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THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Is Crypto as Good as Gold?

June 26 to 30, 2023

THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Is Crypto as Good as Gold?

June 26 to 30, 2023

Commentary

Market Recap

  • Equity markets pulled back this week amid a quiet run of economic data.
  • The S&P 500 slipped 1.4%, with banks (-4.1%) and energy (-3.4%) posting the deepest declines, while defensive sectors held at the top of the leaderboard.
  • While the data flow was light, Fed Chair Powell testified to Congress, reiterating that the rate hold at the last meeting wasn’t necessarily a pause (more like a skip that reduces the tightening size); and reinforcing that they could be leaning against inflation with these elevated interest rate levels for a while still.

Europe

Last week, the Bank of England raised interest rates by 50 bps, prompting speculation on the state of U.S. and European markets. Broadly speaking, international markets benefitted from some positive economic surprises in late 2022 and early this year. This created a tailwind and was the primary reason why EAFE outperformed even the U.S. market for a period of time. But those positive surprises are now diminishing, and some are even turning negative. This reversal is tied in part to inflation, which remains much higher in Europe than in North America. As a result, the Bank of England and European Central Bank (ECB) remain on more aggressive paths than their counterparts across the Atlantic. This will put more pressure on the European consumer and weigh on the U.K. and EU economies. In Canada and the U.S., conversely, the consumer is holding up fairly well, which is why an economic downturn—which remains likely—isn’t imminent. Europe also has somewhat different issues than North America, with the Russia-Ukraine war and a disappointing reopening in China (on which Europe is reliant) creating a drag on the economy.

Bottom Line: The U.S. and EU economies appear to be weakening again, so investor caution is certainly warranted.

Canadian Dollar (CAD)

What’s the status of the CAD? It’s a pertinent question given the global economic situation and recent interest rate decisions. At present, we’re neutral on the CAD, and we’d need to see more weakness out of the U.S. before turning our view positive. We do, however, still see a gap between where the CAD is and where it should be given current oil pricesEnergy has an outsize influence on the Canadian economy, which perhaps accounts for the momentum we’ve seen from the CAD over the past couple of weeks. Looking ahead, we anticipate the US dollar (USD) continuing to slightly weaken while the CAD appreciates. But we’re also still expecting an economic slowdown, which means it’s difficult to predict the extent to which the USD will lose steam; particularly because greenback becomes a safe haven asset in volatile times.. Strange things happen on the cusp of a recession, and that uncertainty is why we remain neutral on the CAD. On the question of whether holders of U.S. stocks should be hedged or unhedged—we remain unhedged in our portfolios, because if markets do decline, we’ll have the protection provided by the USD, which investors often flock to as a safe haven asset.

Bottom Line: Significant appreciation or depreciation of the CAD is unlikely in the short term, and while minor movement is possible, it’s difficult to predict given economic uncertainty.

Crypto

In the wake of U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, during which he opined that cryptocurrencies have “staying power,” the price of Bitcoin surged. Does this mean that investors should consider crypto as an equity hedge and a possible alternative to gold? In a word: no. At this stage, we don’t classify cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a hedge to anything, because they’re still in their relative infancy and don’t have enough of a track record to demonstrate how they behave under different economic and market conditions. There’s no doubt that we’re seeing renewed momentum for Bitcoin, with its price crossing $30,000 USD. That’s impressive given developments over the past year across the crypto space and the fact that inflation is impacting the consumer; we concur with Powell that crypto is likely here to stay. We ultimately view it as an alternative asset class with a return profile that isn’t necessarily linked to stocks or bonds. But we don’t think of it as a replacement for something like gold, because you still can’t use it as a reliable store of value. The price is too volatile. Compared to crypto, gold acts more like a reserve currency, avoiding the wild, speculative swings that you see with Bitcoin. We continue to hold some gold exposure for defensive purposes, and will wait to see which way it goes before deciding whether to add more.

Bottom Line:Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin may have a role in portfolios as an alternative asset class, but they’re not a replacement for gold.

Positioning

A detailed breakdown of our portfolio positioning is available in the latest BMO GAM House View Report, titled Know When to Hold ’Em.

Disclosures:

The viewpoints expressed by the Portfolio Manager represents their assessment of the markets at the time of publication. Those views are subject to change without notice at any time without any kind of notice. The information provided herein does not constitute a solicitation of an offer to buy, or an offer to sell securities nor should the information be relied upon as investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This communication is intended for informational purposes only.


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