Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Well if you have been long the markets and with the way stocks closed out 2018, it wasn’t so happy for the bull camp. However, a new year means new beginnings :-). Let’s do take a gander to see how the major averages fared in 2018. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ( click here or see chart below) finished the year down 5.6%, the S&P 500 (chart) closed the year down 6.2%, the Nasdaq Composite (chart) closed down 4% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed 2018 down 12%. This is the worst performing year for stocks in a decade.

So what happened? In my view and simply put how can stocks go up in a straight line for over a decade without a correction? That’s right, stocks essentially have gone up for over 10 years’ without a healthy 20% correction. So when the markets finally had a real correction which is what occurred in the 4th quarter, it felt like the sky was falling. No question the Federal Reserve and rising interest rates have played a role in the market correction, however, let’s keep this in mind a 2-2.5% Fed funds rate is still historically low. What wasn’t normal over the past decade was a 0 percent interest rate policy and no market volatility. Everyone got spoiled with such an accommodative policy and market environment.

Another factor playing into the mix of the Q4 market correction is without question the trade war and tariffs that our President has ignited. This to me is even more of an issue to our economy than rising interest rates lifting to a normalized level. Not only is the trade war and its ramifications playing a role, but the inconsistency and chaos out of Washington are wreaking havoc on the markets.  No doubt in my mind that investors and Wall street are falling out of love with how our country is being governed, especially over Twitter. This is all fixable, we will just have to wait and see if the ego’s and the political agendas on both sides of the aisle can get the confidence back in our marketplace. Paula and I wish everyone the happiest and most prosperous 2019.  Good luck to all 🙂


Dow Jones Industrial Average - George Mahfouz Jr

Stocks In Whipsaw Action!

Volatility makes a comeback as stocks get whipsawed to end the month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) closed out the month of February with a 380 point loss, the S&P 500 (chart) retraced 30 points, the Nasdaq Composite (chart) dropped 57 points and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the last day of February down 24 points. This two-day pull back comes off the heals of a sharp V shape bounce from the market correction that occurred in early February. During the bounce off of the most recent bottom it sure started to feel like the good ole days of lower vol and melt up mode. Not this time and at least not yet. What was abnormal was how volatility was virtually non existent over the past few years. Seemingly passive investing was the only place to be and in hindsight that was indeed the only place to be. During the multi-year melt-up we watched hedge funds underperform and in some instances close shop. There was simply no volatility for hedge funds hedge. It was a one way ticket up.

So what has changed you may ask? I think it is safe to say that the shift in the Federal Reserve’s policy albeit a delicate one is as far as you have to look. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve has provided its entire war chest of financial accommodation to get the economy and banking system not only of its feet, but thriving again. So now that all systems are a go the Fed is unwinding its balance sheet and raising interest rates. Yes that sounds like a pretty simple answer but it’s also pretty clear to see. With that being said, I do not expect the Federal Reserve to act too quickly unless inflation abruptly takes off. In the meantime I believe volatility will be remain prominent in the marketplace which is putting a smile on traders faces and creating opportunity both long and short. 🙂 Good luck to all!


A pause or a preview?

The key indices had one of their worst performing weeks of the year. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) fell 2.23%, the Nasdaq (chart) pulled back 1.57%, the S&P 500 (chart) -2.1% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the week down 2.3%. It’s important to note that other than the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart), the aforementioned other key indexes remained at or above their 50-day moving averages. Stocks reacted to rising interest rates and weak retail sales reported by several retailers including Walmart (NYSE: WMT) which missed on thier earnings as well as providing a somber outlook. Furthermore, bellwether Cisco Systems (NasdaqGS: CSCO) also issued cautious forward guidance during their post earnings release conference call on Wednesday.

So the question now becomes is this a blip on the radar, or a preview of things to come? All year long stocks have been propped up by the most accommodative Fed in history. I also have been writing about the need for top-line growth out of corporate America in order for this bull market to continue. To that point, I have been simply wrong from the standpoint that central banks from around the world continue to pour liquidity into the system and continue to keep interest at or near zero. This policy has taken the emphasis off of how well corporate earnings are actually doing. As Q2 earnings reporting season begins to wind down, there is growing evidence of tepid growth at best, especially in the retail space. Furthermore, the companies that have beat estimates have done so by running a tighter ship and getting more productivity from their current workforce.

Personally, I would like to see how this corrective action plays out over the next few weeks before I am comfortable deploying any long or short strategies in the marketplace. To that end, let’s not forget we are smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, and with most money managers at the beach, volume tends to be very light. Good luck to all.

Have a great weekend 🙂