Week Ending 3/22/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US stocks get slammed on Friday and fall by 1% for the week.
  • The 3m/10yr yield curve inverts for the first time since 2007.
  • Weak manufacturing reports in Europe and the US.
  • Slow growth in US service sector.
  • The budget deficit keeps expanding at frightening rates.
  • Brexit is delayed temporarily.
  • Trump may keep tariffs in place with China.

MARKET RECAP

What has become a tug of war between the bulls and the bears went to the bear side this week as US equities fell by 1%. A fast-moving decline in interest rates got going on Wednesday after the Fed meeting (see below) and then accelerated to the downside on Friday. That inverted the yield curve (3m/10yr) and raised recession fears. The economy has been going one way (down) while stocks have been going the other way (up) and that divergence will have to be resolved one way or the other. Hence, the tug of war. The inverted yield curve, along with a negative report on Friday that showed that factory output in the Eurozone fell at the fastest rate in almost six years, and that a gauge of US manufacturing activity dropped to its lowest level in two years, was enough for US stocks to fall 2.1% on Friday and turn what would have been an up week into a losing week.

FED / INTEREST RATES

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear that the Fed would most likely not raise interest rates this year. On Wednesday, Powell said, “It may be some time before the outlook for jobs and inflation calls clearly for a change in policy.” This is a complete reversal from as recently as December when the Fed had planned on multiple interest rate increases.

With no interest rate increases insight and a weakening economy, the yield on the 10-year bond fell by 15 basis points during the week. Yields on the German and Japanese 10-year note fell below zero percent.

The spread between the 3-month treasury bill and the 10-year bond inverted for the first time since 2007. This is a highly watched indicator that has preceded every US recession since 1975. On the other hand, the indicator has inverted at times without a subsequent recession in the near-term. Also, rates on high-yield bonds have not increased. St, Louis Fed President James Bullard said that the inversion was “mildly concerning”, hoping that the inversion was temporary. A sustained inversion would worry him much more.

As interest rates have been falling, so have mortgage rates, and that helped push sales up of previously owned homes by 11.8% in February, the largest gain since 2015 and the second biggest increase ever. However, high prices and a shortage of starter-homes remain impediments to the housing industry.

The Fed is still positive on the economy, although they did revise growth estimates downward. The central bank projects US GDP will expand 2.1% this year and 1.9% in 2020. Powell said the Fed has “a positive outlook for this year” helped by rising wages, low unemployment, and high consumer confidence. Powell did highlight risks including slowing growth in Europe and China and US trade policy.

SERVICES

The Census Bureau said on Thursday that revenues across the U.S. service sector rose by 1.2% in Q4. That was the slowest growth in five quarters and lower than expected. Economists are now projecting that the first estimate for Q4 growth of 2.6% will be revised downward. The slower than expected service revenue report follows lower numbers on construction spending. JP Morgan is estimating Q4 growth at 1.8%, Macroeconomic Advisers is at 2%, and Oxford Economics projects 1.9%.

BUDGET DEFICIT

The budget deficit just continues to get worse and worse. The gap widened by 39% for the first five months of the year as revenues remained roughly level and federal spending increased. The deficit was $544 billion from October through February, compared to $391 billion last year. Federal revenues declined by less than 1% but federal outlays increased by 9%. There were some timing differences, and taking those into account, the deficit would have expanded by 25%, still a dramatic number. Healthcare, the military, and tariff assistance programs for farmers were contributors to the increase in spending.

BREXIT

EU leaders said they would extend the Brexit deadline until May 22 if the British Parliament approves the agreement next week. If the agreement is not approved, the UK would have until April 12 to indicate how they plan to move forward. Under that scenario, the UK could ask for a longer extension, or there can be a hard Brexit in mid-April.

CHINA

Trump said that he might keep tariffs in place with China for a “substantial period of time” even if the US and China agree to a deal.

JOBLESS CLAIMS

In good news, initial jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 221,000, below the estimate of 225,000.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading or investing advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Week Ending 3/15/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The market reclaimed the high ground as US equities jump by 2.85% and international stocks were up by 2.79%.
  • The Fed’s neutral policy on interest rates and a stop in the decline of earnings estimates are providing a tailwind to equities.
  • Brexit mayhem continues.
  • Twelve Republicans had the guts to vote with Democrats to block Trump’s “emergency” funding of his wall. Trump vetoed the bill.

MARKET RECAP

In last week’s commentary, we wrote that the market had displayed some negative technical signals when US equities fell below the 200-day moving average and the VTI (US total stock market) had fallen back below the support (formerly resistance) line it had broken through the week before. This week, stocks reclaimed the high ground on a big Monday move, followed by advances on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. For the week, US stocks were up by 2.85%. International stocks increased by 2.79%. Bond rose by 0.25%.

While economic indicators have been on the slowing side, stocks now have two backdrops that are acting as tailwinds. First, the Fed’s shift from drive to neutral has put the breaks on fears of higher interest rates. Lower rates, all other things equal, increase the attractiveness of equities. Second, the constant decline in profit estimates, that has been going on since about September 7, might be coming to an end. This week, 2019 estimates dropped by only one cent to $167.93 and 2020 estimates actually went up by one cent to $188.05. All in all, since the September 7 peak, earnings estimates for 2019 have declined by 6.1%.

BREXIT

Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the EU failed to be ratified by the British Parliament on Tuesday, that left four options. First, the default outcome would be a hard Brexit that would result in an almost certain severe negative economic outcome. Another option is that Brexit is further postponed, that would have to be approved by the EU. A third option would be to make adjustments to Mrs. May’s proposal before the deadline. A final option is another referendum to see if voters really want to Brexit given what they know now.

A hard Brexit will have a major impact on trade with Europe that has been developed over decades. A hard border would be reimposed with Northern Ireland.

A vote by the Parliament on Wednesday showed a majority against a hard Brexit. On Thursday, Parliament voted to delay Brexit by three months, which would need EU approval. Mrs. May will meet with the EU leaders this Thursday to discuss the terms of a postponement, which will require approval from all of the EU members.

CONGRESS VOTES TO BLOCK EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR TRUMP’S WALL

Twelve Republican Senators had the guts to vote with Democrats and block the funding for Trump’s wall. Trump vetoed the bill, and unless some Senators flip, an override does not look possible. Trump had declared a “national emergency” to secure the funding, a violation of the separation of powers, contrary to historical conservative principles, and a terrible precedent that will come back to sting the Republicans and the nation the next time the Democrats win the Presidency. It was very short-term thinking for political reasons instead of making a smart, long-term decision for the sake of the nation and the constitution. We commend the twelve Senators who did the right thing.

SCOREBOARD

Week Ending 3/8/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US stocks were down by 2.38% and international stocks dropped by 1.80%.
  • Negative technical signs for US equities.
  • Only 20,000 jobs added in February.
  • Interest rate policy turns dovish worldwide.
  • The deficit is really exploding.
  • Tariff costs are being borne by US consumers.

MARKET RECAP

Stocks fell by 2.38% in the US and 1.80% x-US. Bonds advanced by 0.75%. US stocks fell below their 200-day moving average. Looking at a chart of the VTI (total stock market), last week prices broke through the resistance level set at points 1, 3, and 5 (see chart below) from the 4th quarter of last year, but this week they could not hold that level and fell back below the resistance line (see 9). That is what technicians call an “upthrust”, when a stock or fund moves above resistance and then quickly reverses and moves back below resistance. The upthrust move and dropping below the 200-day average are negative technical signs. Stocks were in an overbought condition, so a sell-off is not a big surprise, so far it has been mild. We showed a couple of weeks ago a similar set-up in 2011 to the current market when stocks dropped 10%. But the market constantly surprises so anything can happen.

PAYROLLS

Only 20,000 jobs were added in February, the weakest report since March of 2011, assuming future revisions don’t change it. There is some belief that there are errors in the data as a result of the government shutdown. Taking 20,000 as a stand alone number, the report looks weak. However, if you look at the last 2 or 3 months as an average, the numbers look healthy. The unemployment rate decreased to 3.8%. Year over year, average hourly earnings were up by 3.4%.

INTEREST RATES

In the span of just a few months central bank interest rate policy has turned dovish worldwide. The ECB downgraded its forecast for Eurozone GDP growth from 1.7% to 1.1% for 2019. They now plan to keep interest rates at current levels through the end of the year. That is longer than was originally planned. The ECB also said they would begin issuing inexpensive long-term loans in September and the program would run through March of 2021. China has also begun issuing loans to companies to promote growth. This follows the Feds announcement that they would put the breaks on interest rate increases for the time being. In a low-interest rate world, equities generally become more attractive.

DEFICIT

The US government deficit soared by 77% for the first four months of the fiscal year to $310 billion. Federal outlays were up by 9% and receipts were down by 2%. The outflow was due to higher spending on the military, veteran affairs and interest on the debt. Receipts fell because of lower corporate and individual income-tax collections. Keith Hall, Director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said: “It’s hard to imagine this is sustainable.”

Beginning in 2022, the CBO expects deficits in excess of $1 trillion and will average 4.4% of GDP, compared to 2.9% in the previous 50 years. Expect tax increases in the next few years.

TARIFFS

A study by economists has pegged the cost of the US trade tariffs to consumers at $69 billion. That counters the White House argument that the cost of the tariffs are paid for by foreign countries. Overall, combining costs and benefits, the tariffs have cost the US economy $6.4 billion. The Centre for Economic Policy study stated that “We find that the U.S. tariffs were almost completely passed through into U.S. domestic prices.”

Tariffs have also impacted world trade, leading to a slowing global economy. Chinese exports fell by 20.7% year over year in February and auto sales dropped by 18.5%.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Week Ending 3/1/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stocks were up but the Dow ended its nine-week winning streak.
  • Q4 GDP comes in better than expected at 2.60% but Q1 is looking bleak.
  • Interest rates increased during the week.

MARKET RECAP

US stocks were up by 0.45%, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended its nine-week winning streak, falling by 0.02%. International stocks managed a gain of 0.17%. Bonds fell by 0.47% as interest rates increased across the curve. For January and February, it was the best opening two months of a year since 1991. The S&P 500 was up by 12.07%.

GDP

The US economy grew by 2.6% in Q4, adjusting for seasonal activity. That was higher than the consensus estimate of 2.2%. Output was up 3.1% year over year, making it two quarters in a row of greater than 3% year over year growth. The White House thinks 3% growth will continue. The Federal Reserve estimates growth of 2.3% in 2019, 2.0% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021. For the year of 2018, the economy grew by 2.9%.

The initial estimates for Q1 look weak. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model has Q1 growth at 0.30% and the NY Fed’s Nowcast model is at 0.88%. Over recent quarters, the GDPNow model has trended lower as the quarter has progressed, so starting at 0.30% is not a good sign.

INTEREST RATES

The better than forecasted GDP numbers increased interest rates during the week. That, along with a Fed that has made it clear that it will be patient before increasing interest rates again might be increasing inflation expectations, resulting in higher rates. Rates on the 2-year increased by 7 basis points and on the 30-year by 11 basis points. The spread between the 10 and 2-year treasury bonds has increased to 21 basis points, the highest amount since December. That would be a positive, as the threat of a 10-year bond yielding less than a 2-year bond (an inverted yield curve) is considered a recessionary signal.

The increase in interest rates was enough to change the price trend to negative (as interest rates go up, bond prices go down) on the AGG (the aggregate bond index) for the 2-week and one-month period for the first time since November 16, 2018.

Increased talk by Democratic presidential candidates about using Modern Monetary Theory as justification for vastly widening deficits might be seeping into the pricing of interest rates. As we have written and spoken about many times, neither political party has a serious interest in getting deficits under control and now there is open talk of expanding them even more.

YELLEN ON TRUMP

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen was asked this week if she thinks that President Trump has a grasp of economic policy, she responded, “Well, I doubt that he would even be able to say that the Fed’s goals are maximum employment and price stability, which is the goals that Congress have assigned to the Fed. He’s made comments about the Fed having an exchange rate objective in order to support his trade plans, or possibly targeting the U.S. balance of trade. And, you know, I think comments like that shows a lack of understanding of the impact of the Fed on the economy, and appropriate policy goals.”

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Week Ending 2/22/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stocks are up.
  • A deal with China appears closer.
  • Fed unwind might end soon.
  • Stocks appear oversold based on percent selling above the 50-day moving average.
  • Poor economic reports continue.
  • Kraft Heinz takes a big hit on a huge markdown.

MARKET RECAP

The Dow Jones Industrial Average extended its winning streak to nine-weeks as the US market increased by 0.72%. International stocks were up by 1.31%. President Trump gave positive signals on talks with China regarding trade, and the minutes released by the Fed confirmed their recent dovish posture. It also appears that the unwinding of the balance sheet will end soon. The minutes said, “almost all participants thought that it would be desirable to announce before too long a plan to stop reducing the Federal Reserve’s asset holdings later this year.” The market continues to rise in the face of weakening economic reports, especially from overseas.

In the sell-off between September 20th and December 24th, the S&P 500 declined by 19.78%. US stocks are now up by 20.1% since that low and are only 3.97% below the all-time high on September 20th. The NYSE advance-decline line, a measure that tracks the number of stocks rising minus the number falling each day, has hit new highs, a positive technical sign. But at the same time, stocks appear overbought, 92% of S&P 500 stocks are trading above their 50-day moving average.

This has some similarities to 2011. At that time, the S&P 500 declined by 19.39% between April 29 and October 3. The market then rallied by 16.86% in quick fashion until October 27. The percent of stocks selling above their 50-day moving average was 94% on that day. The market would then sell-off by 9.8% until November 25th.

ECONOMY

The Philly Fed’s Manufacturing report went into negative territory. The report said “Manufacturing conditions in the region weakened this month … the indicators for general activity, new orders, and shipments fell into negative territory, but the indicator for employment remained positive…the index for current manufacturing activity in the region decreased from a reading of 17.0 in January to -4.1 this month. This is the index’s first negative reading since May 2016. Both the new orders and shipments indexes also fell this month. The current new orders index decreased nearly 24 points to -2.4, and the current shipments index decreased 17 points to -5.3.”

Unemployment claims dropped to 216,000 from 239,000 in the prior week.

German business sentiment fell to a four-year low in February, indicating that economic troubles are continuing into 2019. Germany’s gross domestic product increased by an annualized rate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter, barely escaping recession.

The weak German numbers were confirmed by the IHS Markit preliminary purchasing managers indexes for February which showed that factory activity in Japan dropped to a 32-month low and the eurozone to a 68-month low.

KRAFT HEINZ

Kraft Heinz stocks got slaughtered on Friday as its market value dropped by $16 billion. Kraft Heinz wrote down assets by $15.4 billion including $7.1 billion in goodwill, essentially admitting that a good portion of the value attributed to the Heinz merger does not exist. The Kraft Heinz formula of aggressively cutting costs has not worked out as planned, to put it mildly, as sales have been hurt and some of their brands have lost relevance as the company’s focus on revenue waivered while they concentrated on cutting costs.

SCOREBOARD

Week Ending 2/15/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US and international stocks were up by 2.71% and 1.77%.
  • Trade news on China appears to be moving in the right direction.
  • A government shutdown is avoided.
  • Economic news has generally been negative.

MARKET RECAP

US stocks were up by 2.71% and international stocks advanced by 1.77%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now on an 8-week winning streak. Stocks were helped by positive news on China. Trump said if negotiations with China are going well, he would consider delaying the deadline before the next increase in tariffs are scheduled to start: “If we’re close to a deal…I could see myself letting that slide for a little while.” Congress agreed on a compromise to avoid another shutdown, although Trump then went on to declare a “national emergency” to try to get the balance of the funding for his wall that was not included in the compromise bill.

ECONOMY

The market continues to go up despite economic news that has been negative. The OECD US Composite Leading Indicator fell by 0.2 to 99.4 in December, it was the eighth straight decline and the lowest level since October of 2016, indicating below-trend growth. The six-month annualized rate of change is declining at the fastest pace since January of 2016.

Retail sales for December came in way below expectations. The data was delayed to the government shutdown. The number showed a 1.2% month over month decline, which would be the biggest drop since September of 2009. However, many economists are of the opinion that the number just does not add up with the other reports from December, in other words, there is a mistake in the data. The retail sales report is often subject to big revisions so time will tell.

As a result of the weak retail sales report, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model dropped forecasted Q4 growth from 2.7% to 1.5%. Obviously, a big negative change.

Job openings hit an all-time record in December. Openings were greater than the number of unemployed by 1.04 million. However, jobless claims were up by 4,000 to 239,000 last week. The last couple of weeks have been higher than the prior trend. The four-week moving average is at its highest point since January of 2018.

AMAZON

Amazon backed out of their plan to move to NYC after weeks of protests. The proposed deal, that was negotiated by the Governor and the Mayor, included about $500 million in capital grants and about $2.5 billion in incentives. The $3 billion investment would be over 10-years, but the payoff would be $27 billion in tax revenue over 20-years, 25,000 jobs at an average pay of $150,000 per year, plus all of the positive multiplier effects from having what is probably the world’s best-run business and technology company in NYC.

But that wasn’t good enough for many of the politicians and “progressives”, who immediately went into attack mode from the day the deal was announced. There were problems with the proposed deal. Mainly that local leaders were kept out of the loop as the Governor and Mayor conducted the negotiations. And then an argument could be made that New York gave away too much to lure Amazon in. But even with that, this was a huge win for NYC and $27 billion in tax revenue for a $3 billion dollar investment over 10-years adds up to a positive present value at just about any discount rate!

The political backlash against Amazon was overwhelming, and on Thursday, the Company announced it would pull out of the deal. Incredibly, the activists and politicians celebrated, as if they had accomplished something good for their community. Here is what Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) said, “We were subsidizing those jobs, the city was paying for those jobs, so frankly, if we were willing to give Amazon $3 billion for this deal we can invest those $3 billion in our district ourselves if we wanted to.”

So according to AOC, New York can now go and spend that $3 billion in the local community, right? Wrong! You would think that a member of Congress from New York would understand basic financial math. Apparently not. What the Representative from New York does not understand is that with the exception of the $500 million in capital grants, the remaining $2.5 billion was structured mostly as tax breaks out of future tax revenue that, guess what, does not exist now. $27 billion in future tax revenue was just lost.

NY Governor Cuomo said “a small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community – which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly support…above the state’s economic future and the best interests of the people of this state. The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.”

The real message here is the danger that is lurking on the extremes in both political parties in the US. It manifests itself in different ways. On the Democratic extreme left, attacks on business and wealth creation may make great politics, but it is bad for the economy and the very people that these politicians supposedly represent. Creating an unfriendly and extremely difficult environment for business will mean less of it.

As the saying going, “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” Well, New York just got it.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

 

Week Ending 2/8/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US stocks managed a small advance, but international equities fell.
  • Worries about the global economy and trade talks hurt the market.
  • Growth forecasts in Europe and the UK are revised down.
  • Jinping and Trump won’t meet this month.
  • Stocks cannot break through the 200-day moving average.

MARKET RECAP

A rally in the final 10-minutes of the Friday session helped the US markets eke out 0.17% gain for the week. Stocks were up on Monday and Tuesday, flat on Wednesday and weak on Thursday and Friday on worries about the global economy and trade talks between the US and China. International stocks fell by 1.18%.

On Thursday, the European Commission lowered its growth forecasts for Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Overall, the European Union GDP is now forecast to grow by 1.5% in 2019, down from 1.9% in the prior forecast. The Bank of England cut growth forecasts to 1.2% for 2019, down from 1.7%, and warned that a no-deal Brexit could cause a recession.

Markets were also disappointed when Trump said he would not be meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping until March. A meeting between the two would signal that an agreement was close at hand. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that an agreement between the two countries is still “far away.”

From a technical perspective, the market appears to have lost near-term momentum. The S&P 500 closed just under the 200-day moving average on Monday and Tuesday but failed to crack it, falling back on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Another negative sign for stocks was the out-performance this week by the defensive groups like utilities and REITs as interest rates fell.

ECONOMY

While the US did have a positive bounce last month in the purchasing manager’s index, the trend around the world continues to be down. China is already in contractionary territory and the rest of the world is not far behind.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index in the US also declined in January, although the absolute number was still strong. The index declined to 56.7 from 58. New export orders took the biggest hit, dropping to 50.5 from 59.5, more proof of a slowing global economy.

Given the continuing decline in economies around the world, it will become more difficult for recent growth in the US to continue.

A possible early sign of a slowing US economy is light vehicle sales, which fell by 5.1% in January to an annual rate of 16.6 million, the lowest level since August of 2017. Severe weather in the Midwest is getting some of the blame. Year over year, there was a 3% decline.

Jobless claims fell last week to 234,000, down from the big increase the previous week to 253,000.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Week Ending 2/1/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stocks rally on a market-friendly Fed press conference.
  • Another strong jobs report.
  • Estimated earnings for 2019 continue to be sharply cut.
  • Howard Schultz may run for President and Corey Booker is.

MARKET RECAP

Stocks advanced and were helped mightily by a Fed press conference mid-week. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, “I would want to see a need for further rate increases,” referring to an increase in inflation. And then to make it even better, the Fed signaled that they would maintain their balance sheet at a higher level than previously thought, indicating that the unwind of the balance sheet might be coming to a close. It was just about everything the market could ask for, and stocks shot up by 1.51% on the day. For the week, US stocks increased by 1.66% and international equities were up by 0.91%. Bonds were up on the week by 0.27% but fell on Friday on the news of a very strong jobs report.

The market has rallied by 15.9% off of the December low and is now at the midpoint between the range that was established through most of October and all of November.

JOBS / ECONOMY

The US job market made it 100 straight months of increased payrolls. Nonfarm payrolls  rose by 304,000. It was the biggest increase since February of 2018. Wages were up by 3% year over year. That is six months in a row of increases at or greater than 3%. The unemployment rate did increase to 4% from 3.9% in December, but the government shutdown probably impacted that number. The share of American adults working or looking for work increased to 63.2%, up 1/2% from last year. This indicates that the strong job market is pulling in workers that have been sidelined, a positive development for the economy.

In more good news, the ISM Manufacturing Index climbed 2.3 points in January to 56.6, the biggest increase in five months.

One weak datapoint was jobless claims. After falling to a stunningly low 199,000 last week, they shot up to 253,000 this week. That was the highest level since September of 2017. The government shutdown will get the blame for now.

Overseas, the economic reports are still coming in weak. The Markit January Manufacturing PMIs fell. Emerging markets are now at an even 50.0 versus 50.5 last month, and developed markets fell to 52.2 from 52.9, greater than 50 is considered expansionary. Italy fell into a recession.

FUTURE ESTIMATED EARNINGS

Analysts continue to aggressively cut future earnings estimates. 2019 estimates are now at $169.60, down from a peak of $178.90 in September. That is down 5.2% in about 5-months. Estimates have now been cut eight-weeks in a row and 16 of the last 17 weeks.

HOWARD SCHULTZ / CORY BOOKER

Howard Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, announced that he might run for president as an independent in 2020. The reaction was instantaneous and vicious. Democrats and the media establishment went on a rampage trashing Shultz in every way possible, from his intellect to his wealth to the way he ran Starbucks. Most of the “comments” and accusations were caricatures and inaccurate. But that is what goes for public discourse nowadays. With both parties currently ruled by the extremes, it would appear there is an opening for someone close to the center. Schultz will test the waters and consider filling that gap.

Cory Booker announced that he will run for president. Booker’s initial comments were positive and focused on uniting the entire country, “We used to be a people who could look at the sky, point at the moon and change it from a dream to a destiny. There’s no Democratic or Republican way to get there. You definitely don’t get there by fighting each other, tearing each other down or dividing people against each other.” Booker joins a field that includes Kamela Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillebrand.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

Week Ending 1/25/2019

HIGHLIGHTS

  • US stocks fall slightly.
  • The S&P is up by 13.34% since the December 24th low.
  • The government reopens for at least three weeks.
  • Tax proposals by the Democratic left.
  • More chaos in Venezuela.
  • The LEI declines.
  • Jobless claims hit the lowest level since 1969.

MARKET RECAP

US stocks fell slightly, down 0.13%, while international equities were up by 0.54%. Bonds advanced by 0.31%.

ONE MONTH LATER

It has been one month since the market low on December 24th. At that point, the S&P 500 had fallen by over 15% during a 14-day period. A descent of 15% or more over a 14-day period had happened 7 other times since 1970. In all but one of those cases, the market had a nice rally in the subsequent one-month period. In this instance, the S&P finished up by 13.34%, which ranks second on the list.

GOVERNMENT REOPENED

The government shutdown ended as Trump and congressional leaders reached a deal to reopen the government for three weeks. Trump did not get any of the funding for the wall that he demanded.

TAX PROPOSALS…

In recent weeks proposals for tax increases from the far left of the Democratic party have been picking up steam. First, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) put a 70% marginal tax rate on the table and now Elizabeth Warren has come out in favor of a wealth tax. 70% marginal rates were the standard in the 60s and 70s. Of course, the tax code was taken advantage via loopholes and tax shelters to make sure that essentially no one came close to paying that. The entire idea behind lowering rates in the Reagan era (80s) was to simplify the tax code and take away incentives that did not make economic sense. That set off a long period of positive growth. But if anyone thinks the 70s are the economic period to emulate they need to look again. That is not to say we don’t need some tax increases and tax reform. We do. But ideas like a wealth tax are what one might expect from countries like Venezuela…

VENEZUELA

Speaking of, Venezuela continues to spiral out of control. The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, declared himself president. The military said it still supports current president, Nicolas Maduro. Street protests demanding Maduro’s resignation are constant and nationwide. Years of hardcore socialism from Chavez and Maduro have turned the country into a complete, economic and social disaster.

LEI

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index fell by 0.1% to 111.7 in December. “The US LEI declined slightly in December and the recent moderation in the LEI suggests that the US economic growth rate may slow down this year,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “While the effects of the government shutdown are not yet reflected here, the LEI suggests that the economy could decelerate towards 2 percent growth by the end of 2019.”

JOBLESS CLAIMS

Incredibly, initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped 13,000 last week to 199,000, the lowest level since November 1969. The previous week was revised down by 1,000 to 212,000 claims. The four-week average of claims fell 5,500 to 215,000, also near its lowest level since 1969, as labor market conditions remained tight.

SCOREBOARD

Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The purpose of this commentary is to provide readers with a summary of recent market and economic news. It is not intended to provide trading advice. Investors should have a long-term plan and should consider working with a professional investment advisor. Any discussion of investments and investment strategies represents the presenter’s views as of the date created and are subject to change without notice. The opinions expressed are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources believed to be reliable, but they are not necessarily all inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Any forecasts may not prove to be correct. Economic predictions are based on estimates and are subject to change. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.