Wealth Management — April 21, 2020
- US stocks declined on Tuesday as the S&P 500 fell 3.1% to close at 2,737. With the sell-off, the index is now down 15.3% year to date and has corrected 19.2% from the February 19 all-time high.
- Stocks fell for a second straight day as oil markets again dominated attention following yesterday’s historic slide in prices. Yet, even as oil prices largely traded lower again on Tuesday, Energy stocks were among the day’s relative leaders, recording only modest losses. The real driver of weakness was Technology, with the sector off 4.1%. It appeared there may have been some profit taking ahead of earnings season in recent leaders, with several large Technology companies slated to report results this week. Outside of oil and earnings, Washington remains in focus, with the Senate scheduled to vote tonight on a bill that would upsize funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
- All 11 S&P 500 sectors were lower Tuesday, with Utilities (-1.6%) and Real Estate (-1.6%) outperforming the broader market, while Financials (-3.2%) and Information Technology (-4.1%) lagged.
- Rates were lower across the curve, with the yield on the 10-year falling to 0.57% as of the 4 p.m. equity close. The yield curve flattened, as 10-year rates fell more than 2-year rates. Gold fell 0.6%, while the US dollar was modestly higher, as measured by the US Dollar Index.
US stocks declined on Tuesday as the S&P 500 fell 3.1%. Following last Friday’s close, the S&P 500 had rallied over 28% from the March 23 low in just under a month, and after back-to-back weeks of sharp rallies, perhaps some consolidation may have been due. That consolidation may have been catalyzed by sharply lower oil prices in recent days, though even with weakness in oil prices, Energy stocks have actually been relative outperformers this week. Still, Monday was a historic day for the commodity, as the front-month May WTI futures contract traded below $0, marking the first time WTI has traded into negative territory. While Energy stocks may have brushed off commodity price weakness this week, lower oil prices may be weighing on sentiment more broadly, and also appear to be putting downward pressure on rates and credit. Outside of oil, Tuesday’s equity market leadership points to some selling of recent leaders, with Technology the clear laggard on the day, declining 4.1%. There may have been some profit taking in the sector as a slew of tech companies are scheduled to report results this week, beginning with the first of the ‘FANG’ stocks set to report after-market on Tuesday. Washington was also in focus Tuesday, as it would appear lawmakers have come to an agreement on upsizing the funds made available through the Paycheck Protection Program, which had exhausted its original lending mandate last week.
Even with today’s sell-off, the recent rally in the S&P 500 leaves the index roughly halfway between the February 19 all-time high and the March 23 intra-day low, with the index having retraced slightly more than half of the February into March sell-off. The index has experienced both a 20%+ bear-market decline and a 20%+ bull-market rally in the span of just eight weeks. This volatility perhaps is unsurprising, as the range of potential outcomes for the economy looking forward is wide, given near unprecedented headwinds posed by the COVID-19 pandemic alongside near unprecedented levels of stimulus coming from governments and central banks. The global economy has likely slid into recession and the negative economic effects of the pandemic have become more tangible in recent weeks, as unemployment has spiked and consumer and corporate activity has fallen dramatically. Importantly, however, policy makers have acted, and record levels of stimulus should help ease the burden the current crisis is putting on households, businesses and the economy at large. A one-two punch of monetary and fiscal policy is being delivered in the US, as policy makers confront the current economic challenges. On the monetary front, the Fed has gone to extraordinary lengths to provide liquidity and stabilize fixed income markets. On the fiscal front, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law late last month; the CARES Act calls for $2 trillion+ in federal assistance and loans for those individuals, businesses and organizations most affected by the sudden stop in economic activity caused by the spread of the coronavirus. US policy makers have acted aggressively to address the challenges posed to the economy currently, and ultimately this policy response should help drive an economic recovery once the current health crisis is resolved.
The dual shocks of coronavirus and the collapse in oil prices are likely to push the global economy into recession over the next 1-2 quarters, ending the 11-year business cycle. However, the swift and furious bear market sell-off since the S&P 500 all-time high on February 19 leaves most asset classes already fully discounting that outcome. Furthermore, we are anticipating an increasingly coordinated “do whatever it takes” stance from global policymakers who are likely to deliver both monetary and fiscal stimulus that should stabilize things as we navigate the human disruption and health-related parts of the crisis. On the other side of the recession, we see potential for a global recovery. Green shoots were already visible outside the US, and inside the US, the foundational health of the consumer has never been stronger to weather a recession, i.e., low unemployment, strong balance sheets and housing market with momentum. Consequently, in recent weeks the GIC has reduced exposures to long-duration Treasuries and began rebuilding exposure to US large-cap growth, US small/mid-cap stocks, US credit and commodities. While we believe the current equity market correction constitutes a cyclical bear market within a longer-term equity bull market, the GIC believes a new multi-year bear market in fixed income has begun. The next leg of the secular bull market in equities is unlikely to see the same leaders as the past decade—namely Technology and Consumer Discretionary stocks. Instead, the GIC sees Financials, Industrials and Health Care stocks likely to outperform. Volatility over the next few quarters should be exploited frequently to rebalance portfolios to strategic asset allocations.
Market data provided by Bloomberg.
Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA): A price-weighted average of 30 blue-chip stocks that are generally the leaders in their industry.
NASDAQ Composite Index: A broad-based capitalization-weighted index of stocks in all three NASDAQ tiers: Global Select, Global Market and Capital Market.
S&P 500 Index: The Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 Index tracks the performance of 500 widely held, large-capitalization US stocks.
US Trade-Weighted Dollar Index: A weighted average of the foreign exchange value of the US dollar against a subset of the broad index currencies that circulate widely outside the US.