January 11, 2022
Stocks continued the big bounce today into technical support.
Let’s take an updated look at the S&P 500 chart …
So, we had a 5.5% decline in this benchmark index to start the year, and now we have a sharp bounce of nearly 3% from this big technical trendline, which comes in from the election day lows of November 2020 (an important marker).
We heard from Jay Powell today, in his renomination hearings before the Senate. He did nothing to change the expectations on the Fed’s guidance on the rate path. Whether it be three or four hikes this year, we’ve just finished a year with around 10% nominal growth and over 5% inflation.
The coming year may be more of the same, and yet we have a market and Fed posturing and speculating over how close to 1% the Fed Funds rate might be by year end. That dynamic only adds fuel to the inflation and growth fire.
On that note, we’ve been watching three key spots that should be on the move with this policy outlook: bonds (down), gold (up) and the dollar (down).
Gold was up 1.25% today, making another run at this 1830-50 level. If that level gives way, the move in gold should accelerate. As you can see in the chart, we would get a breakout from this big corrective trend that comes down from the August 2020 all-time highs.
On a related note (dollar down, commodities up), the dollar looks vulnerable to a breakdown technically …
We kick off fourth quarter earnings this week. We’ll hear from the big banks on Friday: JP Morgan, Citi and Wells Fargo.
Bank of America and Goldman Sachs earnings will come early next week.
Last year, across the broad market, the table was set for positive earnings surprises, against a backdrop of deliberately dialed down expectations. And those low expectations were against a low base of 2020, pandemic/lockdown numbers.
With that, we’ve had positive earnings surprises throughout the first three quarters of 2021. The expectation is for 21% earnings growth for Q4, which would give us four consecutive quarters of 20%+ earnings growth and 40% earnings growth on the year.
That said, of the nearly 100 S&P 500 companies that have issued guidance for Q4, 60% are negative. That’s straight from the corporate America playbook: Using the cover of the Omicron news from late November to lower expectations, to position themselves to manufacture positive earning surprises OR withhold some earnings power for next quarter.
So, in addition to the changing interest rate cycle, could the slide in stocks to open the year have something to do with weaker Q4 earnings? Maybe.
On that note, let’s take a look at the big technical support hit today …
In the chart above, the S&P 500 hit this big trendline that comes in from election day. This rise in stocks, of course, has everything to do with an agenda that entailed even more massive fiscal spending programs — AND a central bank that remained in an ultra-easy stance.
Indeed, we’ve since had another $1.9 trillion spend passed in late January of last year, plus a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package later in 2021.
Now we have a Fed that has flipped the script, and the additional bazooka agenda-driven fiscal package has been blocked — and we get a test of this big trendline.
The good news: The line held today, and stocks bounced aggressively (about 100 S&P points) into the close.
As you can see in the chart below, we have a similar line in the Nasdaq, dating back to the election. This breached but closed back above the line today.
With the above in mind, we should expect the banks to continue putting up big numbers to kick off the earnings season later this week. That will be fuel for stocks.
Remember, the banks set aside a war chest of loan loss reserves early in the pandemic, and they have been moving those reserves to the bottom line since, at their discretion. As an example, both Citi and JP Morgan have another $5 billion to release, to bring their loan loss reserves back in line with pre-pandemic levels. That’s $5 billion (each) that will be turned into earnings.
November 6, 5:00 pm EST
In my note yesterday, we talked about the probable outcomes for the elections.
Whether we see the Republican’s retain control of the house, or lose it, both scenarios should be a greenlight for stocks.
Why? Because the cloud of uncertainty will be lifted. Even if we were to have gridlock in Washington, from here forward, the economy has strong momentum already, and the benefits of fiscal stimulus and deregulation are still working through the system.
Now, given today’s midterm elections are feeling a bit like the Presidential election of 2016 (as a referendum on Trump, this time), I want to revisit my note from election day on November 8, 2016.
As I said at that time, central banks had been responsible for the global economic recovery of the prior nine years, and for creating and maintaining relative economic stability. And creating the incentives to push money into the stock market (i.e. push stocks higher) played a big role in the coordinated strategies of the world’s biggest central banks. With that, I said “neither the economic recovery, nor the stock market recovery can be credited much to politicians. In this environment, in the long run, the value of the new President for stocks will prove out only if there’s structural change. And structural change can only come when the economy is strong enough to withstand the pain. And getting the economy to that point will likely only come from some big and successfully executed fiscal stimulus.”
It turns out, Trump has indeed executed on fiscal stimulus. And he’s gone aggressively after structural change too (perhaps too early, and with some success, but at a price he may pay for politically). Still, he’s been able to execute ONLY because he’s had an aligned Congress.
Importantly, the economic policies out of Washington have allowed the Fed to bow-out of the game of providing life support to an economy that was nearly killed by the financial crisis. That’s good!
November 5, 5:00 pm EST
The elections tomorrow are said to be a referendum on Trump’s Presidency.
And given the sentiment, I think it’s fair to say the surprise scenario for markets would be for Republicans to retain control of Congress. For that to happen, it looks like the Republicans would need to win 61% of the “toss up” races in the house. Of those, 84% are currently Republican held.
That scenario would be a vote of confidence for the Trump economic agenda. And for markets, it would be “risk on,” which would likely draw more attention to the inflation outlook, and the speed at which market interest rates will move. Trump would retain his leverage over China on trade concessions.
Scenario two, would be a split Congress. If we get a split Congress, the Trump economic plan would likely turn to infrastructure. The belief is that a Democrat led house would likely be a partner to Trump on a big infrastructure spend.
Though I suspect, given the political atmosphere, they may work to block any further progress on the economic stimulus front, in effort to position themselves for the 2020 Presidential election. On China trade negotiations, I suspect a split Congress would begin to fight against Trump’s executive order-driven trade wars. This scenario would mean, gridlock in Washington.
However, after the cloud of election uncertain lifts, both scenarios should be a greenlight for stocks.
Remember, we already have an economy running north of 3%, with record low unemployment, and consumers are sitting on record high household net worth and record low debt service ratios. Companies are growing earnings at over 20% (yoy), and growing revenues at over 8% (yoy). And corporate credit market debt is near the lowest levels (relative to market value of corporate equities) of the past 70 years.
So there is plenty of fuel in the economy to continue the trajectory of economic boom. Maybe most importantly, following the October correction, the tech giants have been pricing out the “monopoly scenario” which paves the way for a broader-based bull market for stocks.
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