Thursday, March 21, 2019

Equity Inflows Now Turning More Positive As Equity Returns Near A Peak?

The Investment Company Institute releases fund flow and ETF net issuance data on Wednesday's with a one week lag. In Wednesday's report for the week ending March 13, 2019, ICI reports domestic equity inflows spiked to $12.8 billion. This represents the largest weekly inflow since March 20, 2018 when domestic equity inflows totaled $19.1 billion.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

The FAANG Trade In Focus Again

Since the equity market peak in the third quarter of 2018, the average return of the FAANG basket of stocks, i.e., Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Alphabet f/k/a Google (GOOGL), has underperformed the broader S&P 500 Index as seen below. I have highlighted the significant contribution the FAANG's have had to overall market returns in prior posts like the Growth verses Value article in 2017.  With the FAANG's return to the upside since the start of this year, the basket has resumed its outperformance and broken out of an inverse head and shoulders chart pattern (h/t: The Kirk Report).



Friday, March 15, 2019

Record Job Openings In A Tight Labor Market

With today's release of the January Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), there is further confirmation that the job market remains tilted in favor of job seekers. As Econoday noted in their report, "employers are increasingly scrambling to fill [openings]." Even with new hires increasing by 1.5%, openings exceed hires by a record 1.78 million individuals.



Saturday, March 09, 2019

Investors Have Missed Out On The Equity Rally

From 2014 to mid-2015, investors seemed to have a favorable view on stocks if one bases the observation on ETF and mutual fund flows. As the below chart shows, the increase in S&P 500 Index until mid-2015 coincided with positive flows into domestic equity focused mutual funds and ETF's. Beginning in mid 2015 though, investor flows turned negative (maroon line.) During late 2016 and early 2017 the cumulative maroon line became less negative indicating positive flows into domestic equities, but the sharp rally from 2017 to the market's peak at the end of the third quarter of 2018 was not supported by positive domestic equity flows. In fact, domestic equity flows have been negative to the tune of -$1.5 trillion over this five plus year period.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cyclical Stocks Outperforming Defensive Stocks An Indication Of A Strengthening Economy?

Since the beginning of 2018, investors have encountered a stock market that is more volatile, yet at a level of volatility that is more normal. The below chart shows the return pattern for the S&P 500 Index since 1/2/2018 and the steep decline that began at the end of last September has been followed by a sharp recovery in 2019.



Thursday, February 07, 2019

Investor Sentiment Has Improved But Not To An Extreme Level

Several recent releases of various investor sentiment reports show an improvement in overall investor sentiment. In late December I noted a number of the sentiment measures were indicating extreme fear on the part of investors. Since my December post both sentiment and the equity market have experienced a marked improvement. One example is this week's release of the AAII Sentiment Survey. Individual investor bullish sentiment improved 8.1 percentage points week over week to 39.9%. In mid December the bullish sentiment fell to 20.9%. Although the bullish sentiment level of 39.9% is an improved level, it is just above the long term average of 38.5%.



Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Higher U.S. Stock Prices Not Driven By Higher Domestic Equity Inflows

The end of 2018 saw the S&P 500 Index return decline over 13% as seen in the first chart below. The second chart shows the snap back in the market that has rewarded investors at the start of 2019 with the price only return of the S&P 500 Index up nearly 9%.




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Winter 2018 Investor Letter: A Tough Year For Most Asset Classes

As noted in our Winter 2018 Investor Letter, following passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the reduction in corporate tax rates caused analysts to revise their earnings growth expectations higher to nearly 24% for 2018. Given a number of positives, further upside in equity markets was anticipated in 2018. As fate would have it, not only were equity returns weak, most asset class returns were negative. Data from Lipper showed the Money Market Fund average return was 1.52% in 2018. In other words, cash turned out to be king in 2018 as can be seen in the below table.


Despite solid fundamentals heading into the year, 2018 was extremely difficult. The uncertainties faced in 2018 will likely continue to overhang the markets in 2019. However, the events that drove markets lower last year proved to alleviate some of the concerns plaguing investors at the year’s start. For example, equity valuations have declined to a more attractive level. In January 2018, the S&P 500 had become the most expensive since 2004 on a forward P/E basis. The S&P 500 Index now trades at a price to earnings ratio of about 15 times which is in-line with its historical average. Growth and inflation have moderated while staying positive, alleviating concerns of an overheating economy and aggressive interest rate increases from a Hawkish Fed. Fed chair Jerome Powell recently remarked the Fed “will be patient” as they assess the prospects of further rate hikes in 2019.

For additional insight into our views for the market and economy as 2019 begins, see our Investor Letter accessible at the below link.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Dogs Of The Dow A Winning Strategy In 2018

With the 2018 investing year now closed, one strategy that turned out to be a winning one was the Dogs of the Dow strategy. The Dogs of the Dow strategy is one where investors select the ten stocks that have the highest dividend yield from the stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index (DJIA) after the close of business on the last trading day of the year. Once the ten stocks are determined, an investor invests an equal dollar amount in each of the ten stocks and holds them for the entire next year. The popularity of the strategy is its singular focus on dividend yield.

I have written about this from time to time and early in 2018 the Dow Dogs were underperforming both the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. This was on top of the fact the Dow Dogs underperformed the market in 2017. Through the first half of 2018 the Dow Dogs continued their lagging ways; however, a more volatile market in the second half of last year benefited the strategy and the Dogs of the Dow ended up generating a slight positive total return of .02% for 2018. This compares to a loss of 3.74% for the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA) and a loss of 4.56% for the SPDR S&P 500 Index ETF (SPY) as displayed in the below table.


Both Merck (MRK) and Pfizer (PFE) were the top performing Dow Dogs and the top performing stocks in the broader Dow Jones Industrial Average Index for 2018 as well.

As the new year begins, one new member joins the Dogs of the Dow for 2019. Entering the Dow Dogs in the coming year is JP Morgan (JPM) with a dividend yield of 3.28%. Dropping out of the Dogs is General Electric (GE) not only because of its lower yield, but GE was removed from the Dow Jones Index last year.

Long MRK, VZ, JPM


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Stock Buybacks Up 57.8% In Third Quarter

S&P Dow Jones Indices recently reported preliminary dividend and buyback information for the third quarter ending 9/30/2018. On a year over year basis stock buybacks for S&P 500 companies are collectively up 57.8% for Q3 2018. For the 12-months ending 9/30/2018 total buybacks increased 39.1%. Relative to buybacks, dividends increased a much smaller 9.7% resulting in combined dividends plus buybacks increasing by 36.2% for the third quarter. Year over year operating earnings were reported up 25.8%.


The three largest buybacks were initiated by companies in the information technology sector:

  • Qualcomm (QCOM): $21.2 billion
  • Apple (AAPL): $19.4 billion
  • Oracle (ORCL): $10.3 billion
For the quarter the top 20 companies initiating buybacks in the quarter accounted for more than half, or 54.3%, of the total buybacks of all S&P 500 firms.

In conclusion, I would prefer to see larger dividend increases which would be more of an indication that companies expect to see improved cash flow/earnings over an extended time frame. The recent tax cut is not permanent though; thus firms are likely hesitant to commit to higher dividend payments on an ongoing basis. The most significant tax cut expiration impacting businesses might be the phase out of the full expensing of equipment purchases beginning at the end of 2022. At the moment though, companies seem committed to returning to shareholders some of the cash flow benefits resulting from the tax cut.