The world’s oldest marathon and one of the world’s best-known road racing events, the Boston Marathon, was held last week. For dedicated runners it is often considered the apex of a running career as those who enter the race need to first qualify, which often takes years of dedicated training and practice. As with any sport, runners have different types of training regiments to build stamina, endurance, and speed. These include tempo (or fast) runs, interval runs and of course long, slow distance runs, commonly known as LSD for short; not to be confused with the psychedelic drug used by the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Investing, especially for retirement, is very similar to long endurance races – they are not a short sprint and require stamina and patience to be successful.
The most widely anticipated recession in history has yet to occur, so should investors be nervous? Is it building to be bigger than expected or were we able to avoid disaster? If you are a long-term investor, you should not be overly concerned either way. Money invested in the stock market should be able to withstand short-term volatility and only intended to be used several years down the road – generally over the duration of an entire market cycle which tend to last at least 5-7 years.
Investors often want to know what the market is going to do over the next 3-6 months and then try to time it, but patience is warranted. Perhaps it was best said by legendary investor Warren Buffett, who stated “I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.” The point he was making is that he has found success by owning high quality stocks that perform well over longer periods of time and does not worry about short-term fluctuations.
Fartlek, a funny name which comes from Sweden and means “speed play,” is a runner’s training approach whereby long slow distance, or steady-state running, and higher speed training is blended together at various intervals. More simply, it involves alternating periods of fast and slow running. The markets tend to behave in this manner quite frequently. There are times when the market is very volatile and moves up or down quite quickly, while other times it tends to be calmer and move little. Last week would fit into the latter; it was a fairly quiet and calm week in the markets despite earnings season fully kicking into gear.
The major U.S. average were slightly lower as the S&P 500 changed by less than 1% for a third-straight week, the longest stretch since August of 2021. Treasury bond yields did move slightly higher but the magnitude of the moves was much less than recent weeks. Earnings reports showed cautious guidance and profit margins hit by recent price cuts, but they also reflected resilient consumer spending. Thus far, earnings have come in about as expected with few big surprises, but still show some contraction from a year ago.
As has recently been the case, there continues to be arguments for both bullish and bearish narratives in the markets. The Fed overhang remains the key downside risk, with officials continuing to message “higher for longer” policy given persistent inflation. The recent release of the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data indicates manufacturing and employment are increasing faster than expected, but so are prices, leading to little reprieve on the inflation front.
Earnings growth is expected to grow in the third quarter as companies step up their cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives, however risk remains to estimates from margin contraction and wage pressures. Also on the bearish front, money supply growth is collapsing with tightening in the money supply for six straight months. The post-pandemic money supply expansion from the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing (QE) program and near zero interest rates helped fuel the fast recovery but also were major contributors to the highest levels of inflation in four decades. A contraction in money supply should help stymie inflation but will also hinder economic growth.
Economic data to be released this week includes Consumer Confidence, first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE). GDP is expected to show expansion, so no recession (yet). The PCE price deflator is the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation and is expected to remain above 4%, which is still outside the Fed’s comfort zone and therefore will provide them with further validation to raise interest rates another quarter point at their upcoming meeting on May 2-3. As of now, the markets are expecting this to be the last rate hike in this cycle with the possibility of at least one rate cuts by the end of the year. However, the Fed continues to be at odds with these expectations and officials have insisted they will maintain interest rates higher and longer in their fight against inflation.
Big tech earnings will receive the most attention this week with Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, META (Facebook) and Amazon all reporting. This group has significantly outperformed the broader market so far this year, but analysts have noted their valuations are high with some of the best-case scenarios priced into shares. But it is worth remembering these are some of the names that could be among the better performers in an economic slowdown given strong cash generation and falling interest rates.
While we wait for a recession that may, or may not, ever happen it is important to remember the economy and stock market are not one in the same. It is more important to focus on the stock market as a long-term proposition where patience is required. Investing in the markets should be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint. There are often times the market is volatile and prices fluctuate wildly in the short-term, but keep your eye on the long term to match your time horizon with your goals. Do not hesitate to call us if you would like to discuss your portfolio and the strategies we can help you implement for long-term success throughout retirement.
Have a wonderful week!
Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®
Chief Investment Strategist
Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.
Office phone # 952-460-3260