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Bubbles, Bonds & The Allocation Dilemma - Part 1

In the last months we have written about bubbles, bonds and the shifting balanced portfolio model in an inflation prone environment. We have a unique mix of variables in play today unlike any other time in history. Zero to 1.6 percent bond yields that are unlikely to cover the rate of inflation, so in essence, negative yielding. There is little to no room for bond prices to rise so the next logical question is: What's the economic rationale for holding bonds? For most institutions, at this juncture and in a climate of forseable low interest rates per the Federal Reserve, bonds are looking increasingly like a losing proposition.

As Christina Lagarde, the head of the ECB (European Central Bank) recently commented "Higher market interest rates pose a significant risk to financing conditions (e.g. a recovery). Rising bond yileds could lead to premature lightening" of credit conditions which of course would hamper yes, you guessed it, a recovery. COVID has walloped the Global Economy, created sky high unemployment and generated a bigger wealth divide. The answer per the Federal Reserve and ECB is continued stimulus and low, exceedingly low, rates.

The Bond Dilemma unless you are Microstrategy

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De-Fi: What is it & How It Is Changing the Financial Landscape?

De-FI is an abbreviation for Decentralised Finance and it is changing the global financial landscape. So, what exactly is decentralized finance? De-Fi has arisen in sync with the blockchain revolution and a smart contract platform called "Ethereum" which is an entire universe or the first world computer providing a base technology layer on which every conceivable application is being built to transact business in a secure, borderless and efficient manner. Decentralized Finance or the ability to trade stock, token or asset transactions on decentralized exchanges "peer to peer" without a middleman such as a traditional stock exchange, dramatically lowers the fee structure of what you would pay on a traditional exchange.  

You can now trade stocks, tokens and soon, every type of commodity, asset and collectable "peer to peer" directly without a "trusted middle party" e.g. a bank or stock exchange.These new decentralized platforms also known as DEX's are "Peer to Peer" and "trustless" meaning they do not require Person A knowing and trusting Person B to make a trade or exchange. The Decentralized Exchange (DEX) itself provides the mechanism for a secure exchange.

The Gamestop debacle has opened people's eyes to the fact that not only are "free trading" platforms such as Robinhood not free, they are also subject to censorship rendering the retail investor powerless when it suits the centralized exchanges. Retail buyers and sellers may not know it, but they pay a mark-up or mark-down in the price of any financial instrument (when they buy or sell) essentially paying a premiium for each transaction which is pocketed by the exchange and its partners. Furthermore, as Gamestop investors found out, once losses to a select number of hedge funds became too acute, Robinhood stepped in - under pressure from its peers - to halt or limit trading to the detriment of retail investors.

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Market Trends for 2021 Part Two

Last week we wrote about trends that we think will continue into 2021 from 2020. Big technology shifts across AI, 5G, IOT, Blockchain and so forth are going to disrupt and accelerate change across many industries. Banking & Finance is one industry for example that is being challenged by the growing defi (decentralized finance) markets which now have north of $20 billion of assets in their ecosystem. We expect this trend to innovate and grow rapidly providing a growing number of options and products to serve the market.

With a new incoming administration, the stimulus packages will continue. Aside from the growing national debt and its staggering size, this continued onslaught of money flooding into the economy will continue to fuel inflation and devalue the US dollar. The latter alongside low interest rates will force asset managers and every day investors and retirees to seek yield that can offset the loss in value of holding cash.

1. The enormous injection of monies into the economy will cause most quality hard assets to rise in value

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Market Trends for 2021

First of all, Happy New Year to you! May we all look forward to seeing COVID in the rear mirror at some point in 2021. No doubt, getting enough of the population vaccinated will take longer than we all hope, but it will happen and science will help us put COVID behind us. There is a known variant circulating, first identified in South Afria and then in the UK and Europe and now in the USA. While it is not certain whether the current vaccines on the market account for this variant, they will find a vaccine for this one too if the current vaccines do not.

Due to the inevitable mutations of viruses, it is quite possible (but still unknown) that we may need to get a COVID vaccine each year to ensure we have maximum protection from potential variants. While this is something none of us look forward to, it is no doubt better than the alternative. Obviously medical science is far from perfect and there will always be a small percentage of people who have adverse events to any vaccine. However this is just about the case with every medicine on the planet. The majority will benefit.

The certainty of a vaccine alongside a more unknown supply and vaccination schedule means it is just a matter of time before we return to a new normal. How much time is the unknown.

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What the SPAC! What Is It & Why Is It So Popular?

So, what is a SPAC? And why is there so much market talk about these?

SPAC stands for "special purpose acquisition company". It can also be referred to as a “blank-check” or “shell" company. Essentially, a SPAC is a publicly traded company formed by a group of investors with specialized experience in an industry who are looking to acquire a target company, essentially taking a private company, public. Until it acquires a company, the SPAC does not have any revenue or operational business. Essentially it raises money which stays on the balance sheet until a target acquisition has been negotiated.

There are two weaknesses that can be attributed to SPAC's.

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