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The fate of U.S.-China trade talks could play out in the week ahead, and that could set the tone for markets and the economy in the second half of the year.
Stocks set new highs in the past week, after the Federal Reserve signaled it was ready to cut interest rates if necessary, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said trade and the global economy are two factors the Fed is watching.
The S&P 500 was on track, as of Friday, to score a more than 17.6% gain for the first half, which ends Friday. If it stays at that level that would be the best first half performance since 1997, when the S&P was up 19.4% in the first six months.
The big event in the coming week has been as anticipated for weeks, and it could sway sentiment for weeks to come. At the end of the week, the G-20 meets in Osaka Japan for meetings Friday and Saturday.
‘Could go either way’ President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to have their own dinner meeting at the G-20 next weekend, following discussions between their trade representatives. That meeting could decide how trade negotiations go forward, and whether the U.S. proceeds with another round of tariffs, this time on $300 billion in goods.
“Everybody knows the Trump, Xi meeting could go either way,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex. “I think everyone expects a new tariff freeze. That the $300 billion won’t go into effect. The most you can hope for out of G-20 meeting is the tariffs are where they are right now, and there’s no more escalation.That also means China will not release the list of companies they won’t do business with.”
Chandler said he will be looking for signaling from Trump and Xi on whether they are working on a deal that would be just on the trade topics, or bigger issues like North Korea and differences on the South China Sea.
“I do think the G-20 is quite important in that there’s not question in recent months, the trade war started to really move into measures of confidence and measures of manufacturing activity,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Harris said he expects a positive message with an agreement of no further escalation, but probably not signs of significant progress. “I think the vibes coming out of it will be modestly positive,” he said.
“Whether there’s an escalation to the next round of China tariffs is going to set the theme for the rest of the year. Even if tariffs on China are reversed, or partly reversed, at some point, every time there’s an escalation or temporary escalation, it’s another kind of blow to confidence,” he said.
Harris said there’s the same risk as after the Trump, Xi meeting at the last G-20, where it was a positive tone but there was little progress afterwards and the markets then reacted negatively.
“I think there’s been this broad increased awareness from every economist that the trade war is starting to have noticeable impact. Further escalation with China would be quite a big signal. If the Trump administration puts tariffs on all the Chinese products it roughly doubles the size of the trade war and it sends a very strong message that there are very few constraints on where [Trump] goes next,” he said.
Powell and data Besides the meeting between Trump and Xi, the market focus will be on anything that could provide clues on what the Fed or even the European Central Bank will do, after ECB President Mario Draghi last week basically promised a new era of easing. Consumer price inflation data is expected for the euro zone, and on Friday, the U.S. personal consumption expenditure data is released, including the PCE deflator, a major inflation indicator for the Fed.
There are also a few Fed speakers, including Powell who speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday.
“It’s probably going to be a big picture kind of talk about the broader challenges of the Fed,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “They’re certainly going to ask questions about political influence at the Fed, and he’s going to dodge those. I think what I’m waiting for him to comment on is what it is they’re looking for to determine whether they’re going to cut in July or not.”
Harris said Powell is not likely to say anything he did not reveal at his press briefing in the past week, and the big focus will be on the lead up to the weekend G-20.
Falling interest rates and rising oil prices were two big factors in the market int he past week. The 10-year Treasury yield dipped briefly below 2%, a near 3-year low, as the Fed signaled its willingness to cut interest rates.
“Should we get some sort of trade agreement that would be a nice pop to the [stock] market, but that could take the rate cut off the table,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.
Stovall said the stock market will also be watching oil after its rapid run higher, and the events in the Middle East surrounding Iran. West Texas Intermediate futures were up more than 9% in the past week, to $57.43.
“The old adage is every $10 increase in the price of oil takes off 20 to 25 basis points off of real GDP growth,” he said.
Stovall said stocks have had a solid run so far this year, but they may face some rocky times between now and the end of the summer. “For the rest of this ‘sell in May’ period we could be facing some challenges, headwinds. I think we’ will still end higher on the year. I think the seasonally optimistic September to November period will kick in but there will be a lot of challenges...will the Fed be cutting rates? what are the growth prospects?” he said.
S&P 500 is off to it best June performance since 1955, up 7.34% as of yesterday’s close. If yesterday was the last trading day of June, this performance would have been strong enough to push the month to 6th best going back to 1930. Looking back to late May, this performance is still impressive even though it was anticipated following May’s abysmal showing. However, such strong performance in June may not carry over into July.
Below S&P 500 performance in June has been split into positive and negative tables. Each table contains July’s historical performance as well as full-year performance. Historically July has been weaker after a positive June. July averages just 0.48% after an up June compared to a gain of 2.84% after a down June. Examining the Top 20 Junes and subsequent Julys showed only a modest improvement in performance with average July gain climbing to 1.11%. However, even if July does disappoint this year, the full year is likely to still be quite fair as past positive Junes where followed by full-year gains 80% of the time with an average gain of 13.44%.
U.S. stocks could have a big year if LPL Research’s forecasts prove correct.
All year, we’ve maintained our fair value target on the S&P 500 Index of 3,000, implying that we expect this bull market and economic expansion to continue. If the S&P 500 closes the year at 3,000, the index will have gained 19.7% in 2019.
On the surface, that seems like a high hurdle for U.S. stocks. However, the S&P 500 has already gained about 16% this year, so a rally to 3,000 isn’t far out of reach.
The S&P 500 also hasn’t posted a 20% gain for the year since 2013, an unusually long stretch compared to history.
“It is interesting that the S&P 500 hasn’t gained more than 20% in any one year for five consecutive years,” noted LPL Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Only once since 1950 did it go more than five years in a row without gaining 20%, thus if this pattern continues we very well might get to 20% in 2019.”
As our LPL Chart of the Day “Can The S&P 500 Index Really Gain 20% This Year?” shows, it is quite rare for the S&P 500 to go this long without a 20% annual gain. Could the streak end in 2019? Be sure to read our Midyear Outlook 2019, which is set for release next week, for more on why this could be the case.
As widely anticipated, the Fed did not change its target rate today. Instead, the Fed set the stage for cuts possibly later this year. Overall, the market’s response was a choppy climb to a modestly higher close. A more enthusiastic move by the market may have occurred if the Fed cut rates. Gold’s reaction was more favorable, finishing the day higher by over 1%. Generally, the lower interest rates go, the more desirable gold can become as lower rates typically result in a weaker dollar.
The S&P 500 Index closed at a new all-time high yesterday, the 5th new high so far in 2019. After May, the worst month for the S&P 500 since 2010, June is up 7.3% as of 06.20.19, which would be the best June since 1955.
Much of the rally this month has been sparked by a more dovish Federal Reserve (Fed), combined with U.S.-China trade discussions potentially back on track.
What’s quite interesting about things now though, is many signs of investor sentiment are a long way from bullish. Remember, from a contrarian (or opposing) point of view, this can suggest there is still money on the sidelines.
“The S&P 500 might be at new highs, but global fund managers and individual investors are quite underweight equities right now,” explained LPL Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “If you are looking for a reason this rally can continue, that could be it.”
For example, the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch June Global Fund Manager Survey (a survey of managers who oversee more than $600 billion in assets) showed the largest jump in cash since August 2011. Additionally, equity allocation was the lowest it had been since March 2009, and the equity-to-bond allocation was the lowest since May 2009. Not to mention the allocation to bonds was the highest it had been in eight years. “Money on the sidelines might sound cliché, but it really seems to be the case this time,” said Detrick. With the S&P 500 hitting more all-time highs, having money in the market may make more sense (or cents!).
Individual investors are skeptical as well, as the recent American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Sentiment Survey showed more bears than bulls for six straight weeks, the longest stretch since November 2016. Finally, as our LPL Chart of the Day shows, AAII bulls have been under 30% for six consecutive weeks for the first time since January 2016.
In an earlier post, we highlighted the fact that some of the ten best performing S&P 500 Industries between the S&P 500's highs on 4/30 and 6/20 were from the Health Care sector. It hasn't just been these four industries that have been strong in the Health Care sector either. The performance snapshot of the sector below shows just how strong the sector has been lately. While all six of the industries within the sector aren't up YTD or so far in Q2, between the S&P 500's highs on 4/30 and 6/20, Health Care is the only sector where every industry within the sector has posted positive returns. Not even the industries within the Utilities sector have been this uniformly positive. The best performer of the bunch has been Health Care Technology, which is up 8% since the end of April and has extended its YTD gain to 36.8%. The worst performing industry in the sector has been Biotech which is up 2.1% since 4/30, and while that may not sound like much, it's still better than more than half of the other industries in the index.
While the S&P 500 made a new high for the first time in 35 trading days yesterday, many of the characteristics of the groups driving the rally have shifted. To highlight this, in the table below we summarize the ten best and worst performing S&P 500 Industries from the close on 4/30 through yesterday. During that 35 trading day stretch, 34 Industries saw positive returns while another 27 declined.
Industries that have seen the biggest gains between the two new highs are primarily defensive in nature as all but three come from sectors that are typically considered defensive (Consumer Staples, Health Care, and Real Estate). Health Care has been the real star of the show, though. Of the sector's six different industries, four of them made the top ten!
On the downside, cyclical industries have dominated the weak side. When industries like Semis, Autos, Construction & Engineering, and Air Freight are lagging the market, it really illustrates the presence of economic concerns. Leading the way lower, Energy Equipment and Services declined over 10%, followed by Semiconductors which were down just under 10% after failing at resistance on Thursday for the third time in a month. These two industries are followed by two industries (Tobacco and Power and Renewable Energy) that come from sectors that are traditionally considered defensive, but they have their own specific issues to deal with.
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Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.75 per share on revenue of $4.72 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.75 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 40% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.75 to $0.95 per share. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 75.96% with revenue decreasing by 39.46%. Short interest has decreased by 16.6% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 20.3% from its open following the earnings release to be 14.5% below its 200 day moving average of $38.89. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, June 20, 2019 there was some notable buying of 12,540 contracts of the $25.00 put expiring on Friday, July 19, 2019. Option traders are pricing in a 4.5% move on earnings and the stock has