CHARTS THAT MATTER
As the old saying goes, a picture is often worth a thousand words. Charts are no exception and often encapsulate a powerful story.
Legacy’s Investment Team flips through hundreds of charts each quarter, handpicking those that we feel are relevant to the particular investment backdrop that you can walk through with us.
The U.S. economy grew at the strongest pace in nearly four years during the second quarter. Gross domestic product (GDP) – the value of all goods and services produced across the economy – increased at a 4.1% annualized rate in the second quarter.
Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) data for June was released last week and showed that the LEI increased 0.5% month-over-month. The index level increased to 109.8 in June, a new cycle high. As the name of the index suggests, this composite of indicators is designed to lead the business cycle, with recent solid growth supportive of near-term economic gains and implying a business cycle still exhibiting an expansionary bias.
Broad strength across all sectors are expected for second quarter earnings season with Energy leading the way.
Rallying oil prices, strong U.S. economic data and buoyant consumer confidence have pushed analysts’ earnings estimates higher since the start of the second quarter.
Equity markets continue to be conflicted between the benefits of tax reform and the turbulence of tariffs.
Just four stocks have fueled over 82% of the S&P 500’s 2.6% gain on a year-to-date basis through June 30th. Excluding these stocks, the S&P 500 would only be up 0.48%. Excluding the top seven stocks, the S&P 500 would be in negative territory for the year. During an average year, the 10 stocks with the greatest impact typically account for only 45% of the market’s price moves.
The proposed tariffs - if implemented in full - would increase the average effective US tariff rate by about 5 percentage points (pp) and take the US back to levels last seen in the 1970s.
Counting the tariffs. So far, duties on $55.7 billion of imports have been implemented, including tariffs on washing machines and solar panels, steel and aluminum. A first round of tariffs on $34 billion of imports from China is set to take place on July 6th unless an agreement is reached. From here, President Trump has threatened three further steps: a 25% tariff on an addition $100 billion from China, 20% on $275 billion of auto imports and 10% on an additional $300 billion from China.
The Federal Open Market Committee will be announcing their next policy decision tomorrow. Another rate hike is nearly fully priced into the markets with a probability of 84%.
The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model forecast for second quarter economic growth remains above 4.5%. Even if the model is overestimating growth by 1%, the second quarter is staging an impressive rebound.
Politics continue to cause uncertainty and angst for the markets as they dominate the headlines. Most recently, the announcement of new governments in Italy and Spain and the implementation of steel and aluminum tariffs on some of our largest trading partners, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
While the Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates in the U.S., this rate hiking cycle is set to be the longest and shallowest on record.
The 10-year U.S. Treasury Yield has firmly breached the headline-grabbing 3% threshold to 3.1% - the highest level since 2011. It is important to remember that rising rates – although painful over the short-term as bond prices move inversely to yields – are beneficial to fixed income investors over the long-term.
This month, the current U.S. economic expansion reaches the 107-month mark, making it the second longest economic expansion on record. The next milestone is 13 months from now – June 2019 – at 120 months and it is looking increasingly likely that this expansion will continue for more than a year and set the new record.
Earnings revisions have been on a strong upward trend since mid-2017. With first quarter earnings season wrapping up, companies have exceeded approximately 80% of analyst earnings estimates; therefore, providing an even higher growth rate than what was anticipated for earnings.
Global growth has stepped up in a synchronized fashion. Nearly all countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developed (OECD) are recording positive growth rates – the first time since the global financial crisis.
Equity market volatility as measured by the volatility index (VIX) remained tepid throughout 2017. The market’s reaction to inflationary fears, increasing interest rates and a potential trade war has led to volatility roaring back in 2018.
The markets are conflicted between the benefits of tax reform and the turbulence of tariffs. The size of fiscal stimulus, driven by tax reform, dwarf the size of tariffs announced thus far. Nevertheless, tariffs and the potential for trade war have been a destabilizing factor for the markets and will likely continue to be until we gain further clarity.
Goldman Sach’s proprietary indicator, called the Global Leading Indicator (GLI), meant to provide an early signal of the global industrial cycle is showing signs of weaker growth in global industrial production.
The announced steel and aluminum tariffs have now gone into effect. Going forward, a 25% tariff will be placed on steel imports and a 10% tariff placed on steel imports. These tariffs are due in large part to the material trade deficit that the U.S. has – particularly with China. The monthly trade deficit for January widened to a 9 ½ year low likely adding more fuel to President Trump’s agenda of fair trade.
Expansion of profit margins have been a key driver of earnings growth in the U.S. since the global financial crisis. Should the Federal Reserve continue to raise rates and wage growth continue to grow, profit margins will likely come under pressure. Stronger revenue growth will need to offset this dynamic in order for earnings to continue to grow strongly.
We have witnessed a sharp acceleration in U.S. earnings upgrades as analysts have factored in the impact from the tax cuts and fiscal stimulus. The ratio of analyst upgrades to downgrades for U.S. large caps has spiked to the highest level since the data series started in 1988.
Pullback in perspective. The recent market correction has put the markets back on the trajectory of the last two years.
The dangers of “following the crowd” and chasing the latest trends are illustrated in the following chart. Strategies that provide inverse (e.g. “short”) equity volatility exposure gained significant attraction over the past two years as volatility remained abnormally subdued. As equity volatility spiked to a 2 1⁄2 year high recently, the popular Credit Suisse VelocityShares Inverse VIX Short-Term exchange traded note (ETN) – which had over $1 billion of assets - lost nearly all of its “value” and is now being liquidated by Credit Suisse.
Investors piled into equities during the month of January as the set the record for the biggest month of flows into equity funds on record, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Interestingly, there was one group of investors that wasn’t so anxious to buy at these levels: company insiders who must report their purchases of stock in the companies they work for.
U.S. Treasury yields have been under pressure in 2018 while implied volatility is at record lows. This looks quite similar to that seen just prior to the “taper tantrum” in 2013 and could portend the beginning of the fourth bond market tantrum since 2014.
2017 was one of the calmest years on record with very steady returns. There were only eight days when the market moved by more than 1% during the calendar year. As the year moved, the calmness grew. None of the eight 1% moves occurred in the fourth quarter. While we believe 2018 will provide another strong set of returns for equity investors, they should be prepared for more heightened levels of volatility to accompany returns.
Global growth accelerated sharply in 2017 and the upswing became increasingly broad based throughout the year.
The Fed continued at a slow and steady pace with three rate hikes in 2017 while the ECB and BOJ stood pat.
Economic data are beating expectations by the most in nearly six years according to Citigroup’s economic surprise index. It’s massive run higher is one sign that the economy has gained momentum this year.
Broadly speaking, the economy remains in the goldilocks phase of the financial & business cycles.
Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in 2017 has been unprecedented; making other market moves that led to eventual bubbles look rather insignificant.
The U.S. economy expanded at a 3.3% rate in the third quarter of 2017; marking the second consecutive quarter of 3% GDP growth and the strongest quarter in 3 years.
Charting where the world’s largest economies fall in regards to economic, credit, and monetary policy cycles. A majority of countries continue to expand. However, higher volatility can be expected as we continue to progress into the later stages of the credit cycle and monetary policies become less accommodative.
How quickly things can change in just 10 years. Once dominated by the major corporate conglomerates, the five largest companies in the world measured by Market Capitalization are all tech companies. An illustration of how disruptive technology has become.
Synchronized global growth has been the dominating theme in 2017. Caterpillar’s dealer sales by region illustrate this theme as well – with global retail sales rising 13% year-over-year as reported in their third quarter earnings release
Economic cycles don’t die of old age. While the current economic cycle has been unusually long, when comparing the cycle with previous ones in terms of quantity – and not time – reveals an economy with plenty of time (and capacity) left for continued economic growth.
Hurricane Harvey & Irma trimmed US economic activity in September, primarily affecting manufacturing output. However, the nation’s economy showed encouraging resilience in a month of disruption as the flash estimate for the broader Manufacturing Index came in at 54.6; comfortably above the 50 point threshold that indicates expansion.
Strong Consumer Confidence, improving labor markets, and low interest rates are all contributing to the domestic demand forces driving the Eurozone’s recovery.
The end of an era for unprecedented monetary policy. The Federal Reserve announced on 9/20/2017 that it will start to unwind the easy money policy that it has pursued since the Global Financial Crisis and will begin to allow $10BN of bonds mature every month starting in October.
The output gap – which measures potential GDP, realized GDP, and estimated natural rate of employment – has narrowed; reflecting realized growth that is essentially in line with potential growth. Reaching a low of -6% in 2009, the level of “slack” in the economy has almost been worked-off.
Improving home values and rising equity markets propelled the total net worth of U.S. households further into record territory during the second quarter of 2017.