Q1 2019 Market Commentary

Christmas Eve 2018 was the deepest and darkest place that the market has been in quite some time. Officially, December 2018 was the worst December since 1931. The good news is that the market shook off all this gloom and doom prompted by an ambitious Federal Reserve. It’s a point of debate, but we think the Fed overdid the raising of interest rates in 2018. To be fair, Chairman Powell had a lot of ground to overcome in a short period. He was in a tough situation and still is.

 

January 2019 began with a roaring stock market recovery. The market was way oversold and came roaring back. The catalyst was that the Fed turned very dovish, and the China trade situation was showing signs of an agreement. Thus, the first quarter of 2019 was up 13.07% based on the S&P 500 index and recorded one of the best first quarters ever. We are all very lucky because first quarter earnings showed signs of falling off early in 2019. Subsequent to this bad data, the treasury yield curve inverted. When this phenomena occurs, it supposedly often heralds a recession within the next 12-18 months. We’ll see. Earnings for Q2 don’t look any better, but the U.S. / China optimism seems stronger than ever. Europe and Brexit are still in a state of chaos and in many ways make us feel pretty lucky. Politically, the hunt to still take down Trump continues, and yet, we are still slowly moving ahead.

 

Most of our accounts have between 13 and 20% cash, and we are happy about that fact. We have our eyes on several of our favorite investments and companies and will pounce on them when stock prices head lower. Currently, we are as invested as we want to be, and we are mainly helping clients with their tax work. With interest rates being so low, we still see the only overall place to be for the longer term is the stock market, and we are invested accordingly. For us to get a lot more bullish, the weakness in the global economy would have to recede. The ECB has held steady and promised not to raise rates until next year. Therefore, we are advocates of a more balanced portfolio buoyed by some short term bonds and cash. It’s always best to be cautious when markets have risen quickly and optimism seems the luxury of over-enthusiastic investors. Valuations are quite high and the market is facing some declining fundamentals.