No data was found
CA-EN Investors
THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Is U.S. Credit in Crisis?

August 8 to 11, 2023

THIS WEEK WITH SADIQ

Is U.S. Credit in Crisis?

August 8 to 11, 2023

Weekly Commentary

Market Recap

  • Equity markets slumped this week alongside a sharp selloff in the bond market through Thursday, and some mixed economic data.
  • The S&P 500 was down 2.3%, with weakness in rate-sensitives and technology, while all other sectors but energy were in the red.
  • Meantime, the TSX was down 1.4%, with all but energy also posting declines.

U.S. Credit Rating

Last week, Fitch lowered the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+, a move that was reminiscent of a similar downgrade by Standard & Poor’s in 2011 but nonetheless took many observers by surprise. In our view, and despite protests from U.S. treasury secretary Janet Yellen and others, the downgrade is justified—in fact, given the political uncertainty and debt ceiling brinksmanship we’ve seen in recent years, the U.S. credit rating probably should have been downgraded even earlier. The market responded appropriately, selling off somewhat in the wake of the news. In the longer term, however, we share Warren Buffett’s view on the matter: this is unlikely to be a game-changer for the U.S. economy. Yes, the cost of capital goes up when the credit rating is downgraded. But that’s not likely to change the way the U.S. does business, or the way people do business with the U.S. It is still widely considered to be a safe haven economy, and contrary to hopes of de-dollarization from some quarters, the USD actually strengthened in the wake of the news. In our view, the downgrade is more of a statement than anything meaningful from an economic perspective.

Bottom Line: Fitch’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating is justified, but it is unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the U.S. economy.

Japan

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for Japan. On July 28, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) opted to maintain its ultra-low interest rates, but also announced that it would be loosening its yield curve control policy. Many observers took this to be a first step toward a tighter monetary policy, which would bring the BoJ more in line with other central banks around the world. Japan is a fascinating case study because it doesn’t have the same problems that we’ve seen in Canada, the United States, or other international markets. The BoJ has to do what makes sense for its economy, not what would make sense elsewhere. That has led to a monetary policy that is distinctly different from the world’s other major developed markets. One key factor is that the BoJ is still trying to stimulate the Japanese economy, which started in the 2010s under “Abenomics”—the economic program of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which emphasized the “three arrows” of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and government reforms. A declining population and a focus on companies’ underlying fundamentals are also major considerations. Looking ahead, we expect the BoJ to continue to push growth while trying to ensure that the inflation concerns that have affected other economies won’t impact Japan.

Bottom Line: The BoJ appears to be taking the right steps, but it will be a year or more before we know how their policies will shape the future of the Japanese economy.

Energy

For much of the year, Energy prices have generally been in decline. But in recent weeks, oil prices have rebounded, prompting questions about whether a bottom of the market has been reached or if there’s more room for prices to fall. Oil prices tend to experience extreme fluctuations—last year, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, they spiked to around $120 per barrel, but then came all the way back down to the lows of late 2022 an early this year, which was a bit of an overcorrection in our view. Now, we’re at something of a happy medium; $80-$90 per barrel is a fair number given China’s not-overwhelmingly-successful reopening, OPEC’s unwillingness to increase supply, and indications than any recession will most likely be a mild one. We believe there is still value in many Energy companies. But given the recent run-up in oil prices, we’d likely wait for another pullback before becoming buyers.

Bottom Line: For now, we’re largely neutral on Energy, and think that oil is fairly valued.

Positioning

We remain not especially worried about the state of the economy. A mild recession sometime in the next 12 months remains the most likely scenario, but that’s a rolling 12-month estimate—if the data continues to be decent over the next three months, for instance, that could push the recession out even further. The bulls and the bears continue to fight it out, but recently, we’ve seen some of the bears move into the bull category, or at least shift to a neutral stance. When the outlook is bearish, it’s relatively easy for markets to be surprised on the upside. But when more people move to the bulls’ camp, it’s harder for positive surprises to happen. That’s a dynamic we’ll be monitoring in the weeks and months ahead. Overall, we expect an environment that will favour playing it close to the vest—if portfolio protection is cheap, it’s worth acquiring, but with a recession not imminent, there’s no reason to be excessively defensive.

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.


BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name under which BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc. operate.


Any statement that necessarily depends on future events may be a forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Although such statements are based on assumptions that are believed to be reasonable, there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations. Investors are cautioned not to rely unduly on any forward-looking statements. In connection with any forward-looking statements, investors should carefully consider the areas of risk described in the most recent simplified prospectus.


This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.


Commissions, management fees and expenses (if applicable) all may be associated with investments in mutual funds. Trailing commissions may be associated with investments in certain series of securities of mutual funds. Please read the fund facts, ETF facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.


For a summary of the risks of an investment in the BMO Mutual Funds, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus. ETF Series of the BMO Mutual Funds trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.


BMO Mutual Funds are managed by BMO Investments Inc., which is an investment fund manager and a separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.


®/™Registered trademarks/trademark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

Insights

Responsible Investment
February 28, 2024
March 2024

A “Just” AI Transformation

What do the AI transformation and energy transition have in common? Leaving no one behind in the AI transformation.
Sadiq Adatia
Sadiq Adatia
Weekly Commentary
February 26, 2024
March 2024

How Nvidia Became the New Apple

As Nvidia’s stock soars, is it time to take profits or are there further gains to be found? What does the inflation gap between the U.S. and Canada mean for interest rates?
Monthly House View
February 22, 2024

The American Exception: How U.S. Markets Beat the Bears…Again

It was mixed news for markets, but it did provide the one thing we’ve been seeking for months: greater clarity
Steven Shepherd profile photo
Commentary
February 22, 2023

BMO ETF Portfolios’ February Commentary: Rate Cuts See Their Shadow

January’s slow start turned quickly into a continuation of the fourth quarter’s “everything rally” in the U.S., as earnings season delivered above average upside earnings surprises.
Commentary
February 22, 2024
March 2024

Commercial Real Estate Winter 2024 Market Update: Bricks, Clicks and the Pace of Change

Traditionally slow, commercial real estate now adapts faster to changing behaviors.
Weekly Commentary
February 20, 2024
March 2024

What’s Happening with Bonds?

What do higher-than-expected inflation numbers and slipping bond prices mean for the fixed income outlook? Will the A.I. rally continue, or will the optimism run its course?