Skip to content
Jun 16 2021

Schrödinger’s Style Box

  • Jun 16, 2021

The performance derby between actively managed portfolios and passive benchmarks is strongly influenced by market conditions.  Active manager success rates are cyclical, but not random, and are driven by slippage created from style, size, and weighting considerations that result from the imperfect slotting of active portfolios into single style boxes.  Moreover, this slippage can be defined and measured, and shows a clear correlation with relative return spreads between benchmarks and their opposite boxes.

U.S. inflation has surged in recent months for a number of reasons. The most concerning one is the extent to which this elevated level of inflation is due to the overuse and abuse of monetary and fiscal stimulus? Suppose this bout of inflation is primarily the result of rising monetary velocity, or it reflects heightened inflation expectations causing consumers to spend stimulus checks and run-down savings quickly. In that case, it will prove to be a serious and sustained inflationary challenge. Some of it is simply the base effect. A year ago, many prices dropped abnormally, and even a return to more standard pricing will produce a temporary, outsized inflation rate.

Read more

Inflation has arrived, and investors, understandably, are worried about the impact it will ultimately have on the stock market. The S&P GSCI Commodity Price Index has risen by almost 70% in the last year, and annual consumer price inflation has adjusted upward to 5% from essentially zero. Consumer inflation is now at its highest level since 2008 and will likely soon reach a level not seen since the early 1980s!

Read more

Given how fast the economy is recovering, could the stock market soon struggle with a scarcity of SLACK? Wall Street’s dirty little secret is that, historically, the stock market does best when there is slack on Main Street. This is illustrated in Chart 1, which shows how the S&P 500 has performed at various unemployment rates during the post-war period.

Read more

CPI figures for the last two months have pummeled estimates and set multiyear records. Equity and fixed income markets seem to be comfortable in the Fed’s assessment that these high inflation prints are transitory.

Read more

In the May Green Book, and again in the May 21st issue of “Chart of the Week,” we discussed the trailing one-year correlation between weekly percentage changes in the S&P 500 and the 10-year Treasury bond yield. Rollovers from high levels in this correlation have signaled most of the important pullbacks in the bond market over the last 20 years.

Read more

Read this week's Major Trend. 

Read more

Since 2008, the “direction” of the 10-year bond yield has been highly correlated with stock market leadership. Although the level and direction of yields have always been significant factors for stock investors, their role has seemingly become much more pronounced, since 2008, relative to earlier years. That is, since the Great Financial Crisis, the bond market has been determining, or at least coincidently signaling, which stock cars will be the winners and the losers.

Read more

After years of underperformance, investors who pay attention to both Momentum and Value are finally being rewarded. The turnaround has been substantial, but the relative valuation of expensive Momentum vs. cheap Momentum stocks is still extremely elevated by historical standards.

Read more

Impressive strength across the factor spectrum implies that the recent pop in the long-time beaten-down Financials sector should have more room to run. We highlight five attractively-rated Financials groups for investment ideas beyond the popular big-bank-concentrated Financial sector ETFs.

Read more

Most people agree that growth stocks have longer duration than value, but few bother to back this up with numbers. Our implied equity-duration study says the conventional wisdom is right: Growth stocks do have longer duration. But... the devil is in the details.

Read more

Small Cap median valuations are among the highest in our 40-year database, but they are bottom quintile versus the nose-bleed level of the median Large Cap. If this Small Cap leadership cycle only matches the shortest one on record, it will last another three years. Based on the valuation gap, that guess seems conservative.

Read more

On a technical basis, Homebuilding stocks have only just emerged from their decade-long post-bubble bust. With P/B 24% below the mid-2005 peak and 15% below the “overvalued” threshold, they look reasonably priced in a world that’s almost entirely devoid of value.

Read more

Our trusted civil servants must have found a list of our old Economic/Interest Rates/Inflation components and began to “discontinue” those once invaluable to us and other Fed watchers. It’s a hindrance, but we still have the one that is most correlated to stock prices and it’s free: The ever-expanding balance sheet.

Read more

The ultimate measure of a SPAC sponsor’s success is stock performance post merger: De-SPAC results. We analyze historical returns of De-SPACs that had initial market caps greater than $200 million.

Read more

Many worry what will happen when the Federal Reserve finally begins tapering? Quit worrying. Tapering has been happening for the last three months!

Read more

Read this week's Major Trend. 

Read more

For the first time in more than 20 years, U.S. capital spending has broken to new record highs and seems poised to remain robust for some time. As shown in Chart 1, core capital goods spending (i.e., non-defense capital goods orders, excluding aircraft) stalled after its early 2000 dot-com peak and was stuck in a broad sideways range until late 2020. Over the last year, though, capital goods spending has surged by 25.2%, its biggest twelve-month jump since early 1993!

Read more

After Consumer Price Inflation spiked to a 12 1/2-year high of 4.2% in April, there’s been a torrent of analysis decrying the collapse of “real yields”—including the real Treasury-bond yield, real S&P 500 dividend yield, and even the real S&P 500 earnings yield. Since all of these yields already traded at extremely low nominal levels, the inflation adjustment makes every one of them look even worse. For example, the real yield on 10-year Treasuries just sunk to -2.60%, the lowest reading since 1980 (Chart 1).

Read more

The 10-year Treasury yield is 1.58%, flat with the level it initially spiked to in late February and down from its late-March recovery high near 1.77%. The inflation rate is running far above the 10-year yield, and so is the 10-year breakeven rate. U.S. commodity prices have surged 75% in the last year, and the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate of current quarter real-GDP growth is a red-hot 10.1%.

Read more

Read this week's Major Trend. 

Read more

Just a handful of arbitrary thoughts to start the week…

Read more

The 10-year Treasury yield has absorbed the past two months’ worsening inflation numbers by going exactly “nowhere.” Bond investors seem to be all-in on the Fed thesis that the inflation pickup is just transitory.

During the recent consolidation, however, the Treasury yield showed a subtle change in character—one that suggests there might be more inflation paranoia than meets the eye. The 10-year yield’s daily correlation with stock price movements flipped negative, and then plummeted toward a 21-year low. 

Read more

Everyone is struggling with allocations to a fixed-income market that seems exceptionally over-priced. Cash rates remain near zero, and the 10-year Treasury yield—at 1.65%—sells at a 61x P/E multiple for a coupon without any growth! Moreover, junk-yield spreads are near record lows, and investment-grade credit spreads are at their tightest levels in at least 20 years. Finally, it’s a pretty good bet that yields are headed higher in the next few years.

Read more

Small cap stocks are often seen as a bullish, risk-on, pro-cyclical asset class. They benefit from economic growth, rising inflation, widening margins, and the willingness of investors to move out on the risk spectrum. The pandemic recovery has created these very conditions, and small caps responded right on cue by posting a blockbuster price gain of 130% since the COVID-19 bear market low of March 23, 2020. Because the pandemic was a global economic and health care catastrophe, we were curious to see if small caps behaved similarly in other regions.

Read more

After significantly decreasing in the previous decade, employee compensation of U.S. corporations, as a percent of nominal GDP, has risen slowly but steadily since 2010. That is, rising labor costs have proved to be a modest but growing challenge for labor-intensive industries.

Read more

It’s been a tough week for investors. Although the Federal Reserve has been trying to prepare us for a “transitory” inflation spike, a single-month surge to a 26-year high in the core, annual consumer-price inflation rate has challenged the Fed’s narrative. After all, many thought it was only a matter of time before the overuse and abuse of monetary and fiscal policies would come home to roost. 

Read more

The CPI numbers blew past market expectations. Equity investors might feel it’s too hot, as higher inflation has historically been associated with lower equity valuations.

 

Read more

Our ongoing research into the relative performance of active vs. passive styles reveals that market conditions play a significant role in the active/passive return cycle. We identified a set of metrics that describe the market conditions we believe influence which management style is more likely to outperform. This note updates our data through March 2021.

Read more

Most bull markets of the last 40 years commenced when company fundamentals and earnings were still declining from a recession. Because of that, valuations often worsen considerably during a fresh bull run as the stock market surges despite continued earnings weakness.

Read more

Investors turn to gold when they fear inflation. Therefore, historically, the price of gold has often significantly outpaced other commodity prices “before” the rate of consumer inflation accelerates.

Read more

Navigating the investment landscape over the past year has been a journey full of surprises. No data other than “earnings surprises” can better demonstrate how unpredictable companies’ financial performance has become. 

Read more

Valuations aren’t known as effective timing tools, but they can certainly help one decide when an attempt at timing may be appropriate. And if that time isn’t now, then when?

Read more

April ISM readings, both for Manufacturing and Services, were hot across the board. That’s good news for a still-recovering Main Street, but it manifested in ways that have frequently caused problems for a famous Street located in Lower Manhattan.

Read more

Housing-related groups have catapulted to the very top of our rankings. Several of these are among the top-ten performers of our 120-group universe. Despite the strong returns for these industries, our GS Scores indicate that this theme has even more room to run.

Read more

We understand the various rationale for the upward shift in equity valuations seen over the last quarter century or so. Unfortunately, wiping away all market history prior to 1995 does not make stock valuations appear significantly less inflated. 

Read more

The Group Selection (GS) Scores are off to a fantastic start in 2021, and the Select Industries strategy, which takes its cues from the Attractive range, has taken full advantage.

Read more

We don’t make much use of “Forward” EPS for the S&P 500 because analyst forecasts have tended to be hopelessly optimistic. But if their short-term projections are on target, when numbers for the current quarter are reported, 12-month trailing GAAP EPS will exceed the $139.47 pre-COVID peak.

Read more