September 3, 2022

Belabored

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Bottom Line:

 

Markets continue to reel after being scolded by the Fed for partying too much in July. The Fed must force sentiment lower to force inflation expectations lower. As such, they have forcefully hit every open mic over the past few weeks to talk down markets and recall our summer rally. While this has led to a 50% retrenchment, we don’t see a violation of June’s lows as required. Fortunately, earnings keep growing while investors keep fretting. Friday’s employment report added some temporary relief as the unemployment rate rose from 3.5% to 3.7%, which is closer to the 4%+ rate the Fed would like to see. Unfortunately, while the Fed has been working to depress sentiment, expectations, and demand, President Biden and Congress snuck in another $1 trillion+ in stimulus between the semiconductor, climate and student loan bills. It’s too early to assess how this added spending will impact the economy and the unemployment rate, but it only increases the difficulty and austerity required of the Fed, likely taking this disinflationary campaign into extra innings.

 

The Full Story:

 

The market closed lower again this week, still smarting after the Fed’s scolding. We deserve it. The 17.5% rally off the June lows taunted the Fed. As investor sentiment rallied along with stocks, so did inflation expectations. Since happiness seemingly correlates with inflation expectations, if the Fed wants inflation expectations to fall, they need unhappiness to rise. That’s why the recent barrage of Fed comments has felt like corporal punishment. We are being punished for partying! The good news is that sentiment and inflation expectations are falling quickly, setting us up for some support near these levels. I don’t expect the market to rally from here, but I don’t expect a collapse either, barring an unforeseen event. Remember that earnings have been growing while the market has been dropping. This chart from JP Morgan captures the story well:

 

 

On the left side, we have past and projected earnings for the S&P 500. On the right, we have year-to-date performance for the S&P 500 and the contribution of earnings and P/E to that return. Note that earnings have contributed 6% to returns, while P/E compression has detracted 19% from returns through August. Analysts currently project continued earnings growth in 2023 and 2024. These growth rates may prove optimistic if recession bites, depressing the E. But if that’s the case, recession will also wipe out inflation, supporting the P/E. It may take more time to resolve the issues plaguing policy makers and the economy, but I don’t think it takes more downside than we have seen.

 

Biden vs. Powell

 

Friday’s employment report balanced things to like and things not to like well. The U.S. economy added 315,000 jobs last month, but because the labor force participation rose, the unemployment rate also ticked higher to 3.7%. The Fed wants to see the unemployment rate rise to 4%+, so this was a step in the right direction. The stubborn “great resignation” and “quiet quitting” has robbed the economy of labor supply and productivity. An uptick in the participation rate allows for an increase in labor supply to reduce wage pressures, relieving some pressure on the Fed to decrease aggregate demand to reduce labor demand. Households have drawn down savings levels recently, which may renew their interest in work. Note the drawdown but encouraging recovery in participation contained in this month’s report:

 

 

Adding workers faster than jobs accounts for the simultaneous uptick in employment and the unemployment rate. Something for everyone! Unfortunately, elimination of debt amounts to an increase in savings. According to Penn Wharton, the Student Loan Forgiveness subsidy will amount to $526 billion in stimulus this year… and a few more billion down the road:

 

 

This could weigh against progress made in the participation rate. It’s too early to tell. What is clear is that the combination of this $526 billion, the $400 billion recently passed on climate initiatives, and the $280 billion subsidy for semiconductors adds up to another $1 trillion+ of stimulus while the Fed tries to downforce demand. Having fiscal stimulus and monetary constraint policies at odds makes things much harder for the Fed. Not only do they need to mop up the excess stimulus of the past, but they now must also adjust for the stimulus of the present. This makes their pursuit of normalizing the labor market even more difficult. With any luck, gridlock will pause fiscal profligacy, raising the stakes even higher for the upcoming mid-terms.

 

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

 

David S. Waddell 
CEO, Chief Investment Strategist

 

 

 

Sources:  FRED, Compustat, Standard & Poor’s, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Asset Management

 

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David Waddell
Author: CEO Chief Investment StrategistAfter graduating from the University of the South with a BA in Economics, David began his career with Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. in Phoenix, AZ. Having been recognized for his outstanding business development record, David was promoted to the San Francisco- based Institutional Strategic Accounts Team, which interfaced with the Big 5 accounting firms and Schwab’s largest customers. David left Schwab to continue his education at the graduate level in Boston. While earning his MBA degree with a concentration in finance and investments at the F.W. Olin School at Babson College, he was appointed by the college Trustees to manage a team of seven portfolio managers overseeing the student-managed portion of Babson’s endowment fund. David also founded the Babson Investment Management Association to assist undergraduate and graduate students with training and career path planning in the investment management field. As the firm’s Chief Investment Officer, David chairs the W&A investment committee and combines macro economic forecasting, macro market analysis and macro risk assessments to design portfolio strategies utilizing public market securities worldwide. A civic leader in Memphis, David currently acts as Chairman of Epicenter Memphis, and Co-Chair of the Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Circle while also serving as a board member for LaunchTN and the New Memphis Institute. David previously served as chairman for The Leadership Academy, the RISE Foundation, and the Economic Club of Memphis. He also chaired the capital campaign to build the “Live” stage at the Memphis Botanic Garden. David was a member of the 2004 Leadership Memphis class and has been recognized as one of Memphis’ “Top 40 under 40” by the Memphis Business Journal, and as a finalist for “Executive of the Year” in 2007. In addition to weekly columns in the Memphis Daily News and the Nashville Ledger, David has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Business Week, Investment News, Institutional Investor News, The Tennessean and Memphis Business Journal. He has also made appearances on Fox Business News, Yahoo Finance, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, and CBS News and ABC News Channels. Read some of David's articles on his author page in Inside Memphis Business. David has two wonderful children, Easton and Saylor, an obedient Labradoodle named NASDAQ, and a devoted Goldendoodle named Ripley.

Author

David S. Waddell

CEO

Chief Investment Strategist

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