Bank stocks are probably not a good bet right now. They suffer when rates fall and they are quite exposed to economic slowdowns (in other words, ignore the new idea that banks are safe dividend producers like utilities). However, there are some banks and financial stocks that look likely to win in the near- to medium-term. Three names to consider: JP Morgan, Amex, and Discover. JP Morgan is basically just a very healthy bank with increasingly competitive pricing which looks likely to grow EPS nicely over the next few years. Amex is an interesting pick because it has a very high quality customer base, and its unique charge card revenue base is not so exposed to falling interest rates, making it much more defensible in a low rate/recession environment.
FINSUM: The Amex pick is quite unique. Their customer base is higher end, so less affected by recession. And their unique revenue model (for a card company) means they have lower interest rate exposure.
Stop worrying so much about the US economy. That is what Bank of America is saying. The bank’s CEO went on the record yesterday explaining the simple reason that the US will avoid a recession. That reason? US consumer health. Moynihan cited internal statistics from BAML that showed that consumer spending has risen almost 6% in Bank of America accounts in the last 12 months versus the previous 12 months, showing that consumers are healthy. Consumer spending makes up 68% of the US economy. Moynihan was dismissive of the yield curve inversion, saying it is likely just a product of an influx of money because of negative yields elsewhere.
FINSUM: Bank of America is the largest US deposit holder, so it has an unparalleled insight into consumer spending. We think this is quite a positive sign.
What is the biggest risk to the equity market right now. Is it a recession? Is it a trade war? Neither, it is something much more mundane—earnings, at least according to John Hancock Investment Management. Analysts, and the market by extension, are expecting big earnings growth in 2020. And we mean big—the average analyst estimate for S&P 500 earnings growth is 10.5%. That seems like a huge number given that earnings growth in 2019 is set to be only 1%, and has been flat for a couple of quarters. It is made even more unrealistic by the direction of the economy. John Hancock says that defensive sectors like utilities, pipelines, and electricity grids should hold up best in the possibly forthcoming recession.
FINSUM: 10.5% earnings growth in 2020 sounds frankly laughable right now. That said, the market can adjust to these kind of expectations fairly fluidly, so a downturn in expectations may not wound equities all that much.
Tech stocks are going to hold up to the next recession in very different ways. Some will prove quite defensible, while others will be wounded badly. On the defensible side, analysts contend that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Expedia should do well. The core tenet of this argument is that digital ad spend will likely remain robust, keeping their revenues from dropping off too much. However, smaller companies like Cardlytics, Revolve Group, and Quotient Technology seem as though they may be wounded badly. Netflix might be the biggest overall risk, however.
FINSUM: Netflix is the most interesting name to discuss here. So is that ~$12 per month for Netflix a discretionary spend that consumers will cut back on in a recession, or is it now a staple? The answer to that question will decide its performance in the next downturn.
Name the two main factors which drove this decade-long bull market. Ours would be the Fed’s easy policy, and huge levels of corporate buybacks. Well, that second one, which has inarguably been at least a core pillar of the bull run, is ending. Companies are pulling away from share buybacks, lessening one of the big price drivers for the market. Buybacks have slipped alongside the market’s trouble, as companies are no longer stepping in to buy shares, sending buybacks to their lowest level in 18 months.
FINSUM: Do you remember the earnings recession that occurred for a few years during this bull market? Buybacks are what kept prices afloat.