Serenity Now! How to Find Investing Calm
Today is Columbus Day, a national holiday when stocks continue to trade (but the bond markets are closed).
Many of you have the day off, so now’s a good time to step back from the daily hurly-burly of market action, take a collective deep breath, and focus on the bigger picture. (Ommmm…)
Positive vibes from Q3 earnings…
In this holiday-shortened week, investors will get inundated with a flood of new data. Will the real estate debt crisis in China trigger a global financial meltdown? Will Washington devolve into its usual paralysis? Will inflation and bond yields spike? Will jobs growth and corporate earnings disappoint?
Stocks hover near all-time highs but anxiety permeates Wall Street. For context that provides deeper understanding, let’s start with corporate earnings.
Third-quarter 2021 earnings season will kick off in earnest this week, with major banks on the docket. Financial services are a bellwether for the wider economy.
Third-quarter corporate operating results will indicate whether mixed economic data and rising inflation are significantly hurting bottom lines. Wall Street also is keeping a vigilant eye on Beijing, to see how the country’s leaders handle the China Evergrande Group (OTC: EGRNF) financial fiasco.
So far, earnings expectations are rosy, with most companies issuing positive guidance. For Q3 2021, the estimated year-over-year earnings per share (EPS) growth rate for the S&P 500 is 27.6%.
Several economic reports with market-moving power also are scheduled for release this week (see the table).
The latest core consumer price index numbers (Wednesday) will be crucial, of course. Also pay particularly close attention to the employment reports on the docket. The economic recovery last week once again showed signs of slowing, as the rate of jobs growth disappointed.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last Friday that U.S. employers added only 194,000 jobs in September, versus 500,000 expected.
The jobs data represented the second consecutive month in which the U.S. economy added far fewer jobs than expected by analysts. Jobs growth also sharply slowed in August.
But here are the silver linings. The unemployment rate declined to 4.8% in September, down from 5.2% in August. Joblessness fell across the board. What’s more, the surveys behind the numbers were taken during the middle of September, when COVID Delta infections were just beginning to level off. There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about jobs growth in October and beyond.
Jobs growth in September slowed but it didn’t fall off a cliff. The recovery is alive and well, but the Federal Reserve also has ample reason to kick the can down the road with tapering its asset purchases.
To be sure, momentum stocks are under pressure by the Fed’s intention to taper. These stocks have higher expected future earnings; when interest rates are rising, future earnings are worth less. That said, tapering probably won’t be a severe enough blow to trigger a correction in the broader market, or among high-profile momentum stocks (e.g., mega-cap technology leaders).
The global economy is projected to grow at a year-over-year pace of 6% in 2021 and 4.9% in 2022. Inflation is rising but it’s expected to retreat to its pre-pandemic levels in most countries in 2022, once supply chain disruptions are ironed out.
Don’t overthink negative news headlines. They come and go. I remember a truism that I learned in journalism school: If it bleeds, it leads. In other words, it’s the inherent nature of the media to emphasize bad news.
Over the long term, underlying fundamentals are quite positive. But conditions will get bumpy in the coming weeks. Keep in mind, September-October is historically a highly volatile and downward trending period for equity markets, whereas the fourth quarter tends to come in strong.
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