We are entering a period of rising rates. This is a fundamental change from the modus operandi of the last decade and represents a paradigm shift for markets and investors. Therefore, volatility looks likely to stick around for some time. Accordingly, investing in low volatility stocks, which have been shown to perform just as well, if not better, than stock market indices during periods of stress, seems like a good idea. Barron’s chooses the ten lowest volatility stocks on the market, a list which includes Aflac, Coca-Cola, Loews, PepsiCo, Berkshire Hathaway, and Procter & Gamble, among others.
FINSUM: Given the ground shifting beneath investors’ feet, having some allocation to low volatility stocks seems like a wise plan.
Unfortunately, there have been many school shootings and other massacres over the last few years. Each of them was followed by a brief outcry to increase gun regulation, to which there was no government response. However, something feels different this time around, and President Trump is moving to tighten some gun rules. Now it might be Wall Street’s turn to step back, as big asset managers such as BlackRock are looking at ways to strip gun companies out of the portfolios of clients who do not want to invest in them. Gun sector stocks have slumped badly since Trump’s election, mostly because the threat of new regulation—which drives gun sales—seems to be gone.
FINSUM: We are very unsure of how things will proceed here, but we can say that there does seem to be increasing political momentum towards more gun control for the first time in many years), which could influence Wall Street.
In an article that addresses an issue unknown to us—that Americans don’t give US stocks enough love (?!)—BlackRock says that investors should buy American stocks in some select sectors. BlackRock says that “We have upgraded our tactical view of U.S. equities to overweight from neutral” continuing “The reason: Impending fiscal stimulus is supercharging U.S. earnings growth expectations”. Blackrock says it likes American tech stocks, US financials, and momentum and value plays.
FINSUM: US stocks surely haven’t been short on love over the last year, but we suspect BlackRock just means in the last few weeks. In that perspective, we agree that things aren’t as bearish as many fear.
This topic gets thrown around a reasonable amount in the media, but because it seems to defy normal human perception, we wanted to run a story on it—the growing and dangerous level of stock concentration. So what do we mean by that? We mean that three stocks—Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix, have accounted for almost 50% of all the gains of the S&P 500 so far this year. This kind of concentration plays itself out time and again, whether it be in broad index tracking, or in niche sector ETFs, which end up being hugely weighted to just a few stocks.
FINSUM: Anyone can understand the danger of concentration at the point of purchase, but one of the key points to remember is that time tends to make a portfolio more and more unbalanced as the winners inevitably grab a larger share and the losers less.
It is hard to overstate how well Apple is doing right now. Despite flat volume in phone sales, the huge prices of its devices mean not only are its revenue and profits surging, but it now commands its largest ever share of the smartphone market (51% globally). The company’s first quarter revenue was up 13% from last year, with net income hitting a jaw dropping $20.1 bn in the first quarter. Apple now commands 76% of all smartphone revenue in the US.
FINSUM: Apple’s ability to compel consumers to pay exorbitant prices for its product is a sign of strength for the overall business. Imagine if the iPhone X had actually been a hit?
Morgan Stanley has just come out with a big warning for investors. The bank says that the selloff over the last few weeks, which amounted to around 10% at its peak, was just a tiny start to what is to come. Describing the recent losses as the “Appetizer, not the main course”, Morgan Stanley says that big trouble will occur when growth weakens but inflation keeps moving ahead. “Strong global growth and a good first-quarter reporting season provided an important offset. We remain on watch for ‘tricky hand-off’ in the second quarter, as core inflation rises and activity indicators moderate”.
FINSUM: If growth starts to weaken, but inflation and rates are still rising, that is the catalyst for a big correction, or more likely, a prolonged bear market. But we are not there yet.