Eq: Large Cap
The overall bond market is almost a bust this year but investors flocking for a yield can only go to one place, junk bonds. Lending conditions are very loose with all the accommodations both fiscal and monetary policy made this year, and those attempting to stream any income have to learn to high-yield debt. Inflation is eating up anything to be gained in treasuries. Investors are now treating high yield debt like a more liquid asset than ever purely because traditional bonds are losing to inflation. All of the policy measures have made many feel corporate debt is less risky than ever but the excess demand may be tipping, as even some of the riskiest debt is being sought after. Still high nominal economic growth is good for borrowers and reduces to investors.
FINSUM: Investors should be aware of interest rates pass-through from Fed tightening to corporate debt, strong inflation could lead to weaker pass through and even lower spreads than the market is already seeing.
Wall Street is about to start posting 3rd quarter earnings and market participants are expecting another big round of postings. Driving most of those earnings is robust growth in the overall economy, which drove the same blockbuster Q2 reports. Some of the highest expectations are in the banking sector as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and U.S. Bancorp are looking to lead the pack. This is driven by micro factors in their companies but also macro factors that benefit financials as interest rates look to rise and the Fed begins tapering. Outside financials, large caps like UnitedHealth Group Inc. are also looking to post very high earnings with solid financials and its valuable brand Optum is driving earnings. The delta variant may have hamstrung some companies from the great Q2, but large-cap companies could be robust enough to withstand the covid resurgence.
FINSUM: Additionally, look to energy companies to post solid Q3 numbers as high prices helped bottom lines for these large-cap juggernauts.
Some of the biggest names on Wall Street have been calling for a correction recently. Morgan Stanley is chief among them. The bank’s chief equity strategist, Mike Wilson, says he thinks there will be a 10% correction in the near term. According to Wilson—who predicted the last two market sell-offs—we are in a mid-cycle transition phase of a market cycle, which is an environment where equities getting very choppy.
FINSUM: This makes a lot of sense, but feels a little too bearish for us. If earnings can hold up, and inflation continues to moderate, we don’t think a full correction will occur. Flat and/or choppy, fair, but not a full 10% fall from here.
Active funds are finding themselves in a better position than ever. Outflows are at their lowest levels in over half a decade, inflows are starting to swell, so what is the key to their success? The predominant factor driving them is the wide range of dispersion in the stock market’s performance. Sure, the aggregate performance has been great post-pandemic but the difference between the bottom and top quintiles has been above average for the last year. This gives pickers an advantage over passive funds. They are making their picks by not overreacting to inflation news and doubling down on stocks that benefit from stay-at-home orders and the covid environment. Active funds tend to downplay value-oriented stocks, and the few they are bullish on are bargains in communications companies. Finally, Facebook is the through-line, as nearly two-thirds of active funds hold the largest social network.
FINSUM: This is definitely a ‘pickem’ environment with large dispersion in the S&P 500, and broad index/passive funds will lag active managers.
While most banks try to stay bullish on market, Bank of America just couldn’t help but get gloomy this week, very gloomy. The bank says that record high prices and placid volatility mean a big correction looms. They believe the market is underpricing the risk of a Fed policy change, and when that comes, it will hit like a hammer. They even gave a name to these bouts of volatility/correction: “fragility shocks”. According to the bank, “We believe the US equity market is underpricing the risks of a looming tapering cycle. After all, the equity market has feasted on record monetary support post-COVID, and the Fed's outlook remains impaired by the extreme uncertainty in the macro forecasts on which they base their decisions”.
FINSUM: This unfortunately makes quite good sense. However, the opposing force here is that the buy-the-dip mentality is strong right now, which could provide support in any short-term sell-off.
ESG has grown exponentially over the last couple of years as trillions of dollars have flowed into the sector. However, as the sector has grown, some gaps in its coverage have emerged. One big glaring hole is in income-focused ESG funds. Traditionally, it has always been thought that an investor who cares about income, just wants income and doesn’t care much where it comes from. This helps explain how out of 439 ESG funds aggregated by Morningstar, only 8 had an income focus.
FINSUM: The lack of ESG income funds makes sense as income-focused products often cater to retirees—the current age of whom generally makes them less interested in ESG. But opportunity awaits.