Businesses and Consumers Likely Protected From Near-Term Recession

 

Not all recessions are created equal. Previous downturns in the U.S. were prompted by various shocks, with the most recent recession started by health and government-induced shutdowns. Other recessions started in the corporate sector, whereas some started from commodity shocks. The next
one could start from geopolitical tensions. Nonetheless, we think the current business and consumer environments are safe from near-term recession risks.

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What to Watch This Earnings Season

 

First quarter earnings season is rolling. BlackRock, Delta Airlines, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley were among the first 16 S&P 500 companies to report March quarter results, following 20 index constituents with quarters ending in February that had already reported. Below we preview earnings season, highlight what we are watching, and share our latest thoughts on the 2022 profit outlook.

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Headwinds to Global Growth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LPL Research reduced U.S. and global GDP forecasts due to Russian commodity disruptions, elevated inflation dynamics, and higher borrowing costs. Still, we expect the U.S. economy to grow 2.7-3.2% in 2022, supported by business investment and consumer services spending in the latter half of this year. Forecasts for GDP growth in developed economies excluding the U.S. and emerging markets were also reduced this month to 2.5–3% and 3.8–4.3% respectively, bringing the LPL Research global GDP growth forecast down about one percentage point to 3–3.5%.

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Our Stock Market Final Four

 

As the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament rolls on in New Orleans, we continue our tradition of picking a stock market final four. We have identified our four key factors for the stock market outlook: 1) Consumer spending, 2) Earnings, 3) Interest rates, and 4) Inflation. We also celebrate last year’s winner: COVID-19 vaccines. Below we discuss these four factors, how they may influence markets this year, and pick our winner. Good luck to Kansas and North Carolina in tonight’s final.

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Tempering Our Enthusiasm

 

As the stock market recovered from the 2020 pandemic lows, valuations reached levels not seen since the dotcom bubble more than 20 years ago. The reopening economy and massive fiscal stimulus helped fuel one of the strongest starts to a bull market ever (a bull market that just turned two-years-old last week). Low interest rates were a big part of the story. But just as low interest rates helped support stock valuations, that relationship can go in reverse as we’ve witnessed recently.

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In Defense of Core Bonds

 

Core bond investors have experienced one of the worst starts to the year ever, potentially calling into question the validity of bonds in a portfolio. Despite the poor start, we don’t think the value proposition for bonds has changed much. Moreover, with yields on most fixed income markets moving sharply higher, now could be a good time to revisit fixed income markets. Starting yields are still the best expectation of future returns and have become more attractive in a number of markets recently.

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Ready, Set, Hike

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Federal Reserve (Fed) meets this week and in all likelihood will raise short-term interest  rates for the first time since emergency levels of monetary accommodation were provided to markets after the COVID-19 shutdowns. Inflationary pressures are running higher than the central bankers are comfortable with, but the conflict in Eastern Europe adds to the uncertain path of policy normalization. Prospects of yield curve inversion make the Fed’s job
trickier.

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Downshift in U.S. Growth But Still Above Trend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We currently expect the U.S. economy to grow 3.7% in 2022. The risks are to the downside since the Fed may err on tightening too fast, the recent commodity spike may trickle down to the U.S. consumer, and supply and demand imbalances may last longer than expected. This forecast is lowered from our previous 4-4.5% range originally published in Outlook 2022: Passing the Baton. The rest of this commentary explains the overall themes supporting the forecast.

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How Soon Are Rate Hikes Coming?

 

With inflationary pressures running higher than many central bankers are comfortable with, calls for interest rate hikes have become louder. A number of important central bank meetings are set to take place in March including the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Canada, Bank of England, and the Reserve Bank of Australia, to name a few. As such, March could be an important month for monetary policy shifts.

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Strong Earnings Momentum to Start 2022

 

Corporate America has capped off an outstanding 2021 with an excellent fourth quarter earnings season so far. Entering 2021, the consensus estimate for S&P 500 Index earnings per share (EPS) was less than $170. Now with fourth quarter results mostly in the books, that number is 22% higher at $208. Here we recap another solid fourth quarter earnings season and discuss what the results could mean for earnings growth and stock market performance in 2022.

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