The Canadian federal election is coming up soon. And after that the U.S. presidential race will be in full swing for the 2020 election. Will the incumbent Donald Trump stay for another 4 years? It’s hard to make that call at this point. But perhaps there are some investment opportunities we can look at in the meantime.
Unfortunately the financial market as a whole isn’t particularly attractive right now. The S&P 500 currently has an Earnings Yield (EY) of just 4.45%. So if we put money in a stock market index fund today, we will likely receive an annual return of 4.45% based on corporate earnings, and assuming all other factors stay the same. This is noticeably lower than the long term average EY of 7.35%. Although 4.45% isn’t the worst return you can get, after paying maybe 1% of that in tax, and losing another 2% to inflation, the net real return on investment would be less than 1.5%.
That’s why I’ve decided to be more selective about which assets to buy. One thing you can always count on during an election is uncertainty. The market hates that word. One whiff of uncertainty and investors leave the stock market faster than a guy after hearing the results of the pregnancy test. This upcoming election comes at a time when the U.S. economy is slowing due to record amounts of debt weighing it down. According to the New York Fed, household debt increased for 19 quarters in a row, and is now nearly $1 trillion above the previous peak. Student loans have doubled since 2006 as a percentage of GDP. This will most likely lead to interest rate cuts in the United States to help bolster the economy. And my assumption is that the Bank of Canada will take similar action soon after, as it often did in the past. Lower interest rates usually boosts the stock market and commodity prices.
So for the next 6 to 18 months, I think the best asset classes to be in are bonds, prime real estate, and precious metals. Long term bond funds are highly sensitive to interest rate changes. But as long as we’re quite confident that rates aren’t moving up, then bond funds should provide a low risk option to earn some interest income, with the added potential for capital gains if the price of borrowing become cheaper.