2021 Schwab Market Outlook: On the Path to Recovery
With COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, the longer-term economic outlook appears brighter.
2021 Muni Bond Outlook: Storm Clouds Clearing
We expect the municipal bond market to return to a sense of normalcy in 2021.
2021 Credit Outlook: Smoother Road Ahead
It was a bumpy ride for corporate bond investors this year. After the sharp, pandemic-driven selloff in February and March, total returns for most corporate bond investments have climbed their way back into positive territory.
2021 Fixed Income Outlook: Calmer Waters
Ten-year Treasury bond yields may rise as high as 1.6% in 2021, reflecting prospects for faster economic growth.
Changes: Vaccine News Changing Market’s Leadership Characteristics?
This week’s report will look at last week’s market moves in the wake of positive vaccine news (with additional and even better news today); but will also review our most recent tactical recommendation change.
Vaccine News Improves Outlook
Actual third-quarter earnings may be less important than what business leaders say about their expectations.
Vaccine News Shakes Up the Stock Market
Investors looking past the presidential election for the next market-moving news break were rewarded earlier this week when Pfizer announced that it had made some headway in the fight against COVID-19.
Election Day to Inauguration Day: A Test for Global Stock Markets
Stock market performance during the transition period between outgoing and incoming U.S. presidents tends to be more dependent on the economic cycle than the election results.
Still the Same: Fed Keeps Monetary Policy Steady
The Fed did not add to this week’s uncertainties and kept rates unchanged, while also providing no new information with regard to its balance sheet.
Election Implication FAQs
Investors likely have many questions about the 2020 election. Votes were still being counted late Wednesday, but here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’re hearing.
What to Expect from the “Lame Duck” Congress
While the election remains too close to call, investor attention will soon turn back to Capitol Hill, where senators will reconvene on Nov. 9 and House members on Nov. 16 for what is known as a “lame duck” session of Congress.
Elections and the Bond Market
There are many major policy decisions that will influence the outlook—trade, energy, taxes and budget deficits, and pandemic relief. However, it’s difficult to assess how these issues will be addressed post-election, and even more unpredictable how the market will react.
Too Much: Market Succumbed Again to Trifecta of Virus, Fiscal Relief and Election Uncertainty
For the third time since the COVID bear ended its short havoc, U.S. stocks went into pullback mode—culminating in the worst week since March. The virus itself continues to be a culprit; with another surge in cases and hospitalizations; although not for deaths, at least not yet. The lack of a fiscal relief package and heightened election uncertainty are also to blame.
Rising COVID-19 Cases Deepen Stock Selloff
Stocks tumbled again on Wednesday, as worries about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations sent investors toward the safe havens of U.S. Treasuries and the dollar.
Mixed Emotions: Sentiment Telling Divergent Stories
Investor sentiment is telling a mixed story about the market’s ascent since the March low; begging the question, will the skeptics converge with the optimists?
Schwab Market Perspective: Turning to Earnings Season
Actual third-quarter earnings may be less important than what business leaders say about their expectations.
Do Bonds Still Provide Diversification?
Given current low yields, some investors wonder whether bonds can continue to provide diversification in a portfolio. Here’s why those fears may be overblown.
Global Impact of a “Blue Wave” Election Outcome
The potential economic and market impacts a “Blue Wave” for the U.S. election could have on five key areas: taxes, labor, the environment, oil and trade.
Are Transportation Revenue Bonds Ready for Takeoff After Being Grounded Earlier This Year?
The transportation sector in the municipal bond market faces significant headwinds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
High-Yield Bonds: Higher Income Potential, But Default Risk is Elevated
High-yield bonds can generally offer more income in a very low-interest-rate world. However, if the economic or stock market outlook deteriorates, it could be a bumpy ride.
Election Blues: Looking at Election History for Market Guidance
With investors already on edge regarding election uncertainty, an “October surprise” arrives yet again. Can history provide some guidance on how elections impact markets?
Risk of Second Wave of COVID-19 Lockdowns
The biggest political risk facing investors may be the potential for politicians to implement national lockdowns in response to a rise in new COVID-19 cases that could lead to renewed recession and a new bear market for stocks.
Market Correction: What Does It Mean?
When a stock index falls by more than 10%, it is often said to have entered “correction” territory. That’s a fairly neutral term for what feels like a nerve-wracking drop to many investors. What does a correction mean? What’s likely to happen after a correction, and what can you do to help your portfolio weather the downturn?
Unwind: Simple Rotation or Something More Sinister?
As of this writing, it’s a rough start to the week for U.S. equities. Major indices attempted to find more stable ground last week, but volatility risks persist and the bears are winning the latest round. Policy risks abound—not just election-related, but both monetary and fiscal policy as well.
Inflation Blues: Fed Keeps Rates Near-Zero, Officially Adopts Average Inflation Targeting
Fed maintained rates at near-zero, while also updating its summary of economic projections; now expecting a shallower economic contraction, but a slower recovery thereafter.
Quarterly Market Outlook: Walking a Fine Line
Markets have been walking a fine line, with a still-struggling economy on one side and hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough on the other. Heading into the fourth quarter, there are both encouraging signs and cause for caution.
Brexit Is Back: The Endgame For Investors
The risk of a “no deal” Brexit and the potential economic harm that accompanies it increased last week.
The U.S. stock market hit pause in early September, as investors took a harder look at market overconcentration and frothy sentiment. Meanwhile, global economies may be entering a new phase, and the Federal Reserve’s newly announced inflation policy is likely to keep U.S. rates lower for longer.
Crossroads: Shifting Tides in Stock and Labor Markets
Rotation away from the market’s prior momentum darlings continues. Friday’s jobs report had bullets for both the optimists’ and pessimists’ case studies. And improving productivity, partly due to work-from-home trends, could persist as a positive economic driver.
Big Tech Shares Dent Stock Market Recovery
Major tech-focused shares fell after helping drive the fastest stock market recovery in history.
Should Muni Bond Investors Be Concerned About Climate Shocks?
Prior to Hurricane Laura making landfall in Louisiana and the wildfires in California and parts of the West igniting, the U.S. had already experienced 10 different billion-dollar natural disasters this year.
Why Own Bonds When Yields Are So Low?
Bond investors face a challenging environment. The federal funds rate is back near zero, the 10-year Treasury yield remains stuck in a 0.5%-to-0.75% range, and inflation-adjusted (real) yields are deep in negative territory.
Stock Market “Inequality” Hides A Big Change
The recent imbalances in the stock market can lead to vulnerability; rebalancing portfolios may be valuable to help balance exposure to U.S. capitalization-weighted benchmarks relative to international stocks.
Federal Reserve Announces Inflation Goal Shift: What It Means for Investors
The move away from a precise 2% target likely means short-term rates will stay lower for longer.
High Hopes: S&P 500 Hits All-Time High Amid Pandemic/Recession
In a speedy round-trip, the S&P 500 hit an all-time high last week; meaning the rally since March is now an “official” bull market.
Bond Real Yields: What’s Happening Beneath the Surface
Treasury bond yields have been drifting quietly lower since early June. But there is more going on beneath the surface than it might seem at first glance. Real yields—nominal yields less inflation—have declined steeply into negative territory. While nominal yields are near record-low levels from the deep economic decline, inflation expectations are picking up.
Confidence Is Everything: 3 Things May Shake It
Confidence matters; faith in a brighter future drives risk taking, fueling growth through investment and consumption.
Schwab Market Perspective: Is the Worst Behind Us?
Although certain high-frequency data haven’t improved markedly, the threat of the virus has started to recede.
Another Tricky Day: Dissecting July’s Labor Market Report
The July labor market report had talking points for both the economic bulls and bears; with Congress on the hot seat to keep the recovery from faltering.
Worried About Inflation? Consider TIPS
Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities can help protect your portfolio against rising inflation, but there are nuances you should understand.
Why Investors Should Consider Taxable Municipal Bonds
There’s a small portion of the bond market that investors may have overlooked in the past, but should now consider—the taxable municipal bond market.
How Have Recent Developments Impacted Long-Term Returns?
Let’s take a look at how recent developments may have impacted long-term returns for stock market investors.
U.S. Dollar Outlook: What Could a Weaker Dollar Mean for Your Portfolio?
The U.S. dollar has fallen by about 7% against a broad basket of currencies since its mid-March peak. After a nearly decade-long bull market that saw it appreciate by more than 40%, we believe the dollar could be headed for a longer-term decline.
Policy of Truth: Fed Holds Rates Steady Amid Somber Outlook
The Fed left rates unchanged near-zero, as expected, while emphasizing that “the path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus.”
Running on Faith: Are Stocks Discounting Too Powerful an Earnings Recovery?
Earnings have so far bested an extremely low bar, but stocks may be discounting too swift a recovery; while concentration remains a risk.
Are Emerging-Market Bonds Worth the Risk?
Investors must balance ongoing risks of the coronavirus against the extra yield the bonds provide.
Stock Market Reaction to Expiring COVID-19 Programs
If not extended or replaced, the fading support for the unemployed raises the risk of weakening economic momentum, turning the V-shaped recovery into a W.
Watching the Shape of the Recovery
U.S. stocks have been fairly resilient lately, even as coronavirus hotspots flare up around the country. Although consumers and businesses are increasingly worried about rolling shutdowns, major stock indexes generally have moved sideways. How long can this continue? Much depends on the shape of the economic recovery.
All Right Now: But a Long Way to Go to Recover
Rate of change and inflection points in economic data drive stocks; but in these unique times, the level of said data needs to be considered, too.
2020 Mid-Year Outlook: Municipal Bonds
The first half of 2020 was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the municipal bond market hard. State and local governments experienced a sharp and sudden drop in revenue, and an increase in expenses, amid stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.
Preferred Stocks: Will Fed Bank Stress Tests Lead to Suspended Dividends?
We believe the risk that preferred-stock dividends will be suspended is low despite the recent announcement by the Federal Reserve that it is requiring banks to cap their common stock dividends.
Making Sense Of The Market (And Where We Can’t)
While no one is ever really comfortable losing money, we often hear from investors that they are most uncomfortable when it seems that the stock market isn’t making any sense whether it’s heading up or down. In order to help try to make sense of it all, let’s take a look at where the stock market makes sense right now and where it doesn’t.
Pause: Stocks’ June Consolidation Continues
COVID-19 headlines dominated equity market action last week, with the S&P 500 suffering a near-3% decline; although all is not grim. The number of virus cases has been spiking in states that opened earliest—including my new home state of Florida, which went from a mid-60s average age for confirmed cases to the current mid-30s average age.
2020 Mid-Year Outlook: Corporate Bonds
Investors should consider these various investments—cautiously. Given the challenging economic outlook and high level of uncertainty, we believe bouts of volatility are possible, albeit not to the level witnessed in February and March.
What A COVID-19 Second Wave Means For Investors
A second wave of global COVID-19 is getting a lot of media attention, but the appearance of a global second wave of cases is primarily driven by the different timing of first waves across countries—rather than second waves within countries.
Higher-Education Bonds in a COVID-19 World
As the economy reopens from COVID-19 restrictions, a question looms: What will colleges and universities look like come fall? Will students return to a more normal on-campus learning experience, some form of online experience, a combination of both … or will they simply not return?
2020 Mid-Year Outlook: Moving at Warp Speed
Economies and markets whipsawed in the first half of 2020. Here’s what we expect for the rest of the year.
Not Always Tax-Free: 7 Municipal Bond Tax Traps
Investors often think of municipal bonds, which are sold by local and state governments to fund public projects like building new schools and repairing city sewer systems, as being totally tax-free—but that’s not always the case.
Schwab Market Perspective: Mixed Signals
Why did stocks rise over the past month despite grim economic news? The Federal Reserve’s massive liquidity injection is one reason.
Fed and Watered: Rates to Stay Near Zero
As expected, the Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged at 0-0.25% and said it will keep them near zero through at least 2022, in a unanimous vote.
2020 Mid-Year Outlook: Global Stocks and Economy
In our 2020 Global Market Outlook, we cited many indicators pointing to heightened risk of a recession; now we highlight increasing signs of a recovery from one.
Disconnect the Dots: Main Street vs. Wall Street
The dominant question we’ve been getting from investors is about the perceived disconnect between what’s happening on Main Street and what’s happening on Wall Street.
What’s Wrong With the Rebound?
There may be something amiss with the stock market rebound. Ahead of any meaningful improvement in economic data, global stocks have gained about 30% over the past two months from their low on March 23, as measured by the MSCI World Index.
The Fed’s Corporate Bond-Buying Programs: FAQs
When the COVID-19 crisis shook markets in March, the Federal Reserve moved early and aggressively to help increase liquidity in financial markets.
Every Picture Tells a Story: “Chartbook” Look at Economy/Market
On a day that started with good news on an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, with the stock market showing strong early gains, today’s report is more visual and less wordy than normal. Since I know not every reader of these publications follows me on Twitter—where I’m constantly posting charts, tables and data that I find compelling...
Schwab Market Perspective: Riding the Liquidity Wave
Why did stocks rise over the past month despite grim economic news? The Federal Reserve’s massive liquidity injection is one reason.
What’s the Future Payback for the Stimulus?
It is becoming increasingly clear that the massive global stimulus is being financed by a rise in money, not debt.
Stocks Swing as Economy Confronts COVID-19
Negative corporate news and economic data buffeted stocks, after markets racked up wins in April.
High Speed: Bear and Bull Both Running at Full Speed
Both the bear market and subsequent rally have occurred at warp speed; yet the economic recovery may be disappointing to what the market’s now “priced in.”
Fed Aims to Help Nurse the Economy Back to Health
The FOMC restated its commitment to use its full range of tools to support the virus-crippled economy and keep markets functioning smoothly.
Measuring Recovery In Real Time
A lot has happened in the month following global stocks’ low on March 23, as represented by the MSCI All Country World Index. Nearly every major country seems to have put the peak in new COVID-19 cases behind them by several weeks and the discussion has now turned to the timing and staging of re-openings.
How the CARES Act Can Help Small Businesses
Coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders and falling consumer demand have been extremely challenging for small businesses. If you’re a small-business owner, make sure you’re taking advantage of the help that’s available.
Energy Sector Blues
The effects of COVID-19 have been tough on the Energy sector, to say the least. With businesses around the global shuttered and vacations called off—and an estimated 40% of the global population ordered to stay at home—demand has fallen sharply. And that has taken both the price of oil and energy stocks down with it.
What Happens When a Corporate Bond Issuer Defaults?
With the U.S. corporate default rate likely to rise, a growing number of investors may be wondering what they should do if their bond issuer is unable to repay its debts. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always straightforward. There are, however, several things corporate bond investors should know.
Oil Prices Fall Below Zero
Oil prices fell below zero on Monday for the first time in at least 155 years, dragging major stock indexes down, as well. West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices fell to -$37.63 per barrel during trading on Monday...
Loss, Strain & Butterflies: Earnings Plunging, Stocks Ignoring
Stocks and earnings don’t always move in tandem; with stocks typically leading earnings … but is the market’s rally too much, too soon?
Waiting for the Coronavirus Peak
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the U.S. economy, with containment efforts leading to widespread business closings and surging unemployment—and stock market volatility. The key questions now are when can the economy reopen, and what happens when it does?
COVID-19 Continues to Weigh on Stocks
Weak data revived investor concerns about the economic impact.
Q2 Bond Market Outlook: Looking Beyond the Coronavirus Crisis
While the COVID-19 crisis is far from over, we expect central bank and government policies to be key to performance in the second quarter.
What Can Investors Expect From GDP Reports
The most widely used measure of economic activity, gross domestic product (GDP), will soon be released for the first quarter by different countries.
Box of Letters: What Shape Will the Recession/Recovery Take?
Labor market data has never looked as ugly, with more hits to come; but many are looking ahead at what an eventual recovery will look like.
Stocks Fall After Grim Jobs Numbers
U.S. stocks ended lower Friday, capping a volatile week of swings both higher and lower, as investors reckoned with the increasing evidence of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic toll.
Stocks Drop as Coronavirus Fears Sink In
Stocks dropped on Wednesday as investors focused on growing fears about the human and economic toll of COVID-19. The S&P 500 index lost 4.4% on Tuesday, and at the close of trading was down about 27% from its February peak.
What Will The Recovery Look Like?
In a typical recession, the global economy tends to have large imbalances that take a long time to unwind, such as a housing bubble or overinvestment by businesses. This time the global economy is experiencing a shock, rather than the natural end result of a slow build-up of excesses.
How the U.S. Economic Stimulus Package May Affect Investors
Schwab experts share their perspectives on how the legislation may affect individuals and markets.
Triage: Throwing Everything at the Virus
We know a lot more about COVID-19 than we did a few weeks ago; but there remain questions that are unanswerable at this stage. We don’t know how much worse this gets before it starts to get better...
Week in Review: Another Bumpy Week for Stocks
U.S. stocks fell again on Friday, ending another volatile week, as coronavirus fears outweighed central bank and government attempts to support the economy. The S&P 500 index fell 4.3% on Friday, and is now down 31.9% from its February peak.
Quarterly Market Outlook: Coronavirus Tips the Scale
As COVID-19 spread around the world in the early months of 2020, governments enacted quarantines, travel bans, school closings and other measures. Global supply chains were disrupted. Reduced demand is weighing on many industries, starting with travel, hospitality and leisure. Oil prices dropped after Saudi Arabia boosted production, in effect launching a price war with Russia. U.S. Treasury yields fell to record lows.
Fed Cuts Rates to Near Zero
In a surprise move on Sunday night, the Federal Reserve cut its short-term interest rate to the 0% to 0.25% range and announced a series of moves to address the economic threat posed by the novel coronavirus. The central bank used a full range of its potential policies to support the economy and financial system.
Stock Market Rebounds at the End of a Volatile Week
Stocks rebounded on Friday, ending a week of wide swings that drove major U.S. stock indexes into bear-market territory. Overall, it was a rough week for the stock markets.
Schwab Market Perspective: Coronavirus Hits Markets Hard
Stocks have plummeted this month as investors struggled to assess what impact the COVID-19 coronavirus may have on the economy.
Stocks Fall on Coronavirus, Oil-Price Fears
U.S. stocks fell again on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing in bear market territory.
Market Plunges on Coronavirus, Oil-Price Fears
U.S. stocks plummeted on Monday, with the S&P 500 index closing down 7.6%, its worst day since 2008, capping two weeks of extreme volatility amid the spreading coronavirus epidemic.
Manic Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)
In the easiest of times (are they ever, really?) it’s futile to make predictions about the market with any semblance of accuracy. Clearly, these are not the easiest of times; so the futility is magnified. Even with non-stop coverage of COVID-19; with every question answered, there’s another question to ask.
Schwab Sector Views: Coronavirus Changes Our Views
The coronavirus outbreak has affected global supply chains, consumer demand and interest rates. In response, we’re downgrading Financials and upgrading Utilities.
Coronavirus: Riskier Fixed Income Prices Swoon
Despite lower prices and higher relative yields, there’s room for prices of high-yield bonds, preferred securities and bank loans to fall further.
Fed Cuts Rates to Counter Coronavirus Risks
In a surprise move, the Federal Reserve on Tuesday lowered the target range for the federal funds rate, its key benchmark interest rate, by 50 basis points,or half a percentage point, to a new range of 1% to 1.25%. The reasoning behind the move was concern about the “evolving risks” to the economy posed by the coronavirus.
Q&A on COVID-19: The Economy, Markets and What Investors Should Do
Rather than trying to call the bottom, a more effective way to think about investing right now is to focus more on the duration rather than the decline. Markets may have further to fall, but they may not stay down for the rest of the year barring a severe pandemic.
Market Correction: What Does It Mean?
What does a “correction” mean, what’s likely to happen next and what can investors do now?
Spreading Global Virus Cases Shock the Stock Market
How contained is the coronavirus outbreak? That’s the question that rattled markets on Monday, sending the Dow industrials down more than 1,000 points, or 3.6%. The S&P 500 index declined by 3.4%.
Heartbreaker: Spreading Impact of Coronavirus
The impact of the coronavirus is spreading; both geographically and economically. Central banks will likely step in; but supply shocks are difficult to combat.
The Coronavirus and Emerging Markets: Ready for a Rebound?
As a recovery in global manufacturing began to take hold in the fourth quarter of last year, commodity prices rose dramatically. Yet, emerging market (EM) stocks failed to see the similarly strong outperformance of U.S. stocks that typically accompanies rising commodity prices.
Will Coronavirus Have a Lasting Impact?
Although stocks rebounded after a sharp drop in January, the market’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak highlighted stock vulnerabilities.
Sleight of Hand: Dissecting the Latest Employment Data
Friday’s jobs report, as well as other recent labor market data, has an “on the one hand; on the other hand” flavor to it.
Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Lead to a Market Breakdown?
While it is impossible to predict the extent a virus can spread and have greater consequences than past epidemics, history indicates that the global economy and markets have been relatively immune to the effects of past epidemics. A key reason is that global health organizations are prepared for outbreaks and effective when mobilized.
Virus: Could it be the Catalyst to Change Sentiment?
As expected, a long and strong move up in stocks attracts more and more believers and adherents, which can stretch sentiment to extremes, like now.
Trends Diverge as Markets Enter 2020
The U.S. economy split sharply in 2019—manufacturing activity lagged services, corporate profits lagged stock performance—while investor sentiment surged. How long will these divergences continue in 2020?
Best of What’s Around: Sticking with Large Caps
For nearly three years we’ve been tactically recommending overweighting large caps (S&P 500) and underweighting small caps (Russell 2000)—time for an update.
2020 U.S. Market Outlook: Ramble On?
Next year is set to start on a high note, with consumers and the Fed keeping the economy and market afloat; but risks remain elevated, including trade and elections.
Fed Holds Rates Steady, as Expected
The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, as expected; while signaling rates would stay in their current range through next year.
2020 Market Outlook: U.S. Stocks and Economy
The U.S. economy likely will remain split in early 2020.
Are We There Yet?
U.S. stocks continue to trade near their all-time highs but recent hiccups in trade talks have re-emphasized that a deal remains elusive, decisively unpredictable, and incomplete. Key components of the first phase have yet to be put in writing and major structural issues—such as intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers—will remain unaddressed for the foreseeable future, confirming that little-to-no material progress has been made.
’Tis the Season for Consumer Discretionary … or Not?
While all eyes are on estimated sales throughout December, sector performance for the month is historically not impressive.
Any Weather: Valuations Say Stocks are Cheap and Expensive
Market valuation is always a factor; but often misunderstood is the vastness of the spectrum of metrics, and the sentiment nature of valuation.
Does The Return Of QE Mean Big Gains For Stocks In 2020?
As we head into 2020, investors should be cautious in assuming that the return of central bank balance sheet growth means stocks will follow along. The real driver of the stock market in 2020 may be the outlook for growth tied to prospects for a comprehensive U.S.-China trade deal, which may revive growth in manufacturing and corporate earnings.
Shiny Happy People: Investors Cheering Stocks’ New Highs
-U.S. stocks entered November in the process of finally breaking out of their post-January 2018 trading range. -Along with new highs has come elevated optimistic sentiment; a near-term warning sign. -Spread between the “smart money” and “dumb money” recently reached an extreme.
Slowing Down While Speeding Up
While volatility has remained subdued and U.S. stocks are at all-time highs, a near-term concern is that investor sentiment may be getting a bit too frothy. The potential signing of a “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal and rollback of some tariffs has contributed substantially to the rally; yet the proposals made have yet to be corroborated by anything in writing.
Macro View is Obscure, but the Earnings Landscape Is Clearer
Although economic signals are mixed, bottom-up sector fundamentals help inform decisions on sector ratings.
Split Personality: U.S. Economy’s Bifurcation Persists
Last week’s key releases of job growth and ISM manufacturing data highlight the ongoing bifurcation in the economy; with the consumer bucking manufacturing’s malaise.
Fed Cuts Rates as Expected … Three and Done or More to Come?
As expected, the FOMC lowered the fed funds rate (and the IOER) by 25 basis points; with a slightly more hawkish tone in the accompanying statement.
Don’t Place Your Bets
While volatility has receded lately and geopolitical tensions haven’t heated up, little-to-no progress has been made on a comprehensive U.S.-China trade agreement; while the timetables for Brexit continue to shift. Although U.S. stocks are trading near their all-time highs, investor hesitation has persisted due to mixed economic data, the questionable effects of monetary policy and trade uncertainty. We continue to recommend that investors use volatility to rebalance and stay near their strategic asset allocations; maintaining our neutral stance on U.S. equities (with a bias toward large caps at the expense of small caps), and our neutral stance on both developed international and emerging market equities.
When Yields Talk, Sectors Listen
For certain sectors, a change in interest rates has a relatively large impact—and that impact has increased significantly in the “new normal” environment of low interest rates.
It’s Late: So Says the Profits Spread and Leading Indicators
Third quarter earnings season is underway, so it’s time to look under the hood.
A wide gap between S&P 500 profits and the broader NIPA measure from the BEA supports a late-cycle view.
The late-cycle view is also supported by weakening leading indicators.
Volatility has resurfaced due to a revival in trade tensions, heated political fighting in Washington, and confusion over whether the Fed will continue to ease or hold off on rate cuts later this month. Stocks have dropped back into a tight range and have still yet to breach their all-time highs. With the market still highly reactionary to major headlines and struggling to find its footing, we continue to recommend that investors stay near their long-term asset allocation. We also continue to recommend using volatility as a means of rebalancing; and maintaining a bias toward large-cap stocks at the expense of small caps. So long as myriad uncertainties continue to mount, we believe stocks will remain under some pressure and headway will be limited.
Don’t Buy Expensive Just Because It's Defensive
With a resurfacing in trade tensions and persistent economic uncertainties, investors should prepare for further volatility.
Welcome to the Working Week: A Look at the State(s) of Employment
Employment reports are increasingly in focus due to weak survey data and a risk that manufacturing’s weakness spills over to services/consumer segments.
Market Volatility: What Investors Should Know
U.S. stocks plunged Wednesday, as weak economic data rattled investors. Here’s what you should know.
Schwab Market Perspective: Hitting the Ceiling
While U.S. stocks emerged out of their tight range a couple weeks ago, they have yet to surpass their July highs—as trade uncertainties remain, economic data continues to be mixed, and cloudy monetary policy and political outlooks persist.
Lessons from Choppy Sector Trading
It continues to be a difficult environment in which to trade around short-term news, even if short-term news is having an outsized impact on market behavior.
Take Me to Your Leader: Analyzing the Latest Leading Indicators
The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index was flat last month; and although at a cycle high, it remains in a flattish trend over the past year.
Confusion or Conviction?
Stocks have climbed higher but we don’t recommend attempting to trade around short-term moves; rather, investors should remain disciplined and diversified, and use any volatility to rebalance as needed. The consumer continues to drive the economy, while weakness is mostly still concentrated in manufacturing. Yet, the potential for volatility remains, as a comprehensive trade deal is not in sight, tariffs on consumer goods are still set to kick in on December 15, and monetary policy’s ability to spur growth and inflation may be waning. We continue to favor large caps over small caps and are neutral to U.S. and global equities.
Chop, Chop, Chop: Stocks’ Choppy Behavior Around Trade News
Stocks recently broke out of their short-term range on “good” trade news; but trying to trade around trade-related news has been a treacherous exercise.
Schwab Market Perspective: Storm Clouds Building
Risks to the market are growing but the American consumer continues to look strong. Some preparation for a potential storm are prudent, but no drastic actions are suggested.
Drifting Toward Defensives
It doesn’t appear that the U.S. has entered a recession yet, or even that one is imminent—although start dates to recessions typically aren’t known until we’re looking in the rear-view mirror.
War (What is it Good For?)
Economic uncertainty has spiked given the escalating U.S.-China trade war; with increasing risk it weakens the dividing line between the manufacturing and consumer sectors.
Mixed Picture Getting More Concerning
Stock markets have become more volatile as trade tensions have worsened and weakness in the manufacturing side of the economy has caused increasing concern. Swift resolutions to these issues seem unlikely and a dovish Fed may not be the elixir to what ails the economy. With the likelihood of persistent volatility in the coming months, we recommend investors stay broadly diversified and focused on the long term. From a tactical perspective, we remain neutral to U.S. and global equities; with a bias within the U.S. market toward large cap stocks relative to small caps. Investors should not attempt to trade around short-term moves in the equity markets; but instead remain disciplined, diversified, and use rebalancing as necessary.
Recession Watch (or Distant Early Warning?)
Current economic conditions do not look recessionary, but risks are rising and if we’re heading into one, it’s possible it already started.
Market Volatility: Here’s What You Should Know
Market volatility can make anyone nervous. Here’s what investors should know about dealing with it.
Schwab Market Perspective: Canary in the Coal Mine…or Simply Clouds on the Horizon?
The manufacturing side of the economy is showing increasing signs of weakness, but the consumer still looks healthy—which side wins and what should investors do?
What Declining Interest Rates Could Mean for You
When the Federal Reserve lowers its key short-term interest rate, financial markets often move in response. But the impact isn’t uniform across the board.
Tyrannosaurus Debt: A “Deep Dive” Look at Debt and its Burden(s)
The national debt and deficits remain at worrisome levels, spawning questions of how economic growth will be affected and whether we will hit another wall.
Schwab Market Perspective: Be Careful What You Wish For
Stocks have been buoyed by rate cut expectations, but are investors putting too much stock in monetary policy and setting themselves up for potential disappointments?
Round Here: Bulls Celebrate Round Numbers for U.S. Indexes
Round number crosses for each of the three major U.S. equity averages over the past month helped elevate investor sentiment, but is it now stretched?
Another Last Goodbye: U.S. Stocks’ Roller Coaster 18 Months
If you just woke from an 18-month slumber and looked at the market you might be fooled into thinking it’s gone nowhere; but what a ride it’s been.
2019 Mid-Year Outlook: Rate Expectations
In the first half of 2019, major stock indexes including the S&P 500® reached new highs, yet the outlook for global economic growth softened. Recession risk has risen, and rising tariffs have created even more uncertainty.
Running in Place
The last 18 months have been anything but boring, but if you had ignored the market over that time and only recently started paying attention, you may think that little has happened. The running in place analogy is probably better replaced by hiking a mountain.
U.S. Stocks/Market Mid-Year Outlook: Battle Symphony
Myriad economic, market and policy battles are raging today; providing some color, but lots of gray area as we look ahead to the second half of the year.
Dangers Rising…or Potential Opportunity Emerging?
We won’t speculate about the final outcome of ongoing trade tensions, but we are growing more concerned that the hit to business confidence will increasingly filter through to consumer confidence and hard economic data. A more positive outcome could elongate the runway between now and the next recession. In the meantime, we continue to recommend that investors maintain a relatively neutral stance consistent with long-term asset allocations, using inevitable gyrations to rebalance as needed.
How Could the U.S. Economy Be Impacted by Tariffs?
Let’s talk what everyone’s talking about, the trade war with China and tariffs.
The Age of Worry: Investor Sentiment Takes a Hit
It doesn’t take much of a market downturn these days for investors to pull in their bullish horns; but more may be needed for market stabilization.
Trade Tension Takes Turn at Top
Trade tensions will likely continue to contribute to increase volatility and the longer it drags on, the bigger hit to economic growth, consumer/business confidence and the stock market. Our neutral stance around U.S. equities suggests keeping allocations no higher than longer-term strategic targets, with a large cap bias; using volatility for rebalancing opportunities. For those investors who don’t have broad international exposure, now may be a good time to consider areas that may feel less impact from the U.S.-China trade dispute.
Street Fightin’ Man: President Trump Ups Trade War Ante
Trade is back in the headlines, and on Twitter, with volatility sensitive to every tweet, tariff escalation and retaliation; but a look at the actual economic implications is in order.
Stocks Drop as U.S.-China Trade War Escalates
Stocks dropped on Monday as the trade war between the United States and China escalated, with China announcing a retaliatory tariff hike on U.S. imports. The S&P 500 index closed down 2.41% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.38%, their worst day in four months.
Sell in May?
Some volatility has returned and we believe a pullback in U.S. equities is a healthy development in terms of both investor sentiment and valuations. But some cracks in economic growth may be emerging, and inflation could start to rise given the tight labor market, so investors should remain disciplined with an eye toward rebalancing in the face of volatility. Trade remains a weight on the confidence of business leaders, and if the dispute with China continues to escalate, stocks and the economy would likely suffer further.
Saved by Zero: Earnings May Eke Out a Positive Quarter
As we move toward the finale of first quarter earnings season, results have been a bit better than expected, but barely in positive territory. The earnings beat rate has been above historical norms; while revenues have been a touch more disappointing relative to expectations. Multiples have expanded this year thanks to a strong stock market; but earnings will have to do more of the heavy lifting at some point.
Concerning Lack of Concern?
U.S. equity market gains since the Christmas Eve 2018 low have been impressive, and we don’t think a recession is in the near-term future—but sentiment is extended and investors should be cautious about chasing gains at this point; either in the United States or emerging markets. A near-term pullback would likely be healthy and could afford a better opportunity for investors who are looking to add equity exposure. On the other hand, those investors whose portfolios are now holding an outsized equity allocation could use the latest strength to rebalance back toward targets.
Better Days: Leading Indicators Inch Back to Cycle High
The Leading Economic Index lifted enough in March to bring it back to a cycle high; but the deterioration in the trend bears watching.
Diversification: Finally Back After 20 Years
Stocks are off to a strong start this year, but the bulls aren’t running in a herd. Bull markets can be found in the stocks of countries around the world, but their movements are less correlated with each other than they have been in the past 20 years. The change brings the return of an important diversification benefit for holders of globally diversified portfolios.
Stocks vs. Bonds…Who’s Right?
Stocks and bonds appear to be at loggerheads with regard to the economic outlook, and we believe both sides have merit. Unless earnings comfortably surprise on the upside, with healthy corporate guidance, there is a risk that stocks will give back some of their recent gains. Investor optimism remains elevated, economic data has been mixed, earnings expectations are in the red for the first quarter, and persistent trade concerns all remain potential headwinds. Stay patient and diversified and stay focused on longer-term goals.
Brief dips in U.S. stocks have done little to dent investor confidence; and with an inverted yield curve, trade uncertainty continuing, economic growth slowing and earnings possibly declining in the first quarter, we believe a pullback is becoming increasingly likely. Investors should remain disciplined and diversified and continue to prepare for the inevitable end of this cycle—without needing to pinpoint the timing precisely.
Blue, Red and Grey: Yield Curve Inversions
The inversion of the 10y-3m yield curve unleashed a sharp pullback in stocks; but the Fed’s “preferred” curve first inverted in early January.
Quarterly Market Outlook: Stay Prepared
The Schwab Center for Financial Research’s theme for 2019 was “be prepared,” and that still holds true. Here’s what we expect to see for the remainder of the year.
Schwab Market Perspective: Sliding into Recession…or Another Q1 Quirk?
Recession fears have risen and stocks have become more volatile, but is now the time to prepare for a sharp downturn?
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking: A Contrarian Look at Inflation
I’m more intrigued with untold stories than well-told stories; which is why my contrarian side wonders whether there’s too much investor complacency about inflation.
A Closer Look at Debt and the Economy
I want to tackle a more evergreen topic, which is the implications on the economy of a high and ever-rising burden of debt. But I want to first differentiate between the deficit and debt.
Schwab Market Perspective: Overcorrecting the Correction?
The sharp rebound in equities seems to be in contrast to the deterioration in data, which could lead to near-term volatility.
The Beginning is the End is the Beginning: A Look at Recessions
Recession chatter is abundant lately. It’s increasingly the focus of Q&A sessions at investor events at which I’ve been speaking. I also received a series of questions last week about recessions from a Schwab colleague who has many younger Schwabbies on his team, most of whom have not lived as working adults through a recession.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Markets got a healthy reprieve from last year’s fourth quarter carnage as a few headwinds became tailwinds; including a more dovish Fed, some hopes on trade, strong fourth quarter earnings growth, and an end to the government shutdown.
No Quarter: Could 1Q19 Bring Negative Earnings?
Although 4Q18 earnings season is capping a very strong calendar year for earnings; the outlook for 2019 is decidedly murkier, with 1Q19 already in negative territory.
Mixed Market Messages
It’s difficult to get good footing in a market that has so many mixed messages bombarding it. We recommend patience, discipline and diversification as expect continued bouts of volatility. The U.S. government shutdown is over, for now…and the Fed is in pause mode, for now…but confidence in government is low and monetary policy is likely to persist. In the near term we believe the most important needle-mover will be the result of trade negotiations between the United States and China. The problem is the inability to gauge the likely outcome.
Two Out of Three Ain’t (Good): Leading Indicators Falter Again
The Conference Board’s release of December’s Leading Economic Index was notable for its continued trend deterioration; and the second decline in three months.
Schwab Market Perspective: Rally Return or Continued Caution?
Stocks have rebounded off the lows but we don’t think we’re off to the races; issues remain and investors should remain vigilant.
Every Rose Has its Thorn: Healthy Rally, but Risks Linger
At a recent client event I was asked about our ongoing view that volatility would remain elevated—specifically, whether the rally off the December 2018 low in U.S. stocks was an indication that our view might be wrong.
Keeping Calm in the Chaos
It can be difficult to remain calm in the midst of stock market action like we’ve seen over the past couple of months—but discipline is necessary during more tumultuous times. Although we do see rising risk of a recession, we don’t see a repeat of 2008 in the cards. Absent a recession—even if we enter a “formal” bear market (at its recent closing low, the S&P was down 19.8%)—additional weakness may be somewhat limited. Recession-related bears tend to be longer and grizzlier than non-recession bears. Until we get more clarity on the health of the economy, we continue to suggest investors remain defensive.
Rebel Without a Pause: Fed Raises Rates, But Gets a Bit More Dovish
The Fed opted to buck a broadening outcry for a pause and raised rates 25 basis points; while offering a slightly more dovish statement and lowered economic projections.
2019 U.S. Market Outlook: Ten Years Gone
Early last week we published our collective 2019 outlook summary and today’s report will put some more visual meat on the bones of that summary.
What’s Going on With the Yield Curve?
The yield curve has appeared in quite a few news headlines recently. Why is this technical-sounding tidbit of financial jargon suddenly getting so much attention? The short answer is that the yield curve has a reputation for predicting recessions, and some market watchers are worried recent changes to the curve’s shape are sending a warning signal about the economy.
2019 Market Outlook: U.S. Stocks and Economy
U.S. economic growth was strong in 2018, but some of the forces behind that strength were either short-term or likely to fade going forward.
Gathering Storm or Passing Clouds?
The end of 2018 will likely morph into more of the same in 2019—higher volatility within a relatively wide equity range, including ongoing corrective phases or even a continuation of what has been a “stealth” bear market this year (rolling bear markets across and within asset classes).
Truce: He Said, Xi Said
Stocks are applauding the truce which resulted from Presidents Trump and Xi dinner this weekend; but enthusiasm curbing over the next three months may be warranted.
Market Correction: What Does It Mean?
When a stock index falls by more than 10%, it is often said to have entered “correction” territory. That’s a fairly neutral term for what feels like a nerve-wracking drop to many investors. What does a correction mean? What’s likely to happen after a correction, and what can you do to help your portfolio weather the downturn?
The Best Way to Travel: Musings from Asia
I spent last week in Asia—two days in Hong Kong, one day in Shanghai, and two days in Singapore—visiting our clients. It was a fascinating trip in some of my favorite cities in the world … well, in the case of Singapore, a city, island, and country all in one.
Schwab Market Perspective: Unresolved Issues
Volatility has ramped up but little has been resolved. Caution continues to be warranted as unresolved issues appear set to continue.
Higher Ground: Wage Growth Makes its Move
There was much to cheer in October’s jobs report, especially wage growth; but that tends to come at a “price” of tighter monetary conditions.
The Seasons of Investing
October has again been a scary month for investors, even though past performance does not indicate future results, history shows that stocks tend to face a seasonal tailwind heading into the end of the year. There will likely be more volatility but at least overly optimistic investor sentiment has eased, U.S. economic growth remains solid, and the midterm elections will soon be over, all of which could trigger at least a relief rally off the recent lows. But gains both here and globally are likely limited by myriad late-cycle pressures. Remain disciplined, consider diversification and rebalancing, and consider establishing a more tactically defensive positioning.
Sympathy for the Devil in the Details of Leading Economic Indicators
Investors often focus on the “good/bad” level of economic indicators, without regard to the stock market’s keen ability to sniff out “better/worse” inflection points.
Always Be Prepared
Stock market action recently illustrates again why it’s important for investors to remain disciplined and diversified in a way consistent with their risk tolerances and investment goals. The bull market may have more legs, and upside surprises are possible, but risks have been rising over the past year or so, leading us to be more cautious and recommend that investors limit the risk in their portfolios.
An End Has a Start: Keeping an Eye on Recession Indicators
Although the runway between now and the next recession remains fairly long, there are some factors signaling that we may need to start the countdown clock fairly soon.
Benefits of Rebalancing You May Not Be Considering
As most people know, I spend some time in the world of the media, whether it’s on the phone with print journalists or doing financial radio, financial media on television. And more often than not, they’re three-to-five minute segments, and it’s usually about current events, what’s going on in the market and the economy.
Schwab Market Perspective: Mixed Messages Sending a Clear Signal?
We believe there are three positives, three negatives and three wildcards for stock market performance in the fourth quarter. We expect the balance of these factors to result in further gains for global stocks.
Tighten Up: Fed Raises Rates Again
The Fed raised rates for the third time this year, and expects another three hikes next year; while also upping its near-term economic projections.
A Closer Look at U.S. Tariffs
Liz Ann Sonders highlights two things about the so-called trade war with China that she believes don’t get the attention they deserve.
Waiting (Was) the Hardest Part, But Wage Growth is Finally Kicking In
The August payroll report was generally strong, with a kick into higher gear for wages. Will “Main Street” feel better than “Wall Street” this year?
Stocks Laboring to Move Higher
The U.S. equity bull market is intact, but recent action has not been fully-convincing, and we believe risks are rising, especially if we begin to see the same kind of frothy investor sentiment which accompanied the January highs. We continue to push the merits of tried-and-true disciplines like asset class diversification and rebalancing—the latter which forces investors to do what we all know we’re supposed to do, which is buy (or add) low and sell (or trim) high. As the old adage goes, “bulls make money, bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered.”
Eyes on the Horizon: What Could Cause the Next Crisis?
With the 10-year anniversary of the onset of the global financial crisis just weeks away, now is a good time to ask where the next global economic crisis might come from. To be clear: We’re not sounding any alarms here. We don’t think a crisis is imminent. But we do like to keep our eyes on the horizon.
Risks Bubbling Below the Surface?
The recent pickup in market volatility, some choppy action by U.S. stocks, and notable weakness in emerging market stocks have reinforced our belief that we may be at or near an inflection point in economic fundamentals and/or market character. We never suggest trying to time the market in the short-term, but do believe discipline around strategies like rebalancing and diversification is essential at this stage in the cycle. Risks are rising.
Second Hand News: Facing a Second Derivative Economic Inflection Point?
This report may end up being the first in an ongoing series. I think of it as a “look inside my notebook,” as it literally represents a synopsis of the recent notes I put together for our latest Asset Allocation Working Group meeting. These represent a number of budding risks for the economy with which the markets are grappling. There are offsetting positives of course, but let’s leave this report to a look at some of the possible negatives.
Schwab Market Perspective: Balancing Act
Stock indexes have been able to move higher as the balancing act between economic growth and investor concerns continues—but how long will it last?
Fed Stands Pat But Gets Ready to Bid Adieu to Meetings Without Pressers
The Fed acted as expected by not acting on interest rates; and although there was no associated press conference, the statement had a few nuggets of note.
Sugar Magnolia: Is the Economy’s/Earnings’ Surge a Sugar High or Sustainable?
The economy and earnings grabbed headlines last week; with a sharp acceleration in real GDP growth, and concerns about earnings thanks to Facebook’s face plant.
What Happened to the Summer Doldrums?
Rising trade tensions are making us a bit more cautious, although the economic and earnings fundamentals remain healthy, which could cushion some of the blow from a trade war. Stay invested, but don’t reach too far out the risk spectrum, be prepared for bouts of volatility, and remain patient, diversified and disciplined.
Quality or Quantity: Skills’ Deficit, Jobs’ Surplus
Job growth remains strong and the importantly-lagging unemployment rate ticked up for “good” reasons; but the skills gap remains ample.
2018 Mid-Year Outlook: Sector Volatility Expected to Continue
Halfway through 2018, the S&P 500® Index, which represents the broad U.S. stock market, had gained 2.7%—a relatively modest return that belied the drama of the first six months of the year.
Just Noise or Something More?
The noise surrounding the stock market is getting louder, resulting in more violent moves in equities. Much of the sound and fury is best ignored by long-term investors, but there are growing risks to the bull market in the form of rising trade disputes and the possibility of a central bank mistake. For now, we believe the secular bull market is intact, but are growing more concerned and urge investors to remain disciplined and diversified.
2018 Mid-year U.S. Equity Outlook: Headwinds and Tailwinds Facing Off
We continue with our theme of “it’s getting late” when looking ahead to the second half; with important and rising risks to weigh against the rewards.
Searching for Balance
Despite a recent modest pullback in U.S. stocks, and a sharper one in international markets—reflecting both trade worries and the recent strength in the U.S. dollar—we don’t believe it marks the beginning of a more severe correction. Risks of a prolonged trade dispute have risen but it’s too soon to declare war; while the possibility of a positive resolution that would likely be a tailwind for equities. For now, a healthy U.S. economy is an offset to those growing worries. Threats to the current bull market have risen, and they include this being a midterm election year—which have historically been accompanied by larger-than-average maximum drawdowns. We continue to espouse discipline and diversification; but for now it’s in the context of an ongoing bull market.
Debt Song: It’s Not a Pretty Tune
I spend a lot of time on the road speaking to our investors and advisors and one of the common questions I get during the Q&A sessions is, “What keeps you up at night?” Aside from having an 18-year old daughter—and being a chronic insomniac anyway—my reply usually centers around debt and the burden it has and will continue to place on our economy.
Rough Waters for Summer?
U.S. stocks have moved toward the top of the recent range but volatility is likely to rise at times during the summer as investors deal with various global geopolitical headwinds. Further strength in the U.S. dollar would likely exacerbate the volatility—particularly within emerging markets. But limited signs of pending recession risk—at least in the United States—should keep the path of least resistance for the stock market higher. That said, patience and discipline are more important than ever in the face of sometimes ominous-sounding headlines.
Milemarker 92: Record String of Positive Payrolls
The May employment report was gangbusters, with strength across most components, including payrolls, the unemployment rate and wage growth. Can it continue?
Schwab Market Perspective: Buy in May…and Stay?
Stocks have rebounded along with economic data, could we be setting up for a solid summer?
Long Train Running: Leading Indicators Show Little Risk of Recession
Leading economic indicators have accelerated since morphing from recovery to expansion, so let’s see what that means for the economy and stock market looking ahead.
How Do the Stock Market and the Economy Interact?
Liz Ann Sonders draws connections between past and present to explain the action of the stock market and how it’s connected to economic fundamentals.
Navigating the New Environment
A more challenging investing environment requires a more disciplined and patient investing approach. The next few months could continue to be choppy, but a U.S. and/or global recession still appears a ways off, which should keep the bull market—here and globally—intact.
Beast of Burden of a High Earnings Bar
Since tax reform was passed the corporate earnings jump has been extraordinary…but is the good news already priced in to stocks?
It’s Windy Out There
Headwinds for stocks have risen but tailwinds also exist, resulting in a more tumultuous environment. We believe there are enough positives to keep the bull market going but gains are likely to be slower in coming, volatility is likely to remain elevated and discipline to a long-term plan will be crucial. Avoid overreacting to the barrage of news and focus on the items that could change the actual fundamentals of the economy.
Don’t Fear the Yield Curve Reaper
The yield curve has flattened significantly recently and has elicited headlines of impending doom, heightened recession risk and investor consternation…is the worry overdone?
Schwab Market Perspective: Keeping Things in Perspective
There have been some violent market moves recently, but it’s important for investors to keep things in perspective.
Gettin’ Tighter: Financial Conditions’ Effect on Stocks
Headlines have been focused on tariffs, trade and the FAANG stocks; but underneath the surface may be a more important shift toward tighter financial conditions.
Trade Mistakes: Will a Trade Spat Turn Into a Trade War?
Stocks erupted in a “tariffs tantrum” last week only to reverse course on hopes the U.S.-initiated trade spat won’t turn into a trade war.
All Right Now: Goldilocks Jobs Report Eases Inflation Fears
Goldilocks reappeared last week with an extremely strong jobs report that gave stocks another reason to cheer the ninth birthday of the bull market.
Schwab Market Perspective: Getting Back to…Normal?
Stock market volatility appears to be largely a consequence of the economic environment returning to a more “normal” status.
Take the Long Way Home: Economic Expansion Gets a Boost
Every month in the immediate aftermath of the release of The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) I put together a small deck together for Schwab’s Operating Committee highlighting the overall data and some of the key takeaways.
Volatility Gets Back in the Saddle Again
In a record-breaking sprint from all-time highs to an “official” correction, the “short vol” trade unwinding exacerbates an initially fundamentals-driven decline.
Schwab Market Perspective: Volatility…it’s Back!
Volatility has spiked, jolting investors out of complacency, but that doesn’t mean any dramatic action is needed.
Say Goodbye: Yellen Passes the Baton to Powell with Little Drama
In what was Janet Yellen’s final meeting as Fed Chair, rates were left unchanged, but the outlook for inflation was elevated in the statement.
Life’s Been Good: But Don’t Get Greedy
Stocks have ripped higher to start the year and “melt-up” has become a popular descriptor; but it’s time to judge whether the flame’s too hot.
Melt-up! Now What?
U.S. stocks may have entered a melt-up phase but for now it is relatively well supported by earnings growth; and although sentiment is extended, behavioral measures indicate still some skepticism. However, given elevated valuations, and the aforementioned overly optimistic sentiment, volatility is likely to increase and more frequent pullbacks are possible. The bull should continue to run, but likely with a bit more drama, so it’s important to stay diversified and disciplined around your long-term asset allocation.
Taxman: Bringing Some Cheer in the New Year
Tax reform—or better put, tax cuts—should provide a boost to the economy, but some enthusiasm-curbing is in order regarding the details and timing.
Whole Lotta Love … for Tax Reform?
Perhaps it’s premature (or even a jinx) to mention that if the S&P 500 ends December in the green, it will be the first time in history that U.S. stocks—as measured by that index—were up during every one of the 12 months.
The Big Picture Heading into 2018
Investors are cautioned not to extrapolate 2017’s performance into 2018, and we expect more frequent bouts of volatility. The global bull market is intact, supported by solid global growth and strong corporate earnings. But with the expectations bar now set quite high heading into next year, pullbacks are increasingly possible. Discipline is important looking ahead.
I Melt with You: Anatomy of a Market Melt Up
The U.S. stock market has bucked incessant negative news and now appears to be in melt up mode; meaning discipline is more warranted than ever.
Green Grass and High Tides: Earnings Stellar But Not Without Risk
The book is closing on third quarter earnings, which were stellar; but is it time to worry about a bar set too high in 2018?
Earnings season, both in the United States and globally, has been solid, while economic growth has accelerated across much of the globe—all supportive of an ongoing global bull market. Elevated optimism and complacency could lead to pullbacks, but we believe it would be in the context of an ongoing bull market.
One Thing Leads to Another: Productivity’s Rebound
My last report was on the acceleration in business capital spending (capex) that is likely to be an economic highlight in 2018. Part-and-parcel of capex is productivity—officially known as non-farm labor productivity—which has averaged less than 1% annualized growth during the current expansion.
Fed Stands Pat in November; Gets Ready to Go in December
Surprising no one, the Fed kept rates unchanged; but strongly hinted that the market’s correct about the near-certainty of a December rate hike.
Stocks Aren’t so Spooky
Global and domestic economic growth, along with a solid earnings picture and a potential tax reform tailwind, suggest investors should remain at their target equity allocations. Pullbacks are possible but a recession doesn’t appear to be in the cards in the near term, which historically has meant the risk of a pullback turning into a bear market is low.
Pumped Up Kicks: Several Important Kickers for a Strong Capex Cycle
Since the initial surge out of the global financial crisis, capital spending has been range-bound; but there’s ample reason to expect a new upcycle.
A Decade of Results: The Past, Present, and Future of Schwab Fundamental Index Funds
It’s been 10 years since Charles Schwab Investment Management, Inc. first launched the Schwab Fundamental Index Funds. Fundamental Index strategies were among the first to hit the market within the strategic beta universe.
Schwab Market Perspective: Preparing for the Latter Innings
U.S. stock indices have continued to push to record highs, with little apparently able to throw them off course. The grind higher has pushed through natural disasters, the Las Vegas tragedy, domestic political failures, international political tensions, and missile tests and threats from North Korea—an ample “wall of worry” for stocks to climb.
The Waiting: Wage Growth and Inflation Finally Getting in Gear?
With wage growth picking up and the labor market even tighter, it’s time to put even traditional measures of inflation back on the radar screen.
Fourth Quarter Fun…or Folly?
The fourth quarter is typically an active one and we don’t think this one will be any different. Solid economic growth and good corporate earnings should allow the bull market to continue but we may experience bouts of volatility and/or pullbacks. Stay diversified and disciplined around your long-term objectives.
Comfortably Numb? An Update on Investor Sentiment
Stocks have bucked all manner of fierce storms—figurative and literal—and optimism (and possibly risk) has risen as a result.
A Cat and Mouse Fall
September has historically been a tough time for stocks and there are multiple potential pitfalls to look out for this year as well. But economic and earnings growth—both domestic and global—continues to look healthy and we expect the bull market to continue. Remain globally diversified, but also disciplined around target asset allocations; and use any volatility for rebalancing purposes.
Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season: The Aftermath of "Harma"
Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Harvey and now Irma. I did little over the weekend except sit glued to the TV watching Hurricane Irma coverage. That's because I have a home in Naples, FL, on one of the southern intercoastal waterways.
A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Action is about to heat up as summer comes to an end but investors should remain cool. Geopolitical threats, domestic politics, and Federal Reserve actions all have the potential to add to volatility and heightens the risk of a pullback or correction. But healthy economic growth and strong corporate earnings lead us to believe that the bull market has legs.
Radioactive II: Could the Tide Finally Be Turning for Active vs. Passive?
I'm often asked how I invest my own money and often imbedded in the question is whether I prefer active or passive investing strategies. My answer is always both, and at Schwab we generally believe investors can benefit from traditional active management; e.g. mutual funds; alongside newer passive vehicles; e.g. exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
The latest bout of volatility illustrates why investors should stay focused on the longer-term. Risks for a more substantial pullback in the near-term still exist, as valuations remain elevated; but we believe solid U.S. and global economic growth, strong earnings, low inflation and still-ample global liquidity should allow the bull market to continue.
Twist and Shout: United States Takes on North Korea … Implications for Stocks
Last week, President Trump promised to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea, which prompted its leader Kim Jong Un to see that bid and raise it to a direct threat against the U.S. territory of Guam. Collectively at Schwab (Schwab Center for Financial Research as well as our experts in Washington, DC) we believe the likelihood of military action remains low.
Schwab Market Perspective: Things are Looking Good … But are They Too Good?
U.S. equity indexes continue to post record highs and the proverbial "wall of worry" appears to be losing bricks. The high expectations for earnings season have largely been bested, the U.S. economy continues to trend in a "Goldilocks" zone—not too hot, nor too cold...
Big Time: An Update on Our U.S. Large Cap Bias
Having recently upgraded our view on developed international markets (hat tip to Jeffrey Kleintop), we are now recommending investors keep their allocations to all three major equity asset classes—U.S., developed international and emerging markets—in line with strategic targets.
Fed Keeps it on the QT
Much to no one's surprise, the Federal Reserve held off on raising short-term interest rates; keeping the fed funds rate in a range of 1.00-1.25%, in a unanimous vote. Although they did not say anything explicit, there were a few niblets on which to chew in the statement accompanying the meeting.
Schwab Market Perspective: Are Danger Signs Rising…or Will the Bull Run Continue?
Are risks growing or will the bull market continue? We believe the answer to both is yes. Political bumbling, monetary policy shifts, and geopolitical tensions have all escalated, but the bull continues to power ahead, largely unscathed by the tumult that surrounds it.
Smooth Sailing for Stocks?
The environment for U.S. and global stocks continues to be in decent shape, but some risks are elevated and the possibility of a pullback exists. A notable potential driver of bouts of volatility could be U.S. and global central bank policy as they sail toward monetary policy normalization.
2017 Mid-year US Equity Outlook: Rattle and Hum
We say goodbye to the first half of a tumultuous, but rewarding, year and look ahead to the second half to see what might be in store for the U.S. economy and stock market.
Schwab Market Perspective: Shifting Sentiment?
A bit of volatility returned to Wall Street, with indexes pulling back from record highs and the leading sector performer to this point in the year, technology, experiencing a decent-sized pullback. Meanwhile, we've seen a flattening of the yield curve, which suggests the bond and stock markets may be sending conflicting economic signals.
The Space Between … Tech Today Doesn't Resemble Tech Circa 2000
Tech "wreck?" That's a bit of a stretch in my opinion; but the financial media loves a good headline. The major ascent—and recent pullback—of the so-called FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) has generated much attention; and lately, the subject of technology stocks more broadly has dominated Q&A sessions at events at which I've spoken.
Goldilocks…or the Three Bears?
Goldilocks appears to be taking up residence on Wall Street, with modest growth, low inflation and a cautious Fed combining to make things "just right" for investors. Additionally, the apparent improving global trade trend could help contribute to further stock market gains and support large-cap outperformance. But the risk of a pullback and/or sharp acceleration in volatility is elevated courtesy of both domestic and world political uncertainty, and the potential of a Fed misstep.
Turn Down For What: Why is Job Growth Slowing?
The pace of job growth has slowed, but it’s likely not because the economy is weakening. It may even be because the economy is strengthening.
Unprecedented! Or Maybe Not?
Both political uncertainty and Fed policy changes could contribute to increased volatility, but solid economic and earnings growth—both in the United States and globally—should help the bull market to continue. We suggest looking past the political rhetoric for the most part and focusing on economic developments and the long-term stability the United States provides. Globally, we’re seeing improving growth, but China is a concern that bears watching and emphasizes the need for a globally diversified portfolio.
Gimme Three Steps … and a Stumble?
"Three steps and a stumble" was first illustrated by Edson Gould, the legendary market technician from the 1930s through the 1970s. Ultimately the baton was passed from Gould to another legendary market analyst (and my mentor/boss for my first 13 years in this business), Marty Zweig, who incorporated the "rule" into his monetary policy indicator.
Sell in May…or Settle In?
Subscribing to the "sell in May" theory has not always been financially rewarding, so be cautious about trying to trade around any likely volatility. The U.S. economy is growing, but not too fast, earnings have accelerated sharply, and fiscal tailwinds are still blowing. There is the potential for a retrenchment in the gains in emerging market stocks in the near term, but sticking with a diversified portfolio is important. Pullbacks are possible but stay focused on fundamentals and your long-term goals.
Strange Brew: Heightened Uncertainties, Yet Plunging Volatility…What Gives?
Much ink has been spilled lately by the financial press on the dramatic move down in market volatility as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), to the lowest level since February 2007.
Schwab Market Perspective: Should Sharp Sentiment Shifts Mean a Change in Strategy?
Recent market action has all the markings of a relief rally. The French vote in favor of centrist candidate Macron took "Frexit" off the table for now; a new tax cut proposal by the Trump administration, and the decreasing likelihood of a near-term U.S. government shutdown all appeared to play a part in the sharp rise in stocks and plunge in volatility.
½ Full: Seeing Through a Weak Q1
As I've often noted when it comes to the relationship between economic data and the stock market, "better or worse tends to matter more than good or bad." In other words, stocks tend to key off rate of change more than level when it comes to economic indicators.
Schwab Market Perspective: Reassessing Risk and Reflation
Investors appear to be taking another look at the risks they are willing to take, while also considering whether the reflation story may not develop as hoped. Reflation is the process of getting economic growth and price broadly back to pre-recession levels. While progress has been made, growth is still not accelerating.
One of These Things ... Market's Moves Not All About Trump
Trumponomics, the Trump Trade, the Trump Rally—and more recently Trumpocalypse—you've heard them all. Now you'll read a story (and perhaps hum a tune) about economic inflection points and a stronger stock market which may have had little to do with the results of the election.
Schwab Market Perspective: Working off the Froth
After a party is over, and the host turns on the lights, the picture often looks quite different than it did just a few minutes before. The realities of the U.S. political process are being recognized and the "hard" economic data is not yet living up to the "soft" (confidence/survey-based) data.
Hard Times: Time for the Hard Data to Catch Up to the Soft Data
Much ink has been spilled by Wall Street analysts, the media, and yours truly, about the historically-wide spread between the so-called "soft" and "hard" economic data. Before getting to my latest thoughts on the subject, some definitions are in order.
Schwab Market Perspective: Teflon Market
Nothing seems to be able to phase the stock market recently. Political infighting, Presidential tweets, North Korean missile launches, oil falling below $50, European political uncertainty, higher bond yields, and the Fed raising rates: none of those forces have knocked stocks off their recent uptrend.
Big Machine: Why Large Caps Are Likely to Outperform
Many investors are wondering whether the stock market has come too far too fast. The latest consolidation brought the S&P 500 down only 2%, but the average stock was down more than that.
The stock market's rally resumed following the President's comments on tax reform and investor optimism continues to rise. There are solid economic supports for the market's surge, but gains may have gotten a bit ahead of themselves and a pullback should be expected at some point. As lovely as "melt-ups" feel while they're happening, a healthier pattern for stocks is to consolidate gains after significant rallies. Fundamentally, earnings have been solid, supporting the rally, but there are risks there as well as doubt about the "stickiness" of pricing power increases. Stay patient, diversified, and remember the power of rebalancing. We believe this secular bull market still has legs, but discipline is essential.
Radioactive: Is Passive’s Dominance Over Active Set to Wane?
One of the key themes I and my strategy colleagues highlighted in our 2017 outlook was the regime change from monetary policy being the only game in town to fiscal policy taking at least one of the reins.
Better Days: Earnings Growth Picks Up Sharply in 2017
Much ink spilled these days—including by yours truly—tends to be of the macro variety. This is for good reason as studies have shown that macro forces have been greater determinants of asset class performance than traditional underlying fundamentals.
Schwab Market Perspective: Not So Fast!
Since the Dow finally breached the 20k mark, equities have been largely range-bound. The enthusiasm seen in measures of investor sentiment following the election of Donald Trump has waned a bit as the realities of policy priorities—and getting things done in Washington—begin to set in.
Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged
In a unanimous vote, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) left interest rates unchanged at its two-day meeting which concluded today; however the statement noted rising confidence among business leaders and consumer in the period since the election.
Rise Up: Dow 20k Fails to Thrill Individual Investors
The Dow's flirtation with 20k went on for weeks, with the financial networks breathlessly reporting on every tick as it approached the milestone—subjecting them to much lighthearted ridicule on Twitter and the like.
A New World
The world is changing for investors but we believe it's largely in a positive way, although there will be bumps along the way. The recent sideways equity movement was a healthy consolidation of the post-election gains, and we suggest investors add to U.S. equity positions as needed at the expense of some developed market international exposure. Inflation is ticking higher, and the Fed is becoming more hawkish, but the conditions supporting those moves are also positive supports for stock.
A Perfect Mix?
U.S. stocks have been consolidating gains seen in the aftermath of the November presidential election, a healthy process following such strong gains. Further appreciation should be supported by improving U.S. and global economic and earnings growth. Disappointments are likely on the U.S. policy front but we would view those as buying opportunities for now.
Luminous Times: Looking Ahead With Optimism About 2017
In conjunction with the publishing of a summary of Schwab's 2017 outlook across asset classes; this report is a more detailed summary of my 2017 outlook, with a dash of rear-view mirror analysis of the year just ended. Each of the broad topics discussed below will be further unpacked over the next couple of months in individual reports.
Fed Shocks No One and Raises Rates
The Federal Reserve surprised no one today and the vote was unanimous. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised the federal funds rate by 25 basis points—to a range of 0.50-0.75%—for the first time this year; having raised rates initially a year ago at this same time.
Schwab Market Perspective: Will the Momentum Continue Into 2017?
November turned out to be an excellent month for the major U.S. stock indexes, with all three, plus the Russell 2000 index of small caps, hitting record highs.
You’ve Got to Earn It: Valuations Aided by Improving "E"
The stock market has had an excited run since the presidential election, with heightened optimism for growth looking ahead into 2017. Not to rain on the optimists’ parade, but there was actually ample evidence of improving growth before the election.
Emotional Rescue: What to Make of the Post-Election Surge?
Since the pre-election low on November 4, the S&P 500 is up 4.7%, while the Russell 2000 (small caps) is up a whopping 13.8%—rallies which have confounded many investors given the pre-election consensus that stocks would fall on the uncertainty associated with a Trump victory.
Is the Fog Starting to Lift?
The election is over but some uncertainty remains, which means bouts of volatility are likely to persist. The Fed is likely to hike rates in December but uncertainty about the path of rates in 2017 will persist. Additional uncertainty may come from elections around the world, with the potential for a continuation of surprising outcomes that could rattle markets at times.
Trump Pulls Off an Upset
Donald Trump has pulled off an astonishing upset to win the White House, securing at least 288 electoral votes as of 3:30 a.m. EST to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Trump Wins: What Happens Now?
Our view, expressed over the past month, was that a surprise win by Donald Trump would likely be one of the most unsettling outcomes for the markets. Indeed, that has come to fruition.
Welcome to the Working Week: An Update on Jobs
Given election-related distractions this week, today’s report will be chart-heavy and word-light; but on an important topic. Last Friday’s jobs report garnered much attention given its proximity to the next Federal Reserve meeting.
Looking Past the Election
Stay calm and carry on. We believe U.S. earnings and economic growth will continue to support an ongoing bull market, but gains will likely be modest and pullbacks should be expected alongside political and monetary policy uncertainty. Globally, wage growth is picking up, but that doesn’t have to mean bad news for profits.
Vertigo: Effect of Spiking Healthcare Costs on Consumers
A burgeoning topic of conversation during Q&A sessions at my recent client events has been elevating healthcare costs and their impact on the consumer and the economy.
Schwab Market Perspective: Spinning Our Wheels
U.S. equity indexes have made little headway over the past few months, but flat is relatively impressive given the obstacles of Fed and election uncertainty, some softer economic data, downgrades in earnings, and valuation concerns.
Your Time is Gonna Come: Households’ Leverage Down, Government Leverage Up
Over a weekend when I thought, “there are no words…” so often, this report will have few words, but a lot of charts and tables. Speaking of the election, it’s been remarkable that, given the ample deficits of both presidential candidates, rarely do either discuss the country’s deficits or debt.