How is the US election affecting markets? Well, it seems that investors expect re-election for President Barack Obama, and their degree of confidence about this has increased remarkably in the last week. Mitt Romney’s bad stretch, as far as the markets are concerned, seems to have finished him off. That is the subject of today’s Note video, with Gideon Rachman.
Those of a bearish inclination have been having a hard time this summer in the west, but China is a whole ‘nother thing. The Shanghai Composite is at another three and a half year low, and has been falling, on and off, since its post-crisis peak in August 2009.
Another way of looking at China is to say it is suffering from the effects of an outrageous policy-induced bubble, which was partially reinflated by the government during the crisis.
This chart shows the Shanghai index against the Nasdaq during the dotcom bubble, both rebased. In green is the S&P 500. The wild swings in China and pure-play dotcoms make the booms and busts of the S&P look tame – but still left those investors able to get their money into Chinese onshore shares (protected by capital controls) better off, at least for the moment.
It took just two months of Standard & Poor’s control of Dow Jones Indexes (CME sold it in return for a stake in the new and larger S&P DJ Indices group) for S&P to start thinking about how to reform the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average, the second-oldest index still going.
It desperately needs reform: three of the US’s 10 largest companies are excluded, and it is calculated by averaging share prices, a daft approach better suited to the days of slide rules. This video explains – charts after the break show how the Dow has performed, and discuss how investors should respond:
Investors in luxury goods producers tend to spend a lot of time following what’s going on in China, for good reason. China’s legions of corrupt officials have a penchant for bling (as well as luxury cars and gambling), and plenty of ability to garner the cash needed for fancy western watches and handbags. Lately they’ve been cutting back, as the slowing economy and rising scrutiny from bloggers and the public makes open diplays of wealth less acceptable.
It might be easier simply to focus on what is going on in the US. Are households finding their share portfolios rising faster than their house prices? Shares are easier to cash in to fund that oh-so-desirable Cartier watch, although most people would have to sell their house to afford a £1.2m handbag. Read more
The S&P 500 has almost completed its round trip, and done so remarkably quickly. It only has about 5 per cent to go before it reaches its all-time high from 2007. Today’s video guest, the ever-interesting David Ranson, suggests that this was predictable, because asset markets reliably follow an exponential recovery path after a big fall.
Certainly, that pattern fits this recovery remarkably well: Read more
The currency wars are under way again and Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who coined the term, is miffed.
Mr Mantega is worried that QE3 will do what QE2 did and lead to an “avalanche” of dollars hitting emerging markets, driving up prices and currencies, helping US exports and creating troubling inflation. If it prompts the Brazilian Real to strengthen, he warned of action – although he did not say what the Brazilians might do this time:
This is going to force the Brazilian government to adopt additional measures to prevent the Real being overvalued.
Brazil imposed a series of taxes and restrictions on foreign inflows over the past three years in an effort to stop speculative cash pushing up the currency, but relaxed many of them after the renewed eurozone crisis led the Real to plunge.
Still, it isn’t obvious that Brazil is losing the currency war, as these charts show: Read more
As predicted, there is more to say about the London housing market. It is widely known that the buying pressure on prime London properties is coming from overseas. The eurozone crisis and the creation of fortunes by the commodities boom have helped push lots of money into the nicer neighbourhoods of central and west London.
But I had not previously grasped that foreign demand was also driving segments of the market below the true “prime” postcodes, and that that foreign demand is not primarily European or Middle Eastern but rather from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. That is the strong message from this extraordinary chart from Jones Lang LaSalle, shared by Ed Hammond, our property correspondent, in the latest Note video: Read more
Being widely hated is one thing, but being widely hated and poor is even worse. This fate almost befell Europe’s bankers earlier this summer. Share prices have soared in the past two months, so all the bankers now have to worry about is mobs with pitchforks.
Seriously, though, European banking seems to be returning to what passes for normal nowadays: money markets have stabilised, bond markets reopened and Americans are even willing (at a price) to put dollars back into French banks, as I discuss in today’s Short View video:
The result has been that eurozone bank shares were one of the smartest investments of the year – as long as you avoided the trouble periphery. This chart shows the split in returns from buying eurozone core or eurozone periphery banks. Read more
The Bank of Japan has surprised the markets by printing another Y10tn ($126bn) as it fights deflation, a weak economy and the currency wars.
The yen is the most important factor for investors, and its behaviour has been odd, as discussed in this morning’s Short View video. Read more
Today’s Note video is on Frontier Markets. In theory, they should be exciting, offering the chance of real upside for the bold that Emerging Markets once did. In practice, FM equities have been mediocre over the last few years, while spreads on FM debt has tightened so sharply as to raise questions about how discriminating the buyers have been. The video, with Robin Wigglesworth, is here: