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Weekly Market Recap – July 12, 2024

Weekly Recap:

Unlike the first week of July, which was largely a continuation of the tech-dominated rally of the past ~18 months, last week saw a broadening of the rally to include previously unloved sectors like cyclicals, real estate, and small caps. Among large cap benchmarks the Dow was the best performer, but the real star was the Russell 2000 (small cap benchmark) which surged 6% on the week. That said, the Dow and the Russell both remain far behind the more tech-heavy S&P 500 and especially the Nasdaq on a YTD basis.

The primary catalyst was Thursday’s lower-than-expected CPI print, which saw headline inflation drop 30 basis points sequentially to 3.0% y/y, while core inflation fell 10 basis points to 3.3%. The decline in Core CPI was largely driven by declining services inflation, rather than core goods which has already been in deflation for some time. Core services is the primary driver of inflation in the economy at this point, so seeing the moderating trend there is encouraging.

Earlier in the week, during his semi-annual 2-day testimony before Congress, Fed Chair Jerome Powell highlighted the fact that inflation is no longer the only risk on the committee’s mind, as the gradual normalization of the labor market has led to three consecutive sequential increases in U-3 unemployment, to 4.1% as of the most recent print. Financial markets interpreted Powell’s comments to mean that a September rate cut is in play, and the subsequent CPI print sent the implied odds of a September cut to nearly 100%. Rates fell across the curve as well, driving solid gains for fixed income investors on the week.

Chart of the Week: Consumer Price Index by Component (y/y change)

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 21x is well above the long run average, so valuations are likely to be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns from current levels over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or twice in the 2nd half of 2024, with additional cuts in 2025. Belly and long end rates are already at or near what are likely to be their post-pandemic equilibrium levels, unless the US economy enters a recession.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation became sticky in the 3-4% range in the first half of 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Volatile energy prices driven by geopolitical conflicts could present a risk to the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.

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Weekly Market Recap – July 5, 2024

Weekly Recap:

The first week of the second half of 2024 was largely a continuation of what has been the dominant trend of the past 18 months, with technology stocks pulling large cap benchmarks higher while other parts of the market were mixed. The S&P 500 gained 2% on the week, despite the fact that 56% of the index constituents (281 out of 503 stocks) finished lower. Meanwhile, the tech-dominated Nasdaq (+3.5% on the week) continued to pull ahead in the 2024 performance race, while the more cyclical Dow (+0.7% on the week and just +5.5% YTD including dividends) lags far behind. Similarly, US small and midcap benchmarks (which are not nearly as tech-heavy as large caps) finished lower on the week, and have also meaningfully underperformed on a YTD basis.

Rates finished lower across the curve last week thanks to so softer-than-expected macro data, allowing bond prices to rise. Despite the holiday it was a busy week for macro, including below-consensus prints for both manufacturing and services activity in the month of June:

* ISM’s Manufacturing PMI slid deeper into contraction territory at 48.5

* ISM’s Services PMI fell into contraction at 48.8 (lowest print since May of 2020)

The week concluded with the monthly jobs report from the BLS, which showed steady growth in both jobs (+206k NFP) and hourly earnings (+3.9% y/y). Labor force participation ticked higher to 62.6%. Perhaps most importantly, the closely-watched U-3 unemployment rate rose 10bp sequentially to 4.1%. Despite rising sequentially for the 3rd straight month, U-3 remains slightly below the level that would trigger the Sahm Rule and potentially indicate the start of a US recession.

Chart of the Week: Nonfarm Payrolls (m/m net change)

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 21x is well above the long run average, so valuations are likely to be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns from current levels over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Belly and long end rates are already at or near what are likely to be their post-pandemic equilibrium levels, unless the US economy enters a recession.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Volatile energy prices driven by geopolitical conflicts could present a risk to the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.

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Weekly Market Recap – June 21, 2024

Weekly Recap:

Most equity benchmarks finished in the green once again last week, albeit with different leadership this time. Tech stocks took a step back on Thursday and Friday, particularly the semiconductor companies (Nvidia, Broadcom, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Qualcomm, etc.) that had been fueling the recent rally. In the end, cyclicals and small/midcap stocks outperformed on the week as what had been a very narrow rally broadened out a bit.

Despite a variety of macro updates that in the aggregate were a bit weaker than expected, rates moved higher by 3-5 basis points across the curve. Meanwhile, IG corporate credit spreads widened for the 3rd consecutive week, and have now widened by nearly 10 basis points on average since the end of May.

Most of the macro updates from last week suggested a gradually softening outlook for the US consumer, including:

* US retail sales ex autos fell 0.1% sequentially for the 2nd straight month

* The NAHB Housing Market Index fell 2 points to 43 in June

* Housing Starts fell 5.5% m/m on a seasonally adjusted basis in May

* Residential Building Permits fell 3.8% m/m on a seasonally adjusted basis in May

* The Conference Board LEI fell 0.5% m/m and is now -14.2% off its cycle peak

However, there were a few bright spots that allowed cyclicals to rise, including:

* Industrial Production rose 0.9% m/m in May

* US Manufacturing Capacity Utilization rebounded 50bp to 78.7% in May

* S&P’s Manufacturing PMI rose to 51.7 in preliminary June data

* S&P’s Services PMI rose to 54.8 in preliminary June data

Chart of the Week: Conference Board LEI (Total)

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 21x is well above the long run average, so valuations are likely to be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns from current levels over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Belly and long end rates are already at or near what are likely to be their post-pandemic equilibrium levels, unless the US economy enters a recession.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Volatile energy prices driven by geopolitical conflicts could present a risk to the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.

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Weekly Market Recap – June 14, 2024

Weekly Recap:

In a week where an updated dot plot from the FOMC showed that consensus among committee members had moved to just one 25bp rate cut by year-end, futures markets actually increased the odds of a second rate cut from roughly 50/50 to more like 90/10.

The reason was inflation data. All three inflation metrics released last week came in well below consensus expectations, beginning with CPI data for May which hit the tape only a few hours before the conclusion of the 2-day FOMC meeting:

* Headline CPI was flat sequentially and fell to +3.3% y/y

* Core (ex food & energy) CPI rose 0.2% m/m and fell to +3.4% y/y

Then on Thursday, the Producer Price Index (PPI) showed similar softness, coming in 30bp below consensus estimates across the board:

* Headline (final demand) PPI was -0.2% m/m and fell to +2.2% y/y

* Core (ex food & energy) PPI was flat sequentially and fell to +2.3% y/y

Finally, import/export prices released on Friday showed a similar trend:

* Import prices printed at -0.4% m/m and fell to +1.1% y/y

* Export prices printed at -0.6% m/m and fell to +0.6% y/y

In response, bond prices rose as rates fell by ~20bp across the entire Treasury yield curve. On the equity side, real estate and large cap growth stocks were the biggest beneficiaries of the fall in rates, while cyclicals and small caps finished lower. The tech sector also got yet another boost from rosy A/I-driven earnings reports and forward guidance from Broadcom, Oracle, and Adobe.

Chart of the Week: Consumer Price Index (y/y change)

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 21x is well above the long run average, so valuations are likely to be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns from current levels over the coming decade are likely to be in the single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Belly and long end rates are likely already near their post-pandemic equilibrium levels, unless the US economy enters a recession.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Moderating energy prices have recently been helpful in terms of the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.

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Weekly Market Recap – June 7, 2024

Weekly Recap:

Stocks were higher in the aggregate (fueled by another 10% rise in NVDA) during a busy week for macro news that provided mixed signals with respect to the state of the US economy. Early in the week, some softer-than-expected updates on labor and manufacturing suggested that the economy was slowing to the point where multiple rate cuts by year-end were a probable outcome, but Friday’s stronger-than-expected monthly jobs report turned that notion around in a hurry.

On Monday, ISM’s Manufacturing PMI for May fell to 48.7 (contraction territory), with fresh weakness in new orders. Later in the week, however, ISM’s Services PMI gained more than expected, with strength in both new orders and employment. This is consistent with the pattern in the US economy for the past 2+ years, during which a strong services sector (the bulk of the US economy) has offset what has essentially been a recession in manufacturing.

Labor market data also painted a mixed picture. On Tuesday, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (aka, the JOLTS report) showed a second consecutive large m/m drop in open jobs in the US, falling to 8.06 million (the pandemic era peak was over 12 million). Weekly initial jobless claims also ticked up slightly to 229k, which is towards the higher end of the range that has persisted for the past 2+ years. But then on Friday, the month jobs report from the BLS far surpassed consensus with 272k nonfarm payrolls added (consensus = 180k), and 4.1% y/y growth in average hourly earnings (consensus = +3.9%). The strong report left traders rushing to cover their rate cut bets, leaving the odds of a second cut in 2024 at roughly 50/50 as the week drew to a close.

Chart of the Week: Nonfarm Payrolls Added

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20.7x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Moderating energy prices have recently been helpful in terms of the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.

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Monthly Market Recap – May 2024

May Recap:

Inflation:

Data released in May suggested that price pressures may have eased back just slightly in April. The m/m change in Core CPI fell 10 basis points sequentially to +0.3%, leaving the y/y figure at +3.4%. Similarly, the m/m change in the PCE Core Deflator also fell 10 basis points to +0.2%, with the y/y figure holding steady at +2.8%.

Monetary Policy:

May featured what might be termed “a meeting in two parts,” at least in terms of how financial markets reacted. At the conclusion of the FOMC meeting on May 1st, markets breathed a sigh of relief that the committee did not appear to be seriously contemplating rate hikes to combat sticky inflation. Rates fell across the curve in early May as a result, while Fed funds futures markets priced in a second rate cut prior to year-end. However, when the minutes from that meeting were released on May 22nd, investors were discouraged by the very clear reminder that many committee members lacked confidence that inflation was sufficiently under control to seriously contemplate rate cuts in the near term. Odds of a second rate cut in 2024 fell to roughly 50/50 by month end.

Economy:

Data released in May was mixed. The labor market remains strong but is gradually normalizing: new jobless claims remain low at ~220k per week, but job creation slowed (175k nonfarm payrolls added) and unemployment ticked higher by 10 basis points to 3.9%. Consumer confidence indicators were also mixed: the Conference Board’s index rebounded 4.5 points to 102.0, while the University of Michigan saw an 8 point decline to 69.1 with weakness in all components. Meanwhile, persistently high mortgage rates appear to have stalled any upward momentum in housing sector activity. Q1 GDP growth was revised lower by 30bp to +1.3% q/q annualized, but Q1 corporate earnings growth was robust at roughly +6% y/y for the S&P 500, well in excess of inflation.

Bond Market:

Treasury yields see-sawed, initially falling after what felt like a dovish FOMC meeting, only to reverse course and retrace most of that ground later in the month after the meeting minutes were released. Finally, yields fell again after the May 30th release of a downwardly revised Q1 GDP print, leaving bond prices higher on the month. Credit spreads remained steady throughout at levels that are very tight by historical standards.

Stock Market:

Stocks of nearly all stripes were higher in May, aided by the tailwinds of lower rates, solid corporate earnings, and renewed enthusiasm for A/I themed companies after yet another blowout earnings report from Nvidia. Falling oil prices pushed the energy sector slightly into the red, but all other sectors in the S&P 500 finished higher, led by technology stocks.

S&P 500 Total Return by Sector – May 2024

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20.3x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Rising oil prices driven by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east are also a risk to the inflation outlook.


Albion Financial Group is an SEC registered investment advisor. The information provided is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any particular securities product, service, or investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Additional information about Albion Financial Group is also available on the SEC’s website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov under CRD number 105957. Albion Financial Group only transacts business in states where it is properly registered, notice filed or excluded or exempted from registration or notice filing requirements.
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Weekly Market Recap – May 24, 2024

Weekly Recap:

Last week’s market action was a product of two countervailing forces: a disappointing (but hardly surprising) reminder that the Fed is not ready to declare victory over inflation, followed by renewed euphoria regarding the potential of G-A/I after Nvidia yet again exceeded the market’s expectations with blowout Q1 earnings and revenue guidance.

Minutes from the April 30 / May 1 FOMC meeting showed that committee members are concerned about the recent stickiness in inflation, and see potential upside risks to the inflation outlook from geopolitical events via energy prices. Members cited a lack of confidence to move forward with rate cuts, a sentiment that has also been reflected in post-meeting public statements. Rates moved higher across the curve in response, particularly in the front end as the odds of a 2nd rate cut in 2024 fell to roughly 1-in-3, the lowest they’ve been all year.

After the close on that same day, Nvidia released Q1 earnings and updated revenue guidance that somehow exceeded the lofty expectations baked into consensus estimates and the stock price. NVDA rose more than 9% on Thursday, and was up another 2.6% on Friday, dragging other A/I-theme stocks higher too.

The net result of these two forces was a heavily skewed equity market, in which the S&P 500 finished slightly higher on the week at the index level, despite the fact that nearly 3/4 of the index constituents were lower. As the chart of the week shows, it is highly unusual for the index to be up when so many constituents are down. In fact, the S&P 500’s weekly net advancer/decliner score of -235 is the lowest for any week with a positive index price change in the past 30+ years.

Chart of the Week: S&P 500 Weekly Price Change % vs. Advancers-Decliners

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20.5x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Rising oil prices driven by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east are also a risk to the inflation outlook.

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Weekly Market Recap – May 10, 2024

Weekly Recap:

In a mostly quiet week for macro news, rate volatility eased lower and stocks moved higher, although Friday’s U of M consumer sentiment print caused a modest reversal of those trends.

The BofA MOVE index (a measure of Treasury rate volatility, similar to the VIX for equities) finished the week at 94.23, its lowest level since the start of April and one of the lowest prints of the past 2 years. While rate vol is still elevated relative to pre-pandemic norms, it has been trending lower over the past 12 months, to the benefit of stock prices. See the Chart of the Week for a time MOVE index time series.

Stocks finished the week in the green across the board, led by utilities which have been on a remarkable run lately after being mostly unloved for the better part of 2 years. As of Friday’s close, S&P 500 Utilities Sector Index had risen 13.5% since mid-April, vaulting it into second place in YTD performance amongst sectors in the S&P, trailing only Communications which has been driven primarily by technology stocks within the sector, including Meta (Facebook) and Alphabet (Google).

While the week was mostly quiet from a macro perspective, it ended on somewhat of a sour note as the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment survey came in weaker than expected across the board in the preliminary May reading. The headline index fell nearly 7 points to 67.4, with significant weakness in both Current Conditions (68.8 vs. consensus of 79.0) and Future Expectations (66.5 vs. consensus of 75.0). Perhaps most concerning was that consumers’ inflation expectations moved higher: short term (1y) expectations increased 30bp to 3.5%, while longer term (5-10y) expectations increased 10bp to 3.1%.

Chart of the Week: BofA MOVE Index

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20.4x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Rising oil prices driven by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east are also a risk to the inflation outlook.

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Weekly Market Recap – May 3, 2024

Weekly Recap:

With inflation and monetary policy still in focus, last week’s FOMC meeting and some soft macro data pushed rates lower and allowed stocks to rise.

As expected, there was no change to overnight interest rates, and Jerome Powell continued to preach patience, noting that in recent months there has been a lack of progress towards the committee’s 2% target. However, the committee did announce a significant reduction in the pace of Quantitative Tightening (“QT”), which could be viewed as a precursor to rate cuts. The committee reduced the monthly redemption cap on Treasuries from $60 billion to $25 billion, a move that appears to be aimed at arresting further upward movement in Treasury yields.

The rates market interpreted this as a mildly dovish outcome. In the ensuing sessions, the odds of a second rate cut in 2024 rose from roughly 15% pre-FOMC to 80% by the end of the week (one cut has remained priced in throughout). Yields fell by 10+ basis points across the curve, with greater declines in the front end.

Soft macro data also played a role last week. First, the monthly jobs report from the BLS saw just +175k net nonfarm payrolls which was well below consensus, while U-3 Unemployment and U-6 Underemployment both ticked higher by 10 basis points, to 3.9% and 7.4%, respectively. And a bit later on Friday morning, the ISM Services Index unexpectedly dropped into contraction territory at 49.4, the lowest reading since December of 2022. The services sector has largely kept the US economy afloat during the post-pandemic period even as manufacturing has slumped, so any protracted softness in services could be a significant challenge to growth.

Chart of the Week: Net Nonfarm Payrolls Added

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Rising oil prices driven by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east are also a risk to the inflation outlook.

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Market Recap – April 2024

April Recap:

Inflation: Data released in April continued to paint a picture of sticky inflation, with most metrics coming in slightly higher than consensus expectations. Core CPI is now +3.8% y/y based on the most recent print, while the Core PCE Deflator (the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge) stands at +2.8% y/y, both of which are above the Fed’s 2% inflation target. Moreover, real time inflation data suggests that core inflation (CPI and PCE) has been running at an annualized pace of around 4.5% so far in 2024.

Monetary Policy: There were no FOMC meetings in April (technically a meeting began on April 30, to conclude with a rate decision and press conference on May 1), and thus no changes to overnight interest rates. However, sticky inflation data caused market participants to further reassess the timing and magnitude of a rate cutting cycle. At the start of April, futures markets were pricing in 2 or 3 rate cuts in 2024, most likely beginning sometime over the summer. By month end, futures markets implied only one rate cut this year, occurring in either November or December.

Economy: Data released in April was mixed. The labor market remains strong: jobless claims are low (~200k initial claims per week), open jobs are plentiful (8.75 million per the most recent JOLTS report), job creation continues (303k nonfarm payrolls added), and unemployment is low (3.8%). There have been signs of a trough in US manufacturing, which has been in recession for nearly 2 years. However, consumer confidence has wanted in recent months thanks to sticky inflation, and higher mortgage rates appear to have stalled the upward momentum in housing sector activity. Q1 corporate earnings growth has been modest so far at +3.5% y/y, roughly in line with inflation meaning that real (inflation-adjusted) growth is close to flat.

Bond Market: Treasury yields moved higher over the course of April as market participants further recalibrated their expectations regarding the so-called “Fed pivot”, resulting in lower bond prices across the board. Credit spreads remain tight by historical standards, pricing in very little default risk. Mortgage spreads tightened a bit further in April, driving a smaller increase in mortgage rates (+38bp on average for 30y fixed) compared to the move in 10y Treasury yields (+48bp).

Stock Market: After posting significant gains in Q1, most domestic and international stocks struggled in April. China was a notable exception, with the MSCI China Index posting a 6.4% gain on the month, pushing E/M benchmarks into positive territory. In the US, all sectors except Utilities finished in the red, with rate-sensitive sectors like Real Estate and Technology facing the most selling pressure.

S&P 500 Total Return by Sector – April 2024

Albion’s “Four Pillars”:

Economy & Earnings

The US economy has been resilient despite the higher interest rate environment. Analysts are forecasting low double digit EPS growth in 2024; growth of that magnitude will depend on the economy avoiding recession.

Valuation

The S&P 500’s forward P/E of 20x is above the long run average, so valuation could be a headwind to future returns. More predictive metrics like CAPE, Tobin’s Q, and the Buffett Indicator (Eq Mkt Cap / GDP) suggest that compound annual returns over the next decade are likely to be in the mid single digits.

Interest Rates

Futures markets imply that the Fed will cut overnight interest rates once or possibly twice in 2024, most likely at some point in the 2nd half of the year. Rate cut expectations have been tempered recently due to sticky inflation prints.

Inflation

After falling rapidly in late 2022 and all of 2023, inflation has become sticky in the 3-4% range in early 2024. Services inflation remains somewhat elevated, in part due to heavily lagged shelter costs. Rising oil prices driven by armed conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east are also a risk to the inflation outlook.