Three Things To Watch This Earning Season

We ran out of superlatives to describe corporate America’s stunning performance during first-quarter earnings season. Despite lofty expectations, results exceeded expectations by one of the biggest margins ever. So what will companies do for an encore? We expect more good news this quarter as more of the economy has opened up, while also acknowledging the second quarter will almost certainly end up being the peak in earnings growth for this cycle. Here, we highlight what to watch.

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Three Things That Worry Us

Markets are off to a strong start this year, with the S&P 500 Index up about 14% so far. However, most of those gains came early in the year, and many stocks have stagnated over recent months. While we remain overweight on stocks relative to bonds, this week we explore three things that worry us—and could make the market more susceptible to a pullback as we enter the second half of 2021.

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Inflation & What The Fed Is Saying

Inflation has been on the rise. Investors are not as interested in what’s happening now as they are in what’s happening next. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve (Fed) shared its views at the conclusion of its last policy meeting on Wednesday, June 16. And while the Fed’s position that inflation is likely to be transitory has become stronger, not weaker, Fed members have seemingly different opinions on the future path of monetary support.

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Sustainable Investing Becoming Mainstream in Fixed Income

On May 27, 2021, a couple of events in the energy sector occurred that demonstrated the continued mainstreaming of sustainable investing and underscored the risks and opportunities available to investors. While primarily thought of as equity-oriented, sustainable investing is becoming more mainstream in fixed income markets—and companies that fail to acknowledge changing dynamics may potentially face financially material impacts.

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Policy Shifts May Challenge Markets

Fiscal stimulus, which was central to the market rebound in the last year, may start moving to the sidelines over the rest of 2021 and into 2022 as the recovery continues. Economic growth can compensate for the loss of government checks to households and businesses, but potential tax increases may be more challenging for markets to navigate. Business tax increases, in particular, may gradually pull gains out of markets about equal to their size, but with economic growth supporting corporate earnings, we believe a positive backdrop for equities remains in place.

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Proceed With Caution In The Bond Market

After one of the worst starts to a year for fixed income, returns may not get much better from here. Long-term interest rates have traded sideways recently but we expect rates to potentially rise further, which would put downward pressure on bond prices. We’re not giving up on high-quality fixed income though, as Treasury securities have shown to be the best diversifier during times of equity market stresses.

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Stock Market Gains Likely to Slow

After one of the best starts to a bull market in history, the rally has started to show signs of fatigue. A strong economic recovery lies ahead as the roepening continues, bolstering a very strong earnings outlook that is helping stocks grow into elevated valuations. However, in the second half of the year, as inflationary pressures build, interest rates potentially rise further, and this bull market gets a little older, the pace of stock market gains will likely slow and come with more volatility.

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Economy Picking Up Speed

The economic recovery continues, as the recipe of vaccines, the reopening, and record stimulus all have combined to produce what should be one of the best years for growth ever. Although some economic indicators could be peaking or about to peak, the stage is set for this cycle of growth to continue for many years, which may surprise some investors. We discuss why inflation might be in the headlines, but still shouldn’t be a major worry for investors.

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