Tagged: Macro Factors

The Vessel

Will markets collapse?

We’re a day late this week, steering clear of election bipolarity marked by the vicissitudes of demography and the barest palimpsest of republicanism, a diaphanous echo of Madison and Jefferson and Hamilton, names people now think of as inner city high schools.

Back to markets. We’ve seen a curious change. A year ago, the top refrain from clients was: “What is our Rational Price?” For those not in the know, we calculate where active investors compete against market chaos to buy shares.

That’s not the top metric now. It’s this: “What’s your take on macro factors?” Management appears to have traded its focus on caring for trees for fearing the forest – so to speak. If so, the clever IRO will equip herself with good data.

We’ve been writing since early October about the gap between stocks and the US dollar. The dollar denominates the value of your shares. As the currency fluctuates in value, so do your shares, because they are inversely proportional.

In past decades since leaving the gold standard in 1971, those fluctuations have generally proven secondary to the intrinsic value of your businesses. But that changed in 2008. Currency variance replaced fundamentals as principal price-setter as unprecedented effort was undertaken by governments and central banks globally to refloat currencies.

Imagine currencies as the Costa Concordia, the doomed luxury liner that foundered fatally off the Tuscan coast. Suppose global forces were marshaled to place around it Leviathan generators blowing air through the ships foundered compartments at velocity sufficient to expectorate the sea and set the ship aright.

Thus steadied on air, the ship is readied for sail again, surrounded by a flotilla of mighty blowers filling the below-decks with air and keeping the sea back from fissures in the ravaged hull by sheer force. Passengers are loaded aboard for good times and relaxation and led to believe that all is again as it was. As seaworthy as ever.

That’s where we are. We are coming off the peak now of our fourth stocks-to-dollars inflationary cycle since 2008. In each case, markets have retreated at least 10%. The cycles are shortening. And despite retreat we right now retain the widest gap between the two since July 2008, right before the Financial Crisis.

Why does the pattern keep repeating? Because central banks keep juicing the blowers as the vessel wilts and founders. That’s what you saw yesterday after the election. The Euro crisis, having gone to the green room for a smoke is back center stage as it a year ago. Money – air – leaves variable securities for the dollar. As air leaves, stocks falter.

We don’t say these things to be discouraging. It is what it is. The wise and prudent IRO develops an understanding of market behavior – so the wise and prudent IRO will be cool in the IR chair and valuable to management and able to retain sanity and job security in markets depending on giant turbines.

If you’re relying on the same information you did in the past, you’re ill-prepared. We are in a different world now.

Macro IR

We’re a day late this week in deference to an important birthday yesterday. After 236 years, there are lines and age spots but the countenance still juts, resolute.

Do people send you group emails sometimes with those images where if you stare at them, suddenly you see something else? Here are two verbal versions, headlines I saw Tuesday:

“European stocks rallied for a third day as hope mounted that central banks in Europe and the U.S. will act to bolster economic growth.”

“U.S. stocks extended a rally for a third day on Tuesday as sharp gains in oil prices lifted energy shares and traders factored in increased expectations for central bank stimulus.”

Do you see what’s freakishly wrong with these? Stocks rose despite conditions that should depress stocks. Because central banks might offer free money.

Markets have always been barometers of economic health. Now they’re moving on money alone, disaffected from the factors that once could be relied upon like the piers and stanchions of a venerable republic.

IR folks, think about this. It cuts to the quick of the job. We’re heading into earnings season. We’re planning call scripts and press releases. We’re thinking about discussion and analysis for quarterly filings.

Yet the markets we use as a mirror for the value of these efforts are doing the exact opposite of what they have always done. They are valuing supplies of currency rather than its commercial use. (more…)

Macro Factors and IR

Congratulations, IR profession! It’s happened.

One of our ranks stepped up to the stock-exchange rule-filing plate, planted, and cracked that fastball out of the park. Thank you, Katie Keita, for commenting on the Nasdaq’s proposal for ETF sponsors to pay market-makers.

I hope it’s a trend. Your stocks underpin everything else. These are your markets.

More on that later. But speaking of trends, yesterday the dollar rose and stocks fell. When the greenback gains on other major currencies, things valued in dollars often decline. Stocks are stores of value, and value ebbs or flows according to the measuring tape – currencies. The dollar fell in April (after an early buck spike garroted equities), so stocks rose proportionally. Then as April ended, the dollar strengthened on mounting global worries (especially from Europe). Stocks shrank. It’s a macro effect that trumps stories.

How should you view macro factors from the IR chair? “Macro factors” is jargon for “how appraisers view the global neighborhood.” There was a good article on the Big Picture (page R9, “How the Big Picture Affects Stock Picks”) in the Wall Street Journal Monday May 7. Writer Suzanne McGee says macro factors shouldn’t make investors reflexive but can’t be ignored either.

You’re not investing, of course. But you’re selling to investors. If your target market is influenced by macro factors, and you’re not, you may be striking discordant notes. (more…)

IR Pros Must Know Macro Factors

We were sitting on the porch in the shadow of the American flag Sunday September 11 when fighter jets streaked and thundered so low that all of Denver shook. We caught glimpses of pairs of F-15s and F-16s, afterburners hot. Later, we read that warplanes from Denver escorted two flights with suspicious passengers aboard. But the ten-year memorial passed in peace.

Speaking of thunderous roar, I attended the jam-packed NIRI Rocky Mountain Chapter’s kickoff session today. Nasdaq chief economist Frank Hatheway offered a thoughtful and statistical look at the market. He joked that when he first prepared slides two weeks ago, the trends were improving but he’d had to change his comments to reflect reality.

Dr. Hatheway launched his talk by comparing stock indices with VIX volatility, Treasury yields, oil prices and gold. He observed that investor-relations professionals today need to develop a level of understanding of these “macro factors” – benchmarks of group behavior across asset classes (clients, we include a Macro Factors segment on page two of your Market Structure Report). (more…)