Compared to post-war norms, the contemporary economic expansion has been odd in many ways. Persistent sub-par economic growth, a lack of normal lending and borrowing activities, declining labor-force participation rates, a stubbornly high underemployment rate, an inflation no-show, negative yields, and bizarre economic policies (e.g., TARP, cash for clunkers, stress tests, and quantitative easing).
Better economic reports in the U.S. and about the globe are slowly reducing imminent recession worries. For example, today’s favorable reports on U.S. retail sales, unemployment claims, and the Leading Economic Indicator reinforces the likelihood the expansion perseveres.Read more
The Boom/Bust Indicator, a weekly ratio of industrial-commodity prices to initial unemployment claims, has had a near-vertical rebound to old highs in the last several weeks. This index usually peaks out many months in advance of a business cycle peak (although not in 2007, when it provided no warning of the pain to come).Read more
U.S. profit margins have widened significantly in the last couple decades. Total U.S. corporate profits as a percent of GDP averaged only about 8% in the 20 years leading up to 2000, but has since risen by almost 30%, averaging 10.5%. Similarly, the overall profit margin among S&P 500 companies has increased steadily in this recovery to record highs!Read more
Many believe the contemporary bull market has been nothing more than a Sugar High produced by massive and unprecedented monetary easing. In the last couple years, however, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates and allowed its balance sheet to run off, weaning the markets from its sugar.
The Intrinsic Value category remains a drag on the MTI but is well below cycle extremes seen in January 2018 and again in September. The Momentum category, however, continues to nudge the MTI higher for the third consecutive week.Read more
A legitimate concern facing investors is how quickly, and how much, the stock market has recovered while economic and earnings fundamentals have deteriorated. Without improving fundamentals, this rally appears overdone—based on hope—and increasingly suspect.Read more
The U.S. yield curve has inverted (at least the 10-year Treasury yield to either the 3-month T-bill or the Fed funds rate) and captured the full attention of investors. Rightly so, since a yield curve inversion has historically been an excellent indicator of a pending recession. However, a condition that has always existed in the post-war era when the yield curve has inverted is absent today.Read more
Stocks do best in times of general price stability. In the post-war era, the stock market has provided investors with significantly higher returns and lower risk whenever the annual rate of consumer price inflation has been between 1% and 3%. However, when outside this “Sweet Spot”—when the porridge is either too hot or too cold—investment results are far less hospitable.Read more
Within the Economic work, the big development was a bullish flip in our Dow Bond Oscillator (DBO), which crossed above the zero threshold by the thinnest of margins. Subjectively, however, we are troubled that government yields across the maturity spectrum have been holding near recent lows in the face of equities’ powerful rally.Read more
U.S. economic growth has recently slowed and may weaken further in coming months. Moreover, inflation still lingers—commodity prices have bounced, both core consumer and producer price inflation remain near recent highs, and wage inflation is steadily rising. Investors face two big questions.Read more
Based on standard technical retracements, the best-case S&P 500 bounce “should” have been exhausted in the range of 2,700-2,750. Less than three months since a 19.8% close-to-close decline, the market has rallied to within reach of a new high, a move which would commemorate the bull market’s 10th anniversary.Read more
Valuations seem to ignore indications that an earnings recession has begun, let alone the possibility that S&P 500 GAAP Earnings Per Share for 2018 could represent not just a short-term peak, but perhaps a cyclical peak as well.Read more
The stock and commodity markets have been messaging confidence in the future of this economic recovery since the December stock swoon. The S&P 500 has surged by about 10% so far this year on strong breadth led by economically-sensitive small cap stocks and cyclical sectors, while traditional defensive equities have lagged.Read more