Much ink has been spilled by Wall Street analysts, the media, and yours truly, about the historically-wide spread between the so-called "soft" and "hard" economic data. Before getting to my latest thoughts on the subject, some definitions are in order.
Nothing seems to be able to phase the stock market recently. Political infighting, Presidential tweets, North Korean missile launches, oil falling below $50, European political uncertainty, higher bond yields, and the Fed raising rates: none of those forces have knocked stocks off their recent uptrend.
Many investors are wondering whether the stock market has come too far too fast. The latest consolidation brought the S&P 500 down only 2%, but the average stock was down more than that.
The stock market's rally resumed following the President's comments on tax reform and investor optimism continues to rise. There are solid economic supports for the market's surge, but gains may have gotten a bit ahead of themselves and a pullback should be expected at some point. As lovely as "melt-ups" feel while they're happening, a healthier pattern for stocks is to consolidate gains after significant rallies. Fundamentally, earnings have been solid, supporting the rally, but there are risks there as well as doubt about the "stickiness" of pricing power increases. Stay patient, diversified, and remember the power of rebalancing. We believe this secular bull market still has legs, but discipline is essential.
One of the key themes I and my strategy colleagues highlighted in our 2017 outlook was the regime change from monetary policy being the only game in town to fiscal policy taking at least one of the reins.
Much ink spilled these days—including by yours truly—tends to be of the macro variety. This is for good reason as studies have shown that macro forces have been greater determinants of asset class performance than traditional underlying fundamentals.
Since the Dow finally breached the 20k mark, equities have been largely range-bound. The enthusiasm seen in measures of investor sentiment following the election of Donald Trump has waned a bit as the realities of policy priorities—and getting things done in Washington—begin to set in.
In a unanimous vote, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) left interest rates unchanged at its two-day meeting which concluded today; however the statement noted rising confidence among business leaders and consumer in the period since the election.
The Dow's flirtation with 20k went on for weeks, with the financial networks breathlessly reporting on every tick as it approached the milestone—subjecting them to much lighthearted ridicule on Twitter and the like.
The world is changing for investors but we believe it's largely in a positive way, although there will be bumps along the way. The recent sideways equity movement was a healthy consolidation of the post-election gains, and we suggest investors add to U.S. equity positions as needed at the expense of some developed market international exposure. Inflation is ticking higher, and the Fed is becoming more hawkish, but the conditions supporting those moves are also positive supports for stock.