Eq: Total Market
A top Wall Street research team at BTIG has just said that 2021 is going to be a strong year for markets. They view the current volatility in equities as a good buying opportunity. In either a Trump or Biden win, the economy is probably going to receive additional COVID stimulus, as well as further spending, such as an infrastructure bill. Investors are so focused on the risks associated with the election that they have lost sight of the fact that either outcome will likely be positive for the economy and markets.
FINSUM: We tend to agree with this view, even though it is simplistic. In either outcome, both sides of the aisle will probably be served by being more collaborative than at present, so more economic stimulus is coming.
Polls have Biden well ahead of President Trump at the moment. In fact, some pollsters say that Biden is further ahead leading up to election day than any candidate in the last 20 years. Markets have somewhat followed this and are clearly anticipating a Biden victory. That said, there is almost nobody who doesn’t think the race will be very close. So, how to play it if Trump surprises the markets and wins? Three sectors seem like they would benefit most strongly: traditional energy companies, defense companies, and large-cap banks. Trump’s light-touch regulatory approach would help energy companies and large banks, while defense spending would probably continue to rise under Trump.
FINSUM: Most agree that if Trump surprises, the market is not going to shoot higher like it did in 2016, primarily because there is not a big proposed tax cut.
There has been a big change of opinion for investors over the last two weeks or so. For almost all of this year, a Biden victory, and especially a blue sweep were seen as potential negatives for the economy vis-à-vis a Trump reelection. Any gains in the polls for Democrats was seen as a negative for the economic outlook, particularly because of the chance for higher taxes. However, the rising odds for a blue sweep have managed to assuage an even bigger fear for investors—a contested election that could drag on for months. Accordingly, gains in the polls for Democrats have seen rising markets. Goldman Sachs feels strongly enough to say this: “All else equal, a blue wave would likely prompt us to upgrade our [US economic growth] forecasts”.
FINSUM: We think there are two specific reasons perceptions have changed. Firstly, the decreased chances for a contested election (very arguable if that is actually true); and secondly, the odds for bigger stimulus and infrastructure packages, which would be positive for the economy.
The last few weeks have seen good performance out of US indexes. Much of the credit has gone to the idea that investors were awaiting a new stimulus bill at any moment. However, why the market rose is actually less important than how it did so. One of the very worrying things about the market’s recovery in the early summer was how seemingly all of it was led by FAAMG, with extremely limited breadth. That is exactly what made the last several weeks so special—it finally broke that trend. Over the last three months the Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (ESP) has outperformed the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) 13% to 10%. The reason why is that a huge cut of stocks are rising, not just the largest stocks. The last ten days have seen the biggest jump, with advancing stocks outnumbering decliners 2 to 1. That is called a “breadth thrust” and it is very rare and very bullish. It has happened just 29 times since 1990, and 96% of the time the market is higher 12 months later.
FINSUM: This does not mean the market is going to rocketship right away, but in general this has been a very solid indicator of rising markets.
A lot of investors are hoping a new government stimulus package will be a shot in the arm for markets. However, the reality might be something much more disappointing. While a deal would be a nice benefit for the economy, the weight of an autumn case surge and a highly volatile election are heavy on the shoulders of markets. According to one market strategist at Miller Tabak, “We believe an agreement on a new fiscal plan is likely, but we’re not so sure it will help the stock market rally in a sustainable way. The market is still quite overvalued and the combination of the weakening employment picture plus a second wave of the virus does not bode well for any improvement for the ‘E’ part [earnings] of the P/E ratio going forward”.
FINSUM: The stimulus deal will likely be good for a 0.50% move in indexes, but with little continued benefits. It just doesn’t seem enough to re-spark the bull market given everything else going on.
The market seems to be in a tussle with itself. On the one hand, some investors are feeling bullish on the economic outlook, while many others feel the recovery is losing momentum. The data isn’t helping because it seems to validate both sides. For instance, jobs recovery numbers have been strong (disappointing somewhat today though) and the overall dip in output is not as bad as many expected. Metals prices, like silver and copper, have been rising, a leading indicator of growing economic activity. However, consumers seem to be hurting with real income dropping tangibly because of the end of government stimulus checks.
FINSUM: It increasingly seems like a k-shaped recovery is taking hold on the sector level. Certain areas of business are doing very well, while others like airlines, retail and more are doing poorly. This appears to mirror what is happening in consumer spending, where the upper middle and wealthy are surviving fine, but the middle and lower classes are getting hurt badly.