If there were ever a small cap sector overwhelmed by their larger cousins, it would be in technology. Small cap tech stocks are so overshadowed by FAANGs and the like that one would be forgiven for not even realizing they exist. However, they do, and they may very well be a good buy at the moment. The S&P 600 Small-Cap Technology currently trades at half the valuation of the S&P 500 Technology index, way down from its historical spread. What’s more, profit estimates are healthier too. Calling small cap stocks “mini-fangs”, Leuthold Group argues that “the mini-Fangs offer a significantly higher growth profile at a substantially lower valuation”.
FINSUM: A couple notes here. Firstly, the FAANGs aren’t even really “tech” stocks anymore after the sector realignment, so the valuation comparisons are not perfect. Secondly, what is the catalyst? Leuthold argues that if the economy does a little better than expected then higher inflation will boost tech stocks. That sounds flimsy.
It was uncertain for a while, and still is, but markets are increasingly expecting the Fed to cut rates again this month. Investors now put around a 75% chance that the Fed will slash rates by another 25 bp this month. The interesting thing is at the beginning of this week, the market’s odds were under 40%. However, the release of weak manufacturing data a few days ago sent expectations surging that the Fed would once again step in.
FINSUM: New jobs report data out today will only bolster the case for further rate cuts.
Every advisor is likely already aware of the huge ruction that occurred in money markets this week. A number of short-term stresses sent over-night borrowing rates up to 10% this week before the Fed had to intervene to inject tens of billions of Dollars of liquidity to calm things down. Most media outlets have explained this as a number of cyclical short-term factors, without really giving any specifics. The whole episode has been curiously vague. This has led to an unusually fertile environment for rumors and speculation.
FINSUM: So our readers will know that we have been reporting for years, and we must say that this has been one of the oddest, mostly poorly reported, and vague events we have ever covered. None of the cited reasons of this money market flare up make much sense relative to the scale of money the Fed has pumped in. One of the best rumors we have heard is that there may be a bank failure coming. Just before this market flare up, oil jumped almost 20% in a day, its single largest one-day move ever. That kind of black swan event could easily destabilize a large financial institution if it was positioned the wrong way, and ultimately led to the kind of short-term funding desperation we saw before the last Crisis. This analysis is probably all wrong, but the situation must be taken seriously.
Treasury bonds and their associated funds just had one of the worst periods on record. Specifically, they had their worst week since Trump was elected. The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF fell 6.2% in a week, the sharpest drop since bond markets panicked on Trump’s surprise election. What is odd about the big drop is that the stock market remained relatively muted throughout. Usually, big losses in Treasuries come when there is a big risk-on rally in stock markets.
FINSUM: There has been a huge rally in bonds, and in the last week, a lot of the pessimism has faded from markets as economic data is relatively stable and trade war fears are ebbing. Accordingly, this could be the start of a real rout.
If higher inflation could be a headwind to rate cuts by the Fed, then there is new data today that could prove a tailwind. New figures show that retail spending was significantly weaker in August than in past months. The data showed that core retail spending stagnated after several months of strong expansion. The data is crucial because consumer spending, and American consumer health generally, has been a bedrock of the economy.
FINSUM: The American consumer has been keeping the economy afloat despite a lot of negative signs around the margins. This could either be a blip or the start of a worrying trend.
Everything you think about the direction of rates could be wrong. That is the general fear after this week’s inflation report. US core consumer prices hit a one-year high in August at 2.4% year-on-year growth, ahead of the Fed’s target. Importantly, it was also a bit higher than expectations. The Fed’s new cutting agenda is partly predicated on the fact that inflation has been so subdued, so any change to that assumption could prove disruptive to a cutting cycle.
FINSUM: We don’t think one month’s report will change the Fed’s path, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on. It is going to make September’s inflation report a lot more important.