We continue to believe that there is a disconnect between the strong US economy / robust corporate earnings and the wall-of-worry (trade, yield curve, debt levels, mid-term elections, etc.). Politics are trumping economics this midterm election year, but our base case remains intact: investors are underestimating the stimulative effects of fiscal stimulus and regulatory easing while overestimating the potential negative impacts of a trade war, a rotation (not a fade) in global growth is underway, and a capex surge is brewing. The supply-side of the economy is now in focus and investments that will increase productivity will result in higher wages.
Capex spending is up year-over-year and is finally being rewarded by the market over share repurchases. Companies spending on capex are outpacing the S&P by 200 basis point year-to-date. It is still early, but an emphasis on capital spending could greatly extend the business cycle as investments boost productivity, earnings and wages while keeping unit labor costs low and the Fed accommodative.
Last week, the Russell 2000® Index (+0.58%) led the major indices; the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500® Index rose modestly (+0.15% and 0.02%, respectively) while the Nasdaq Composite posted a slight (-0.07%) decline. Earnings reports for the week were generally good; those which missed expectations cited company-specific events rather than overarching economic factors. For example, Netflix lost approximately 10% after falling well short of its projections for new subscribers. In contrast IBM and Microsoft beat revenue and earnings expectations; both reported surging growth in their analytics and cloud storage strategies. Financials companies including Bank of America and BlackRock continued to report strong results although the investors are closely monitoring the sector out of apprehension that the Federal Reserve might slow interest rate increases. Other bellwether stocks, including Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, CSX Corporation and United Continental, beat earnings estimates. Company executives have reported strong demand while expressing some concern over the potential impact of trade tariffs. They are likely to take a more cautious attitude until they can assess the effect of emerging trade policies on their businesses.
Trade continued to dominate the headlines. On Friday, President Trump announced his willingness to place tariffs on all $505 billion in Chinese goods imported to the U.S.; he also stated that he believes China and Europe are engaging in currency manipulation to lower their currencies which would effectively lower the prices of their exports. The various policy initiatives appear based on current market conditions without reflecting the impact of behavioral changes in response to policy changes. So far, the markets continue to reflect the assumption that the tariff disputes will reach a negotiated resolution. Elsewhere, oil prices remained volatile due to uncertainties about the added production by Russia and Saudi Arabia to offset production declines from Iran and Venezuela. Last week’s higher oil inventories, as reported by the EIA, may be more of an anomaly than a signal of a more worrisome increase in U.S. production levels.
The strength of the global economy has continued to support the markets’ advance despite the political uncertainties related to trade sanctions and energy production. Also, many companies are reporting higher earnings due to the benefit of tax reform; they are crediting the lower corporate tax rate in supporting various growth initiatives. Many companies report second quarter earnings this week; investors will closely monitor earnings reports and political developments during what is otherwise a seasonally slower period in the markets.
Source: Strategas, Pacific Global Investment Management Company
Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.
Last Week's Headlines: 7/23/2018
1. Industrial production rose 0.6 precent in June after declining 0.5 percent in May. For the second quarter as a whole, industrial production advanced at an annual rate of 6.0 percent, its third consecutive quarterly increase. Manufacturing output moved up 0.8 percent in June. The production of ...
Europe's Smack to Google May Only Be the Beginning
The european Commission's record-breaking fines for Google foreshadow a larger regulatory invasion of the U.S. technology industry.