A bit of volatility returned to Wall Street, with indexes pulling back from record highs and the leading sector performer to this point in the year, technology, experiencing a decent-sized pullback. Meanwhile, we've seen a flattening of the yield curve, which suggests the bond and stock markets may be sending conflicting economic signals.
Tech "wreck?" That's a bit of a stretch in my opinion; but the financial media loves a good headline. The major ascent—and recent pullback—of the so-called FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) has generated much attention; and lately, the subject of technology stocks more broadly has dominated Q&A sessions at events at which I've spoken.
Goldilocks appears to be taking up residence on Wall Street, with modest growth, low inflation and a cautious Fed combining to make things "just right" for investors. Additionally, the apparent improving global trade trend could help contribute to further stock market gains and support large-cap outperformance. But the risk of a pullback and/or sharp acceleration in volatility is elevated courtesy of both domestic and world political uncertainty, and the potential of a Fed misstep.
The pace of job growth has slowed, but it’s likely not because the economy is weakening. It may even be because the economy is strengthening.
Both political uncertainty and Fed policy changes could contribute to increased volatility, but solid economic and earnings growth—both in the United States and globally—should help the bull market to continue. We suggest looking past the political rhetoric for the most part and focusing on economic developments and the long-term stability the United States provides. Globally, we’re seeing improving growth, but China is a concern that bears watching and emphasizes the need for a globally diversified portfolio.
"Three steps and a stumble" was first illustrated by Edson Gould, the legendary market technician from the 1930s through the 1970s. Ultimately the baton was passed from Gould to another legendary market analyst (and my mentor/boss for my first 13 years in this business), Marty Zweig, who incorporated the "rule" into his monetary policy indicator.
Subscribing to the "sell in May" theory has not always been financially rewarding, so be cautious about trying to trade around any likely volatility. The U.S. economy is growing, but not too fast, earnings have accelerated sharply, and fiscal tailwinds are still blowing. There is the potential for a retrenchment in the gains in emerging market stocks in the near term, but sticking with a diversified portfolio is important. Pullbacks are possible but stay focused on fundamentals and your long-term goals.
Much ink has been spilled lately by the financial press on the dramatic move down in market volatility as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), to the lowest level since February 2007.
Recent market action has all the markings of a relief rally. The French vote in favor of centrist candidate Macron took "Frexit" off the table for now; a new tax cut proposal by the Trump administration, and the decreasing likelihood of a near-term U.S. government shutdown all appeared to play a part in the sharp rise in stocks and plunge in volatility.
As I've often noted when it comes to the relationship between economic data and the stock market, "better or worse tends to matter more than good or bad." In other words, stocks tend to key off rate of change more than level when it comes to economic indicators.