We are not yet seeing warning signs that would signal a correction...
Over the past 18 months, investor sentiment appears to have come full circle. In mid-2016, deflation fears reigned and investors seemed eager to embrace negative news. Since that time, however, optimism toward economic growth, earnings growth and stock market prospects have become the main investment themes. The most recent example of this trend is the incredibly positive reaction to last month’s tax bill, which has caused investors and analysts to forecast increasingly higher earnings results even as valuations are growing less attractive.
Such an environment causes us to take pause and examine the risks. Earnings expectations are quite high. While we think they can still be met, the higher expectations rise, the harder it will be for results to beat estimates.
Read a summary of insights from Nuveen Asset Management's Senior Portfolio Manager and Chief Equity Strategist Bob Doll below, or download the entire investment commentary as a PDF.
The risk-on theme continued for a third straight week, as the S&P 500 Index rose 0.9%. Once again, Treasury prices fell while the yield curve flattened. Investor sentiment appears to be improving, with some moving money into the stock market based on fears that they may have missed the rally. Tax reform continues to push markets higher, but we think improvements in corporate earnings expectations have been the primary driver of returns.
- The “melt up” in equity prices has been driven by both sentiment and fundamental improvements. Expectations for corporate earnings in 2018 were high before the tax bill and are now moving even higher.
- Companies have several equity-friendly plans for their tax windfalls. When asked in a recent survey how they would use their cash, the top answers were: 1) increase capital expenditures, 2) pay down debt, 3) increase dividends, 4) hold more cash and 5) raise wages.
- Stocks may be fairly valued, but that doesn’t mean this bull market is over. At the beginning of the year, we pegged 2,800 as a fair value for the S&P 500 Index. The index has already reached this level before the end of January. But that doesn’t mean prices can’t still rise, since bull markets rarely stop at fair valuation.
For the complete week in review, download Nuveen Asset Management's latest commentary.