Small caps are in a major rut. The Russell 2000 peaked in August and is now on the verge of a bear market since then. Interestingly, small caps have fallen farther than their larger peers despite the fact that they are insulated from headwinds like the trade war. So how to pick them? The answer is to stay away from indexes and actually choose individual shares whose fundamental outlooks appear brighter than benchmarks. For instance, one fund manager says that investors should choose “quality value stocks” with “with high free-cash-flow yield, low net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, or Ebitda, and below-market volatility”.
FINSUM: Small caps are a hugely diverse sector and some shares will inevitably have bright outlooks no matter what else may be going on in the market. The issue, of course, is the time and selection necessary to find such shares. Perhaps actively managed small cap value funds are a good bet?
There has been a large segment of money managers and investors that have taken a bullish stance against Treasuries. With rates rising and the economy performing well, it stood to reason that yields would keep on rising. However, after a couple of months of brutal stock volatility and worries over a trade war and growth, investors are finally shedding those bearish short positions. The stance was one of the most popular of the year, but the volume of bearish positions has shrunk by two-thirds since from the record it reached in late September.
FINSUM: The ten-year yield now looks more likely to fall than rise given the longer-term economic outlook and trouble in stocks.
Earlier this week it seemed that the market might finally have a reason to believe the Fed might pause its inexorable march higher in rates. That reason was that inflation had dipped below the Fed’s target. Being just a single occurrence, it was a weak-footed hope. Now, new data shows the American consumer is doing well, as retail sales jumped 0.9% in November. The explanation for the jump is that a drop in gasoline prices helped fuel more retail spending.
FINSUM: Consumers are obviously still feeling comfortable, which will give the Fed a bit of comfort about the stage of the cycle.
Investors looking for signs of trouble have no shortage to examine. However, one that might have escaped notice is that small caps are on the brink of a full blown bear market. The Russell 2000 has fallen a whopping 17% since its all-time high close on August 31st. The S&P 500, for comparison, is off 10%.
FINSUM: This is really interesting because it doesn’t make much sense. Both the trade war and the economic situation are more favorable to small caps than their larger peers, yet they are falling more sharply.
The moment many investors have been waiting for (or not, depending on how you look at it) has arrived. Rate hikes finally have a chance to slow after their steady rise over the last couple of years. New inflation data has come in showing weakness. Inflation has now fallen below the Fed’s 2% rate, which means the central bank has cause to pause its rate hikes as the economy looks to be on more fragile footing.
FINSUM: There are two ways to look at this. The first is that it takes some momentum away from the current yield inversion. But on the other hand, it could be an indicator that the economy is headed towards recession.
Stock markets are taking a pounding right now. Where should investors turn? One’s first instinct is probably to look for ten-year Treasuries. However, that safe haven may have finally worn itself out given the current rising rate paradigm. So where should investors turn? Look at short-term (two years and under) securities, both sovereign and corporate. The two-year Treasury yield is now 2.82%, and funds at the very short end of the curve have positive returns for the year even though the rest of fixed income has had a tough time.
FINSUM: Short-term bonds look very favorable right now. Yields are strong and they have little rate sensitivity. So long as one avoids too much credit risk, they look like a good safe haven.