion or gold-type investments can exert a dramatic impact. Gold cannot be printed by central banks and is a monetary metal that is no government's liability. It is malleable and its supply curve is inelastic over the intermediate term. And central banks, who were selling during the higher interest rate times of the 1980s and 1990s, are now reallocating their FX reserves towards gold, especially in Asia. With the gold mining stocks trading at near record-low valuations relative to the underlying commodity and the group is so out of favour right now, that anyone with a hint of a contrarian instinct may want to consider building some exposure - as we have begun to do.
Source: Gluskin Sheff