SUMMERTIME BLUES, MARKETPLACE VIEWS © Leo Haviland August 6, 2022
In “Summertime Blues”, The Who complain:
“Well, I’m gonna raise a fuss
I’m gonna raise a holler
‘Bout workin’ all summer
Just to try to earn a dollar.”
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
Within and regarding marketplaces and other economic realms, as in other cultural domains, diverse storytellers create and promote competing perspectives, explanations, and forecasts. In this process, the selection and weighing of variables (“facts”, data, evidence, and factors) differs, sometimes considerably. Thus rhetorical crosscurrents and a range of marketplace actions in stocks, interest rates, foreign exchange, and commodities battlegrounds inescapably exist. And since opinions can persist or change, so can significant marketplace trends and relationships, sometimes dramatically.
In today’s entangled global financial marketplaces, battling viewpoints frequently involve assessments of inflation (especially in consumer price measures) and fears regarding recession (or at least stagflation).
Long run American marketplace history shows that substantially rising United States interest rates in key benchmarks such as the United States Treasury 10 year note leads to bear marketplaces in the S+P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. UST 10 year yields began rising in early March 2020, accelerating upward following 8/4/21’s 1.13 percent trough as American (and worldwide) consumer price inflation became very significant. The S+P 500 peaked 1/4/22 at 4819, plummeting almost 25 percent collapse to its mid-June 2022 low.
A “too strong” US dollar also interrelated with (encouraged) ongoing price weakness in both emerging marketplace equities and dollar-denominated sovereign debt securities (both emerging marketplace equities and debt prices peaked in first quarter 2021). The very strong dollar and price slumps in emerging marketplace securities also helped to undermine the S+P 500. Prices for commodities “in general” climbed substantially after December 2021 (Russia invaded Ukraine 2/24/22), magnifying inflation concerns and levels and thus assisting the price decline in global stock marketplaces. Though commodities peaked in early March 2022, on balance they remained quite high until around mid-June 2022.
As prices tumbled in the S+P 500 and related financial arenas (such as emerging marketplace stocks; corporate bonds and US dollar-denominated emerging market sovereign debt), avid “searches for yield/return” transformed into fearful “runs for cover”. Consumer (Main Street) and small business confidence destruction interrelated with capital destruction (loss of money) by “investors” and other owners) in stock and interest rate securities marketplaces.
However, during the past few weeks, the S+P 500 has rallied vigorously, about 14.6 percent from 6/17/22’s 3637 to 8/3/22’s 4167. Given the high consumer price inflation pattern as well as concerns about feeble economic growth, what intertwined factors probably played key roles in this S+P 500 ascent?
Within the context of a long run trend for increasing yields, a modest interim yield decline in the UST 10 year can help to spark a notable rally in the S+P 500. Note the timing of the recent yield top in the UST 10 year note, 6/14/22’s 3.50 percent in conjunction with the S+P 500’s 6/17/22 trough at 3637. Also, perhaps the renewed slide in the overall commodities field (especially the petroleum complex) since its June 2022 interim highs allayed the inflationary concerns of some marketplace participants.
Share buybacks, disappearance of substantial stock “overvaluation” in yardsticks such as price/earnings ratios, and ongoing optimism that nominal corporate earnings growth will continue over the long run (perhaps keeping pace with the Consumer Price Index) also helped to motivate an interim bull move in the American stocks. Perhaps short covering in American stocks further inflamed the ascent.
What other interrelated phenomena probably have promoted the S+P 500’s summer rally, especially after the second low on 7/14/22 at 3722? The US dollar’s depreciation since mid-July 2022, although not substantial in percentage terms, arguably has inspired some buyers to venture into American stock playgrounds.
Wall Street and its economic and political allies have long popularized, often as part of American Dream wordplay, the outlook that over the misty long run, American stocks in general (the S+P 500; investment grade equities) will keep rising (at least in nominal terms). Thus the roughly 25 percent slump in the S+P 500 since its majestic January 2022 pinnacle perhaps looked to many “investors” like a good buying opportunity over the misty long run, especially as the UST 10 year yield arguably fell sufficiently from its mid-June 2022 crest to mitigate (at least to some extent) concerns regarding inflation (and Fed rate-raising).
Everyone knows that the American stock marketplace is an investment realm greatly favored by Main Street retail players. Wall Street and Main Street guides and their friends in financial media diligently advise Main Street on the merits (goodness; reasonableness) of investment in United States stocks (especially over the long run) as a means of achieving economic security and wealth.
Institutional players of course play critical roles in US and stock and interest rate securities marketplaces. But retail customers have a very substantial impact on stock price levels and trends. Moreover, in contrast with the situation of several years ago, in regard to the equity securities of key US corporations in general (and many Exchange Traded Funds/ETFs), Main Street over the past few years has benefited from rapid execution (internet) and low (or no) commissions. As the coronavirus pandemic emerged in 2020 and persisted into 2021, apparently many Main Street dwellers ventured into the US stock marketplace (not just large capitalization S+P 500-type firms). Many of these Main Street adventurers (investors, speculators, traders) were new participants in the stock trading game. Also, in an era of significantly rising (and high) consumer prices (note the trend since around mid-2021), probably stocks—like homes—can be an inflation hedge for some devoted financial pilgrims. Besides, speculators and traders, not only investors, seek to identify and profit from “good bargains” in stocks (and other marketplaces).
Many regiments of Main Street inhabitants raced into the exciting cryptocurrency wonderland during the global pandemic (and after the crash in the S+P 500 and Bitcoin to their March 2020 bottoms). Though cryptocurrencies generally have not yet won the honored “investment” badge, some believe cryptocurrencies (or at least some brands of it) are a “good investment” and “worth owning for a while”. In any case, many people have sought to make money by trading cryptocurrencies, usually initiating positions from the buying (long) side.
Despite America’s ferocious cultural wars across numerous economic, political, and social parameters, and despite declining consumer (and small business) confidence and widespread dissatisfaction with the overall direction of the country, American consumers in general (or at least the crucial high-earning and substantial net worth segment, the “haves”, have enjoyed substantial jumps in their nominal (and probably real) net worth in recent years.
The US and global stock marketplaces are far larger than cryptocurrency ones. But picture as well the noteworthy upward flight in recent weeks within another territory favored by some Main Street retail players: Bitcoin. Note the roughly similar timing shifts (trend changes) since first quarter 2020 for Bitcoin and the S+P 500. However, the impressive 40.3 percent upward march in Bitcoin from 6/20/22’s 17579 (another low 7/13/22 at 18892) to its recent high on 8/1/22 at 24658 probably encouraged to some extent the price rallies in the S+P 500 (and some other search for yield marketplaces).
Despite the withering slump in the S+P 500 since its 1/4/22 top and the bloodbath in many cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin peak 11/20/21 at 69000; note interim tops on 12/27/21 at 52100 and 3/28/22 at 48236 occurred alongside highs in the S+P 500), overall US household net worth (and thus nowadays probably still remains quite high. Thus “buying power” remained available from a substantial portion the Main Street (general public).
Some of this Main Street (retail) buying power, even in the face of notable CPI inflation and recession concerns, probably enthusiastically jumped from the sidelines into action in the S+P 500 (and other US equities) and some related playing fields, including Bitcoin, in recent weeks.
Institutional buying surely assisted the price rallies in the S+P 500 from its June 2022 and July 2022 troughs. But did institutional (Wall Street) money (insight and action) “lead” Main Street players into buying the S+P 500 around then? Probably not in a major way. Note the gloomy economic outlooks of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund released at that time. In addition, see the “dire” pessimism of “259 fund managers responsible for more than $700 billion in investments” [in other words, institutional/Wall Street types] manifested via a survey conducted between 7/8 to 7/15/22 by the Bank of America (cited on 7/19/22 by the NY Times website).
According to that Bank of America monthly review, optimism about global growth staggered to a record low, beneath levels in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse. The share of respondents who believed a recession was likely was the highest since April 2020 (as the coronavirus pandemic emerged).
However, these institutional investors apparently were holding the most cash since October 2001, (after the 9/11 attacks), over 20 years ago. Consequently Wall Street (institutional) influence probably decided to put some of that extra cash to work and thus assisted (jumped aboard) the S+P 500’s rally from its June/July 2022 valleys.
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Summertime Blues, Marketplace Views (8-6-22)