Wealth Management — October 26, 2023
- The S&P 500 Index fell 1.2% Thursday to end the day at 4,137.23, having gained 7.8% thus far in 2023.
- Eight of the 11 S&P 500 sectors were lower on the day, as Real Estate (2.2%), Utilities (0.9%), Materials (0.7%) outperformed the S&P 500 Index. Financials (-0.4%), Industrials (-0.4%), Consumer Staples (-0.6%), Energy (-0.8%), Health Care (-1.0%), Consumer Discretionary (-1.6%), Information Technology (-2.2%), and Communication Services (-2.6%) underperformed.
- By the 4:00 p.m. equity market close, the US 10-year Treasury yield decreased 11 bp to 4.84%; WTI crude oil prices decreased -2.2% to $83.53 per barrel; and gold increased 0.3% to 1,985.49.
- For the seventh time in eight trading days, US equities traded lower today, with the S&P 500 hitting its lowest levels since May, while Treasury yields decline across the full US Treasury yield curve.
- The Magnificent Seven, a group of leading Technology sector constituents, have shed $200 billion in market value since starting to issue their third-quarter earnings, with Amazon set to report after Thursday’s market close.
- Of those companies that have reported third-quarter earnings, 78% have exceeded consensus earnings expectations, but fourth-quarter earnings expectations have declined approximately 1.5% over the past few days. Notably, forward guidance has included acknowledgement of potential macro volatility.
- The CBOE Volatility Index has risen in recent days, hitting 20.65 as of Thursday’s close.
- Despite tightening financial conditions, the first estimate of third-quarter US real GDP showed an annualized growth rate of 4.9%, the fastest rate in two years.
US: We remain uncertain that forward earnings estimates are accurately discounting the most recent developments of a strong US dollar, rising oil prices, maturing US fiscal stimulus and an increasingly tapped-out US consumer. Additionally, we expect that Fed actions in 2024 may result in a “higher-for-longer” rate scenario. Our preference is for defensive and secular-growth equities with quality balance sheets.
International Equities (Developed Markets): The mix of high and sticky inflation, existential risks associated with Russia/Ukraine and the European Central Bank's position that it has limited tools to help suggest that the odds of recession are over 50%. Developed market exposure should skew toward commodities and materials exporters, especially those in the Asia/Pacific region, including Japan.
Emerging Markets: Recent softness in China, including macro uncertainty and deflationary pressures, along with growing opacity around policy direction, have caused concern for the country’s growth path. With global growth concerns potentially mounting, we have neutralized a previous overweight to emerging markets.
US Investment Grade: While markets had aggressively priced the Fed's hawkish rhetoric, recent bank concerns have brought in pricing of rate cuts through early 2024. We are taking a more balanced risk-reward approach and have added to large underweight positions. With continued Quantitative Tightening ahead, execution risk remains elevated, as do the risks from sticky services inflation. However, bonds still offer decent relative value and the potential for portfolio hedging. Moreover, we expect equity-fixed income correlations to decrease in the event of an earnings recession.
International Investment Grade: Central banks’ hawkish pivots have prompted a material move in global nominal rates. While timing and catalysts are still hazy, negative-yielding debt has largely vanished in recent months. Prospects are brightening for fixed income investors, with opportunities to invest in local currencies that are expected to strengthen against the US dollar. Nevertheless, our benchmark and tactical asset allocation model continue to allocate 0% to this asset class.
Inflation-Protected Securities: TIPS yields have moved up, as realized inflation remains near a 40-year high and geopolitical uncertainties add pricing pressures. Even with real yields now positive, valuation is not compelling in comparison to US investment grade fixed income. Moreover, our benchmark and tactical asset allocation model continue to allocate 0% to this asset class.
High Yield: We have eliminated our exposure to the equity-like asset class to reduce equity beta of portfolios. High yield bonds rallied aggressively after the unprecedented provision of liquidity from the Fed and fiscal stimulus from Washington. However, there appears to be limited upside potential and much downside risk to investing in riskier products, given the current market environment. Moreover, our benchmark and tactical asset allocation model continue to allocate 0% to this asset class.
REITS: With real interest rates now positive and services inflation remaining quite sticky, we would need to be cautious and selective in adding to this asset class. For now, we remain underweight.
Commodities: Global central banks have successfully brought commodity prices back to late-2021 levels. Supply chains for goods have been close to restored, which has helped to relieve some pressures on inflation coming from industrial metals and auto parts. That said, structural disruption in energy and global agricultural commodities remains severe and may take multiple quarters to cure. Semiconductor trade has been down since the CHIPS Act was enacted.
Hedged Strategies (Hedge Funds and Managed Futures): The current environment appears constructive for hedge fund managers who are good stock-pickers and can use leverage and risk management to amplify returns. We prefer very active and fundamental strategies, especially high quality, low beta, low volatility and absolute return hedge funds.
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.