Weekly Market Recap

Last week’s biggest headline was consumer price inflation (CPI) which registered +5.0% y/y in May, the first “five-handle” US inflation print in nearly 13 years. Under the covers, however, the report was less alarming. Core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, was just +3.8% y/y.

Moreover, more than half of the total came from just six components associated with the release of pent-up demand: food away from home, lodging, airfares, rental cars, used cars, and vehicle insurance.

Markets paid attention to these details, and as a result, inflation-sensitive asset classes rallied last week. Equities were led by technology stocks, many of which have long-dated cash flows that are especially sensitive to discount rate assumptions. The return of tech leadership in equities dates to mid-May, shortly after the previous month’s CPI report which showed similarly transitory drivers underneath an upside headline surprise.

Bond markets also rallied, as 10y Treasury yields fell 10 basis points to 1.45%, their lowest level since early March when rates were still rising quickly. Credit spreads were stable, pushing corporate and muni bonds prices higher (and yields lower) in sync with Treasuries. Mortgage rates also fell last week.

Most commodities traded in a narrow range as inflation fears eased. That said, oil ticked higher by approximately $1/barrel, pushing WTI above $70 for the first time since the outset of the pandemic.


Weekly Market Recap

Risk assets of all stripes were higher last week, as US economic data continued to point towards a strong recovery while inflation fears eased a bit. Technology and cyclical stocks saw the strongest demand, while investors pared back their exposure to traditional defensives like real estate, consumer staples, and healthcare. International stocks were higher, with emerging markets outperforming developed markets on increased risk appetite.

Treasury yields fell across the curve despite the risk-on market tone, with benchmark 10y yields lower by 3bp while 30y yields fell 4bp. Meanwhile, corporate credit spreads compressed to their tightest levels since 2007, with the average spread on the Bloomberg/Barclays US Credit Index closing at 79bp. See the Chart of the Week for a time series.

Most commodity prices rose, with oil setting a new pandemic-era high on Thursday before easing back slightly on Friday.

Economic news in the US was mostly positive. Double-digit home price appreciation continued across most of the country, with signs emerging that affordability is beginning to impact transaction volumes. Consumer confidence measures held steady at healthy levels in May, jobless claims continued to trend lower, and durable goods orders (excluding the volatile transportation component) were higher.


Weekly Market Recap

Weekly Recap:
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.


Weekly Market Recap

Investors drove a “rotation trade” in US equity markets last week, with
weakness in large cap technology stocks offset by strength in cyclicals
(energy, financials, industrials) and small/midcap companies. Then on Friday, equities of all stripes got a boost when the US Nonfarm Payroll Report came in significantly below expectations, calming inflation fears and reassuring investors that the Fed will remain accommodative for the foreseeable future.

Bond markets rallied last week. Benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields fell 5 basis points, reversing most of the increase from the final week of April.
Meanwhile, credit spreads remained at or near YTD tights, allowing the price gains in Treasuries to flow through to corporate and municipal bonds.

Commodity prices rose, with oil (WTI) closing at nearly $65/barrel even
before a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline Co led to a shutdown of the largest pipeline network in the eastern US. Many other commodity prices moved higher as well, including agricultural products, building products, and textiles.

As mentioned above, the monthly jobs report came in well below
expectations, touching off a loud political debate about whether the best
solution to slowing job growth is a reduction in unemployment benefits that some believe are distorting incentives, or an increase in childcare support coupled with significant infrastructure spending.


Weekly Market Recap

Equities posted solid returns last week, led by large cap technology stocks. The S&P 500 reached a new all-time high on Thursday, closing above 4,000 for the first time.

Rates were fairly subdued last week. The Treasury curve flattened modestly, pivoting around the 10-year point, with 2y yields higher by 5bp while 30y yields fell by 2bp. Credit spreads tightened in sympathy with the broader rally in risk assets, allowing corporate bonds to post solid gains.

Oil and the US dollar were both stronger on the week.

Incoming economic data was encouraging. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose sharply to 109.7, and the ISM Manufacturing Index surged to 64.7, both of which represent pandemic highs.

Friday’s monthly payroll report was also very strong:

* Nonfarm payrolls = +916k (largest monthly gain since August 2020)

* U-3 Unemployment = 6.0% (fell 0.2% sequentially)

* U-6 Underemployment = 10.7% (fell 0.4% sequentially)

* Labor Force Participation Rate = 61.5% (rose 0.1% sequentially)

* Average Weekly Hours Worked = 34.9 (rose 0.3 hrs sequentially)