There have been a lot of bullish indicators lately, and not just in share prices rising. However, there is a big warning sign that investors need to be paying attention to. One of the challenges of assessing corporate earnings is to get a feel for where things are really headed when the whole Wall Street reporting mechanism is stacked to make you think companies are always outperforming. One way to do so is to look at spreads between GAAP earnings and so-called “adjusted earnings”, or the doctored earnings companies love to show to make themselves appear more attractive. The wider the spread, the more companies are reaching to appear as though things look good. This, therefore, makes it a bellwether for how earnings and the economy are really trending. The spread between the two types of earnings stood at $200 bn for year-end 2018, the highest level since 2010.
FINSUM: This is not a perfect proxy, but it is certainly indicative, and the indication right now is not positive.
Every investor seems to assume that this bull market is nearing its expiration date. Good things must come to an end, after all. However, Barron’s is arguing (rather adamantly) that this bull market could perhaps go on for another ten years. Reminding us of the old adage that bear markets don’t die of old age, Barron’s says there is just no sign of real weakness. “As far as the U.S. economy is concerned, there is no obvious sign that it has deteriorated”, says the publication. What about the yield curve? They say that is just an adjustment to tighter monetary conditions and not predictive of a recession in this case.
FINSUM: There is undoubtedly an element of superstition/intuition which is making investors feel like this bull run must come to an end soon. But the reality is that the underlying conditions for that to happen may not be in place.
The S&P 500 is up almost 4% since the end of February. Those are good numbers in anyone’s book. But some stocks in the index are absolutely scorching the market. Take a look at: Nvidia (NVDA), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Conagra Foods (CAG), Dentsply Sirona (XRAY), and Chipotle (CMG). NVDA is up 24% since the end of February, while Chipotle is up 17% since then, and about 123% in the last year. All the stocks have positive drivers behind them.
FINSUM: If you are momentum investor, these stocks are certainly top picks.
The end of the bull market could be near, and with that in mind (and really any time), it is a good idea to have a preparation plan in mind. Markets have risen sharply this year, and are back near their peak from 2018, explaining why hedging activity is growing. So how to hedge? Defensive sectors and bond markets are popular, but what about things like options and the VIX? Well, that latter has been diminishing in popularity recently, as the CBOE’s VIX did not respond to Q4’s volatility the way many expected. This has led to claims the market is fixed, and in any case, it has not performed well as an S&P 500 hedge. That leaves S&P 500 hedges themselves, such as 30-day SPX put options.
FINSUM: If you understand and are comfortable with options, use them. If you don’t, stay away and stick to sector and asset class-based hedging.
The Daily FINSUMMARY- sponsored by ETF Action
Sell-off. U.S. equity markets tumbled on global growth concerns and weak manufacturing data out of the U.S. and the Eurozone. For the first time since 2007, the 3-month treasury yield eclipsed the 10-year, officially inverting the yield curve which has historically been an indication of an ensuing recession. However, a great piece by Bianco Research points out that previous recessions were preceded by inversion for 10 straight days whereas this is just day one. Furthermore, recession isn't immediate following inversion. All major averages dropped with the S&P 500 (SPY -1.93%), the Dow (DIA -1.78%), and the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ -2.20%) falling nearly 2%.
Macroeconomic data was mostly negative on Friday. U.S. PMI came in weak and dropped to a six-month low, highlighted by manufacturing PMI hitting a 21 month low. To follow this up, indications of an unwanted inventory build is showing as wholesale inventories grew by a much larger margin M/M than expected. The inventories to sales ratio rose to 1.34 which last peaked in early 2016 at 1.38. However it wasn't all bad as February existing-home sales saw its largest M/M gain in over three years, surging 11.8% on lower mortgage rates, higher consumer confidence, more inventory, and rising incomes.
Earnings & Movers: Nike down (NKE -6.61%) after missing revenue estimates yesterday while Tiffany rose (TIF 3.15%) after beating on earnings but missing on sales due to declining Chinese tourism during Q4. For the week, nine S&P 500 companies reported earnings (1.32% of S&P 500 market-cap), eight of which beat earnings estimates, primarily came from the Consumer Discretionary sector (table below).
Large-caps (IVV -1.89%) outperformed small-caps (IJR -3.65%) in the risk-off atmosphere while defensive sectors offered some protection. Utilities (XLU 0.72%) led along with Consumer Staples (XLP -0.13%) while Financials (XLF -2.76%), Energy (XLE -2.71%), and Materials (XLB -2.98%) lagged. We have talked a lot about falling yields and banks this week, but it got got much worse on Friday for Banks (KBE -4.24%) as treasury yields plummeted. The industry finished down nearly 10% on the week.
Developed ex-U.S. (EFA -1.92%) beat out Emerging markets (EEM -2.93%) but it was a sea of red across the globe. German (EWG -2.76%) manufacturing PMI was just plain bad. New orders slumped as the index dropped further into contraction territory which marks the third consecutive month of contraction and the lowest level since 2012. On a positive note (kind of), the EU granted a Brexit extension to May 22 if PM Theresa May can get the U.K. parliament on board with her plan. If not, a hard-Brexit is set for April 12.
Treasury yields fell drastically with the 10-year settling at 2.45%. The Ag (AGG 0.50%) benefited from the drop in yields while long duration (TLT 1.55%) outperformed short (SHY 0.17%). Investment Grade (LQD 0.61%) easily bested High Yield (HYG -0.36%).
Lower crude oil prices (USO -1.69%) weighed on broad commodities (DJP -0.87%) and the Dollar advanced modestly (UUP 0.19%). Gold (GLD 0.23%) benefited from the fall in equities while copper (CPER -2.06%) fell.