In Episode 131, we welcome economist David Rosenberg.
We jump right into David’s view of the current economic landscape. David talks about the global economy, especially the US looking classically late cycle, as the economy is running low on skilled workers, and states “If next year is not a recession, it’s going to feel like it.”
Meb asks about the indicators he relies on. David discusses that there are 15 equally weighted indicators he’s looking at, 14 are screaming late cycle, and two stand out the most. ??? Two of the most important indicators for the US are the lack of skilled workers, with a lot of growth coming from people with no better than a high school education, and an immigration policy that has decreased the pool of labor.
This leads into a discussion about inflationary pressures. While the strong dollar has been deflationary, more and more companies are passing on costs to customers. Services, which dominates the consumer spending pie, is sensitive to labor costs, and the inflation we will see going forward will be from wages.
Meb then asks David about his thoughts on how this plays out for investors given the nature of the late cycle. David tells us that historically, the S&P has annualized an average of 17% per year in bull market conditions, however, this time around, it has done so with nearly half the typical economic growth rate to back that up. He suggests investors be defensive, focus on liquidity, have some cash on hand, and emphasize quality. For fixed income investors, be mindful of duration, and if focused on credit, be thoughtful of upcoming refinancing risks.
The conversation then turns to sentiment. David draws parallels to the dotcom bubble, with FAANGM making up 17% of the S&P 500 market cap at September highs, which is similar to the late 1990s when there was a concentration of about six stocks making up a large chunk of the S&P 500 market cap.
Next, Meb asks about David’s views on corporate bonds. David sees this in two lights. First, corporate balance sheets are the weakest they have ever been. The BBB component, which is a downgrade away from being rated “junk,” has grown from 30% of issuance to 50%. The alternative, more positive view is that companies are anticipating a lack of bond issuance coming up.
Meb then asks about the health of the Canadian economy. David explains it is meandering; the oil price has been a drag and has traded at a significant discount to WTI due to a glut of production, and lack of pipeline capacity. In addition, an overinflated housing market that is deflating, and overextended household balance sheets serve as big impediments. Provinces are tending toward a pro-business direction politically, so that could serve to be a positive going forward. As a strategist, he is seeing much of the bad news priced into financial assets as the TSX is trading down to a 13 multiple, in line with emerging markets, and a discount that has been seen only 5% of the time historically.
All this and more in Episode 131.
In Episode 130, we welcome Eric Falkenstein. The show starts with Meb and Eric discussing ice fishing in Minnesota (where Eric is currently located). But then Meb asks for Eric’s origin story. Eric tells us about being a teacher’s assistant for Hyman Minsky, wanting to be a macro economist, the turn that pushed him toward investing, and a well-timed put option that made him a boatload in the ’87 crash.
Next, the conversation turns toward Eric’s interest in low volatility. He tells us about being one of the first people to study low-vol. He was early, and the broader investing community wasn’t ready for the findings. People dismissed the suggestion that high volatility stocks (with high risk) didn’t outperform low vol stocks. Eric tells us that given all this, “low vol” wasn’t enough of a selling point – you had to layer on another factor just to get people to pay attention.
Meb asks about the main value proposition of low-vol. It is a smoother ride? Better returns? And why does this factor persist?
Eric’s answer touches on CAPM, high beta, low beta, risk, various premiums, high flying stocks, and alpha discovery. This bleeds into a conversation about factoring timing relative to valuations. Eric tells us he tried factor timing, but didn’t find it to be too helpful out of sample.
The conversation bounces around a bit, with the guys touching on Meb’s paper, “A Quantitative Approach to Asset Allocation,” bonds and how the US is flirting with the top bucket of bond yields, whether low vol translates to global markets and different asset classes, and Eric’s take on risk parity.
After that, the guys turn to crypto. Despite the current pullback, Eric believes “in the long run, it’s going to work.” He believes that crypto will eventually replace Dollars as people will want an alternative to fiat currency, something not susceptible to manipulation by politicians. He tells us that he sees a tipping point coming.
There’s plenty more in this episode – Eric’s books, pithy quotes and maxims, how people often think about the specific investment they want, but not the “plumbing” such as the bid/ask spread of that investment, the volume, and so on… And as always, Eric’s most memorable trade.
Get all the details in Episode 130.
Episode 129 is a solo-Meb show. Meb has been out on the road, giving speeches. In this “Mebisode,” you’ll hear Meb’s most recent talk. It covers forward-looking return expectations, an offer to book some time to chat with Meb one-on-one, best and worst starting points for new investment dollars, improving upon the global market portfolio, what corners of the market to look at now, and far more.
If October’s market turbulence left you feeling some jitters, this episode will help you reorient your market views looking forward. All this and more in Episode 129.