Daily Comment (September 28, 2023)

by Patrick Fearon-Hernandez, CFA, and Thomas Wash

[Posted: 9:30 AM EDT] | PDF

Good morning! The S&P 500 is off to a decent start, 10-year Treasury yields are up, and Republican contenders failed to make a spark at last night’s debate. Today’s Comment will cover the rising dollar, several unions’ fights against AI, and Russia’s waning influence over neighboring regions.

Fed Lifting the Dollar: The U.S. dollar has hit a 10-month high against its peers as investors accept the Fed’s “restrictive for longer” narrative.

  • Despite its current strength, the dollar is likely to face some headwinds in 2024. This is because Fed officials expect to cut interest rates at least once next year, while other central banks may keep rates steady or even tighten. As this chart above shows, U.S. policy rates generally rise and fall faster when compared to other advanced economies. The divergence in monetary policy could lead to a period in which other currencies start to gain on the dollar. This may make foreign stocks more attractive, especially as countries start to exit the trough phase of the business cycle.

Unions Against AI: The new labor contract for screenwriters may provide a roadmap of how labor unions can protect themselves against AI.

(Source: Pew Research Center)

  • Despite its growing significance, the labor struggles against AI have, so far, flown under the radar. During Wednesday’s Republican debate, there were few references to the new technology. This is likely to change during the election season, as candidates will be forced to discuss how they plan to mitigate the impact of AI on the job market, while still incentivizing firms to innovate as the U.S. looks to maintain its lead on China in that area. Although AI is likely to offer a lot of productivity gains and make firms more profitable, regulatory uncertainty still makes investment in the space relatively difficult, especially at current valuations.

Russia’s Waning Influence: An ally of Moscow was forced to cede territory to a rival after a tumultuous conflict.

  • Russia’s waning influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia could create a power vacuum that could be exploited by other actors and potentially lead to increased conflict. Countries such as Georgia and Kazakhstan are likely vulnerable to heightened tensions given the lack of a Russian counterweight. At this time, it appear that China and the U.S. are looking to fill the void left by Moscow, but it isn’t clear whether either side can offer the same level of security commitments. An outbreak of violence, particularly in the countries surrounding the Caspian Sea, could further exacerbate commodity uncertainty and drive up oil prices, as the region supplies over 20% of global oil and 26% of global gas supplies. Investors should pay close attention to tensions in this part of the world.

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