For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re scared. Endless recession threats, inflation and now visible stress in the banking system have convinced you that things are going to get worse before they get better . . . if they get better at all. Where do you hide?
Conventional wisdom suggests parking your funds in the Treasury market to shield what wealth you’ve managed to accumulate and maybe earn a big enough sliver of interest to stay ahead of inflation.
That works out all right when you can lock in reasonable real yields. But with annualized inflation still running at 6%, you aren’t getting a positive real yield anywhere in the Treasury market.
You’re locking in a loss in purchasing power. Admittedly, it might be a smaller loss than what you’d get in the stock market . . . but are you really so negative that you’re going to guarantee a loss? Is there nothing better?
And if you’re a professional investor, how do you justify your fees to clients? “I lost less than other people, but once you pay me, we’re even?” That’s no good.
It’s no wonder bonds are actually DOWN this week. We just aren’t seeing the total terror that would motivate anyone to accept a guaranteed negative return right now.
Remarkably, we aren’t watching investors run to utilities, either, which are the most reliable stocks on the market and often considered a bond substitute. The dividends work a lot like a bond. The companies aren’t going away.
Utility stocks DROPPED this week. That isn’t a classic flight to safety. I think investors there are telling us that reliability isn’t really what they’re looking for right now.
You need a little growth, a little dynamism. Otherwise you can’t keep up with inflation or other drag factors. That’s why gold dropped this week.
Gold is pretty and it’s a great inflation hedge. But it’s dead. It literally just sits there while financial markets spin around.
Gold is down. Utilities are down. Treasury bonds are down. Again, that’s not a normal flight to safety. When this happens, investors who are motivated by fear are simply selling everything they can in order to go to cash.
I would think that’s the case here . . . but Big Tech is up. Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) gained ground this week. They pay dividends like bonds, but as companies, they have the ability to expand their cash flow and raise that payout over time.
Between these two giant companies, I think you’ll find the real safe haven of the modern market. This is where nervous money parks. The stocks go up and down but on the whole there’s zero existential risk.
A multi-trillion-dollar company will not go to zero overnight. In a world where fairly large banks can implode on an accelerated timeline, that’s all the safety we really need.
MSFT and AAPL together have lifted the entire technology sector and the NASDAQ. Again, these are the areas of the market that are making money right now. The broad S&P 500 and especially the old-fashioned Dow industrials are too weighed down by old-school financials to be attractive in this moment.
Throw out the old playbook. Safety is in Silicon Valley . . . if you know where to look.