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.
Allow us to put forth yet another theory for this season’s plummet in NFL television ratings: Fed watching is back!
We think stock market action in the next few months will provide the Fed with an excuse to skip any rate increase in 2015. But our view is a minority one, and futures’ market odds on a September increase shot up in early August. Either way, the obsession over the timing of a Fed rate hike ignores the fact that world P/E ratios are already contracting—at least on the basis of our 5-Year Normalized EPS.
While our stock market disciplines (including the Major Trend Index) are nominally bullish, we’re mentally gearing up to do something in the near future that was once considered ill-advised: Fighting the Fed.
We expect much higher volatility in interest rates this year as the market grapples with the prospect and timing of the Fed’s first rate hike. Our base case is for the Fed to raise rates in the third quarter. There are various reasons for the Fed to be patient. Inflation will be the biggest one. The threat of oil-related risk contagion is certainly real. We are concerned that equities have not fully priced in this threat.
More upside surprises are still likely and, despite the disappointing jobs report, the overall economic picture still supports a September taper. The improving economic picture is not just happening within the U.S., but in other major countries. We still believe the upside for the U.S. 10-year is limited.
Today may feel different, but it isn’t. The past 13 months’ trading action in the U.S. is the second example of this phenomenon in the current (2009-to-date) cyclical bull market. We focus on 11 previous episodes for perspective. Plus we clarify recent thoughts on interest rates and stock market valuations.
The new debate over the QE “taper” erupted at the same time that a long-reliable Fed-tracking tool is telling us it’s time to ease.