Stocks reached new highs last week. The S&P 500 Index completed a V-shaped recovery last week to register its first record high since September 20, 2018, to close at 2933.68 on April 23 [Figure 1]. Here we share our thoughts on what this record could mean for stocks going forward.
We’ve finally closed the book on what was one of the most perplexing quarters of this expansion. In January and February 2019, economic data took an unexpected turn as trade and political headwinds weighed on global demand. Tensions then subsided in March, and signs of a rebound started to appear.
These past few months have been full of surprises, so it was only fitting that this chapter ended with a blowout gross domestic product (GDP) report. The April 26 report showed first quarter GDP increased 3.2%, the best first quarter gain since 2015 and above all Bloomberg forecasts for growth [Figure 1].
We’ve talked a lot about green shoots in the U.S. economy recently. A slew of recent data has pointed to a rebound in growth from a disappointing first quarter hampered by global headwinds. Last week, we gathered more clues on a potential recovery from an uptick in business sentiment in the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) Beige Book [Figure 1].
U.S. stocks are sitting at the same levels they were seven months ago, but the path hasn’t been straight. Equity investors have been on a bumpy ride since September 2018, and investors’ resolve has been tested amid back-and-forth in trade negotiations, a historic government shutdown, Brexit, the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) U-turn in policy, and signs of a global slowdown.
Fortunately, the S&P 500 Index weathered a steep decline late last year and has found its way back around record highs. Stocks’ historically strong start to the year has been promising, but there are still signals that more weakness could be in store before the S&P 500’s next leg higher.
The U.S. inflation narrative has flipped. In 2018 and 2019, one of investors’ prevailing worries was that inflationary pressures were increasing and the U.S. economy could start overheating under policymakers’ noses.
Late in 2018, deteriorating global conditions shifted the economic landscape and fueled concerns that inflationary pressures could be too low, hinting of an impending U.S. economic slowdown. Investors have dealt with several cases of whiplash from changing narratives and policy speculation in this expansion. When that has happened, we’ve leaned toward data for direction. Even though investors’ perception of inflation have changed, we see signs that lower inflation fears could be fleeting [Figure 1].
After such a strong rally for stocks this year, you may be wondering what could drive stocks higher from here. With the S&P 500 Index less than 1% away from its all-time high set September 20, 2018, a lot of good news has been priced into stocks. You may also be wondering what possible disappointments could cause stocks to pull back from here, especially given the soft patch in the U.S. economy and corporate profits during the first quarter.
A chilly winter is finally behind us, and flowers are starting to bloom. The U.S. economy kicked off the year with a disappointing first quarter as consumers and businesses weathered symptoms of a global slowdown. Thankfully, seasons change, and we’re seeing signs of thaw in leading economic data.
First quarter earnings season kicks off this week and the bar seems low. Consensus estimates for first quarter earnings season are calling for a slight yearover-year decline in S&P 500 Index earnings amid the economic soft patch at the start of the year. Marking the one-year anniversary of the tax reform earnings boost, in the first quarter of 2018, has made the annual comparison more difficult, as shown in Figure 1. We expect roughly flat earnings for the quarter, but the streak of seven straight quarters of earnings growth could come to an end. Here we preview the upcoming earnings season, highlight some key themes, and share some thoughts on the 2019 corporate profit outlook.
Wall Street is watching a litany of telling economic and market signals, but the rest of the world is watching college basketball. Four teams will be left standing after tonight (April 1) in both the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball championships, and new national champions will be crowned in just a week.
A few upsets have happened this quarter, and both brackets and economic forecasts have been busted. As investors sift through conflicting signals in economic and market data, we thought we’d highlight our own Final Four, or the four biggest catalysts we think could jump-start economic growth nearly 10 years into this expansion.
The NCAA Final Four is set. On the men’s side, Auburn, Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Virginia are headed to Minneapolis to determine this year’s college basketball national champion. On the women’s side, UConn and Oregon punched their tickets over the weekend while the other two spots will be decided tonight — Baylor and Notre Dame are the favorites.