Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why the wealthy have done well under Obama

It’s a puzzle considering how Obama demonizes the “fat cats” that the upper 20% have done so well the last 4-5 years (aka the recovery) and the rest of the economy flounders. Record numbers are on food stamps, and many college new graduates are discouraged. Unemployment among young black men is much higher than before the recession.  This semi-annual report from Blackrock gives a pretty good explanation of how quantitative easing has helped the investors in stocks.  Now, this is a policy of the Federal Reserve, not the President’s, but at least he didn’t nix it.  If you are invested in a pension, 401-k or 401-b or IRAs, you’ve seen a similar, but smaller advance. People with CDs or savings accounts (usually less wealthy) have seen their savings eroded.

“One year ago, US financial markets were improving despite a sluggish global economy, as easy monetary policy gave investors enough conviction to take on more risk in their portfolios. Slow but positive growth in the US was sufficient to support corporate earnings, while uncomfortably high unemployment reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve would continue its aggressive monetary stimulus programs. International markets were more volatile given uneven growth rates and
more direct exposure to macro risks such as the banking crisis in Cyprus and a generally poor outlook for European economies. Emerging markets significantly lagged the rest of the world amid fears over slowing growth and debt problems.

Global financial markets were rattled in May when then-Fed Chairman Bernanke mentioned the possibility of reducing (or “tapering”) the central bank’s asset purchase programs — comments that were widely misinterpreted as signaling an end to the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policy. US Treasury yields rose sharply, triggering a steep sell-off across fixed income markets. (Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.) Equity prices also suffered as investors feared the implications of a
potential end of a program that had greatly supported the markets. Markets rebounded in late June, however, when the Fed’s tone turned more dovish, and improving economic indicators and better corporate earnings helped extend gains through most of the summer.

Although autumn brought mixed events, it was a surprisingly positive period for most asset classes. Early on, the Fed defied market expectations with its decision to delay tapering, but higher volatility returned in late September when the US Treasury Department warned that the national debt would soon breach its statutory maximum. The ensuing political brinksmanship led to a partial government shutdown, roiling global financial markets through the first half of October. Equities and other
so-called “risk assets” managed to resume their rally when politicians engineered a compromise to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling, at least temporarily.

The remainder of 2013 was generally positive for stock markets in the developed world, although investors continued to grapple with uncertainty about when and how much the Fed would scale back on stimulus. When the long-awaited taper announcement ultimately came in mid-December, the Fed reduced the amount of its monthly asset purchases but at the same time reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining low short-term interest rates. Markets reacted positively, as the taper signaled the Fed’s perception of real improvement in the economy, and investors were finally relieved from the anxiety that had gripped them for quite some time.

The start of the new year brought another turn in sentiment, as heightened volatility in emerging markets and mixed US economic data caused global equities to weaken in January while bond markets found renewed strength. Although these headwinds persisted, equities were back on the rise in February thanks to positive developments in Washington, DC. For one, Congress extended the nation’s debt ceiling through mid-March 2015, thereby reducing some degree of fiscal uncertainty for
the next year. Additionally, investors were encouraged by market-friendly comments in new Fed Chair  Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony, giving further assurance that short-term rates would remain low for a prolonged period.

While accommodative monetary policy was the main driver behind positive market performance over the period, it was also a key cause of investor uncertainty. Developed market stocks were the strongest performers for the six- and 12-month periods ended February 28. In contrast, emerging markets were weighed down by uneven growth, high levels of debt and severe currency weakness, in addition to the broader concern about reduced global liquidity. The anticipation of Fed tapering during 2013 pressured US Treasury bonds and other high-quality fixed income sectors, including tax-exempt municipals and investment grade corporate bonds. High yield bonds, to the contrary, benefited from income-oriented investors’ search for yield in the low-rate environment. Short-term interest rates remained near zero, keeping yields on money market securities close to historic lows.”

No comments: