A definite feature of the last decade has been the persistent underperformance of European and Asian stocks vs US stocks. Foreign stocks have underperformed with such consistency that it’s almost expected at this point.
It’s no secret that pandemic-related government policy is driving at least some of the inflation currently being experienced in the United States. Indeed, real disposable income per capita has deviated from a linear trend in a meaningful way since 2020.
This week Jerome Powell tossed the market a bone by hinting that the Fed would be patient in raising short-term interest rates due to the continued slack in the US labor market and inflation that would likely be “transitory”.
By now investors are quite aware of the consequences of financial repression via negative real interest rate policies. Since interest rates on “risk free” government debt are too low to even compensate for inflation, it pushes investors out the risk spectrum in an effort to achieve a positive rate of return after inflation.
New projections of the labor force growth rate by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show the US labor force growth accelerating in the 2020s for the first time since the 1970s.
With the S&P 500 up nearly 20% and international developed stocks up 13% year-to-date, the markets are having a banner year so far.
This week US CPI inflation for June rose at a stunning 0.9% MoM, or 11% annualized, placing it among the highest sequential inflation readings in the past 40 years.
The ever-important payroll report came in ahead of expectations for June, but will ultimately do little to sway policy in toward the hawkish faction of the Federal Reserve Board.
Last week the 10-year to 2-year US Treasury yield curve spread narrowed from 133bps to 119bps in just three trading days.
For the second month in a row, the US payroll employment report has come in below expectations.
Today the US employment report for April was released and it took the markets by surprise. Estimates were for net job gains of 1 million. Instead, the US economy added 218K private sector jobs. This compares to 708K private sector jobs in March.
10 year Treasury rates peaked at the end of March at 1.74% after having risen from low of just 0.56% back in the summer of 2020. Now, the rate stands at 1.57% even as economic data continues to come in smoking hot and policy remains incredibly accommodative.
What a week for price data! We have been writing about the possibility of higher inflation for months now, most recently here. We have also highlighted the most likely assets to benefit from higher inflation like copper, oil and energy stocks.
To say the market is bubblelicious is a bit of an understatement given that retail “investment” in call options and penny stocks is quite literally off the charts, dwarfing numbers we saw in 1998-2000.
There are a few ways to measure productivity. One simple way to measure productivity at the company level is to calculate sales per employee. Higher sales for the same number of employees obviously means each employee is pulling more weight. Profits are a byproduct.
We’re going to keep this post short and sweet because the charts speak for themselves. Today, preliminary Markit PMIs were released for January. Headline numbers ticked up, which is great and shows a continued expansion into the new year.
This week investors learned of president-elect Joe Biden’s initial bid for the next round of covid-19 relief. The number came in at $1.9tn. Importantly, included in this figure is mainly covid relief as opposed to a longer-term fiscal package that will be heavily weighted to infrastructure.
This week we were privy to both new inflation and initial unemployment claims data. The CPI data revealed a rather mundane inflation scenario. Meanwhile, the weekly initial claims number came in at a whopping 853K and missed estimates by the largest amount since June.
Inflation expectations as priced by the Treasury market are hitting 18 month highs just now. As the reader can see, inflation expectations across all treasury maturities are at cycle highs.
Since early August the “barbarous relic” has corrected some 9% while many other assets have ascended to all-time highs. This has no doubt caused a bit of consternation for holders of gold who have been using the metal not as a hedge, but as a capital appreciation vehicle unto itself.
As election results continue to trickle in suggesting Joe Biden will be the next president, there still remains a bit of uncertainty with respect the final electoral vote tally as well as any legal challenges that will emerge in the coming days.
In the last few weeks stock market sentiment as expressed in options has come full circle. Back in August we were noting a rather amazing level of outright speculation in stock options, mostly by small traders that were buying short-dated out of the money calls on the FAAMGs.
In recent weeks the market has been notably broader in terms of the upside participation from stocks other than FAANMGs. Typically, this type of action in the early stages of a business cycle would be strongly associated with the “value” style working, since “value” companies skew considerably smaller than “growth” companies in aggregate.
We’ve been writing for the last month about the risks, and then the corrective activity in the stock market. Even as the market didn’t peak until the first few days of September, it “feels” like this pause has lasted longer than that.
Last week we put out a succinct mid-quarter update in which we highlighted 9 negative inputs into a tactical equity framework. This post builds upon that by calling out 7 rather conspicuous divergences that are developing in the financial markets.
The bank stocks are at it again as they make another new 52-week relative performance low compared to the broad market. It’s a perennial issue. Over the last year the KBW Bank Index, an index of 24 of the largest US banks, has underperformed the S&P 500 by 30%.
When it comes down to it, there are a few key macro variables that are highly correlated with the relative performance of value vs growth – most of them measuring the reflationary impulse in the system in different ways.
Over the weekend the world learned of the Senate Republican’s “opening bid” for the next round of fiscal stimulus in the United States. That number came in at a nice, round $1tn. Now, as large as that number is, it still pales in comparison to the $3.5tn House bill that already passed.
Here we are in the dog days of summer, and the hot weather is not the only thing making us a little queasy. The darling stock market group since 2011, the Nasdaq 100 stock index, has soared a cool 20% this year and well into all-time high territory. Indeed, the height is making us queasy from vertigo.
With the US dollar index recently having completed a so called “death cross”, we thought it would be a good opportunity to review the investment implications of a potential trend change in the USD.
Regular readers of our content know that we have been building the case for several years now on why gold deserves a place in diversified portfolios.
The returns of the 2009-2020 bull market were nothing short of extraordinary. From the 2009 low in the S&P 500 to the 2020 high, stocks gained a massive 488%, or nearly 18% on an annualized basis.
Even as the stock market chugs up the wall of worry, we were reminded today that the economic fundamentals remain mired in simply unprecedented territory.
As I write this note on a dreary Friday afternoon from Boulder, CO I am reminded of my town’s origin. Its first non-native settlers established the town 1858 as a base camp for gold and silver miners.
Given the surge in unemployment claims over the last month the US unemployment rate is expected to rise to 16% in April from just 4.4% in March. Shocking as that number is, we have no problem with that forecast.
We are beginning to see some important divergences develop between the stock market and other data that suggest we are not out of the woods yet.
Energy companies are facing a life or death moment in 2020 with the price of WTI crude oil falling to $13.64/barrel as of this writing. Indeed the collapse in energy prices combined with poor fundamentals leading into the COVID crisis make most of the oil…
Back in the good ole’ days of mid-January, asset allocators could look to long-duration US government bonds as a refuge for stormy weather. Those days are no longer.
Anyone reading this post already knows that palpable panic has set into equity markets over recent days. We present these charts to highlight the extreme nature of the selloff so far, and as a reminder of the rarity of these events. In times like this, it’s important to remind oneself that these kind of extremes are transient and often present, at the very least, unique tactical opportunities.
Watching while the largest equity market in the world falls by a whopping 8% in four trading days brings us back to the 2008-2009 meltdown period of the financial crisis. Normally an 8% drop in such a short time frame would present an interesting intermediate-term buying or rebalancing opportunity outside of a recessionary environment.
This week’s breakout in gold is an epic expression of our times in which potential economic problems are quickly followed by massive actual and expected responses by central banks and governments. The problem de jour (for both markets and the public) is of course the real and scary health and economic consequences of a further spread COVID-19.
Regular readers of this blog and of our other commentary know that we have been looking for some kind of cyclical rebound in economic activity starting in the first quarter of 2020.
As dangerous as the virus is, we believe financial markets face a larger risk from the impending economic slowdown the virus will create due to the massive quarantine effort of China underway.
There are a number of factors that have us tactically concerned about a period of over-exuberance among equity investors. Those include record low put/call ratios and extreme inflows into equity ETFs. But among the more troubling facts of late is the breakdown in breadth we are witnessing even as the equity markets rally to new cycle or all-time highs.
Unless something dramatically changes in the final few days of 2019, the 4th quarter for equity market performance will be one to write home about. The S&P 500 is currently on track to deliver about a 9% price return, which would be the second best quarterly performance in the last five and a half years.
For the last several months we’ve been talking about the distinct possibility of a period of foreign equity outperformance that investors would be remiss to miss.
Even as left tail risks to US and global economic growth seem to have been mitigated over recent weeks (more accommodate financial conditions, rising of some PMI data, worst case trade outcome seemingly a lower probability now), incoming data continue to suggest the nadir of this slowdown cycle has not yet been reached.
Investors were unfortunately treated to a rather disappointing package of October Chinese economic data. Three of the most important hard data series were reported: fixed asset investment, industrial production and retail sales.
As each day passes and more evidence of some sort of bottom in economic activity emerges, the chances of market rotation into the more beaten down areas of the global equity market would seem to be rising.
I wrote a week ago about how international equities may be finally getting the help they need to break the back of a long-term underperformance trend. It’s a trend that has caused international stocks to underperform US stocks in eight of the last eleven years.