Market Responses to Fed (In)Action

by Brian Ormord on
As the economy is likely downshifting, investors should take heed that the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) current stance is eerily similar to early 2007. During that time, the Fed held a tightening bias since they believed the housing market was stabilizing, the economy would continue to expand, and inflation risks remained. Clearly, their expectations were not met as the economy soon fell into recession. That’s not suggesting another 2008 is coming, but rather highlights how fast the economic environment can change.

FOMC Preview: Fed Skip, Pause, or Hike?

by Brian Ormord on
The Federal Reserve (Fed) meets this week where it is largely expected to not raise short term interest rates for the first time in 15 months. However, Fed messaging has been all over the place in recent weeks. While some Fed officials continue to advocate for additional rate hikes, others want to be more patient. So, according to current market pricing anyway, the Fed is expected to skip the June meeting before hiking again in July which could mark the starting point for an extended pause. It can be very confusing to markets at times. And throw in the glut of Treasury issuance expected to come to the market and the Fed is likely going to continue to stay in the news for the foreseeable future. The good news? We agree with markets that the end of the rate hiking campaign is near, which has historically been a good thing for core bond investors.

Closing Out Our Equities Overweight

by Brian Ormord on
Stocks have had a nice run, but at higher prices, the bar for further gains gets higher. We have recently made the case in this publication that there are a lot of reasons to expect the market to go higher between now and year end. But with stocks at higher valuations, high-quality bonds offering attractive yields, an S&P 500 Index with concentrated leadership facing technical resistance at 4,300, and an elevated risk of a late-2023 recession, we think it makes sense to be a bit careful here. Importantly, though, neutral is not bearish.
The mega-cap technology companies have powered the broad market higher this year. In fact, the 8.1% gain in the S&P 500 year to date has been driven entirely by six mega-cap stocks: Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), NVIDIA (NVDA), Meta (META), Amazon (AMZN), and Alphabet (GOOG/L). Is this narrow leadership a problem for stocks looking forward? We try to answer that question below.
Economists like to remind us there is no such thing as a free lunch. In investment parlance, that just means all investments carry risk—even cash. And the big risk with cash is reinvestment risk. That is, while short-term rates are currently elevated, the risk is these rates won’t last and upon maturity, investors will have to reinvest proceeds at lower rates. And if this current cycle follows history, we could see lower core bond yields over the next year, which would mean cash-only investors may miss out on these higher yields. LPL’s Strategic and Tactical Asset Allocation Committee (STAAC) recommends investors maintain a neutral duration relative to benchmarks with the expectation that Treasury yields are likely headed lower (or at least not much higher) over the next few quarters.
First quarter earnings season is nearly complete, and it has caused us to regret titling our earnings preview commentary on April 10, “Malaise Continues.” While the “better than feared” label fit the past couple of earnings seasons quite well, based on the magnitude of upside surprises in the first quarter, and encouraging guidance from corporate America, that’s probably underselling it. There’s plenty to worry about the rest of the year (debt limit, recession, tightening financial conditions, a Federal Reserve (Fed) policy mistake, among them), but the risk of an additional sharp contraction in profit margins has come way down.
Much has been written lately about the threats facing the reserve currency status enjoyed by the U.S. dollar. “De-dollarization” headlines appear on a near-daily basis, suggesting the dollar’s reign is in looming jeopardy, while counter arguments point out there isn’t another currency with the depth, transparency, and reliability associated with the dollar. Still, critics accuse the U.S. of having “weaponized” the dollar, that is, punishing other countries with sanctions and freezing assets. These accusations have been particularly prevalent as the Ukraine/Russia conflict continues, with Russia and its long-standing allies asserting that the U.S. has illegally frozen billions of dollars of Russian financial assets.
“Sell in May and go away” is probably the most widely cited stock market cliché in history. Every year a barrage of Wall Street commentaries and stories in the financial press floods in about this popular, but overused, stock market adage. Here we take our annual look at this historical seasonal pattern which, as you will see below, has started to lose some of its street cred recently.
Investors use various analogies to describe the importance of small businesses in the domestic economy. Some refer to the small business sector as the backbone or the lifeblood of the economy. At this current stage of the cycle, we could say there are rising risks of an acute backache or a draining of that lifeblood. In this edition of the Weekly Market Commentary, we discuss the weakness in small businesses and what that foreshadows in the markets and the economy.

A Closer Look at Commercial Real Estate Market

by Brian Ormord on
The commercial real estate (CRE) market has recently captured the spotlight after being flagged as the next potential shoe to drop following last month’s banking turmoil. While rising rates have weighed on financing costs and the recent bank failures will make lending more restrictive, the post-pandemic world has produced structural changes that will likely weigh on the sector, especially within the retail and office segments. Banks, especially smaller cap regionals, are most exposed to CRE if credit cracks continue to widen.

Earnings Preview – Malaise Continues

by Brian Ormord on
First quarter earnings season kicks off this week with some big banks reporting toward the end of the week. In some ways this quarter’s earnings season will probably be déjà vu all over again—earnings declines and cautious guidance, reductions in estimates, but better than feared. However, tightened financial conditions in the wake of last month’s banking turmoil and building evidence for a slowing economy has changed the economic backdrop this quarter. It will be interesting to see how management teams react to these latest developments.
A lot has changed in the past few weeks, both in terms of expectations for interest rates and lost confidence in the health of the banking system as a result of the sharp rise in interest rates that has led to some things “breaking,” as we wrote about here last week. Here we share some thoughts on who’s to blame for the ongoing banking crisis and reiterate how we are telling investors to adjust, or not adjust, their asset allocations in light of ongoing market volatility.