I'm taking the opportunity to think about the future and while I may not be the most qualified / knowledgeable, I think it's good practice to think about such things and pen them down anyway.
TLDR: I think the worst is still ahead of us, and currently the market is not pricing in the full potential effect of this crisis on the economy.
22 Mar 2020
- Buy US equities later, prices expected to drop further
- Buy those with a previous strong run, dominance in space, established, but haven taken a good hit
- EM like India = Hold, China = Hold
- Oil exposure ok to hold
Will US lose its dominance?
Considering the possibilities of a world power shift.
China is in a good position because they have had the backdrop of having that economic clout, and now they are recovering faster than US. But the world system is still quite entrenched, so I think it will take more than just this slowdown and who is faster to the recovery race to overthrow US. It will take a really crippling thing to happen to the US which renders their systems unusable and forcing the incumbent ‘clients’ to switch. Similar to how UK lost its dominance in WW2, US fortuitously gained. It was nothing UK could do. But that alone didn’t do it – it required a surge of innovation in the US to propel it forward.
So maybe this crisis is not enough. But it could be the start of something.
Maybe China will gain grounds it would never have the chance to gain until now. Not sure where though. It could further consolidate its power in being the engines of the world economy by looking to replace other links in supply chains that are now closed (because they were in Europe). Availability in a desperate time is valuable. It’s just too difficult to predict how, where, and to what magnitude this will happen.
Back to the question, I don’t think it will lose its dominance in the tech space nor will its stock market be left in the doldrums as the rest of the world accelerates. I do believe that the main indices will recover and make new ATHs in a matter of 5 years. That’s because this virus changes economic demand, and that is a temporary thing. It is not paradigm-altering. Consumer demand remains the same – people will still buy the same things after the crisis and use the same services.
I don’t think it will lose its dominance, though I do think that China will close the gap.
What are the prospects for emerging countries?
A year or a few years back, it was still a good thing to have because everything else in developed markets were expensive – i.e. both stocks and bonds, and we were hungry for yield. We have been since 2016 actually, leading to things like VIX apocalypse.
But now why would we bother with emerging economies when the developed ones are on discount? Looking at India vs US, both are down about 30% and so the relative value goes to US in terms of risk-reward. I doubt India can recover faster than the US.
China looks good given the above reasons, but it has only declined about 12% throughout this crisis, so in comparison to US it’s less of a priority.
I’m just going to keep IN and CN on a hold for now.
What’s the plan for loading up?
I expect this downturn to go further because the curve is just starting for US and probably in the middle or about 35% for Europe. Meaning there’s still some way to go which will really put a dampener on consumer demand and prices should reflect that accordingly.
It seems so far that the way the infection spreads is quite uniform in terms of trend in countries, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the same waves to occur in Europe then US.
Depending on how forward-looking the market is, these could have ALREADY been priced in at this -30% level. But only time will tell as the waves materialize whether the above is true i.e. if it’s not priced in then we’ll see further declines as the infections materialize. If it is already priced in, I expect to see some form of a bottom being carved out. Seeing a bounce in the midst of the wave could be something else (random optimism or some behaviour I really can’t explain) because I’ve yet to see a market so efficiently forward-looking.
Again, many market moves cannot be fully explained – I’ve been stumped quite a few times post-move even with the benefit of hindsight and a plethora of news attempting to explain things i.e. the explanations don’t make sense but more commonly no explanation is given “stocks move higher despite XXX” kind of rubbish headlines.
What to buy in US?
Major indices and tech companies. Generally, companies that have been solidly established and have further room to go but have been knocked back by this. Dominating tech companies are good buys to me, at these levels, as these will not be going away anytime soon. They also have the ability to tide through the storm.
Avoid stocks which are discount on discounts – i.e. prices have been falling anyway. A simple filter is to look for 10-year annualized total return and compare that against 1-mth or 2-mth change in price. With filter of some market cap.
What about oil?
I was a bit too hasty in getting into oil when it collapsed. It took one more hit from 30 to low 20s, which is my lower end of my range i.e. I really did not think it would get this bad. I had underestimated the contango also – meaning I cannot roll over my positions without significant cost.
Though I think oil will rise back to more normal levels of $30, there is no way to play this as it is already priced that way for the Dec contracts.
USO looks decent though in riding spot oil. The contango is built in but at least that’s managed for me.
Funny thing about contango is that market is usually pretty correct – after sharp declines, further months are priced to a premium, and at peaks, they are priced to discount.
This is a reliable signal for the F1-F6 premium too.