Eq: Total Market

(Washington)

Financial advisors are a conservative bunch, so we know that there has been some very anxious feelings over the last couple of weeks as would-be Democrat presidents have announced their intentions for big tax hikes. How about 70% top tax rates and major wealth taxes? Some, like Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, have also recently posed putting restrictions on buybacks. With all this in mind, here is a list of stocks that would be most in trouble from the Democrat plans that are currently on the table. According to Barron’s, the most at risk are Citigroup, Whirlpool, American Airlines, Union Pacific, and Boeing, but Walmart and Harley-Davidson could also be exposed.


FINSUM: This list was rather simply done—the companies that had reduced headcount the most and also bought back shares. However, as we move towards the election, it is time to start considering the risks to different stocks.

(New York)

One of the hottest trades in the last several months has been to buy a basket of low volatility stocks. The idea is that one can insulate their portfolio from the market’s fluctuations by buying stocks that are less likely to see swings in value. The problem is, the trade has gotten very crowded. Legal & General Investment Management says that “Low volatility might be becoming vulnerable as investors chasing recent performance and buying into gloomy 2018 outlooks flock into it … It is becoming a relatively consensus position, which for us is a warning sign”.


FINSUM: Low volatility stocks held up well in the tumultuous fourth quarter, but the attractiveness of the strategy has made valuations quite high. Such stocks typically lag in upward markets, so there does seem to be some significant risk here.

(New York)

We ask you, readers, to name the single most important factor that has supported stock prices through all the turmoil over the last year. We bet more than half of you uttered “earnings” to yourself. Earnings have grown strongly in the last year, something that helped keep prices stable despite big geopolitical worries. However, there pillar of the market may now be crumbling as analysts have just turned the earnings outlook negative for the first time in three years. Analysts now expect first quarter earnings to decline by almost 1% from last year. By contrast, at the end of December, expectations were for a 3.3% gain. Most expect the weakness to come from margins, not top line growth.


FINSUM: Continued strong earnings were supposed to be one of the positives this year. If earnings sputter out, what is there to hold up the market in the face of so much uncertainty?

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