As you know, market volatility has been on everyone’s mind. We wanted to update you on our thoughts as to what we believe the source of the volatility is, and when we think it may subside. Strategic market bottoms that give way to durable rallies often begin from a more depressed sentiment backdrop than is currently present. In addition to the timely put/call data (no movement yesterday), we continue to watch the weekly I.I. bull/bear survey for a signal on sentiment. Optimism has retreated from levels seen in late summer, but bulls still outnumber bears about 2 to 1.
Crude is oversold enough to bounce, but the trend is weak and price action is reminiscent enough of 2014/15 to view rallies with skepticism. Crude Oil is down more than 25% in the last 4 weeks. Although this is good for the consumer, it is not so good for profits in the energy sector and that is a weight on the market. Longer term, the lower price will benefit the economy but the short term sell off put energy company earnings into question. Currently, declining oil prices, a moderating Chinese economy, and tightening U.S. monetary policy are factors spooking risk assets (stocks).
An equally-weighted construction of FANG names has flipped to negative in our trend model for the first time in years this week. As a consequence, rallies back to resistance have to be viewed with suspicion – negative trends don’t lock in pronounced or prolonged bear markets, but they are suggestive of environments where return probabilities aren’t skewed favorably. The market has become so used to taking its cue from technology that it is looking for new leadership. Until that leadership is obvious, the market will still try and stabilize based on fundamentals. Price pressures, such as wage inflation, are present yet inflation is not accelerating at a quick enough pace to jeopardize the current economic expansion; it is hard to see price level growth of 2-2.5% hurting the economy much.
NFIB Small Business Optimism remains near historical highs (107.4) despite idiosyncratic and cyclical headwinds. We continue to watch the data for any significant cracks, but thus far there looks to be time to undo the uncertainty created by numerous U.S. trade spats. Still-elevated business confidence argues for a continued capex upswing, suggesting there is still time this business cycle to expand. This is the story that took a pause in 3Q. We’re staying tuned, especially if the Trump administration pursues a short-term deal with China (as we expect).