Easy Money

by Ralph Cole, CFA Executive Vice President of Research

The global economic expansion continues to run at very different speeds around the world. However, the common thread among most all developed economies has been easy money. Today, China joined the party by lowering interest rates for the first time since 2012. The reasons for lower rates has been stubbornly slow growth, and as long as inflation remains low, central banks can feel confident in their choice to stimulate their economies.

Markets were also buoyed this week by dovish comments out of the European Central Bank. With most European economies mired in little to no growth, and the ECB has embarked on its own version of quantitative easing (QE). Mario Draghi hinted in a speech yesterday that their asset-buying program could expand if necessary. The lack of economic growth in Europe can at least be partially explained by Draghi’s habit of speaking about, rather than actually enacting, central bank policy. In Texas, they would call this “all hat and no cattle”.

Thrift Shop

This week just about wrapped up earnings season for retail companies. Earnings were basically strong across the board for retailers from Dollar Tree and Target to Foot Locker and Best Buy. We believe retailers and consumers are starting to feel the benefits of lower prices at the gas pump. Lower gas prices often coincide with higher consumer confidence numbers, which in turn leads to increased consumer spending.

What makes the retail industry so interesting is the plethora of stores from which shoppers have to choose. I don’t think any of us would argue that we aren’t over-retailed in the U.S. This abundance is one reason we don’t see much inflation. Despite a zero percent interest rate policy and a massive expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, inflation is not yet finding its way onto store shelves. Competition for the consumer’s discretionary dollar remains fierce. Case in point: the phenomenon of Black Friday sales moving earlier into our Thanksgiving holiday week.

Our Takeaways from the Week

  • Global markets continue to respond positively to easy money policies around the world
  • Lower gas prices should lead to positive sales for retailers this Holiday season
  • Have a Happy Thanksgiving and travel safely