This was supposed to be the year when stockpickers would finally have their way, grabbing control of the fund management market away from passive ETFs as correlation fell away and analysis of individual stocks paid off. So much for that. No sooner than investors imagined a different market, correlation has returned in a big way. Correlation has once again surged, and markets are moving more in-sync than they have at any time since the stock market crash of 1987.
FINSUM: The rise of passive investment vehicles seems relentless, and the one thing that seemed like it might get in its way has evaporated. In many ways the rise of correlation makes sense though, as when the market worries about macro issues, stocks tend to move in the same direction.
Worries are rising that the Vix index may be getting manipulated. This week, the Vix surged 10% just moments before an auction which sets the price of derivatives, which has led many to cry foul. What is so odd about the move is that it occurred despite no corresponding move in the S&P 500, which the Vix is supposed to reflect. Apparently what moved the market was a massive purchase of options betting that the S&P 500 would fall 50% in the next month. The bet is so improbable that it appears it was placed solely to send the volatility index soaring.
FINSUM: This sounds like standard manipulation. Buy a large amount of cheap out of the money options and try to profit on the rise in the Vix. They need to look at the make up of the index, as a $2.1m options purchase should not send the Vix soaring 10%.
Where should investors put their money in the stock market? That has been a very tough question lately, as everyone’s favorite darling, tech, has had a rough several weeks, and the outlook still seems dicey. However, Credit Suisse says that despite its woes, tech is still the best sector to be in at the moment. The reason why? Fundamentals. Tech has great underlying business momentum, with strong revenue, great growth, and strong free-cash-flow valuations.
FINSUM: We think regulation of tech is still some distance away, which mean it should have a good medium term runway to keep outperforming. All of that means the lower valuations right now could prove a good opportunity.
Stocks have managed to turn around from their dire condition of a couple weeks ago, and from last week, have rallied well. So, what has driven the turn around, investors are probably asking. According to Barron’s, part of it is earnings, but there is more to the story. The apparent answer is that market breadth and sentiment are improving across the board, which is helping provide positive momentum. It also isn’t hurting that earnings have been strong across the board.
FINSUM: We think the more positive sentiment is just from a lack of bad news on the trade war front. No news is usually good news in such a situation and fear ebbs so long as no new developments are released.
The retail sector has been in tumult for years, but the struggles have intensified over the last few years as ecommerce has accelerated and physical stores are under pressure. The big winner so far has been Amazon, but lately, Walmart has been pushing back with a greatly improved and expanded ecommerce offering. Now, Walmart may be able to grab more market share in the US retail market by undercutting other retailers on price. Walmart has been lowering prices and is now 3-5% below other retailers like Dollar General, Kroger, and Big Lots for the same items. Many of the items are so-called “traffic-driving”.
FINSUM: We can comment on this from personal experience. It is remarkable, especially in rural America, how much minor price differences can entice consumers to drive 10+ extra miles to the store which is perceived as cheaper. We think these price differences will be material.
With clients aging, valuations high, and rates uncertain, many may be looking for some good income stocks. Look now further than utilities, says Barron’s. In particular, the Reaves Utility Income Fund, which conceives utilities more broadly and includes telecom and interstate gas properties. The overall view for utilities is strong as they are relatively stable during periods of changing rates. Right now they average yields in the mid 3% range and they seem to be able to deliver growth of 5-7% per year. Valuations also look reasonable.
FINSUM: Barron’s paints a rosy picture of the utilities sector, but if rates head head north it could be a tough time. That said, we think rates and yields are going to stay reasonably stable, so these might be a good buy.