Michael Van Konyeneburg, president of Eastdil Secured, took a goldilocks view of the economy at the annual Allen Matkins View From the Top conference this week. Van Konyeneburg gave the economic outlook speech at the opening of the conference, providing a comprehensive economic overview supported by a wealth of research from Eastdil Secured. Despite rising interest rates and an acrimonious upcoming midterm election, he sees a well-balanced market with a long list of positive economic stats.
Rising interest rates are among the concerns of the investment community. The Fed has increased rates several times this year, and will likely raise rates an additional one to two times this year, according to Van Konyeneburg. However, he was not concerned, contrasting the rising US rates with low global rates. “There are $7 trillion of sovereign wealth funds that are zero or negative yield,” he said. “We are focused on how high our rates have moved over the last year, but it is in context with how low rates are around the world.” In addition to this international view, Van Konyeneburg added that rising interest rates are also a sign of a growing economy. “[Rising interest rates] are still very benign, and this is also in light of the fact that we have a lot of positive economic numbers: GDP, unemployment, consumer confidence, household net worth, small business optimism. There is a lot of great news,” he said.
Unemployment, which has been inching down consistently, is now at 2000s numbers; weekly unemployment claims are at a 50-year low; and there are officially more total jobs available than there are people looking for work. “That shows a lot of strength in the labor market. We have a very positive job market, and it is finally leading to wage growth,” he said. Consumer confidence—perhaps driven by low unemployment and wage growth—is at an 18-year high. Consumer spending drives 70% of the economy, making this a strong indicator of economic outlook.
A growing economy could mean that inflation will begin to rise, but that has yet to happen. “Fed isn’t putting the breaks on the economy, despite the growth. Rates going up because of economic growth isn’t a bad thing,” he added in the speech, going on to say that the debt markets were as strong as they have ever been and the S&P is up 10%.
It wasn’t all rainbows, of course. Van Konyeneburg highlighted some concerns, including Chinese capital controls, which he said have a bigger impact than we realize, geopolitical trade issues and the upcoming midterm elections. However, he continued to have a positive prediction on the latter. “Midterms could extend the cycle and be positive,” he said. In a scenario where the democrats take the House, he said Trump would be put in check and it would create a gridlock, and “the markets like a gridlock.” If the republicans take the House, on the other hand, “we will see more business-friendly judge appointments.”
Investment volumes peaked in 2015, but are flat year to date. “I would view this as an active healthy market,” he said. In terms of investment activity, industrial tops the list of favored asset classes, followed by student housing. Van Konyeneburg also noted that hotels have made a comeback this year. “That is a bullish sign given how economically sensitive hotels are,” he said. On the flip side, he listed retail, suburban office and short-term triple-net assets as “struggling,” or at the bottom of investor lists.