During last quarter’s review meeting, I promised a snarky review this quarter, but “good grief” as Charlie Brown would say. The “Grexit” story from July feels insignificant at this point. Greece is now negotiating the “transfer” of over 50,000 migrants and refugees. In fact, the International Organization for Migration reported that more than 35,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece during the first week of October alone for a total of almost 435,000 since January.
Perspective: It’s hard to get upset about a reduction in your pension check when you are surrounded by refugees who were forced to flee their homes by armed conflict. A tough year is all relative.
The vast majority of Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Turkey (about 1.9 million), Lebanon (about 1.1 million), and Jordan (about 630 thousand). The impact of the global migrant crisis and the response by government leaders is a bigger issue than can be addressed here. Germany is expecting more than 800,000 people to claim asylum this year, which may provide a little relief with their aging demographic issues. Perhaps a silver lining?
But let’s move on to the stories that impacted the bottom line.
At the beginning of August, we became aware of the ongoing slowdown in China when July’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (“PMI”) fell to 47.8. Just eight days later, the Chinese government unexpectedly devalued the Yuan by 2.0%, surprising markets and sending stock prices tumbling around the world and making us all believers that something was awry in China. When the August PMI came in at 47.3, it reinforced concerns of a global slowdown. That weighed even further on global commodities and markets prompting the Fed to leave rates unchanged yet again. It appears that China is struggling to transition from an investment-driven economy to a consumer one and they may have mistakenly used one of their tools as a sledgehammer.
Remember the days when it seemed as if China was going to either consume or contractually gobble up most of the world’s natural resources? It reminded me of when my father would complain over dinner about the Japanese buying up Manhattan real estate in the 1980s. The purchase of Rockefeller Center really lit him up. In the slides that follow, you’ll see China’s immense consumption of industrial metals in 2014, a dramatic drop in its GDP contribution from investment in 2015, and the current level of commodity prices.
As usual, we recommend a balanced portfolio with a risk profile suitable for each investor’s tolerance. Participants will not be pleased when they receive their third quarter statements but, hopefully, we have all learned to invest wisely, steadily and with discipline. Good grief.