Jack Bogle

December 31, 2018

December 31, 2018

Stocks opened higher this morning but quickly lost steam. The Dow is currently up 150 pts and the SPX is up .33%. Healthcare is the best performing group in early trading, up about 1%. Retailers and tech stocks are also in the green. On the other hand, utilities & real estate sectors are in the red. The VIX Index fell to 27 this morning; the fear index spiked to 36 on Christmas Eve. Foreign markets were mostly higher in today’s session. Even China’s Shanghai Composite Index picked itself up off the floor. It climbed .4% overnight but is still down something like 28% for the year. It’s no secret that the emerging trade war has dented China’s economic momentum. Commodities are mixed today: copper -1.8%; oil flat; gold flat; iron ore +.2%. But the overall trend has been lower; during 2018 the Bloomberg Commodity Index fell nearly 13%. Bonds are mostly unchanged today. The 5-year and 10-year Treasury yields are hovering around 2.54% and 2.70%, respectively. Bond traders are saying the 2.70% mark is a key psychological support level and if the 10-year falls below that it will likely continue falling toward 2.6%. By the way, for all the massive volatility in the bond market this year, the 10-year yield will have gained a mere 27 basis points (.27%) during 2018.


*The foregoing content reflects the author's personal opinions which may not coincide with the opinions of the firm, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions, or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. All investing involves risk. Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Finally, please understand that–as with other social media–if you leave a comment, it will be made public.

April 9, 2018 Special Update

Up One Day, Down The Next

Last Friday’s jobs report was supposed to be the big event of the week. It was supposed to either send the all clear signal or upset the apple cart; to confirm or deny a spike in wage inflation; to let us rest easy about labor market strength or perhaps reveal a slowdown in hiring momentum. Alas, it never delivered the excitement traders were looking for. 

Not that Friday’s trading session lacked excitement. The Dow fell 572 points and the S&P 500 fell 2.2%, capping a week of extraordinarily large rollercoaster swings. In fact, Vanguard’s Jack Bogle said that with the possible exception of the 1987 crash, he’s never seen such volatility as characterizes this stock market. 

The jobs report and its standard set of figures on payrolls, unemployment, and wage growth turned out OK. Inflation isn’t spiking. The labor market isn’t over-heating. New payroll growth decelerated, but that was largely due to weather-related issues. Other metrics like average workweek were on track. Just as with other recent economic data, there’s nothing in the report to cause an unhinging of the stock market. Nothing to explain the spike in volatility. 

What hit the market on Friday was the perfect storm of words, not data. President Trump is again engaged in a war of words with the Chinese. Thursday evening, Mr. Trump asked the US Trade Representative to consider additional trade tariffs on $100bil worth of Chinese imports. In response, China’s Commerce Ministry issued a statement that it is ready to fight a trade war. “The Chinese side will follow suit to the end and at any cost, and will firmly attack, using new comprehensive countermeasures, to firmly defend the interest of the nation and its people.” On Friday morning, Mr. Trump Tweeted that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is giving an unfair trade advantage to China due to its classification of that country as “developing.” But while the war of words progressed, neither side moved closer to face-to-face negotiations. 

And there are signals that this issue isn’t going away soon. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview that while the Trump Administration doesn’t want a trade war, “there is the potential” for one. He is “cautiously optimistic” that both sides will reach a solution. In a radio interview, the president said, “I’m not saying there won’t be a little pain, but the market has gone up 40%, 42% so we might lose a little bit of it. But we’re going to have a much stronger country when we’re finished.” 

Also thrown into the mix on Friday was congressional testimony by the new Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. He noted strong economic momentum in the US. “Given that the current pace of growth is above trend, my view is that we need to continue on the path of raising interest rates.” Mr. Powell’s message was a positive one, as expected. But considering the day’s events, investors were not in the mood to hear about further monetary tightening. The Dow took another leg down as he spoke. Mr. Powell tried to steer clear of trade tariff concerns, but when asked he said it’s “really too early” to estimate any economic impact. 

In that reply, Mr. Powell showed wisdom. We don’t yet know whether Mr. Trump’s sound bites constitute a new durable policy or simple rhetoric used as a negotiating tactic. We also don’t have a clue about the timeline for tariffs. Mr. Mnuchin said they “will take some period of time to go into effect. There will be public comment, while we’re in the period before the tariffs go on. We’ll continue to have discussions.” Besides, words change from day to day. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump eased his tone, Tweeting “President Xi and I will always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade.” Hence, the stock market bump this morning. 

The culprit for market volatility is clear. Words, in speeches, interviews and Tweets, made traders shoot first and ask questions later. That immediate re-pricing of investment risk may prove to be unwarranted, however. Aside of positive economic momentum, corporate earnings are expected to be very strong this year. Core business trends are largely positive and by one estimate $800bil in economic benefit will come from tax reform. US companies will begin reporting first quarter results this week, and we very much hope that investors and traders pay more attention to those reports than to presidential Tweets. As Bloomberg posits, “Markets Want to Rally—If Politicians Will Let Them.”
 


*The foregoing content reflects the author's personal opinions which may not coincide with the opinions of the firm, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions, or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. All investing involves risk. Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Finally, please understand that–as with other social media–if you leave a comment, it will be made public.

November 8, 2017

Stocks opened lower this morning. The Dow and SPX are currently off 15 pts and flat, respectively. Real estate and consumer staples—both defensive sectors—are higher in early trading. Tech is picking up at the moment as well. But most everything else is in the red. Financials and energy are down.7%. And I’d point out that both US and European banks have been underperforming for a week or two now. The VIX Index is up a bit but still trading at 10, which is very low. The dollar is flat today against a basket of foreign currencies and most commodities are lower for the second straight session. WTI crude oil is trading down to $55.60/barrel. Copper is down slightly this month, probably just some give-back after a monster 30% rally from May to October. The 5-year and 10-year Treasury note yields are flat around 1.99% and 2.31%, respectively. So not much excitement in the bond world.


*The foregoing content reflects the author's personal opinions which may not coincide with the opinions of the firm, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions, or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. All investing involves risk. Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Finally, please understand that–as with other social media–if you leave a comment, it will be made public.

April 11, 2017

Stocks opened lower this morning (Dow -110 pts; SPX -.6%). We’re right in that weird pre-earnings season period with only geopolitics to keep us busy. Financials and tech are down almost 1% in early trading. It looks like some of the stocks that have surged over the past few months are getting hit harder (MU, SWKS, AAPL, AMAT). I think the market will likely recoup some of the these losses by the end of the session. The VIX Index is up 11% to trade over 15.5; that’s a big jump in expected volatility. The VIX hasn’t been above 15 since the election. But remember, typically the VIX isn’t considered elevated unless it reaches 20. The dollar is down today (and about 1.5% year-to-date). Gold is higher on the day but most other commodities are lower. WTI crude is trading modestly lower to $52.80/barrel. Bonds are higher on the day (lower in yield). The 5-year Treasury is down around 1.84% and will likely fall to technical support at 1.80%. The 10-year Treasury is now yielding 2.31% and the next support level is 2.29%. 


*The foregoing content reflects the author's personal opinions which may not coincide with the opinions of the firm, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions, or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns. All investing involves risk. Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Finally, please understand that–as with other social media–if you leave a comment, it will be made public.