While driving back from Lake Tahoe last weekend, I received a call from a dear friend who was in a very foul mood.
Following the advice of another newsletter the name of which I won’t mention, he bailed out of all his stocks after the November 8th election.
After all, wasn’t the Dow Average headed straight to 3,000?
Despite the Federal Reserve now on a rate rising path, here we are with the major stock indexes just short of all time highs.
Why the hell are stocks still going up?
I paused for a moment as a kid driving a souped up Honda weaved into my lane of Interstate 80, cutting me off. Then I gave my friend my response, which I summarize below:
1) There is nothing else to buy. Complain all you want, but US equities are now one of the world’s highest yielding securities, with a lofty 2.5% dividend.
A staggering 50% of S&P 500 stocks now yield more than US Treasury bonds (TLT). That compares to two thirds of all developed world debt offering negative rates and US Treasuries at 2.40%.
2) Oil prices have bottomed, but remain incredibly low, and the windfall cost savings are only just being felt around the world.
3) While the weak euro (FXE) is definitely eating into large multinational earnings, we are probably approaching the end of the move. The cure for a weak euro is a weak euro. The worst may be behind for US exporters.
4) What follows a collapse in European economic growth? A European recovery, powered by a weak currency. European quantitative easing is working.
5) What follows a Japanese economic collapse? A recovery there too, as hyper accelerating QE feeds into the main economy. Japanese stocks are now among the world’s cheapest. The Japanese yen (FXY) will probably FALL for the rest of the year, adding more fuel to the fire.
6) While the next move in interest rates will certainly be up, it is not going to move the needle on corporate P&Ls for a very long time. We might see two 25 basis point hikes, and that probably won’t happen until the second half of 2017. In a deflationary world, there is no room for more.
At least, that’s what my friend Janet tells me.
This will make absolutely no difference to the large number of high growth corporates, like technology firms, that don’t borrow at all.
7) Technology everywhere is accelerating at an immeasurable pace, causing profits to do likewise. You see this in the FANG stocks, where blockbuster earnings reports are becoming as reliable as free upgrades.
Biotech has been on a tear as well.
See the new Alzheimer’s cure? It involves extracting the cells from the brains of alert 95 year olds, cloning them, and then injecting them into early stage Alzheimer’s patients.
The success rate has been 70%. That one alone could be worth $5 billion. I might be a user of this cure myself someday.
8) US companies are still massive buyers of their own stock, and a relaxed repatriation tax law could pour gasoline on the fire.
This has created a free put option for investors for the most aggressive companies, like Apple (AAPL), IBM (IBM), Exxon (XOM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Intel (INTC), the top five repurchasers.
They have nothing else to buy either. American International Group (AIG) has mandated the repurchase of an amazing 25% of its outstanding float.
They are jacking up dividend payouts at a frenetic pace as well, and are expected to return more than $430 billion in payouts this year.
9) Ignore this at your peril, but there is a global synchronized economic recovery going on which has been in the works for some years. Nearly a decade of central bank monetary stimulus and government fiscal stimulus is finally bearing some fruit.
Q1 earnings reports start in earnest in a few weeks, and the phrase “better than expectations” is about to become well worn. Expect S&P 500 (SPY) earnings per share to reach new all time highs, hardly short seller bait.
10) Ditto for the banks, which were dragged down by falling interest rates for most of the last decade. Reverse that trade this year, and you have another major impetus to drive stock indexes higher.
My friend was somewhat set back, dazzled, and nonplussed by my out of consensus comments. He asked me if I could think of anything that might trigger a new bear market, or at least a major correction.
The traditional causes of recessions, oil prices and interest rate spikes, are nowhere on the horizon. In fact, the prices for these two commodities, energy and money, are near all time lows.
Then I thought of one big one. If Donald Trump gets impeached it could put the entire market in a state of suspended animation for about six months. Remember Watergate?
With that, I told my friend I had to hang up, as another kid driving a souped up Shelby Cobra GT 500, obviously stolen, was weaving back and forth in front of me requiring my attention.
Where is a cop when you need one?