Conferences

A photo popped up on Twitter last week of Cancun airport. Now maybe Subway had a special two-for-one deal that caught the mood, but the sight of a crammed concourse is likely to send a shiver down the spine of bond holders sitting on yields of next to nothing. The much vaunted ‘pent up demand’ appears to be real. The re-opening is on. And restrictions are easing all over: from New York restaurateurs to non-essential German retailers, to many regions long locked down. Whilst Houston and surrounding oil fields may be frozen solid, elsewhere it appears the big thaw is starting to happen. No wonder, then – as per a broker’s monthly survey – fund managers are as excited about global growth as they have ever been since they started being surveyed. Hence cash levels at an 8-year low. No wonder equity funds have seen record inflows of late. No wonder call buying is a frenzy of spit and fur. And yet as the self-styled King of SPACs calls himself out as the next Warren Buffett, and US market cap relative to GDP hits its highest reading ever, there is a prickle of unease in the socks. Stock markets, as the books say, are a window into the future and it is, perhaps, no surprise that some analysts are quietly talking that cross-asset complacency is at a multi-decade high. There is, though, a fire hose of monetary and fiscal support – possibly, given the pulse of the economy, a trillion or so too much stimulus – time will tell; but asset prices are unlikely to go ‘pop’ in the face of such liquidity largesse. Alongside the hyper-growth stocks, buying the reopening plays remains a popular trade; but as share prices re-rate into the upbeat headlines, investors might soon have to work a bit harder. And perhaps read a few 10-K reports to sniff out those businesses that have still got a catch-up trade in them. Whilst holidays to Cancun might bounce back, industry conferences and exhibitions may take a bit longer. That said, they will come back. A yearlong Zoom experiment has surprised many, but there is now a real thirst for some face time. Last week Gartner reported numbers that surprised the market, upgrades followed. Underlying operations were resilient and creases in the linen of a recent acquisition appear to have been ironed out. Long-term, Gartner is a market leading global research and advisory firm and big beneficiary of the accelerating digital transformation of corporate strategy. In the meantime, as economies heal, they also do conferences.