Despite the current trade war with China, the U.S. economy has taken on an air of ‘Goldilocks’ since the December stock market swoon. Real economic growth has slowed, and both inflation and interest rates have moderated. The pace of growth is no longer too hot—as it was last year—nor has it yet become too cold—as most feared earlier this year.Read more
Even our staid and august firm isn’t above a little Game of Thrones clickbait.
After nineteen years in the wilderness, an old king has returned for his throne. The House of Microsoft is once again the most valuable company in the S&P 500 and, as of last month, is the sole occupier of the “4% Club” (i.e., weighting in the index).
The latest CPI numbers are slightly lower than market expectations. Oil prices need to be watched closely as further oil weakness would likely drag down inflation expectations too. Concerns about new tariffs causing higher inflation are misplaced.
After the December stock market swoon, amidst escalating recession fears, the Federal Reserve hit the pause button on interest rate hikes. Investors, though, had a déjà vu moment, sensing the 2018 experience as reminiscent of a few years earlier and, considering the aftermath of the prior occurrence turned out to be profitable, investors in 2019 opted to hit the replay button!
Late in the cycle, blue chip indexes like the DJIA and S&P 500 can fool investors by hiding subtler deterioration in the broad list of stocks. That’s been underway in the last couple of months, but it’s nothing in relation to the divergence that’s opened in the commodity market, where there’s an almost 20% YTD performance gap between the headline S&P/GS Commodity Index and its non-Energy components (Chart 1).Read more
In prior publications we’ve written about corporate leverage, which has risen to an alarming level, and we’re concerned that this could be a trigger for the next market downturn.Read more
An aging economic expansion can be hazardous for investors. It tends to develop vulnerabilities (e.g., indebtedness, a lack of savings, over-indulgences, etc.) which threaten a premature ending. Often, old recoveries develop a capacity shortage leading to worsening inflation, interest rate pressures, and restrictive economic policies.Read more
Emerging Market equities have been modest underperformers during the current rally, but they’ve marshaled enough strength to trigger a new low-risk BUY signal on our VLT Momentum algorithm at the end of April.Read more
Investors have struggled this year with the relationship between stocks and bonds. The stock market seems very optimistic about the future, whereas bonds appear much more reserved, if not frightened, by the outlook. Should investors be concerned by the seeming contentiousness between stocks and bonds?Read more
Crude oil and the U.S. Dollar Index accomplished a relatively rare feat by moving to simultaneous six-month highs earlier this week (Chart 1).Read more
This morning’s U.S. GDP report should help calm fears about a pending recession and perhaps set the stage for a surprising acceleration in economic growth? Fears of recession have caused the Federal Reserve to pause its tightening campaign, slightly boost the pace of money supply growth, and significantly lower long-term yields. Improved monetary accommodation definitely raises future economic growth prospects.Read more
Although we are not in the “melt-up” camp, we’d concede that stock market leadership is exactly what we’d expect if we were in that camp: Domestic over Foreign, Large over Small, and Growth over Value. Price action continues to remind us of the powerful rebound off the fall 1998 lows. Current earnings and liquidity trends, however, are not nearly as supportive as they were during that historic market move.Read more
Compared to post-war norms, the contemporary economic expansion has been odd in many ways. Persistent sub-par economic growth, a lack of normal lending and borrowing activities, declining labor-force participation rates, a stubbornly high underemployment rate, an inflation no-show, negative yields, and bizarre economic policies (e.g., TARP, cash for clunkers, stress tests, and quantitative easing).
Better economic reports in the U.S. and about the globe are slowly reducing imminent recession worries. For example, today’s favorable reports on U.S. retail sales, unemployment claims, and the Leading Economic Indicator reinforces the likelihood the expansion perseveres.Read more
The 1999 leadership parallels we discussed in the latest Green Book remain intact—U.S. over foreign, Growth over Value, and Large over Small. Small Caps have given up most of the “beta bounce” enjoyed in the first two months off the December low, with one Small Cap measure—the Russell Microcap Index (the bottom 1000 of the Russell 2000)—undercutting last year’s relative strength low and those of 2011 and 2016.Read more
The Boom/Bust Indicator, a weekly ratio of industrial-commodity prices to initial unemployment claims, has had a near-vertical rebound to old highs in the last several weeks. This index usually peaks out many months in advance of a business cycle peak (although not in 2007, when it provided no warning of the pain to come).Read more
U.S. profit margins have widened significantly in the last couple decades. Total U.S. corporate profits as a percent of GDP averaged only about 8% in the 20 years leading up to 2000, but has since risen by almost 30%, averaging 10.5%. Similarly, the overall profit margin among S&P 500 companies has increased steadily in this recovery to record highs!Read more
Corporate profits were outstanding last year, but even the benefit of a 40% cut in the top income-tax rate wasn’t enough to lift the net profit margin back to the all-time high of 10.6% established in early 2012. Still, the latest 10.0% figure is more than a percentage point above the 2007 cycle high and about two points better than any other cycle high.
The latest CPI numbers are largely in line with market expectations. The recent rebound in oil prices certainly helped the recovery in inflation expectations. Recent U.S. economic numbers have been decent overall and the latest uptick in the U.S. ISM index also offers support for inflation.
Many believe the contemporary bull market has been nothing more than a Sugar High produced by massive and unprecedented monetary easing. In the last couple years, however, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates and allowed its balance sheet to run off, weaning the markets from its sugar.
In May 2015, we warned about rich valuations for small cap Biotech stocks and looked at various ways to evaluate those companies, as the majority have no approved drugs on the market, thus no revenue; therefore, valuing these companies using the conventional methodology is problematic.Read more
Several consumer confidence gauges plunged in the wake of the Q4 market decline (as expected), and then rebounded in a lagged response to the stock market recovery (again, as expected). But March saw the largest one-month drop in consumers’ assessment of their “Present Situation” since 2008.Read more
Performance has been robust for this group, rising on a relative strength basis since the end of 2017. Its diverse mix of constituents equates to a group that, overall, is middle-of-road in terms of beta and volatility relative to other industries. These dynamics have contributed to its solid relative returns across diverging market environments of late.Read more
The Intrinsic Value category remains a drag on the MTI but is well below cycle extremes seen in January 2018 and again in September. The Momentum category, however, continues to nudge the MTI higher for the third consecutive week.Read more
A legitimate concern facing investors is how quickly, and how much, the stock market has recovered while economic and earnings fundamentals have deteriorated. Without improving fundamentals, this rally appears overdone—based on hope—and increasingly suspect.Read more
The “Expectations” component of the Consumer Confidence survey has been wobbly in the last few months, but the latest report, released on Tuesday, showed the first meaningful hit to consumers’ “Present Situation” since the stock market first began to struggle 14 months ago (Chart 1).Read more
The U.S. yield curve has inverted (at least the 10-year Treasury yield to either the 3-month T-bill or the Fed funds rate) and captured the full attention of investors. Rightly so, since a yield curve inversion has historically been an excellent indicator of a pending recession. However, a condition that has always existed in the post-war era when the yield curve has inverted is absent today.Read more
Stocks do best in times of general price stability. In the post-war era, the stock market has provided investors with significantly higher returns and lower risk whenever the annual rate of consumer price inflation has been between 1% and 3%. However, when outside this “Sweet Spot”—when the porridge is either too hot or too cold—investment results are far less hospitable.Read more