Henry James International Management January 2020 Market Commentary

Market Overview

 While the first month of the new decade generally saw negative equity performance, after the way in which markets overcame apparent obstacles throughout 2019, we are hopeful that this is nothing more than a temporary setback. In January the MSCI EAFE index fell by -2.08%, which, while a deviation from its stellar 2019 returns, could quickly resume growth if the market returns to its long term trend in 2020.  Meanwhile, the MSCI Emerging Marketing index plateaued for most of the month before falling sharply at its tail end, resulting in performance of -4.66%. Lastly, the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap index did not fare much better, as its value fell by -2.88% in January.

For all the drama of 2019, the fresh decade has arguable ‘kicked it up a notch’. While memories of an impending World War 3 are fading and were almost certainly exaggerated from the onset, one cannot deny that the United States’ assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, and subsequent Iranian missile relatiation, was a rather tense affair that could have easily erupted into a deadly war; moreover, this skirmish added imense uncertaintry and risk to markets. If this wasn’t enough, we are now in the midst of a global health emergency courtesy of the coronavirus which poses a serious threat to large numbers of people and is playing a large part in disrupting the Chinese economy.

The final instalment in the trinity of geopolitical market perils was the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. While the verdict in the Republican held Senate was never really in doubt, given the stakes of the trial, markets were under plenty of stress –  both actual and potential. While Trump polarizes opinion, what is clear is that markets would not have viewed removing the 45th President from office favorably. Of course, Trump was acquitted of all charges, which draws a line under this issue; moreover, it is widely believed that the President’s impeachment has damaged Democratic hopes in the upcoming US General Election and has put Trump in pole position for a November victory, a result that would likely be market-friendly in the short term. However, if a second Trump term results in even higher levels of fiscal spending with the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at, or near, negative levels in real terms, not only would this be at odds with the fiscally conservative modus operandi for which Republicans are famous, but it would also dash our medium term optimism.

Boris Johnson’s January announcement of a new law that would prohibit the sale of gasoline and diesel motor vehicles from 2035 underscores our confidence that we are rapidly moving towards de-carbonization. There are a range of opportunites that will present themselves to markets and investors; of course, there are also risks. We believe that the electric vehicle (EV) market is one that will be of interest to investors as electric car deployment has sky-rocketed during that past decade. There were 5 million electric cars in 2018, which represented a 63% increase from 2017. We believe that 2019 will have seen an even more dramatic rise due to increasing consumer and governmental pressure on the automobile sector to play its significant part in helping to achieve carbon neutrality. Meanwhile, gasoline and diesel cars are starting to become more expensive as governments begin to impose punative taxes to make them less attractive to consumers; at the same time electric cars are seeing their prices reduced through a combination of government subsidies and tax breaks. In 2018 45% of eletric cars, or 2.3 million, were on the road in China, while Europe boasted 24% of the global fleet, with 22% in the US. Norway is the global leader in terms of marketshare. While electric cars and other EVs represent improvements in terms of green house gas emissions versus their fossil fuel counterparts, the best results will only occur when electricity grids are also less carbon intensive or fully green and/or sustainable.

Investment Outlook

James O’Leary, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management, sees coronavirus as a major threat to the global economy. ‘We believe that the virus will take 1% off China’s GDP growth rate in 2020, which will see it fall below 6% for the first time in a long while. Furthermore, we see China’s first quarter GDP falling to 4%.’ He continued: ‘Since China is the world’s second largest economy, this will negatively impact global GDP growth.’ Indeed, though markets vividly remember the SARS outbreak of 2003, the economic stakes were far less significant as back in those days China’s economy was considerably smaller, ranking only 6th in the world and with a GDP that was well below $2tr. By contrast, in 2019 China’s GDP was over $14tr and represented over 16% of the global output, which presents a worrying picture for those fearful of coronavirus sparking a global meltdown. While coronavirus presents short term – and possibly medium term – issues for both China and all global economies, the result may be particularly harmful for China. Indeed, US businesses moving supply chains from China to other countries – like Vietnam, for instance – that began with the US-China trade war may well be accelerated due to the major interruptions that coronavirus has created for both product and component manufacturing. O’Leary said: ‘Once a supply-chain is moved outside of a particular country, it doesn’t automatically return once the initial problem is resolved.’

Despite the clear issues created by coronavirus, O’Leary says that China’s government and central bank have responded appropriately to thwart the economic rot by lowering interest rates, offering tax breaks and consumer subsidies and flushing their market with liquidity. And yet, even a totalitarian government can only control so much, as despite all of these measures including President Xi Jinping promising to help mitigate large-scale layoffs, it is likely that the small businesses; i.e. the lifeblood of the Chinese economy, will still be rocked by layoffs, bankruptcies and increased unemployment.

Coronavirus has complicated everyday life in Wuhan – the Chinese city in which the global health emergency began – severely impacting the local economy. Due to quarantine, businesses being shut for weeks beyond the expected Chinese New Year holiday season and citizens remaining indoors to avoid contracting the virus, China’s streets are empty and deprived of consumer spending. As a result the restaurant and retail sectors have been hard hit; moreover, they have entirely missed out on the Chinese New Year-induced spending spree (the local equivalent to our Christmas shopping season) which is a disastrous and often fatal blow for the many business who are utterly dependent on this annual sales spike. Moreover, on the recommendation of a range of national governments, foreigners are staying away from China, which has resulted in tourism spending drying up too. Indeed, many airlines including Delta and British Airways have suspended all flights to China until the coronavirus situation improves. ‘The Chinese economy is at the mercy of the coronavirus. Indeed, it is easy to see how the global economy may be in a similar situation in no time at all,’ says O’Leary.

According to O’Leary, while EVs currently make up a mere 2-3% of total global automobile production, it is a no-brainer to expect their marketshare to increase dramatically. He believes that companies that join Tesla to compete to become the standard-bearers of the industry will see increased growth which may lead to increased stock value. ‘The big beneficiaries will be chip companies that specialize in automotive applications and software producers that manage efficiency and safety,’ says O’Leary. Businesses that produce small efficient motors and specialized engine lubricants should also benefit by the emergence of EVs ramping up their global presence.

Henry James International Management has been an early advocate of ESG investing through our HJIM International ESG Large Cap strategy, whose track record extends back to September 2008. Our faith in ESG is not only because we see value in offering the chance for people to invest using their world view as a crucial overlay, but we also believe that it is important to ride both the cutting-edge and clear direction in which we see the market trending. As such, we believe in finding the industries and companies that will benefit from a move to a range of environmentally friendly solutions. But O’Leary offers a stark warning: ‘In order for the green revolution to be both environmentally impactful and economically beneficial we need to remember that EVs are not a solution unto themselves. For example, while EVs have become prevalent in China and even India, it is easy to forget that much of their electricity production is achieved through burning coal.’  Furthermore, O’Leary believes Trump must get on the same page as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently put into law a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel engines after 2035, as otherwise this may become the next example of something that sees China run circles around the ponderous and clumsy West as it clearly is doing with its 5G technology. O’Leary believes that there is great growth to be had in the EV sector, but it is a question of whether the future will see us driving US- or Chinese-made electric cars.

O’Leary says that the price of oil will likely be greatly affected by the emergence of EVs becoming mainstream and gas and diesel fuel consumption gradually decreasing. ‘The one thing we know,’ says O’Leary, ‘is that while oil demand may decrease, it will never go completely away as oil and oil products are required in all vehicles and machines. This will not go away even when EVs take over our roads and highways.’ O’Leary believes that achieving carbon neutrality is something that will require governments, businesses and consumers working together. He said, ‘As we have seen through the coronavirus outbreak, the State (this time China) doesn’t always know best. Indeed, while the State may not always know how best to achieve the global goal of helping stop global warming, it is a objective that is as important as anything we are currently faced with and failure is not an option.’

As we enter the second half of the First Quarter, both economic threats and opportunities abound. While coronavirus’ potential to even further threaten global health and markets remains palpable, we anticipate that its momentum will eventually be thwarted and that the affected economies will recover. Furthermore, regardless of one’s views relating to global warming, we can hopefully all agree that there is money to be made in innovation, even if it is the green-friendly, carbon-neutralizing variety. While our concerns about high government debt and lower interest rates persist, we agree with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the US and global economies remain strong; as such, we see 2020 continuing 2019’s success.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Henry James International Management December Market Commentary

Market Overview 

Whoever first articulated ‘no pain, no gain’ was probably talking about weightlifting or long distance running, but little did this word-smith know that this maxim would perfectly capture what investors experienced in 2019: soaring equity prices in spite of persistent economic threat, raging volatility and nagging market anxiety. 2019 was generally very good for investors; indeed, on December 31 the S&P 500 was up 724 points (28.88%) from where it was 12 months earlier. Such gaudy, portfolio pleasing figures, however, entirely fail to account for the true story of 2019: it was a year in which there was always at least one major (often multiple) geopolitical or economic issue seemingly poised to bring markets to their knees. For example, the MSCI EAFE index’s returns of 3.27% in December, 8.21% in the 4th Quarter and 22.66% in 2019 entirely obscure the pessimism with which 2019 began, not to mention the realities of the government shutdown and the feud between President Donald Trump and the Federal Reserve over monetary policy. Indeed, by looking at the MSCI Emerging Markets index’s return of 7.53% in December, 11.93% in the 4th Quarter and 18.9% in 2019, one cannot see the very real economic scars left by the US – China trade war, nor can one recall the way in which it constantly threatened to boil over. Looking at the returns of the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap index of 4.65% in December, 11.45% in the 4th Quarter and 25.94% in 2019, there is neither evidence of the uncertainty caused by Brexit and the disastrous prospect of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal, nor any indication of how Germany’s manufacturing recession further stifled Eurozone’s anemic growth. And yet, markets muscled through these very genuine headwinds and delivered impressive gains on the back of what clearly was a fundamentally strong US and global economy and Jerome Powell’s willingness to be flexible with the Fed’s monetary policy by lowering interest rates by 75 basis points. And yet, so persistent were 2019 economic threats that the slightest hint of positive news on a topic like the US – China trade war or Brexit generally resulted in a market bounce, something that highlights the discrepancy between the terms ‘markets’ and ‘economies’ and how positive returns for the former does not necessarily indicate robustness in the latter.

We believe in 2020 the US and global economies are likely to continue to boast the fortitude that saw them safely navigate the stormy waters of 2019, which we believe could set them up for another year on a steady upward trajectory. Despite cause for optimism it would be naïve to believe that the problems that dogged us last year have simply faded away. Indeed, a matter of hours into 2020 we saw as much when a US drone killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani (the Islamic Republic’s de facto number two), which prompted somewhat hysterical fears of an impending World War 3, not to mention the price of Brent Crude spiking above $70 a barrel. Some may argue the virtues of pursuing a particular foreign policy agenda, but one thing is clear: markets dread the instability and chaos caused by even the suggestion of war. While tensions have apparently deescalated, and the price of oil has returned to a more reasonable price, a US-Iran conflict could flair up at any moment, which would knock the wind of out of the current optimism for the new year. To make matters even more precarious, though the US and China are inching towards a détente, it is pretty much a given that this trade war will plague markets in 2020 just as it did in 2019. While markets can take comfort in the knowledge that the United Kingdom (UK) will Brexit in a smooth and orderly fashion on January 31, 2020, time is short to work out an actual trade deal with the EU, the deadline for which is the end of 2020, which puts the possibility of a  ‘No Deal’ Brexit back on the menu. Moreover, while Germany appears to be bouncing back, failure for the global manufacturing bellwether to recover and begin growing again will be an albatross for the EU and global economies.

Investment Outlook

According to James O’Leary, CFA, Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management, ‘We are looking at stable global GDP growth above 3%, with 2% in the US and a modest 1% in the EU.’ He is anticipating a slight increase in growth in the UK through a so-called ‘Brexit Bump’ and the resulting economic stability markets have been craving. O’Leary also sees an increase in Japan’s growth with greater exports, but believes that we will see China’s growth drop below 6% for the first time in a long time. ‘We are anticipating a return to long-term market trend returns for developed markets and possibly above market trend returns for emerging market economies,’ says O’Leary.

In O’Leary’s view, the x-factor for the US economy in 2020 will be the forthcoming elections. ‘If the Democrats win the White House, take control of the Senate and maintain the keys to the House of Representatives, we would expect a raise in both corporate and personal income taxes.’ This, he believes, would result in a reduction in corporate earnings, which would negatively impact markets. However, if Trump is re-elected, says O’Leary, the US economy should be in an excellent position to thrive. In the build up to said election, however, O’Leary does not expect to see any large movements in US interest rates in 2020. ‘We expect the current 1.75% rate will remain steady with the possibility of a 25bps cut.  This is because if the Fed Funds rate were cut by too much it would look partisan during a Presidential election.’ Moreover, significant interest rate reductions would cut even closer to zero percent, which would leave the US and global economies with minimal defence in a recession scenario.

O’Leary welcomes a thawing of the US-China trade war and believes this is a big step in the right direction; however, he does not believe that anything substantive is in the so-called Phase 1 of the deal. ‘It does not address intellectual property theft, corporate governance or a method for penalizing China for violations. Instead it appears to be a deal that freezes tariffs and compels China to buy a lot of US pork.’ The existing tariffs, says O’Leary, will continue as a ‘tax’ on US consumers that will hurt the lower end of the consuming public. It will also hurt China, he continued, and pull down its 2020 GDP to below 6% for the first time since 1990. Moreover, the trade war has inflicted serious damage on China’s economy and will continue to do so until it is fully resolved. But one country’s loss is a gain for others. ‘The trade war is moving US supply chains from China to other Asian countries and, notably, to Mexico, too,’ O’Leary said.

O’Leary is hopeful that Germany will begin to recover in 2020. ‘We are looking for Germany to stabilize and move to positive growth in its manufacturing sector, which on a relative basis is two times larger than that of the US and therefore really important for their economy.’ He continued: ‘With global growth intact Germany and the Eurozone should benefit; and with the exception of France, Italy and Spain, the Eurozone has a relatively low unemployment rate, increasing inflation of 1% to a more targeted rate and positive GDP growth. Moreover, with Brexit uncertainty as a thing of the past there are fewer unanswered questions and therefore more certainty, which should result in better markets.’

With Brexit virtually guaranteed to happen at the end of January, O’Leary is forecasting continued low UK unemployment, stable GDP growth (with an increase in 2021) and an easing in fiscal policy; he also expects PM Johnson to fulfil his planned stimulus promises. O’Leary said: ‘The great Brexit versus Remain battle is over as the UK will leave the EU. It is in both Europe’s and the UK’s best interest to make a bad situation work for both. If both parties act reasonably, Brexit should work for both and their respective economies should benefit as a result.’

O’Leary is delighted that the US and Iran have managed to deescalate tensions and though the price of oil skyrocketed it has come down again as fears over oil supply disruption have abated. The question remains, how sustainable is this relative calm and does Trump see conflict with Iran as something that will help or hurt his re-election campaign. O’Leary said, ‘If it hurts him, the episode will subside and if he thinks it will help, we may see renewed tension.’ O’Leary’s clear preference is peace and tranquillity so markets can continue to thrive.

While geopolitical risk and headwinds are ever-present for the year ahead, they are perhaps less threatening than they were in 2019. What is more, the US and global economies appear to be in a better place, too. This combines to create positive mood music for markets in 2020, and yet, much like how it was last year, the question will be the extent to which markets will be able to resume their resilience and trample over present and future threats desperate to derail them and diminish investor profits.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Henry James International Management June Market Commentary

Market Overview

There is a lot of turmoil facing global markets these days, but – despite a shaky May – two quarters into 2019 there is a lot to be positive about. So far this year, we have seen a great deal of drama involving the world’s two superpowers on the verge of a bare-knuckle trade war. Despite the many reasons to be pessimistic, Year-to-Date (YTD) markets have performed brilliantly: Developed Market (DM) equities are up a roaring 14.49% as measured by the MSCI EAFE index; Emerging Market (EM) equities stiffed armed 2018’s woes, up 10.76% and the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap is up an impressive 13.22%. For the Second Quarter these indices are in positive territory: the MSCI EAFE +3.97%, the MSCI Emerging Markets +0.74% and MSCI World ex USA Small Cap +1.97%. Both the YTD and Second Quarter figures have a stellar June to thank for such happy reading, as the month that just finished clawed back the devastation wreaked by May with the MSCI EAFE up 5.97%, the MSCI Emerging Markets +6.32% and MSCI World ex USA Small Cap +4.59%.

Just as 2019’s second fiscal quarter transitioned to its third, US President Donald Trump was behind the scenes at the G20 summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping banging out a shiny new trade truce. This was unveiled on July 1st and markets erupted in elation, but were brought back down to earth when everyone realized that ‘trade truce’ does not actually mean a sweeping resolution to the damaging trade dispute, nor does it end the costly tariffs both sides have enacted on the other’s goods. Moreover, Chinese tech giant Huawei remains a blacklisted company in the US and President Trump has not exactly signaled that he will back down from his desire to see his allies also eradicate Huawei technology from their borders. And yet, there were good will overtures galore, including Trump agreeing to ease restrictions on Huawei’s US technology purchases and to halt a fresh round of tariffs that would hit another $300bn of Chinese goods. President Xi responded with positive gestures of his own, promising to purchase an unspecified amount of US farm products and to resume trade talks immediately.

Henry James International Management June Market Commentary
Is trade between the US and Mexico stable?

It seems that Trump has frightened Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrado (AMLO) into submission through the threat of quickly escalating tariffs, the new free trade deal known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (which is agreed to but not yet ratified), notwithstanding. While early June was a worrying period for markets impacted by US-Mexico trade, normality resumed when Trump called off the 5% tariff on all Mexican goods on June 8th. As a result of this spectacle, trade along the southern US borders seems stable for both countries, but one wonders what the impact may be for such blatant disregard of this free trade agreement and if it may alter the way in which other nations (chiefly China) view the value of a trade deal with the US.

June saw the US and Iran on the brink of genuine military conflict when on Thursday June 20, 2019 President Trump called off an air strike on 3 Iranian targets. It is reported that the mission was aborted at the last moment as the President was advised that the strike would cause upwards of 150 casualties, which was deemed a disproportionate response to Iran shooting down a US drone. US-Iranian tensions had already been at boiling point even since an incident in the Gulf of Oman involving two oil tankers, which the US says were victims of an Iranian mine attack, which the Islamic Republic has vehemently denied. Far from being on the mend, since then US-Iranian relations have only worsened and Iran has taken dramatic steps to put pressure on the rest of the international community to re-embrace it: on Monday July 1st Iran declared that it breached the 300-kilogram limit for low-enriched uranium that was agreed in the Iran Nuclear Deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on July 3rd that Iran would also be increasing its enrichment capacity to above the pre-agreed limits, too, and would not comply with the agreement unless it received relief from US sanctions provided by the other signatories.

Despite President Trump increasing pressure on the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates, Chairman Jerome Powell was unperturbed and announced that he would keep rates unchanged, between 2.25% and 2.5%. Trump has been a critic of Powell on Twitter and has apparently been privately threatening to fire him for failing to lower interest rates. Trump denies this rumor and Powell says he fully intends to serve his full 4-year term as the Federal Reserve’s Chairman; moreover, the President sacking Powell would be an unprecedented action that almost certainly does not have a legal basis.

Henry James International Management June Market Commentary
The EU has already confirmed that it is Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal or no deal at all.

In Britain the final two candidates for Conservative Party Leader and Theresa May’s replacement as Prime Minister (PM) are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. While both candidates appear to be lusting after the highest office in Britain, the winner will inherent a government that simply does not have the Parliamentary math to resolve the most pressing topic: Brexit. Johnson – who is by far the favorite – says that, while a no deal Brexit is not ideal, he will push Britain out of the European Union (EU) on October 31st, 2019 no matter what. His rival Hunt – who campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum – said he would deliver Brexit but would be open to extending the deadline if a deal was nearly complete. The EU and its Parliament are essentially closed for the summer, which means that when business resumes it will be very difficult for whoever wins the leadership contest to have the required time to renegotiate a Brexit Deal; besides which, the EU has already confirmed that it was Mrs. May’s deal or no deal at all.

Investment Outlook

According to James O’Leary, our Chief Investment Officer and Senior Portfolio Manager at Henry James International Management, the trade sanctions of which President Trump has become so partial have become the greatest headwind to global markets, specifically the uncertainty it forces the US economy and its businesses and consumers to face. ‘When there is uncertainty, long-term investments are not made. This slows economic growth as investment into the future is not made and decisions are deferred,’ O’Leary says. Amongst other items, this has a significant effect on job creation and retention, which subsequently affects the consumer spending power that drives the economy. O’Leary points to two sectors that have been dealt unenviable blows by the tariff uncertainty: agriculture and technology. The former has been a victim of the US-China dispute as Beijing has dramatically reduced its purchases of soybeans and other items in response to US tariffs; the latter, namely Qualcomm and Intel, has seen it coerced to end selling computer parts to China by way of a Trump executive order.

While there is clearly much lasting damage that a prolonged trade dispute would do to the American economy, the positive news is that the sting will eventually subside as supply chains are moved away from China and to other EM economies like Vietnam, India and Myanmar. While China boasts the ability to manipulate its monetary policy in a way envied by Trump, O’Leary believes that China is in a more precarious situation than the US as once American businesses move their supply chains away from China there will be minimal incentive to move them back, even after a trade deal has been realized. ‘The problem for China,’ says O’Leary, ‘is that there is a chance that these losses will be permanent.’ He continues: ‘There is a positive for other EM countries who inherit this manufacturing as it may help increase longer-term economic growth. It is also a positive for the US in that production will have been diversified away from China.’ Despite this, O’Leary believes that President Xi will simply wait out the end of the Trump presidency to see if he can get a better deal from a less bellicose Democratic president who may well assume the keys to the White House in 2021 – as China does not suffer from the inefficiencies of party politics Xi and his party arguably have time on their side.

Despite the market anxiety of the eight-day period during which Mexico faced escalating US tariffs, both countries appear to have emerged on the other side of what could have been a fraught trading relationship. Mexican President “AMLO”came into office on the back of some bold and ambitious economic promises to his electorate; despite this, the economy over which he presides has been doing very poorly. Mexican Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2019 from the previous three months, which was below estimates a panel of economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted. Mexico is in dire straights and the threat of tariffs offered a layer of instability that AMLO could have done without.  Consequently O’Leary believes that AMLO will do anything – within reason – to stay on Trump’s good side to avoid any future tariffs.

The industry most affected by the threat of tariffs was the automobile sector, says O’Leary, which experienced plenty of equity volatility in June. European, Japanese and even American car manufacturers have opened up factories ‘south of the border’ to take advantage of the reduced cost of doing business in Mexico. While Trump’s tariffs were almost completely political in nature and focused squarely on immigration concerns, O’Leary is fascinated by a certain hypothetical: he imagines a scenario in which tariffs were enforced, which may compel car companies to bring their factories from Mexico to within America’s borders. Such a situation, which would no doubt be brilliant for the US economy, would face Mexico with one issue with which AMLO is not currently dealing; i.e. high unemployment. Historically higher Mexican unemployment means heightened illegal migration through the US-Mexico border so one wonders which political goal is the more salient for Trump: US manufacturing and jobs or thwarting illegal immigration?

Henry James International Management June Market Commentary
In June the automobile industry was extremely affected by Trump’s threat of Mexico tariffs.

Despite the roaring headwinds caused by tariff-induced uncertainty, at Henry James International Management our unbiased and disciplined country allocation system allows us to ignore the noise and focus on the facts with which our data present us. Our research is currently bullish on France, Germany and Sweden, as well as Latin America and Asia. According to our Senior Portfolio Manager O’Leary, our quantitative stock selection process will continue to flow in this direction.

The saber-rattling between the US and Iran has caught our attention, but only in so far as it is increasing our exposure to energy stocks. ‘The combination of reduced OPEC production and restricted supply from Iran has caused the price of oil to increase,’ says O’Leary. As long as the conflict persists, the price of oil will stay up, he says. While Henry James International Management is happy to enjoy the gains from rising oil prices, we believe the downside is that expensive energy will negatively impact global economic growth and pressure on consumers and businesses.

Despite Senior Portfolio Manager O’Leary closely monitoring the Federal Reserve’s near complete about-face when it comes to their projected monetary policy, he says that Henry James International Management has not had to change its own strategy as a result; rather, our quantitative growth strategy and targeted data analysis guides us safely through ‘bumpy stock market terrain’. According to O’Leary, this remains the case even in recession: ‘We generally underperform at the initial market drop and recover after a few months as valuations normalize. The portfolio naturally moves to a more defensive posture over time in a bear market while keeping its growth bias,’ he says.

O’Leary predicts that Powell will keep interest rates flat for the rest of 2019 and probably for 2020, too. While Republicans and President Trump will be keen to see interest rates lowered to spark the economy into high gear ahead of the 2020 election, according to O’Leary to see the effects of compromising the independence of a country’s national bank one only has to look to Venezuela and Turkey. ‘There seems to be a power struggle between Trump and the Federal Reserve Board,’ says O’Leary. ‘The Federal Reserve is supposed to be set up to serve the long term interests of the USA, whereas Trump wants it to serve his interests.’ O’Leary says that in 2018 the Federal Reserve’s medium term goal was to increase interest rates steadily so that when the next recession comes, they would have some stimulus tools; i.e. lowering rates, to deal with it. However, with such unstable market conditions, mostly due to tariffs and other trade issues, Powell may have to live with the existing cushion of 2.50%. O’Leary adds: ‘If the economy remains strong there will be an upward interest rate bias to hold inflation down while maintaining orderly growth.’ However, if future rising rates cause Trump to get into a battle with Powell, the American people will become the big losers, says O’Leary. In the event that rates are maintained at 2.50% – or are even lowered – EM economies may benefit tremendously as low interest rates allow them to borrow in US dollars (USD) at a low borrowing rate. Of course, this comes with a significant risk: strong USD against a weak EM currency can cause major problems in repaying loans which can result in defaults and bankruptcies.

Henry James International Management June Market Commentary
In the short term, there are no positive Brexit outcomes for investors.

Regarding Brexit, O’Leary says that he sees no good solutions on the horizon. ‘Once uncertainty entered the British economy prior to Brexit our system made us reduce our exposure to the UK and it has remained underweight relative to EAFE,’ he said. The UK equities to which Henry James International Management has exposed its portfolios receive a greater portion of their revenue from outside the UK rather than being domestic orientated companies. According to O’Leary, in the short-term, the question is not whether or not Brexit is a wise move for the UK as much as it is the case that it has created raging market uncertainty with dire consequences. He said: ‘We believe the UK will underperform until there is certainty; once there is certainty, UK equities will lag until it is clear whether or not the resolution to the mess that is Brexit is determined to be good or bad for the UK economy.’ In short, we believe difficult days lie ahead for UK equities.

In summary, with half of 2019 in the books there are clearly plenty of headwinds to keep investors up at night; but such anxiety belies the many reasons for optimism, not least of which markets’ apparent ability to breeze past the geo-political turmoil that can subdue them. Moreover, we believe that our quantitative strategy for growth gives Henry James International Management the ability to perform well relative to the benchmark in all market conditions.

Disclosures

This material is prepared by Henry James International Management and is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The information and opinions contained in this material are obtained from proprietary and nonproprietary sources believed by Henry James International Management, to be reliable, are not necessarily comprehensive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. No warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions is accepted by Henry James International Management, its officers, employees or agents. This material is based on information as of the specified date and may be stale thereafter. We have no obligation to tell you when information herein may change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Certain information contained herein may constitute forward-looking statements. Estimates of future performance are based on assumptions that may not be realized.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results and should not be the sole factor of consideration when selecting a product or strategy.

Any indices chosen by Henry James International Management to measure performance are representative of broad asset classes. Henry James International Management retains the right to change representative indices at any time.

Henry James International Management and its’ representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. Each client should always consult his/her personal tax and/or legal advisor for information concerning his/her individual situation.

Oil Prices – Who Wins and Who Loses?

Due to Trump’s recently announced Iran trade sanctions and OPEC led geopolitical shifts, oil prices have soared to a three and a half year high since March 2018. Saudi Arabia are set to benefit greatly from this if they look to use the opportunity to diversify their economy, but consumers will be left footing the bill all around the world as companies pass on their new oil expenses.

Donald Trump is reinstating sanctions on Iran, one of the world’s major oil suppliers, claiming the deal was a “horrible agreement” and “an embarrassment” during his speech on Tuesday, May 8th. In restricting trade with Iran, he inadvertently increases the price of oil by reducing supply to the market. This has happened at a point in which crude oil prices were already estimated to breach the $80 mark due to other geopolitical factors.

Aside from Trump’s involvement, OPEC has rallied its efforts to reduce exports, curtailing the quantity supply to the demand, therefore erasing a global surplus. Consequentially, we could soon see a global shortage of crude oils – theoretically increasing the value of crude oil for years to come. Other factors include a 0.6 million barrel per day reduction in supply from Venezuela due to domestic issues, aging wells naturally depleting all over the world, and exhausted supplies from China and Angola.

Saudi Arabia, who can use the money from oil to diversify its economy from this single commodity propping up its market, are set to benefit from this opportunity greatly. These circumstances fuel its long-term “2030 vision” which seeks to lessen domestic reliance on oil. Unsurprisingly, this OPEC member has led the way in curbing supplies by 0.7 million barrels a day since 2016.

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Although OPEC countries will thrive in this economy, airlines may experience some turbulence as they pass on surmounting costs to the consumer. They will inevitably have to dump the pain of expensive fuel unevenly to jetsetters meaning flights prices might increase above inflation. Airline analyst Savanthi Syth claims this will mainly affect leisure travel lines – whose consumers are highly price sensitive – and are more loyal to price than to brand. This is opposed to business travel airlines, who will not suffer much grief in passing the costs along.

Despite this, budget airlines could use these incidents to push their brand as being the cheapest – taking a short term hit to profit and hoping for long term loyalty after the oil hype dies down – if it ever does.