Research Radar: Very 20th century

April 25, 2012

Wednesday’s market commentaries are loaded with the buzz around another technical UK recession in Q1 (the first time Britain has suffered what many see as a ‘double-dip’ since the 1970s); guessing about Wednesday’s FOMC outcome; and the European Commission letting Hungary off the hook about its controversial constitutional changes. In aggregate, and probably due to the looming FOMC,  markets are fairly stable – world equities, including euro stocks, emerging markets and even Britain’s FTSE are all higher. The US dollar, Treasuries,  volatility gauges, gold and even peripheral euro government bond yields are all down a bit.

Following is a selection of some of Wednesday’s interesting research ideas:

Barclays’ Barry Knapp reckons US and world equities face a dilemma from the endless distortion to multiples and risk premia from monetary intervention and QE that is artifically lowering the risk-free rate akin to the “financial repression” of the 1950s — no one is sure now if equity is cheap or bonds just very expensive. He concludes that best thing for equities in the medium to long term is to avoid further QE but the problem is that stocks will almost certainly suffer in the short run if the Fed takes QE3 off the table. What’s more, Wednesday’s FOMC could be problem for markets initally if the Fed frets about the growth outlook, but a worsening of the economy might bring QE3 sooner than similar bouts in 2010 and 2011.

ING’s James Knightley says UK GDP numbers mask business survey improvements and better March data and expects the economy to return to growth in Q2 as well as upward revisions to Q1. Flagging up improving business sentiment in the April CBI survey, he says the Bank of England is unlikely to do more QE and reckons any post-GDP rally in gilts or fall in sterling should be short-lived.

– However, Citi’s Michael Saunders is far gloomier in flagging ” the worst recession/recovery cycle opf the last 100 years” and dismisses suggestions that the persistent weakness of the economy since 2008 can be blamed on things like quarterly construction swings. “We expect the economy will continue to underperform, given the headwinds from fiscal drag, high household debts, the EMU crisis and poor credit availability. A less-tight fiscal policy probably would not help significantly, given the likelihood that fiscal slippage would trigger market pressure. A lower pound would help, but the key policy lever is QE and we continue to expect extra QE.”

Standard Chartered reckons it’s time to book profits on a short EUR/GBP position, as the market looks primed for a correction. “An unexpectedly weak UK GDP report for Q1 has tempered expectations the economy will outperform”

Societe Generale’s cross-asset team says it remains bullish on crude oil prices due to supply and capacity worries and geopolitical concerns and it targets $135 per barrel for Q3 — a price they say is not priced into futures markets. They say portfolios should be hedged for the possibility that 20-year-high oil/equity correlations will drop sharply and there several ways to gain exposure to rising crude — Brent Sept call option spreads, US 5-year inflation-protected TIPS, long global oil services stocks, long Russia’s rouble and Mexico’s peso and short Thailand’s baht and Korea’s won. Seperately, SG’s Dylan Grice worries about Australia — “What do you call a credit bubble built on a commodity bull market built on a much bigger Chinese credit bubble? Leveraged leverage? A CDO squared? No, it’s Australia.”


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