Eq: Large Cap
The stock market is a tough game right now. Valuations are sky high and earnings are trending the wrong way, which makes picking any stock difficult. Even buying popular high-priced stocks isn’t a good plan when earnings are falling, which makes it seem as though there are few good options. With that in mind, consider buying cash cows like Facebook, Google, and Ford. With such good earnings prowess and free cash flow, these kinds of companies have the money to keep buying back shares, which should drive their valuations over time.
FINSUM: Cash cows can feed their own market pricing even in really rich markets, so this seems like a smart call.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has just published a new survey of institutional money managers and found an interesting sentiment among those managing a hulking mass of American money. That finding is that money managers are much more worried about the election than they are about the trade war. Institutional investors think election worries will have a much greater effect on markets than the trade war will. The chief US economist at Goldman Sachs summarizes the situation this way, saying “While there are no obvious signs of election-related effects on economic activity so far in this election cycle, there is some concern that . . . uncertainty could have a more noticeable effect on sentiment and activity as the election approaches”.
FINSUM: We absolutely agree. The trade war seems to be cooling as both sides appear as though they want to hash out the issues. The election is an event with potentially hugely variant outcomes and it is highly difficult to predict. This all means it is hard to price, and that uncertainty can weigh on companies and markets.
It may not get much attention right now, but the biggest threat to stock prices is also the same thing that has been supporting them for years. If you really consider what has driven the extraordinary rise in stocks, it is the fact that bond yields have been so outrageously low since the Crisis. This has created the widely-covered “TINA” (there is no alternative) syndrome that has driven investors to pour capital into stocks. Accordingly, many analysts say the biggest risk to stocks is a pickup in inflation, which would likely send bond yields sharply higher.
FINSUM: This is a solid argument theoretically, but calling a rise in inflation has been a very poor bet for over a decade. Why is that different now?
It has been stewing for a while, but antitrust regulation regarding some of the stock market’s largest companies is starting to look like more of a reality. However, it is not in the way one might expect. Trump has long said he wanted to work on anti-trust regulation—with Amazon the frequent target of his ire—but now he is taking steps that actually support big companies and corporate power. The way the administration is going about is through the Justice Department filing many legal arguments in cases where it is not even a party. In this way, it is trying to influence how the courts handle competition cases, and it has generally been pushing patent-holder friendly positions and undercutting lawsuits of other enforcement agencies.
FINSUM: This does not track very well with Trump’s general rhetoric, but it does follow a general Republican economic line. It seems positive for stocks.
At this point it might seem natural to think that the stock market simply rises a bit everyday. Stocks have been so steady and so quiet for so long that it is almost disconcerting. The current “quiet” streak is one of the longest ever. The current number of days without a 1% move is the sixth longest streak since 1969 and the third longest since 1995. One analyst described the situation this way, saying “Right now it’s very, very tough to fight this trend … There’s a reinvigoration in the idea that we will see better growth”.
FINSUM: The huge rise in stocks from the Crisis through the last decade was generally characterized by steadiness. We don’t see this as any surprise.
If you are looking for dividends in this low rate world, you still have some good options. What about dividend growth stocks? They can be a nice investment in a low rate market, but where to look? Healthcare and tech stocks look like a great place. Analysts think dividends in those sectors will rise 10% and 9% respectively, handily outperforming dividend-focused sectors like utilities and REITs. Healthcare looks particularly healthy. Check out Abbvie (5.3% yield), Gilead 3.9%), Pfizer (3.9%), and Eli Lilly (2.2%).
FINSUM: Profits in healthcare have been ballooning and executives seem to be quite focused on returning money to shareholders.