Global Economy Muddles Along

The United States and emerging markets still stand out to us as relatively more attractive investment opportunities than developed international markets, based in large part on relatively stronger outlooks for economic growth and corporate profits. The outlook for emerging markets depends on trade, but if the progress we expect later this year and in early 2020 materializes, we would expect the impact on emerging markets economic growth and profits to result in higher stock prices. Meanwhile, we will continue to watch for signs of improvement in Europe and Japan

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Central Banks are Back

After a decade of easy money, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provided incentives for investment, and in 2018, the regulatory environment had eased and additional government spending programs further boosted demand. In fact, in our 2018 Outlook: The Return of the Business Cycle, we highlighted the return of fiscal leadership as a primary driver for economic and market activity. The improved growth environment led to a tighter monetary stance from the Federal Reserve (Fed) in 2018, even as the contentious trade environment diminished business investment.

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Corporate Earnings Outlook

We recently lowered our 2019 S&P 500 Index earnings growth forecast. In our August 19 Weekly Market Commentary, “Tweaking Forecasts,” we lowered our 2019 expectations for growth domestic product (GDP), the 10-year Treasury yield, and S&P 500 earnings per share (EPS). Our revised S&P 500 EPS forecast is now $165 for 2019, and we initiated a 2020 forecast of $175. Importantly, we have maintained our year-end fair value target on the S&P 500 of 3,000, as we expect lower interest rates and inflation to support higher valuations. Here we provide more background on our reduced earnings outlook.

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U.S. Treasuries and the Yield Curve

We expect the combination of a softer economic growth outlook with mild U.S. inflationary pressures and ultralow yields internationally to potentially translate into lower domestic yields. The uncertain U.S.-China trade situation has weighed heavily on business investment, resulting in weaker manufacturing activity worldwide. It is also important to note that trade challenges exist beyond the United States and China. The United States’ pacts regarding NAFTA 2.0, South Korea and Japan, and European automobiles are still unresolved. Despite a decade’s worth of global monetary policy accommodation, very few inflationary pressures are evident, presenting leading central banks with the need for further accommodation.

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