One of the guiding mantras of the markets since at least 2015 has been to buy the dip. The generally idea was that the market was on an upward trend, so every little downturn presented a good buying opportunity. One of the big problems with the markets right now is that such dip-buying has all but evaporated. With a trade war raging and a recession on the horizon, investors have lost faith that the direction of the market is upward, which means each dip now represents additionally downside risk instead of a buying opportunity.
FINSUM: That core belief in the direction of stock prices has been badly shaken and it is hard to imagine it will return any time soon.
The market has been very bearish lately, with last week seeing the worst declines for the S&P 500 since march. The market fell 4.6% last week. This may seem like just another bout of volatility, one in a series we have had this Fall. However, the market’s fear gauge, the VIX, suggests that this selloff is different. The VIX just recently hit levels close to during October’s rout, but what is different this time is that it has sustained its momentum in a way that hasn’t happened since 2016. “This shows that unlike October, investors no longer see the market correction as a temporary dislocation, but rather driven by more persistent macro risks”, says Credit Suisse.
FINSUM: The market is continuing to reflect a comment we made yesterday—that the problems plaguing stocks are not simple to resolve, so is easy to see how prices could continue to fall for some time.
Markets plunged on Tuesday, at least partly because of fears over the fragility of the US-China truce on trade. China tried to bolster belief in a deal this week by publicly reaffirming its commitment. However, any hopes of a trade agreement took a definitive nose dive today as the CFO of Chinese giant Huawei was arrested in Canada at the US’ request. Futures markets dove so sharply on the news that the CME had to stop trading for a period.
FINSUM: This could be a very wild day. Market are off to a rough start this morning, but the mood in the afternoon will be the big test of sentiment, in our opinion.
There is a lot going against equities right now. A trade war, rising rates, a weaker 2019 earnings outlook, a fading tax effect, and high valuations. There is one more to add to the list, and it could end up being the worst of all—stocks are now yielding significantly less than short-term bonds. Two-year Treasuries are yielding 2.82% while the S&P 500 is yielding just 1.9%. Yields better than bonds had been an incentive for investors to put money in stocks for years, a phenomenon called “TINA”, or “there is no alternative”.
FINSUM: With all the volatility and headwinds facing equities, and relatively unattractive yields as well, it is hard to see what force is going to swoop in to help out stock indexes.
One of the pillars of this nearly decade-long bull market has been the growing profits of US corporations. US stocks have seen their profit margins rise steadily since 2009 and are around a record mark of 10%. Analysts continue to forecast growth to around 12% in 2020. At the beginning of the 1990s, margins were just half of now. However, this narrative is fraught as just 10 stocks account for around 50% of all the margin growth in the S&P 500 since 2009. Those stocks? All tech, unsurprisingly. But what it means is that many other companies are not as healthy as many assumed, and as we enter a tougher era for margins, including higher labor costs, increased input costs, and higher interest costs, there could be some steep falls.
FINSUM: We think this is a reason to worry, as when margins really start to fall on the back of higher rates and costs, investors are going to be very alarmed.