By Nicholas Sargen
As investors assess what is in store for 2022, they should not lose sight of what has transpired over the past two years. What stands out is that the COVID-19 pandemic is different than any prior global shock in the last 50 years. When it struck in early 2020, the economy suffered its steepest decline on record as businesses and schools were shuttered. But it also rebounded quickly as businesses reopened, and it has since recouped all the output declines and most job losses. The economy has also experienced the steepest rise in inflation in three decades.
The quick recovery is testimony to the unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy response that occurred, as well as to the resilience of U.S. businesses and the workforce that has been facilitated by the digital economy.
The vigorous policy response in turn provided cover for investors to add risk to their portfolios. Stock market returns since late March 2020 have exceeded any comparable period in U.S. history with the major indices doubling in value. And there has been no meaningful correction over that period.
Looking ahead, the investment landscape will likely prove trickier for several reasons. First, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving more difficult to eradicate than many had anticipated. Second, the Fed has signalled it will likely raise interest rates to curb inflation. Third, much of the good economic news has been priced into markets.
Of these, the hardest to forecast is the pandemic. One of the key lessons from the delta variant, however, is that it did not produce lasting damage to the economy because businesses and schools remained open. Accordingly, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers that the economic effect of the omicron variant would not be “remotely comparable” to what occurred at the onset of the pandemic. But it could influence monetary policy if the economy slowed.
The focus of investors currently is on the prospect of Fed tightening to curb inflation. After being in denial earlier, the Fed now recognizes the pickup in inflation this year is not transitory and could persist into 2022 and 2023.
At the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the Fed announced it would speed up its tapering of bond purchases to conclude in March 2022, and it increased the projections for the federal funds rate. The median forecast of FOMC members now calls for three rate hikes in both 2022 and 2023, with a terminal rate of 2 percent-2.25 percent by 2024.
The looming issue is whether this gradual glide path of rate increases will be sufficient to bring inflation back to the Fed’s average annual target of 2 percent.
I am sceptical for several reasons. First, the median projections of Fed members for the coming year call for real GDP growth of 4 percent and the unemployment rate to fall to 3.5 percent, which suggests the economy will be approaching its long-term potential.
Second, inflation expectations are becoming embedded in wages, which have risen steadily and are now approaching 4 percent.
Third, while supply-chain disruptions may ease as the coronavirus pandemic abates, the housing component of the Consumer Price Index is likely to stay elevated. Finally, fiscal, and monetary policies are still accommodative.
Financial markets have taken the news in stride thus far, as the Fed’s forecasts are in line with what investors were anticipating. Bondholders, nonetheless, should realize that even if inflation subsides to the Fed’s 2 percent target in the next few years, they in effect will be accepting negative yields in real terms throughout this period.
So, why would they do so?
My take is that investors’ expectations about inflation and interest rates have been shaped by the experience following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, when economic growth and inflation were subdued for a decade. This outcome is consistent with prior bouts of financial crises, as Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff spell out in their article “Recovery from Financial Crises.”
By comparison, the coronavirus pandemic is a completely different type of shock that did not inflict lasting damage on the economy and the financial system. While it has taken a heavy toll on people’s lives and well-being, it has also unleashed unforeseen changes in the way business is conducted and how people go about providing for their livelihood. Throughout the travail, what stands out is that many U.S. companies are highly adaptable and experienced increased productivity while others have seen their businesses disrupted.
As a result of the policy support during the pandemic and the resilience of the American economy, the U.S. stock market has posted outsized returns in the past two years that far exceed other developed markets. To a large extent, the gains this year reflected a strong rebound in corporate profits, with earnings for S&P 500 companies up by 40 percent. Going forward, however, investors should lower their return expectations as the economy and earnings normalize while interest rates rise.
How well the stock market performs will hinge to a large extent on how inflation fares. If it recedes as the Fed expects and interest rate increases are gradual, valuations are likely to remain high. But should inflation prove to be persistent, and the Fed is compelled to accelerate the pace of rate hikes, the stock market would become vulnerable, and the bull-run could end. For this reason, I believe caution is warranted.
Nicholas Sargen, Ph.D., is an economic consultant and is affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the author of “Global Shocks: An Investment Guide to Turbulent Markets.”
Wealth Managers and the Future of Trust: Insights from CFA Institute’s 2022 Investor Trust Study
Author: Rhodri Preece, CFA, Senior Head of Research, CFA Institute
Corporate responsibility is more important than ever. Today, many investors expect more than just profit from their financial decisions; they want easy access to financial products and to be able to express personal values through their investments. Crucial to meeting these new investor expectations is trust in the financial services providers that enable investors to build wealth and realise personal goals. Trust is the bedrock of client relationships and investor confidence.
The 2022 CFA Institute Investor Trust Study – the fifth in a biennial series – found that trust levels in financial services among retail and institutional investors have reached an all-time high. Reflecting the views of 3,588 retail investors and 976 institutional investors across 15 markets globally, the report is a barometer of sentiment and an encouraging indicator of the trust gains in financial services.
Wealth managers may want to know how this trust can be cultivated, and how they can enhance it within their own organisations. I outline three key trends that will shape the future of client trust.
THE RISE OF ESG
ESG metrics have risen to prominence in recent years, as investors increasingly look at environmental, social and governance factors when assessing risks and opportunities. These metrics have an impact on investor confidence and their propensity to invest; we find that among retail investors, 31% expect ESG investing to result in higher risk-adjusted returns, while 44% are primarily motivated to invest in ESG strategies because they want to express personal values or invest in companies that have a positive impact on society or the environment.
The Trust Study shows us that ESG is stimulating confidence more broadly. Of those surveyed, 78% of institutional investors said the growth of ESG strategies had improved their trust in financial services. 100% of this group expressed an interest in ESG investing strategies, as did 77% of retail investors.
There are also different priorities within ESG strategies, and our study found a clear divide between which issues were top of mind for retail investors compared to institutional investors. Retail investors were more focused on investments that tackled climate change and clean energy use, while institutional investors placed a greater focus on data protection and privacy, and sustainable supply chain management.
What is clear is that the rise of ESG investing is building trust and creating opportunities for new products.
TECHNOLOGY MULTIPLIES TRUST
Technology has the power to democratise finance. In financial services, technological developments have lowered costs and increased access to markets, thereby levelling the playing field. Allowing easy monitoring of investments, digital platforms and apps are empowering more people than ever to engage in investing. For wealth managers, these digital advancements mean an opportunity for improved connection and communication with investors, a strategy that also enhances trust.
The study shows us that the benefits of technology are being felt, with 50% of retail investors and 87% of institutional investors expressing that increased use of technology increases trust in their financial advisers and asset managers, respectively. Technology is also leading to enhanced transparency, with the majority of retail and institutional investors believing that their adviser or investment firms are very transparent.
It’s worth acknowledging here that a taste for technology-based investing varies across age groups. More than 70% of millennials expressed a preference for technology tools to help navigate their investment strategy over a human advisor. Of the over-65s surveyed, however, just 30% expressed the same choice.
THE PULL OF PERSONALISATION
How does an investor’s personal connection to their investments manifest? There are two primary ways. The first is to have an adviser who understands you personally, the second is to have investments that achieve your personal objectives and resonate with what you value.
Among retail investors surveyed for the study, 78% expressed a desire for personalised products or services to help them meet their investing needs. Of these, 68% said they’d pay higher fees for this service.
So, what does personalisation actually look like? The study identifies the top three products of interest among retail investors. They are: direct indexing (investment indexes that are tailored to specific needs); impact funds (those that allow investors to pursue strategies designed to achieve specific real-world outcomes); and personalised research (customised for each investor).
When it comes to this last product, it’s worth noting that choosing advisors with shared values is also becoming more significant. Three-quarters of respondents to the survey said having an adviser that shares one’s values is at least somewhat important to them. Another way a personal connection with clients can be established is through a strong brand, and the proportion of retail investors favouring a brand they can trust over individuals they can count on continues to grow; it reached 55% in the 2022 survey, up from 51% in 2020 and 33% in 2016.
TRUST IN THE FUTURE
As the pressure on corporations to demonstrate their trustworthiness increases, investors will also look to financial services to bolster trust. Wealth managers that embrace ESG issues and preferences, enhanced technology tools, and personalisation, can demonstrate their value and build durable client relationships over market cycles.
How to Build Your Credit Up Safely
by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit
What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.
How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.
1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.
2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.
3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.
4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.
Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.
2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.
3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.
4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.
5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.
What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.
2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.
3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.
4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.
5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.
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