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.
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.
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.
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.