Baby you can drive my car.
Last month, GM sold 256,007 cars and trucks in the U.S. while Ford moved some 234,895 vehicles off the lot, the two big Detroit jalopies representing more than 31% of total domestic auto sales. Palo Alto-based Tesla, meanwhile, pumped out a whopping 4,050 of its electric lizzies, or 0.3% of total U.S. sales, barely edging out Hudson, Studebaker, and Packard. This morning, the company formerly known as Tesla Motors became the largest U.S. auto maker by market value.
Yes I’m gonna be a star.
True enough, trading at $312 bucks early Monday, the 13-year old automaker’s market capitalization reached $51.01 billion, overtaking GM’s $50.89 billion. (Tesla Inc. blew past Ford’s underpowered $44.95 billion a week ago.) Fact Is, Tesla shares have been on roll for a while, rising more than 40% just this year. Prospects are good for CEO Elon Musk, who reportedly controls a cool 28.9 million shares of company stock.
Baby you can drive my car.
The outsized run-up in a company that’s unprofitable and deeply in debt likely reflects a growing belief that electric motors will eventually replace internal-combustion engines as the primary power source for automobiles. More than that, Tesla’s market valuation is good evidence that investors are willing to pay for markets that don’t even exist yet. Think cars that drive themselves.
And maybe I’ll love you
Ironically enough, GM – whose best-selling vehicle today is a pickup truck — introduced the concept of self-driving at the 1930 World Fair. Tesla is a bet that Mr. Musk, who at 45 years old is the same age as Henry Ford when he released the Model T, might actually execute on that vision. While Tesla stock might be “absurdly overvalued,” to quote Mr. Musk, the point is “irrelevant.” It’s a race for the future of transportation, and the big money’s on Silicon Valley.
What the markets have been doing…
Stocks moved modestly higher over the two-week period, with larger-cap issues trading slightly better than small-caps. The surprise launch of missile attacks against Syria gave an unsurprising boost to defense stocks as well as safe-haven assets, with gold prices reaching a five-month high. Notable among all market events was electric carmaker Tesla’s capture of the spot of top U.S. automaker in terms of market capitalization after March sales declines led to sharp pullbacks in the shares of GM and Ford.
Last Wednesday saw the biggest market moves, with stocks initially rallying on a strong reading on March private payrolls growth from payroll processing firm ADP. The enthusiasm over job growth was short-lived, however, when the Labor Department’s official payrolls report came in well below expectations. Friday’s report showed only 98,000 new jobs added in March, the worst showing since last May.
|INDEX||Friday’s Close||Two-Week Point Change||Year-to-Date Change|
The payrolls miss had a larger impact on the bond market, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note touching its lowest level since last November. Limited new issuance helped provide support for the investment-grade space, and credit spreads remained in a fairly tight range. High yields easily dealt with manageable new issuance, though weakness in the automotive sector weighed on several issues. On the tax-free side, the new issuance calendar picked up for the period but traders were still unable to keep up with demand.
|FIXED INCOME||Period||YTD||12 Months||Yield|
|U.S. Investment Grade||0.0%||1.5%||2.7%||3.3%|
|U.S. High Yield||-(0.3)%||3.0%||16.6%||5.8%|
What Fund Architects has been doing…
The rally in higher-risk areas of financial markets, which have generally outperformed since early 2016, seems to have stalled in recent weeks. At the same time, bond yields have fallen from their earlier highs. Taken together, it’s likely that investors are wondering if the markets are returning to the sluggish conditions that dominated most of the current market cycle. Some may even believe we’re nearing the end of the longer-term equity bull market.
Based on our ongoing analysis of equity and fixed income sectors, neither scenario appears to be the case. Even with the markets taking a pause to see if the economy and profits can catch up to the latest valuation expansion, we’re still finding very attractive investments for the Fund Architect portfolios.
As we set the portfolios for the beginning of April, Global Technology (IXN) topped our equity rankings for the second straight month. Infrastructure stocks, meanwhile, have produced consistently positive returns this year, and look relatively strong on a risk/adjusted basis. To that end, we reduced our exposure to large-cap equities in favor of Global Infrastructure (IGF). We also closed out our positions in small- and mid-cap equities in favor of large-cap international equities (JPIN).
On the fixed income side, we reduced our exposure to high yield bonds in favor of preferred stocks. High yields have shown weakness over the past month, likely due to renewed concerns about economic growth, which was enough for us to make a change to the S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index Fund (PFF).
Stock prices have risen sharply over the last year, and it’s reasonable to anticipate relatively mediocre return prospects over the next six to 12 months. We still we feel strongly, however, that there are good opportunities left in the global market, and our systematic and flexible approach is the best method to take advantage of those opportunities.
What the pundits have been saying…
“The trend of more and more young people finding that they do not need a car will likely continue to weigh on demand.”
What people have been saying…
“I have always strived to maintain the appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality, but I regret that in this instance I crossed the line to confirming information that should have remained confidential.”
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker, who stepped down last week after revealing his involvement in a 2012 leak of confidential information that sparked a criminal investigation. The surprise move – the first time a top Fed policy maker has resigned as the result of such a probe – strikes a blow to the central bank’s credibility.
What the numbers are saying…
The latest valuation of the music-streaming service Spotify, which is preparing to go public this year.
The views in this commentary are those of Fund Architects. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this commentary, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for your portfolio. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information provided here serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Fund Architects or any other investment professional. The information contained within this commentary should not be the sole determining factor for making investment decisions. To the extent that you have any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to your individual situation, you are encouraged to consult with Fund Architects. Information pertaining to Fund Architects advisory operations, services, and fees is set forth in Fund Architect current disclosure statement, a copy of which is available upon request. Fund Architects, LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisory Firm.