Looking forward, we believe the U.S. economy will extend its steady expansion through this year and beyond. The global economy is positioned for moderate growth, with a pickup in the second half of the year. The relatively weaker earnings season currently underway reflects a high bar in terms of year-over-year earnings growth...
Following a painful and broad fourth quarter selloff, risk assets rebounded in the first weeks of 2019 as optimism has grown about Fed accommodation, earnings, China stimulus and an eventual trade dispute resolution. However, investors should be prepared for choppy markets, especially through the first half of the year.
Whether or not one believes in the “October Effect,” investors can’t be blamed for giving it credence this year. Worries about trade, the Federal Reserve and global growth roiled the markets as the fourth quarter began. Even U.S. equities—which had roared through the third quarter as investors focused on positive economic data—succumbed to the selloff that gripped risk assets.
Fears of an imminent U.S. recession are premature; tax policy and a more business-friendly regulatory environment provide long-term catalysts for the economy. Although conditions outside the U.S. are less encouraging, positive global growth should continue, albeit with growing divergence among countries.
Market signals have been decidedly mixed thus far into the year. By this time a year ago, the S&P 500 had already returned 5%. Today, in early May, the S&P 500 is down fractionally, while volatility and bond yields are up.
Conditions we are seeing today are more normal than recent years, when investors grew accustomed to record low interest rates, a near-absence of inflation and the subdued volatility. We expect coordinated global economic expansion will continue through 2018, although improvements in some economic fundamentals may have peaked.
Our current positioning reflects the following beliefs: Many of 2017’s positive economic tailwinds should continue in 2018, setting the stage for additional upside in stocks and other equity-sensitive assets, including convertible securities and high yield bonds.
Our Summer Outlook comes a bit late this year as we were traveling in the weeks after July 4th. Our itinerary included the San Francisco area, the Washington DC area, Castle Rock and Colorado Springs.
We wrap-up our three-part series on Behavioral Finance in this issue of the Outlook with a discussion of Emotional Biases, which often adversely affect investors’ outcomes. This discussion and the tie-in with Sir Isaac Newton is found in the second half of this quarter’s Outlook.
Markets are once again facing a proverbial wall of worry, built of political uncertainty, populism, and fiscal and monetary policy concerns. Although the market’s ascent is not likely to be straight up (it never is), we are cautiously optimistic that the wall can be surmounted.