In case after case, corporate earnings guidance was at best disappointing. Those companies that disappointed saw their stocks plummet, which took the markets down with them. But earnings season is almost over. Now what?
This past week we saw some stocks fall 30-40 and even 50 percent in one day on disappointing results. The volatility on individual stocks has been extraordinary. Many companies who beat on the top and bottom line and gave good guidance saw their stocks climb 15 percent or more in an hour or two, but the overall markets ignored that.
Time was that investors shunned Bitcoin because the crypto currency could move a percent or two a day. Nowadays, the cryptocurrency is less volatile than most equites and bonds! One wonders what would happen if the fear index called the VIX were to move higher? Fortunately, over the last week VIX dropped to below 30. That was a good sign.
There is precious little I can add to the topics I have covered that have bedeviled inventors for most of the year — the Fed, inflation, rising rates, supply chains, slower growth in China, the U.S. and Europe. To be honest, no one knows whether the U.S. will fall into recession, or stagflation, or simply continue to grow. You would have better luck betting on the ponies than predicting where inflation will be at the end of the year, or if another strain of COVID-19 will pop up.
In times like this about the best one can do if trying to navigate the financial markets is to focus on price. The price investors are willing to pay for the stock and bond markets, the U.S. dollar, cryptos, commodities and so on. Some of these instrument's lead and others follow price movements. So far this year many of those price movements have been down. Few have been up.
Notice, for example, that the U.S. dollar is up about 8 percent, so far this year. That is a spectacular, out-sized move for the world's reserve currency. It has had an inverse effect on stocks and bond prices. The higher it goes, the lower they go.
Inflation, however, seems to track the U.S. dollar, as do most commodity prices. That makes some sense, since the dollar needs to strengthen in order to preserve purchasing power in an inflationary environment where commodities like oil are soaring. Can the greenback give us a clue to where stocks are likely to go? I believe so.
I have noticed that over the last week, the U.S. dollar has fallen, while other currencies like the Euro and yen have strengthened. Could that give us a reason to be bullish on stocks, at least until the dollar reverses course? Currency traders will give you all sorts of reasons why the dollar dropped.
Leading the list is the European Central Banks slightly more hawkish attitude toward monetary tightening. Higher interest rates in Europe would attract more investors to the Euro and away from the dollar. Global interest rates are a key ingredient on where investors decide to put their money. Given the same risk profile, the currency with the highest interest rates attracts the most capital.
However, I am guessing that the sudden dollar weakness has more to do with inflation expectations. Readers may recall that in the beginning of this year I expected inflation would begin to peak in the Spring. Friday's Personal Consumption Expenditure Index PCE), which is a measure of the prices that people in the U.S. pay for goods and services. The Fed pays close attention to this measure since it captures a wide range of consumer expenses and reflects changes in consumer behavior.
The PCE showed inflation rose 4.9 percent in April from a year ago. It was below expectations and seemed to indicate that inflation was slowing from 5.2 percent reported in March 2022. That data could indicate that my peaking prediction was right on track. If inflation were to flat line (albeit at a rate higher than anyone is comfortable with), the U.S. dollar should flat line as well, at least for now.
That does not mean that our inflation problem will be solved. We are a long way from that, but it may not get too much worse. In other words, I do not see a period of hyper-inflation like we experienced in the 1970s, instead we may have plateaued on the inflation front.
It also does not mean that the Fed is going to soften its stance anytime soon on raising interest rates. Far from it, but peaking inflation could give the markets a needed boost higher, which brings me to my "W."
Readers may recall that I described this month's market action as a sloppy "W" formation. The month is almost gone, and we have entered the last part of the W, which should give us more upside from here. Make no mistake; there has been no bullish buying in this rally. Markets have been pushed up by traders' short covering. Stocks are over extended, and I expect profit-taking kicks in next week. I would buy that dip.
The good news is that I believe we are building a base that could be able to give us a tradeable bounce for a few weeks beginning in June into July.
Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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