Eq: Total Market
The Fed made some highly anticipated policy adjustments at the end of last week. This was not about short-term rate moves either, but rather about its long-term role in the recovery and how it plans to manage the economy. The biggest change seems rather small in wording. The Fed basically corrected its mandate to say that it would not automatically tighten policy just because employment had reached or exceeded what it consider to be “full employment”. In effect, this means that the Fed is ready, willing, able to let the economy run very hot for many years. Analysts think the Fed will likely not hike again until at least 2024.
FINSUM: So the Fed is going to be very accommodative for the next several years. It is starting to feel like equity valuations are going to have no choice but to rise as the Fed has taken “there is no alternative” to a never-before seen level for equities.
The wild market over the last four months has caused a lot of elation and anxiety among investors. It has also caused a rethink of what kind of recovery we may be experiencing. Almost everyone thought we would have a V- or U-shaped recovery, but the way things are shaking out, it looks like we may have a “k-shaped” recovery. What this means is that almost all companies took a big dive at the start of the pandemic. However, after that point the fortunes of certain sectors have diverged markedly, forming a “k” shape to the market recovery. IT, consumer discretionary, and communication services have been the big winners, while energy, financials, utilities, and real estate have suffered.
FINSUM: So the interesting question here is the degree to which the market recovery might end up mirroring the economy’s recovery. So far the patterns make sense.
You know the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”? It couldn’t be further from the truth as it concerns the current stock market. The S&P 500 is just about flat, yet if you take a close look, 337 of its component stocks are down. The index is only being held up by a 1% gain from Apple and minor gains from the other 4 stocks that comprise 20% of its entire value. The lack of breadth has been a consistent feature of the recovery over the last several months.
FINSUM: Investors are not expressing any degree of bullishness about the economy, which would be reflected in breadth. Frankly, all the recent gains seem to be simple momentum bets on a small handful of stocks, making the whole recovery feel hollow.
For the last few weeks the market has had somewhat of a respite from the constant stream of vaccine-related market yo-yoing. However, it looks like it is going to start again as several COVID vaccines are reaching a critical stage of testing. Multiple vaccines, one from Pfizer, are entering phase 3 of their trials and some anecdotal evidence says Pfizer’s version is getting better. Johnson & Johnson has a vaccine in a similar position. Markets have shown significant volatility in the past when news about vaccine trials has been released.
FINSUM: The economic implications of a successful COVID vaccine are monumental, so expect significant volatility on material vaccine news, especially as these vaccine trials enter later stages.
Wondering where the market is headed? (so is everyone!) Well, Goldman Sachs put out a pretty unequivocal opinion about it today. Despite the market being at all-time highs when the country is in a recession and unemployment massive, the bank says that the S&P 500 will rise another 7% to close out the year. The only damper in the bank’s forecast is the election. Goldman says it is assuming a Democratic victory, and that could cause higher taxes that could dent the market a bit. GS also says Treasury yields will fall to 1.1% by the end of the year.
FINSUM: So we have two big competing feelings here. On the one hand, with the Fed so strongly in support of markets (and another fiscal stimulus likely), it seems like it could be smooth sailing. On the other hand, 51% of the entire market’s gain since the bottom in March has come from five stocks. On the whole, we think gains are more likely than losses.
Many articles have been written about which stocks and sectors will do well or poorly if Trump or Biden wins/loses. Generally speaking, these articles are useful but repetitive. A more interesting idea is to look at the sectors/assets that will do well no matter who wins. With that in mind, here are a few ETFs poised to thrive when either candidate emerges victorious. One surprising area that should prosper in either scenario is clean energy. Biden plans to invest heavily in the area, but even if he does not win, this group of companies have finally become profitable. Couple that with rising pro-green public sentiment, and their long-term outlook is positive. Another area is infrastructure stocks. Both Biden and Trump have big infrastructure spending plans in their agenda ($1.3 tn vs $1 tn), so that appears to be a win-win.
FINSUM: Just as there are winners in either situation, there are also losers. Pharma, for instance, would be under attack in either presidency.