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Jennifer Enstad, CFA, Portfolio Manager

Current Assessment on China

By | News and Events | No Comments

China has been making headlines as their stock market has fallen roughly 30% in the past few weeks. Earlier today, almost half of all listed companies in China voluntarily suspended trading of their shares, and over 800 other stocks had trading automatically halted after reaching their daily drop limit. We have seen spillover effects in the U.S. as our stock market has fallen over concerns about what the implications of the sell-off in China might be. During times of crises, it can be helpful to put things in perspective.

First, China’s stock market has risen an exponential amount over the past year. The chart below shows the Shanghai composite index performance over the past three years. This chart illustrates not only the outsized performance recently, but also how the market behaved prior to that. It is our experience that this pattern is very typical of a bubble, where investors are willing to pay much more for something than it is worth. As soon as some investors begin to exit, generally a mass exodus follows resulting in a crash which is what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. So while the drop of 30% over the past few weeks sounds scary, in reality the Shanghai Composite is still up 70% on a year-over-year basis.

china-graph

consumption. Instead of allowing that transition to take place, the government stepped in and essentially filled in for the consumer by spending billions of dollars on new infrastructure. The idea was that somehow government spending would begin to fuel consumer spending. However, consumer spending is unlikely to pick up anytime soon because the average Chinese household saves about 30% of their disposable
income. In China, consumer spending represents about 35% of GDP, compared to the U.S. where consumer spending accounts for roughly 70% of GDP.

The bottom line is that the pattern of growth China experienced over the past few decades is simply not sustainable. Now, they are going through a painful period and the government is doing everything they can to prop up the markets. However, it is unlikely to work. In the long-run, adjustments are going to need to take place as well as expectations will need to be revisited as to just how much China can contribute to overall world growth.

What does this mean for the U.S. economy? Ultimately, the implications of a slowdown in China will depend on how much their economy slows. Take, for example, the fact that China’s GDP has fallen from 9.6% in 2008 to 7.4% in 2014 (a 23% drop). Over that same time period, U.S. GDP rose from -0.92% in 2008 to 3.66% in 2014. While it is true that a further slowdown in China will likely have ripple effects across the globe, the extent of which remains to be seen.

As for our TPFG Strategies, we have very limited exposure to China. Currently, the only exposure is within our Global Strategy and that is less than 3%. We are assessing the potential impacts to other markets as well and are prepared to make changes should we deem it necessary.

Disclosure: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation, offering, or recommendation of any security or investment product. Market data contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. Commentary in this article contains the current opinion of the author(s) as of the date above, which are subject to change without notice. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without the express written consent of The Pacific Financial Group, Inc.

Current Assessment on Greece

By | News and Events | No Comments

The Greek situation has escalated over the past couple weeks, causing investors some concerns. We want to briefly address those concerns and provide our insight into the situation.

First, how’d we get here? Greece has been in the headlines for a number of years as it verges on the brink of collapse. After the 2009 recession, a number of European countries took the difficult, yet necessary, steps toward austerity which included trimming government spending, reducing bloated pension entitlements, and reforming many areas of the public sector. Greece has made little progress in those areas and, since 2010, their economy has contracted by 26%.

Fast forward to 2015 and many of the countries that pared back spending are beginning to show signs of sustained growth. Meanwhile, Greece is once again on the brink of collapse. In January, austerity-weary voters elected a government that promised not to make further changes that, sadly, still need to be made. Those include: cutting retirement benefits, trimming public spending, and decreasing the size of the public sector. Five months later, Greece has now defaulted on a loan to the International Monetary Fund and there is a high probability they will default on a €3.5 billion payment to the European Central Bank due July 20th.

Updates surrounding the controversy are dominating the headlines and for many investors it can be confusing and alarming. As recently as this morning, new headlines suggest Greece is now willing to make further spending cuts however they are not enough based on European leaders’ initial requirements. For now, we are in a wait and see mode with the understanding that things can change quickly. Nothing is set in stone and even rules that are technically written down in treaties can be overruled and modified in times of crisis.

We want to assure you that the entire Investment Team of TPFG is closely following this situation and meeting daily to discuss updates and implications for our investments. It is difficult to say how this crisis will ultimately resolve itself however, we can say that Greece has been making headlines for over 5 years with the possibility of default. During that time period, many investors reduced (or completely eliminated) exposure to Greece. In fact, TPFG currently has no direct exposure to Greek stocks. Additionally, Greece represents only 2% of euro area GDP and would not be capable of providing a major catalyst for a market crash. The fear of contagion is limited as well. Initially there were fears that European officials would back down and give Greece some sort of special deal which would in turn lead to other countries (such as Portugal, Spain, or Italy) demanding better terms for their loans as well. Instead, European officials have maintained a hardline stance with Greece, suggesting they are in no mood to make concessions on loans to Greece (or anyone else for that matter).

Again, TPFG is closely monitoring this situation as it unfolds. However, we do believe any adverse market impacts will be limited and short term in nature.

Disclosure: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation, offering, or recommendation of any security or investment product. Market data contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. Commentary in this article contains the current opinion of the author(s) as of the date above, which are subject to change without notice. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without the express written consent of The Pacific Financial Group, Inc.

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