October 22, 2023
Weekly Market Outlook
By Donn Goodman
Happy weekend Gaugers. Thanks for tuning in.
It was an ugly week in both the bond and stock markets.
Headlines did their part to keep investors in a selling mood.
Geopolitical risk continued to rule the markets. Uncertainty in the economy, given worldwide distractions, was the theme of the week. Tensions intensified between Israel and Gaza. The Biden Administration asked for $100 billion in emergency funds to address humanitarian aid in Gaza, Ukraine, domestic border funding, and disaster aid for the next 12 months. Inflation fears persist. Interest rates hit their highest levels in more than a decade and a half. And then there was the renewed conversation that we are headed for a drastic economic slowdown and a possible recession.
The Fed Chairman likes bond prices falling (yields rising).
On Thursday (October 19th), Jerome Powell said the recent rise in longer-term bond yields is tightening financial conditions as the central bank wants and could "at the margin" mean there is less need for the Fed to increase rates further.
"It doesn't seem to be principally about expectations of us doing more," Powell told the Economic Club of New York. It looks to be mainly an effect of higher so-called term premiums, he said, and does not reflect expectations for higher inflation. He added that he is "not blessing any particular level" of longer-term rates.
Here is an additional summary of what Chairman Powell stated this past week:
Surprisingly, the Fed is staying committed to their 2% inflation target. We (MarketGauge) think that is not only unlikely but soon they may alter this path and announce the new normal is closer to 3%.
With or without Jerome Powell speaking, the bond market has clearly had a “mind of its own.” After spending much of 2023 at or below 4% on the 10-year Treasury bond market, yields have exploded higher.
You may recall a column we wrote back in the summer suggesting that if the 10-year broke 4.35% on yields, we thought you could see 5%. I received some pushback from that article as a few friends and our valuable readers suggested that bond rates wouldn’t get that high. Today, intraday, we hit 4.99%. And we may not be done. See chart below of the rise in yields since May of this year.
For long-time subscribers who have followed several of our investment strategies, you will certainly be aware of how good our historical TLT trades have been, especially as recently as 2020 when we moved from stocks to TLT.
TLT is an ETF that gives an investor exposure to the 20-year Treasury Bond. Yesterday, the TLTs hit a new low on price action. Mish was mentioning to me the other day that so many people were recommending TLT (ETF) as a good trade the past few weeks. She went on several TV programs to try and stop that silliness. So far, it has been a bad trade, unless of course, you were short. See chart of the TLT ETF price action below:
“Inflation will be sticky and stay elevated for longer.”
Those have been Mish’s comments for over two years as she has appeared on numerous TV, Podcasts, interviews, and her daily column. I guess one had to live through the 70’s and 80’s to understand this concept more clearly.
One way to evaluate the long-term cycle of inflation (unless, of course, you go to the grocery store or eat meals out at restaurants) is to divide TIPS (Treasury Indexed Protected Securities-which track the rate of inflation) by IEF (the 1-3 year Treasury ETF). The results show inflation winning out. See chart below:
No surprise, this week the 2-year and 10-year treasury rates closed at the highest yields since 2006/2007. See chart below:
Why are interest rates continuing to go up?
With economic softening, geopolitical risk, and overwhelming debt, why would rates be going up further?
It is all about supply and demand. The U.S. government has a problem. We have significant debts that need to be financed. To do that, typically, the US Government holds Treasury Auctions and issues more debt. Over the years, buyers, including banks, brokerage firms, large pension funds, and sovereign overseas funds, have enthusiastically lined up to purchase as much of the Notes and Bonds as they could get. Not any more.
The Fed is dumping bonds from their own balance sheet (Quantitative Tightening) to try and tighten rates and curb inflation. China, once our biggest buyer of debt, is not only avoiding purchasing new US debt but is flooding the market with old debt as they want to lighten their US holdings. Sovereign wealth funds no longer think our debt is attractive and credit worthy. (remember, not long ago the credit agencies lowered the credit rating for the US).
Therefore, there is HUGE supply and lessening demand. That drives up the yield (bond price goes down) at auction. This is happening over and over. The market is huge and is now seeking its own equilibrium. It is an unfavorable interest rate cycle right now, and it can continue. Financial instrument movements often go well beyond investor expectations and that may happen with fixed income prices.
Can interest rates go higher?
You bet. We spoke with our friend Jeff Hugh yesterday. He will be a contributing writer to our new MarketGauge Pro site we are about to launch for investment professionals. Jeff is an experienced and smart analyst (with many followers) in evaluating the technicals of the stock and bond market. (A veteran of Leuthold Investment Research for years). Jeff told us that he thinks fixed income rates could eventually go to 8 or even 10 percent. We hope not. But what makes MarketGauge unique is our adaptive investing strategies and blends.
Some facts that may interest you about our current debt and housing market given higher interest rates:
Current Fixed Income Investments
More Americans have investments in fixed income, either through their savings, checking or even retirement accounts, than they do in equities. Almost all 401k Plans have a default conservative option that utilizes a stable income election, which still attracts a significant portion of 401k assets, especially in turbulent times like these.
Also, people have moved big portions of their assets to money market funds (over $6 trillion). It is likely that investors in the US are more invested in fixed income securities than stocks.
Unless they are in risk-free fixed income instruments or funds, do you think most investor know how much risk they are taking in these other fixed income investments? Do all the wealthy retired owners of municipal bonds realize they are probably down 5-10% year-to-date while collecting their monthly tax-free income? How many Americans holding a blend of 60/40 (stocks to bonds) are aware that the 40% in bonds is down 5% or more this year alone? I think not. Let’s put it in perspective.
Cash and Treasury Bills are now paying a HIGER yield than real estate and the S&P 500. In other words, risky assets are paying less than risk-free assets. This is the first time since 2000 that Treasury Bills are yielding higher rates than the S&P 500 earnings yield. Something is wrong here. See chart below:
Can you do better than the above rates?
We think so. Through our innovative, quant and rules-based investment strategies and All-Weather portfolio blends, we have constructed optimal blends to achieve better than CASH returns with limited downside using our active risk management (ARM). For example, our All-Weather Enhanced Income Blend (mostly fixed income including cash) through September 30, 2023 has a one year return of 9.8% net of fees with a very low 2.5% max drawdown. That is far more than most of the risk-free cash investment options available today.
If you are interested in learning more about this All-Weather portfolio blend and several more aggressive ones that have long-term performance well in excess of this, please reach out to me at Donn@MGAMllc.com or Benny@MGAMllc.com.
What about the Stock market?
Our risk gauges remain neutral, and our newest SPY investment strategy Profit Navigator is 50% invested fueled by one of the two algorithms it uses. We see a potential basing period here that looks like it is trying to find a bottom. (doesn’t mean it will).
Additionally, some of our investment strategies (like NASDAQ All Stars and SMID Earnings Growth) have done well this year and have been peeling off profits and are now heavily in cash. (SMID is up over 30% year-to-date. Reach out to us if you want more information).
Small-Cap stocks in general are struggling. Interest rates and a potential economic slowdown affect this part of the market more than any other. See chart below:
Given the rise in interest rates that we discuss above, it is no surprise that smaller company stocks have been going sideways since the start of the first interest rate hikes 18 months ago. See chart below showing the longer-term picture for IWM, the Russell 2000 smallest stock index (RUT).
Looking at large company stocks and the S&P 500, we noticed that we are at a low reading of the number of companies that are above their 200-day moving averages. These kinds of numbers usually suggests an oversold market and one that could turn soon and turn quickly. See chart below:
Earnings season is upon us.
According to FactSet, 17% of S&P 500 companies have reported their 3rd Quarter, 2023 results with 73% beating their earnings estimates and 66% reporting revenues above estimates.
The stock market began the week looking positive and favorable based on many analysts’ earnings expectations. It deteriorated midweek due to Powell’s comments as referenced above, and the prospect of further rate tightening. Interest rates dominated the story from Wednesday on.
This coming week it will be all about earnings as many of the biggest S&P 500 companies report. It will move the market one way or another. See earnings schedule (and market cap of companies) below:
November could be the turning point.
As stated above, we remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects that the stock market is trying to find a bottom. Our S&P 500 color charts show a slow improvement in the # of stocks above their 20-, 50- and 200-day moving averages. (This will be a weekly feature of MarketGauge Pro when launched. Stay tuned for additional information coming soon).
Seasonally a few of our favorite analysts believe that we are entering a positive period for stocks. See their comments below:
A comment on Gold
Given the inflation rhetoric along with geopolitical stress and the possibility of an expanding regional war in the Mideast, Gold had a favorable week. This was unexpected given the fact that Gold often behaves inverse to the Dollar (was strong this week) and interest rates rising. Nonetheless, it moved quickly higher this week and sits around long-term resistance. The following two charts speak volumes on Gold and we include them just so you stay informed that if Gold should punch through old resistance, it may be on the way to new highs. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading. We now turn it over to Keith and his team to share with you the most important points from our BIG VIEW:
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