Weekly Market Recap

Weekly Recap: Equity markets rode a roller coaster fueled by inflation fears last week, with most stocks finishing lower. Headline inflation (as measured by CPI) rose above 4% for the first time since 2008, causing a short-lived spike in interest rates as well as widespread selling in equities as discount rates were
recalibrated. The fear of persistently higher inflation began to subside a bit
on Friday, allowing rates to fall and equities to recoup some of their losses.

Large cap tech stocks were hit the hardest, dragging down sector
performance for communications (-2.0%), information technology (-2.2%), and consumer discretionary (-3.7%). Meanwhile, cyclicals as well as traditional defensive sectors were mixed, with only consumer staples
(+0.4%), financials (+0.3%), and basic materials (+0.1%) finishing higher on the week.

Interest rates finished the week modestly higher, with benchmark 10y
Treasury yields rising 5bp while 30y yields were up 6bp. Credit spreads were mostly stable, resulting in small price declines across all sectors of the bond market on the back of the rise in Treasury yields.

Oil prices rose, with WTI closing back above the $65/barrel threshold.
Meanwhile, the national average price of gasoline rose above $3 per gallon
for the first time since late 2014. See the Chart of the Week for a time series.

Albion’s “Four Pillars”: Economy & Earnings – GDP growth was +6.4% annualized in Q1 2021, and is forecast to accelerate to +8.1% in Q2. Meanwhile, EPS for the S&P 500 turned positive y/y in Q4 2020 and will rise significantly y/y in Q1 2021 as the economy laps the onset of the pandemic.

Equity Valuation – the S&P 500’s forward P/E of 22x is above the historical average, and long-term valuation metrics like CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E ratio) suggest that compound annual returns over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits. That said, lower equity returns may be justified in the context of ultra-low yields on alternatives like bonds and cash.

Interest Rates – Rates remain low by historical standards despite recent
volatility, supporting equity valuations and lowering borrowing costs.

Inflation – After staving off deflation early in the pandemic, the Fed has
communicated tolerance for short periods of above-target inflation. A
cyclical bump in inflation may occur in 2021 as pent-up demand is released, testing the Fed’s resolve, but we do not expect higher inflation to persist.


Weekly Market Recap

Equity markets around the world rallied once again last week, driven by continued strength in earnings, notable progress on vaccine distribution, dovish commentary by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, and some progress towards another round of economic stimulus in the US.

On the vaccine front, Sinovac Biotech announced that its vaccine was approved for use in China, Pfizer’s vaccine was approved for use in Japan, and the Biden administration announced that the US had reached deals with both Pfizer and Moderna for another 100 million vaccine doses from each company. Dr. Anthony Fauci now expects that any American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one in the spring (possibly as early as April).

Treasury markets responded to all of this good news by sending yields higher, with the 30-year breaching 2% for the first time since Feb 19th of last year (the same day equity markets reached their pre-pandemic peak). Meanwhile the 2s10s curve reached 110 basis points, the highest level since the pandemic began. Investment grade corporate credit spreads tightened by 2bp, not enough to offset the move in rates. Muni and high yield bond spreads tightened more vigorously, pushing prices higher in those markets.

Oil extended its 2021 rally, with WTI finishing the week up another 4.6%. As a result, the energy sector extended its lead as the best-performing sector so far in 2021, while utilities were the worst performer last week.