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.
Markets took a nosedive yesterday. Last week was bad, but yesterday’s falls were so steep they amounted to about as much as all of last week. All fears over rates and the trade war came to a head when Trump labeled China a currency manipulator. The S&P 500 fell about 3%, meaning the total decline in the index since last week is around 6%. The Dow lost 760 points. The losses amounted to the worst single day drop since early 2018.
FINSUM: The “currency manipulator” claim is largely symbolic. While it certainly won’t help a deal get done, it is hard to see it having a tangible outcome. This seems like a lot of pent-up market anxiety manifesting itself.
The market is in the worst shape it has been for some time, maybe the worst condition of the year. The S&P 500 fell over 3% last week on the combined news of a less dovish Fed and a huge tariff increase on China. Where things go from here is very uncertain, but JP Morgan is arguing that you should buy the dip. The bank’s strategists summarize their view this way, saying “Our core view remains that one should use the prospective weakness as an opportunity to add further, similar to the May experience. We continue to believe that global equities will advance further before the next U.S. recession strikes. We think that the growth-policy trade-off is far better now than it was in 2018”.
FINSUM: The market, economy, and politics are at quite a confusing point right now. Either things will gel to send prices higher, or it will all come crashing down like it did last year. Anyone’s guess.
We are back in the weird world of the 2013-2016 era. Remember the time when weak/moderate economic news was great for stock prices? Welcome back. Investors are hoping that economic data trends flat or just a tiny bit weak, which would cause the Fed to loosen policy. However, if the economy does well, that would lead to tighter monetary conditions, which investors don’t favor. Therefore, right now, bad economic news is good for the market, and vice versa.
FINSUM: We have always found these kind of “goldilocks” scenarios rather perverse, but they are the reality nonetheless.
Not a day after warning about the unstable financial practices of S&P 500 companies, Goldman Sachs has just gone on the record saying that the S&P 500 is set for another round of big gains. The bank raised its year-end forecast for the index to 3,100. Goldman thinks that stocks are currently trading at fair valuations, and that “The dovish Fed pivot has driven the equity market rally in 2019, and we expect low interest rates will continue to support above-average valuations going forward”. The bank contends stocks will rise a further 10% in 2020.
FINSUM: We think stocks are going to move in line with the economy. If growth stays okay, and the Fed stays dovish, we are in for a move higher. We think the best odds are for a bull case.