Monday, October 19, 2020

Dividend Paying Strategies Have Lagged This Year, Now An Opportunity?

One unique aspect of the difficult economic environment that followed the virus mandated shutdown, was the underperformance of high quality dividend paying stocks. From the S&P 500 Index peak in mid February to the bottom on March 23, 2020, one of the weakest performing asset classes was dividend paying stocks. As the below chart shows, the iShares Select Dividend ETF (DVY), the SPDR Dividend ETF (SDY) and the Proshares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) were some of the weakest performing large cap equity categories. The second chart below shows the dividend paying categories have kept pace with the broader market since bottom in March.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Consumer Data Suggests A Continued Strengthening Of The Economy

There is no denying the consumer has been a surprising bright spot during the pandemic. Government financial support programs have certainly contributed to favorable consumer sentiment. This positive sentiment is evident in last Friday's above expectation increase in month over month retail sales of 1.9%. Some may find it surprising that total retail sales are now above the pre shutdown level.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Small Business Hiring Plans One Bright Spot In September NFIB Optimism Survey

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported a 3.8 point increase in the September Small Business Optimism Index. The Index level rose to 104.0, an optimism level above that reached in the beginning of the prior two recessions. The report notes nine of the ten Index components improved with one declining, the expected credit conditions category.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Fall 2020 Investor Letter: Market Strength Continues

In our earlier Summer Investor Letter, we commented on the rapid market decline in the first quarter and the quick rebound that was unfolding. The quick rebound continued into the third quarter and by August, after a record short 126 trading days from the low on March 23rd, the S&P 500 Index recovered all the loss that followed the Index’s February 19 high. Despite a 3.80% decline in September, the S&P 500 Index was up a solid 8.93% for the third quarter. This near double digit return in the third quarter is on the back of the second quarter’s return of 20.54%.

In this presidential election year, one thing investors and the equity market do not like is uncertainty. So, with an uncertain or unknown outcome in the upcoming election, this could very well create some added market volatility. Our Fall 2020 Investor Letter contains additional commentary on equity market returns in presidential election years along with our thoughts on the current state of the economy. More insight is accessible at the Investor Letter link below.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Extraordinary Market And Economic Snapback

Consuelo Mack conducts another insightful WealthTrack interview with Nancy Lazar, Partner and Chief Economist at Cornerstone Macro. Nancy Lazar remains one of the top economist on Wall Street as ranked by Institutional Investor and she highlights how the recent monetary stimulus benefits the key drivers of the economy's economic growth, i.e., capital spending, housing, manufacturing, etc. In short, these drivers benefit from lower interest rates and today's near zero rates are a tailwind for further economic growth. As Nancy recently stated, "In the last expansion it took almost 9 years (until 2018) for unemployment to fall to 4.0%. Today the Fed expects (more likely wishes) to see 4.0% just 4 years into this expansion. And since this cycle’s Drivers are leveraged to the Fed’s main policy tool – interest rates – the Fed’s in a good position to make it happen." A few highlights from the interview.
  • technology spending is tied to liquidity, i.e., capex, and this crisis has resulted in companies embracing technology spending which tends to improve profitability.
  • in the last expansion 50% of capex was in new economy areas.
  • the digital economy is 9% of GDP and 30% of GDP growth.
With the last point above in mind, one might see where Nancy's view that the manufacturing side of the economy can be the key driver of future economic growth. The consumer remains important, but after World War II, investment was the driver of economic growth and it lasted for nearly thirty years and the U.S. economy may be in a similar place today. More at the below video link.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Significance of an Index Dividend Yield Greater Than 10-Year Treasury Bond Yield

It probably goes without saying but bond market interest rates have been driven down to unforeseen levels, near zero, causing investors to search for yield in other places. The actions of Central Banks around the world are contributing to this low or no interest rate environment. As the bottom panel in the below chart shows, since the financial crisis in 2008/2009, the spread between the dividend yield on the S&P 500 Index and the 10-year Treasury yield has oscillated between a positive and negative level. Currently, the S&P 500 Index yield is greater than the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield with a spread of 88 basis points.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Earnings Support Market's Recent Move Higher

The one thing investor know about company earnings reports is it is a rearview mirror look on what has occurred on a quarterly or annual basis. This backward view may add little insight into what expectations might unfold in the future. Over the long run though, stocks do tend to follow earnings and or cash flow. Having noted this, the S&P 500 index bottomed in March while earnings bottomed in the second quarter, thus, the market seemingly anticipated an improved earnings environment. Subsequent to the market's March bottom, the S&P 500 Index has moved higher on a nearly uninterrupted path as seen in the below chart.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Chicago Business Barometer Surges

Today's release of the Chicago Business Barometer for September jumped 11.2 points to 62.4. This is further evidence of an economy that is rebounding strongly from the virus initiated recession. The release noted, "all five main indicators saw monthly gains in September, with Production and New Orders leading the way."


Monday, September 28, 2020

Higher Unemployment Level As Some States Are Slower To Reopen

Improvement is being made in the job market as the continuing claims data and unemployment rate continue to decline. In addition to the continuing claims category and as a result of the pandemic, another category of unemployment insurance has been created, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) category. The PUA program had 11.5 million individuals receiving benefits as of the week ending September 5. This category is almost as large as the regular unemployment category which totaled 12.3 million individuals for the same ending week. As can be seen in the below chart, continuing claims, including PUA has improved; however, unemployment assistance across these categories remains at too high of a level.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Individual Investor Sentiment Not Matching Actions

The American Association of Individual Investor's Sentiment Survey release for the week ending 9/23/2020 showed bullish investor sentiment fell 7.1 percentage points to 24.9%. The decline in bullish sentiment largely showed up in the 5.6 percentage point increase in bearish sentiment. When all is said and done, the bull/bear spread widened to minus 21.1 percentage points from the previous week's spread of minus 8.4 percentage points. As the below chart shows, since January bullish sentiment has been on the decline and does remain at a level lower level.