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Long/short equity, long-term horizon, mutual fund manager, portfolio strategy

Mario Draghi hinted that it might offer eurozone banks a tiered deposit rate, a measure used by other central banks running negative interest rates to mitigate their impact on the banking sector.

What is good for banks is good for lending and the flow of capital. And what is good for the flow of capital is generally good for business and the economy.

But the front end of the Euribor curve flattened out as far as two years.

The German 10-year Bund yield collapsed further below zero, to -0.08%, for a while trading lower even than Japans 10-year yield, itself as low as it has been since the fall of 2016.

By Joseph V. Amato, President and Chief Investment Officer – Equities

Is the bond market cautious or confused? Is the equity market confident or complacent?

The first quarter of 2019 came to a close last week with an episode that typified the financial market confusion of the past three months.

On Wednesday, following a number of reports that it was on the European Central Banks agenda, Mario Draghi hinted that it might offer eurozone banks a tiered deposit rate, a measure used by other central banks running negative interest rates to mitigate their impact on the banking sector. The EuroSTOXX Banks Index jumped by almost 2%.

What is good for banks is good for lending and the flow of capital. And what is good for the flow of capital is generally good for business and the economy.

But tell that to the bond markets. The front end of the Euribor curve flattened out as far as two years. The German 10-year Bund yield collapsed further below zero, to -0.08%, for a while trading lower even than Japans 10-year yield, itself as low as it has been since the fall of 2016.

The week before, we went througha similar thing with the Federal Reserve. It confirmed that another rate hike is unlikely this year and that its balance sheet run-off would finish earlier than expected, while lowering its growth and inflation expectations.

Financial conditions would be looser for longer, therefore – but the U.S. 10-year yield responded by plummeting to levels unseen since the start of 2018. By Friday, the three-month and 10-year points on the yield curve, which is the favorite indicator for some recession watchers, had inverted for the first time since 2007. Last week, Fed Funds futures were pricing in a full quarter percent cut for this year and another one next summer.

Again, bond markets appeared to be asking themselves, What terrors does the central bank know about that we dont?

For sure, when bonds have rallied over the past couple of weeks, equities have generally sold off, with those European bank stocks being a notable exception. But lets put those moves into perspective.

As youve seen already, bond market moves have taken us to extremes we havent seen for 12 months, 24 months – even 12 years. By contrast, equity markets are nowhere near the lows they reached as recently as December. The S&P 500 finished the quarter up by almost 14%, while the EuroSTOXX 600, MSCI Emerging Markets and TOPIX indices gained 11%, 10% and 8%, respectively.

So, is the bond market cautious or confused? Is the equity market confident or complacent? When it comes to the real state of the economy over the next 12-24 months, whos right and whos wrong?

My colleagues on both the equity and the fixed-income sides of our business agree: The bond market is confused, and the equity market better reflects our market and economic outlook.

In our view, the central banks looser-for-longer adjustments are not a response to something forbidding in the future, but a recognition ofwhats required to keep on track for a soft landingof the economy. They could help extend this cycle, and therefore lend support to both equities and higher longer-dated yields: It is always useful to remember thatthe level of interest rates drives economic activity, while the valuation of equity markets reflects economic activity.

Its true that our fixed-income teams have recently seen some powerful technical factors at work in their markets. Two major factors have been a large amount of short-covering and hedging activity, evidenced by swap spreads dropping much faster than Treasury yields as well as a surge of offshore investors into dollar bond markets as currency hedging costs have declined from recent highs. Nonetheless, bond market price action itself still appears confusing.

For the pessimists among us, there are still plenty of worrying things in the economic data releases, particularly those coming out of the manufacturing sectors in Europe and China. We need improvements there to justify equity markets confidence in a soft landing, and we believe we will begin to see that over the coming months. If we change our minds, it will be in response to the fundamental data, not in response to signals coming from the fixed-income markets, which are beset by technical tides and overreacting to the complex, confusing messages currently being put out by central banks.

-8.7% to SAAR of 1.16 million units in February

-1.6% to SAAR of 1.3 million units in February

January home prices decreased 0.2% month-over-month and increased 3.6% year-over-year (NSA); +0.1% month-over-month (SA)

Personal spending increased 0.1%, income increased 0.2%, and the savings rate decreased to 7.5% in February

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