Connect with us

Investing

DOES THE US ECONOMY NEED FISCAL STIMULUS?

Published

on

DOES THE US ECONOMY NEED FISCAL STIMULUS?

By David Absolon, Investment Director at Heartwood Investment Management

 The US economy is healing and plans for significant tax cuts and higher spending are not needed. That is an increasing view among economists, among them Ben Bernanke, the former Chair of the US Federal Reserve, who recently stated: “With the economy approaching full employment, the need for demand-side stimulus, while perhaps not entirely gone, is surely much less than it was three or four years ago.”

As central banks’ monetary policies appeared increasingly defunct to revive growth and inflation, the clamour for fiscal spending grew louder in 2016. With annual growth rates averaging between 2.0-2.5% year-on-year since the financial crisis and showing no signs of reverting back to pre-crisis levels, the US economy has been cast to be in a low growth rut. Fears were compounded in 2016, as the economy saw its weakest growth in five years at just 1.6% year-on-year.

However, much of the downturn in the past couple of years has been due to the fall in oil prices and a resultant collapse of capital expenditure. Thanks to the recovery in commodity prices, these headwinds are now easing and the oil industry is starting to get back on its feet. Baker Hughes report a sharp increase in the number of rig counts in operation in the fourth quarter of 2016. In addition, investment in mining structures and equipment (adjusted for inflation) entered positive territory at the end of 2016, following a contraction in growth through most of 2015 and 2016.

With the recovery of the oil sector underway, broader business spending intentions are also now seeing improvements, as evidenced by various national and regional business surveys. This growing sense of optimism has coincided with stronger global demand, particularly from China and the eurozone. For the US economy which has heavily relied on the consumer to prop up the economy, the recovery in business spending is welcome news. Moreover, labour market conditions continue to tighten and this is likely to increase nominal wage growth in the short term, helping to at least partially offset some slowing in real income growth as inflation rises.

Upside risks in the near term, longer picture less clear

Arguably, just as the US economy is starting to see a cyclical upswing and the Federal Reserve continues to have the ammunition to normalise monetary policy in a gradual fashion, an injection of a significant dose of fiscal stimulus is not without risk. An economy that runs too hot in the next year or two, while not our central view, may further complicate the Federal Reserve’s task of implementing gradual interest rate increases and reducing its balance sheet over time without causing significant disruption to financial markets.

In the near term, we continue to believe that a Trump presidency represents more upside risk to growth and capital markets than if Hillary Clinton had won, as we would expect overall aggregate demand in the US economy to increase. However, one of the main issues for sustained prosperity for the US economy – and indeed relevant to other developed economies – is productivity growth. Efficiency gains can be achieved through targeted spending measures, such as increasing skills and training among the workforce and promoting research and development. How the spending gets distributed and its effectiveness will be important factors in determining the longer term outlook, including whether economists and markets judge a Trump presidency a success or failure.

Investing

COVID-19 and PCL property – a market on the rise?

Published

on

COVID-19 and PCL property – a market on the rise? 1

By Alpa Bhakta, CEO of Butterfield Mortgages Limited

Over the last five years, demand for prime central London (PCL) property has been fairly inconsistent. Sudden peaks in interest from buyers could be followed by periods of stagnate price growth. Nonetheless, the advantages of PCL property investment, particularly by international investors, has remained well known.

Well-funded development and neighbourhood re-generation schemes, alongside an influx of overseas investment, has resulted in a vibrant market with a diverse range of opportunities for prospective buyers.

Nonetheless, the PCL market has not been immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first half of the year, the lockdown meant physical valuations and onsite inspections could not take place. People in the UK were also discouraged from moving properties unless they found themselves in extreme circumstances.

However, as we now enter the final weeks of 2020, I believe there’re plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future prospects of the PCL property market. Buyer demand has resulted in a new wave of activity, and this is resulting in significant house price growth. Indeed, it was recently revealed by Halifax that the average rate of house price growth in November was at a four-year high.

Obviously, there are multiple factors that have helped sustain this strong level of house price growth. Most notably, the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday has succeeded in coaxing buyers back to the property market––be they seasoned buy-to-let (BTL) investors or first-time buyers––by offering up to £15,000 in tax savings on any given property purchase.

However, it’s worth considering the other factors underway in London’s property market. With the UK in a second national lockdown, many investors will be keen on hedging against future COVID-imbued market uncertainty through acquiring safe-haven assets like British property. As you’ll read below, this is having a positive impact on the PCL market.

Investors are flocking to PCL opportunities

The PCL property market has managed to be one of the most active areas of the UK’s real estate market during the whole of 2020. When discussing why this is so, we must first begin by understanding the behaviours of overseas buyers.

Given that international investors represented over half (55%) of all the PCL property purchases recorded in the second half of 2019, anything to further incentivise or dissuade such foreign actors would hugely impact PCL property transaction figures.

Earlier in the year, alongside the announcement of the aforementioned SDLT holiday, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak indeed announced that he would be implementing 2% SDLT surcharge for non-UK based buyers of British property from April 2021 onwards.

So, for those seeking properties worth over £5 million in the UK capital, a 2% additional cost may represent a substantial amount of wealth. To avoid this, many overseas buyers who may have been contemplating a PCL property acquisition have rushed to buy such properties before this surcharge is applicable. This trend will undoubtedly continue until 1 April, 2021.

Remote working and PCL

On the topic of the PCL market’s future, many property speculators were concerned earlier this year that London’s property market would potentially collapse entirely as a result of remote working. With homeworking set to remain the norm for the foreseeable future, commentators predicted that professionals would escape the capital en-masse in favour of roomier, cheaper properties farther from their London employer’s offices.

While there have been some signs of shifting demand from urban London neighbourhoods to suburban ones, according to Rightmove statistics, there has been no recordable effect on the UK’s property market as a result.

Conversely, property specialists Savills have actually discovered that over half of all transactions including properties worth more than £5 million in the UK this year were all located in just five central London postcodes.

A busy few months

Given the performance of the PCL property sector in 2020, I only foresee this market growing stronger and stronger in the years ahead. Recent developments in the production of COVID-19 vaccine have many hoping that we may return to normality by Spring 2021, which would represent fantastic news for those involved in bricks and mortar, should it transpire.

In the coming months, I anticipate a surge in activity across the PCL market as buyers look to take advantage of the tax breaks on offer. As such, it will be important that these buyers have access to the financing needed to complete these transactions quickly. If not, there is a risk any purchase they attempt might be concluded in April 2021 when the current tax breaks in place are removed.

Overall, I cannot help but be impressed by the performance of the property market more generally during the pandemic. Having experienced slow growth in the years following the EU referendum in June 2016, it is clear that buyers are eager to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. This is particularly true when it comes to PCL property.

Continue Reading

Investing

An outlook on equities and bonds

Published

on

An outlook on equities and bonds 2

By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood

The equity market rally paused last week with global equities little changed in local currency terms. Even so, this still leaves markets up a hefty 10% so far this month with UK equities gaining as much as 14%.

The November rally started with the US election results but gathered momentum with the recent very encouraging vaccine news. This continued today with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine proving to be up to 90% effective in preventing Covid infections. This is slightly below the 95% efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already reported but this one has the advantage of not needing to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. One or more of these vaccines now looks very likely to start being rolled out within a few weeks.

Of course, these vaccines will do little to halt the current surge in infections. Cases may now be starting to moderate in the UK and some countries in Europe but the trend remains sharply upwards in the US. The damage lockdowns are doing to the recovery was highlighted today with the news that business confidence in the UK and Europe fell back into recessionary territory in November.

Markets, however, are likely to continue to look through this weakness to the prospect of a strong global recovery next year. While equities may have little additional upside near term, they should see further significant gains next year. Their current high valuations should be supported by the very low level of interest rates, leaving a rebound in earnings to drive markets higher.

Prospective returns over the coming year look markedly higher for equities than for bonds, where return prospects are very limited. As for the downside risks for equities, they appear much reduced with the recent vaccine news and central banks making it clear they are still intent on doing all they can to support growth.

Both factors mean we have taken the decision to increase our equity exposure. While our portfolios already have significant allocations to equities and have benefited from the rally in recent months, we are now moving our allocations into line with the levels we would expect to hold over the long term.

Our new equity allocations will be focused on the ‘value’ areas of the market. The last few weeks have seen a significant rotation out of expensive high ‘growth’ sectors such as technology into cheaper and more cyclical areas such as financials, materials and industrials. Similarly, countries and regions, such as the UK which look particularly cheap, have fared well just recently.

We think this rotation has further to run and will be adding to our UK exposure. This does not mean we have suddenly become converts to Boris’s rose-tinted post-Brexit view of the UK’s economic prospects. Instead, this more favourable backdrop for cheap markets is likely to favour the UK.

We will also be adding to US equities. Again, this does not represent a change in our longstanding caution on the US market overall due to its high valuation. Rather, we will be investing in the cheaper areas of the US which have significant catch-up potential.

We are also making a change to our Asia ex Japan equity holdings. We will be focusing some of this exposure on China which we believe deserves a specific allocation due to the strong performance of late of that economy and the sheer size of the Chinese equity market.

On the fixed income side, we will be reducing our allocation to short maturity high quality UK corporate bonds, where return prospects look particularly limited. We are also taking the opportunity to add an allocation to inflation-linked bonds in our lower risk, fixed income heavy, portfolios. These have little protection against a rise in inflation unlike our higher risk portfolios, which are protected through their equity holdings.

Continue Reading

Investing

Optimising tax reclaim through tech: What wealth managers need to know in trying times

Published

on

Optimising tax reclaim through tech: What wealth managers need to know in trying times 3

By Christophe Lapaire, Head Advanced Tax Services, Swiss Stock Exchange

This has been a year of trials: first, a global pandemic and, now, many countries facing the very real possibility of a recession. For investors, private banks, and wealth managers, these tumultuous times have manifested largely in asset price volatility, ultra-low interest rates and uncertainty about when things may level out, as well as questions about what can be done to safeguard portfolio performance.

The answer here lies within identifying and creating efficiencies to maximise performance and minimise cost, and while there is a slew of options as to how to do this, they are often siloed or have a single USP. Tax optimisation, on the other hand, provides benefits to all, not just in increasing returns for investors, but also in creating economies of scale across stakeholders, creating millions – if not billions – in savings for banks.

Evolving tax reclaim

The tax reclaim process used to be a tedious one banks had to manage themselves, and required detailed, industry and country-specific knowledge to stay on top of constantly shifting requirements and regulations. And when we consider that many countries – such as the UK – allow for capital gains exemptions, tax optimisation may not seem like an integral part of the process. However, this isn’t the case for all countries, and can lead to severe after-tax implications on global portfolios.

Furthermore, even if you’re able to avoid double taxation, getting the money back is not always as simple as it sounds. This, combined with the fact that countries often have contradictory taxation rules or requirements, makes navigating the tax reclaim space a challenge even for those with the right expertise and experience.

Ultimately, providing tax optimisation to investors ends up being a heavy lift for private banks and wealth managers, who often don’t have the right solutions, are relying on outdated technology and manual processes. While this is generally fine for business, it is no longer fit for the purpose when it comes to tax optimisation. To date, knowledge and expertise have been the key to protecting and maintaining profitable investments and avoiding tax leakage. However, through tax optimisation services starting to emerge, portfolio managers can now manage and reinvest easily.

Today, technology has evolved the process so that banks are able to access and submit tax reclaim – and the relevant documentation – online, leaving the tech provider to coordinate next steps with custodians and tax authorities behind the scenes. In essence, taking the legwork out of the process while assuring consistency and completeness in execution.

Simplifying tax through tech

While tax optimisation may seem like an easy choice in theory, it is not always the go-to for every private bank or wealth manager. Without the right supports and setup, including innovative technologies and automation, tax reporting must be done manually, leading to labour intensive processes and huge time wastage. Changing these processes can be overwhelming for those used to a certain way of operating.

By making tax reclaim digital, banks will be more able to optimise returns and gain efficiencies while reducing redundancies and unnecessary complexities. Cloud based solutions or platforms can offer a safe and secure solution for banks, wealth managers, and investors to access and submit any information required, processing the data automatically for conformity and completeness.

It is critical that providers who intend to offer tax services are able to do so efficiently with the right software and data processing capabilities. Not only does this drive continuity in service and efficiencies in process, but it is the only sustainable way to handle such a complex landscape sustainably without wasting time or money.

End-to-end, technologically driven tax services offer a huge number of advantages to private banks and wealth managers, the most important of which is the ability to provide continuity through tumultuous times. As we move through the end of 2020 into 2021 this will only be increasingly important as banks, managers and investors look to provide new services to clients and strengthen existing relationships in a difficult market.

As investors seek to find returns amid the global economic downturn, the demand for innovative solutions will only increase. Technology like cloud-based software, AI, and data optimisation can all serve to improve not just the tax reclaim processes, but the overall client experience within capital markets.  Private banks and wealth managers are suitably equipped to provide these innovative solutions, but those who do not prepare themselves effectively and keep ahead of trends will run the risk of losing current and new clients to someone who can offer more for less.

Continue Reading
Editorial & Advertiser disclosureOur website provides you with information, news, press releases, Opinion and advertorials on various financial products and services. This is not to be considered as financial advice and should be considered only for information purposes. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or applicability of any information provided with respect to your individual or personal circumstances. Please seek Professional advice from a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. We link to various third party websites, affiliate sales networks, and may link to our advertising partners websites. Though we are tied up with various advertising and affiliate networks, this does not affect our analysis or opinion. When you view or click on certain links available on our articles, our partners may compensate us for displaying the content to you, or make a purchase or fill a form. This will not incur any additional charges to you. To make things simpler for you to identity or distinguish sponsored articles or links, you may consider all articles or links hosted on our site as a partner endorsed link.

Call For Entries

Global Banking and Finance Review Awards Nominations 2020
2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards now open. Click Here

Latest Articles

The Bank of England partners with Appvia to assist in the design, construction and assurance of a new cloud environment 4 The Bank of England partners with Appvia to assist in the design, construction and assurance of a new cloud environment 5
Technology7 hours ago

The Bank of England partners with Appvia to assist in the design, construction and assurance of a new cloud environment

The Bank of England has appointed self-service cloud-native delivery platform Appvia to support the creation of a new cloud environment....

2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors 6 2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors 7
Top Stories7 hours ago

2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors

By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder There’s no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as the year that changed...

Leadership and management in a WFH world 8 Leadership and management in a WFH world 9
Top Stories7 hours ago

Leadership and management in a WFH world

By Carolyn Moore, SVP of People at Auth0 Although many of us will have settled into some kind of groove,...

Swedish Bank Stress Tests in Line with Recent Rating Actions 10 Swedish Bank Stress Tests in Line with Recent Rating Actions 11
Banking7 hours ago

Swedish Bank Stress Tests in Line with Recent Rating Actions

The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority’s (FSA) latest stress test results show major Swedish banks’ robust ability to absorb credit losses....

Taking the temperature of residential real estate 12 Taking the temperature of residential real estate 13
Top Stories7 hours ago

Taking the temperature of residential real estate

By Tom Brown, Managing Director of Real Estate at Ingenious Savills currently forecast a 4%1 growth in UK house prices in...

Solving the Challenges of the Modern Retail Industry with SD-WAN 14 Solving the Challenges of the Modern Retail Industry with SD-WAN 15
Technology8 hours ago

Solving the Challenges of the Modern Retail Industry with SD-WAN

Three key benefits of SD-WAN can help retailers solve new and old challenges and prepare for an uncertain future By...

Future success for banks will be driven by balancing physical and digital services 16 Future success for banks will be driven by balancing physical and digital services 17
Banking8 hours ago

Future success for banks will be driven by balancing physical and digital services

Digital acceleration due to COVID-19 has not eliminated the need for bank branches Faster service (23%), smaller queues (26%) and...

Subscription boom: Lockdown subscribers to boost long-term customer retention, new study reveals 18 Subscription boom: Lockdown subscribers to boost long-term customer retention, new study reveals 19
Business8 hours ago

Subscription boom: Lockdown subscribers to boost long-term customer retention, new study reveals

37% British adults signed up to at least one new subscription service in lockdown 3 out of 4 consumers intend...

Now’s the time to get a UK-EU trade deal over the line 20 Now’s the time to get a UK-EU trade deal over the line 21
Top Stories11 hours ago

Now’s the time to get a UK-EU trade deal over the line

After four years, two General Elections, two Prime Ministers and a seemingly endless number of setbacks, the negotiations over the...

Accurate forecasting is vital for supply chains in the COVID-19 era and beyond 22 Accurate forecasting is vital for supply chains in the COVID-19 era and beyond 23
Business13 hours ago

Accurate forecasting is vital for supply chains in the COVID-19 era and beyond

By Andrew Butt, co-founder and CEO of Enable,  a modern, cloud-based software solution for B2B rebate management. All companies have...

Newsletters with Secrets & Analysis. Subscribe Now