The dovish US Federal Reserve (Fed) has spread its wings, but it’s not looking for flight.The year 2014 was when the Fed stopped providing stimulus as it wound up its Quantitative Easing (QE) program, and 2015 will be the year when the Fed raises interest rates. I continue to expect a September lift off in rates. Dropping the word “patient” from its policy statement is bearish only in action and not in intent. US GDP is looking weak in Q1, retail sales are floundering and core inflation was up only marginally in January. Low oil prices and a strong US Dollar are both deflationary and core inflation is anticipated to fall further in the coming months. China is facing a stiff challenge to its growth. Chinese exports collapsed in the wake of the global financial crisis seven years ago and since then economic momentum has continued to slip. It reminds me of what a Chinese policymaker told me recently – when China faces its biggest challenges to growth, you will see some of the biggest and most improbable reforms. Reform of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) will be a major theme of Chinese policy this year. The case for Eurozone equities remains strong and this is also evidenced by the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index for Eurozone (CESIEUR) which has bounced from a – 50 reading in September 2014, to +40 today, and it outperforms the US index. Accelerated USD appreciation will hurt US earnings; and I would position a portfolio overweight European equities and underweight US equities.
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