Although the markets rallied yesterday, the major averages in Q3 closed lower for the second straight month. In fact, year to date the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) is down 8.6%, the Nasdaq (chart) is off by 2.5%, the S&P 500 (chart) is lower by 6.8% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) year to date is down 8.6%. So the bulls are asking what gives? My question is more of what has taken so long? The U.S. markets have not seen any kind of meaningful or long lasting correction in six years. This is not a surprise and if anything should be embraced. Stocks have been driven by the Federal Reserve policies ever since the introduction of the first quantitative easing mandate. How easy has this market been? All any investor or fund manager really had to do over the past 6 years is buy and hold with no need for concern. I think it’s safe to say the landscape is changing and rightfully so. There are many investors out there that missed this stunning bull run we have been on simply because it was hard to agree with the valuations that most of the market has enjoyed during the Federal Reserve buyback program and low interest rate stance. Top-line growth has really not been the catalyst that has driven stocks during this incessant bull market. However, when you are in a low to negative interest rate environment there really isn’t any other option to place funds. The question now is are we heading towards or already in a normalized market environment? Meaning will equities now begin to trade on their own merits? To me it certainly feels like the markets are setting up this way.
We won’t have to wait very long because third quarter earnings reporting season is just ahead. Without question I expect this upcoming earnings reporting season will be scrutinized like no other in recent memory. I believe gone are the days that investors will give any company a pass should their results come in under street estimates or even in-line with the street. For me personally there is too much volatility in the marketplace right now and my preference is to go to the sidelines until after Q3 earnings reporting season is over. I will then evaluate the landscape from a fundamental and technical point of view. Speaking of the technical shape of the market, this too of a concern of mine. All of the key indices are in a significant down trend trading well below their respective 200-day moving averages. Yes theses indexes are finding a bit of support right here, but if earnings reporting season doesn’t add up, new 52 week or even multi-year lows could be in the cards? My point here is that with the way the markets look and feel, it is probably best to be a bit more conservative until after we see the health and growth rate of corporate America. Good luck to all 🙂