You might have missed it in the hoopla over President Donald Trump’s signing an order to apply higher tariffs to $50 billion in Chinese goods and the “associated” 724 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But the House of Representatives passed a $1.3 tillion spending bill that keeps the government funded past tomorrow’s deadline and through the end of the fiscal year in September.
This isn’t going to sound very technical or sophisticated but to me the day feels like one where lots of traders and investors decided that they just couldn’t see any near term upside and in the absence of that upside they decided to sell. This pessimism strikes me as a delayed reaction to yesterday’s Fed meeting and a new dot plot that showed increased sentiment at the Federal Reserve for at least two more and possibly three more interest rate increases in 2018–and more rate increases to come in 2019 and 2020. In this context the President’s China tariff proposal isn’t the killer but rather just one more negative element.
Today, Monday March 12, the Industrial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLI) fell 1.24%, declining more than either the Standard & Poor’s 500 (down 0.13%) or the Dow Jones Industrial Average (down 0.62%.) I think this is an indication that fears that the Trump administration will still manage to set off a round of trade retaliation to its higher tariffs on steel and aluminum are still with us.
After getting their heads handed to them when volatility rocketed to 37.32 on the VIX on February 5 from 11.33 on February 1, low volatility traders were back today betting the the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) would continue its fall from 25.61 at the close today. That’s another drop of 11.87% today. After that 230% move to the upside, which resulted in some low volatility ETFs recording 90% losses, the VIX is down 31.4% from its February 5 high.
Once upon a time, before the U.S. stock market moved into an actual correction and before bond yields spiked, the Federal Reserve was clearly on track to raise short-term interest rates at its March 21 meeting. The debate in the financial markets was about whether the Fed would increase its benchmark interest rate three or four times in 2018. But then we got tax cuts piled on top of spending increases.
This market remains determined to rally as we head into earnings season. Look no further than the reaction to earnings from Netflix (NFLX) for evidence. The stock market could have reacted to yesterday’s earnings from Netflix (NFLX) by selling down the shares. Could have. But didn’t.
Why Wal-Mart’s recent pay increase is good news for the economy–especially if it’s not a result of the tax bill
Ever since the January 11 announcement from Wal-Mart (WMT) that it would increase the starting wage rate for hourly workers to $11 (and provide a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000 plus expanded maternity and parental leave b benefits,) pundits have seized on the news to say either “See, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill is already working,” or “This is all about competition for workers in a tight jobs market and has nothing to do with recent tax cuts.”
What will the tax cut bill do to house prices in 2018 and beyond? That’s a big deal for your portfolio
There is a possibility that the recently passed tax cuts will depress housing prices or at least the rate of growth in housing prices. That’s a big deal for any discussion of asset allocation in our portfolios because for most of us our house is by far our biggest asset since many of us are counting on the growth of value in our homes to fund part or all of our retirement.
Another week dominated by bank earnings reports will give traders and investors time to get really excited about the shift to earnings reports from other sectors in the week that begins on January 22. The big fourth quarter earnings reports for this coming week are Citigroup (C) on Tuesday (remember the market is closed on Monday for Martin Luther King’s birthday), Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS) on Wednesday, and then finally some non-financial stocks on Thursday and Friday with IBM (IBM) and Schlumberger (SLB).
Set up for earnings season: Reaction to bank earnings today shows market doesn’t care about one-time tax bill hits
Going into earnings this morning from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) what I wanted was an indication as to whether or not the stock market would care about the billions in one-time write offs that these banks would report for the fourth quarter due to the recently passed tax bill. That’s important because this one-time charge will show up on the earnings reports of other banks, of technology companies, and of big drug makers. On the early evidence today, the market doesn’t and won’t care.
2017 left investors with a huge challenge as we all move into 2018. After a 21.6% return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stocks in 2017, do we let the money ride for 2018 or move it into other assets? Some stocks had almost unbelievable years in 2017. Amazon (AMZN) was up 56% for the year an Facebook (FB) climbed 53%. But those gains were left in the dust by the 96% gain on Alibaba (BABA) and the 115% racked up by Tencent Holdings (TCEHY). And even stocks seem to be standing still in comparison to biotech such as Madrigal Pharmaceuticals (MDGL), up 510% in 2017 or Sangamo Therapeutics (SGMO) ahead by 466%. For 2018 should you leave your money in those big winners from last year? Take some of it off the table and put it into laggards? Move some of it to cash?
The indexes set a tough benchmark in 2017 with the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index showing a total return (price appreciation plus dividends) of 21.64%. For the year the price gain on the 50 Stocks Portfolio came to 26.8%. The portfolio also showed a 1.28% yield for the year. The total return for the portfolio was 28.1% in 2017.