As we have written in the past, the growth of debt over the last decade has brought forward demand in the economy and generally benefited corporate profit margins; in the future, however, debt instead may become a headwind for nominal growth around the world. Furthermore, when the level of debt is high relative to borrowers’ capacity to repay it—i.e., the cash flows available to businesses and consumers and the latent taxing capacity of governments—debt that comes due cannot be amortized from cash flows; it needs to be rolled over. We believe this renders markets more vulnerable to bouts of risk aversion.
High yield had been more resilient earlier in the year but cracked in the fourth quarter, with lower-quality issues—CCC bonds—bearing the brunt of the market’s weakness. Outflows from ETFs and other passive structures proceeded in reasonably good order during the quarter, but we are not confident that future outflows will be managed as smoothly.
It’s by design that companies in Matthew McLennan’s portfolios aren’t exactly those that set investors’ hearts racing with excitement. “We’re happy to own businesses with what we consider a gradual positive drift to them,” he says. In this article, Matthew McLennan and Kimball Brooker describe how they assess “fade risk” in a number of industries, what makes them uneasy about the state of the world today, why their exposure to gold is higher than normal, and why they see mispriced value in Fanuc, Orkla, Schlumberger, Jardine Matheson and Weyerhaeuser.
The timing and conditions of Brexit remain unclear, but most estimates suggest that both the UK and EU economies will suffer as frictions are introduced into their economic connection.
Investors and consultants frequently ask for the Global Value team’s views on sustainable investing. While we do not offer strategies that focus in this area, we do pay close attention to issues of sustainability because they may be a key to a company’s resilience over the long term. Some investors see the energy sector as the antithesis of sustainability, but we see things differently. In this interview, Benj Bahr, energy-sector analyst on the Global Value team, explains why.
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