Ebola Trick Turns into October Treat

November 3, 2014 at 11:43 am 1 comment

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complementary newsletter (November 3, 2014). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

Boo! The month of October is notorious for creating terrifyingly spooky volatility. Whether you are talking about 1929’s Great Crash, 1987’s Black Monday, or 2008’s Great Financial Crisis, the wickedest damage has occurred during this ghoulish month of the year. The financial market witches and goblins did not disappoint fear-hunting investors in 2014. Sparked by the spread of the deadly, West African Ebola virus and concerns over deteriorating European economic conditions, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index “tricked” investors into a -1,200 point (or roughly -8%) loss in the first two weeks of October.  What initially felt like an empty Trick-or-Treat bucket turned into a candy-filled +10% advance in the subsequent two weeks of the month, ultimately resulting in an all-time record high reached by the Dow (17,380).

If you had taken a one-month nap, and slept through October, the late-month surge resulted in an impressive, but less thrilling, record monthly advance of +2.3% for the S&P 500 index. The Dow rose +2.0% and the Nasdaq Composite index added +3.1% for the month. For 2014, the S&P, Dow, and Nasdaq have earned sweet and sugary returns of up +9.2%, +4.9%, +10.9%, respectively.

The Ebola statistics are alarming, but the roughly 5,000 deaths in Africa should be put into proper perspective (see chart below). The number of deaths on American soil are even more miniscule, if you consider that there have been fewer Ebola deaths in the United States than Larry King has had wives  (Larry has been married eight times to seven different women).

Source: Vox

Besides concerns over Ebola, the eurozone boogeyman has spooked investors too. Europe has been in a continual economic funk, while the U.S. has decoupled and adapted to global sluggishness as seen from the industrial production statistics below (via Scott Grannis).

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit


Fed Stimulus R.I.P.

A lot has been written and discussed about the Federal Reserve’s controversial QE (Quantitative Easing) bond buying stimulus program, but the fact remains stock prices are at record highs and the U.S. economy has been the best economic house in a bad developed country neighborhood. Contrary to popular opinion, long-term interest rates have not spiked higher with the wind-down of the nearly 6-year QE program. In actuality, interest rates have drifted lower with the 10-Year Treasury Note currently yielding 2.34%.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

With the QE stimulus training wheels off the economic bicycle, the focus is returning to the real engine driving this 5-1/2 year bull market…corporate profits. Despite all the scary news headlines, S&P 500 corporate earnings continue to chug along as stock prices have tripled since early 2009. More specifically, 78% of companies who have reported their third quarter results thus far have exceeded Wall Street forecasts, which nets out to a respectable +7.3% earnings growth rate. As the 10-year chart below shows, stock prices (green line) generally follow corporate profit growth (blue line) – see also It’s the Earnings, Stupid. Eventually, profit growth flattens out and turns negative during a recession, which will lead to a bear market in stocks.

Source: FactSet

Currently there is no evidence of a recessionary slowdown. Recessions usually occur when there is a correction in some area of economic excess (e.g., too much technology or housing investment) – that is not the case currently. In reality, the economy has added more than 10 million private jobs since the nadir of the 2009 recession and consumers are feeling more confident (see chart of 7-year high in Consumer Confidence). What’s more, the U.S. economy just posted a very respectable +3.5% GDP growth rate for the third quarter as an encore to the +4.6% growth achieved last quarter. The roughly -25% reduction in oil prices to $80 per barrel is also providing an effective tax cut for consumers, as money saved at the gas pump leaves more holiday shopping dollars to be poured back into the economy.

Source: Bespoke Investment


Monkey See, Monkey Do

Central banks are not sitting on their hands either as they watch lethargic global growth. Other international central banks are enviously looking at the U.S.’s relative strength and beginning to play a game of “QE monkey see, monkey do.” Last Friday, Japan’s central bank (Bank of Japan) announced a plan to ratchet up their annual QE program of bond buying to 80 trillion Yen (~$726 billion), while Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) simultaneously announced their proposal to double its stock ownership allocation. These decisions, coupled with the European Central Bank’s President Mario Draghi’s initiative to buy covered bonds is more evidence of global central bank coordination designed to kick-start more respectable economic growth. The hope is that circulating more money through the economy through QE will lead to more growth. If and when inflation rears its ugly head will be the time the central bank monkeys will have to reverse QE course.

Source: Yardeni Research

While October and 2014 have created sweet tasting returns in the major stock indexes, volatility is certain to eventually come back and spook investors. The midterm elections are just around the corner and there are plenty of other geopolitical uncertainties around the world capable of frightening financial markets. There will continue to be plenty of surprising tricks, even though Halloween has passed, but patient investors with diversified, low-cost, tax-efficient strategies should be rewarded with long-term treats.

Investment Questions Border


Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM 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.


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