The sharp change in trend in the ECRI’s leading index has been widely reported, however, Goldman Sachs has their own leading indicator and it is exhibiting the same negative trend seen in the ECRI’s leading index. Though the change in trend is alarming it is not a cause for panic as it is coming off of very high levels and is not occurring during a recession (according to Goldman):
“Our improved GLI comes at a particularly important time for assessing the cycle. Although our original GLI had not shown a clear peak, we have pointed out for some time that it has been distorted by trending issues in the past few months and that signs ‘under the hood’ have pointed to some slowing in momentum. The improved GLI shows that message more clearly, with a peak now visible there. This suggests that the pace of industrial growth is set to decelerate, although from extremely high levels, an outcome that would be consistent with our GDP forecasts.
Markets are increasingly focused on what this kind of slowing in momentum will mean. As usual at this point in the cycle, the key issue is the extent of deceleration. The acceleration phase in recovery inevitably ends and that point was always likely to come in 2010H1. But, as we show once again, while that shift means a more moderate picture for risk assets, the deceleration is generally only a clear negative event if the slowdown is severe. Although our US forecast is still firmly below consensus, our global forecast does not envisage a sharp slowdown. That said, we will continue to pay close attention to the incoming data on this front, starting with the new release of the GLI tomorrow.”
What does it all mean for the various asset classes? Not surprisingly, when the GLI is in decline equities tend to undperform, bonds outperform, volatility spikes and credit spreads widen:
“Within equities, the performance differentials between periods when the GLI is rising and falling are on average very large, although of course heavily influenced by the impact of serious downturns and recessions. The differences are strongest in emerging markets (EM) and in cyclical equities (our Wavefront growth basket shows that cyclicals tend to outperform strongly in ‘up’ phases and underperform strongly in ‘down’ phases).
Commodities show a similar pattern. But the relationship is strongest for industrial metals including copper (this is true even if they are excluded from the GLI), and least strong for gold and other precious metals. Interestingly, at least over the sample period here, oil has behaved with a strong cyclical bias too.
Bonds display the opposite behaviour, with a strong tendency for yields to fall when the GLI is falling and significant rises when the GLI is rising. That tendency is largest in the US market (front and back) but visible in other majors. There is also some tendency for the yield curve to steepen more when the GLI is falling.
Unsurprisingly, given the other results, credit spreads and equity volatility (as measured by the VIX) also tend to move significantly higher on average during phases when the GLI is falling and narrow when it is rising. These differences have been extremely pronounced in the recent downturn and—as we have described elsewhere—tend to be most dramatic at the ends and beginnings of cycles.
Experience in FX is more mixed. In general EM FX tend to perform better when the GLI is rising than falling and, within the G10, the commodity currencies are by far the most reliably related on the positive side to phases of the GLI. That said, the GBP, SEK and NOK are all confirmed to be more ‘cyclical’ in this simple analysis than the EUR. On the other side, the CHF is the least cyclical of the G10. Within the G3, the message is more mixed—and more varied over time—but there is a modest tendency over the long term for the USD to do better when the GLI is deteriorating.”
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.