I have been blogging for while now that a pullback at some point is inevitable and would even be healthy considering the parabolic move most of the key indexes and many stocks have had so far this year. However, there seemingly has not been a meaningful catalyst to trigger a noticeable pullback or better yet a healthy 10% correction, until maybe now? Taper talk is back on the table at the highest level since late May thanks to the continuing flow of recent positive economic data. In fact, some pundits predict that the Federal Reserve will begin reducing its asset purchases as early as this upcoming week. This chatter has been enough for the markets to take notice with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) falling 264 points this week or 1.7%, the Nasdaq (chart) retreated by 1.5%, the S&P 500 (chart) gave back 1.6% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the week lower by 2.2%. Now let’s keep this into perspective, these benchmark indices on the year are still up a whopping 20%, 35.5%, 24.5% and 30% respectively.
What everyone has been accustom to for the past couple of years is that the protractive accommodative policies of the central banks from around the world would keep a floor under the markets, which most certainly has been the case. However, in late May of this year there had been widespread speculation that the Fed would indeed begin to reduce its bond buying and mortgage backed security purchases which sent the markets lower by over 5% by late June. The tapering fear at that point became unfounded as the economic data back then was still coming in too skittish in the Fed’s eyes.
Fast forward to today and there may now be enough positive economic data such as Q3 GDP coming in at 3.6%, the labor market showing signs of strength, personal spending rising and overall business confidence improving. These signs could be enough for the Fed to slowly reduce its asset purchases. So now the question on all minds is “how will stocks react once the Fed begins to taper?” This subject is currently being highly debated in most circles of the financial world and quite frankly no one knows. I suspect that the Fed will start to taper sooner than later but that they would be very conscious and conservative with their approach and how they signal their future actions. That said, once the central bank removes itself from the limelight and allow the markets to trade in a normal environment and on their own merits, I would expect volatility to get back to normal levels, hence, healthy pullbacks and even corrections should be back on the table. With this type of market environment, both long and short traders would be able to compose strategies based off of fundamentals and have the confidence to act accordingly.
Both Paula and I wish everyone a very safe, healthy and happy holiday season 🙂