July 24, 2018

Delta Insights: a weekly commentary on investing

Energy Independence!

December 6, 2019

The U.S. became a net exporter of oil for the first time since 1949 in November! The U.S. is no longer dependent on foreign oil. The U.S. is the largest oil producing country in the world…..

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TD Ameritrade Checkmate #

November 29, 2019

On the chess board of discount brokerage, Schwab just made two swift moves to checkmate TD Ameritrade and eliminate a powerful competitor….

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Delta’s 2020 Stock Market Outlook

November 22, 2019

Let’s start with a quick look in the rear view mirror. 2019 will go into the books as a strong year for the S&P 500, up roughly 26% year-to-date. But much of the gains of 2019 were simply a recovery of the losses from the fourth quarter of 2018. As of this writing, the S&P 500 is up roughly 5.4% from the September 2018 high….

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Cycle Straight

November 15, 2019

Business cycles. Traditional business cycles involve expansions which peak followed by contractions which trough. Repeat…

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One Small Step for the U.S., One Giant Step for European Stock Markets

November 8, 2019

The U.S. stock market is at a new all-time high this week after reaching all-time highs on a regular basis for the past six years. This is typical of a bull market. The rest of the world is still, in aggregate, trading below its 2007 high. This is typical of a bear market….

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Feeling Bear, Looking Bull

November 1, 2019

Many investors feel bearish. Only 27% of money managers who responded to Barron’s fall 2019 Big Money Poll are bullish over the next 12 months. This is down from 49% in the spring survey and 56% a year ago. It is the lowest reading of bullishness by the Barron’s poll in more than 20 years…

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An Uptick

October 25, 2019

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia publishes State Coincident Indexes for all 50 states. The economic data is “coincident” meaning it is tracking how conditions are now rather than predicting conditions in the future or looking at what they were in the past. …

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Have Earnings Found a Floor?

October 18, 2019

A year ago, the consensus analyst estimate for S&P 500 earnings for this year was about $178. Today, it is about $164. A year ago, the consensus analyst estimate for S&P 500 earnings in 2020 was about $196. Today, it is about $181….

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Why So Much Cash? Because It Makes Cents

October 11, 2019

The U.S. Federal Reserve recently reported that there is roughly $20 trillion in cash and equivalents in overnight money market funds, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit. This amount of cash is worth nearly half the value of all U.S. traded stocks….

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2019: Pinball Between Low Rates and Slowing Growth

October 4, 2019

The important factors in stock market volatility in 2019 have been:

• Very low interest rates – a positive for stocks
• U.S. led trade war – slowing global growth

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Take It To The House

September 27, 2019

Before recessions, new home sales decline. This does not mean that every time there is a decline in new home sales there is a recession. What it does mean is since 1963 there is not a recession without new home sales declining in advance…

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Interest Rate Case Study: Housing Starts Up

September 20, 2019

Main Street and Wall Street are strongly influenced by interest rates (the price of money). Low rates spur spending and high rates reward savers.

Housing starts (the beginning of construction of a new house) offers an excellent example of how interest rates impact economic activity and why recent Fed rate cuts may help push out the risk of recession. The Federal Reserve cut its Fed Funds rate for the second time in 2019 this week….

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Surprise Bull

September 13, 2019

For most of 2019, the stock market news flow has been weighted towards slowing growth, declining earnings and a diminished likelihood of a China trade war resolution in the near future. Up through Thursday of last week, the S&P 500 was about where it was almost a year ago at the end of September 2018. During this period, the S&P 500 experienced three pullbacks: -19%, -7% and -6%. Smaller cap stocks dropped -26% in 4Q2018 and are still -8% below last year highs….

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Making the Most of It

September 6, 2019

Swimmers shave their bodies and cyclists shave their legs. NFL running backs (and other speed position players) often don’t use knee or hip pads. In a challenging environment, it pays to reduce drag and maximize efficiency.

A year ago the interest rate commentary was about interest rates going higher. From a low of about 1.33% in July 2016, the 10-year treasury rate was climbing higher until it reached 3.24% last October. The U.S. economy was near full employment and inflation was expected to lift. The Federal Reserve was talking about two to three more rate hikes before 2020…

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Where Has All the Innovation Gone?

August 30, 2019

Innovation and disruption often drive out-sized investment gains. Start-up small capitalization companies have historically brought to market the latest in innovation. Better, faster, cheaper (and more convenient), if able to gain a foothold, can greatly change the status quo. For example, about 5% of all retail sales now go through Amazon, up from essentially zero 20 years ago. Correspondingly, Amazon’s market capitalization is close to $900 billion, up from essentially zero 20 years ago…

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Consumers Keep Going and Going

August 23, 2019

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. GDP, and of that, retail sales comprises 43% (consumer spending includes all private purchases of durable goods, non-durables, and services). One may wonder how retail sales are only 43% of consumer spending. The answer is consumer spending includes housing, transportation, health-care, education and insurance. Retail sales have been healthy throughout this lengthy expansion. July retail sales rose 0.7% m/m, and are up 3.1% y/y on average this year, despite the diminishing boost from the tax cuts…

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Trade War Pivot

August 16, 2019

This week, China reported the slowest pace of industrial production growth (+4.8% yr/yr in July) since 2002.

Germany is the third largest exporting nation in the world. It is the largest economy in the European Union. Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) declined by -0.1% in the second quarter on a sequential basis. China is an important export market for Germany and declining exports explain much of the weakness. One down quarter in GDP does not make for a recession, but two back-to-back quarters do. Risk of recession in Germany and Europe has risen…

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Looking Through the Noise

August 9, 2019

Headline news is volatile. The China trade talks are on and off again. The Fed raises and now lowers rates. Since October 1, 2018, the S&P 500 has traded roughly flat (closing price 10/1/18 was 2,924.59) with three material periods of downside volatility including the fourth quarter of 2018, May 2019 and the first week of August…

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When an Aircraft Carrier Looks Like a Hobie Cat

August 2, 2019

When thinking in terms of water vessels, the US economy is an aircraft carrier – Nimitz Class. It is big. It is technologically advanced. It is not known for speed or quick turns. The similarities stop when comparing the captain’s (Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell) actions over the past year. The captain appears to be skippering a Hobie Cat in light winds off Cape Cod with his tacks…

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Reading the Money Flows

July 26, 2019

A favorite Wall Street adage is funds follow performance. Funds also flow towards where they are treated most favorably (think tax treatment). In the early stages of an investment life-cycle, discovering accelerating money flows into an asset may lead an investor to an attractive investment. Momentum tends to have follow-through. Towards the end of the investment life-cycle, too much money may have crowded into an asset signaling diminishing returns…

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Are Foreign Stocks Inexpensive?

July 19, 2019

The MSCI EAFE Index represents large and mid-cap stocks across 21 developed markets in Europe, Australasia and the Far East. It excludes the U.S. It is currently trading at a forward P/E of 13.7x…

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In the Money Race, the Fed is Usually in the Back of the Pack

July 12, 2019

In the world’s financial markets, money is always on the move. Over the past year, money in the Fed Funds Futures market has been indicating the FOMC’s (Federal Open Market Committee) Fed Funds rate estimates are too high. The market has been saying the Fed will cut rates this year well before the Fed seems to have arrived at this conclusion. Below is a chart showing market expectations for the Fed Funds rate versus the Fed’s own projection of rates…

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The Trade War in Pictures

July 5, 2019

Before 2018, the U.S. was one of the lowest tariff countries in the world. As a policy, we encouraged free global trade through the World Trade Organization and trade agreements with almost all major economies…

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A Group of Elephants Sitting on Interest Rates

June 28, 2019

The benchmark 10-year bond yield is negative in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan. It is very close to going negative in France…

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Turning Japanese

June 21, 2019

The Vapors wrote a song in 1980 with the lyrics “I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.” This may describe what is happening in the U.S. economy…

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Ruminations on Tax

June 14, 2019

Normally, Delta Insights talks about issues pertaining to the U.S. stock market. In the past two weeks, we have pointed out how falling interest rates are supportive of higher stock valuations. The recent sharp decline in interest rates helped the S&P 500 appreciate roughly 6% month-to-date….

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Lower Rates, Higher Stock Market

June 7, 2019

A month ago, the one-month U.S. treasury interest rate was 2.44%. Today, it is roughly 2.31%. Bond traders are expecting this rate to fall to roughly 2.1%.

On Monday of this week, the S&P 500 index was trading at about 2,750. Today, it is roughly 2,850. This is more than a 3.6% advance in less than a week. Does this make sense? In light of what just happened to interest rate expectations, it seems to make a lot of sense….

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Interest Rate Flip-Flop

May 31, 2019

In early October 2018, Fed Chairman Powell described the Fed’s benchmark interest rate as “a long way from neutral.” At that time, the Fed’s interest rate projections showed at least two rate increases in 2019.

Today, the Fed Fund futures (traded market participant rather than set by the Fed) show an expectation for two rate cuts in the next seven months. The market-implied Fed Funds rate is 2.1% by the end of 2019, down from about 2.39% today….

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Delta MSI Bearish

May 24, 2019

This week the Delta Market Sentiment Indicator (MSI) turned Bearish at 44.1%. Readings of less than 50% indicate elevated stock market risk and are bearish. Delta’s investment strategies linked to this intermediate-term, trend following indicator including Kress Tactical and Capital Appreciation transitioned to cash….

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Bullish or Bearish – The Delta MSI

May 17, 2019

Delta’s long-term market indicators which measure the probability of recession in the next six to twelve months are bullish – no recession. Specifically, the U.S. treasury yield curve (10y-2y) and the Leading Economic Index (LEI) remain positive….

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Creating a Framework for China Trade War Investing

May 10, 2019

Up until Sunday night, the U.S. economy and stock market were looking good. Last week, the S&P 500 reached new all-time closing highs. The unemployment rate was reported at 3.6%. The Leading Economic Index rebounded strongly last month up 0.4% month-over-month after five very weak months. The ten-year treasury rate, a measure of expected economic growth, was near 2.5% — a 6% improvement off of recent lows….

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Picking Winners

May 3, 2019

If you had to choose a portfolio of five stocks to own, would you pick stock Group A or B?…

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A New High

April 26, 2019

The S&P 500 set an all-time closing high on Tuesday. This was the first new closing high for the S&P 500 since September 20, 2018…

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The State of (Bank of) America

April 18, 2019

Bank of America (BofA, stock ticker symbol: BAC) has 66 million retail customers. According the Census Bureau, the population of the U.S. is roughly 327 million. 22.6% of the population is below 18 years old. Bank of America’s retail client base represents roughly 26% of adult Americans. Bank of America’s earnings report released earlier this week may be used as a barometer of the financial health of American consumers and the main street economy…

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Rule of 20

April 12, 2019

For the past 74 trading days, the S&P 500 has been working its way towards its previous high of 2,940.91 on September 21, 2018…

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A Whiff of Spring in the Growth Outlook

April 5, 2019

GDP growth year-over-year in 2018 was roughly 3%. For 2019, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve believe growth will slow to about 2%. The consensus Wall Street estimate for GDP growth in the first quarter is about 1.3% and S&P 500 earnings are expected to be down -3.9% year-over-year. One of the reasons the Federal Reserve has stopped raising the Fed Funds rate is because of slowing growth concerns…

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Recession?

March 29, 2019

Since 1965, the U.S. treasury yield curve has inverted seven times. By this, we mean the 10-year treasury rate has been lower than the 2-year treasury rate. Recession followed on average about 14 months later. During recessions in 1973-74, 2000-02 and 2007-09, the S&P 500 lost roughly half of its value. Yield curve inversion, recessions and the stock market losing half of its value are important concerns for stock investors…

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One Less Thing to Worry About

March 22, 2019

When it comes to investing your money in the stock market, it may seem like there is a lot to worry about. The big worry is that you will lose your money. This big worry is nourished and amplified by a steady stream of disturbing information broadcast in headline media…

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Disinflation Allows Stocks to Inflate

March 15, 2019

The stock market is lifting. Part of the reason stocks are appreciating is because almost every indication is that inflation is softening. Without inflation, the Federal Reserve has little reason to raise the Fed Funds rate. Low interest rates make stocks look attractive relative to fixed income investments…

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10-Year Anniversary

March 8, 2019

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the S&P 500’s intraday low of 666.79. At the low, it was prophesized by many prominent investors including Bill Gross, Chief Investment Officer of Pimco at the time, that we had entered a “New Normal” that would be characterized by slow growth. Through yesterday, the S&P 500 average annual return including dividends over the past ten years is 17.4%. If we extend back the performance period to include the 50% sell-off of 2007-2009, the 15-year average annual return of the S&P 500 is 8.2%….

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Down 20%, Up 20%, More Wood to Chop

March 1, 2019

Investors just experienced what it is like to be down 20% and then right back up 20%. It equals a 4% loss…

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What Is Wrong With This Picture?

February 22, 2019

The stock market depreciation in the fourth quarter of 2018 led many investors to believe something was really wrong with the market. During the fourth quarter last year, the S&P lost nearly a fifth of its value…

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What to Expect for the Rest of 2019 – Here’s the Math

February 15, 2019

The S&P 500 has recovered a large part of its high-to-low losses of 2018. From high to low the S&P 500 was down nearly 20% last year. Today, the index is about 7% below its all-time high. Year-to-date, the S&P 500 is up roughly 10%. What should we expect for the rest of the year?…

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State of Fund Flows and the Markets

February 8, 2019

The S&P 500 gained 8% in January. Since 1950, this ranks as the 28th best month ever or among the top 3%. The gain made it the best January performance since 1987 and best monthly performance since 2015. Despite the gains, equity fund flows were negative as investors pulled $22.6 billion out of US equities in January. This is a sharp reversal to the average monthly inflow of $15.3B over the previous nine months. The precipitous December decline in the S&P 500 of -9.2% (the 11th worst month ever) clearly shook investor confidence…

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December 2018 Sell-Off by the Numbers: Highs Back in Charge

February 1, 2019

Delta monitors the daily price action of a proprietary group of roughly 1,800 individual stocks. On December 24th, 366 of the stocks we follow traded at 52-week lows versus zero stocks at a 52-week high. The technical picture was grim, stocks had declined 19.6%…

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Running In Slowing Motion – Finding Balance

January 25, 2019

The U.S. economy is expanding. Unemployment is at 3.9%. Weekly initial jobless claims decreased by 13,000 to 199,000 for the week of January 19. This is the lowest level of initial claims since November 15, 1969 – the same year the New York Jets won their only Super Bowl…

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First Look at Earnings, Thumbs Up

January 18, 2019

During the first three weeks of December, the S&P 500 lost 16% of its value. The magnitude and velocity felt like a crash. The cause of the sudden loss in value was ascribed to both technical and fundamental factors…

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Extreme!

January 11, 2019

Most of the time market indicators are not at extreme levels. For example, the forward 12-month price/earnings ratio (P/E) of the S&P 500 is almost never below 10x or above 25x. The Delta Market Sentiment Index (MSI) is rarely less than 10% or greater than 90%. Investor confidence is normally somewhat balanced between bullish, bearish and neutral…

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A Repeat of 2011?

January 4, 2019

In 2011 S&P 500 earnings increased by about 15% and the market was roughly flat on the year. The 10-year treasury interest rate collapsed from about the mid 3% range to about 2%. Intra-year, stocks fell on over-hyped events abroad including the possibility that Greece would exit the Eurozone and negatively impact the euro currency. The Federal Government was shutdown with high levels of political divisiveness and squabbling. There was downbeat economic news including the downgrade of the U.S. debt rating…

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Delta MSI Declines Below 10%

December 28, 2018

The Delta Market Sentiment Indicator (MSI) declined to 7.5% this week. The range on the Delta MSI is from 0% to 100%. A 7.5% reading is very low and a sub-10% reading has only occurred five times (including this week) in the past 15 years. Historically, the stock market has shown strong performance over the next twelve months post a sub-10% reading…

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2018, What a Year!

December 14, 2018

This year the unemployment rate fell from 4.1% to 3.7%. There are currently 7.1 million job openings which is greater than the total number of unemployed people at the end of November (5,975,000 people unemployed)…

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Range Bound For Now

December 7, 2018

On October 10, the S&P 500 fell below its trend line and since has been confined to a range of roughly 2,820 on the high end and 2,620 on the low end. This is roughly a 7% range. Depending on what day one measures market performance in the past two months, the market could be up year-to-date about 7% or have no gain….

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When the Fed Speaks, the Market Listens

November 30, 2018

“The asset class that gets the most attention day-to-day is, of course, the stock market. Today, equity market prices are broadly consistent with historical benchmarks such as forward price-to-earnings ratios.” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, speech to the Economic Club of New York, November 28, 2018…

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Delta’s 2019 Stock Market Outlook

November 16, 2018

A year ago, our 2018 outlook was positive. If the P/E remained constant as it had in 2016 and 2017, we projected the S&P 500 would climb by 11% along with earnings. Through the market close yesterday, the S&P 500 index is up 8% over the prior twelve months…

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Midterm Elections – The Next 12 Months

November 9, 2018

Since 1946, there have been 18 midterm elections. Stocks were higher 12 months after every single one over this 72 year period. The average appreciation over the next twelve months has been 17%. Additionally, we are entering the third year of the presidential term which is historically the strongest year for stocks….

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Sometimes Our Worst Fears Become Reality and It’s Not So Bad

November 2, 2018

During this 10-year bull cycle, large capitalization technology stocks including Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet/Google led the stock market higher. Investors feared the day when these very large technology company valuations might correct sharply lower…

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This Is Not 2008

October 26, 2018

Every week, Stock market equilibrium is found at the price where buyers and sellers are equally engaged. We are experiencing the worst October sell-off since October 2008. With more sellers than buyers so far this month, the market is searching for its equilibrium….

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The Delta Market Sentiment Index (MSI) Multi-Purpose Tool

October 19, 2018

Every week, we publish the Delta Market Sentiment (MSI) indicator in this newsletter. Dow Jones & Company publishes the Delta MSI in their magazine Barron’s and on-line in their electronic newsletter Market Lab…

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The Rising Rate Bull Case

October 12, 2018

The 10-year treasury rate is rising. For the first time in 37 years, it set a higher high….The rise in the 10-year interest rate, if not driven by inflation, could be the result of a positive change in economic growth expectations. US GDP growth has notched higher this year (from 2% to 3%) and global PMIs are expanding. If this is indeed the case, rising interest rates are not necessarily bearish for stocks….

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False Peak

October 5, 2018

When climbing a mountain, it is fairly common to look up and see what appears to be the summit. Upon arriving at this high point, it becomes apparent that the actual peak is further ahead. As a tired climber, this can be disappointing. For an investor, higher highs are a positive…

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Stepping Up (Fed, Rates, Stocks, Economy…)

September 28, 2018

Investor awareness of a flattening yield curve has been heightened by media coverage over the past year. A flattening yield curve precedes an inverted yield curve which historically has been a robust recession indicator. Our definition of an inverted yield curve is when the two-year U.S. treasury rate is higher than the ten-year rate…

Since the beginning of 2017, the yield curve has flattened….

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Crowded Trade: Target Date Funds

September 21, 2018

One of the most important things we have learned over our years in the financial markets is beware of the crowd.

We follow the money to determine where a crowd is building…

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Another Quarter, Same Old Story

September 14, 2018

S&P 500 earnings in 2018 are about 25% higher than they were in 2017. Stock prices are responding to this advance. The next round of earnings announcements (third quarter) begins in October. We should expect a continuation of better than expected earnings news…

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50-Year Record Set!

September 7, 2018

Last week, the S&P 500 and NASDAQ reached new all-time highs. The S&P 500 advanced by about 3.2% in August and the NASDAQ appreciated 5.9%. These gains followed gains in July of 3.7% and 2.2%, respectively. The strength can be attributed to strong earnings and a red-hot Apple – and we are not talking about the heat at the U.S. Open in New York. The largest company on the planet appreciated 20%+ from the end of July to the beginning of September…

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The Rise of the Global Middle Class

August 31, 2018

The S&P 500 is at new highs. 25% earnings growth this year is a significant driver of the bullish price action. Although earnings are expected to continue to grow in 2019, the rate of growth is expected to slow. Is the economic growth cycle approaching its natural end or are there underlying changes occurring in the global economy which could extend cycle longevity?…

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The World According to Brian Cornell

August 24, 2018

Who is Brian Cornell? He was the chief marketing officer of Safeway. He has been the CEO of Michaels, Sam’s Club and PepsiCo Americas Foods. He has been on the board of directors of OfficeMax, The Home Depot, Polaris Industries and Yum! Brands. He is the chairman of the Retail Industry Leaders Association Board. Brian Cornell knows retail…

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Crisis Du Jour: Turkey Melt

August 17, 2018

The Turkish currency (lira) is melting. It is down about 40 percent this year versus the U.S. dollar. Much of Turkey’s debt is owed in U.S. dollars. As its currency falls, it becomes increasingly expensive and difficult for Turkish indebted entities to make debt payments owed to foreign banks. The strengthening dollar and weakness in emerging market currencies (including Indonesia, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, Malaysia and China) is increasing fears of contagion risk…

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Is 2018 Going to Be a Good Year for Stocks?

August 10, 2018

As of this date, all indications are we will have a good year. 81% of the S&P 500 companies have reported earnings through Friday of last week. 80% beat the earnings estimates and 74% reported revenue upside. Earnings are on pace to grow this quarter by 24%. Revenues are up 9.8% year-over-year. This is great performance in a roughly 4% GDP growth economy…

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A New Bull Market Record

August 3, 2018

Since reaching an all-time-record high of 2,872.87 on January 26th, the S&P 500 has spent the past six-plus months correcting, consolidating, trading sideways. From the January 26 high to the low on February 5, the index dropped 11.8%. Through the beginning of April, stocks hovered -10% from the high and -3.5% on the year and retested the February low. Strong economic growth coupled with great corporate earnings have lifted stocks. The index is grinding higher and is now less than 2% from making new highs…

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Mid-Year 2018 Observations

July 27, 2018

New home sales convey a lot more information about economic growth than existing home sales. New homes need to be built driving employment and commodity demand (lumber, flooring, roofing, insulation, concrete, etc.) higher. New homes need furniture, appliances, washer/dryers, gardening services, insurance, etc. – all additive to economic activity.

Generally, when the year-over year change in new home sales falls by about 20%, a recession follows. In 1966, there was an exception and government spending on the Vietnam War buildup kept the economy out of recession. The recession eventually arrived in the early 1970s. The “double” decline in 2010 is considered a part of the housing bust and was driven by the housing tax credit policy in 2009….

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Insider Views: Price versus Value

July 20, 2018

There is a saying that a person can know the price of everything and the value of nothing. With Netflix stock this year, it would be understandable to have one’s thoughts filled with price rather than value. The stock more than doubled year-to-date from $191.96 to a high of $423.21 through last week prior to earnings…

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The Bareback Bull

July 13, 2018

Since March 6, 2009, the S&P 500 is up roughly 400%.  The 10-year average annual return through Wednesday of this week is 10.6%.  The S&P 500 index is within about 4% of its all-time high.  The U.S. stock is enjoying a multi-year bullish run.

Although the stock market is experiencing a major bull move, many individual investors have not participated fully.  The chart below shows that the cumulative fund flows into U.S. equity mutual funds and ETFs since 2007 is negative…

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Making the Jump to Earnings Season

June 29, 2018

Roughly two weeks from now on July 16, second quarter earnings season will begin with Bank of America (BAC) and BlackRock (BLK).  That week, we will hear from many of the largest banks and many of the largest industrial firms including Lockheed Martin (LMT), Textron (TXT) and Danaher (DHR).  We will also hear results from notable companies like Netflix (NFLX), Microsoft (MSFT), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Grainger (GWW).  By July 20, we should have a much better understanding of the health of corporate earnings and the impact of tariff actions and Fed Fund rate hikes on profit outlooks…

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Trade War Score Card

June 22, 2018

The trade war is impacting markets.  The range of impact varies by the extent of the exposure to international trade.

The U.S. represents about 5% of the world’s population but consumes about 24% of the world’s energy.  Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day, roughly 200 billion more than needed.  We throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.  The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.  We use one-third of the world’s paper…etc.  When the U.S. imposes tariffs, it hurts foreign producers more than domestic producers in aggregate…

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Movement of Goods Reveals Positive Movement in the Economy

June 15, 2018

Intermodal freight transport involves the movement of freight in a container that can be carried by a ship, train and/or truck.  Intermodal containers carry a wide range of products from electronics to refrigerated products, building materials to farm equipment and almost all other materials and products produced today.  It provides a fundamental and extensive measure of economic activity….

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Is The Fed Facing a Rate Ceiling?

June 8, 2018

How high can they go?  Since November 2015, the Fed has raised the Fed Funds rate from roughly zero to about 1.75%.

Next week on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise the Fed Funds rate once again by 0.25% to 2%.  When the Fed raises the Fed Funds rate, the two-year treasury usually rises in lock-step.  The two-year treasury rate at 2.52% is roughly 0.75% above the Fed Funds rate.  If the Fed raises rates next week, we should not be surprised to see the two-year treasury rate to climb to about 2.75%….

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Trouble With The Curve

June 1, 2018

In a 2012 movie “Trouble with the Curve”, Clint Eastwood stars as a professional baseball scout who is able to recognize that a highly sought after prospect is unable to hit a curve ball.  The 2018 stock market year-to-date has been unable to connect on a pitch.  With just a 1.9% gain for the year, the S&P 500 remains stuck at home plate, unable to advance to first base.

The stock market is having trouble with the curve.  Curve balls this year have included the volatility spike of the VIX to 50, ping-pong peace talks with North Korea, potential global trade wars, Fed rate hikes and most recently refreshed concerns about the euro with a potential Italian exit (“Itexit”)….

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Stock Market “Selfies”

May 25, 2018

When evaluating the stock market, sometimes it helps to take a step back and simply observe.  What we see today is encouraging.

Stocks are risk assets.  They generally have higher volatility than bonds and there is no guarantee they will not trade down to zero.  Large company stocks are considered less risky than small company stocks.  Large companies like Apple and Exxon are not likely to fail anytime soon.  Little companies are more vulnerable.  When small company stocks are doing well, it suggests investors have an appetite for risk assets.  This is bullish for the overall stock market.  The chart below shows the Russell 2000 Index (IWM), small company stock index breaking out to the upside through a triple top….

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This Aging Bull Is Still Attractive

May 18, 2018

The stock bull market is entering its Golden Years.  Since March 2009, the stock market climbed out of its hole and has been making new highs since 2013.  The market continues to be bullish, but tailwinds are turning into headwinds.

When the bull was younger, interest rates were reduced to historical lows.  Oil prices declined by roughly 73% from July 2014 through February 2016.  This was a stimulus for consumer spending.   From 2010 through 2014, the U.S. dollar was relatively low spurring international trade.  Corporate profits more than doubled from the end of 2009 through 2017….

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No Gutter Balls

May 11, 2018

It is hard to throw a gutter ball when the bumpers are up. Having the bumpers up will help us avoid the frustration of our investments rolling into the gutter but does not necessarily grant us a PBA (Pro Bowlers Association) type score.

Nestle announced last week that it has agreed to pay $7.2 billion for the right to sell Starbucks’ packaged coffees and teas. Starbucks says it will use the $7.2 billion to accelerate share buybacks. Starbucks expects to return to shareholders $20 billion

through repurchases and dividends through fiscal 2020. This return of value represents roughly 25% of the total market capitalization of the company today….

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Looking Down From the Peak

May 4, 2018

What do Procter & Gamble (PG), Coca-Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), Walmart (WMT) and Philip Morris (PM) have in common?  They are blue-chip stocks.  They all have “A” investment-grade credit ratings.  They are the top five holdings of the S&P 500 Consumer Staples ETF (XLP).  They are slow-growth stocks.  They are down year-to-date an average of -16.5% through May 2.  They help explain why the broader market is not rising on record first quarter earnings….

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Sensitivity Training; Higher Interest Rates

April 27, 2018

Interest rates are rising.  From the all-time low of 1.33% reached on July 6, 2016, the 10-year U.S. treasury rate is now 3.02%.

Rising rates are a negative for bond values.  During the 23 year period from 1958 to 1981, the 10-year treasury rate rose from about 4.2% to 15.8%.  The average annual real return from corporate bonds was -2%….

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This Market Has To Earn It!

April 20, 2018

Because of high levels of investor skepticism (AAII investor sentiment is 43% Bearish and only 26% Bullish) for the stock market to rise, it is going to have to earn it!

Factset Research is predicting the market will.  Through Friday of last week, 70% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings (about 6% of the index) beat earnings estimates.  This week through Thursday, the beat rate jumped up to 83%.  Factset is already postulating that earnings growth in the first quarter is more likely to be 20%+ than the 17% they had been predicting roughly a week ago….

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Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

April 13, 2018

“The Greatest” (Muhammad Ali) followed this approach in the boxing ring with some success.  In the fixed income investment ring, floating like a butterfly is also a viable approach when interest rates are rising.

Of the twelve bond types listed in the chart above, only three appreciate in a rising rate environment.  Of the three, two are somewhat dependent on a rising stock market and an improving economy to show solid returns.  Only one, floating rate, is a winner simply by the fact that rates are rising….

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The Hidden Risks of “Safe” Assets

April 6, 2018

Money managers often advise clients who would like more safety in their portfolios to increase the weighting of bonds versus stocks.  Historically, bonds have experienced lower volatility than stocks.  Volatility (standard deviation) is one way risk is measured in finance.

Just as the S&P 500 Index is often used as the benchmark for performance by stock investors, the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index (AGG) is a common benchmark for bond investors.  The AGG is an investment grade corporate bond index….

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Stormy Times for Leadership During Quiet Period

March 29, 2018

Seventeen days ago on March 12 the NASDAQ reached an all-time closing high of 7,588.32.  Over the prior twelve months, the NASDAQ led the broader stock market higher advancing by about 28% versus the S&P 500 advance of about 18%.

Twenty days from now, Alcoa (AA) will kick-off first quarter earnings season on April 18.  First quarter earnings are expected to be up 17% year-over-year….

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Stock Market Spring Has Yet To Arrive

March 23, 2018

What do hotel occupancies, chemical sales activity, job openings, stock buybacks and intermodal freight loadings have in common?  They are all booming and have accelerated from 2017 levels.  Some of these measures are at all-time highs.  First quarter earnings to be reported next month are expected to be up about 17% year-over-year.  On December 31, analyst expectations were for just 11.4% earnings growth in Q1….

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Stocks Consolidate Under Trade War Shadow

March 16, 2018

In August of 2017, President Trump asked ambassador to China, Robert Lighthizer, to perform a Section 301 review of Chinese trade practices which may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development.  Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 allows the President to act unilaterally and retaliate against unfair trade practice.  Lighthizer has until August 2018 to complete the study.

Although the China 301 trade study has not been officially completed, Trump is actively considering imposing a set of tariffs and investment restrictions on China in the near term.  Most economists believe the consequences of such action would have an adverse impact on the U.S. economy….

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Stock Market Responds to Tariffs and Growth

March 9, 2018

The market is not a singular entity.  It is comprised of thousands of individual stocks which are organized by size, style (growth versus value) and industry sector.  For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index (DJIA) measures the performance of 30, very large companies.  The weighted average market cap of the DJIA stocks is $230 billion.  By contrast, the Russell 2000 growth index (IWO) measures the price performance of 1,162 stocks with earnings expected to grow at an above-average rate relative to the market.  The weighted average market cap of the Russell 2000 growth index is one tenth the size of the DJIA at $2.3 billion.  The P/E of the DJIA is 16.9x versus the P/E of the Russell 2000 growth of 24.7x….

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Interest Rate Sensitivity

March 2, 2018

The stock market has had a touchy relationship with bond yields in the past few weeks.  On Friday of last week and Monday of this week, stocks rallied on a successful auction of $258 billion worth of treasury bonds which lowered the 10-year treasury yield.  On Tuesday, the new Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, spoke to Congress and said his economic projections strengthened since the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.  The market interpreted this remark as an indication the Fed may raise rates four (rather than three) times this year.  Bond yields rose and stocks declined….

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When Will Rising Interest Rates Be a Problem for Stocks?

February 23, 2018

Are rising interest rates negative for the stock market?  The answer is yes and no.  It depends on how high rates are while they are rising.

As long as the 10-year U.S. treasury rate is below 5%, rising interest rates have a positive correlation with a rising S&P 500.  Said simply, rates go up and stocks go up.  Above 5%, rising rates have a negative correlation with the direction of the S&P 500.  Today, the 10-year treasury is about 2.9%….

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Investment Batting Average Peril

February 16, 2018

In baseball, batting average is a useful statistic.  It indicates how frequently the batter gets on base.  The downside of not getting on base is waiting for the next turn at bat.  The risk/reward of taking a turn at bat in baseball is good even with a low batting average.  In investing, batting average can be deceptive because risk may be asymmetric.

In investing, you can have a high batting average.  But one losing trade can wipe out all of the accumulated gains.  This would be the equivalent of a baseball batter being called out on three strikes and then being permanently banned from the game as a result.  The downside is much greater than the upside.  This is asymmetric risk.

On November 24, 2017 the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) reached an all-time low of 8.56.  Of the 20 lowest VIX closes, 18 occurred in 2017 and 2018.  Of the 68 times the VIX has closed below 10 over the past 27 years, 59 of these occurrences were in 2017 and 2018.  Volatility has been very, very low over the past year….

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Volatility is a Two-Way Street

February 9, 2018

In finance, volatility is a bad word.  It is measured as standard deviation and is how risk is defined.  Investors hardly ever complain about upside volatility.  At the high in January, the S&P 500 was up 7% for the year.  Stocks were short-term overbought. Short-term overbought markets correct by price or time.

In February, volatility reversed course and the S&P 500 depreciated by nearly 10% from high to low.  A 10% decline is often labeled a “correction.”…

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The Next Frontier: Healthcare

February 2, 2018

In the Unites States, our healthcare system suffers from two fundamental problems: 1) it is very expensive and 2) partly because it is so expensive, it is unclear how all Americans can have access to quality healthcare.

Roughly 18% of the U.S. GDP is spent on healthcare.  For purposes of comparison, Canada spends about 10%, France 11.5%, Germany 11.3%, and the UK 9%….

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Stocks Have Positive Momentum

January 26, 2018

Stocks just won’t seem to go down lately.  Through Thursday of this week, there have been 12 S&P 500 record high closings month-to-date.  The all-time record for S&P 500 record closing highs was set in June, 1955 at 16.  On the four days the S&P 500 has traded down in 2018, the cumulative decline was less than 19 points (~0.7%).

Part of the reason for the strong market is the economy is performing well and accelerating.  The Leading Economic Index (LEI) came in at up 0.6% for December which makes 16 consecutive positive LEI monthly reports….

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Worried About Rising Rates? Get Active

January 19, 2018

The Fed is scheduled to raise rates three times this year. The possibility of upside to four increases has entered conversations.  The reason: a hotter labor market and price pressures due to expansive fiscal or accomodative financial conditions.

The Fed target rate range is 1.25 – 1.50%. Three “gradual” increases would bring the range to 2.00% – 2.25%.  Raising the rate makes it more expensive to borrow and lowers the supply of money. The Fed meets eight times a year. Market participants expect the next rate hike to be at the March 21st meeting….

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Get Active

January 12, 2018

There has been a seismic shift in the way investors are investing since the 2000.  Investors have been moving money from active to passive management.  Passive, index investing has quadrupled since 2000.  The primary arguments for passive, index investing are lower fees and a belief that an investor cannot consistently outperform the market indexes.

When the price movement of all stocks is very similar (highly correlated), passive investing makes a lot of sense.  If all stocks move in the same direction by the same amount, it does not matter which stock you buy.  From 2000 to 2009, correlation between stocks increased.  In September 2009, the average correlation between stocks globally was 0.89.  This is only 0.11 away from perfect correlation of 1:1….

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Power of Positive Thinking

January 4, 2018

All else equal, the optimist lives on average seven years longer than the pessimist.  My 14-year-old son did not believe me at our dinner table discussion. I was actually glad to get the pushback.  I enlisted a scientist friend who worked in the labs at University of California Berkeley to convince my adolescent son with some science. There have been several studies showing positive thinking can extend our telomeres.

Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA. The longer our telomeres are and the slower they shorten, the longer we live.  Telomeres like positive thinking….

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2018 Stock Market Outlook

November 17, 2017

Our 2018 S&P 500 Index outlook is up.  If the P/E remains constant as it has for the past two years, the S&P 500 should be up in-line with earnings or about 11%.

The following ten factors support our 2018 bullish investment thesis:

  1. Global Economic Expansion – No U.S. Recession In Sight

The global stock market (MSCI AC World Index) has posted a gain for 12 consecutive months (a record) and is on track for every single month in a year for the first time in the 30-year history of the index.  Every one of the world’s 45 largest economies tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is expanding.  Economists are forecasting acceleration in world GDP in 2018 from 2017 levels….

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RecessionPredicting a Recession – Avoiding Major Loss – LEI and the Yield Curve

The Leading Economic Index (LEI) and the U.S. Treasury Yield Curve have been accurate predictors of recessions. This is important because:
1. Major stock market pull-backs (-40% or greater) that require years to recover occur during recessions.
2. As stock investors, we would like to reduce exposure to stocks in advance of major pull-backs.
3. If we can reliably predict when the next recession will be, we will be alerted to an elevated risk of an impending major bear market….

Click Here for Delta’s analysis of the LEI

Click Here for Delta’s analysis of the Yield Curve