Global stocks and U.S. futures have been climbing throughout the morning to pull into positive territory. So far this quarter, strong earnings (and a healthy dash of company buybacks) are trumping investors’ inflation and COVID concerns. That trend appears set to continue today ahead of the latest batch of corporate results from Doordash, Palantir and Coinbase.
Speaking of crypto, the market is booming. If you add up the market valuation of all the alt-coins—from Bitcoin to Shiba Inu—you’d get a market cap above $3 trillion. As I type, the price board is full of record-highs.
In today’s essay, I take a closer look at total returns and how to think about the years ahead.
But first, let’s see what else is going on.
- The Asian markets are mixed with the Shanghai Composite, the best of the bunch, up more than 0.2% in afternoon trading.
- Here’s a worrying indicator for inflation hawks. Chinese factories are jacking up prices at the fastest pace since 1995 thanks to commodity prices, the energy crunch and COVID.
- We seem to hit a grim new COVID-19 milestone every week. Yesterday, the number of cases surpassed 250 million around the world. That number has doubled since March.
- The European bourses were lower out of the gates, before recovering. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 was up nearly 0.1% 90 minutes into the trading day. Retail and auto stocks led the way higher at the start.
- Shares in Bayer were 2.6% higher in the first few minutes of trading after the biochemicals giant reported a big top- and bottom-line beat, and raised its profit outlook.
- U.S. futures are flat, but off their lows. On Monday, all three major equities indices eked out gains on the back of strong corporate earnings and decent economic and labor data.
- The S&P 500 is on an eight-day winning streak. According to Deutsche Bank, if we’re to close at nine-straight today it would be “the longest run of consecutive gains since November 2004, back when George W. Bush had just beaten John Kerry to win a second term. It’s also 17 out of 19 days up, which hasn’t happened since December 1971.”
- Shares in Robinhood are down 3.4% in pre-market after the popular trading app revealed it’s been hit by a data breach that’s revealed the personal details of roughly 7 million customers. The data thieves cleaned out more sensitive details of about 310 customers.
- Gold is off slightly, trading around $1,825/ounce.
- The dollar is down.
- Crude is flat with Brent hovering around $84/barrel this morning.
- BTC = ATH. Bitcoin climbed above $68,000 overnight. Ether too soared to a new record as it closes in on $5,000.
I find this stat, courtesy of BofA Securities, fascinating. Over the past 75 years, investors’ total returns have been overly reliant on price.
Said another way, the average investor portfolio has gotten more of a return from stock-price appreciation than from dividend payouts. BofA has a pie chart to visualize that:
Don’t bank on that ratio lasting for long. BofA’s models see the light blue wedge above shrinking as they see flat to negative “price” returns over the next decade. That’s an overly technical way of saying they see the “price” portion of total returns leveling off.
If this holds true then dividend payouts will be increasingly important for your portfolio return throughout the coming decade. How important?
The dividend portion of total returns, writes BofA’s Savita Subramanian writes, “could move closer to 100% over the next decade if our long-term price to normalized earnings framework…is close to correct.” In other words, imagine a total return chart where the dark blue “dividends” wedge comprises nearly the entire pie.
That’s not to say the S&P has no pricing growth baked in. BofA presents a scenario where it could still grow above 6,000 in the years to come. But the larger point is the importance of dividends to boost total returns. In an age where the buyback is king, it’s important to remember those value stocks that reliably pay out dividends.
As Subramanian says, “buybacks are dating, dividends are marriage.”
“Buybacks,” she continues, “represent a one-time cash return with no future obligation. Initiating a dividend is committing to a regular payment, and is perhaps a stronger signal because companies know that the aftermath of a dividend cut can be costly and protracted.”
Reader note: I will be traveling to the U.S. tomorrow, my first flight in nearly two years. You’ll get a slimmed-down Bull Sheet (all news/no essay) in your in-box before the markets tomorrow. I’ll write up the newsletter from New York on Thursday and Friday.
A huge thanks to Ian Mount yesterday. He took the keys to Bull Sheet while I was traveling back over the Apennines, heading back to Rome.
This weekend I was in Amandola for the annual white truffles festival. The weather was brutal, and the mood among the truffles hunters wasn’t much better. (Not even the appearance of Miss Italia could cheer them up.) The reason for their grumbles: selection was sparse, and the prices were eye-watering.
For the coveted tuber magnatum pico, sometimes called the Alba white truffle, this is the worst year anyone can remember. Freezing late-spring temperatures followed by a searing summer drought have conspired to sock the yield.
That’s bad news for you foodies, and for all those Michelin-starred chefs in New York, Napa and London. My advice: if any of you have scored a truffle-tasting reservation at one of Thomas Keller’s joints, you’d better sell some crypto first.
The truffles supply-chain-problem hit your markets correspondent as well. I paid out roughly 100€ for about 30 grams worth of truffles. My pusher, Roberto, in Amandola, hooked me up with a slight discount. Still, I had second thoughts the entire drive home. But by the time I shaved this pungent wonder over a dish of tagliatelle, and heard others around the kitchen table oohing in delight, I was feeling, gotta say, pretty proud of myself.
Take that Thomas Keller.
Why was I buyer this year? Because Scilla and I struck out. My neighbor couldn’t take us out this weekend. But it hardly mattered.
I spoke with a number of po-faced truffle hunters on the edge of the wood below my place. They were happy to be out in the rain and slop with their dogs, but none of them had scored a big find. They all got philosophical about the changing climate, and the impact on these woodland treasures. We also talked dogs.
I’ll try again later in the season.
As always, you can write to email@example.com or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.
Investors are betting that Pfizer’s ‘game-changing’ antiviral pill will reduce demand for COVID vaccines—Fortune
Randal Quarles to resign from Federal Reserve board in December—Fortune
Denmark ditched its COVID rules 2 months ago. Now cases are up—and restrictions are coming back—Fortune
Elon Musk Insults Tesla Shareholders’ Intelligence—Wall Street Journal
According to Bloomberg Opinion columnist Matt Levine, Elon Musk's gotta sell some stock, and it has nothing to do with his cockamamie weekend Twitter poll. The Tesla chief has 22.8 million stock options expiring by August, 2022. The tax hit will likely be around 50%, Levine calculates. The good news for Musk: the strike price is six bucks and 24 cents. Yesterday, TSLA closed at $1,162. Yep, he's in the money no matter how you look at it.
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