Eq: Total Market
Stock markets have been taking a beating lately. Between worries over trade and rising rates, as well as the fading effects of tax cuts and the prospects of weaker earnings, stocks have been getting hammered. Now there could be another material blow coming: corporate deleveraging. For years, companies have gorged on debt to fund buybacks and dividends. However, as rates a rising, they are now under pressure to deleverage, and there will be increasing plans for paying down debt. All of that means companies will be spending less in equity markets and on growth.
FINSUM: This is bad news. Stock buybacks have been one of the main drivers of returns the last few years, and the evaporation of that stimulus will add pressure.
Christmas is not looking very merry for retailers. While 2018 has been kind to retailers, especially compared to 2017, the fourth quarter has been rough. The stocks have been getting hammered on the back of weak guidance from a handful of companies in the sector. Not only are retailers under topline pressure from ecommerce, but costs are rising too, squeezing margins. As an example, Target’s shares fell 9% on Tuesday and the shares are down by more almost 20% since August.
FINSUM: This selling pressure seems to be a combination of economic worry and fears about rising costs.
Here is a big warning. Goldman Sachs says that with bonds and stocks falling, and the outlook remaining poor, cash will be king. The bank thinks that stocks will only rise by single digits in 2019. In the words of Goldman analysts, led by David Kostin, the chief of Goldman’s research arm, “We forecast S&P 500 will generate a modest single-digit absolute return in 2019. The risk-adjusted return will be less than half the long-term average. Cash will represent a competitive asset class to stocks for the first time in many years”.
FINSUM: Goldman basically think T-bills are a great buy right now and we have a hard time disagreeing. The yields on short-term holdings are very favorable and quite rate insensitive.
Here is a mundane but important question: what is the best single fund to track the whole market? There is now a wealth of options, from Fidelity’s free index tracker all the way to popular, but more costly SPY. The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might think, as each of the funds has its own characteristics. For instance, while Vanguard’s VTI is popular, it has a quirky structure that can boost unrealized gains. It is also harder to trade without fees. Fidelity’s zero fee index mutual fund is a good choice, but only available on its own platform. Blackrock’s ITOT might be the best choice overall when considering fees, performance, and availability.
FINSUM: For being considered “vanilla”, there certainly are a lot of different flavors of index tracker these days.
The market had a relief rally right after the election results came in. Yesterday wasn’t so good. The big question on everyone’s mind is where the market is headed from here. Looking historically, the current political arrangement (split Congress, Republican presidency) is the worst for markets. The S&P 500 has had the lowest returns in the current political set up, though it has only occurred four times since 1900.
FINSUM: The market’s outlook for 2019 appears fairly bleak to flat for us. The main reason why is that there won’t be another major tax package, and the great earnings of this year will make 2019 comparisons look weak. Growth is also likely to slow.
Investors have been really afraid of the next bear market for the last few months. Ever since spreads grew tighter and the economy became very strong, fears of a looming recession and accompanying bear market have been rampant. Here are six signs to consider about a potential bear market. Firstly, look at high yield bond spreads. When they start to rise, its shows the credit cycle is ending, potentially signaling a recession. Yield curve steepness (or inversion) is another key metric. Deal activity in M&A is also excellent sign. Weekly jobless claims are another strong leading indicator. Finally, look at investor sentiment. When investors are very confident, that tends to be when the bear bites.
FINSUM: This is a pretty good list of leading indicators. Some are flashing red right now, while other are humming along nicely.