Ever since the stock market’s then peak in January 2018, bonds and stock have had a very close relationship. Equities have been tracking the performance of the investment grade bond sector. When yields rose late last year, stocks plummeted. The opposite is happening this year, and in that change lays a predicament for shares. Yields have fallen so deeply this year, and equity prices risen so high, that it appears unlikely stocks can rise much further as the benefits of lower rates have already been fully priced in.
FINSUM: While we are generally incredulous of these types of arguments, we cannot help but feel a confluence of circumstances (an earnings recession not the least of them) are coming together in such a way that equities seem likely to have a correction.
Investors need to take note, as one of the biggest equity research divisions on Wall Street has just turned overwhelmingly negative on equities. And this is not the “stocks will struggle in coming years” kind of call, it is an argument for right now and published yesterday. The bank has lowered its allocation to stocks, saying that the outlook for markets over the next three months is very poor. Morgan Stanley says equities prices are way too high and expectations for major rate cuts are already priced in, leaving little room for appreciation. They also think valuations are too high given deteriorating manufacturing and economic data.
FINSUM: Morgan Stanley is basically saying that the market is primed for disappointment because all the positive outcomes have already been priced in. Not unrealistic.
It is no secret that Trump is a critic of the current Federal Reserve. He has frequently complained about Powell and wishes the Fed would take a more dovish stance. Well, he took a step towards making that dovish position a reality this week as he has just appointed two notable doves to the Fed. One is Judy Shelton, an economic adviser to his 2016 campaign, who will now be on the Fed’s board. The other is Christopher Waller, who will be the head of research at the St. Louis Fed. Shelton has numerous times expressed extremely dovish views and has said she does not like the Fed’s way of setting rates and would instead prefer a market-set rate.
FINSUM: Shelton’s views are pretty revolutionary, so it seems like she could really shake things up.
The market has the idea that the Fed holds a massive “put”. The concept entails that the Fed can effectively set a floor on asset prices because it can take dovish action to support markets at any point. However, that notion is problematic at the moment because a rate cut in the near term may actually induce a correction. In fact, markets look set for a lose-lose scenario. On the one hand, if the Fed does not cut rates, markets will be very disappointed and slump. On the other hand, investors have already priced in a near 100% chance of a rate hike, so it happening won’t give markets much of a boost and is more likely just to make investors worry that the economy is headed south.
FINSUM: We hate to say it, but we kind of buy into this view. Maybe not so much that markets will fall even if the Fed cuts rates, but the cuts certainly won’t be overly supportive at this point and may lead to a gradual decline.
We know, we know, a mortgage meltdown sounds like a claim coming out of left field. However, it comes from a potentially big issue that no one is paying attention to—the fact that the Fed is winding down its massive $1.6tn+ mortgage bond portfolio. As the Fed has begun to unwind its MBS portfolio, there are growing worries over the economy and real estate market. This could lead to a mortgage shock. Spreads between MBS and Treasuries have already risen as investors have grown nervous about oversupply.
FINSUM: So this is more of a technical issue than a fundamental one, but given the confluence of negative sentiment and oversupply, there is certainly some significant risk on the horizon for MBS.