2015 essentially proved to be a flat to down year for stocks taking some investors and traders by surprise. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) closed the year down 2.2%, the S&P 500 (chart) minus dividends closed down just under 1%, the Nasdaq (chart) closed up 5.73% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the year down 5.71%. What’s more is how crude oil (chart) fared in 2015 declining more than 30% which also had weighed heavily on the aforementioned indices.
Looking ahead to this year, stocks find themselves in a place where they haven’t been in quite sometime and that is a rising interest rate environment. Historically speaking, equities tend to be under pressure at the beginning of and throughout a rate hike cycle with the exception of cyclical stocks and certain commodities. However this time may be different. In the past when the Federal Reserve begins to raise interest rates it is usually to fend off inflation and/or to cool off the economy when it becomes too hot. From my view and from the data flow, this is not the environment we find ourselves in today. So I do not expect that the Federal Reserve would raise rates aggressively or too quickly. With that said, the markets might not trade the way they would if we were in an inflationary environment with rising interest rates. Nonetheless, I do think that more volatility will come into stocks in 2016 and it will become more of a stock pickers market.
Furthermore, the technical shape of the market appears to be setting up for more downward movement as the key indexes have breached or are about to breach their respective 200-day moving averages. However, it would take days of trading below their 200-day to set off an alarm at least from a technical perspective. Let’s see how the first week of trading in the new year plays out before making any sort of definitive technical opinion.
Both Paula and I sincerely wish everyone the healthiest, happiest, safest and most prosperus New Year yet 🙂