MarketMinder

Headlines

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.


The Safe Investment That Will Soon Yield Almost 10%

MarketMinder’s View: “U.S. Treasury Series I Bonds, or I Bonds, will offer annual interest payments of 9.6%, based on the bond’s latest inflation rate calculation, which is tied to March’s consumer-price index. Prices rose by 8.5% year over year in March, the fastest pace since December 1981, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The interest is compounded every six months and reassessed in May and November each year.” These savings bonds, which offer very low default risk and a high yield, may be a fine option for a portion of folks’ fixed income exposure. But there are some pretty big limitations to note: One, they are capped at $10,000 per person ($15,000 if using your federal tax return), so you aren’t going to get a lot of exposure under the current law. Two, you have to buy them directly from the government and not through a brokerage account, which can be a hassle. Three, the rate is locked in for six months only, but you are required to hold the bond for at least a year. Furthermore, if you don’t hold it for five years, you forfeit the last three months’ interest. That means there are liquidity issues here, so we don’t think it is appropriate to compare the yield to a savings account’s yield, as this article does. Any investment in I Bonds should be treated as an allocation to fixed income, not a cash reserve or emergency fund, in our view.

BofA Says Fund Managers Most Gloomy on Record on Recession Woes

MarketMinder’s View: We often say the gap between sentiment and reality is what sways stocks most—when too frothy, markets are primed for disappointment; when too dour, upside surprise looks likely. Now, no single survey or gauge is all-telling, but April’s Bank of America Global Fund Manager Survey suggests sentiment is exceedingly dour presently. Citing “risks” ranging from global recession to central bank tightening and the Russia/Ukraine war, “The share of investors expecting the economy to deteriorate is the highest ever, according to the April survey.” In our view, this—plus many other sentiment gauges tanking after the invasion—strongly suggests many of these factors are already reflected in stock prices. With sentiment now so low, that makes upside surprise a lot more likely from here than disappointment, in our view.

Airports Clogged With Queues as Travel Rebound Strains Resources

MarketMinder’s View: Amid all the headline gloom tied to the war in Ukraine, high and rising prices, China’s lockdowns and wrongheaded talk of yield curve inversion, it can be easy to forget that much of the world is set to experience a reopening bounce in the services industry—a fact that should buoy economic activity in the coming months and quarters. This article is an excellent illustration of that, highlighting global airports—like Australia’s main hub in Sydney—that are seeing a major influx of travelers. Now, this piece juxtaposes that influx against a lack of staff to highlight it all as a problem, and we are sure there are some headaches there. But a broad-based resumption in travel was always likely to bring such issues and, in our view, they pale against the macroeconomic benefits brought by a normalization in the services industry. Obviously, this is only one segment of that industry, but if it is any indication, the rush of activity should be a pretty strong economic tailwind that shouldn’t be downplayed.

A Win for Le Pen Would Shock Markets as Much as Trump or Brexit

MarketMinder’s View: As always, we prefer no politician nor any political party, assessing political developments for their potential market impact only. This piece argues “French bond and share prices would surely fall sharply and business confidence would plummet” in the immediate aftermath of France’s presidential runoff on April 24 if Marine Le Pen were to beat incumbent Emmanuel Macron. The logic: Markets see Macron as a safe pair of hands thanks to overall fine economic growth and beneficial labor market reforms on his watch, while Le Pen touts protectionism, intervention and generous handouts and could torpedo further jointly issued EU debt. We see two big errors here. One, it ignores that French presidents can’t rule by fiat. To fulfill all of her campaign pledges, Marine Le Pen would need a majority for her National Rally party in June’s parliamentary election. That is highly unlikely, given her party’s long-running struggles at the grassroots level. Two, in comparing this potential outcome to the market’s reactions to Brexit and former President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, it engages in some myopic revisionist history. In the UK, markets fell the day after the Brexit vote, but they bounced fast and were well above pre-referendum levels within a week. In Sterling (to avoid skew from the pound’s swings), the MSCI UK finished that year 14.6% above its pre-referendum closing level (per FactSet). As for Trump’s victory, US futures markets tumbled the evening of Election Day, but the S&P 500 jumped at the open the next day (Wednesday November 9) and rose 5.0% from market close on Election Day through yearend (also from FactSet). Soooooo … if these are the blueprints for French stocks if Le Pen wins, that seems bullish. Which actually sounds right to us—uncertainty would fall pretty quickly as investors realized she couldn’t fulfill their worst fears. That is generally a pretty powerful tailwind.

Everything Costs More, and That’s Disrupting Retirement for Many

MarketMinder’s View: First off, please don’t construe any of what follows as an argument that it is good that high inflation is pushing some retirees back into the workforce. For many people, this is a hardship. We are sympathetic to that, and we aren’t making any sort of ideological or political statements. Yet we do think it is important to look at these trends from markets’ point of view, which tends to be colder and more rational. From that standpoint, for months, we have seen pundits warn that high inflation is kicking off a wage-price spiral, in which companies raise wages to attract and retain employees when inflation is high, then pass those higher wages on to consumers, creating more inflation, necessitating higher wages, lather, rinse, repeat. As our commentary last week explained, one reason we disagree with this is that wages are just the price of labor. As a general rule, the higher the price of a good or service, the more supply of it you get. Accordingly, as wages rise, it usually pulls more folks back into the labor force, helping stabilize wage growth. That is happening now. “The share of people [over age] 55 either working or looking for a job—their labor-force participation rate—rose to 38.9% in March from 38.4% in October, according to the Labor Department. More than 480,000 people in that age group entered the labor force during the past six months, according to the three-month moving average, which smooths out volatility. That was more than the 180,000 who entered the labor force in the six months before the pandemic struck. The job market improved for workers of all ages during the past six months, with the three-month moving average for the overall labor force rising by 2.5 million, raising the national participation rate to 62.4% in March from 61.7% in October.” None of this is inherently good or bad for stocks in a vacuum, but rising labor force participation is one area where reality is exceeding expectations, which is generally a positive force.

Shanghai to Ease Lockdown Despite Surge in Covid Cases

MarketMinder’s View: We often point out that the need to ensure social stability in order to maintain a one-party government drives Chinese policy in economically favorable directions more often than not—especially in China’s equivalent of election years, which 2022 happens to be. In our view, this is a prime example. China isn’t reopening all of Shanghai, but officials will allow individual districts to reopen if they meet certain criteria—a much looser approach than we have seen thus far under the country’s zero-tolerance COVID strategy. Perhaps not coincidentally, Shanghai is one of the country’s wealthiest cities, and social media posts showing residents’ dissatisfaction with lockdowns are much likelier to go viral globally. This gives officials an incentive to ease up, which in turn should help limit the economic impact. We doubt this is the end of lockdowns in China, but people globally see reopening Shanghai as a big economic necessity, and it is starting to happen faster than many expected. That should help boost sentiment pretty broadly.

S&P Global Places Russia in ‘Selective Default’

MarketMinder’s View: After sanctions put an expiration date on financial institutions’ ability to process Russian debt payments, a default was more a question of when than if. Now it is basically a fait accompli. “On April 4, a dollar-denominated Russian government bond matured and another coupon payment came due. That same day, the U.S. Treasury Department tightened its restrictions on Russian transactions in an effort to force Russia to choose between draining the dollar reserves it has on hand or using new revenue to avoid defaulting on its debt. The department blocked Russia from using dollars held in American banks for its bond payments, and the transactions weren’t completed by JPMorgan. Subsequently, the Russian finance ministry said it paid the debt in rubles.” The bonds in question didn’t include a provision allowing Russia to pay in rubles, so unless it can convert those payments to dollars within the 30-day grace period, it will have failed to meet its obligations—a default. While there is still technically time to find a workaround, EU sanctions ban ratings agencies from rating Russian debt after April 15, so S&P appears to be getting ahead of the deadline by asserting the exceedingly low likelihood of a dollar payment renders default as good as done. In our view, this is a mere formality and doesn’t really change anything. When a country defaults on its international bonds, the result is that it gets shut out of international markets—which Russia already was, thanks to sanctions. As for creditors, US, UK and EU banks have precious little exposure to Russian assets, minimizing the risk of contagion. This is not a wallop in the making, in our view.

You Work for a Company. Should You Own It, Too?

MarketMinder’s View: No. Relying on one company for a paycheck and your retirement portfolio’s growth is not a good idea, no matter how much you believe in your company’s future. If you don’t believe us, ask all those former Enron employees who had piles of Enron stock in their 401(k)s. There are legions of other historical examples, which this piece details. In the 1920s, in response to socialism’s growing allure among workers, businesses tried to create capitalists: “Hundreds of leading companies encouraged workers to buy stock, usually in installments. The shares often had restricted rights and limited when employees could sell. … Then came the Crash. Between September 1929 and July 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 89%. Millions of workers lost their jobs. Many lost out on shares they could no longer afford to finish buying. Those who had amassed shares outright were left with all their eggs in one shattered basket.” There have been plenty of corporate bankruptcies since, slamming participants in those companies’ tax-advantaged Employee Stock Ownership Plans. “In the long run, the odds of making money in the stock market as a whole are very high—but the odds of making money in any single stock are low. If you lose your job and the only stock you own is in the company that just fired you, you will learn a painful lesson about the importance of diversification: Companies tend to throw employees out of work when their stock price is down. You will have no job and a cracked nest egg at the same time.” Risk management is key to financial survival. Of course, if part of your compensation is options or restricted stock, so be it. But diversify as soon as you can, as much as you can. Otherwise, you are taking undue risk.

A $430 Billion Cautionary Tale Inside Japan’s Central Bank

MarketMinder’s View: This is a long but very good read. It tells the tale of Japan’s monstrous quantitative easing (QE) program, which includes the purchase of about $430 billion worth of Japanese stocks and ETFs—about 80% of the country’s total ETF market. Theoretically, the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ’s) purchases were supposed to boost inflation by stimulating business investment. But that didn’t happen. “ETF purchases had only a ‘limited power for stimulating aggregate demand,’ according to a 2019 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. When equity prices rose, companies did issue more shares, but they mostly hoarded the proceeds instead of spending them on demand-inducing projects, the researchers concluded.” Now the BoJ is in the precarious position of not being able to sell, lest it bear the blame for a stock market pullback. Perhaps it would be a fine tradeoff if QE had actually worked, but after nearly 10 years of extraordinary QE, the country still has anemic domestic demand, and only one-offs like sales tax hikes and energy cost spikes have pushed inflation up to the BoJ’s target. This article is the story of that failure and illustrates why we say the BoJ’s strategy is more or less the monetary beatings will continue until morale improves. The more QE doesn’t work, the more they double down. In our view, stopping the whole lot of it and letting markets do their job would go a long way toward restoring Japan’s economic might.

As Inflation Bites and America’s Mood Darkens, Higher-Income Consumers Are Cutting Back, Too

MarketMinder’s View: This piece corrects some fallacies but perpetuates others, so allow us to parse the details. On the sensible side, it makes the excellent observation that people’s actual spending doesn’t match their responses to consumer confidence surveys. “All income groups in the survey are equally likely to say the economy will enter a recession this year, at over 80%. But there is a key caveat: actual spending actions from the economy don’t yet indicate this prediction will come true. Despite the downbeat feelings about their financial situations, and cutbacks, [Moody’s Chief Economist Mark] Zandi stressed that consumers are still spending strongly.” This is often the case, and it is a big reason why consumer surveys don’t predict economic growth. However, consumer spending—while the biggest chunk of GDP—often isn’t the swing factor. Most spending is on essential goods and services, so—COVID lockdowns aside—consumer spending usually doesn’t fluctuate much. Recessions usually come from sharp swings in business investment and inventory reduction as businesses cut back after amassing too much bloat. Lastly, we think this paints in much too broad brushstrokes by comparing sentiment of people making more and less than $100,000. Problem is, it doesn’t account for geography. Someone making $110,000 and trying to live in San Francisco likely has a far tougher time making ends meet than someone making $80,000 in Little Rock. (Incidentally, we have the same complaint about the tax code, but we digress.) Failure to consider people’s living costs makes this largely meaningless, in our view.

Traders Panic Over Prospect of Marine Le Pen Victory

MarketMinder’s View: Behold, markets are being markets! Pre-pricing a potential outcome that conventional wisdom argues is negative! Based on personalities and campaign chatter! Folks, this is why we are politically agnostic, preferring no party nor any politician. If you buy the consensus viewpoint that incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron is the safe, market-friendly pair of hands and challenger Marine Le Pen is a far-right wrecking ball that will destroy the eurozone and France’s economy, then you make the mistake of thinking stocks weigh politics based on your personal political biases. It is a common error. In reality, stocks tend to weigh legislative risk in general and benefit from falling uncertainty. Whatever you think of Le Pen, the likelihood she can accomplish everything on the establishment’s list of big fears is quite low, considering France is a parliamentary republic. The presidential contest may have a history of being a protest vote against the incumbent, but legislative elections—which will be held in June—tend to deliver a hodge-podge of centrists. Regardless of how well Le Pen polls nationally, her National Rally Party has struggled to win a single seat, never mind a legislative majority. What France will likely get if she wins is five years of deep gridlock. Moreover, if an analyst quoted herein is correct and “‘[Le Pen] would undermine and frustrate EU policymaking,’” that suggests gridlock could also extend to the European Commission. That would help today’s elevated uncertainty fall, adding to the tailwinds we expect as US midterms deliver more gridlock later this year.

Layoffs Hit Lowest Level Since 1968, With 166,000 People Filing for Jobless Aid Last Week

MarketMinder’s View: US initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 166,000 in the week ending April 2, and as the first half of this article recounts, the data series has been hovering close to 50-year lows over the past several weeks. While fewer jobless claims imply fewer layoffs—more evidence of the tight labor market—the figures don’t tell investors much about future growth trends. Labor data are late-lagging economic indicators and reveal what forward-looking stocks have long since moved on from. What we found more interesting about this particular report: the Labor Department’s decision to update its calculation methodology. “In its report Thursday, the Labor Department declared that the worst effects of the pandemic have passed, by way of explaining why it was changing its statistical methods. The department uses two different methods to adjust claims figures for seasonal variation, depending on the overall economy. ‘Now that most of the large effects of the pandemic on the [unemployment] series have lessened,’ the department is changing from one to the other, it said.” Said more simply, the Labor Department is going back to its pre-pandemic way of seasonally adjusting jobless claims. Perhaps the update will skew the numbers in the coming weeks or lead to some large revisions, but in our view, this is yet another sign we are getting closer to a post-COVID normal—a welcome positive.

Don’t Believe the Experts: Brexit Has Had Far Less Impact on Trade Than You Think

MarketMinder’s View: Does weak UK international trade prove Brexit is harming the UK economy—the scenario so many feared when British voters chose to leave the EU in 2016? As this analysis smartly points out, reality is a wee bit more complicated. Per the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), “… UK exports and imports were still 13pc and 12pc respectively below their 2019 averages in the final quarter of last year.” Those numbers align with the OBR’s long-term forecast of Brexit’s impact on UK commerce relative to staying in the EU. But rather than blaming weaker exports and imports squarely on Brexit, the OBR has acknowledged a number of anomalies. “For example, UK exports to the EU and UK exports to the rest of the world have fallen by similar amounts, which suggests there are other important factors at play than just Brexit. … UK services trade with the EU has fallen by more than non-EU trade, even though Brexit has changed relatively little here. This is more easily explained by the fallout from the pandemic.” We also thought this piece raised some other worthwhile points to consider. For example, businesses are still adapting to the new rules: “There are still plenty of unknowns here, including those around the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the repeated delays on UK border checks. Just as Brexit uncertainties have held back investment, it is also likely that they have held back both imports and exports. In the meantime, the impact on the economy is still uncertain, too. Some of the apparent falls in trade may simply reflect differences in the ways that the same flows are recorded before and after Brexit, and therefore have no real impact at all.” Whether Brexit turns out to be a long-term net positive or negative economically will probably be unknowable, given the counterfactual is impossible to map out, but in our view, it has been more false fear than real threat to the UK economy, as reality thus far has been more benign than initially projected. For more, see our 11/5/2021 commentary, “Looking Beyond the ‘Brexit Is Bad’ Narrative.”

Manufacturers Grind to a Halt in China as Covid Lockdowns Expand

MarketMinder’s View: This article discusses some specific companies, and as a reminder, MarketMinder doesn’t make individual security recommendations—the ones mentioned here are incidental to the broader point we wish to highlight. That point: China’s recent lockdowns in and around the industrial hub of Shanghai are weighing on manufacturing production for several multinational firms and Chinese economic output in general. “More than half of U.S. multinational companies in China have reduced their annual revenue projections following the latest outbreak in Shanghai, the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and Shanghai has said, citing a recent survey of members. More than 80% of manufacturers reported slowed or reduced production.” Beyond manufacturing production, many experts worry the lockdown will also worsen supply chain pressures, considering “Shanghai also has the world’s busiest container port, with the value of imports and exports accounting for more than 10% of the country’s total trade last year.” Yet this piece also shows that the country has gotten more adept at maintaining some economic activity despite restrictions. There are still some bottlenecks, but many factories continue operating, and while logistical bottlenecks are creating a container backlog at the port, said port is still online and staffed thanks to officials’ deeming port laborers “essential workers.” Additionally, while COVID restrictions defy prediction, the government has plenty of political incentives to keep lockdowns short and the economic fallout to a minimum. See Shenzhen, where a sudden lockdown in mid-March lasted less than a week. To be clear, Shanghai’s lockdown will likely weigh on China’s economic output, and we will know the extent in the months to come. But from an investing perspective, stocks are quite familiar with this headwind, and businesses and households have been living with COVID restriction fallout for years now—and have adjusted accordingly. The likelihood Shanghai’s lockdown shocks markets and roils global economic growth at this point seems low to us.

Israeli Lawmaker Quits, Threatening Bennett’s Hold on Parliament

MarketMinder’s View: Please note, MarketMinder doesn’t favor any politician or political party—we highlight this development in Israeli politics as an example of the gridlock prevalent in the developed world. Nearly 10 months after the current government barely won a confidence vote, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has lost his parliamentary majority after a lawmaker left her post on ideological grounds. Bennett now controls 60 of the 120 seats in Israel’s legislature, though as this piece notes, “As the assembly is in spring recess the premier was spared any imminent no-confidence votes. To succeed, such votes would need the backing of at least 61 lawmakers, including Arab legislators who are outside the ruling coalition but also long-time political enemies of the current opposition leader, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Now, we questioned the government’s staying power at the onset—keeping together a coalition of eight different parties and their competing ideologies is a tall order. And even that took four elections over two years to form! But penciling in new leadership seems premature since the opposition would likely struggle to form its own government, too. The specter of a government collapse could stir some uncertainty, though markets are very familiar with Israeli politics’ recent election merry-go-round. For now, gridlock looks firmly entrenched, with Bennett’s government unlikely to push through anything consequential—something stocks appreciate.

The IRS Is Rejecting Some E-File Tax Returns. Here’s a Simple Fix.

MarketMinder’s View: News you can use! As this article describes, the IRS has rejected some taxpayers’ electronically filed returns because verification requires entering the prior-year adjusted gross income (AGI)—which a backlogged IRS may not have processed yet. “If your return is in that backlog unprocessed, the IRS system doesn’t recognize your legit AGI. This can cause your e-file to be rejected.” A potential solution? “Enter $0 (zero dollars) for your prior-year AGI, the IRS says. If you used the non-filers tool last year to register for an advance child tax credit payment or to claim the third stimulus payment, enter $1 as your prior-year AGI.” Also, for those who haven’t yet submitted their taxes and need some help: “If you’re having a problem and can’t get through to the IRS on the phone, the agency announced that many Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) will be open around the country this Saturday, April 9 for face-to-face help, and no appointment is needed. Normally, TACs are only open by appointment on weekdays. Employees won’t be set up to do returns, but they can get help with, among other things, the advance child tax credit or third-round stimulus payment.” Hopefully you won’t need any help, but if you do, you may also consult your tax professional—good luck!

Poland Blocks EU Move to Sign up to Minimum Corporate Tax

MarketMinder’s View: Last fall’s agreement to set up a global minimum corporate tax is running into some hitches on the Continent. As we detailed recently, Poland and several other EU signatories have concerns surrounding the tax’s enactment—and without their approval, the EU can’t pass a directive that would require all member nations to put the tax into their domestic law. While two other EU nations dropped their dispute, Poland is pressing the issue. “Magdalena Rzeczkowska, Poland’s finance minister, argued that the country could not support the minimum tax going ahead without first having ‘legally binding’ assurances that reforms targeting the largest 100 companies would be enacted. That part of the deal requires countries to agree a multilateral convention, and negotiations are running slower than the plans for the global minimum tax.” As many of those “largest 100 companies” are American, Congress must adopt the global minimum tax, and those plans appear mired amid midterm election-year gridlock. As the article also notes, “Separately, Poland is engaged in negotiations with Brussels to unlock its portion of the EU’s recovery funds,” speculating the issues might be linked. Whatever the case, the upshot is the same: “The development means that implementation of the global tax deal remains stalled on both sides of the Atlantic. The draft legislation contained in US president Joe Biden’s build back better bill, which would align the US tax system with the international proposal on a global minimum tax, has been delayed as a result of the Democrats’ inability to gain backing from within the party.” This is a big reason why we don’t see these global tax efforts hitting markets much: If it does take effect, it probably won’t be for a while—and any potentially affected companies would have seen it coming long before the official implementation date. Stocks move most on surprise, and there is nothing shocking about this.

Retirement Savers Could Benefit From ‘Secure 2.0.’ But Some Parts of the Proposed Law Need to Be Worked Out

MarketMinder’s View: The House recently passed a retirement reform bill dubbed “Secure Act 2.0” and the Senate is weighing its own version, but there are some differences in them that would have to be ironed out. For example: “The House bill would expand the 401(k) catch-up to $10,000 for individuals who are age 62, 63 or 64 beginning in 2024. ... The Senate bill is more generous with the 401(k) catch-up contribution of $10,000: It would apply to people age 60 or older. Meanwhile, this is also where one of the revenue generators in the House bill comes in: It would change the tax aspect of all catch-up amounts. That is, all catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans and the like would be treated as Roth contributions — i.e., after tax — starting in 2023. Current law allows workers to choose whether to make those contributions on a pretax or Roth basis (assuming their company gives them the choice). Additionally, matching contributions from employers currently can only be made to pretax accounts. A provision in the House bill would allow them to be post-tax (Roth) contributions if the employee wanted to go that route.” Another difference: The House bill would gradually raise the age to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs)—73 in 2023, 74 in 2030 and age 75 in 2033. (It is currently age 72.) However, the Senate version would raise the RMD age to 75 by 2032, plus “waive RMDs for individuals with less than $100,000 in aggregate retirement savings, as well as reduce the penalty for failing to take RMDs to 25% from the current 50%.” It isn’t clear how Congress will reconcile these competing proposals, and the situation is fluid—“lawmakers could add provisions that go beyond what’s included currently in either version — or drop some.” So stay tuned and watch this space. Passage of some version seems likely, but its exact impact on retirement planning won’t be known until it is signed into law.

Quarterly Capitalism Isn’t Ruining the World

MarketMinder’s View: Please note this article touches on some sociological issues such as “pollution, global warming [and] societal difficulties” that MarketMinder takes no stance on, as they mostly don’t impact the outlook for corporate profits over the next 3 – 30 months—which is what stocks care most about. Many argue, though, that a hyper-focus on quarterly profits—aka short-termism—will lead to social and economic ruin. But the article highlights some research that suggests US corporations by and large haven’t succumbed to myopic thinking and neglected long-term investments. To take one example, “The argument that R&D is lower is simply wrong. U.S. R&D spending reached a post-World War II high in 2020, as a share of GDP. Companies are spending twice as much as in 1980. If there’s an R&D problem, it lies in the public sector, where R&D has been slashed, not the private sector.” More generally, we find the argument presented here compelling: If short-termism was a big problem and created vast economic inefficiencies, the market may have addressed the issue itself. “Companies that give up profitable projects face more nimble competitors eager to step in, or might themselves start the project later. That could explain the lack of economywide evidence of problems, if the value-adding projects do eventually go ahead.” Now, the article’s conclusion wonders if there is any way to “fix” investors’ tendency to either look too long or short term—e.g., pricing in far-future earnings without any evidence or being exceedingly cautious based on past crises (i.e., fighting the last war). But that is a feature of the market sentiment cycle—worth being aware of but not necessarily something that is “fixable,” absent an overhaul of the boom-and-bust economic cycle. Longer term, though, we think markets have done a pretty good job of directing resources to further economic growth and prosperity—when in doubt, we trust the market over any group of experts or politicians.

Europe Keeps Russian Oil, Gas Flowing Despite Tightening Sanctions

MarketMinder’s View: For better or worse, fears of big energy disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have yet to prove as dire as initially projected. Despite unprecedented and escalating Western sanctions, which this article describes, Russian oil and gas continues to flow into global markets. Perhaps the most affected importer, “The EU, which imports around 60% of its energy needs, is making large payments to Russia, boosted by higher oil-and-gas prices during the war. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Wednesday that since the invasion, the bloc’s 27 member states had made energy payments worth around 35 billion euros, equivalent to about $38 billion, to Russia. ... Berlin says sanctioning oil or gas would harm the EU’s economy more than Mr. Putin’s ability to wage war, according to officials. The EU imports around three million barrels of Russian oil daily, according to the International Energy Agency. Russian gas accounted for 40% of the bloc’s gas imports last year, according to the European Commission.” Outside the EU, Russia is still able to sell to China and India. This is one reason why Russia and Ukraine’s regional conflict is unlikely to derail the global economy or markets: Economic relations are pretty resilient, and big, sweeping changes aren’t likely to happen immediately, if at all. For further analysis, please see today’s commentary, “A Broad Update on Energy Markets.”