Value Investing and Monetary Policy

Jason Zweig’s “The Bull Market Isn’t As Big as You Think” in The Wall Street Journal  nicely illustrates how the stock market may not be as disconnected from economic reality as many suspect. However, the piece misses the monetary elephant in the room.

Since the introduction of Quantitative Easing (QE), value investing only outperformed growth strategies during four brief moments – as measured by S&P Value and Growth Indexes (see http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/oped/Value_Investing_063020.pdf). 

Not surprisingly, the relative outperformance of value versus growth strategies coincided with periods when the Fed curtailed its injections of monetary liquidity: 1) the end of QE1, 2) end of QE2, 3) end of QE3, and 3) the period of quantitative tapering.

Although the monetary policy response to the Coronavirus was needed, unintended distortions should be acknowledged and incorporated into future actions.

The implication for value investors is clear.  Monetary largess is wreaking havoc with the investment strategy.  For the public and officials, the propagation of valuation distortions starve a wide spectrum of deserving companies and industries access to capital.  This will surely minimize private sector driven growth going forward.

View the report
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/oped/Value_Investing_063020.pdf

New Chairman: CFS Names William R. Rhodes Chairman of the Advisory Board

PRESS RELEASE

THE CENTER FOR FINANCIAL STABILITY
NAMES WILLIAM R. RHODES CHAIRMAN OF ADVISORY BOARD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(New York, New York- June 29, 2020) 

The Center for Financial Stability (“CFS”), today, announced the appointment of William R. Rhodes as the first Chairman of the Organization’s distinguished Advisory Board.

CFS is an independent, nonpartisan think tank focused on financial markets – with business lines presently segmented into the future of finance, data and analytics, policy, and technology.

“CFS’ innovative and practical approach, programs, and research position the organization as one of the world’s leading think tanks and a vital resource for the New York and international financial communities,” William Rhodes said.

Rhodes is an excellent choice to hold the distinct title, as he has been an active CFS participant over many years, leading roundtable discussions and moderating panels of prominent leaders.  He also delivered a seminal “Bretton Woods 2014 – Founders of the Future” keynote dinner address at the Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire, which was exclusively available for the CFS conference, just as it was in 1944.  An invite-only, guest list which included world leaders from government, business, and academia in a working-group environment to focus on the future of finance and the international monetary system.

“We are thrilled that Bill is our first Chairman of the CFS Advisory Board.  His sustained leadership in finance and public policy is legendary – for his understanding of diverse interests across private institutions and nations as well as his ability to act.  At this time of global risks and crises, Bill’s insights and success will meaningfully magnify CFS’s work in risk management, crisis prevention, and policy,” said Lawrence Goodman, founder and President of the Center for Financial Stability.

William Rhodes is an American banker and philanthropist. He is former Chairman, CEO, and president of Citibank and senior vice chairman of Citigroup. He served in various senior executive positions at Citi from 1957 until his retirement from Citigroup on April 30, 2010. He gained worldwide reputation for international financial diplomacy in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000’s as a result of his leadership in helping manage the external-debt crises that involved developing nations and their creditors worldwide. During that period and in the 1990s, he headed the advisory committees of international banks that negotiated debt-restructuring agreements for Argentina, Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Nicaragua, and Iraq. In 1998, when the Republic of Korea experienced liquidity problems, he chaired the international bank group that negotiated the extension of short-term debt of the Korean banking system. In early 1999, at the request of the government of Brazil, he acted as worldwide coordinator to help implement the maintenance of trade and interbank lines by foreign commercial banks to Brazil. He has since served as a trusted advisor to governments, financial officials, and corporations worldwide.

He is the director of the Private Export Funding Corporation; chairman emeritus of the U.S.-Korea Business Council; vice-chairman of the National Committee on U.S. – China Relations; a director of the Korea Society;  a member of the Chairman’s advisory council and senior fellow of The Hudson Institute; a member of the Board at the Foreign Policy Association; and a former trustee of the Economic Club of New York.  He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The Group of Thirty, and the Advisory Council of the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Rhodes is a member of the Board of Directors of the Volcker Alliance, a member of the European-American Chamber of Commerce New York and a member of the Executive Committee, Bretton Woods Committee Board of Directors.  He is the first vice-chairman emeritus of the Institute of International Finance and Chairman emeritus of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. He previously served as Chairman of the New York Blood Center, the Bankers Association for Finance and Trade, and the U.S. Hong Kong Business Council.

William Rhodes is a life trustee of The New York-Presbyterian Hospital; a member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Business Committee and Chairman’s Council, and chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Northfield Mount Hermon School. He has received decorations and honors from various governments and institutions, including an honorary doctorate in humane letters from his alma mater Brown University, where he established the William R. Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance; a member of Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University; Officer and Chevalier of France’s Legion of Honor; decorations from Poland, Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Jamaica; and multiple awards from not-for-profit organizations such as the Africa-America Institute, Arab Bankers Association of North America, the America-Israel Friendship League and Sciences Po Foundation, Pro Mujer, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boy’s Scouts Award in recognition of his contributions to international banking and finance.

He authored the book BANKER TO THE WORLD:  Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines of Global Finance.  The book is available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, and a separate edition published by Tata in India and the Sub-continent. The book has two editions in English and Spanish.

The Center for Financial Stability was created before financial stability became widely recognized as an essential factor in central banking and policy.  CFS has successfully and consistently anticipated future financial market trends over the years with an ahead-of-their-time approach to the early identification of financial risks.  CFS has developed data and analysis to improve the study of financial markets.  CFS maintains a global reach with participants from over 187 of the 195 countries in the world.  CFS prides itself on integrity, long-term relationships, and independence. 

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Media Contact:

Brigitte Rudman
212.626.2660
brudman@the-cfs.org

CFS Monetary Measures for May 2020

Today we release CFS monetary and financial measures for May 2020. CFS Divisia M4, which is the broadest and most important measure of money, grew by 28.5% in May 2020 on a year-over-year basis versus 22.0% in April.

For Monetary and Financial Data Release Report:
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/amfm/Divisia_May20.pdf

For more information about the CFS Divisia indices and the data in Excel:
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/amfm_data.php

Bloomberg terminal users can access our monetary and financial statistics by any of the four options:

1) ALLX DIVM
2) ECST T DIVMM4IY
3) ECST –> ‘Monetary Sector’ –> ‘Money Supply’ –> Change Source in top right to ‘Center for Financial Stability’
4) ECST S US MONEY SUPPLY –> From source list on left, select ‘Center for Financial Stability’

New ETF Resource for Investors, Officials, and the Public

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are at the forefront of the shift from active to passive investment management styles.  Hence, ETFs now represent a large swath of the financial asset landscape. To be sure, ETFs provide outstanding vehicles to express views across a wide range of asset classes. Yet, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York created a special Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) to purchase ETFs and some fear underlying systemic risks.

CFS recently conducted a survey of highly knowledgeable participants in academia, investment management and banking.  The results were clear.  More knowledge of ETFs and their impact on the financial system is vital.

The Center for Financial Stability ETF library represents a first step to support and publicize the most thoughtful research and ideas regarding the market structure, risks, and policy.  The Library is divided into two sections 1) Analysis of Risks and Markets and 2) Policy and Regulation.

Access the ETF Library through the main menu on our homepage or www.centerforfinancialstability.org/ETFs.php

We invite you to submit original pieces or material to be considered for posting to Brigitte Rudman at brudman@the-cfs.org

Record Surge in CFS Money Growth

CFS Divisia money growth soared across the board – hitting a historic high not witnessed in the 53-year period analyzed by our Advances in Monetary and Financial Measurement (AMFM) team. CFS Divisia M4, which is the broadest and most important measure of money, grew by a record 22.0% in April 2020 on a year-over-year basis versus an unrevised 10.0% in March 2020.

Today’s release represents the first time that all of our monetary aggregates reached new records.

In the last month, since our highlighting a future of nuanced changes surrounding the inflation versus deflation debate, a surge of articles and pieces have appeared.

Disinflation will likely dominate in the near term with jobless claims hitting highs and oil prices remaining relatively low for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, the passthrough from monetary policy into inflation is meaningfully more complex than often thought. My remarks at the Society of Economic Measurement conference in Thessaloniki shed some light on the interplay between CFS Divisia Money and inflation over time – http://centerforfinancialstability.org/research/why_cfs_divisia_071316.pdf

Our data suggest that recent monetary measures will prove far from costless. Higher inflation is likely in coming months.

For Monetary and Financial Data Release Report:
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/amfm/Divisia_Apr20.pdf

Bloomberg terminal users can access our monetary and financial statistics by any of the four options:

1) ALLX DIVM
2) ECST T DIVMM4IY
3) ECST –> ‘Monetary Sector’ –> ‘Money Supply’ –> Change Source in top right to ‘Center for Financial Stability’
4) ECST S US MONEY SUPPLY –> From source list on left, select ‘Center for Financial Stability’

Financial Timeline: 13 years of Official and Market Action

The CFS Financial Timeline, created and managed by senior fellow Yubo Wang, is likely the longest continuous financial timeline freely available. It covers over 1,300 international events from early 2007 to the present. The timeline curates essential inputs from established public sources to seamlessly link financial markets, financial institutions, and public policies.

The CFS Financial Timeline has become an integral part of the work done by scholars, students, government officials, and market analysts, who seek to:

  • Uncover relationships among market reactions, institutional activities, and public policies
  • Accurately analyze developments, in one place, as they happen,
  • Put current events in a historical context, and gain insights on future developments.

View the Timeline at:
http://centerforfinancialstability.org/timeline.php

FT Letter: The faultlines of the crisis are complex and varied

Today my letter in the FT responds to Martin Wolf’s “Coronavirus crisis lays bare the risks of financial leverage, again.”  Martin clearly highlights segments in capital markets creating fragilities before the recent shock.

The role of central bank policy distorting incentives in 2019 was absent.  Skewed investing incentives began on December 18, 2018 – when the FOMC statement misread the global economy and markets and balance sheet expansion resumed.

“The faultlines of the crisis are complex and varied”
https://www.ft.com/content/48e41d0c-8bb4-11ea-a01c-a28a3e3fbd33

For more on Fed policy and markets after December 18, 2018 – see pages 5-6 of my Boston Economic Club remarks
http://centerforfinancialstability.org/speeches/BEC_Now_What_031820.pdf

SEC Identifies Investment Risks Concerning Emerging Markets

The SEC identified risks to be considered by market participants recommending or making investments in emerging markets.

In a joint SEC statement, Chair Jay Clayton, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) Chair William D. Duhnke III, Chief Accountant Sagar Teotia, Division of Corporation Finance Director William Hinman and Division of Investment Management Director Dalia Blass highlighted the limitations on the SEC’s ability to enforce high-quality disclosure standards in emerging markets.

According to the SEC, such emerging markets, including China, often present disclosures that are in “substantially” the same form as those of U.S. domestic companies. However, the SEC warned that the disclosure information may often be “incomplete or misleading.” The SEC identified the below risks and related considerations as to emerging markets.

– Associated Risks and Disclosures. The SEC stated that companies operating in emerging markets experience greater risks, and therefore encouraged (i) issuers to disclose such matters to investors and (ii) funds investing in emerging markets to ensure that their material risk disclosures are in compliance with federal securities laws. The SEC emphasized that boilerplate disclosures are often insufficient in such circumstances.
– Variation in Quality of Financial Information, Requirements and Standards. The SEC recommended that (i) investors and financial professionals examine the nature and quality of financial information (e.g., financial reporting and audit requirements) when considering certain investments to make or recommend and (ii) issuers discuss related financial reporting matters with independent auditors or audit committees, if necessary.
– The Continual Inability of the PCAOB to Assess Audit Work Papers in China. The SEC urged investors to consider the PCAOB’s inability to inspect PCAOB-registered accounting firms in China.
– Limitations of U.S. Authorities to Bring Action. The SEC advised issuers to make clear the “substantial” difficulties experienced by U.S. authorities, including the SEC, in bringing enforcement actions against non-U.S. companies or non-U.S. persons.
– Shareholders’ Limitation of Rights. The SEC stated that shareholder claims, such as class action securities law and fraud claims, are generally “difficult or impossible” to pursue legally or logistically in many emerging markets. As a result, the SEC noted that issuers should explicitly state such risks to shareholders.
– Passive Investing Strategies. The SEC cautioned investors that index funds typically do not weight securities based on (i) investor protection limitations or (ii) variations in the quality of financial reporting and oversight mechanisms available.
– Considerations Overall. The SEC advised investment advisers, broker-dealers and market participants in general to consider the limitations and risks associated with emerging markets when recommending investments in such markets.

The SEC noted that these considerations, while not an exhaustive list, are often significant, and vary based on jurisdiction.

LOFCHIE COMMENTARY

Though the statement concerns emerging markets generally, a quick search turns up 29 references to China and none to Brazil, Russia, or India. Chinese issuers seeking to offer securities in the United States may expect to face closer scrutiny of their offering documents. Firms participating in such offerings must anticipate the risks of review of their diligence should an offering go badly. Likewise, funds that invest offshore should review their disclosures. Advisers and broker-dealers that recommend investments in Chinese issuers should take account of suitability considerations in light of the SEC’s statement.

CFS Money Growth Soars to double digits

CFS Divisia money growth soared across the board with broad money expanding at a double-digit pace in March (10.0%) – for the swiftest gain since October 2008 (10.6%). CFS Divisia M4, which is the broadest and most important measure of money, grew by 10.0% in March 2020 on a year-over-year basis versus 7.2% in February.

Large infusions of Federal Reserve liquidity led to the largest gain in narrow money since the start of our data begins in 1967. Here, CFS Divisia M1 advanced by 15.1% in March from the year earlier, relative to a scant increase of 1.0% in March 2019 over the preceding year. The second largest increase in the history of CFS Divisa M1 occurred in August 2011 in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis during the height of QE.

An odd mix exists between gigantic infusions of Federal Reserve liquidity and agents in the economy flocking to safety.

Lastly, the inflation versus deflation debate will become more nuanced as time elapses. To be sure, disinflation will dominate in the near term with jobless claims hitting highs and oil prices likely to remain low for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, the passthrough from monetary policy into inflation is meaningfully more complex than often thought. My remarks at the Society of Economic Measurement conference in Thessaloniki shed some light on the interplay between CFS Divisia Money and inflation over time – http://centerforfinancialstability.org/research/why_cfs_divisia_071316.pdf

For Monetary and Financial Data Release Report:
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/amfm/Divisia_Mar20.pdf

Bloomberg terminal users can access our monetary and financial statistics by any of the four options:

1) ALLX DIVM
2) ECST T DIVMM4IY
3) ECST –> ‘Monetary Sector’ –> ‘Money Supply’ –> Change Source in top right to ‘Center for Financial Stability’
4) ECST S US MONEY SUPPLY –> From source list on left, select ‘Center for Financial Stability’

SEC Adopts Amendments to Offering Process for BDCs and Closed-End Funds

The SEC adopted rule and form amendments to “modify the registration, communications, and offering processes” for business development companies (a type of closed-end investment company that is not registered, “BDCs”) and registered closed-end investment companies. The benefits of these rule changes were available to operating companies and are now being extended to funds, in accordance with a 2018 Congressional mandate expressed in the Small Business Credit Availability Act (the “BDC Act”) and the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (the “EGRRA Act”).

The new rule amendments include:

– expanding the definition of “well-known seasoned issuer” to capture eligible funds (generally, those having a public float of at least $700 million and meeting certain other regulatory conditions) to permit them to quickly sell securities “off the shelf” using short-form registration statements, provided that such funds include certain disclosures in their annual reports;

– making Securities Act Rule 486 (“Effective Date of Post-Effective Amendments and Registration Statements Filed by Certain Closed-End Management Investment Companies”) available to registered closed-end funds and BDCs that are involved in continuous offerings, so that they may immediately make effective changes to a registration statement;

– allowing certain funds to use communications rules designed to reduce regulatory costs and provide information to investors more quickly (e.g., permitting the use of the “free writing prospectus”);

– permitting closed-end funds that function as interval funds to register an indefinite number of shares and pay SEC fees only when the shares are actually sold;

– eliminating the requirement that funds provide new purchasers with copies of all previously filed materials, which may instead be made available on a website; and

– imposing certain tagging requirements concerning registration statement information.

Affected funds will also be required to tag certain data in their registration statement. BDCs will be required to submit financial information of the same type that operating companies submit.

Broker-Dealer Research Reports
The SEC made the Securities Act Rule 138 research safe harbor available for broker-dealers publishing research about certain categories of a seasoned fund’s securities when the fund is distributing certain other securities.

No Form 8-K Requirements
Closed-end funds will not be required to file periodic reports on Form 8-K. The SEC determined that this additional reporting burden, to which operating companies are subject, was not necessary in light of current funds’ practices.

Commissioner Statements
SEC Chair Jay Clayton said that the extension of the disclosure and regulatory framework to BDCs would improve investor protections.

SEC Commissioner Elad Roisman praised the final rule amendments for making the BDC offering rules consistent with those applicable to operating companies.

SEC Commissioner Hester M. Peirce largely supported the relief provided by this rulemaking, but noted that the agency could have “offered additional relief without compromising investor protection.” Specifically, she stated that the SEC “unnecessarily restrict[s]” the amount of funds that will be able to benefit from the final rule amendments.

SEC Commissioner Allison Herren Lee criticized the final rule amendments for (i) “roll[ing] back investor protections”, (ii) failing to include the proposed Form 8-K reporting requirements, and (ii) allowing certain funds to make material changes in their registration statements that would become automatically effective without staff review. In addition, she objected to adopting a rulemaking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rule and form amendments will go into effect on August 1, 2020. The amendment regarding registration fee payments by interval funds and certain exchange-traded products will go into effect on August 1, 2021. Certain of the regulatory reporting requirements will not go into effect until 2022 or 2023.

LOFCHIE COMMENTARY

These rules are consistent with recent efforts to support the economy and small businesses. If the regulators are going to provide a means for retail investors to invest in small companies, supporting BDCs and closed-end investment funds seems one of the more promising paths; particularly as Regulation Best Interest and similar state suitability requirements may discourage broker-dealers from recommending individual investors buy securities issued by small issuers.

Notwithstanding Commissioner Lee’s objection that the rule amendments not be adopted during the pandemic seem, these rule amendments are not being rushed to market; they were proposed a year ago. When bad global events happen, the stock markets drop and investors lose money. SEC rule changes such as these would not provide protection against that.