Category Archives: investment

16/10/2019:Corporate Bond Markets are Primed for a Blowout

My this week's column for The Currency is covering the build up of systemic risks in the global corporate bond markets:

Synopsis: "Individual firms can be sensitive to the periodic repricing of risk by the investors. But collectively, the entire global corporate bond market is sitting on a powder keg of ultra-low government bond yields, with a risk-off fuse lit by the strengthening worries about global economic growth prospects. Currently, over USD 16 trillion worth of government bonds are traded at negative yields. This implies that in the longer run, market pricing is forcing accumulation of significant losses on balance sheets of all institutional investors holding government securities. Even a small correction in these markets can trigger investors to start offloading higher-risk corporate debt to pre-empt contagion from sovereign bonds markets and liquidate liquidity risk exposures."

20/9/19: New paper: Systematic risk contagion from cyber events

Our new paper, "What the hack: Systematic risk contagion from cyber events" is now available at International Review of Financial Analysis in pre-print version here:

Highlights include:

  • We examine the impact of cybercrime and hacking events on equity market volatility across publicly traded corporations.
  • The volatility generated due to cybercrime events is shown to be dependent on the number of clients exposed.
  • Significantly large volatility effects are presented for companies who find themselves exposed to hacking events.
  • Corporations with large data breaches are punished substantially in the form of stock market volatility and significantly reduced abnormal stock returns.
  • Companies with lower levels of market capitalisation are found to be most susceptible to share price reductions.
  • Minor data breaches appear to be relatively unpunished by the stock market.

13/7/19: Mapping the declines in jobs creation

Increasing market power concentration, falling entrepreneurship, rising concentration amongst the start ups, unicorns and billions in investment, the markets have been rewarding larger companies at the expense of the smaller and medium enterprises for years. And this has had a problematic impact on human capital and jobs creation.

Here is the data on the levels of employment in medium-large companies over the years, based on the U.S. markets data:

In simple terms, per each dollar of investors' money, today's companies are creating fewer jobs - a trend that was present since at least 2000, and consistent with the onset of the Goldilocks Economy. But the most pronounced collapse in jobs creation from investment has been since 2017. Excluding recessionary periods, in 2002-2006 average annual decline in the number of employees per $1 billion in market valuation was 3.45%. Over 2009-2013 this number rose to 4.73% and in 2014-2019 the rate of decrease averaged 8.05% per annum.

7/7/19: Investment for growth is at record lows for S&P500

Interesting chart via @DavidSchawel showing changes over time in corporate (S&P500 companies) distribution of earnings:

In simple terms:

  1. Much discussed shares buybacks are still the rage: running at 31% of all cash distributions, second highest level after 34% in 2007. On a cumulated basis, and taking into the account already reduced free float in S&P 500 over the years, this is a massive level of buybacks.
  2. 'Investment for growth' - as defined - is at 51% - the lowest on record.
  3. Meaningful investment for growth (often opportunistic M&As) is at 38%, tied for the lowest with 2007 figure.
S&P 500 firms are clearly not in investment mode. Despite 'Trump incentives' - under the TCJA 2017 tax cuts act - actual capex is running tied to the second lowest levels for 2018 and 2019, at 26% of all cash distributions.

2/7/19: Factset: Negative EPS guidance hits the highest 2Q level since 2Q 2006

Bad news for the 'fundamentals are sound' crowd when it comes to justifying stock markets exuberance: based on data from Factset, to-date, the number of companies reporting negative earnings per share (EPS) guidance in 2Q 2019 has reached 87 - the highest number after 1Q 2016, and the highest number for any 2Q period since 2006. Total number of reporting companies to-date is 113, which means that so far in the reporting season, a whooping 77% of reporting companies are guiding negative EPS.

Technology sector leads negative EPS guidance issuance. Per Factset: "Information Technology sector, 26 companies have issued negative EPS guidance for the second quarter, which is above the five-year average for the sector of 20.4. If 26 is the final number for the quarter, it will tie the mark (with multiple quarters) for the second highest number of companies issuing negative EPS guidance in this sector since FactSet began tracking this data in 2006, trailing only Q4 2012 (27). At the industry level, the Semiconductor & Semiconductor Equipment (9) and Software (6) industries have the highest number of companies issuing negative EPS guidance in the sector." Which means the tech sector is singing the blues. Consumer discretionaries and Healthcare are the other two sectors showing underperformance relative to 5 year average.

Which is ugly. Uglier, yet, as we are not seeing any correction in the markets to reflect the deteriorating fundamentals. And uglier still when one considers the fact that the 'S' part of EPS has been gamed dramatically in recent years through rampant shares buybacks, while the 'E' bit has been gamed via opportunistic M&As.