Record June Catapults Stocks

trophy cash

Where were you in 1938? Like many of you, I was not even born yet.

As people fret about China trade talks, speculate about the timing of Federal Reserve interest rate target cuts, and worry about a potential economic slowdown, the stock market experienced its largest monthly June gain since 1938. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose a whopping +7.2% for the thirty day period. If we exclude the specific month of June, and focus instead on the first half of 2019, the appreciation is impressive as well. For 2019, the S&P 500 index is up +17.3%, the largest first-half increase since 1997.

As I have noted continually to my readers, there is never a shortage of issues to worry about. When thinking about your investments, or planning your long-term financial plan, it’s best to turn off the television and ignore the headlines. What investors should be focusing on are the four key legs of the financial markets: 1) Corporate profits (currently at record highs); 2) Interest rates (current at/near record lows); Valuations (very reasonable or attractive given rates); and Sentiment (see Don’t be a Fool, Follow the Stool).

With so much to worry about, how can stock prices be sitting at, or near, all-time record highs?  Besides the four favorable legs of the aforementioned economic stool, these factors have contributed to the stock market strength:

Trump and Xi Resume Talks: After trade negotiations failed to reach an agreement in May, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a trade truce and the resumption of trade discussions after an 80-minute lunch meeting at the Group of 20 Summit (19 countries plus the European Union) in Osaka, Japan. More specifically, President Trump agreed to lift some trade restrictions on Chinese technology company giant, Huawei Technologies Co., thereby allowing American companies to once again sell supplies to the communications equipment company. As both countries race to introduce the next generation 5G communications networks, Huawei strategically sits at the epicenter of these trade negotiations. In exchange for U.S. concessions, the Chinese are reportedly agreeing to immediate purchases of American goods, including 544,000 metric tons of soybeans purchased last Friday.

Federal Reserve Poised to Cut Rates: After nine interest rate increases since late 2015, Chairman Jerome Powell and the rest of the Federal Reserve is poised to cut interest rates this month by 0.25% – 0.50%, depending on how hot or cold economic data unfolds in the coming weeks. Besides the practical benefit of lowering the cost of mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, school loans, and other financial products, lower interest rates effectively act as a rising tide to lift the value of most asset classes (stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, etc).

Economic Activity Remains Healthy:  There have been some signs of economic slowing (e.g., a recent decline in consumer confidence and weaker growth abroad), but the U.S. unemployment rate remains at a generationally low rate of 3.6% (May). As the chart below shows, over the last decade, job openings have risen to record-high levels (blue line) and the jobless rate has fallen to record-low levels (red line). In fact, a shortage of workers could be contributing to the slowing in hiring (i.e., there may not be enough workers available to fill job openings). For instance, the number of job openings (7.45 million) during April exceeded the total number of unemployed by 1.6 million people.

smllbussurvey

Source: Dr. Ed’s Blog

The economic picture looks even better once you consider the health of consumer households. As the chart below  indicates, U.S. household net worth has reached another all-time high of roughly $109 trillion with a “t”. The net worth figure adds up consumers’ financial assets and real estate, then subtracts debt. This record net worth is important because consumer households account for roughly 70% of overall U.S. economic activity.

household balance sheet

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Summertime is upon us, but that has not prevented gloomy headlines to roll in. With the 2020 presidential elections just around the corner, the contentious debate season has already commenced. Geopolitics surrounding China, North Korea, and Brexit continue to cast shadows. Nevertheless, economic activity remains strong, progress has been made in trade negotiations, corporate profits persist at record levels, interest rates remain accommodative, and attractive investment alternatives to the stock market remain scarce. Until these factors change, investors will keep on enjoying the warm sun and record performance.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (July 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

July 1, 2019 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

Gravity Felt After Strong Surge

fruit

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (June 3, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

Legend has it that the esteemed mathematician and physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, was hit on the head by an apple in 1667 while relaxing under an orchard tree in England. The story goes onto claim this led to an epiphany that prompted Newton to suddenly come up with his law of gravity. Well, the stock market experienced a similar “aha moment” last month. After a steep rise of +17.5% during the first four months of the year, gravity took effect and caused the S&P 500 stock index to pull back -6.6% in May. The Dow Jones Industrial Average didn’t fare any better…the index fell 1,777 points or -6.7% for the month to 24,815. The bond market, as measured by the iShares Core Aggregate ETF (ticker: AGG), bucked the negative short-term stock trend by rising +1.7% for the month, thereby bringing 2019 gains to approximately +3.7%.

What caused this painful stock bump on the noggin? Deterioration in trade negotiations with China and a new set of trade tariffs proposed against Mexico in hopes of mitigating illegal immigration problems on our country’s southern border are two main culprits of the downdraft. Fears of a global economic slowdown have also filtered into the bond market causing an ominous phenomenon called an “inverted yield curve,” which historically been a fairly reliable leading indicator of recessions (I wrote about this a decade ago).

All the nervousness relating to stock markets has spilled over into “nutty” bond market buying. If you were worried about a potential bubble forming in stock prices, those concerns would probably be better served by focusing on the more than $10 trillion dollars (with a “T”) in bonds offering a negative interest rate (see chart below).

negative yield

Source: Bloomberg

That’s right. Bond prices are so high currently, investors are paying financial institutions to babysit their money. In other words, not only are investors not receiving any income, they are paying the financial institutions for the money they are giving/lending. An example of this insanity can be found in the largest European powerhouse country. The yield on the 10-year German bund is now at a record low of negative -0.205%, meaning after 10 years an initial $1,000 investment would be worth less than $980. You would be better off preserving the value of your initial investment by stuffing it under your mattress and then waiting 10 years.

Not All Doom and Gloom

If you turned on the television, you might think Armageddon is upon us. However, that is not the case. Despite the recent setback, the S&P 500 index remains up +9.8% for 2019, excluding a current dividend yield of about +1.9%. What’s more, the economy posted better-than-expected economic activity in the first quarter (+3.1% Gross Domestic Product growth). Even though second quarter growth is currently expected to moderate to +1.3% to +1.8%, as you can see from the charts below, the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low (3.6%) and Consumer Confidence is hovering near 20-year highs.

unemp

Source: CNBC

consumer con

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit
The employment picture looks even more compelling once you consider the unprecedented two decade dynamic that has resulted in the existence of more job openings than the number of persons looking for work (see chart below).

job openings

Although the upward trajectory of stock returns for the first four months of the year may have defied the laws of physics, last month investors witnessed Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity take hold. There are no guarantees in the short-run more apples will stop flying around the stock market, but over the last 10 years, long-term investors have been handsomely rewarded by viewing these types of corrections as great purchase opportunities.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

June 13, 2019 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Glass Half Empty Becomes Record Glass Half Full

Oh my! What a difference a few months makes. Originally, what looked like an economic glass half empty in December has turned into a new record glass half full. What looked like Armageddon in December has turned into a v-shaped bed of roses to new all-time record stock market highs for the S&P 500 index (see chart below). For the recent month, the S&P 500 climbed another +3.9% to 2,945, bringing total 2019 gains to an impressive +17.5% advance. Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting stocks were down in value during 2018. When you combine 2018-2019, appreciation over the last 16 months equates to a more modest +10.2% expansion. Worth noting, since the end of 2017, profits have climbed by more than +20%, which means stocks are cheaper today as measured by Price-Earnings ratios (P/E) than two years ago (despite the historic, record levels). For any confused investors, we can revisit this topic for discussion in a future writing.

Source: Trading Economics

From Famine to Feast

As I noted in my “December to Remember” article, there were no shortage of concerns ranging from impeachment to Brexit. How do those concerns look now? Let’s take a look:

Government Shutdown: The longest government shutdown in history (35 days) ended on January 25, 2019 with minimal broad-based economic damage.

Global Trade (China): Rhetoric coming from President Trump and his administration regarding a trade deal resolution with China has been rather optimistic. In fact, a CNBC survey shows 77% of respondents believe that the U.S. and China will complete a trade deal.

Federal Reserve Interest Rate Policy: After consistently increasing interest rates nine times since the end of 2015 until late 2018, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled he was effectively taking monetary policy off rate-hiking “autopilot” and would in turn become “patient” as it relates to increasing future interest rates. Interestingly, traders are now forecasting a 70% chance of a rate cut before January 29, 2020.

Mueller Investigation: Special counsel Robert Mueller released his widely anticipated report that investigated Russian collusion and obstruction allegations by the president and his administration. In Mueller’s 22-month report he could “not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” As it relates to obstruction, Mueller effectively stated the president attempted to obstruct justice but was not successful in achieving that goal. Regardless of your political views, uncertainty surrounding this issue has been mitigated.

New Balance of Power in Congress: Democrats took Congressional control of the House of Representatives and reintroduced gridlock. But followers of mine understand gridlock is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brexit Deal Uncertainty: After years of negotiations for Britain to exit the European Union (EU), the impending Brexit deadline of March 29th came and went. EU an UK leaders have now agreed to  extend the deadline to October 31st, thereby delaying any potential negative impact from a hard UK exit from the EU.

Recession Fears: Fears of a fourth quarter global slowdown that would bleed to a recession on U.S. soil appear to have been laid to bed. The recently reported first quarter economic growth (Gross Domestic Product – GDP) figures came in at a healthy+3.2% annualized growth rate, up from fourth quarter growth of +2.2%, and above consensus forecasts of 2.0%.

Curve Concern

The other debate swirling around the investment community this month was the terrifying but wonky “inverted yield curve.” What is an inverted yield curve? This is a financial phenomenon, when interest rate yields on long-term bonds are lower than interest rate yields on short-term bonds. Essentially when these dynamics are in place, bond investors are predicting slower economic activity in the future (i.e., recession). The lower future rates effectively act as a way to stimulate prospective growth amid expected weak economic activity. Furthermore, lower future rates are a symptom of stronger demand for longer-term bonds. It’s counterintuitive for some, but higher long-term bond prices result in lower long-term bond interest rate yields. If this doesn’t make sense,  please read this. Why is all this inverted yield curve stuff important? From World War II, history has informed us that whenever this phenomenon has occurred, it has been a great predictor for a looming recession.

As you can see from the chart below, whenever the yield curve (red line) inverts (goes below zero), you can see that a recession (gray vertical bar) occurs shortly thereafter. In other words, an inverted yield curve historically has been a great way to predict recessions, which normally is almost an impossible endeavor – even for economists, strategists, and investment professionals.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Although the curve inverted recently (red line below 0), you can see from the chart, historically recessions (gray vertical bars) have occurred only when inflation-adjusted interest rates (blue line) have climbed above 2%. Well, the data clearly shows inflation-adjusted interest rates are still well below 1%, therefore an impending recession may not occur too soon. Time will tell if these historical relationships will hold, but rest assured this is a dynamic I will be following closely.

It has been a crazy 6-9 months in the stock market with price swings moving 20% in both directions (+/-), but it has become increasingly clear that a multitude of 2018 fears causing the glass to appear half empty have now abated. So long as economic growth continues at a healthy clip, corporate profits expand to (remain at) record levels, and the previously mentioned concerns don’t spiral out of control, then investors can credibly justify these record levels…as they peer into a glass half full.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (May 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

May 2, 2019 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

Are Stocks Cheap or Expensive? Weekly Rant and the Week in Review 4-7-19

The Weekly Grind podcast is designed to wake up your investment brain with a weekly overview of financial markets and other economic-related topics.

Episode 7

Weekly Market Review and This Week’s Rant: Are Stocks Cheap or Expensive?

Don’t miss out! Follow us on iTunesSpotify, SoundCloud or PodBean to get a new episode each week. Or follow our InvestingCaffeine.com blog and watch for new podcast updates each week.

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April 8, 2019 at 1:22 am Leave a comment

March Madness Leads to Gladness

jump ball

As usual, there was plenty of “madness” in March, and this year did not disappoint. Just as is the case with the annual NCAA basketball tournament, certain investors suffered the agony of defeat in the financial markets, but overall, the thrill of victory triumphed in March. So much so that the S&P 500 index posted its largest first-quarter gain in more than 20 years. Not only did the major indexes post gains for the month, but the winning record looks even better for the year-to-date results. For 2019, the S&P 500 index is up +13.1%; the Dow Jones Industrial Average +11.2%; and the tech-heavy NASDAQ index +16.5% for the year. The monthly gains in the major indexes were more muted, ranging from 0% for the Dow to +2.6% for the NASDAQ.

Busy? Listen to Wade discuss this article and other topics each week on the Weekly Grind podcast:

 

While 2018 ended with a painful injury (S&P 500 -6.2% in Q4), on fears of a deteriorating China trade deal and a potentially overly aggressive Federal Reserve hiking interest rates, the stock market ultimately recovered in 2019 on changing perceptions. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman, indicated the Fed would be more “patient” going forward in increasing interest rates, and President Trump’s tweet-storm on balance has been optimistic regarding the chances of hammering out a successful trade deal with China.

With the new cautious Fed perspective on interest rates, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury Note fell by -0.28% for the quarter from 2.69% to 2.41%. In fact, investors are currently betting there is a greater than 50% probability the Fed will cut interest rates before year-end. Moreover, in testimony before Congress, Powell signaled the economic dampening policy of reducing the Fed’s balance sheet was almost complete. All else equal, the shift from a perceived rate-hiking Fed to a potentially rate-cutting Fed has effectively turned an apparent headwind into tailwind. Consumers are benefiting from this trend in the housing market, as evidenced by lower 30-year fixed mortgage rates, which in some cases have dropped below 4%.

Economy: No Slam Dunk

However, not everything is a slam dunk in the financial markets. Much of the change in stance by the Fed can be attributed to slowing economic growth seen both here domestically and abroad, internationally.

Here in the U.S., the widely followed monthly jobs number last month only showed a gain of 20,000 jobs, well below estimates of 180,000 jobs. This negative jobs surprise was the biggest miss in more than 10 years. Furthermore, the overall measure for our nation’s economic activity, growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was revised downward to +2.2% in Q4, below a previous estimate of +2.6%. The so-called “inverted yield curve” (i.e., short-term interest rates are higher than long-term interest rates), historically a precursor to a recession, is consistent with slowing growth expectations. This inversion temporarily caused investors some heartburn last month.

If you combine slowing domestic economic growth figures with decelerating manufacturing growth in Europe and China (e.g. contracting Purchasing Managers’ Index), then suddenly you end up with a slowing global growth picture. In recent months, the U.S. economy’s strength was perceived as decoupling from the rest of the world, however recent data could be changing that view.

Fortunately, the ECB (European Central Bank) and China have not been sitting on their hands. ECB President Mario Draghi announced three measures last month that could cumulatively add up to some modest economic stimulus. First, it “expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels at least through the end of 2019.” Second, it committed to reinvesting all maturing bond principal payments in new debt “for an extended period of time.” And third, the ECB announced a new batch of “Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations” starting in September. Also, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced the government will reduce taxes, primarily Value Added Taxes (VAT) and social security taxes (SST). Based on the rally in equities, it appears investors are optimistic these stimulus efforts will eventually succeed in reigniting growth.

Volume of Political Noise Ratcheted Higher

While I continually try to remind investors to ignore politics when it comes to their investment portfolios, the deafening noise was especially difficult to overlook considering the following:

  • Mueller Report Completed: Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation into potential collusion as it relates Russian election interference and alleged obstruction of justice concluded.
  • Michael Cohen Testifies: Former President Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified in closed sessions before the House and Senate intelligence committees, and in public to the House Oversight Committee. In the open session, Cohen, admitted to paying hush money to two women during the election. Cohen called President Trump a racist, a conman, and a cheat but Cohen is the one heading to jail after being sentenced for lying to Congress among other charges.
  • Manafort Sentenced: Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to prison on bank and tax fraud charges.
  • North Korea No Nuke Deal: In geopolitics,President Trump flew 21 hours to Vietnam to meet for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The U.S. president ended up leaving early, empty handed, without signing an agreement, after talks broke down over sanction differences.
  • Brexit Drama Continues: The House of Commons in the lower house of the U.K. Parliament continued to stifle Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to exit the European Union with repeated votes rejecting her proposals. Brexit outcomes remain in flux, however the European Union did approve an extension to May 22 to work out kinks, if the House can approve May’s plan.

Positive Signals Remain

March Madness reminds us that a big lead can be lost quickly, however a few good adjustments can also swiftly shift momentum in the positive direction. Although growth appears to be slowing both here and internationally, corporate profits are not falling off a cliff, and earnings remain near record highs (see chart below).

corp prof

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Similar to the stock market, commodities can be a good general barometer of current and future economic activity. As you can see from the chart below, not only have commodity prices remained stable in the face of slowing economic data, but gold prices have not spiked as they did during the last financial crisis.

gld v cmmd

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

After 2018 brought record growth in corporate profits and negative returns, 2019 is producing a reverse mirror image – slow profit growth and record returns. The volatile ending to 2018 and triumphant beginning to 2019 is a reminder that “March Madness” does not need to bring sadness…it can bring gladness.

investment-questions-border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (April 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

April 1, 2019 at 1:37 pm Leave a comment

Podcast 3/24/19: Week in Review and Interview: Russ Murdock, CFA

The Weekly Grind podcast is designed to wake up your investment brain with weekly overviews of financial markets and other economic-related topics.

Episode 5

Market Review and Interview: Russ Murdock, CFA – Small Cap Value Manager and Founder of Seabreeze Capital Management

Don’t miss out! Follow us on iTunesSpotify, SoundCloud or PodBean to get a new episode each week. Or follow our InvestingCaffeine.com blog and watch for new podcast updates each week.

SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/sidoxia

 

PodBean: sidoxia.podbean.com

 

Spotify: open.spotify.com

March 25, 2019 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Podcast 3/17/19: Week in Review and BREXIT

The Weekly Grind podcast is designed to wake up your investment brain with weekly overviews of financial markets and other economic-related topics.

Episode 4

Market Review, Stock Ideas, and The Weekly Rant: BREXIT

Don’t miss out! Follow us on iTunesSpotify, SoundCloud or PodBean to get a new episode each week. Or follow our InvestingCaffeine.com blog and watch for new podcast updates each week.

SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/sidoxia

 

PodBean: sidoxia.podbean.com

 

Spotify: open.spotify.com

March 17, 2019 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

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