Most investors spend their time worrying the Fed is going to cut the party short. Historically speaking, that has often been the role of the central bank—keeping things from getting too out of hand. However, Fed chief Powell does not appear to want to be the sober chaperone at the party this year, as the dovish positioning is heavy. Accordingly, there seems to be a strong chance of a melt up in stocks right now, or a big late stage rally. UBS, however, says the opposite, arguing that investors will stay hesitant because of high valuations and weak earnings.
FINSUM: We don’t think there will be a melt up. We just think the market will re-enter the post-Crisis goldilocks mode they were in, where rates are low and the economy is healthy, clearing the way for multiple expansion.
The Fed has historically been the level-headed kid at the party, always trying to calm things down when they got out of hand. But that appears to no longer be the case, as Powell surprised even the most dovish investors with his very soft statements last week. What comes next may shock markets—some think the Fed will make a rare 50 bp cut in their July meeting. How the market would react is anyone’s guess (likely positive initially). “Historically the Fed has wanted shock and awe when they ease”, says the CIO of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management.
FINSUM: The Fed seems like it wants to go big, despite the fact that unemployment is at record low levels and prices are stable. The central bank clearly wants to keep the bull market rolling.
Jerome Powell’s performance could not have been much better. He gave exactly what the people wanted—dovishness. In fact, if anything, he was almost comically dovish, disregarding the very strong jobs performance last month. No matter though, investors are pleased as it now looks nearly 100% likely the Fed will cut rates later this month, and seems as though they will stay on a cutting path for some time. The Fed’s shift in policy appears to affirm that they are currently considering the condition of the global economy as a major threat to the US.
FINSUM: The Fed is in a pretty easy spot if you think about it. Inflation is very low, markets want cuts, and the global economy is looking weak. Simple solution with no real downside—cut rates.
Ever since the stock market’s then peak in January 2018, bonds and stock have had a very close relationship. Equities have been tracking the performance of the investment grade bond sector. When yields rose late last year, stocks plummeted. The opposite is happening this year, and in that change lays a predicament for shares. Yields have fallen so deeply this year, and equity prices risen so high, that it appears unlikely stocks can rise much further as the benefits of lower rates have already been fully priced in.
FINSUM: While we are generally incredulous of these types of arguments, we cannot help but feel a confluence of circumstances (an earnings recession not the least of them) are coming together in such a way that equities seem likely to have a correction.
Investors need to take note, as one of the biggest equity research divisions on Wall Street has just turned overwhelmingly negative on equities. And this is not the “stocks will struggle in coming years” kind of call, it is an argument for right now and published yesterday. The bank has lowered its allocation to stocks, saying that the outlook for markets over the next three months is very poor. Morgan Stanley says equities prices are way too high and expectations for major rate cuts are already priced in, leaving little room for appreciation. They also think valuations are too high given deteriorating manufacturing and economic data.
FINSUM: Morgan Stanley is basically saying that the market is primed for disappointment because all the positive outcomes have already been priced in. Not unrealistic.