Real Assets Adviser

October 1, 2023: Vol. 10, Number 9

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From the Current Issue

Hotels back in vogue: Recent hotel deals in Asia Pacific reflect uptick

A string of marquee hotel sales across Asia Pacific are raising hopes of a rebound in investor appetite. After macroeconomic challenges and rising debt costs battered deal activity in the first half of 2023, July saw a series of major deals, including Singapore’s largest-ever single-asset hotel sale.

Navigating the real estate lock-in effect: Why U.S. homeowners are staying in place

Homeownership has long been associated with a sense of security and stability. While this is generally still true, homeowners are starting to feel locked into their homes due to the interplay of their low-rate mortgages, rising interest rates, rising home prices and the lack of inventory. These factors are creating what is known as the real estate “lock-in effect,” but it’s not all negative. This effect also increases home equity that homeowners can access to renovate homes, save for retirement and pay off debt.

Investors expressing interest in floating nuclear power plants

Nuclear energy has a proven track record of producing the clean and reliable energy communities need, while being an accommodating neighbor. As the most land-efficient source of energy, nuclear power plants require just 1.3 square miles per 1,000 megawatts of energy. With the next generation of technologies coming online, nuclear’s land usage may shrink even more. Many advanced reactor designs are poised to be simpler, smaller and modular while creating good-paying jobs, enhancing our energy security, and helping us meet our climate goals. But did you know that some designs go one step further, providing resilient electricity ... while being on a body of water?

Firms nailed with $555m in fines for using messaging apps

Almost a dozen financial firms have agreed to pay about $555 million in total to the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, admitting that their employees used banned messaging applications that broke record-keeping rules. As part of the settlements, the firms also agreed to retain independent compliance consultants to review their policies and procedures related to the retention of electronic communications on personal devices as well as their respective frameworks for addressing their employees’ breaches of these policies.

Transportation and the cities of tomorrow: From electric vehicles and light rail to flying taxis and micromobility

Government regulatory agencies are generally slow and cautious, so much so that when the California Public Utilities Commission eventually voted to allow driverless robo-taxis to operate in San Francisco 24/7, a ruling the commission made in August, the topic had already exhausted its 15 minutes of fame. Google’s unit Waymo and the GM outfit Cruise are operating the robo-taxis, also called autonomous vehicles, in the hilly seaside city, and have started in other urban areas, such as Miami and Phoenix. While the California Public Utilities Commission ruling may read like yesterday’s news for the cities and transport industry, the regulatory thumbs up is profound and unfolding in real time. Automated delivery systems for people and other cargo are rapidly evolving from testing grounds to implementation.

Profile: Jan van Eck, CEO of VanEck

The year was 1971 and President Richard Nixon was casting an eye on the U.S. gold standard and the limitations it was placing on the national currency. The price of gold had long been fixed at $35 per ounce as a consequence of being moored to the dollar. Come Aug. 15 of that year, Nixon announced the severing of links between the dollar and gold as part of a broad economic plan. John C. van Eck, economist and Wall Streeter, was sitting in wait and anticipating that day, having deemed inflation, excess federal spending and the printing of money during the 1960s as signs the United States would have to abandon the gold standard.

The giant market opportunity for cybersecurity companies and investors

McKinsey & Co. stated it bluntly and ominously in its October 2022 report on the subject: As the digital economy grows, digital crime grows with it. Soaring numbers of online and mobile interactions are creating millions of attack opportunities. Many lead to data breaches that threaten both people and businesses. At the current rate of growth, damage from cyberattacks will amount to about $10.5 trillion annually by 2025 — a 300 percent increase from 2015 levels.

A little-known tax secret: Learn the benefits of the annual gift tax exclusion

For most of us, ensuring the financial security and prosperity of our loved ones is extremely important. Gifting stocks to children in a low tax bracket (e.g., college students, graduate students, unemployed) allows us to share our success. It presents an opportunity for tax-efficient wealth transfer. Let’s dive deep into the benefits of gifting and unearth comprehensive strategies for maximizing tax savings through the annual gift tax exclusion. By harnessing this powerful tool, individuals can gift stocks yearly while “flying under the tax radar” and safeguarding their family’s financial future.

Talking Points: Quotations from people in the news

David Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, an online game platform and game creation system: “Just as we're very familiar with using the phone and using messaging or video communication, ultimately the next form of communication is going to be immersive 3-D.”

Despite temporary stall, single-family rental growth is a good long-term bet

After a period of rapid expansion fueled by low mortgage rates and fast-paced home price appreciation, the single-family rental industry has retrenched into a moderate growth mode with a focus on improving operational efficiency. The new phase is less exciting than rapid expansion and outsized returns, but it puts the industry in position to thrive over the long term.

Research Roundup: October 2023

Juniper Square reports it is simple math — states with the biggest populations also have the greatest number of high-net-worth investors. But those investors don’t always cut the biggest checks. When we break things down per capita, a different picture of the real concentration of wealth in America emerges. Read the report, titled The surprising concentration of wealth in America, here.

Concentration risk: Time for investors to consider sector rotation amid a tech-heavy S&P 500

Stocks are up 18.7 percent year-to-date, which is good news for portfolios and 401(k)s, but did you know that most of the heavy lifting has been done by a very small number of S&P 500 stocks? You may be surprised to learn that more than 80 percent of gains so far in 2023 are due to the performance of only 10 companies, starting with Apple. The iPhone maker, valued at just under $3 trillion, contributed a not insignificant 15.6 percent to the market’s moves.

Private real estate and alternative allocations

Based on its historical growth and income characteristics, commercial real estate (private real estate) represents a significant allocation for many institutions and family offices. According to the 2022 Institutional Real Estate Monitor, real estate represents an 11 percent global allocation in institutional portfolios and, according to the UBS Global Family Office Report, real estate represents a 13 percent allocation in family office portfolios. In recent years, private real estate has been more accessible to high-net-worth investors due to product innovation, as well as the willingness of institutional-quality managers to bring products to the market.

Old and vulnerable: The growing urgency to modernize the U.S. power grid

Rising electricity demand and climate change challenges are making it imperative to modernize the U.S. power grid. Top priorities are enhancing the grid’s capacity, bolstering its resilience and fortifying critical components. Recent U.S. legislative efforts recognize the urgency of modernizing the power grid and enhancing its resilience. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates $13 billion for grid modernization. The Inflation Reduction Act guarantees up to $250 billion in loans for projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing energy infrastructure.

Scraping the toast: Has today’s environment become riskier than it was a few years ago?

Everyone talked about how much riskier the investment climate was immediately following the global financial crisis. But was it really? I’d argue the period of time leading up to the global financial crisis was a lot riskier than the period following it. Going into the global financial crisis, there were a lot more things that could go wrong and almost no one was paying any serious attention to them. Oh, there were plenty of voices crying out in the wilderness warning about the impending financial market meltdown. But most of these were treated as Cassandras, alarmists, party spoilers. Everyone was making too much money to attempt to pull in their oars and hunker down the ship until the storm blew over.

A commodities supercycle: For investors this might be a once-in-a-lifetime period to invest

Commodities have a well-deserved reputation for volatility. You only need to glance at the U.S. Global Investors’ return chart covering 15 commodity categories going back 10 years. A sector can be flying high one year — such as lithium in 2018 — only to find itself in the cellar the next year, and then back on top 24 months later. In 2021, only four sectors ended up in negative territory. Conversely, during the first half of 2023, only two sectors are currently posting positive returns.

EVs and the growing opportunity for investors in lithium

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption has surged in recent years, creating unprecedented demand for lithium, a critical component of EV batteries. Most EVs rely on lithium-ion batteries because they provide the most efficient, dense and rechargeable form of energy storage currently available. With lithium demand expected to rise substantially in the years ahead, lithium miners are at the nexus of the global EV transformation.

5 Questions: Affordable housing and obsolescence

While investors and developers have long emphasized the need to expand the amount of affordable housing in the United States, a less discussed issue is that obsolescence is reducing the nation’s affordable housing stock, even as investors fund efforts to expand it. Jason Bordainick, co-founder and managing partner of Hudson Valley Property Group, operates in the affordable housing space and has funneled more than $2 billion of financing commitments into the sorely needed property type.

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