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Economic Insights

video

Milton Ezrati and Zane Brown examine key market and economic trends at the year’s halfway mark.

Transcript

Narrator: This is Lord Abbett's Investment Perspectives.

Mike Weldon: This is Mike Weldon, Partner and Director of Marketing at Lord Abbett. Joining me today are Milton Ezrati, Partner and Senior Economic Strategist, and Zane Brown, Partner and Fixed Income Strategist.

Gentlemen, welcome. A lot of questions coming into the website from advisors and their clients about the world, about the financial markets. I want to start with you, Milton, with geopolitics. That's one we can't ignore. It seems like that's dominating the headlines today, especially what’s going on in the Middle East. People, I think, particularly worried about oil prices and if they go higher, what's the impact. But, what's the picture look like there?

Milton Ezrati: Well, I would say that right now, geopolitics is the biggest single threat to the market. Unfortunately, it is really hard to get an insight on some of these things. I can't forecast how the Ukraine situation is going to come out. I can’t forecast what's happening in North Korea. And most people who say they can are lying, at least to themselves if not to you.

We can say something about oil, and this is important. Right now, the market, even though oil prices are up, you would expect oil prices, with an event like this, to be a lot higher. In fact, were it not for fracking and North American supplies, oil prices would be somewhere in the range of $130, $140 dollars a barrel just with what's happened now. People [are] anticipating an interruption in flows from the Middle East. And that would probably be enough to stall this recovery. The recovery is weak as it is. That would probably be enough to stall this recovery.

The fracking, however, has raised America's share, and I would say North America as a whole, fracking is more the United States. The tar sands are more Canada. But North America as a whole has risen from about 7% of the world supply to over 10% of the world supply. And what that’s done, is it has relieved the market of its most intense fears in this case. Stock market has hardly reacted to this really horrific situation in Iraq and Syria, and oil prices have risen, yes, but not nearly as much as they might have.

I would warn investors; however, that really there has been very little interruption in flows through the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf as a whole, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, and the Arab Emirates, that is still over 30% of the world supply, and over 35% of the shipments of oil on the globe. So, if something interrupts that, we're not going to get away as free as we have been, but for now, it's remarkable. And I would say that fracking, and the tar sands, have saved this recovery for the time being.

We can't forecast that this is going to deteriorate. We can't forecast that it's going to improve. It needs to be watched. The market is vulnerable, but right now, we have had this cushion because of the increase in North American supplies. Say, hallelujah.

Mike Weldon: Okay. And turning to financial markets, Zane, let's start with fixed income. Now, a lot of people at the beginning of this year predicting interest rates to begin to go higher, and yet long treasury yields have actually declined. At the same time though, we're starting to see an uptick in fears about inflation. So, how-how do we pair those two up? What's the outlook for fixed income?

Zane Brown: Sure. We'll deal with inflation in a moment, but certainly the geopolitical risk has helped increase the bid for high quality securities. But I think the real story, in terms of interest rates coming down, especially treasury yields, 10-year treasury yields, has been supply.

We saw a dramatic reduction in the amount of supply of treasuries. And agency issuance has been down 20%. Mortgage-backed securities are less than half of what they were in the first part of 2013. And we've seen a reduction in corporate supply, even municipals there's less supply. So, there's a lot less—there are many fewer bonds around to be bid on, and I think that has allowed the price to actually increase when many of us expected yields to increase, not prices.

The second half of the year might be a little bit different because I think that the treasuries monthly issuance is going to increase a little bit. They won't have quite as much benefit of the tax revenues that dominated the first half and by October it looks like the Fed is not going to be buying any treasury security. So, you could see some upward creep.

Now, that coincides, potentially, with your second issue, and that is this fear of inflation. Now, I say fear of inflation because when we look at inflation, we don't see a great deal of it out there. A great deal of it building up, but there is this fear of inflation that's likely to impact the markets more than the numbers themselves.

And the fear has some justification, especially on the wage side where we hear increasing stories about a lack of ability to find certain skills. The fear that that might cause a little bit of wage inflation. You have some states pushing up minimum wages, and wage inflation is the worst kind of inflation to have, but I think when push comes to shove, 6-12 months from now, we'll find that there really wasn't a great deal to get worked up about. There still are plenty of people out there to be employed. A lot of jobs are transportable, not just throughout the United States, but beyond our border. So, I don't think there's going to be a lot of inflation, but fear of inflation really makes sense for maybe a strategy to address those fears. And now may be an appropriate time for that despite the fact that there may not be the real numbers unfold over the next 12 months anyway.

Mike Weldon: Okay. And finally, Milton, turning to you on stocks. It seems like the U.S. stock market has completely ignored the news on geopolitics and all the other events that are going on. Prices have slowly climbed higher again this year. We've set some new record highs. At the same time, volatility is very, very low. So, what's the picture for the U.S. stock market?

Milton Ezrati: Well, I think that barring the geopolitics and the market has ignored the geopolitics because, I guess, people reckon, and I think it's reasonable, that although this could be very disruptive, you can't run simply on the risk. And so, the market has been able to set this aside, as I say, the U.S. production has relieved a lot of the stress from the particular thing going on in Iraq right now, and Syria.

I think there are two things that are helping the market remain steady and continue to rise. The first is that the U.S. economy right now is continuing its recovery. There was a feeling earlier in the year that it might accelerate, people have walked that back, particularly the Fed. The plodding nature of this recovery looks set to continue. It's hardly the stuff you write home about, but at the same time, it does mean that earnings will continue to rise, and that is a comfort to investors.

The other thing is, is that even though we are hitting new highs and the market has done very well, particularly last year, is that there's still good value. Not as drop-dead gorgeous as it was two years ago or a year ago, but still good value. And you can see that in spreads on some credit-sensitive instruments, but particularly if you look at the equity market. I know that the price-earnings multiple, if you like that particular measure, is about where it's averaged for the last 35 years. Then the most conservative person in the room would say the market is fairly valued. But if you look at stocks relative to bonds, corporate bonds, not even Treasury bonds, which have been artificially—the yields have been artificially depressed, still the market shows remarkable value relative to the history. And I can't go into all the details in a short clip like this.

If you look at dividend yields, right now the dividend yield on the market is about 2%. The yield on cash is less than 30 basis points, a lot less than 30 basis points in some respects. Usually, it's the other way around. Cash pays higher than dividends speaks the continuing value in the marketplace. There is value, not as great as it was. There is value, and with the economy plodding along, there is that gradual rise from earnings gains. The market should be able to move up.

Mike Weldon: Okay. Thanks very much gentlemen. This has been Lord Abbett's Investment Perspectives. Thanks for watching.

Narrator: For more information on this topic, or to access other videos, audio files, articles, or commentary, please explore Lordabbett.com.

Sources:

U.S. Treasury Yield and Dividend Yield data is Bloomberg.
Supply data for U.S. Treasuries, Agency Issuance, Mortgage-Backed Securities, and Corporates is SIFMA.

Glossary

Political Risk is the risk that an investment's returns could suffer as a result of political changes or instability in a country. Instability affecting investment returns could stem from a change in government, legislative bodies, other foreign policy makers, or military control.

Political risk is also known as "geopolitical risk," and becomes more of a factor as the time horizon of an investment gets longer.

Securities Industry And Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) is an association that represents firms of all sizes in all financial markets in the U.S. and worldwide. SIFMA is committed to enhancing the public's trust and confidence in the markets, delivering an efficient, enhanced member network of access and forward-looking services, as well as premiere educational resources for industry professionals and the investors they serve.

Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted.

Fracking has resulted in many oil and gas wells attaining a state of economic viability, due to the level of extraction that can be reached.

Yield is the annual interest received from a bond and is typically expressed as a percentage of the bond's market price. Dividend yield is equal to the dividend divided by the stock price. Dividend yield is one measure of a stock's value. A high dividend yield may indicate that a stock is relatively inexpensive.

Mortgage-backed Securities (MBS) are susceptible to prepayment risk. High-yield securities, sometimes called junk bonds carry increased risks of price volatility, illiquidity, and the possibility of default in the timely payment of interest and principal. No investing strategy can overcome all market volatility or guarantee future results.

Risks to Consider

The value of an investment in fixed-income securities will change as interest rates fluctuate and in response to market movements. As interest rates fall, the prices of debt securities tend to rise. As rates rise, prices tend to fall. The value of investments in equity securities will fluctuate in response to general economic conditions and to changes in the prospects of particular companies and/or sectors in the economy.

This broadcast serves as reference material for information purposes only; does not constitute an offer to acquire, solicitation for an offer to acquire, an offer to sell or solicitation for an offer to buy, any securities, nor is intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research, or investment advice on any securities, and cannot be used for any of the foregoing.

The views and opinions expressed by the Lord Abbett speaker are those of the speaker as of the date of the broadcast, and do not necessarily represent the views of the firm as a whole. Any such views are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions and Lord Abbett disclaims any responsibility to update such views. Neither Lord Abbett nor the Lord Abbett speaker can be responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered.

The value of investments and any income from them is not guaranteed and may fall as well as rise, and an investor may not get back the amount originally invested. Please consult your investment professional for additional information concerning your specific situation.

This broadcast is the copyright © 2014 of Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC. All Rights Reserved.  This recording may not be reproduced in whole or in part or any form without the permission of Lord Abbett. Lord Abbett mutual funds are distributed by Lord Abbett Distributor LLC.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY LORD ABBETT FUNDS, CONTACT YOUR INVESTMENT PROFESSIONAL OR LORD ABBETT DISTRIBUTOR LLC AT 888-522-2388, OR VISIT US AT LORDABBETT.COM FOR A PROSPECTUS WHICH CONTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT A FUND'S INVESTMENT GOALS, SALES CHARGES, EXPENSES AND RISKS THAT AN INVESTOR SHOULD CONSIDER AND READ CAREFULLY BEFORE INVESTING.

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