Treasuries: Who’s Buying and Why it Matters

by Brian Ormord on
As the Federal Reserve (Fed) continues with its Quantitative Tightening (QT) program, questions abound regarding the Treasury Department’s expanding funding needs. The QT program is designed to reduce the Fed’s balance sheet — now $7.7 trillion down from $9 trillion — after Treasury notes (mostly) were bought after economic concerns intensified during the COVID-19-related pandemic. Households and, perhaps surprisingly, foreign investors have been buyers recently, and with the amount of Treasury supply coming to market, both will need to keep buying.

Outlook for U.S. Economy Continues to Brighten

by Brian Ormord on
When we wrote the annual outlook last November, the data was mixed. Some metrics hinted at emerging cracks in the economy while others suggested the growth trajectory in capital markets and the economy had legs. So, the variety of the data produced the narrative that business activity in the New Year would grow on an annual basis but experience some bumps in the first half of the year. Now, enter the revisions.

Will the January Barometer Come Through?

by Brian Ormord on
A positive January has historically been a bullish sign for stocks. Yale Hirsch, creator of the “Stock Trader’s Almanac”, first discovered this seasonal pattern back in 1972, which he called the January Barometer and coined its popular tagline of ‘As goes January, so goes this year.’ Here, we assess the likelihood that this popular stock market adage delivers more gains for investors this year. The weight of the evidence leans toward yes, as we explain.

Will Shipping Disruptions Alter Fed Plans?

by Brian Ormord on
Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could temporarily impact goods prices but not at the same magnitude as during the pandemic. Tight financial conditions, slowing economic growth, and a disinflationary trend all support the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) pivot away from tightening monetary policy to easing in the new year. Despite these longer term trends, rates possibly got ahead of themselves in recent weeks, exhibiting higher volatility.
As China emerged a year ago from the shadow of the stringent zero COVID-19-related measures that all but shut down its economy for over two years, much was expected in terms of its economic growth prospects. There were numerous reports suggesting the world’s second largest economy would ignite a bout of inflation as its industrial base would require vast quantities of commodities to power a newly energized China. Clearly that didn’t happen. Here we explore why and provide our updated thoughts on investing in China and emerging markets.
To say 2023 was challenging may be an understatement. While stocks had a surprisingly impressive year, there was no shortage of obstacles for investors to overcome, including historic interest rate volatility, recession risk, banking sector turmoil, and a game of monetary policy chicken played between the markets and the Federal Reserve (Fed). LPL Research had some wins and some losses as the market delivered its usual dose of humility to us and many market participants. In an effort to maintain accountability and learn from our mistakes (and hopefully not repeat them), we are starting the new year with our traditional lessons learned commentary.
Following the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) aggressive rate-hiking campaign in 2022 and 2023, stocks are entering a phase in which the market narrative is focused on interest-rate stability — as inflation, we believe, comes down further. Low and stable interest rates should help support stock valuations, while corporate profits are moving into a sweet spot. So even though stocks look fully valued, if rates ease as we expect, we could see upside to our year-end 2024 fair-value target range of 4,850 to 4,950. We highlight some key themes for stocks next year.

Discord in the OPEC+ Oil Patch

by Brian Ormord on
Despite a heavy lobbying effort to cajole OPEC+ members to agree to a unified cut in oil production, Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the energy cartel, was unable to orchestrate anything more than pledges on a “voluntary” basis. Accordingly, benchmark oil prices continued to slide lower following the announcement, and without a catalyst to propel prices higher, oversupply in the market coupled with concerns over the global economic landscape, have steadfastly kept prices lower. Nonetheless, forward pricing forecasts indicate prices will climb higher. The role of the Saudis as the OPEC+ leader has been questioned regarding how ineffective they’ve been in organizing a viable response to softening prices. The broader issue for the cartel is whether the current structure is flexible enough to accommodate the disparate economic needs of its constituents, especially in a challenging economic environment.
Opportunities abound in the markets, even during periods when the economy appears ripe for a regime shift. Recent growth metrics surprised to the upside, but leading indicators point toward some downside risk. In this edition of the Weekly Market Commentary, we examine potential opportunities amid a rotation in housing, buying patterns, and inflation.
As the market appears to be taking a rest and consolidating its $2.7 trillion rally leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the historical pattern over the last five years suggests the shortened holiday week typically enjoys modest gains. With concerns over the resiliency of consumer spending, however, the market can be affected by any indication that Black Friday doesn’t witness the throngs of consumers out hunting for bargains, or indications that the start to Cyber Monday won’t result in the billions of dollars that are spent online.

Is the Stock Market Correction Over?

by Brian Ormord on
There is nothing like an eight-day winning streak to change the market narrative. Stocks have quickly gone from a correction to a comeback this month, and the S&P 500 is now challenging key resistance at 4,400. While a confirmed breakout above this level raises the odds of the correction being over, there are still a few boxes left to check on our technical list before making that call. One of the unchecked items is market breadth. Despite the recent rally, participation in the latest rebound has been underwhelming, raising questions over the sustainability of the advance. Second, 10-year Treasury yields remain in an uptrend, and until more technical evidence confirms the highs have been set, it may be challenging for stocks to maintain their upside momentum.
It’s been another volatile year for municipal (muni) investors this year. While generally outperforming U.S. Treasuries, the Bloomberg Muni Index is on track for its second calendar year of negative returns—something that has never happened before. But, while volatility will likely persist over the coming months, we think muni investors may be able to catch a break, especially if the Federal Reserve (Fed) is done with its aggressive rate hiking campaign. Moreover, the next few months have historically been favorable for muni investors. So, with still solid fundamentals, the broader muni market may be in for a year-end rally, which would certainly be a nice reprieve for investors suffering from one of the worst muni drawdowns on record.