Eq: Total Market
Investors may have gotten excited on Friday. Accommodative language from the Fed has a way of doing that. However, there is no reason to get to exhilarated, as this rally doesn’t seem to have legs. One of the big worries is about the largest group of shareholders in the country—Baby Boomers. Because this generation is retiring, they are likely to sell into any rally as they don’t have time left to wait for a big recovery. Accordingly, any rally will likely lose momentum quickly. As evidence, redemptions over the last four weeks have totaled $164 bn, or more than 1% of money in all stock and bond funds.
FINSUM: This is an interesting argument and one we tend to take seriously given the size of the Baby Boomer population and their large shareholdings. That said, we do not think it is large enough to affect the fundamentals of the market, just alter the amplitude.
Retail stocks are in a tenuous position. They thrived to begin 2018, and for three quarters rolled to solid gains. Then in the fourth quarter they got rocked despite the fact that they had been gaining momentum from healthier consumer spending and a stronger than expected holiday shopping season. So what to do? Jefferies says it is time to buy the dip, based on the fact that “The consumer is strong, Amazon isn’t killing retail, the Federal Reserve is more dovish, oil down, first-half weather compares easy, free cash flow piling up, margins are moving up and consumer discretionary stocks are cheap on absolute and relative basis”. Check out these names: Gap, American Eagle Outfitters, Five Below, Foot Locker, Kohl’s, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, Tapestry, and Lululemon Athletica.
FINSUM: Our view is that at some point soon (has it already happened?), ecommerce and brick and mortar are going to fall into equilibrium. When that happens, it will be good for traditional retailing stocks.
One of the most well-known finance professors in the nation, Jeremy Siegel of Wharton, says that the market looks sets for a great stretch. The catch is in order for that great run to happen, we need to avoid a recession. According to Professor Siegel, “My feeling is that the market is virtually positioned for a mild recession, but I just don’t think that it’s going to happen … If we avoid a recession, we’re going to have a really good market”. He continued “I think we swung too positive last summer and now I think we’ve swung too negative”. Siegel believes that if a recession does hit, the market is in for another 5-10% fall.
FINSUM: We would have to agree. This selloff, which has corresponded with great earnings in 2018, is basically a recession already being priced in (maybe not quite), so if the recession never comes, at some point there is going to be an “all clear” rally.
If you are a fan of behavioral economics and the way investor psychology impacts the market, then there is some interesting new data to look at. The amount of people searching the internet for “recession” and “bear market” has been spiking. People have been increasingly searching for such terms and their level of searches has hit its highest since 2008. Tweeting activity on such topics has also nearly reached a new peak in records going back to 2010.
FINSUM: This may seem like statistical noise, but when you consider that millions of Americans are calling their advisors in a panic, you can start to see how such concern starts flowing through to indexes.
Some investors may be breathing a sigh of relief this week alongside the huge rally. The massive gain of 5% earlier this week was the biggest single day gain since 2009. However, taking a broader view, such major gains have usually mean the market is in deep trouble. To give some context, every comparable rally in stocks since 1900 occurred during the bear market of 2008-2009. Overall, it was the 9th time the market reversed an intraday move of at least 1 percent this quarter. That is the most since the US downgrade in 2011.
FINSUM: In itself, we think the rally means precisely nothing for markets. Investors’ emotions are whipsawing all over the place and the market is yet to find solid footing behind any positive narrative.
If this stat doesn’t put the current state of the market into perspective for you, nothing is likely to: the fall in shares this month has been the worst December since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Stocks have fallen 10% alone this month, a big chunk of the 16% fall since the September peak.
FINSUM: So some of the fears about the Fed have been eased today because of the NY Fed’s comments (not that those mean much), but the new fear is about the threatened government shutdown. We imagine the shutdown will work itself out, but the trade war and threat of recession loom large. It is hard to imagine any significant rally before the New Year.