4Q 2022 Recap & 1Q 2023 Outlook

Recapping A Challenging 2022

Markets faced several challenges in 2022, including high inflation, historic central bank policy, the war in Ukraine, and Covid lockdowns in China. Inflation was a major factor in the markets throughout the year, with the headline consumer price index reaching a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. High inflation prompted the Federal Reserve and its global central bank peers to aggressively raise interest rates, which caused stocks and bonds to trade lower. There was no place to hide as central banks rapidly tightened monetary policy. Figure 1 shows the S&P 500 returned -19.4% in 2022, its worst annual return since 2008, and Figure 5 shows the Bloomberg U.S. Bond Aggregate produced its worst total return since 1976. This letter reviews the fourth quarter, recaps a difficult 2022, and discusses what the market will be focused on in 2023.

Putting 2022’s Interest Rate Hikes Into Perspective

The main story of 2022 was the reversal of monetary policy from extraordinarily accommodative levels during the Covid-19 pandemic. Figure 2 shows the speed and size of interest rate increases as central banks worked to bring inflation under control. The chart tracks the cumulative percentage of interest rate increases and decreases by global central banks during rolling three-month periods since 1995. For example, the 68% at the end of November 2022 indicates that central banks across the globe raised interest rates by a total of 68% from September to November. In contrast, the total amount of interest rate cuts during that same period was only 4%. As the data shows, 2022 was the quickest, largest, and most imbalanced global tightening cycle since the late 1990s.

The pace of interest rate increases is forecasted to slow during 2023. Central banks continue to hint that they are approaching the end of their interest rate hike cycle, citing concerns that further tightening could push the economy into recession. In addition, data suggests price pressures are easing. While the year-over-year headline consumer price index rose by 7.1% in November 2022, which is still high compared to historical levels, it was down from the 9.1% rate seen in June 2022. As inflation and central bank policy return to normal, a new uncertainty is emerging – the unknown effects of 2022’s rate hikes.

Markets Wait for the Lagged Effect of Higher Interest Rates to Show Up in Economic Data

The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes occurred in 2022, but the full impact of its restrictive measures has not yet been fully felt in the real economy. While the U.S. economy contracted during the first half of 2022, it expanded at a robust +3.2% annualized pace during the third quarter. Consumer spending remained strong throughout most of 2022 despite high inflation, and the U.S. labor market added more than 4 million jobs through the end of November. The data indicates the U.S. economy has withstood tightening thus far, but the real test will come in 2023 as the cumulative impact of higher interest rates becomes clearer.

While a recession is not a foregone conclusion, it is possible the economy could be tested in 2023. An index of leading economic indicators shows the U.S. economy is already starting to slow as the impact of higher interest rates takes hold. Figure 3 graphs the month-over-month change in The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index, which tracks ten economic components that tend to precede changes in the overall economy. Included in the components are the average weekly hours worked by manufacturing workers, new home building permits, and the volume of new orders for capital goods, such as equipment, vehicles, and machinery. The chart reveals that the Leading Economic Index has decreased every month since March 2022, an indication the economy is slowing after a period of strong growth during the pandemic recovery.

Equity Valuations Are More Attractive, But Corporate Earnings Are An Open Question

Whereas inflation and central bank policy were the primary drivers of markets in 2022, economic data and corporate fundamentals are expected to play a larger role in determining the market’s direction in 2023. Figure 4 tracks two important S&P 500 metrics. The top chart tracks the next 12-month price-to-earnings ratio, which divides the S&P 500’s projected next 12-month earnings by its current price. It shows valuation multiples expanded during the pandemic as interest rates were cut to near 0% before reversing lower during 2022 as rising interest rates weighed on company valuations.

While current valuations are at a more attractive starting point today than at the beginning of 2022, corporate earnings are an open question entering 2023 with the potential for an earnings reset as the economy slows. The bottom chart in Figure 4 tracks the S&P 500’s trailing 12-month earnings growth, showing the jump in corporate earnings during the pandemic. Despite expectations for an economic slowdown, Wall Street analysts still forecast single-digit earnings growth for the S&P 500 in 2023. The positive earnings growth forecast is encouraging, but it creates a risk for the market. If actual earnings growth falls short of the forecast, stock prices could decline as markets price in lower actual earnings.

Equity Market Recap – Stocks Trade Higher in 4Q’22

Stocks traded lower during December but still ended the fourth quarter higher. The S&P 500 Index of large cap stocks returned +7.6% during the fourth quarter, outperforming the Russell 2000 Index’s +6.2% return. The Dow Jones Index, which includes large companies such as Visa, Caterpillar, Nike, and Boeing, was the top performer, returning +15.9%, while the Nasdaq 100 Index of technology and other growth-style stocks produced a -0.1% return during the fourth quarter.

Energy was the top performing S&P 500 sector during the fourth quarter, followed by the cyclical sector trio of Industrials, Materials, and Financials. Defensive sectors, including Health Care, Consumer Staples, and Utilities, were middle of the pack performers. Growth-style sectors, including Technology, Communication Services, and Consumer Discretionary, and interest-rate sensitive Real Estate underperformed as higher interest rates continued to weigh on valuation multiples.

International stocks outperformed U.S. stocks during the fourth quarter. The MSCI EAFE Index of developed market stocks returned +17.7% during the fourth quarter, while the MSCI Emerging Market Index returned +10.3%. A weaker U.S. dollar boosted the returns of international stocks, with U.S. dollar weakness driven by a shrinking monetary policy gap as other central banks catch up with the Federal Reserve’s aggressive policy. Separately, China’s decision to relax its Covid-zero restrictions raised the prospect of stronger global growth as one of the world’s biggest economies reopens.

Bond Market Recap – The Great 2022 Yield Reset

The bond market experienced a significant resetting of interest rates during 2022, with yields steadily rising as the Federal Reserve pushed through large interest rate hikes. Despite posting positive returns during the fourth quarter, bonds produced significant losses during 2022 as central banks raised interest rates at a rapid pace. The top chart in Figure 5 shows the Bloomberg U.S. Bond Aggregate produced a -13% total return during 2022, its biggest negative total return since tracking began in 1976. The bottom two charts in Figure 5 examine the current state of the credit market after 2022’s rate hikes. The middle chart shows the 10-year Treasury yield sits at its highest level since 2007. Yields are now higher across most credit classes, and investors can earn a yield of around 4% to 5% on a portfolio of high-quality bonds, such as U.S. Treasury bonds and investment grade corporate bonds, without locking up capital for long periods of time. In the corporate credit market, the bottom chart shows the high-yield corporate bond spread, which is the extra yield investors demand to loan to lower quality borrowers, is in line with its median since 1999.

The starting point for bonds, both in terms of yield and credit spreads, is now more compelling than it has been in a long time. However, there is still the potential for continued volatility in the bond market. There is still significant uncertainty regarding how high the Fed will need to raise interest rates and how long it will need to keep interest rates at restrictive levels to bring inflation down to normal levels. There is a risk that inflation could remain above the Fed’s 2% target, leading to an extended tightening cycle. At the same time, the economy is likely to start feeling the effects of 2022’s rate hikes in 2023, which could make bonds more attractive. The crosscurrents of uncertain central bank policy and a volatile global economy could keep interest rate volatility elevated and test bond investors’ nerves again during 2023.

2023 Outlook – Turning the Page on 2022’s Historic Tightening Cycle

2023 brings the next phase of the tightening cycle where the lagged effects of tighter monetary policy will be felt. It has the potential to be a year of two halves. In the first half, the focus is likely to shift from the number of future interest rate hikes to how much those interest rate hikes will slow the economy. Some data, such as the housing market, indicate that tighter monetary policy is being transmitted into the economy at a rapid pace. Home sales are slowing, and homebuilder confidence weakened every month during 2022 and now sits at its lowest level since 2012. At the same time, consumers continue to spend, and employers continue to add jobs. There is still a wide range of possible outcomes, and the unique nature of the pandemic followed by rapid interest rate cuts and hikes makes the path forward less certain.

The second half has the potential to be different depending on how severe the slowdown is in early 2023. Markets are based on forward-looking decisions, and investors will be watching closely for signs that the economy has bottomed and is recovering. Plus, Figure 1 contains an encouraging historical trend. The chart shows there have only been two instances of consecutive negative S&P 500 return years since 1950, in 1973-1974 and 2000-2002. This does not necessarily mean the S&P 500 will produce a positive return in 2023 or trade higher in a straight line from here, because it may not. However, it does provide helpful historical context in a volatile environment.

Wishing you and your family happiness and health in the New Year! We look forward to serving you another year.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.

Wage Inflation Puts Additional Pressure on the Federal Reserve

Inflation remains a closely watched topic in financial markets. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, increased +6.6% year-over-year during September. It was the fastest annual pace since August 1982 and signals inflation’s persistence. Early inflation pressures were attributed to clogged supply chains and strong demand overwhelming limited supply, but a new source of inflation is gaining attention as supply chains normalize – wage inflation.

Figure 1 shows hourly wages increased +5% year-over-year during September. The growth rate, which is significantly above the pre-pandemic trend, indicates labor demand is outpacing labor supply and employers are paying more to attract and retain workers. What is causing the labor supply / demand imbalance? Data shows millions of workers left the labor market during the pandemic and have not returned.

Figure 2 graphs the number of people not in the labor force, which is defined as persons who are neither employed nor unemployed. This category includes retired persons, students, individuals taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work. The chart shows 95 million individuals were not in the labor force at the end of February 2020. The number spiked to 103.5 million at the end of April 2020 as workers left the labor market due to virus and health concerns, childcare responsibilities, and early retirements. While some of those individuals returned to the labor market, there are nearly 5 million more people not in the labor force at the end of September 2022.

Wage inflation is yet another factor complicating the Federal Reserve’s goal to bring under inflation control. Bringing the labor market back into equilibrium could ease wage inflation, but it could also significantly increase unemployment. Despite the near-term employment risk, the Fed views the risk of inflation becoming entrenched as a bigger long-term risk. All eyes will be on the labor market in coming months.

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS. PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.

Should Investors Worry About Impeachment?

Tweets and speeches don’t drive the stock markets – numbers do

It’s now clear that the investigations into President Trump are likely to continue through the 2020 elections. What’s still uncertain is the impact that these investigations will have on the stock market.
After rallying since Trump’s election victory in November 2016, the S&P 500 Index has done pretty well, but it has stumbled at times too:

• Ending 2016 up 9.54%;
• Zooming up 19.42% in 2017;
• Dropping 6.24% in 2018; and
• Up more than 18% so far year-to-date at the end of the third-quarter in 2019.

Although stocks have rewarded investors with healthy returns, investors seem more nervous that Trump will be impeached because not only will his pro-business agenda be stalled, but the chaos could send the markets into a tailspin. At least that’s the worry.
And although no one has a crystal ball to tell us how the Trump investigations will end, investors would be smart to tune them out. Here are a few reasons why.

Economics Matter More than Tweets

Economics and numbers matter way more than politics to the stock market. Trump’s tweets and speeches get all the media attention, and while the market might seem to react a little bit at times, the reality is that boring economic numbers drive the markets one way or the other. And consider these numbers:

• Unemployment is at 3.7%, one-tenth of a percent from the lowest level in over 50 years.
• We have seen 107 consecutive months of job growth, the longest streak ever.
• Wages have risen 3.2% this year, the strongest year in over a decade.
• Inflation has run below the Fed’s intended longer-term 2% target for most of this 10-year expansion and core inflation has averaged 2.1% so far this year.
• Consumer spending came in much higher than expected with a 4.7% annualized growth number, the highest gain in 4 years.

Impeachment is Unlikely Anyway

Investors should remember that impeachment is very unlikely as no U.S. president has ever been impeached and kicked out of office.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached, but they were acquitted in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required for conviction. Richard Nixon avoided impeachment and conviction only by resigning office.

Earnings Drive Stock Prices

What should investors worry about? Numbers. Specifically, corporate earnings.

It’s an investing adage that earnings are the lifeblood of the stock market. Stocks move in response to real or perceived earnings changes. If you are thinking of owning individual stocks, the trick is to find those whose earnings growth is strong, and should remain strong.
In aggregate, however, investors should worry about the upcoming earnings season as we head into the fourth quarter of 2019. Because according to research firm FactSet, as of September 27, 2019, 113 of the S&P 500 companies have issued EPS (earnings-per-share) guidance for the quarter.

And of these 113 companies, 82 have issued negative EPS guidance and 31 companies have issued positive EPS guidance. For perspective, the number of companies issuing negative EPS is above the 5-year average of 74.

Ignore Tweets and Speeches

Again, Trump’s tweets and speeches will continue to get all the media attention. But if you intend to own publicly-traded companies, make sure you read annual reports and earnings releases, not tweets.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. This material and information are not intended to provide tax or legal advice.  Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. 

January FOMC Meeting: A pause, but (probably) not the end of tightening

Leading into the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decision, Chair Jerome Powell and many of the regional Federal Reserve (the Fed) bank presidents had unanimously expressed support for a pause in the Fed’s tightening cycle. Even Esther George, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, advocated for a patient approach to monetary policy in her speech a few weeks ago.

In a press conference following the conclusion of the FOMC meeting, Powell stuck to the script and emphasized the Fed is waiting patiently to see how the economy evolves. The January statement removed the reference to further gradual increases, scrapped the central bank’s assessment that risks to the economic outlook are roughly balanced (hinting that they are skewing slightly to the downside now), and noted that inflationary pressures are muted. Translation: the Fed is on hold until at least June. The battery of dovish tweaks to the Fed’s guidance was enough to lift U.S. equities in the minutes following the announcement.

The cause for the pause: Downside risks

It’s important to remember that the cause for the pause is most likely about emergent downside risks to both the U.S. and global economic outlook. While the Fed still expects a strong economy in 2019, the recent volatility in financial markets, the slowing in global growth, and sharp declines in measures of U.S. consumer and business confidence have all eroded the central bank’s conviction in that baseline somewhat.

Why Having a Financial Professional Matters

What kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor? The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long lasting.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncounseled investor may make self-defeating decisions. Some investors never turn to a financial professional. They concede that there might be some value in maintaining such a relationship, but they ultimately decide to go it alone. That may be a mistake. 

No investor is infallible. Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. In long bull markets, investors risk becoming overconfident. The big-picture narrative of Wall Street can be forgotten, along with the reality that the market has occasional bad years.  This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden market shock may lead an investor into other irrational behaviors. Perhaps stocks sink rapidly, and an investor realizes (too late) that a portfolio is over weighted in equities. Or, perhaps an investor panics during a correction, selling low only to buy high after the market rebounds.

Often, investors grow impatient and try to time the market. Poor market timing may explain this divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, the S&P 500 returned an average of 8.91% annually across the 20 years ending on December 31, 2015, while the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.67% per year.1            

The other risk is that of financial nearsightedness. When an investor flies solo, chasing yield and “making money” too often become the top pursuits. The thinking is short term.

A good financial professional helps a committed investor and retirement saver stay on track. He or she helps the investor set a course for the long term, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount. As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward. Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life. 

This is the value our PFG financial professionals bring to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time. For more information contact us here.

 

Citations.
1 – zacksim.com/heres-investors-underperform-market/ [5/22/17]
PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (“RIA Firm”) is a registered investment adviser located in Tampa, FL. PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. 
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