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Maiden Lane I Ends, Federal Reserve Aims to Shrink Balance Sheet

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The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has been set to decline automatically since 2017, as the central bank has been liquidating funds from its US$ 4 trillion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. As holdings matured, the Fed refrained from reinvesting them. This amounts to US$ 40 billion in monetary tightening monthly. Meanwhile, interest rates have slowly, and continuously, risen. The maturation of these Fed assets could exert upward pressure on long-term yields.

Mortgage rates, applications, and home sales have been falling, likely due to the rising rates. While rates are still historically low, U.S. President Trump has criticized the rate hikes. However, the Fed has no interest in changing course, and rates are set to continue to rise. According to Fed meeting minutes, “The Chairman suggested that the Committee would likely resume a discussion of operating frameworks in the fall.”

The size and content of the Fed balance sheet going forward will be a point of discussion for Chairman Jerome Powell. While there is no end in sight for the Fed’s plans to tighten economic policy, changing conditions may warrant further examination. With the U.S. stock market thriving, there is no indication that tightening has had a material impact on the economy. However, conventional wisdom asserts that the Fed will raise rates “until something breaks.” Market commentators have also suggested that, in the event of an emergency, the Fed will have a harder time stepping in due to the size of its balance sheet. A large part of the Fed’s monetary strategy is based around communications, and Fed-watchers have made a habit of hanging on every word. The Fed announced a shrinking balance sheet well in advance, and made gradual moves in that direction. The process has been smooth thus far. The Fed’s tightening will reach its peak, US$ 50 billion, in October. It is unclear exactly how much stimulus is still needed in the economy to reach the Fed’s 2% inflation target. The Fed’s easing policies have been criticized for the lopsided benefits they provided, more for Wall Street than Main Street. However, the easing will reduce their role in the market.

The End of Maiden Lane I

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BlackRock Experiences Outflows Among Institutional Investors

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Is BlackRock at peak earnings? BlackRock disclosed its third quarter 2018 results showing a growth of assets under management at US$ 6.4441 trillion at the end of September 2018 versus US$ 5.976892 trillion at September 2017. However, a large portion of the AUM growth has been in the ETF business, iShares, which tends to be very low in fees. The iShares business saw an inflow of US$ 33.7 billion for the quarter.

For the third quarter, BlackRock experienced US$ 24.8 billion in institutional investor outflows, with US$ 23.6 billion being on the index side, while US$ 1.2 billion being on the active side. Institutional investors such as pensions, insurers, and hedge funds withdrew from passive equity strategies. BlackRock saw US$ 4.745 billion in outflows in active equity on the institutional side, but seeing inflows of US$ 2.471 billion in multi-asset institutional and inflows of US$ 1.468 billion in alternatives institutional.

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GIC Buys Large Stake in Nordic Aviation Capital

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Singapore’s GIC Private Limited, a yield-hungry sovereign investor, invested in Denmark-based Nordic Aviation Capital A/S, becoming a significant minority shareholder. Other shareholders in Nordic Aviation Capital include EQT VI Limited fund, KIRKBI Invest (wealth origins tied to Legos), and Martin Møller, the founder of Nordic Aviation Capital. EQT VI will remain the largest shareholder of Nordic Aviation Capital. [ Content protected for Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute Standard subscribers only. Please subscribe to view content. ]

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Trump Wants Pharma Companies to Disclose Drug Prices in Advertisements

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U.S. President Trump is progressing on plans to mandate pharmaceutical companies to reveal their prices in drug advertisements. “The drug industry remains resistant to providing real transparency around their prices, including the sky-high list prices that many patients pay,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “So while the pharmaceutical industry’s action today is a small step in the right direction, we will go further.”

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department would require pharmaceutical companies to include drugs’ sticker prices in their video advertisements. This would be similar to how drug companies disclose the laundry list of side effects.

Increasingly, sovereign funds like Temasek Holdings have backed mid-stage pharmaceutical companies and other therapies, while market investors like Norway’s GPFG have large holdings in listed pharmaceutical companies.

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