Although stocks rebounded after a sharp drop in January, the market’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak highlighted stock vulnerabilities.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, as expected; while signaling rates would stay in their current range through next year.
The U.S. economy likely will remain split in early 2020.
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.
Market valuation is always a factor; but often misunderstood is the vastness of the spectrum of metrics, and the sentiment nature of valuation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Employment reports are increasingly in focus due to weak survey data and a risk that manufacturing’s weakness spills over to services/consumer segments.
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.
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.
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.
In line with expectations, the FOMC cut rates by 25 basis points; also lowering the IOER by 30 basis points to address liquidity problems in the repo market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Current economic conditions do not look recessionary, but risks are rising and if we’re heading into one, it’s possible it already started.
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?
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let’s talk what everyone’s talking about, the trade war with China and tariffs.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Leading Economic Index lifted enough in March to bring it back to a cycle high; but the deterioration in the trend bears watching.
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.
Although Friday’s payroll report had a lot to cheer and was generally seen as Goldilocks-like, looking under the hood should generate some caution.
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.
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.
Recession fears have risen and stocks have become more volatile, but is now the time to prepare for a sharp downturn?
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.
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.