2019 Half-Time: Climbing the Wall of Worry
The first half of 2019 is complete, and the S&P 500 was up 17.35% for the period. This performance is the best first half since 1997. The PE multiple of the S&P is near 20 with Price to Sales Ratio at a little over 2X. Generally speaking, the fuel for the market this year has primarily been due to central bank policy. While we are extremely happy with this low interest rate environment, we believe that stocks will ultimately need to return to an environment where earnings are the drivers of upward movement.
The negatives for future GDP growth and earnings are of course the tariffs. Ultimately, higher tariffs do impact the United States in terms of earnings nearly as much as the Chinese. President Trump and President Xi have been “talking” about a trade deal for some time, and we believe that something possibly luke warm will be achieved. Let’s face it: the Chinese have enjoyed this huge trade imbalance for 30 years. The benefits of that trade tilt are not lost on President Xi, and I am fairly confident that he is not anywhere near really considering evening up that advantage. It is likely that Europe’s slow-down will continue to bleed on the United States which will result in slower growth and low interest rates. Therefore, it’s our opinion that the second half of the year will be fairly bumpy and very open to the vicissitudes of trade talk and rumors. Nevertheless, we believe that the U.S. equity markets continue to be the best alternative for our clients, and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell proves to be a “market-friendly” government official, which bodes well for the longer-term.
We believe that a year-end target of 3050 is very probable for the S&P 500 Index. This is simply to suggest a period of digestion and sideways movement in the second half. It wouldn’t surprise us if we have as much as a 10% pullback in this upcoming half, but we would use that as a buying opportunity. The central bank and geopolitical concerns will most likely dominate the rest of the year, but we encourage investors to stay long and even use market sell offs to add into favored equities.
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