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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.