Even though cyclical stocks’ excess return has been somewhat modest in 2021, they have done well overall since the start of this bull market. Moreover, while the economy is poised to slow next year, real-GDP growth should post another healthy gain near 4% to 4.5%—helping to keep cyclical stocks in a leadership position. Thus, owning a wide variety of cyclical stocks again during 2022 probably makes sense. Still, there are a couple of reasons investors should consider tilting those cyclical bets toward consumer cyclicals rather than industrial cyclicals.
Why do we own bonds? I understand the nostalgia. After all, bonds have been part of portfolios ever since, well, there have been portfolios. They have always represented the consummate balancing asset; bonds make those risky stocks tolerable and allow a restful night’s sleep. But, just like Linus and his blankie, it’s tough to let go of such a comforting friend.
The U.S. labor market holds the key to the duration of the economic expansion and its corollary bull market. In October, the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 4.6%—which is lower than 75% of the time since 1948. Although there’s still room for further improvement, historically, when the unemployment rate fell below 4%, economic conditions often became difficult.
In this prolonged era of growth-stock dominance, cyclical stocks seem antiquated and passé. Why own something that is highly volatile, subject to the vagaries of an unpredictable economy, and offers no true sustainable long-term growth story? Particularly when there are FANGS available that are painting the future of society and the economy. FANG-style stocks are also much steadier, significantly less connected with economic cyclicality, and offer sexy future growth. When I put it that way, I too am having a hard time being convinced to buy a cyclical stock?
Investors have two primary questions regarding the current inflation problem: 1) Is the recent inflation surge just temporary or will it prove sustainable, and 2) Why are bond yields ignoring higher inflation? Unfortunately, we do not have a definitive answer for either question, but a look at U.S. history is informative.
Based on the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, household confidence has collapsed in recent months. Other measures paint a less dire picture about consumer fears but most of them similarly suggest that enthusiasm has waned. Importantly, this decline in consumer confidence comes at a time of abnormally high consumer savings.