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War, Inflation and Market Jitters

The possibility of war looms as Russia's build up of troops and tanks grow on the Ukranian border. As if that were not enough, inflation stats coming in at 7.5% provides continued proof of how wrong the Federal Reserve has been. Markets hate uncertainty and "uncertainty" is the flavor of the current moment. Russian-Ukranian tensions have been on the rise for weeks now. That is not news. A diplomatic resolution vs a military invasion has been the more expected outcome and that is now in question. Has that been fully discounted by the markets. Some say no.

A military build up of such magnitude is cause for alarm and certainly a strategic move by Putin to force an outcome whether that is to enter into negotiations and reach a new military understanding between Europe, Russia and the USA or potentially, an invasion. An invasion is costly on many fronts for Russia, not least of which will be the heavy sanctions that will be imposed on them by USA and Europe. War is costly and it is questionable whether Russia can afford such a prolonged entanglement. As such, it seems a high risk option for Putin and therefore less likely of an outcome to us. However, if the strategic goals for the build up were originally to negotiate a new military understanding in the region and these completely fail from Putin's vantage point, who knows what his next move could be.

In the midst of this, inflation continues to rear its ugly head. Supply chain issues abound. The Fed has to act and based on the most recent data, the market worries it will have to act even more aggressively. As we have said before in previous blog posts, we believe the Fed will act and a rate increase of at least 25 basis points is all but assured in March. It is again unlikely in our estimation that the first rate hike will be more than that. Based on our research supply chain issues will start to be addressed in the second half of 2022. However, progress may not materialize until later than the market would like. In this sceanrio more pressure will be put on the Fed to keep raising interest rates which they will probably do.

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Are Higher Interest Rates The Harbinger of Gloom for Stocks?

Are higher interest rates the harbinger of gloom for stocks? That is what the market news headlines are wanting everyone to believe. Well, how true is it though? Yes, interest rates have been at historic lows and this fuelled high growth stocks in 2021 to historically high valuations. The Fed's "temporary inflation" outlook proved less transitory and more embedded in the economy and so the time had arrived to deal with this using the two tools at the Fed's disposal: raising interest rates and tapering or reducing its purchase of central bank assets, essentially a reversal of its quantitative easing policies and removing liquidity from the markets.

The markets reaction was immediate and high growth stocks sold off starting in November. The Nasdaq fell from a high of 16,764 in the second half of November 2021 to 13,724 in January, a fall of just over 20% and now sits at about 14,930 today, the last day of January 2022.

"Pending higher interest rates and Fed tapering required a re-valuation of tech stocks" was the communication coming out of every media outlet. In reality, it prompted a move out of yes, highly valued tech stocks into "value" stocks that had been left behind to that point in time. A sound strategic move, one can argue.

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Markets are on Edge. Are you?

The markets are on edge. The Fed has signalled it will use its tool box to curb inflation which includes raising rates and tapering. The market has shuddered. "Don't fight the Fed"! is the prevailing market wisdom. The market pundits and the news media are pronouncing that rising rates combined with less liquidity is going to be bad for stocks and that this could be the end of the historic bull market.

First of all, this movie has played out before. Between late 2016 and 2018 the Fed started to signal it was going to raise rates and high growth stocks sold off as they are the most rate-senstitive. Investors rotated into defensive stocks with strong earnings. However once rate hikes happened the same growth stocks that were now priced for those rate hikes, performed really well, while the defensive stocks did not. A good case can be made that we will see a repeat of the same pattern. Earnings remain robust, supply issues are likely to turn around in 2022 and inflation will eventually come down from it's current highs.

Likewise, the economy continues to find its way through the disruptions of COVID and while this may take more time than people think, we will move past COVID as the rest of the world begins to get vaccinated and build immunity. However, it would be foolish to discount new variants emerging over the coming 12 months - and more disruptions to global economies - while over 90% of the developing countries are still unvaccinated.

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2022 is Almost Here, So What's in Store for The Year Ahead?

We first want to wish all our readers and clients a Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to a tumultous 2021, we look forward and to 2022 and what it may have in store for investors. 2021 saw inflation run away to heights not seen for decades. The Fed completely under-estimated this and shifted gears stating it was going to get serious about tackling inflation by tapering its bond buying and raising interest rates in 2022. The markets are re-calibrating. How big an issue is "inflation" and how soon can it be brought under control? These are the key questions as they will influence how aggressive the Fed is with respect to raising interest rates.

The key determining factors with respect to taming inflation are:

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Bollinger Bands. What Are They and Can They Be a Useful Tool for Investment Decision Making?

What the heck are Bollinger Bands?

Bollinger Bands were developed by John Bollinger. They are envelopes (or could be thought of as sandwiches with the moving average of price as the filling) plotted at a standard deviation (which can be adjusted) above and below a simple moving average of the price. As the distance apart of the bands is based on standard deviation, the bands naturally adjust to swings in the underlying price being measured.

The width of the bands and underlying trend can be indicative of pending shifts in price. For example when the bands are narrow and remain narrow for a period of time which is indicative of a period of low volatility it can portend a more significant future price movement up or down which in turn would require other technical indicators to evaluate alongside it. The timeframe over which Bollinger Bands are observed or utilized is likewise an important factor to take into account and can also weaken or strengthen their validity or usefulness. If you are observing these over hourly, daily, weekly or monthly time frames they will yield different value.

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