Investment Outlook Q3 2018

by James Macpherson

At 10 times revenues, to give you a 10-year payback, I have to pay you 100% of revenues for 10 straight years in dividends. That assumes I can get that by my shareholders. That assumes I have zero cost of goods sold, which is very hard for a computer company. That assumes zero expenses, which is really hard for a company with 39,000 employees. That assumes I pay no taxes, which is very hard. And that assumes that you pay no taxes on your dividends, which is kind of illegal. And that assumes with zero R&D for the next 10 years I can maintain my current revenue rate….what were you thinking.

Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems at the time of the dotcom crash when the shares were selling at 10 times sales.

Scott McNealy

At mid-year world bond and equity markets have struggled, with bonds delivering a slightly negative return and equities fell 1.3% as measured by the MSCI World Index, a poor return given that S&P earnings are estimated to increase by 25% this year (largely thanks to the tax cut at the end of 2017). Emerging Markets have been particularly poor performers. The reason is that liquidity has been tightening. In the US, quantitative easing is being steadily drained from the system at a rate of $30 billion a month, which rises to $40 billion from July 1st, and then $50 billion on October 1st. The oil price has risen about 30% over the past year, which results in a severe drain of liquidity. Labour markets have also been tightening creating some wage pressure and with inflation measures trending higher, bond yields have risen. On top of all this investors have been unnerved by a number of political developments, most obviously the trade disputes as the Trump Administration has now specified particular areas against China and Europe, and in Europe an Italian political crisis has threatened the stability of the Eurozone. The US tax cuts achieved at the end of last year, are a clear positive for the stock market, representing a substantial infusion of cash to shareholders. However tightening liquidity, the threat of protectionism and inflation are unfriendly for markets, and constitute significant headwinds. Together they have made the outlook for financial assets much more murky than was the case a few months ago. All markets have been buoyed on an ocean of liquidity for the past few years, so as that is removed a major support to asset prices disappears.

It is unusual to have trade wars when activity is expanding; generally they are a reaction to weak economic activity.

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