How to defend against this tough equity market? Some say to buy defensive sectors like healthcare and consumer staples. Others buy gold. Ironically, however, the best protection may be to stick with the old 60/40 balanced portfolio. Despite all the market turmoil recently, if you had been holding a 60% SPY and 40% AGG portfolio over the last month you would have had a net return of negative 0.62%, which is pretty good considering how ugly markets were. If you had been holding it for the whole year, you would have a sterling return of 14.45%.
FINSUM: These stats are a testament to old fashioned diversification!
September is usually a very poor month for stocks. Investors are generally uptight because of this, but this year tensions are much higher after a brutal August that saw benchmarks fall around 3%, a figure which frankly does not do justice to the turmoil. The Dow actually averages a large decline in September historically, and the month has only had positives returns 36% of the time in the last 100 years. This statement from Barron’s says it all: “If you only owned the S&P 500 in September during every year, a $100 investment starting in 1969 would now be worth just $70.
FINSUM: September is usually bad (which does not really mean anything for this year in itself), but this year could be extra ugly because it may just be more of the same turmoil that has already been occurring.
Stop worrying so much about the US economy. That is what Bank of America is saying. The bank’s CEO went on the record yesterday explaining the simple reason that the US will avoid a recession. That reason? US consumer health. Moynihan cited internal statistics from BAML that showed that consumer spending has risen almost 6% in Bank of America accounts in the last 12 months versus the previous 12 months, showing that consumers are healthy. Consumer spending makes up 68% of the US economy. Moynihan was dismissive of the yield curve inversion, saying it is likely just a product of an influx of money because of negative yields elsewhere.
FINSUM: Bank of America is the largest US deposit holder, so it has an unparalleled insight into consumer spending. We think this is quite a positive sign.
What is the biggest risk to the equity market right now. Is it a recession? Is it a trade war? Neither, it is something much more mundane—earnings, at least according to John Hancock Investment Management. Analysts, and the market by extension, are expecting big earnings growth in 2020. And we mean big—the average analyst estimate for S&P 500 earnings growth is 10.5%. That seems like a huge number given that earnings growth in 2019 is set to be only 1%, and has been flat for a couple of quarters. It is made even more unrealistic by the direction of the economy. John Hancock says that defensive sectors like utilities, pipelines, and electricity grids should hold up best in the possibly forthcoming recession.
FINSUM: 10.5% earnings growth in 2020 sounds frankly laughable right now. That said, the market can adjust to these kind of expectations fairly fluidly, so a downturn in expectations may not wound equities all that much.
Tech stocks are going to hold up to the next recession in very different ways. Some will prove quite defensible, while others will be wounded badly. On the defensible side, analysts contend that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Expedia should do well. The core tenet of this argument is that digital ad spend will likely remain robust, keeping their revenues from dropping off too much. However, smaller companies like Cardlytics, Revolve Group, and Quotient Technology seem as though they may be wounded badly. Netflix might be the biggest overall risk, however.
FINSUM: Netflix is the most interesting name to discuss here. So is that ~$12 per month for Netflix a discretionary spend that consumers will cut back on in a recession, or is it now a staple? The answer to that question will decide its performance in the next downturn.