In what comes as a very worrying announcement for investors, Goldman Sachs has just said that it may be time to cash out of equities. Goldman says that the current mass rotation out of equities and into bonds mirrors what happened before the Crisis. “Decelerating US economic growth, trade and geopolitical uncertainty, and near-record high starting equity allocations have likely contributed to the rotation from equities to bonds and cash this year”, says Goldman. Any steadiness in equities will probably just be artificial. “The peak in buyback activity arrived in 2018 after the Trump administration’s tax cut fueled a wave of repurchase programs. Buybacks are projected to fall 15% in 2019, and drop another 5% in the following year”, Goldman said.
FINSUM: In principle this seems like a sound assessment. The problem is that all the worries Goldman is citing have been on the table for a while and yet stocks have been rising.
New US GDP data has been released and it is not good news. Though, it is isn’t exactly terrible either. US third quarter growth was 1.9%, the lowest level of 2019. The fall in pace was caused by a reduction in business investment. The pace of growth was 2.0% in the second quarter. The 1.9% rate actually exceeded estimates of 1.6% despite still being the weakest result of the year.
FINSUM: So the big question here is how the Fed will react to this news. They have generally had a glass-half-full approach, so this may keep them from proceeding with cuts, but we’d bet they undertake one more “insurance” cut.
The market just hit fresh highs and we are making progress on the trade war; everything is good right? Wrong, says UBS. The bank has just put out an unusually bold warning, saying markets are likely headed for a big decline. Why? Earnings. Earnings growth forecasts for 2020 have tumbled from a peak of 23% to the just 1% now, a huge fall in expectations. That all comes as the growth backdrop for the economy is weakening, and signals that valuation multiples are likely to contract. “Every bear market of the past 50 years has witnessed an actual decline in S&P 500 forward earnings … Ultimately, the most vulnerable macro backdrop for equities occurs when forward earnings growth turns negative as LEIs are trending downward (pushing [price-to-earnings] lower)” says UBS.
FINSUM: An earnings bear market can easily turn into a real bear market, though it doesn’t always happen.
It may seem overly bearish right now, but put this one in the “take note” category. A hedge fund manager on Bloomberg yesterday argued that the market looks set for a bear market downturn very similar to last year. According to the manager, a mix of liquidity constraints, insufficient Fed support, and large geopolitical issues, could all combine to drive prices down 20% or more in benchmark indices. The most interesting part of this argument is that he contends the pressures will create this downturn in the next few weeks.
FINSUM: Last year’s bear market was principally about investors worrying the Fed would hike the market into a recession. That is a completely different backdrop from right now. We don’t discount the chances for a downturn, but this logic does not seem sound to us.