They say its always darkest before the dawn, which seems appropriate as we meet the Winter Solstice today, at the lows of 2018.
There is a lot of commentary out there right now about hos investors are ‘worried’ about certain things like Brexit, slowing economies in China and Europe and if that slowing will seep into the U.S. All these areas of concern have been with us for most of the year. I have pointed out the Chinese credit impulse (slowing) more than a few times. Housing and auto sales have been slowing for months. The only difference is now there is a market decline and all these issues are being discussed. If the market had not been declining these issues would still be with us, only accompanied by the tag line: “Investors shrug at concerns in Europe”.
In past posts I have described the coming year over year comparisons, 2018 v 2019, regarding earnings and GDP growth. Every time I have mentioned that 2019 will look much worse than the stellar numbers put up in 2018, thanks largely in part to the one time cut in taxes. That gave markets a boost and it was hoped that business investment, and wages would go up as a result. Well it’s the end of 2018 and were still waiting.
The Federal Reserve gave a modest tip of the hat towards global economic concerns by reducing its estimate of rate increases in 2019 from 3 to 2. There were even rumors that the Fed would skip raising its rate on December 19th and guide to 0 rate increases in 2019. The Fed NEVER overtly bows to market or political pressures outside of an official recession or panic. The Fed is in the process (as usual) of raising rates into the beginning of a recession. Besides the yield curve, there are several other indicators that make recession in 2019 likely. These indicators have been leaning this way for several months, and finally have tipped far enough that the markets are now concerned and discounting this likelihood.
As this is likely the beginning of a bear market (average -33% post WW2 era), we should expect large rapid moves, both down AND up in the markets. During the bull market, a 2-4% pullback was common and quickly bought. Today we see 2-4% intraday moves that continue to fall to hold support. I expect several more percentage points south before a significant rally in stocks in the first few months of the year. This will be an opportune time to reassess one’s risk tolerance and goals over the next 1-3 years, as well as make sure that one’s portfolio is properly diversified across asset classes. When stocks go down there are often other asset classes that are performing better, the core idea behind diversification.