So, we have Truss now. The continuity candidate, not the dull man who would take away our sweeties. But also, the same old Fed, keen to do just that. And its time we took a look at Starmer, the other continuity candidate and an excellent book on him; required reading for serious investors.
Otherwise, it is always a good summer when nothing changes. Markets swoop and soar vainly trying to catch our attention, but the reality remains that rates have to rise enough to destroy the excess demand that causes inflation. And they have to rise to equal or surpass that level, eye-watering as that prospect is. It will not be over until the US jobs report goes negative, and stays negative; anything less is prolonging the pain.
Presentation over substance
But this is a time of intensely political Central Banks, headed up by people without a grounding in economics, but a lot of “presentation skills”. They will be dragged kicking and screaming and smiling to do what they should have done last year, hoping vainly for some supply side reform or windfall to help out. But largely still facing the exact opposite, populists who think subsidies “cure” or ameliorate inflation.
Markets are oddly buoyant; they get like this at times, but we see that as a mix of delusion, the self-reinforcing strength of the dollar (be very careful of that one, it is a new bubble) and the spluttering remnants of buying on the dip.
But be under no illusion, Central Banks trying to guess where the economy is going is like fly fishing with a jar of marmite. Entertaining, but highly unlikely to catch anything.
Truss: Issues and options
Truss meanwhile looks like a re-run of Boris; it won’t be quite that simple, but it looks like more style over substance, a different set of lobbyists, but nothing really changing. The idea either she or the EU can afford a bust up with the UK, just shows how silly markets can get.
Some of her programme may make sense, both the NI (tax) rises, and the corporation tax increases were badly timed and should be reversed, given inflation is doing the hard work already through fiscal drag (or frozen tax thresholds).
The rises were proposed when we were exiting the COVID crisis, but before we understood the energy one. We said so the last time we wrote to you.
Ditching a few Treasury backed white elephants (HS2, Freeports, the crazy fiddling fetish on capital allowances) would do no harm either, but overall, the market’s verdict is clear: fiscal responsibility is still a long way out. We can all see how sterling has collapsed against the dollar; it is less clear why it has fallen against the Indian Rupee or the Chinese Yuan.
Source: See this website for all the daily data.
A book to read for all investors
So to Starmer, the likely next UK prime minister, where we need to pay more attention. Both on his mindset and on why the Labour Party hates him so much. Which in turn explains why (and with the Tories fatal ideological split heading them into Opposition), he is so fixated on party control.
Oliver Eagleton writes very well. His recent book The Starmer Project looks at four episodes, his left wing legal start, his transformation into a Tory enforcer with a penchant for exporting judicial expertise to the colonies (don’t laugh), his alleged machinations to back the People’s Vote nonsense to bring Corbyn down (pretty dense stuff, even now) and his use as the Blairite stalking horse to put a stop to Corbyn’s chiliastic tendencies, (which also gives you a trigger warning about a light dusting of Marxist ideological claptrap).
So Starmer is all about what works, which would make a nice change.
We’re looking at a very global mindset, apparently quite a strong Atlanticist outlook, keen to work with European authorities, but aware that the Brexit boat has sailed. An interest in devolving power down, but keenly alert to the risk of anarchy that entails. Indecisive, a Labour Party outsider (on his first election in 2015, apparently his nomination had to be held back to ensure he had the minimum length of prior party membership). Starmer is not exactly collegiate, but he has run a Whitehall department (as Director of Public Prosecutions) so not a loose cannon.
Very London too, Southwark, Reigate, Guildhall School of Music (sic), Oxford for post grad law, Leeds as an undergraduate. So should at least know where the Red Wall was. But lest you relax too much, a total ignorance of economics or business, let alone how to create growth. It won’t be easy.
And what about Markets?
Well for a UK (or non US) investor you only had one question this year. If you ditched the local currency you made money, and if you held onto sterling you got hit. Our GBP MonograM model is doing fine, it got that one big call right: kind of all you need. If you are a dollar investor, outside of energy your best place was cash. And our USD model took longer to spot that shift. As for active investing, sadly pretty much the same, the dollar is the story, or dollar assets. All of which perhaps makes dollar earners in the UK look cheap still.
But for now we see the story as a currency one, and at heart that is just about the timing of tightening interest rate spreads. The widening of those spreads has caused the recent havoc.
So when (finally) the European and UK Central Banks abandon futile incrementalism and get the big stick out, that will call the turning point.