Are We On The Brink Of An Inflation Crisis?

There is a growing debate over whether an expanding economy, in conjunction with historic fiscal and monetary stimulus, may cause inflation to overheat. Adding to the intense debate, the Federal Reserve (Fed) has shifted its policy framework, potentially allowing inflation to run a little hotter than it has in the past. Despite vocal calls for runaway inflation, we believe that any uptick in inflation will ultimately prove transitory due to slack in the labor market and other structural forces.

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The Second Year of the Bull Market Begins

The bear market ended one year ago this week, finishing one of the fastest and most vicious bear markets of all-time—one that led to a drawdown of 34%. Things have come full circle now, as stocks have staged a furious rally, with new highs happening across the globe as the economy recovers at a record pace. We take a look back at what happened last March, while also examining how previous bull markets did during the second year of their existence

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March Madness: Stock Market Edition

With the NCAA college basketball tournament getting underway this week, LPL Research is getting in the spirit with its own version of March Madness. Here we share our “Final Four Factors” for the stock market in 2021: Vaccines, Policy, Profits, and Rates. While we see several strong competitors in this field, we believe the likely winner of this tournament is clear, and it will push stocks higher over the balance of the year.

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Rising Rates and Stock Market Performance

The 10-year Treasury yield continues to climb higher, but remains low by historical standards. Still, the size of the move since July 2020—and the more recent acceleration—has some market participants worried about the potential impact on stock markets if rates continue to rise. Historically, the S&P 500 Index has endured extended periods of rising rates well. If an improving growth outlook is part of what’s driving rates higher, it should also support corporate profits, creating a positive fundamental backdrop for stocks.

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Here Comes the Earnings Boom

Fourth-quarter earnings season is in the home stretch, and it’s been a good one. After raising our 2021 earnings forecast for the S&P 500 Index in our Weekly Market Commentary on February 8, our upgraded forecast may now be too low, based on what we have learned from corporate America during the three weeks since. In this commentary, we recap earnings season and share our latest thoughts on just how strong the earnings rebound could be in 2021 and beyond.

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The Search for Income

Interest rates have risen steadily over the past six months but remain low by historical standards. That means the traditional high-quality bonds that many of us owned for decades are not doing the job for investors looking for income, while the potential for interest rates have risen steadily in recent months brings more risk in the bond market than has been evident historically. Here we look at some income ideas that may help with these challenges.

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Raising GDP and Stock Market Forecasts

The resilience of the US economy continues to exceed our expectations. With encouraging progress toward ending the pandemic, and massive fiscal stimulus in place—and more likely coming soon, our prior economic growth forecasts may prove overly conservative. In addition, we believe a strong fourth quarter earnings season supports an increase in our earnings forecasts for 2021 and, in turn, our fair value S&P 500 target.

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Markets Shrug Off Debt Levels

The level of US debt, already elevated before COVID-19 hit, skyrocketed as Congress put into place much needed fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic, and it may jump again as the Biden administration targets its stimulus goals. Markets have seemed unfazed by fiscal stimulus measures, and they’ll likely stay that way at least through 2021, but there will likely be economic consequences in the long term.

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Small Caps Still Solid

Small cap stocks historically have performed well early in economic cycles. Given that the US economy likely came out of recession late last summer or early fall of 2020, 2021 certainly qualifies as early in this cycle. The tremendous performance by small cap stocks over the past 10 months suggests that a lasting economic expansion has begun in earnest and seems to validate the historical cycle pattern of small caps beating large caps early in cycles.

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