Wealth Management — February 2, 2023
- The S&P 500 gained 1.5% Thursday to close at 4,179.76. The index is now up 8.9% year-to-date.
- Seven of the 11 S&P 500 sectors rose on the day. Communication Services (+6.7%) and Consumer Discretionary (+3.1%) outperformed while Consumer Staples (-0.9%) and Energy (-2.5%) lagged the index.
- Equities rose a day after Fed Chair Powell's less hawkish announcement of the Federal Open Market Committee's 25-basis-point rate increase. While the committee continues to "anticipate that ongoing increases will be appropriate" and emphasize that there is more work to be done to reach the FOMC's 2% goal for inflation, investors are encouraged by the lower prices within the goods sector and Fed Chair Powell's hope for lower pricing pressures to soon be felt in the services sector. Meanwhile, in additional efforts to tame inflation, the European Central Bank increased its interest rate by 50 basis points, and the Bank of England rose its rate by 50 basis points as well.
- Fourth quarter earnings season continued with companies reporting higher 4Q22 sales y/y, but lower earnings y/y. The management team from a mega-cap Communication Services company emphasized future benefits of its cost-reduction efforts as it guided the Street in its improved outlook.
- After the 4 pm equity market close, WTI oil fell 0.8% to $75.79 per barrel and the 10-year Treasury yield declined to 3.39%.
- 4Q22 Earnings: As of market close, 231 S&P 500 companies reported fourth quarter results with 70% of them beating earnings expectations. In aggregate, for the companies that reported, earnings surprised by 2.3% while sales surprised by 1.1%, according to Bloomberg. For the S&P 500, bottom-up, blended 4Q22 earnings growth is anticipated to be -2.9% y/y even as earnings from Energy and Industrials companies are growing 59.6% and 39.3% y/y, respectively, according to Refinitiv. Excluding Energy, fourth quarter earnings are expected to be down 7.1% y/y. During company 4Q22 earnings calls, investors will be monitoring the effect of inflation and the slowing economy on fourth quarter revenues and earnings, as well as on forward guidance. We believe investors have not yet priced in softening corporate earnings.
With the Fed responding to 40-year highs in inflation through both rate hikes and balance sheet run-off in 2022, the GIC’s call for continued caution remains intact. Corporate earnings revisions moved lower over the course of 2022, suggesting downside to forward earnings growth. We recommend investors focus on risk management through quality cash flows, defensiveness, and attention to stock-specific valuations. We suggest rebalancing portfolios and tax-loss harvesting during bear market rallies. In fixed income, the challenge is two-fold: generating sufficient income, while also preserving capital, given the potential for higher yields amid ongoing inflation. This requires diversified and active exposure, with our preference for core investment grade fixed income and dividend-paying stocks. Consider revisiting positioning in long-duration/growth equities, where there may not be adequate compensation for the risks of higher real rates, falling operating leverage and the strong US dollar.
For US equities, the MS & Co. US Equity Strategy team sees the potential for further equity downside in the early part of 2023, given their base-case expectations of $195 for 2023E earnings, well below current consensus levels. Their 2023E S&P 500 base case provides a target of 3,900, based on 2024E earnings of $241. This scenario assumes that nominal top-line growth slows to the low single digits and that margins contract. Their 2023E bear case of 3,500 considers a severe earnings recession, margin pressure and a contraction of EPS growth. Their 2023E bull case of 4,200 corresponds to a mid-single-digit top-line growth rate and limited margin compression. This bull case forecast embeds an estimate of 16.7x MS & Co.'s forward 2024E earnings of $251.
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 17US dollar against a subset of the broad index currencies that circulate widely outside the US.