On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell 666 points. The scary headlines followed suit. "Dow plunges 666 points -- worst day since Brexit" "Dow drops 666 points and posts its worst week since 2016" It's no surprise that over the weekend, I had several conversations and all of them were about the stock market drop (well at least until the Super Bowl began). Friends wanted to know what I think about the sell off. To sum up my answer, I will use a favorite Coldplay song: DON'T PANIC.
The global equity markets are off to a red hot start and optimism is at an extreme following the tax reform bill to close out 2017. In Davos, billionaire hedge fund manager called it "stupid to own cash." Last week saw a record inflow of $33.2 billion into stock ETFs and mutual funds according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Is this a sign of euphoria and potential warning sign for the market?
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of returning to the New York Stock Exchange for the second time in a week. Last Tuesday was for opening bell and this time it was closing bell with the Aussies ringing the bell for Australia Day. Thanks to Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) for the invite and their insights on their market outlook for 2018. Their tag line for this year is "Pro-growth, Pro-equity, Pro-reality." They share our view that global growth will continue in 2018 and given the low interest rate environment that means investors should favor stocks over bonds.
This week, the global elite are gathered in Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. Headlines are already being made from fears of protectionism/tariffs to support of a weak US Dollar. Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has been making the rounds on CNBC and Bloomberg and he's making it clear that he believes that the tax cut could lead to a big surge, which he is calling it "a market blowoff" rally, for the US stock market.
We are just a week away from Thanksgiving and then the holiday season really kicks into high gear. While many headlines warn of overvaluation and Grinch predictions of market pullbacks, Runnymede remains bullish. Since last summer, we have been beating the drum on strong global earnings driving stock markets higher and higher. Nothing has stopped the above trend profit growth and now we are in the strong seasonal part of the year.
This week, Fitch Ratings warned that record junk bond prices combined with risky corporate bond issuance is creating "increasing uncertainty" and is raising the chances of a sharp turnaround in the European high-yield, aka junk bond, credit market. Thanks to massive quantitative easing by the European Central Bank, yields on Euro junk bonds have been dropping steadily since early 2016 when the ECB began buying huge amounts of corporate debt. The most popular benchmark for European junk bonds fell below two percent for the first time ever last week. This is flat out crazy as investors are taking significant risk for just a two percent yield, less than a 5-year US Treasury Note which is considered the safest bond in the world. Fitch warned that recent market calm and the distorting impact of monetary policy "obscure the true risk-return dynamics faced by investors."
President Trump is said to be considering tapping Stanford economist John Taylor as the next Fed Chairman. If Taylor gets the nod, it is possible that the Fed adopts the Taylor rule to set the Fed funds rates. The so-called Taylor rule is a formula that he proposed in 1993 for setting the federal funds rate -- the overnight bank lending rate used by the Fed to fight inflation or stimulate the economy. It challenges the Fed’s traditional reliance on the Federal Open Market Committee’s ad hoc judgment.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of Black Monday where the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed 23%, the worst one day drop in stock market history. This afternoon, I had lunch with eight money managers that lived through it and they remember it like it was yesterday. One was working at a DLJ trading desk and he said that there were no buyers and as the market fell, their solution was to not pick up the phone. Another stated that it was so horrific that the only thought was to enjoy dinner while their credit cards still worked. They feared that the job losses would be enormous. Then it was my father Sam's turn to speak. He was managing the Bank of New York's pension assets and other institutions like the Dow Jones profit sharing plan. He had seen the writing on the wall in August of 1987. I recall that we were on vacation in Switzerland and he went to the front desk of the hotel to get his valuation runs which were faxed over from New York. Because interest rates were rising quickly, valuations moved from fairly valued to grossly overvalued and he made the critical decision to start selling. In the November 2, 1987 issue of Barron's quoted Sam saying, "I raised about 20% cash in the first two weeks of August. At that point, there were a great number of signs pointing to an imminent bear market... and by the end of August, my institutional accounts already went to 35% cash, and individual accounts went to about 55% cash." His economic model was spot on and not only was it right, but he took decisive action and made the bold call to move to cash when the market was still up over 40% for the year and hitting new highs.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its global growth forecast for 2017 and 2018 due to a broad-based recovery around the world. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF adjusted their forecast up 0.1 percentage point to 3.6 percent in 2017 and 3.7 percent in 2018.
If you look at the headlines on a daily basis, you are often left wondering when the market is going to crash. However we are pondering a different question. Are we just at the beginning of a long secular bull market? We believe that it is a distinct possibility. When I graduated from college in 1997, the market essentially went sideways for over 11 years. After the Great Recession, the recovery has been slower than usual but the global economy is now rising in tandem. Here is a chart of the secular bulls and bears since 1900 and the pattern is quite easy to read. For our clients, we will go into more detail on this subject on our quarterly conference call. If you are not a client and are interested in tuning in, please ping firstname.lastname@example.org for the details.
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