Our Outlook and Risk Odometer reading remained unchanged for July at “Cautiously Positive” and +4. All the components of the Risk Odometer remained unchanged.
Overall, the data remains positive but with the current US expansion the longest in history, we remain sensitive to any warning sign of a change in trend. Our caution continues to stem around uncertainties regarding trade disputes, an inverted yield curve and global stock markets which are not confirming the strength of US stock markets. The lack of stock market confirmation signals can also be witnessed in small cap US stocks not confirming the strength of large cap US stocks. Stock market gains tend to last longer when strength is widespread rather than concentrated.
The ongoing trade war between the US and China took a step in the right direction following the recent G20 summit when the two sides agreed to resume discussions. The devil continues to remain in the details and the recent step broke no new ground in that regard, but any step in the right direction is a positive for the markets.
June’s US employment report was also a big positive for the US economy. It showed employment growth was still strong despite the previous month’s much worse than expected report. This was a big boost for the economy because it characterized last months report as an outlier and not the beginning of a new trend.
Leading economic indicators continue to indicate slowing growth but growth nonetheless. A more cautionary tone will be struck when it indicates contraction rather than slowing growth. There is concern that uncertainties in trade policies will have a delayed economic impact, which we share. Contractions in leading economic indicators in the second half of this year will be a great way to measure that impact.
A major area of concern we have is the recent inversion of the yield curve. This is a rare occurrence when long-term interest rates (10 US Treasury) is lower than short-term interest rates (3-month Treasury bills). An inverted yield curve in the US has happened five times since the 1970’s, with each time eventually leading to a recession between 10-24 months after the inversion. The stock market peaked anywhere from 2-23 months after the inversion and fell between 17% - 57% from its peak (https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/07/arguing-with-the-yield-curve/).
Things can quickly change so it is important to stay abreast of changing developments. Information travels fast and the markets move at historically unprecedented speeds. We believe it is important for investors to monitor for changing conditions and we will continue to communicate these developments to our readers.
As always, we continue to believe our Risk Odometer provides guidance in making better investment decisions because it keeps us objective and disciplined. We use this methodology and advise our clients to do the same. Emotions are our enemies in investing.
It is important to understand that our Risk Odometer is not designed to anticipate small to medium corrections, typically those in the 5-15% range. Instead, it monitors for conditions which have typically preceded larger corrections. We believe trying to anticipate small to medium corrections sounds attractive but more often results in lost opportunity than savings.
The Equity Market Risk Odometer is our guide for judging risk in the equity market. It is used as a guide for investment decisions in The Core Equity Strategy. It is composed of various indicators based on leading economic indicators, earnings, technical price action, breadth, volatility, sentiment and reportable positions from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Its score can range from +7 to -7. Readings greater than 1 are positive and readings less than or equal to zero are negative.
This information does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the needs of any specific person who may view this information. Statements, opinions and forecasts made represent a particular observation and assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and are not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. Statements regarding future prospects may not be realized and may differ materially from actual events or results. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.
Each investment type has different investment risk characteristics. Risk is the variability of investment returns.
An investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed and seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share. It is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund.
U.S. Treasury bonds are guaranteed as to the timely payment of principal and interest.
TIPS offer a lower current return to compensate for the inflation protection. TIPS are tax inefficient and should belong in tax-deferred accounts.
Tax-exempt municipal bonds offer the opportunity to maximize your after-tax return consistent with the amount of risk you're willing to accept. Municipal bonds offer a higher net yield to investors in higher tax brackets. Municipal bonds may be subject to AMT.
Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds. Corporate bonds have higher interest rates than government bonds. The higher a company's perceived credit quality, the easier it becomes to issue debt. High yield bonds experience higher volatility and increased credit risk when compared to other fixed income investments.
Bonds have fixed principal value and yield if held to maturity. Prices of fixed-income securities may fluctuate due to interest rate changes. Investors may lose money if bonds are sold before maturity.
REITs do not necessarily increase and decrease in value along with the broader market. However, they pay yields in the form of dividends no matter how the shares perform based on different criteria than stocks.
Stocks can have fluctuating principal and returns based on changing market conditions. The prices of small company stocks generally are more volatile than those of large company stocks. Growth stocks are more volatile than value stocks.
International investing involves special risks not found in domestic investing, including increased political, social and economic instability. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well-established foreign markets.
The price of physical materials is subject to supply and demand.
It is not possible to invest directly in any index. The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any particular investment. The performance of an index assumes no transaction costs, taxes, management fees or other expenses. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Sector investing that concentrate its investments in one region or industry may carry greater risk than more broadly diversified investments.
There is no assurance that by assuming more risk, you are guaranteed to achieve better results.
Historical performance relative to risk and return points to, but does not guarantee, the same relationship for future performance.
Diversification through an asset allocation plan is a useful technique that can reduce overall portfolio risk and volatility. Diversification neither ensures against a profit nor protects against a loss. Diversification offers returns which are not directly related over time and is intended for the structure of a whole portfolio to reduce the risk inherent in a particular security.
Data Source: YCharts
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Michael Fickell is an investment advisor representative of FC Wealth Solutions
Securities and investment advisory services offered through FC Wealth Solutions, a registered investment advisor.