Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

A hallmark of the Great Recession was a decline in the prime age labor force participation rate from 83% to 80%, see the chart below. While a three-point drop might not seem significant, it reflects millions of Americans walking away from the economy, giving up on ever finding gainful employment. The economic and societal consequences of that dynamic were staggering.

fredgraph (1)

Fortunately, over the past few years our long-lived economic expansion managed to produce both a level of demand for labor and gains in wages – north of 3% – significant enough to pull millions of Americans back into the workforce. Said differently, millions of Americans have been welcomed back to the economy, which is reflected in a rebound in the labor force participation rate to north of 82%. And while that is great and welcomed news for those Americans and their families, a tightening labor market and rising wages also pose risks to the markets and economy. To better appreciate this seemingly counterintuitive point, we have to remember that significant slack in the labor market post the Great Recession helped keep a lid on both interest rates and inflation, which was bullish for risk assets and supportive of economic growth. The risk now is that as the job market continues to tighten and wages continue to rise, the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise interest rates further, and in doing so will make the cost of capital too expensive, choking off corporate and consumer spending, ultimately putting the economy into a recession and stocks into a bear market.

While we do think inflationary and interest rate risk is underappreciated by many market participants, we also continue to see enough capacity in the labor market that wage inflation and broader inflation shouldn’t become a real risk to the economy and markets until sometime in 2020, at the earliest.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Chart source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

It’s a big birthday for the bull market, and we see a successful quest for greater gains

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

Happy birthday bull market! The longest running bull market in United States history hit a major milestone last week, turning 10 on March 9. It sure has been an interesting and exciting 10 years.

US equities, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, found their footing on March 9, 2009 while the US and the world were in the throes of the Great Recession. Since then, the S&P 500 has produced a total return of approximately 396% and an average annualized return of approximately 17.3%. But, the ride higher hasn’t always been smooth. Consider, since March 2009 we’ve contended with four corrections of 13%+, US government shutdowns, a US debt downgrade, the European debt crisis, Brexit, the Arab Spring, the risk of an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, and a budding trade war with China. Yet even with all of that, the S&P 500 sits at 2743 – up from its open price of 675 on March 9, 2009 – and the US economy is growing 2.5%. Proof positive the economy tends to expand, and risk assets tend to increase in value. And, to that point, we think the market will remain on a successful quest for greater gains. After all, US equities are reasonably valued, earnings are growing, inflation is contained, monetary policy isn’t restrictive, and investment sentiment isn’t ebullient. We remain optimistic on US stocks into 2019, though we do expect a volatile trading environment.

WW March 11 2019 The Bull's Birthday (002)

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Chart Source: FactSet

Volatility vanishes (again), but it should be back (again)

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

More than once last summer, we were asked our thoughts on the early 2018 spike, and subsequent drop, in market volatility as measured by the VIX, Wall Street’s “Fear Index.” We noted we weren’t surprised by the return of volatility, an accelerating economy and rising rates were expected catalysts, nor its departure. We also believed volatility would be back, and back it was in the fourth quarter, before it vanished again. Given the rather volatile behavior of late – well, market volatility – we thought now was a good time to touch base on the topic.

To back up, in early 2018 the VIX spiked to 40 and the S&P 500 Index sold off sharply on a January jobs report that showed greater than expected wage inflation. While the economy and the market welcome modest inflation, an ever-present concern is accelerating inflation that forces the Federal Reserve (Fed) to raise interest rates aggressively, ultimately pushing the economy into a recession and stocks into a bear market. When there was little inflationary follow through post the January jobs report, and economic and earning reports continued to top expectations, volatility declined sharply and the market rallied strongly. That is until Q4 as investors grew concerned the Fed would raise rates and shrink its balance sheet more than economic and market conditions merited, and the US and China would enter a full blow trade war, the VIX spiked and stocks corrected. Then, as the Fed walked back its hawkish talk on rates and its balance sheet, and we received more good news than bad on the state of US/China trade negotiations and economic data came in largely as expected, the VIX peaked and the S&P 500 bottomed in late December. Since late December, the VIX has collapsed 23 points and the S&P 500 has rallied 19% – see the below chart for a look at volatility through 2018 and into 2019.

CBOE Volatility Index

While we welcome the move higher in the S&P 500 and the decline in the VIX, we doubt we have seen the last of market volatility, with potential catalysts including better than expected economic growth and US/China trade relations. However, a bumpy market isn’t a bear market, and as long as fiscal policy and monetary policy remain accommodative, and inflation contained, US equities should be biased higher.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Chart source: FactSet

 

Bell bottoms we can dig. But a V bottom we can REALLY dig.

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

We can’t comprehend why the ‘70s remain such a maligned decade. Sure, there was Watergate and Stagflation and a host of other national ills, but there was also disco, Welcome Back Kotter, and bell bottoms. And as we wait on the overdue return of bell bottoms to a position of fashion prominence, our attention turns to a more important, and potentially more timely, bottom – a V bottom in the stock market.

As discussed in prior blog posts, one prism through which investors can view both the market and capital allocation is technical analysis, which said simply, is the effort to ascertain future return patterns for risk assets based on prior return patterns. As such, technicians pay close attention to factors such as price momentum and moving averages, including whether the security or index of interest is trading above or below said average, which could be the point of price support or price resistance. Yes, technical analysis can be confusing!

So, when the S&P 500 Index sold off nearly 20% last year (see black line in chart below), many technicians predicted grim days ahead for the market as the benchmark for US equities was both trading meaningfully below its 50 day and 200 day moving averages (see green and red lines, respectively, below) and markets rarely experience a V bottom – a sharp correction followed by a short rebound.

V bottom

In technical parlance, the market needed time to repair the damage done to it during the late 2018 pullback. Well, with the S&P 500 rallying 19% off its December low, we may just be in the midst of that often discussed, but seldom seen V bottom. And, while Brinker Capital does consider short-term technical factors such as momentum when making our asset allocation decisions, see the Brinker Capital Market Barometer below, we believe it is economic fundamentals, interest rates, and earnings that drive equities over the longer term, and on those fronts, we still see more good news than bad.

Barometer.2.26.19
The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Chart source: FactSet

It was freezing in January, but the market was hot

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

To say it was cold in January might qualify as the understatement of the year, akin to something like the Patriots are a pretty good football team – full disclosure, I am NOT a Patriots fan. Indeed, January saw us all introduced to the dreaded Polar Vortex and minus 50-degree days in the upper Midwest.

Polar Vortex

But while we were all freezing, the US stock market was on fire with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 Index, and the NASDAQ – and just about every other broad-based US equity benchmark – up meaningfully in January. In fact, the S&P 500’s 7.9% return in January marked the Index’s best January since 1987. A time in our recent past when the Patriots were definitely not dominating the NFL.

S&P 500 January
So, what’s behind the market’s great start to the year? And, what might it portend for the rest of 2019?

We don’t think it was one thing that put the market on firmer footing, but several factors including a more dovish Federal Reserve, a more constructive tone to US/China trade negotiations, a better than expected US jobs’ report for December, and a Q4 earnings season that has contained more good news than bad. Also, during the December market sell-off, investor sentiment went very negative and US equity-facing strategies experienced significant outflows, so the stage was set for a meaningful bounce if we got positive fundamental news, which we did. We continue to believe if we solve for monetary policy risk and trade policy risk, the US economy and market should both do well this year.

Which brings us to one of the great Wall Street adages, “As January goes, so goes the year,” which speaks to the idea that how the market does in January has often been indicative of how it does for the full year. In fact, since 1950 the full year performance of the S&P 500 has mirrored its January performance (for good or for ill) 58 out of 68 years or 85% of the time. Now, no one knows why this pattern persists, and it hasn’t always held – last year is an example of that- but let’s hope that for 2019, as January goes, so goes the year.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Chart source: FactSet

The Fed goes from stock market bad cop to stock market good cop

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

What a difference a month – give or take – can make. In December, the Federal Reserve (Fed) raised the Fed Funds rate 25 basis points (think of a basis point as cents are to a dollar) to a range of 2.25% to 2.50% and the market promptly sold off a lot, see the Financial Times image below.

Good Cop Bad Cop tweet

While that rate increase was expected, it was the post-December Fed meeting press conference by Chairman Jay Powell that spooked investors as Powell indicated that the Fed was on a pre-determined path concerning interest rate increases and the ongoing shrinking of its balance sheet, regardless of market volatility and economic uncertainty. As an aside, the Fed’s balance sheet grew significantly during the Great Recession due to an undertaking known as Quantitative Easing/”QE,” where the Fed purchased trillions of dollars of bonds in the hope of stimulating the economy. Now that the economy is on much firmer footing, the Fed has been shrinking its balance sheet, an undertaking known as Quantitative Tightening/”QT.” Most economists believe QT will prove restrictive to economic growth.

Well, the Fed met again last week and is now singing a different tune. Specifically, the Fed is promising a much more patient, data dependent approach to both future interest rate increases and balance sheet management. The stock market clearly welcomed this gradualist approach, moving sharply higher on January 30, per the CNBC headline.

Good Cop Bad Cop Article titleWe have seen monetary policy risk – the danger of the Fed raising rates too far, too fast and sparks a recession – as one of two meaningful risks to the economy and markets this year. We now seem to be solving for monetary policy risk, and we do believe the Fed’s more patient, deliberate approach is appropriate. If we can solve for the other meaningful risk to the economy and markets, mainly US/China trade, we should see a boost to both consumer and corporate sentiment and spending. We do expect good news on the trade front soon, and we remain cautiously optimistic on the US economy and US equities into 2019.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

 

Vlog – Quarter End Q&A: 4Q2018

Brinker Capital Global Investment Strategist, Tim Holland, CFA, asks and answers those questions we think will be top of mind for clients as they open their quarterly statements and think back on the quarter that was:

  1. Why did US equities correct so sharply in 4Q2018?
  2. Why was the market so volatile in 4Q2018?
  3. Is the bull market over?

 -Holland_2_500px

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

2018 wasn’t great, but don’t sing the blues – the world keeps getting better

Holland_F_150x150Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

Hard to believe, but the calendar has turned on another year. And for those of a certain age, it’s even harder to believe we are living in 2019; after all The Blues Brothers was released in 1980!

On top of the calendar shock, we have to contend with the fact that 2018 didn’t seem all that great. From an investing perspective, most asset classes were in the red, while the S&P 500 Index (S&P 500) was exceptionally volatile toward year-end and produced its worst total return in 10 years. And, from a political, societal, and cultural perspective, the US seemed more divided than ever.

As always, a bit of perspective is important. The S&P 500 was off less than 5% in 2018 on a total return basis and remains 16.5% higher over the past two years. Meanwhile, the US economy grew 3%+ in 2018 while our unemployment rate sits at just 3.9% and most measures of national wealth and health are at a record high. So, while we must periodically contend with market drawdowns and bouts of economic weakness, it’s important to remember that over time, most economies grow, risk assets increase in value, and the standard of living for all of us on this big blue marble improves.

To put that final point in sharper relief we have two interesting charts from Our World in Data. The first chart speaks to the dramatic increase in life expectancy since 1900, with Africa seeing a particularly significant jump from 50 years in 2000 to 60 years in 2017.

life-expectancy-globally-since-1770

While the second chart, below, speaks to an almost unfathomable drop in global poverty, with less than 10% of the world’s population living in absolute poverty today compared with 44% in 1981.

world-poverty-since-1820

The new year will likely present its share of challenges and setbacks, yet, if history is any guide, we will see economic growth and rising asset values and wealth created globally.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Top blog posts of 2018

It’s time to close out the year with our top five blog posts from 2018. From our perspectives on market volatility to weekly podcasts and even a recap of the mid-term elections, these are the best of 2018. Enjoy!

Crosby_2015-150x150Dr. Daniel CrosbyExecutive Director, The Center for Outcomes & Founder, Nocturne Capital

The do’s and don’ts of market volatility

You will never regret your vacation

A tomorrow more certain than today

Holland_F_150x150

Tim Holland, CFA, Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

Investment Insights Podcast: What’s roiling the market, and where do we go from here?

 

Raupp_F_150x150

Jeff Raupp, CFA, Chief Investment Officer

A quick take on the mid-term elections

 

 

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Thoughts on the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting and interest rates

Holland_F_150x150

 

Tim Holland, CFA,
Senior Vice President, Global Investment Strategist

 

  • As expected, the FOMC raised the Fed Funds rate to a target range of 2.25% to 2.50%.
  • The question for many is given markets had effectively “priced in” or were largely expecting the rate increase, why did equities sell off sharply and bonds rally strongly on yesterday’s Fed Funds news?
  • We – and many market participants – expected the Fed’s post meeting statement and Chairman’s Powell press conference to strike a much more dovish tone over the outlook for interest rate policy into 2019.  We think the Fed fell short on both fronts.
  • The Fed now expects two (instead of three) rate increases next year and also lowered their estimate for GDP growth in 2019 and their estimate of the long-term neutral interest rate (the Fed Funds rate that neither hinders nor helps economic growth).
  • However, we believe the Fed did not adequately recognize the impact recent market volatility, slowing economic growth outside the US and the ongoing US / China trade dust up is likely having on corporate sentiment and spending, and how a weakening of both could ultimately cause the US economy to stall and potentially slide into recession.
  • We see two primary risks for the markets and the economy into the new year – 1) a monetary policy mistake (the Fed going too far, too fast) and 2) a trade policy mistake (the US / China trade dynamic worsening).  After today, we have not yet “solved for” monetary policy risk, which means investors will likely be looking even more intently for good news on the trade front.  We are optimistic that it is coming. In the meantime, the risk posed by monetary policy to the economy and markets has increased.
  • Finally, the next Fed meeting isn’t until January.  We expect investor disappointment over today’s FOMC statement and Chairman Powell’s press conference to be additive to already heightened market volatility.  However, a bear market is not our base case.  There is still time for monetary policy and trade policy to move in a more supportive direction for both the economy and risk assets as we enter 2019. Meanwhile, indicators of an imminent bear market or recession aren’t present, and we can continue to cite several positive economic and market data points, including…
    • The yield curve has not inverted
    • Inflation remains contained (including wage inflation)
    • Corporations and consumers have ample access to credit
    • US fiscal policy remains accommodative
    • US corporate earnings should grow 20%+ this year and by mid to high single digits next year
    • Market valuation is attractive with the S&P 500 trading at about 15x forward earnings

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.