Although the US economy has gathered steam in the third quarter, gross domestic product still grew at an annualized pace of less than 1 percent in the first half of the year. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 trades at 20.5 times earnings—toward the top of its historical range. Stay hedged, my friends.
Recent weakness in global equity markets reflects the increasing risk of recession and growing realization that central banks’ ability to promote sustainable economic expansion through monetary policy has waned. Estimates from Wall Street’s hive mind have yet to reflect these realities.
What investors should expect over the coming months: Abrupt swings to the upside for the S&P 500 within the context of a bear-market correction, further downside in oil prices in the first quarter, weakness in the US economy and fewer rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.
Is the stock market cheap, or is it expensive? Does it matter? Most investors have probably asked themselves these questions on numerous occasions over the past few years. Valuation concerns have become all the more pressing now that the market has climbed steadily for almost seven years.
Technical indicators from the last four bear markets to ravage US equities suggest that a correction of at least 20 percent could be in store for the S&P 500. At this juncture, the risk of a US recession remains low, which should limit the coming bear market's severity and duration. However, we'll continue to monitor our favorite economic indicators for deterioration.
With the US economy humming along, investors should regard recent weakness as an excellent buying opportunity. We highlight a simple but effective stock screen to identify pockets of strength that have outperformed in up and down markets.
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