Confusion or Conviction?
Stocks have climbed higher but we don’t recommend attempting to trade around short-term moves; rather, investors should remain disciplined and diversified, and use any volatility to rebalance as needed. The consumer continues to drive the economy, while weakness is mostly still concentrated in manufacturing. Yet, the potential for volatility remains, as a comprehensive trade deal is not in sight, tariffs on consumer goods are still set to kick in on December 15, and monetary policy’s ability to spur growth and inflation may be waning. We continue to favor large caps over small caps and are neutral to U.S. and global equities.
Mixed Picture Getting More Concerning
Stock markets have become more volatile as trade tensions have worsened and weakness in the manufacturing side of the economy has caused increasing concern. Swift resolutions to these issues seem unlikely and a dovish Fed may not be the elixir to what ails the economy. With the likelihood of persistent volatility in the coming months, we recommend investors stay broadly diversified and focused on the long term. From a tactical perspective, we remain neutral to U.S. and global equities; with a bias within the U.S. market toward large cap stocks relative to small caps. Investors should not attempt to trade around short-term moves in the equity markets; but instead remain disciplined, diversified, and use rebalancing as necessary.
Schwab Market Perspective: Canary in the Coal Mine…or Simply Clouds on the Horizon?
The manufacturing side of the economy is showing increasing signs of weakness, but the consumer still looks healthy—which side wins and what should investors do?
Running in Place
The last 18 months have been anything but boring, but if you had ignored the market over that time and only recently started paying attention, you may think that little has happened. The running in place analogy is probably better replaced by hiking a mountain.
Dangers Rising…or Potential Opportunity Emerging?
We won’t speculate about the final outcome of ongoing trade tensions, but we are growing more concerned that the hit to business confidence will increasingly filter through to consumer confidence and hard economic data. A more positive outcome could elongate the runway between now and the next recession. In the meantime, we continue to recommend that investors maintain a relatively neutral stance consistent with long-term asset allocations, using inevitable gyrations to rebalance as needed.
Trade Tension Takes Turn at Top
Trade tensions will likely continue to contribute to increase volatility and the longer it drags on, the bigger hit to economic growth, consumer/business confidence and the stock market. Our neutral stance around U.S. equities suggests keeping allocations no higher than longer-term strategic targets, with a large cap bias; using volatility for rebalancing opportunities. For those investors who don’t have broad international exposure, now may be a good time to consider areas that may feel less impact from the U.S.-China trade dispute.
Sell in May?
Some volatility has returned and we believe a pullback in U.S. equities is a healthy development in terms of both investor sentiment and valuations. But some cracks in economic growth may be emerging, and inflation could start to rise given the tight labor market, so investors should remain disciplined with an eye toward rebalancing in the face of volatility. Trade remains a weight on the confidence of business leaders, and if the dispute with China continues to escalate, stocks and the economy would likely suffer further.
Concerning Lack of Concern?
U.S. equity market gains since the Christmas Eve 2018 low have been impressive, and we don’t think a recession is in the near-term future—but sentiment is extended and investors should be cautious about chasing gains at this point; either in the United States or emerging markets. A near-term pullback would likely be healthy and could afford a better opportunity for investors who are looking to add equity exposure. On the other hand, those investors whose portfolios are now holding an outsized equity allocation could use the latest strength to rebalance back toward targets.
Stocks vs. Bonds…Who’s Right?
Stocks and bonds appear to be at loggerheads with regard to the economic outlook, and we believe both sides have merit. Unless earnings comfortably surprise on the upside, with healthy corporate guidance, there is a risk that stocks will give back some of their recent gains. Investor optimism remains elevated, economic data has been mixed, earnings expectations are in the red for the first quarter, and persistent trade concerns all remain potential headwinds. Stay patient and diversified and stay focused on longer-term goals.
Brief dips in U.S. stocks have done little to dent investor confidence; and with an inverted yield curve, trade uncertainty continuing, economic growth slowing and earnings possibly declining in the first quarter, we believe a pullback is becoming increasingly likely. Investors should remain disciplined and diversified and continue to prepare for the inevitable end of this cycle—without needing to pinpoint the timing precisely.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Markets got a healthy reprieve from last year’s fourth quarter carnage as a few headwinds became tailwinds; including a more dovish Fed, some hopes on trade, strong fourth quarter earnings growth, and an end to the government shutdown.
Mixed Market Messages
It’s difficult to get good footing in a market that has so many mixed messages bombarding it. We recommend patience, discipline and diversification as expect continued bouts of volatility. The U.S. government shutdown is over, for now…and the Fed is in pause mode, for now…but confidence in government is low and monetary policy is likely to persist. In the near term we believe the most important needle-mover will be the result of trade negotiations between the United States and China. The problem is the inability to gauge the likely outcome.
Keeping Calm in the Chaos
It can be difficult to remain calm in the midst of stock market action like we’ve seen over the past couple of months—but discipline is necessary during more tumultuous times. Although we do see rising risk of a recession, we don’t see a repeat of 2008 in the cards. Absent a recession—even if we enter a “formal” bear market (at its recent closing low, the S&P was down 19.8%)—additional weakness may be somewhat limited. Recession-related bears tend to be longer and grizzlier than non-recession bears. Until we get more clarity on the health of the economy, we continue to suggest investors remain defensive.
Gathering Storm or Passing Clouds?
The end of 2018 will likely morph into more of the same in 2019—higher volatility within a relatively wide equity range, including ongoing corrective phases or even a continuation of what has been a “stealth” bear market this year (rolling bear markets across and within asset classes).
The Seasons of Investing
October has again been a scary month for investors, even though past performance does not indicate future results, history shows that stocks tend to face a seasonal tailwind heading into the end of the year. There will likely be more volatility but at least overly optimistic investor sentiment has eased, U.S. economic growth remains solid, and the midterm elections will soon be over, all of which could trigger at least a relief rally off the recent lows. But gains both here and globally are likely limited by myriad late-cycle pressures. Remain disciplined, consider diversification and rebalancing, and consider establishing a more tactically defensive positioning.
Always Be Prepared
Stock market action recently illustrates again why it’s important for investors to remain disciplined and diversified in a way consistent with their risk tolerances and investment goals. The bull market may have more legs, and upside surprises are possible, but risks have been rising over the past year or so, leading us to be more cautious and recommend that investors limit the risk in their portfolios.
Schwab Market Perspective: Mixed Messages Sending a Clear Signal?
We believe there are three positives, three negatives and three wildcards for stock market performance in the fourth quarter. We expect the balance of these factors to result in further gains for global stocks.
Stocks Laboring to Move Higher
The U.S. equity bull market is intact, but recent action has not been fully-convincing, and we believe risks are rising, especially if we begin to see the same kind of frothy investor sentiment which accompanied the January highs. We continue to push the merits of tried-and-true disciplines like asset class diversification and rebalancing—the latter which forces investors to do what we all know we’re supposed to do, which is buy (or add) low and sell (or trim) high. As the old adage goes, “bulls make money, bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered.”
Risks Bubbling Below the Surface?
The recent pickup in market volatility, some choppy action by U.S. stocks, and notable weakness in emerging market stocks have reinforced our belief that we may be at or near an inflection point in economic fundamentals and/or market character. We never suggest trying to time the market in the short-term, but do believe discipline around strategies like rebalancing and diversification is essential at this stage in the cycle. Risks are rising.
What Happened to the Summer Doldrums?
Rising trade tensions are making us a bit more cautious, although the economic and earnings fundamentals remain healthy, which could cushion some of the blow from a trade war. Stay invested, but don’t reach too far out the risk spectrum, be prepared for bouts of volatility, and remain patient, diversified and disciplined.
Just Noise or Something More?
The noise surrounding the stock market is getting louder, resulting in more violent moves in equities. Much of the sound and fury is best ignored by long-term investors, but there are growing risks to the bull market in the form of rising trade disputes and the possibility of a central bank mistake. For now, we believe the secular bull market is intact, but are growing more concerned and urge investors to remain disciplined and diversified.
Searching for Balance
Despite a recent modest pullback in U.S. stocks, and a sharper one in international markets—reflecting both trade worries and the recent strength in the U.S. dollar—we don’t believe it marks the beginning of a more severe correction. Risks of a prolonged trade dispute have risen but it’s too soon to declare war; while the possibility of a positive resolution that would likely be a tailwind for equities. For now, a healthy U.S. economy is an offset to those growing worries. Threats to the current bull market have risen, and they include this being a midterm election year—which have historically been accompanied by larger-than-average maximum drawdowns. We continue to espouse discipline and diversification; but for now it’s in the context of an ongoing bull market.
Rough Waters for Summer?
U.S. stocks have moved toward the top of the recent range but volatility is likely to rise at times during the summer as investors deal with various global geopolitical headwinds. Further strength in the U.S. dollar would likely exacerbate the volatility—particularly within emerging markets. But limited signs of pending recession risk—at least in the United States—should keep the path of least resistance for the stock market higher. That said, patience and discipline are more important than ever in the face of sometimes ominous-sounding headlines.
Navigating the New Environment
A more challenging investing environment requires a more disciplined and patient investing approach. The next few months could continue to be choppy, but a U.S. and/or global recession still appears a ways off, which should keep the bull market—here and globally—intact.
It’s Windy Out There
Headwinds for stocks have risen but tailwinds also exist, resulting in a more tumultuous environment. We believe there are enough positives to keep the bull market going but gains are likely to be slower in coming, volatility is likely to remain elevated and discipline to a long-term plan will be crucial. Avoid overreacting to the barrage of news and focus on the items that could change the actual fundamentals of the economy.
Melt-up! Now What?
U.S. stocks may have entered a melt-up phase but for now it is relatively well supported by earnings growth; and although sentiment is extended, behavioral measures indicate still some skepticism. However, given elevated valuations, and the aforementioned overly optimistic sentiment, volatility is likely to increase and more frequent pullbacks are possible. The bull should continue to run, but likely with a bit more drama, so it’s important to stay diversified and disciplined around your long-term asset allocation.
The Big Picture Heading into 2018
Investors are cautioned not to extrapolate 2017’s performance into 2018, and we expect more frequent bouts of volatility. The global bull market is intact, supported by solid global growth and strong corporate earnings. But with the expectations bar now set quite high heading into next year, pullbacks are increasingly possible. Discipline is important looking ahead.
Earnings season, both in the United States and globally, has been solid, while economic growth has accelerated across much of the globe—all supportive of an ongoing global bull market. Elevated optimism and complacency could lead to pullbacks, but we believe it would be in the context of an ongoing bull market.
Stocks Aren’t so Spooky
Global and domestic economic growth, along with a solid earnings picture and a potential tax reform tailwind, suggest investors should remain at their target equity allocations. Pullbacks are possible but a recession doesn’t appear to be in the cards in the near term, which historically has meant the risk of a pullback turning into a bear market is low.
Schwab Market Perspective: Preparing for the Latter Innings
U.S. stock indices have continued to push to record highs, with little apparently able to throw them off course. The grind higher has pushed through natural disasters, the Las Vegas tragedy, domestic political failures, international political tensions, and missile tests and threats from North Korea—an ample “wall of worry” for stocks to climb.
Fourth Quarter Fun…or Folly?
The fourth quarter is typically an active one and we don’t think this one will be any different. Solid economic growth and good corporate earnings should allow the bull market to continue but we may experience bouts of volatility and/or pullbacks. Stay diversified and disciplined around your long-term objectives.
A Cat and Mouse Fall
September has historically been a tough time for stocks and there are multiple potential pitfalls to look out for this year as well. But economic and earnings growth—both domestic and global—continues to look healthy and we expect the bull market to continue. Remain globally diversified, but also disciplined around target asset allocations; and use any volatility for rebalancing purposes.
A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Action is about to heat up as summer comes to an end but investors should remain cool. Geopolitical threats, domestic politics, and Federal Reserve actions all have the potential to add to volatility and heightens the risk of a pullback or correction. But healthy economic growth and strong corporate earnings lead us to believe that the bull market has legs.
The latest bout of volatility illustrates why investors should stay focused on the longer-term. Risks for a more substantial pullback in the near-term still exist, as valuations remain elevated; but we believe solid U.S. and global economic growth, strong earnings, low inflation and still-ample global liquidity should allow the bull market to continue.
Schwab Market Perspective: Things are Looking Good … But are They Too Good?
U.S. equity indexes continue to post record highs and the proverbial "wall of worry" appears to be losing bricks. The high expectations for earnings season have largely been bested, the U.S. economy continues to trend in a "Goldilocks" zone—not too hot, nor too cold...
Schwab Market Perspective: Are Danger Signs Rising…or Will the Bull Run Continue?
Are risks growing or will the bull market continue? We believe the answer to both is yes. Political bumbling, monetary policy shifts, and geopolitical tensions have all escalated, but the bull continues to power ahead, largely unscathed by the tumult that surrounds it.
Smooth Sailing for Stocks?
The environment for U.S. and global stocks continues to be in decent shape, but some risks are elevated and the possibility of a pullback exists. A notable potential driver of bouts of volatility could be U.S. and global central bank policy as they sail toward monetary policy normalization.