While various ideas are floated and journalists report on the state of negotiations, the market consensus seems to be settling on the idea that Congress and the White House will do enough to avoid the automatic tax hikes and sequestration that will follow if they fail to agree. The bounce in the S&P500 (SPY) over the past couple of weeks presumably reflects this conclusion. As well it should, for both sides will struggle to show any political gain out of imposing enough fiscal drag to cause a recession early next year. The negotiations will probably not be easy and key concessions ought to be expected at the end rather than the beginning. But an agreement of some sort is probably what we’ll get – some tax hikes on the wealthy, a few spending cuts and a solemn promise to do more next year.
This got me thinking about alternative scenarios. Most obviously, there could be no agreement. The talks could break up in acrimony as one or both sides conclude that shared responsibility for a recession is preferable to making big concessions on core parts of their platform. For Republicans this is Taxes, and for Democrats it’s Entitlements. It’s not made easier by opinion polls that show quite clearly what people want – fiscal discipline without cuts in Entitlements or broad tax increases. The fiscal discipline that would therefore be imposed automatically through a failure to agree could cause a GDP contraction of 3% or more and is unlikely to be greeted warmly by stocks.
Another possibility is negotiators go farther than expected. Somehow they reach a grand compromise, embracing part of Simpson-Bowles and reining in entitlements while simultaneously raising taxes. It’s of course not likely, but if it did happen this “good news” would likely cause greater fiscal drag than a more modest negotiated agreement. Indeed, it’s hard to see how you can reduce the ongoing fiscal stimulus that profligacy creates without some fiscal drag as a result. But in this case interest rates, which in the past have softened the blow of such events by falling, wouldn’t be much help. Bond yields scarcely reflect any concern about the long term budget outlook – or if they do such concern has been effectively silenced by the Fed’s QE (1,2,3 etc). So the economy would endure the pain of newfound fiscal discipline without the salve of lower bond yields. This is also unlikely to be a good outcome for the market, in spite of the hand-wringing over business as usual.
So the more a modest negotiated settlement is expected by market participants, the less attractive the alternative outcomes appear.
We are holding around 10% cash in our Deep Value Equity Strategy, and currently think we have less than 90% of the short term volatility of the market since many of the names we own are fairly stable businesses. Many companies are issuing cautious guidance and so the bottom-up view has started to reflect some of the macro concerns many investors have felt for a long time. Among the names we do own Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) is one of our bigger holdings. It’s trading close to 10% above book value, the upper boundary at which the company has indicated it will buy back shares. We recently added to McDonalds (MCD) on weakness since high single digits EPS growth and a P/E of 16 are a reasonable level at which to invest.
We’ve also added to Master Limited Partnership which had sold off along with other income generating sectors such as high dividend stocks and utilities. MLPs after tax returns may be even more attractive compared with traditional income generating sectors of the equity market depending on what Congress does to taxes on investment income.
The information provided is for informational purposes only and investors should determine for themselves whether a particular service, security or product is suitable for their investment needs. The information contained herein is not complete, may not be current, is subject to change, and is subject to, and qualified in its entirety by, the more complete disclosures, risk factors and other terms that are contained in the disclosure, prospectus, and offering. Certain information herein has been obtained from third party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed. No representation is made with respect to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of this information. Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information regarding tax consequences of investments. Investments in securities entail risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation nor an offer to sell (or solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.
References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and do not reflect the deduction of the advisor’s fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase. Indexes and benchmarks may not directly correlate or only partially relate to portfolios managed by SL Advisors as they have different underlying investments and may use different strategies or have different objectives than portfolios managed by SL Advisors (e.g. The Alerian index is a group MLP securities in the oil and gas industries. Portfolios may not include the same investments that are included in the Alerian Index. The S & P Index does not directly relate to investment strategies managed by SL Advisers.)
This site may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involves a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of SL Advisors LLC or any of its affiliates or principals nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made. r
Certain hyperlinks or referenced websites on the Site, if any, are for your convenience and forward you to third parties’ websites, which generally are recognized by their top level domain name. Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services does not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by or affiliation with SL Advisors LLC with respect to any linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by SL Advisors LLC. Any such information, products or sites have not necessarily been reviewed by SL Advisors LLC and are provided or maintained by third parties over whom SL Advisors LLC exercise no control. SL Advisors LLC expressly disclaim any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites.
All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client’s investment portfolio.
Past performance of the American Energy Independence Index is not indicative of future returns.