Here we analyze a selection of third-party news articles—both those we agree and disagree with.

Please note: Though we make every effort to source articles from freely available sites, we will also regularly include articles on sites that have limited content for non-subscribers. Doing so is increasingly unavoidable, as more and more financial media is published behind paywalls.

Analysis-Biden’s Lofty Climate Goals Collide With Political, Economic Reality

MarketMinder’s View: Please note, MarketMinder is nonpartisan and doesn’t favor any politician nor any party. Our analysis here serves only to assess political developments’ potential market impact—or lack thereof. Note, too, this piece focuses heavily on policy related to climate change—a sociological issue that doesn’t materially impact the economic and political factors stocks focus on most, in our view. As charged as the issues discussed in this article are, though, political and economic reality has a way of undermining politicians’ rhetoric and ambitions. The result: Policy ideas have a tough time becoming enacted legislation, at least as initially proposed. To wit, “... nine months into [Joe Biden’s] presidency, political, legal, and economic obstacles have forced his administration to make several moves in support of fossil fuels development at home and abroad, and raised questions about whether the Democrat will be able to meet his commitments to clean energy. ... Most importantly, heavy political opposition has forced the administration to put its centerpiece climate proposals that would help deliver an April pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 into a budget reconciliation bill that has an uncertain future in the closely-divided U.S. Congress. Democrats, who hope to pass the bill by the end of September, are already talking about paring back investments and targets.” We don’t know whether this passes or goes down in flames (alongside the bipartisan infrastructure bill). But even if new legislation sees the light of day, it will likely be watered down from the lofty goals that drew so much attention and headlines. For investors, this isn’t a negative for markets—in our view, it is an underappreciated positive, as stocks can do great in an environment where politicians make fewer waves than initially hoped or feared.

If You’re Not Super-Rich, Tax-Hike Proposals Probably Won’t Affect Your Retirement Investing

MarketMinder’s View: From a personal finance perspective, are recent tax hike proposals anything to worry about? Before freaking out, we suggest reviewing the details. For example, the plan currently on the table in Congress would “... increase the top individual rate to 39.6 percent. This marginal rate would apply to single filers with taxable income over $400,000, heads of households over $425,000 and married couples over $450,000, according to the House plan. The top capital gains rate would increase from 20 percent to 25 percent. For most people, these changes shouldn’t affect their retirement accounts, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.” On that score: “The limit on [retirement account] contributions would apply only to single taxpayers (or taxpayers married filing separately) with taxable income over $400,000, heads of households with taxable income over $425,000 and married taxpayers filing jointly with taxable income over $450,000.” We would also stress nothing here is law yet—and even then, future Congresses may end up undoing any legislative changes. Tax developments bear monitoring, but we caution investors against overstating their impact, too. Additionally, while proposed tax changes aren’t likely to touch the vast majority of Americans, we suspect they may not net the highest-income households as intended either. The highest earners generally have ample means to defer compensation—and say, borrow against their net worth instead—which is one more reason why we think tax overhauls often don’t play out as hoped or feared (when they even come to pass).

Fraudsters Have Unlocked a New Way to Steal From Your Bank Account

MarketMinder’s View: Two-factor authentication may help deter criminals, but their constant probing creates a never-ending escalation—and behooves you to be ever vigilant and watchful for their latest tactics. If you access your bank account online or use a debit card attached to one, the bank often sends you a one-time passcode to enter alongside your regular identification and password credentials. As this article relates, “Thieves have called customers pretending to be from their bank and asked them to read out the codes. The scammers then use the passcodes to make fraudulent purchases with the customer’s card details. June alone saw £400,000 worth of transactions being attempted with stolen codes, known as one time passcodes because of their single use. The codes are received when an online purchase is made to ensure it is the card owner who is making the purchase. The text message usually carries a warning to never tell anyone the code and states that the bank will never ask for it.” Don’t divulge this or any other information to anyone calling! Scammers can use this sensitive data to impersonate you, leaving you more vulnerable to further damaging identity theft, which “can also be used by scammers to fool targets into believing that they are being called by their bank or even the police. ... They were each then called by fraudsters pretending to be from the bank who said the code would be used to stop an impending fraudulent transaction, or to recover the funds. But the code was instead used to authorise fraudulent spending.” Ever more creative cons, sadly, are a fact of modern life, but by keeping your defenses up—e.g., by maintaining a healthy skepticism—you are less likely to be compromised. For more on how, please see our 3/25/2021 commentary, “Simple Steps to Defend Yourself Against Financial Predators.”

EU Raises 5 Billion Euros From Debut Auction of Joint Debt

MarketMinder’s View: If you were wondering how the EU’s joint debt issuance was going, wonder no more: pretty good! “The bloc raised 2.999 billion euros from a sale of three-month bills and 1.997 billion euros in six-month bills, the top amount it was targeting. The three-month bill priced at an average yield of -0.726% while the six-month issue was at -0.733%, the European Commission said in a statement. Demand relative to the amount on offer, the bid-to-cover ratio, was 3.39 times on the shorter bill and 5.76 times on the longer bill. ... Matt Cairns, head of credit strategy at Rabobank, said the bills came at a lower yield than the bank had expected after looking at similar bills from the European Stability Mechanism, which is the euro zone bailout fund, and Germany ahead of the auction.” A few takeaways for investors: First, and most obviously, the EU is having no trouble borrowing—indeed, negative yields indicate investors are paying the EU to issue debt. Second, low, low, subzero yields in Europe point to ongoing demand for higher-yielding debt elsewhere—e.g., US Treasurys (after currency conversion). That dynamic keeps US yields anchored, which is one reason why we didn’t expect Treasury rates to run away like many suspected in the spring. We wouldn’t overstate the benefits or drawbacks of EU debt, as the plan is focused primarily on funding pandemic relief—EU bonds’ long-term future is still unknown. But in the here and now, robust demand for EU bonds is part of a global trend—and the resulting low- and even negative-yield world isn’t a bad environment for markets, in our view.

China’s Economy Weakens on Delta Outbreak and Wary Consumers

MarketMinder’s View: China’s latest economic figures for August are backward looking, but they are coloring economists’ outlooks contained herein (e.g., the National Bureau of Statistics of China said the environment is “grim.”) Some of the data: Retail sales slowed “drastically” to 2.5% y/y from July’s 8.5% and well below estimates for around 7%, while industrial production decelerated to 5.3% from 6.4% the prior month. Also, “Construction investment contracted 3.2% in the eight months of the year, a reflection of the government’s steady tightening of property restrictions as part of a campaign against financial risk.” Meanwhile, “China introduced stringent new curbs on travel to squash an outbreak of the delta variant from late July, leading restaurant & catering sales to contract 4.5% in August from a year ago after climbing 14.3% in the previous month. While China quickly brought the outbreak under control, a new virus cluster has developed in southern China this month, suggesting consumers will continue to remain cautious.” With consumer spending slowing and home sales slumping, some economists expect “a broad downtrend in the next couple of quarters.” As dour as this all sounds, though, China’s slowdown isn’t new. Floods, outbreaks and credit constriction aren’t coming out of the blue. For markets, this may weigh on sentiment, but expectations seem low enough to us that reality doesn’t have too high a hurdle to clear, especially as, “global demand has remained strong, supporting China’s vast industrial sector despite port congestion problems and high shipping costs. China posted record monthly export figures in August as U.S. and European buyers increased their orders before the Christmas shopping season.” Renewed COVID restrictions may weigh on output, but markets are well aware of those headwinds in China and worldwide—and they have likely moved on, in our view.

The SPAC Bubble Is Burst. It May Be Time to Invest.

MarketMinder’s View: The shine is pretty clearly off special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). After they dominated initial public offerings early this year, the market for these blank-check firms that go public solely to raise cash and acquire a private business has cooled dramatically. “Only five SPACs priced their shares for a public-market debut in August, followed by a single one thus far in September, FactSet figures show. This compares with a peak of 141 in February.” That part of this article is sensible, as it documents how even the isolated, faddish froth that existed early this year has retreated. But the balance of this piece argues investors should now dive in, because of SPACs’ curious structure, which could offer arbitrage opportunities. You see, SPACs are required to either complete a merger or return investors’ cash plus some rate of interest (median: 2.4%, per the piece) within a predetermined period. It argues this makes them “an almost riskless bet that the market will once again get excited about [SPACs].” We disagree. For one, SPACs could acquire a business and then tank, even if it is in a “hot” area. Hence the higher yield than cash or investment-grade bonds. Go ask electric vehicle startup investors, which have seen exactly that outcome multiple times. Two, there is opportunity cost. Any cash you plow into a SPAC that sits on it for months and months (or even a year or more) is cash you haven’t invested elsewhere.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Returns to Bubble-Economy Level Seen in 1990

MarketMinder’s View: After lagging badly this year to date, Japanese stocks have soared in the past two weeks, with the MSCI Japan rising 11.2% versus the world’s 1.6%. (Source: FactSet.) This piece, citing the fatally flawed, price-weighted Nikkei 225, celebrates that outperformance and projects it forward. It cites allegedly bullish factors like structural changes to the Nikkei’s makeup that will add several big-cap names and help lure more foreign investor cash; improved vaccination rates; and unpopular Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s announcing he won’t seek re-election later this month as Liberal Democratic Party head, ushering in a new leader who may grant the ruling party more stability. Folks, index changes aren’t market drivers and are widely known near-immediately. Foreign investor cash? For every buyer there is a seller, and their nationality isn’t relevant. Vaccination rates may matter on the margin, to the extent they encourage a government to lift lockdowns, but if you look worldwide, America is far outperforming the world this year to date—a fact that has persisted even as regions like Europe caught up to and eventually surpassed the US in vaccination rates. There just isn’t a direct connection between COVID stats and market returns—and hasn’t been since the very early days of the pandemic, and that faded fast. As for politics? When Shinzō Abe took the PM post in 2012, reform-and-stimulus optimism boosted returns for a few months. Then outperformance melted away. Same thing happened last year, when Abe resigned and Suga took office. Now looks very similar, and we strongly doubt Japanese outperformance is more lasting now than the last two times a new PM took office.

Spain Announces New Measures to Bring Down Soaring Energy Bills

MarketMinder’s View: This has some politics in it, so please remember MarketMinder favors neither any party nor any politician, assessing developments solely for their potential effects on markets, economies and personal finance. Across Europe, electricity prices are up big. According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute, Spanish consumers’ electricity bills jumped by 7.8% m/m in August and are up 34.9% y/y—a huge spike no matter how you slice it. Behind the rise? A lack of wind to generate power from renewable sources (which highlights one challenge of such intermittent sources of power), rising carbon offset costs that utilities are passing on to consumers and high natural gas prices tied to big demand. This piece details those causes and notes the Spanish government’s response. There is some good, some neutral and some bad in that response, in our view. The good: The government sensibly saw that having consumers pay a 5.11% tax on electricity consumption boosts costs. It cut this to 0.5%, which actually should help lower bills some, assuming it passes. It has already reduced the VAT from 21% to 10% on the same. The neutral: Plans to promote clean energy, which will have next to no effect on prices in the here and now. The bad? It wants to cap some utilities’ profits—gas, nuclear and hydro plants—and redirect them to consumers, in a yet-to-be-determined strategy. Such measures discourage investment in generation and supply in an already heavily regulated market, which raises the specter of shortages and high prices ahead. Look, these factors are pretty small, in our view, and don’t really call for significant government action. But interfering with prices and profits is generally popular-yet-shortsighted policy. That applies to the profit caps in Spain’s plan presently—and it may add uncertainty to Spain’s large Utilities sector, which is already underperforming this year markedly.

Worried About Social Security? These 5 Things Could Save It

MarketMinder’s View: As we noted recently, the Social Security Administration’s latest report on the program’s finances claims it won’t have sufficient funding to pay full benefits as soon as 2034, a long-range projection rekindling decades-old worries about its solvency. We question those forecasts, as noted here, and pointed out that Congress can easily fix this. This article details five options to bolster the program. One of them is very likely unconstitutional (a wealth tax), but the remainder are pretty benign and range from ensuring self-employed people (especially gig workers) pay into the program to changing the fund’s long-term investment strategy. We will add some others: Benefit ages could shift, as they have multiple times, and the cost-of-living adjustment’s calculation method could change. There are more. Point being: As much as people seem to think this program is on a one-way trip to the trash heap, there are myriad relatively painless choices that could preserve it far longer than most think.

Foreign Traders Buying Most Since Abenomics in a Suga-Free Japan

MarketMinder’s View: With the race to replace outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga underway, foreign investors are evidently getting more and more bullish, citing falling political uncertainty, the potential for big fiscal stimulus and economic reforms, Japanese stocks’ low valuations and the country’s recent vaccine progress. Sharp inflows in the week ending September 3 “put 2021 on course to be the best year of buying of cash equities by foreign investors since 2013, when foreign interest surged in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics program. It would also be the first year of net purchases by foreigners since 2017, data from Japan Exchange Group show.” This piece argues those inflows are another big reason to be bullish, which we have our doubts about. Yes, Japan outperformed the MSCI World Index by a smidge in 2013 and 2017, but it underperformed by almost 30 percentage points during the entirety of the Abenomics era (Source: FactSet). Moreover, for every buyer there is a seller, stocks don’t care whether demand comes from international or domestic investors, and foreign investment flows are widely known—therefore, likely priced in. As for the country’s political fundamentals, MarketMinder favors no politician or party and assesses political developments solely for their potential market impact. To that end, we agree falling uncertainty is likely a near-term tailwind, but that too is widely known now. Beyond that, the notion of a new administration bringing big reforms seems overly optimistic. Abe had more political capital than any Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi in the early 2000s, yet he couldn’t push through meaningful reforms to Japan’s labor code or the cross-shareholding among conglomerates that has stifled competition. Thus far, none of the candidates to succeed Suga have anything near Abe’s popularity, making it difficult to envision a new administration having success where he didn’t. There is also the risk Japan’s infamous revolving door (eight different prime ministers from 2006 – 2012) is returning. With expectations for domestically focused Japanese companies potentially running too hot, we think investors remain better off focusing on the larger multinationals that don’t depend as much on domestic demand.

Europe’s Recovery Hits ‘Sweet Spot’ but Economists See Risks Gathering

MarketMinder’s View: This piece argues that while the eurozone’s economy is enjoying a boom from reopening and pent-up demand for now, the titular “sweet spot” doesn’t look lasting. Supply chain bottlenecks, COVID variants and slowing demand in the US and China raise the risk of a sharp slowdown, it claims. In our view, all are likely overstated as economic risks. Supply chain issues hamper manufacturing, but the vast majority of the eurozone economy is services. The government response to the virus, not the virus itself, is the main source of negative economic impact—and in Europe, most governments are veering from lockdowns to learning to live with the virus. As for slowing growth in China and the US, that doesn’t point to weakness—rather, it shows these economies returning to normal as lockdown-related distortions even out. The eurozone’s reopening process is running behind those countries, which we think explains its faster Q2 growth—it was only just enjoying the initial unleashing of pent-up demand. That was always likely to cool off after a few months as economies returned to normal and the novelty of being able to dine out and shop in person again wore off. This is likely just fine for global stocks, in our view, and it points further to growth leading value. For more on that, see our 9/3/2021 commentary, “Your Handy Primer on Value and Growth.”

The Stock Market Fails a Breathalyzer

MarketMinder’s View: This piece spends most of its energy using individual companies to make the case that markets are drunk on euphoria, so we remind you MarketMinder doesn’t make individual security recommendations. Our interest here is in the final third, which argues Fed policy and the negative real yields it created have inflated a bubble along the lines of Japan in the 1980s, with the massive runs in “meme” stocks, digital assets and certain companies being the evidence of irrational exuberance. When the music stops and the selling starts, it argues, the crash will be epic. Look, we agree there are pockets of froth, but we have already seen what happens when bubbly niches of the market crash. Bitcoin and special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs)—which had big spikes early this year—crashed hard in Q2. The broader market kept rising. Why? Because euphoria is confined to those niches, not spread across markets. Far from spurring excessive risk-taking, Fed policy has flattened the yield curve, weighing on lending and growth overall. Ending bond purchases would let the yield curve steepen, which is the opposite of pulling the punch bowl. That skepticism over tapering asset purchases abounds suggests to us the probability of positive surprise is high.

German Anger Rises as Pandemic Reopens Old Wounds for the Eurozone

MarketMinder’s View: This piece explores the disagreements erupting among eurozone member-states about COVID relief spending, echoing the philosophical and fiscal differences that reigned during the eurozone debt crisis a decade ago. As OECD analysts explained: “‘Some regions have been more affected by the pandemic than others. For example, Southern EU economies, partly due to their higher reliance on tourism and on very small firms, have recorded the largest GDP falls in 2020.’ Meanwhile Germany suffered only a relatively small recession and borrowed only modestly. This raises the prospect of those countries which struggled with debts and a poor recovery after the financial crisis - such as Greece, Italy and Spain - requiring more resources from northern economies, despite only mixed progress in cleaning up their finances after the credit crunch.” In short, while Greece, Italy, Spain and other Southern European nations made great strides toward getting debt in order after the crisis, the eurozone’s structural issues remain. In our view, that isn’t really inherently good or bad—it just is. We have long cautioned readers that the underlying issues weren’t an easy fix and would probably linger in the background for years, becoming part of the structural backdrop, and that has happened. But structural issues are generally old news to stocks, which care more about cyclical factors over the next 3 – 30 months. In our view, those point positively in the eurozone (and globally), as recoveries there don’t depend on fiscal stimulus anyway. Gridlock may annoy those who hope for more reforms in certain nations, but it also means reforms undertaken over the past 10 years likely can’t get repealed—a status quo stocks have already demonstrated they are fine with. Overall, we see stories like this as part of the proverbial wall of worry stocks climb.

Top Senate Democrats Float 2% Excise Tax on Stock Buybacks

MarketMinder’s View: First, please remember MarketMinder favors no political party nor any politician, assessing developments for their potential market and personal finance effects. Citing the fact corporations “could approach, or even surpass” 2018’s record $806 billion in share buybacks, a couple of Democratic senators on the Senate Finance Committee are pitching legislation that would charge corporations a 2% excise tax on the value of shares repurchased in a given year. The theory being, buybacks like these detract from R&D spending, capital expenditures, expansion, hiring and wage bumps—all while pushing share prices up and enriching executives. The evidence for this, in our view, is lacking, considering 2018’s record coincided with trillions of dollars in rising investment and ultralow unemployment. But that is neither here nor there. For markets, there are two factors worth weighing: One, this legislation is a far cry from passing now and, like virtually any tax measure today, faces a difficult path to passage given the Democratic Party’s slim Congressional margins, the GOP’s categorical opposition and looming midterm elections. Two, even if it does pass, it is worth remembering: While buybacks are a structurally bullish force reducing equity supply, they are neither required for markets to rise nor assured to have that effect. Myriad factors affect markets’ movement. For just a few examples, consider: earnings results versus expectations, expected economic activity, political developments or monetary policy decisions—any and all of these can impact stocks concurrently. Need more evidence that forces at work are larger than buybacks? That 2018 record came in a year US stocks fell by -4.4%. (Source: FactSet.)

Fed Officials Should Clarify How They Assess Goals, Mester Says

MarketMinder’s View: This article documents Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester’s argument that, “… the Fed should determine a list of indicators that it will follow ‘systematically’ over time.” Additionally, among the things Mester thinks central bankers “… need to clarify is what timeframe and what metrics they will use to determine if inflation is averaging 2%, in line with the central bank’s target.” In doing so, this article highlights a point we have made here often: Though the Fed claims to be “data dependent” and professes to weigh incoming figures in a quasi-scientific, dispassionate way, the fact is which data they emphasize and how they view those data is unclear and subject to bias. So the next time you see financial pundits dissecting an economic statistic (e.g., unemployment data, inflation rates, job openings and more) and trying to divine what it means for Fed policy, remember this piece. Remember that a person who will set monetary policy next year just told you there is no fixed list of indicators the Fed is watching. They haven’t even defined how they will know they have hit their newfangled inflation non-target. If the Fed itself hasn’t determined those factors, how can pundits forecast the bank’s decisions?

‘Pingdemic’ Dents UK Economic Growth in July

MarketMinder’s View: UK GDP rose 0.1% m/m in July, good for the nation’s sixth straight month of growth, though the findings were a mixed bag. As the article notes, “… the main contributor to growth was a 1.2% rise in production output, boosted by the reopening of an oil field production site, which was previously temporarily closed for planned maintenance.” Services—which comprise the lion’s share of UK GDP—saw flat output in July despite COVID restrictions easing to varying degrees in England, Scotland and Wales. Most pundits focused on the slowdown from June’s 1.0% m/m, worrying about a stalling recovery due to supply chain bottlenecks and the recent upsurge in COVID cases discouraging household spending. We agree these headwinds may be weighing on output to an extent, but we caution investors against reading too much into a monthly dataset—and especially against extrapolating one month of data into the future. Consider, as one economist raised here, that the England football team’s run to the Euro 2020 tournament final “… had boosted growth in June, leading to ‘a bit of fall-back’ in July.” More broadly, slower GDP growth seemed likely following a reopening-related pop to us, as lasting “boom” talk always appeared misplaced to us. Slower economic growth isn’t an issue for markets, either. These factors are well-known, limiting the shock factor. From an investing perspective, a slow-growth environment tends to favor growth stocks over value-oriented shares.

Economists Predict US Interest Rate Rise in 2022

MarketMinder’s View: Here is an example of 50 “leading economists” committing the very error we critiqued today in commenting on a Reuters article. The titular prediction is based on a Financial Times/Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey. Per this piece, “Just over 70 per cent of respondents believe the Fed will raise rates by at least a quarter of a percentage point in 2022, with almost 20 percent expecting the move to come in the first six months of the year. That is far earlier than the 2023 lift-off from today’s near-zero levels that Fed officials pencilled in back in June. … According to the economists, the inflation rate may be high enough to compel the Fed to short-change its goal of maximum employment and instead raise interest rates before the US labour market has fully healed.” Do these experts know something central bankers don’t? Perhaps—we subscribe to the notion you can learn something from everyone—but in terms of forecasting future monetary policy, the leading economists aren’t likely to be any more prescient than monetary officials. Look at it this way: How could someone else divine how a regularly changing cohort of policymakers act? That said, we do think these types of findings give forward-looking markets more information to digest. Public discussions sap surprise power—we saw it happen with Fed taper talk this year already, and we wouldn’t be shocked if initial rate hike chatter tracks a similar course.

Why the Dow 36000 Forecast Was Right

MarketMinder’s View: While we agree with the high-level point here that stocks produce the long-term returns necessary for growth-oriented investors, we aren’t advocating for the seemingly “perma-bull” position here—i.e., that stocks will inevitably rise, so the best course of action is to buy and hold. We think this vastly oversimplifies reality. For one, stocks cycle from bull market to bear market, and if you can identify the latter early enough in its lifespan, taking action to sidestep some of the decline and re-enter at lower levels can be beneficial, in our view. But two, we think this argument glosses over a critical discipline to successful long-term investing: the ability to admit you are wrong. The titular forecast, made in 1999, was based on a five-year timeframe. Yet as of today, September 9, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has yet to eclipse that 36,000 level (though it is close). If a five-year forecast takes over two decades to come true, we humbly suggest that forecast is wrong. Always remember: Any market forecast should have a timeframe attached. Rather than scrounge for reasons to make it correct, we think investors are better served analyzing why an outlook was wrong and applying those lessons to the future. Note, this isn’t a criticism of any specific forecast—no investor, legend or amateur, is right all the time. However, in our experience, successful investors don’t distort reality—they shun pride and accumulate regret instead.

Investors Keep Waiting for the Re-Reopening

MarketMinder’s View: According to this article, the Delta variant has only delayed the reopening trade—i.e., stocks that benefit most from the end of COVID restrictions, most of which are value-oriented—for an undetermined amount of time. Optimistic projections envision things getting better by October; pessimistic estimates posit a full reopening won’t happen until early 2022. Because of that uncertainty, “… many investors might prefer to wait until they have a bit more confidence in their forecasts before rushing back into reopening bets. Especially since those bets cost more than they used to. … The good news that is coming eventually might not be fully priced into reopening plays yet. But markets probably need to see at least a few better signs emerge before investors start betting on a return to normal, again.” We see things a bit differently: The reopening trade was part of a value-led countertrend, bolstered by vaccine-driven positive sentiment late last year. However, in our view, that reopening rally was more short term than the start of a longer, value-led bull market run. After the initial reopening pop, the return to slower economic growth—and growth-stock leadership—seemed likely to us. Markets have been acting that way since mid-May. Possible occasional countertrends notwithstanding, we expect growth and growth-like companies to lead for the rest of this bull market—helpful for investors to note when “reopening trade” chatter arises like here.

ECB to Slow Pace of Emergency Pandemic Stimulus

MarketMinder’s View: The ECB’s Governing Council announced today it will slow bond purchases under its emergency quantitative easing (QE) program for the rest of the year from the current €80 billion monthly pace to an undetermined “moderately lower” rate. Many pundits debated whether this adjustment constituted a taper. ECB President Christine Lagarde insisted otherwise, stating, “The lady isn’t tapering,” and stressed the ECB wasn’t planning to end its asset-purchasing program—rather, the decision was merely a “recalibrating.” That is nice, but this is a taper. The ECB’s balance sheet will grow more slowly, citing improved economic conditions. Lagarde seems to be taking a page out of her predecessor Mario Draghi’s playbook, for the ECB pulled a similar semantics stunt back in December 2016. But the non-taper taper didn’t upset the eurozone economy or markets in 2017, and we don’t think today’s non-taper taper will today, either. While this piece suggests concerns of rising prices and COVID-related uncertainty may threaten the recovery—requiring ongoing “accommodative” monetary policy—QE isn’t stimulus. Moreover, central banks can do little to address economic headwinds related to supply chain bottlenecks or COVID restrictions. In our view, this is yet another example of overrating central bankers’ abilities to impact the economy—a fallacy we suggest investors avoid.