U.S. Treasury yields have seemingly been moving in one direction lately (higher), with the 30-year Treasury yield temporarily breaching 5% for the first time since 2007. The move higher in yields (lower in price) has been unrelenting, with intermediate and longer-term Treasury yields bearing the brunt of the move. There are several reasons we’re seeing higher yields, but rates are moving higher alongside a U.S. economy that has continued to outperform expectations, pushing recession expectations out further, and by the unwinding of rate cut expectations to be more in line with the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) “higher for longer” regime. And with the economic data continuing to show a more resilient economy than originally expected, we think Treasury yields are likely going to stay higher for longer as well. As such, we now project the 10-year Treasury yield will end the year between 4.25% and 4.75% (previously 3.25% and 3.75%).
After a difficult September for stocks, investors are surely ready to flip the calendar to October. That’s the month that kicks off the historically strong fourth quarter. Expecting this pattern to repeat this year is tricky given the overhang of a government shutdown, interest rates near 16-year highs, a market still trying to digest the Federal Reserve’s “higher for longer” message, and a consumer who is facing some stiff headwinds as excess savings are drawn down, student loan payments restart, and the effects of higher borrowing costs are increasingly felt. Amid that complicated backdrop, here we assess prospects for a fourth-quarter rally.
India has emerged as a compelling economic growth story and an increasingly attractive alternative to China within the emerging markets complex. A growing population with a robust and young workforce, significant infrastructure spending, and an ongoing digital transformation have been key catalysts to India’s outperformance over China. India has also benefited from the de-globalization trend as manufacturers move production away from China. While we may not go as far as officially calling India the new China, the economic and technical trends suggest the country may be set for a prolonged period of outperformance.
Recent data suggests economic conditions in Europe are deteriorating, removing a key element of LPL Research’s positive view of the attractively valued developed international equities asset class. Previous U.S. dollar weakness and strong earnings momentum, which were other key reasons why we became more interested in European investing earlier this year, have reversed and suggest looking elsewhere for investment opportunities. Another international market to consider is Japan, which is also attractively valued with better fundamentals than Europe, in our view.
The BRIC acronym, without the “S,” was introduced in 2001 by the Goldman Sachs chief economist who highlighted the prodigious growth and investment prospects of Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined. In 2009, Russia advanced the BRIC platform to create an informal bloc that could challenge the dominance of Western nations, particularly the United States. In 2010, South Africa joined and became the “S” in the BRICS lexicon. The original bloc, an informal economic alliance, comprises approximately 45% of the global supply chain for commodities, including industrial, precious, and agricultural products. In terms of contribution to global GDP, the BRICS constitute 31%, with expectations for a more expanded share as the new BRICS+ entrants are installed in 2024. The bloc has been characterized as the “commodity powerhouse of the world,” and that title will only strengthen with additional members.
Fixed income investors have had a rough time over the last few years. Normally a staid asset class, core bonds (as proxied by the Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index) have seen negative returns over the last two calendar years and could potentially see negative returns for a third straight year—something that has never happened in the history of the core bond index (since 1975). But, despite the rapid rise in interest rates (fall in bond prices), there’s no reason to believe that we are in the beginning of a sustained bear market. Just because yields fell for many years doesn’t mean that they have to keep rising. In fact, at current levels, after years of artificially suppressed levels, long-term yields are back within longer-term ranges. And with inflation trending in the right direction and the Federal Reserve (Fed) near (at?) the end of its rate hiking campaign, we think the big move in long-term rates has already happened and interest rates are finally back to normal.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) often uses the Jackson Hole Symposium to announce tweaks in policy. Other central bank leaders are also worth watching as investors try to perceive where rates will be in the coming months. In this piece, we discuss some of the opportunities and risks we see in the markets and the economy following the central banker confab. We close the piece with investment implications.
Volatility has returned right on cue as U.S. equity markets continue to pull back from overbought levels. The recent jump in interest rates has proven to be too much too fast for stocks to absorb, especially for the heavyweight and longer-duration technology sector. Deteriorating economic conditions in China and weak seasonal trends have been additional factors behind the selling pressure. However, don’t panic, pullbacks are completely normal within a bull market. With volatility comes opportunity, and as valuations reset, overbought conditions recede, and support is found, we believe a buying opportunity back into this bull market will present itself over the coming months.
It’s different this time. The four (or five) most dangerous words in investing. We’ll take the risk and use those words here as we break down the recent decision by credit rating agency Fitch to downgrade U.S. government debt to its second-highest rating, AA+ (note that several countries in Europe, including Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland enjoy AAA ratings, as do Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and Microsoft (MSFT)). We compare the potential market impact of this decision to what markets experienced in 2011 when S&P issued its U.S. debt downgrade.
Earnings season is mostly behind us with about 85% of S&P 500 companies having reported second quarter results. The high level results aren’t particularly impressive, but if we peel back the onion, the numbers are encouraging. Results and guidance probably haven’t been good enough for stocks to add to recent gains, but they have been good enough, in our view, to end the earnings recession and limit the magnitude of any potential pullback. Here we provide some takeaways from this earnings season.
The economy is doing better than expected, and the markets are responding accordingly. In this piece, we discuss some of the factors that cause us to think the Federal Reserve (Fed) hiked for the last time in this cycle as inflation is receding and the outlook for the consumer looks cloudy. We close the piece with investment implications.
The first half of the year probably didn’t go the way many fixed income investors had hoped, particularly after the historically awful year last year. It wasn’t a horrible start—more in line with recent years—but expectations were high this year, with many calling 2023 the year for fixed income. But the themes that negatively impacted fixed income investors last year have carried over into this year as well—namely inflation and the Federal Reserve (Fed). While many of us thought the Fed would likely be done raising rates at this point, given the still high (but falling) inflation levels, it looks like the Fed isn’t quite done just yet.
Earnings season is upon us as some banks and a small handful of other blue chip companies have already reported results for their quarters ending June 30. The results on the surface probably won’t offer much to write home about given consensus estimates imply a 7% year-over-year decline in S&P 500 earnings per share. However, the key question is always what’s priced in, which at least offers an opportunity for markets to react positively, though our best guess is we get the typical upside surprises and guidance reductions, giving this rally a convenient excuse to take a breather.
The long dormant capital markets have recently begun showing signs of interest from institutional investors and deal makers anxious to bring companies to market. While activity remains muted at best, expectations are focused on 2024, when there is a prevailing consensus that the Federal Reserve (Fed) will be finished with its rate hike campaign, and that economic conditions will be resilient enough to underpin a strong capital markets environment. Given the country's unique characteristics in nurturing innovation and technological leadership, the role of capital markets is crucial in maintaining hegemony. That Apple's market capitalization at the close of the second quarter crossed over $3 trillion, exemplifies the country's dominance and the role of innovative experimentation.
We know it’s old news at this point, but on June 8, 2023, the S&P 500 entered a new bull market. After such a strong rally off the October lows, this young bull probably needs a breather. A look at the charts suggests this market may be due for a pause. Bull markets are not linear. However, the impending end of the Federal Reserve (Fed) rate-hiking campaign, and the economy’s and corporate America’s resilience, help make the bull case that steers LPL Research toward a neutral, rather than negative, equities view from a tactical asset allocation perspective.
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.
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.