As kids prepare to go back to school and families make plans for that last long weekend of summer vacation, investors enjoyed new highs for blue-chip stocks this week. Despite the ongoing uncertainty of trade policy, stocks continue to ascend a wall of worry, having digested another quarter of robust earnings growth in part the result of faster U.S. economic growth.
Earlier this week, The Eagles’ Greatest Hits surpassed Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the best-selling album of all time. I would argue that “greatest hits” albums should be excluded, but that’s neither here nor there. Also, this month, the S&P 500 set the record for the longest streak without a 20 percent decline, or bull market. This trend started in March of 2009 and has lasted over 3500 days. The previous feat was the 1990s bull market which finally ended with the burst of the Internet Bubble in 2001.
A currency crisis in Turkey and continued trade uncertainty resulted in a volatile week for equities. International stocks, specifically emerging markets, started selling off. U.S. commodities were also weak. This was offset by positive news on the China trade front.
News broke this week that the Trump administration would consider bypassing congressional legislation to change the capital gains taxes rules to index for inflation. The current strategy that is being floated is to use the Treasury department and IRS rather than traditional legislation to redefine capital gains to include only returns in excess of inflation.
If you break the stock market down into its most basic elements only two things matter: earnings of companies and what investors are willing to pay for a dollar of earnings. This week, earnings season for the second quarter of 2018 was in full swing and investors are digesting the news.
Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law on December 22, 2017, pundits and economists have continued to debate if companies would increase their capital expenditures due to the 100-percent-expensing provision in the new tax code.
Expectations and events often explain market movement. With earnings season underway next week, every earnings report will be judged on whether those expectations were exceeded, met or missed. Perhaps the most important aspect is if future growth outlook meets expectations.
Over the last month, financials and industrials have been the two worst performing sectors in the S&P 500. While the industrials sector can be explained due to the strengthening U.S. dollar and trade rhetoric, financials have been more perplexing.
Trade concerns weighed on stocks this week resulting in a 1 percent decline for the S&P 500, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling close to 2 percent. Large-cap industrial stocks have taken the brunt of the pain due to their exposure to export markets, as well as increasing steel and aluminum costs due to recent tariffs.
With just a couple of weeks left to go in the second quarter, investors wanting for a lack of earnings news found plenty of economic reports and central bank meetings to freshen up their views of the macroeconomy.
In recent weeks, investors and economists alike have been questioning the sustainability of the current backdrop of strong global growth and are considering the longevity of the current expansion. No doubt, economic data out of Europe has been weak and some U.S. data has moderated from very strong levels.