In March, I made an analogy to what we were experiencing in the economy and financial markets to that of a hurricane. Upon further review, the hurricane analogy should be upgraded to that of a perfect storm.
According to FactSet, nearly two-thirds of companies in the S&P 500 who provide earnings guidance have withdrawn their fiscal 2020 guidance. On Friday, the May nonfarm payrolls report showed jobs increasing by 2.5 million with an unemployment rate of 13.3%.
Countless lives and financial markets have been completely turned upside down over the course of just a few weeks. Everything that seemed so certain only a short time ago has gone up in smoke.
There are a million superlatives one could use to describe the state of the financial markets, but to save time let’s just call it as we see it – markets have crashed. Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed some of the largest single day swings on both the upside and downside.
There is a saying in the investment community that “risk happens fast”. This saying is often tied to another one when explaining the path of asset prices – “taking the escalator up and the elevator down”. The trading action among equity markets this past month could not make these sayings truer.
As the ball dropped in Times Square this past week, the mood on Wall Street could not have been any more different than a year ago. A chart showing the CNN Fear & Greed Index says everything you need to know about the state of the investor then and now.
Santa Claus has come to town! The ‘Santa Claus Rally” refers to a seasonal pattern that sees equity markets trade higher beginning in the back half of December through the first few days of January. This year Santa Claus took a page out of the retailers’ playbook and decided to spread his Christmas spirit early.
It’s probably a little too soon to announce that the coast is all clear, but that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating the S&P 500, DJIA, NASDAQ and Russell Mid-Cap setting all-time highs this past week. Small cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000, remain roughly 10% below their all-time that was set back in September 2018.
The Shakespeare quote that started off last month’s edition of Observations could’ve once again commenced this column. In fact, one could argue the “sound and fury” has intensified over the past couple of weeks leading to a slight downside move in the S&P 500, which has brought us back to where we stood 12 months ago.
I’m not sure I could’ve come up with a better way to sum up the stock market’s price action over the past four weeks. And honestly, it has been going on a whole lot longer. The past four weeks have just been a microcosm of the past 19 months.
Game on. That is what the Chinese declared last week after President Trump tweeted the United States would slap tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports starting on September 1st. The trade spat between the U.S. and China has officially been turned up a notch and financial markets around the world reacted in-kind.
The fear and volatility we entered the month with seemed to ebb as soon as we flipped the calendar. The VIX fell over 15% in the first week of June as the S&P 500 soared over 4%. And, just like that, the few opportunities we saw in May to put cash to work managed to dry up quickly.
Last month, we touched on how the most recent direction in stock prices has a way of setting market narrative. There was chatter that the business cycle was now a thing of the past and the odds of a Western country ever entering a recession going forward were remote, at best.