2019 is often to an uneven start. We have had some good days and some bad ones, but the market has surely not found solid footing or a narrative to drive it. With that in mind, the question of allocation becomes eve more complicated than it was a few months ago. Goldman Sachs has just put out its recommendations and argues that investors should put money back in shares, as they are due for a big rebound. Historically, shares generally bounce back after falling 20% in a quarter, and Goldman thinks there are big returns to be made. Companies seeing margin expansion might be particularly favorable.
FINSUM: The S&P 500 has already advanced almost 10% since Christmas eve, but we are not sold the current tread is upward.
Markets are taking bad news out of China hard. New data out of Beijing shows that the country’s exports dropped sharply in December. The figures suggest a global slowdown, and a brutal trade war with the US are taking their toll on the Chinese economy. Exports fell a whopping 4.4%. China also held a $323 bn trade surplus with the US, the largest since 2006. Imports fell 7.6%, showing how much the slowdown in China was affecting demand. Car sales in in the country also declined for the first time since 1990.
FINSUM: The tariffs are working, but there is a larger issue at stake—the US and the world’s relationship to China. There is a lot of strain being put on the country, and we are concerned about how the government there will react.
If you are keeping an eye on financial stocks, this morning held a very bad omen. Citigroup was the first big Wall Street bank to report earnings, and the numbers weren’t pretty. In particular, the ever important area of fixed income trading revenue was disappointing, with total revenue dropping 21% to the lowest in seven years. The company missed its full-year profitability target by a wide margin.
FINSUM: The reason this is so worrying is that the fourth quarter was a very volatile period for markets. Such environments usually send trading revenue surging for banks.
The US auto industry has a huge problem, and if you’ve ben paying attention, you should already be starting to become aware. Consider this: the US economy has been doing great and the employment market is tight, yet US automakers are closing factories and cutting their workforces left and right. The disconnect comes down to an important issue—US auto factories are not aligned with customer demand. Traditional sedans are rapidly losing market share, yet US auto plants are set up to produce them. SUVs are taking over American car purchases, but automakers aren’t equipped to meet demand.
FINSUM: This is an eye-opening issue, but surely the problem of shifting demand is better than demand falling in aggregate. It does seem like there are going to be some rough years as automakers play catch up.
If you think the real estate market is bad now, just wait. That is the argument from James Stack of InvesTech Research. Stack accurately called the last housing crisis and also forecast the slowdown in 2018. Now he is saying that 2019 is going to be the worst year for a long time. “Expect home sales to continue on a downward trend in the next 12-plus months. And there’s a significant downside risk to housing prices if a recession takes hold”, says Stack. He does admit that it is too hard to say if housing is currently in a bubble, but that prices are very likely to fall.
FINSUM: Mortgage rates have risen sharply and prices are quite elevated, so it is no wonder prices have fallen. However, real estate hasn’t seen the exuberance it did pre-Crisis, so we do not think this will be a meltdown by any means.