Commodities, aside from gold, mostly had a bad year. Figure 3 shows how commodities have developed in comparison to the US stock market. The essence is that commodities have never been worth so little in comparison to equities and after each crisis, there was a huge turning point. The worst start in 2020 certainly had oil, whose futures (WTI Crude) went negative when the crisis picked of steam in developed economies, which was thought to be impossible. It then recovered fairly quickly and stabilized at $40 for WTI Crude ever since, which was the case for most commodities. Towards the end of November, it started to surge again and continued to do so in December and is currently at $47 per barrel. A major driver for this development is certainly the start of vaccinations and the expectations of going back to normal relatively soon. Brent crude oil experienced a similar rally, although it started to soar earlier and thus gained a bit more than WTI. Brent Crude is now trading at $50 per barrel. Another commodity that has recovered very well is copper. It is trading at 7,068$/mt and has just slightly surpassed its highs from early 2018. During the crisis, it was trading at around 5,000$/mt. Furthermore, the price of copper is unlikely to decrease in the near future, as the stockpiles have not been as low since 2014
Macro and Political Outlook December 2020 by Macro Eagle
THE YEAR AHEAD
After the sharpest global economic downturn since WW2 (-4%), next year the West will hope that the 2020-stimulus plus vaccine-rollout leads to an economic rebound without pushing yields higher (Debt Crisis? What debt crisis?). On the big themes, I think the “K-nature” of the Covid recovery has some serious political risks (more below). I do think the love for all digital will continue, but beware of BigTech valuations and regulatory Tech-lash. Climate change will continue to drive the agenda, but beware of the ESG bubble. And as for geopolitics with Biden – I expect him to be as tough with China as Trump, just more polite. Apart from the US transition (more below) and China’s next 5-Year-Plan (more below) the two countries to watch are: post-Brexit Britain (more below) and Merkel-Daemmerung Germany (more below).
The rapidly increasing value of BTC is largely associated with the recent announcement of PayPal to accept BTC as currency, giving access to BTC to more than 300 million users, compared to only 100 million prior BTC users. According to Pantera Capital, this has had a major impact on BTC. Figure 4 below shows the increase in BTC purchases from itBit, the provider that PayPal uses for crypto transactions. Currently, Paypal and other providers are buying more than 100% of all newly issued bitcoins, creating additional demand with it. As highlighted in the figure below, the volume of transaction is shown, which remained stable during the year, but increased tremendously since PayPal enabled BTC transactions. Given the huge surge during the last two weeks, the demand is likely to increase even more, indicating that the current surge is not over yet. Moreover, if BTC surpasses its record high from 2017, it will cover the news even more, another indicator for an even higher price.
DeFi is probably the topic in the crypto space in 2020 and its steep rise during the summer. DeFi started with a total value locked in the area of millions in the year and is (as of November) at around $12.5bn. This development is also not expected to fade away towards the end of 2020, although it seems possible that there will be a decrease in growth compared to the summer. Figure 14 shows the DeFi ecosystem separated in sub-categories.
Macro and Political Outlook November 2020 by Macro Eagle
Should we get a Blue Wave, then the “consensus trades” are rotation from Growth into Value (on stimulus), overweight infrastructure/green-energy, short Treasuries (rising yields), short US Dollar and long selected Emerging Markets (like Mexico). The biggest risk in the short-term would be a sell-off due to fear of change in tax policy (wealthy Americans locking in “Stepped-Up Basis”, capital gains rate and/or Tax Loss Harvesting). The medium-term risk are higher US yields/curve steepening on the back of stimulus. For a quick overview of the other scenarios (already amply covered elsewhere) see short summary below. Also important to keep the portfolio on the right side of what won’t change, whatever the outcome: (1) More stimulus and hence higher yields; (2) China bashing; (3) Big Tech under political pressure and (4) the green-energy transition. The latter obviously turbo-charged if Biden comes in.