Finance

Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.

One of my favorite pastimes is making fun of Wall Street's efforts to understand and market to the millennial generation or "Gen Y" and even younger people as firms jockey for position to get their mitts on what some estimate is a $30 trillion inheritance.

So thank you Guild Investment for giving me another shot at it this week with your email titled: "Step Aside, Boomers: 'Gen Y' and 'Gen Z' Will Soon Be Driving the Global Economy." 

I'm going to go ahead and assume they're just lumping my generation, the sexily named Generation X, in with the Boomers. And as the father of three "Generation Z" children, I'd gladly step aside and let them drive the global economy -- in fact, I'd love nothing more than for them to drive anywhere. To the mall, the movies, field hockey games,  or any of the assorted places I spend most of my weekends driving them to.

Though there is something about this generation that makes me greatly worried about the future, and it's the name: Generation Z. Why? Because that's the last letter of the alphabet! We really should've thought this through before we started naming generations after letters.

Anyway, according to Guild Investment: "Tech trends trickle up from younger to older users, so watch the youngest -- the 0-to-18-year-old's -- as a clue for what’s coming." I've been watching this age group closely, so if Guild is right, I can tell you exactly what to expect of the future: A global economy built entirely on people giggling at "cheerleader fail" videos on Instagram and YouTube and leaving ice-cream bowls lying around in their bedrooms until they get moldy.  

Still, this generation isn't quite ready to drive the link-wrap economy by rounding up the most important financial news of the week, so for now you're stuck with me.

First up, maybe Generation Z truly is driving the global economy because the price of sugar this week surged to a four-year high. In other commodity news, dairy farmers think almond milk is bogus, and I couldn't agree more.

The line of lawmakers who want to publicly flog Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is getting longer than the lines of people who used to queue up to buy a new iPhone, whose main innovation continues to be the ability to spread Apple's new-product revenue boost out over two quarters. 

Some of the most famous of the older generation of hedge funds are having a hard time holding onto capital, but have no fear because new gurus have been spotted in Tokyo and Manhattan's flat-iron neighborhood. The products we all had nightmares about during the credit crisis like collateralized debt obligations and synthetic securitization are returning big time

If you're like me, you realize that the $2.6 trillion money-market fund industry is hugely important and some seismic changes are afoot as the result of a regulatory overhaul. Also, if you're like me, you'd probably rather read photocopier manuals than regulatory changes in the money-market industry. Luckily,  Liz Capo McCormick came through with a good read that describes all the moving pieces. Perfect for those of us looking for just one article to read on the subject (seriously, just one please.)  

Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan is worried that the U.S. economy and political system could be undermined by “crazies,” without naming any names. I mean, who on Earth could he possibly be talking about? Anyway, it's sort of ironic considering the large number of people who are worried the economy is being undermined by "crazies" in the central banking system. 

Finally, S&P's much dreaded "SPIVA" scorecard came out for the first half of 2016. It reports how many active equity mutual funds are beating their benchmark indexes. And, well, it doesn't look good. In fact, the numbers were so bad that I did a spit take, then pretended I wore glasses so I could pretend to take them off, pretend to clean them, and then pretend to put them back on for another look: 

Performance Issues
Managers of active mutual funds are having an awfully hard time beating their benchmark indexes
Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices' SPIVA U.S. Scorecard

Many will look at this as an epic failure in picking stocks, but I look at it as an epic failure in picking benchmarks indexes for comparison. Managers just need to get more creative.

So the Trade of the Week is simply swapping your benchmark index for something you're actually capable of beating. 

Some suggestions:

  • "As a Philadelphia-based fund, we index our performance to the win-loss record of the 76ers."
  • "Our performance compared favorably to our benchmark, which is the Nielsen Ratings market share among millennials for reruns of the Lawrence Welk Show."
  • "Our returns handily exceeded the rate of change in Ryan Lochte's endorsement income for 2016."
  • "Once again we were able to outperform our benchmark, which is the percentage of true statements on PolitiFact's scorecard for Donald Trump." 

You get the picture.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at mregan12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net