October brought a significant increase in market volatility and a broad equity sell-off to match the late-January through early-February move lower.
Despite another interest rate hike in June by the Federal Reserve that raised the target federal funds range to 1.75-2.00%, along with plenty of increased tariff talk and (some) implementation by the Trump administration, the investment world was relatively calm in the second quarter of 2018.
Two of our largest individual equity holdings announced game-changing transactions at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter of 2018.
The end of 2016 through the beginning of 2018 had been one of the least volatile periods in recorded stock market history. It was THE least volatile by one measure – for the 404 trading days through the beginning of February, the market never had a five percent correction – the longest streak on record.
Value investing is under attack. The US equity market is at its most expensive level in history and has spent most of the past six years in the top quintile of expensive. In addition, value equities have underperformed the broad market and more widely growth equities for over ten years.
In our last quarterly letter, we discussed seven transactions from early 2017: two buys and five sells. We also provided an update on our then largest position, Express Scripts. There was zero analysis of the economy, asset classes, and central banks. We have been relatively quiet on the transaction front since then.
During the first four months of 2017, we were relatively active on the buying and selling front. With a reasonable amount of information to report on individual positions, we will dispense with any broad economic and asset class commentary and dig right into each of the transactions that occurred between January and April.
As we enter 2017 and the beginning of the Trump presidency, the US equity bull market is almost eight years old. In fact, the eight years since the “great recession” has been a bull market not just in domestic equities, but in almost every global financial asset class.