The devastating damage to humanity from the Israeli-Hamas war that is in and around the Gaza strip should not be diminished or understated - innocent lives on both sides suffer in any conflict. However, the economic impact should not be overstated either. In other words, the hundreds of billions of dollars in financial stock market losses this month are not proportional to the Mideast economic losses incurred thus far.
To put the events in perspective, the population of Israel approximates 10 million people and the population located in the Gaza Strip is about two million people. There are more than eight billion people on the planet, so Israel/Gaza represents roughly 1/7 of 1% of the global population.
From an economic standpoint, the combined economic output of Israel/Gaza Strip accounts for around ½ of 1% of global GDP (see chart below - small slivers in the blue section).
And let’s not forget, economic activity is not dropping to zero. From an economic standpoint, the war’s financial impact is even smaller - a rounding error.
Source: Visual Capitalist
However, wars do not exist in a vacuum, and tensions in the Middle East have the potential of having a ripple effect. Whenever rumblings occur in the Mideast, one of the largest global sectors to be first impacted is the oil market. Approximately 20-30% of the world’s oil is trafficked through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, so it was not surprising to see a short-term spike in oil prices to almost $90 per barrel in early October after the Gaza invasion of Israel. By the end of the month, oil has settled back down to about $81 per barrel, almost precisely the same price right before the war started. On a year-over-year basis, oil prices are actually down approximately -5%, thereby providing minor relief to gas-powered car drivers.
If Iran, or Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah, throws their hat into the Israel-Hamas war ring, the U.S. and other Western allies may retaliate and escalate tensions in the region, which would unlikely be received well by the financial markets.
As a result of these domino effect fears in the region, the stock market took another leg down last month with the S&P 500 index declining -2.2%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average -1.4%, and the NASDAQ index fell the most, -2.8%. The world is a dangerous place, but we have seen this movie before – this is nothing new. We would all prefer world peace, but unfortunately, wars and skirmishes have gone on for centuries.
As Interest Rates Soar, Bonds Offer More
Source: Wall Street Journal
No, TINA is not the name of my high school girlfriend or wife, but rather the acronym TINA (There Is No Alternative) existed in recent years during the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest rate policy days. More specifically, TINA referred to the lack of investment alternatives to equities (i.e., stocks) when money effectively earned 0% in the bank and close-to-0% in many fixed income securities (i.e., bonds). In fact, at one point, although it is still hard to believe, there were more than $16 trillion in bonds paying negative interest rates - pure insanity.
TINA Turns into FIONA
Given the large increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve over two years (from 0% to 5.50%), investors have been given a short-term gift. As you can see from the chart above, yields on 10-Year Treasury Notes have risen to almost 5.0%. And believe it or not, shorter term bonds are currently providing yields even higher than this. The three-month, six-month, one-year, and two-year Treasuries are all yielding higher rates than 10-Year Treasury yields (i.e., inverted yield curve) – see table below. So, TINA has changed to FIONA – Fixed Income Opens New Alternatives. What’s more, for individuals with taxable accounts, the interest earned on Treasuries is tax-free at the state level, thereby making this short-term gift in yields even more attractive for investors.
Source: Trading Economics
Stock prices were down again for the month, and investment sentiment has been souring due to the war in the Middle East, but there is still plenty of reasons to remain constructive. Not only is the economy strong (e.g., 3rd quarter GDP of +4.9%), but the consumer also remains strong (see Consumer Wallets Strong) in large part because the unemployment rate remains near record lows (+3.8%). While anxiety rises due to the war, stock prices get cheaper, and opportunities increase. And although interest rates remain elevated, the Federal Reserve is signaling they are closer to a rate hiking end, inflation is cooling and FIONA is offering more attractive yields than during the TINA era. It’s true, this month stocks did not roar due to the war, but patient and opportunistic investors will be rewarded with more.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (November 1, 2023). Subscribe Here to view all monthly articles.
DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in individual stocks, and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.