There is no arguing it, small caps have had a rough year. While the S&P 500 is up 9.4% from a year ago, the SmallCap 600 is down 8.4%. The divergence has been surprising to many, as several macro trends appear favorable for small cap appreciation, such as the trade war. However, for small caps to really get wind in their sails, things needing to be looking up in the economy, which seems unlikely in the short term. Therefore, one of the best ways to bet on size in your portfolio is to buy a specialized fund like the iShares Edge MSCI USA Size Factor ETF, which holds stocks in inverse proportion to their size. The smaller the stock, the greater its weight in the fund, helping investors skew towards small stocks, but not totally away from larger ones. The fund has outperformed the S&P 500 this year.
FINSUM: This is a very specialized angle, but does make some sense. We agree with the assessment of small caps right now—the underlying economy is not favorable for small cap bullishness.
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.
Gold has been doing well recently. Between global trade turmoil, a falling economy, and decreasing yields, the metal has thrived. Here are three reasons the gains won’t reverse. The first is that the stock market continues to look risky, meaning gold’s allure as a safe haven seems assured. Secondly, yields on bonds have a definitively downward direction, which makes gold more attractive. Finally, inflation is unlikely to stay low forever. When it starts to rise, it would give investors another reason to bet on gold instead of bonds.
FINSUM: We don’t really think inflation will be much of a factor for gold in the immediate term, but the first two points are material.
Yes, the market is at or near all-time highs. Yes, the Fed is dovish, which is mildly bullish for markets (or very bullish if the economy stays in decent shape). However, equities are sending some strong warning signals too. In particular, two sectors which often act as bellwethers are showing that the market may be headed for a decline. Both small caps and transportation stocks have been struggling, a development usually associated with a market headed south. The sectors have declined at a rapid pace, and relative to the S&P 500 as a whole, are at their weakest point since 2009.
FINSUM: This is a signal similar in nature to the yield curve inversion. Is it material or just an aberration? Anyone’s guess.
If you could time travel back to December, it would be hard to find anyone in the world that would have thought that six months later, ten-year Treasury yields would be back under 2%. The turnaround has been so stark and so dramatic, that it is hard to fathom. The yield is now at its lowest level since 2016, with investors fearful of the economy and anticipating several Fed rate cuts.
FINSUM: The big question is what this means. Consider that the yield curve has been inverted for over 90 days. This seems like a very clear recession signal, yet economic data continues to hold up.
There was a lot of anxiety yesterday about what the Fed might do. The big banks were taking the opposite side of markets, saying that the pace of rate cuts that investors expected were unrealistic. Then Fed chief Powell spoke and it became clear that markets were right, the Fed is completely dovish and has fallen in line with investor expectations. Powell signaled that rate cuts were on the immediate horizon, which has led markets to up their odds-making of a rate cut in July to 100%.
FINSUM: Powell was about as dovish as a central banker ever gets short of the middle of a crisis. For us this is quite an unusual situation—an economy doing well with both of the Fed’s dual targets being met, yet there is an undeniable sentiment towards cutting rates.