Eq: Total Market
New payroll data has just been released and it is not saying anything positive about the underlying economy. According to ADP payroll figures, the US economy created 183,000 jobs in February, under estimates of 190,000 and well below the total of 300,000 in January. According to Moody’s analytics, “The economy has throttled back and so too has job growth”. The slowdown is most acute in the retail and travel industries and at smaller companies.
FINSUM: This is a pretty sharp pullback from January. The total number is still positive, but it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend.
JP Morgan is joining the bullish bandwagon. While fear that the rally has been too fast permeates across the markets, JP Morgan is stepping in to say that they think the market has plenty of runway higher. The bank thinks stocks have a good tailwind behind them as a trio of positive factors exist: a dovish fed, a stable yield curve, and pending US-China trade deal. The bank thinks that stocks look like they did right after the 2015-2016 correction cycle, a period right before a big bull run.
FINSUM: We are starting to think that shares may have some good runway left. The correction in P/E ratios was a very healthy adjustment to end the year, and the macro situation is looking positive.
One of the big outcomes of the huge rout to end last year was that stock pickers had reportedly gone back to doing what they did best—picking individual stocks based on fundamental value, signaling a diversity of holdings. However, in aggregate, that view appears to be hogwash, as new data shows that institutional equity ownership in stocks is at its highest point in years. Goldman Sachs follows this data and tracks how many companies are among the 50 most owned by hedge funds and mutual funds alike. Right now it is 13, which is the highest level since 2017. Industrial and tech stocks were the most held.
FINSUM: The most concentrated stock holdings are, the more risk there is for steep falls in those names.
Stocks are in an interesting place right now. The year is off to a feverish start and momentum is strong, yet some are worried the rally has been too fast and that shares are vulnerable. Barron’s ran an article arguing the bull case for stocks. The core bull argument is that the economy is not as late cycle as many currently fear. While some think we are the very end, data and history suggest returns could be good. Based on a combination of economic signs (e.g. purchasing managers index) versus the recent market decline, stocks look poised for a great year (they are already well on their way). Macro indicators show the economy is still mid cycle, not at the end, such as private investment’s share of GDP.
FINSUM: We think the economy may be mid-cycle, but only if the Fed lets it be that way. The Fed can manipulate the economic cycle significantly, and markets generally follow.
New economic data was released on the US economy and fourth quarter growth was a mixed bag. The economy expanded at 2.6% annualized in the fourth quarter, a decent number that exceeded estimates, but did nothing to change the overall downward direction of the economy. Consumer spending slowed in the quarter. The economy expanded at 4.2% in Q2 2018, 3.4% in Q3 2018, and 2.6% in Q4 2018.
FINSUM: The trend downward is clear on many levels. That said, this should have been expected as the benefits from the tax cuts continue to fade. We think the economy is in the late stages of its expansion, but so long as the Fed stays quiet, we could drift on solidly for a while.
If that headline seems like a head scratcher, it is meant to be. Barron’s ran a curious article today which argues that weak forecasts for earnings might actually be a good catalyst for higher stock prices. That seems to defy logic, but would be a continuation of a trend that has been in place for a few years. When companies broadcast weak earnings to come, it tends to make investors nervous, leading to oversold conditions. As you might expect, oversold markets tend to lead to bull runs.
FINSUM: This is a tenuous relationship, but when that has been apparent for the last few years. Stocks do like to climb a wall of worry, and this would be a good wall.