Equities were mixed last week. In the US, traditional defensives rose,
including real estate, healthcare, and utilities. Technology stocks were mixed, while cyclically sensitive sectors were lower. Small and midcap indices were also down on the week, while major international indices finished higher.
Despite some day to day volatility, bond markets finished close to where
they started. Benchmark 10y US Treasury yields ended the week 1bp lower,
while 30y yields fell 2bp on the week. Investment grade credit spreads were
stable, keep corporate and muni bond prices essentially unchanged.
After setting a new pandemic-era high during the previous week, oil pulled
back on concerns that supply from Iran could return to the market if
sanctions are eased.
Cryptocurrency markets experienced wild price swings coupled with service outages at multiple exchanges after China signaled it would increase
regulatory oversight of crypto mining. Bitcoin finished the week down by
nearly 30%, and extended the selloff over the weekend.
Forward-looking economic news was positive: residential building permits
remained strong, initial jobless claims fell to fresh pandemic lows, and the
Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) rose to an all-time high on a y/y basis. 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.