To answer the question of who owns corporate America, we turn naturally enough to Goldman Sachs. In spite of all the “vampire squid” hype, the answer isn’t GS: but it does have an excellent summary of how ownership has changed (click on the chart for a bigger version).
Has the Great Rotation already started? A couple of startling data points from the last month, covering treasury yields and flows into equity funds, certainly suggest so. But the picture is maddeningly unclear under closer examination.
First, there is the treasury bond market, as discussed in last week’s video with Mike Mackenzie, before 10-year yields had risen above 2 per cent (they’re back below today). Significant rises in yields would be an obvious sign of a rotation. You can see that video, and Mike’s emphatic argument that if the equity rally makes any sense at all then the rotation out of bonds must be coming, here:
Note that even with the brief move above 2 per cent, there is still a way to go before the inexorable downward trend in yields that has now lasted more than a quarter of a century is breached.
The other obvious data to look at concerns flows into equity mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. Until very recently, the trend to pull money from equities and transfer it to stocks has continued unabated. Stephane Deo of UBS discussed this with Ralph Atkins in the Note video available here:
Again there are signs of change, but not enough to make the call that the “Great Rotation” has already begun. Most startlingly, TrimTabs, which can publish flow data quickly because it uses algorithms to derive estimated flows from funds’ performance, found that inflows to all equity mutual funds and ETFs this month have already topped $55bn. That beats the previous monthly record, set ominously in February 2000 on the eve of the dotcom crash.
There’s been a lot of debate about the idea of a “great rotation” from bonds to equities, and every Wall Street strategist has a view (consensus: the equity bit will happen soon, but bond yields won’t rise yet as central banks keep on buying).
Alain Bokobza at SocGen has come up with a lovely chart to back up their view that money should be flowing into equity mutual funds, as indeed it has started to do.
Goldman Sachs’ strategists are currently roaming Europe on their annual Global Strategy roadshow. As nobody can lightly ignore what Goldman is saying, the themes emerging from the London event were interesting.
Of particular concern are the prospects for corporate earnings; Japan; and the hope that 2013 will at last be the year for a “great rotation” out of bonds and into stocks.
On earnings, David Kostin, their US equity strategist, explains their view in the video below. In a nutshell, margins are high, but without a recession (which nobody expects) there is no need for a sharp reversion to the mean. Instead, forces such as shale gas will help profitability, but there will be little increase in margins as in many sectors they are already at historical highs. So margins stay at their plateau, and earnings rise gently thanks to the gentle recovery of the economy.
On Japan, bullishness is what might almost be called a “consensus contrarian” call. Many people are talking bullishly about Japan, despite its decades of under-performance. So many, indeed, that it is hard to call this call contrarian any more.