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Soft landing hopes for U.S. economy brighten outlook on stocks – The Globe and Mail

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Optimism is seeping back into the U.S. stock market, as some investors grow more convinced that the economy may avoid a severe downturn even as it copes with high inflation.

The benchmark S&P 500 has rebounded about 15% since mid-June, halving its year-to-date loss, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is up 20% over that time. Many of the so-called meme stocks that had been pummeled in the first half of the year have come screaming back, while the Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, stands near a four-month low.

In the past week, bullish sentiment reached its highest level since March, according to a survey from the American Association of Individual Investors. Earlier this year, that gauge tumbled to its lowest in nearly 30 years, when stocks swooned on worries over how the Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening would hit the economy.

“We have experienced a fair amount of pain, but the perspective in how people are trading has turned violently towards a glass half full versus a glass half empty,” said Mark Hackett, Nationwide’s chief of investment research.

Data over the last two weeks bolstered hopes that the Fed can achieve a soft landing for the economy. While last week’s strong jobs report allayed fears of recession, inflation numbers this week showed the largest month-on-month deceleration of consumer price increases since 1973.

The shift in market mood was reflected in data released by BoFA Global Research on Friday: tech stocks saw their largest inflows in around two months over the past week, while Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, which are used to hedge against inflation, notched their fifth straight week of outflows.

“If in fact a soft landing is possible, then you’d want to see the kind of data inputs that we have seen thus far,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth. “Strong jobs number and declining inflation would both be important inputs into that theory.”

Through Thursday, the S&P 500 was up 1.5% for the week, on track for its fourth straight week of gains.

Until recently, optimism was hard to come by. Equity positioning last month stood in the 12th percentile of its range since January 2010, a July 29 note by Deutsche Bank analysts said, and some market participants have attributed the big jump in stocks to investors rapidly unwinding their bearish bets.

With stock market gyrations dropping to multi-month lows, further support for equities could come from funds that track volatility and turn bullish when market swings subside.

Volatility targeting funds could soak up about $100 billion of equity exposure in the coming months if gyrations remain muted, said Anand Omprakash, head of derivatives quantitative strategy at Elevation Securities.

“Should their allocation increase, this would provide a tailwind for equity prices,” Omprakash said.

Investors next week will be watching retail sales and housing data. Earnings reports are also due from a number of top retailers, including Walmart and Home Depot, that will give fresh insight into the health of the consumer.

Plenty of trepidation remains in markets, with many investors still bruised from the S&P 500′s 20.6% tumble in the first six months of the year.

Fed officials have pushed back on expectations that the central bank will end its rate hikes sooner than anticipated, and economists have warned that inflation could return in coming months.

Some investors have grown alarmed at how quickly risk appetite has rebounded. The Ark Innovation ETF, a prominent casualty of this year’s bear market, has soared around 35% since mid-June, while shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings , one of the original “meme stocks,” have doubled over that time.

“You look across assets right now, and you don’t see a lot of risks priced in anymore to markets,” said Matthew Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management.

Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer at Truist Advisory Services, believes technical resistance and ballooning stock valuations are likely to make it difficult for the S&P 500 to advance far beyond the 4200-4300 level. The index was recently at 4249 on Friday afternoon.

Seasonality may also play a role. September – when the Fed holds its next monetary policy meeting – has been the worst month for stocks, with the S&P 500 losing an average 1.04% since 1928, Refinitiv data showed.

Wall Streeters taking vacations throughout August could also drain volume and stir volatility, said Hogan, of B. Riley Wealth.

“Lighter liquidity tends to exaggerate or exacerbate moves,” he said.

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German Economy Seen Shrinking Next Year Due to Energy Crisis – BNN Bloomberg

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(Bloomberg) — Germany’s economy will likely contract by 0.4% next year due to the impact of the energy crisis, according to the nation’s leading research institutes, who slashed their forecast from April of a 3.1% expansion.

German output will be €160 billion ($154 billion) lower this year and next than projected five months ago partly due to the drastic increase in energy costs, the four institutes predicted Thursday in a twice-yearly report which the government uses as guidance for its own outlook.

“The Russian attack on Ukraine and the resulting crisis on the energy markets are leading to a noticeable slump in the German economy,” said Torsten Schmidt, head of economic research at the RWI Institute and spokesman for the Joint Economic Forecast Project Group.

Germany is one of the countries hardest hit by the energy emergency triggered by the Ukraine war thanks to a reliance on Russian fuel imports built up over decades. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition is racing to cut back that dependence but Germany still faces a tough winter with the prospect of gas rationing and blackouts.

The government has assembled three packages of aid measures worth nearly €100 billion to offset the impact on households and companies but has also cautioned that it doesn’t have the resources to ease the pain completely.

“Record inflation rates, especially exploding energy prices, are hitting many companies hard,” Martin Wansleben, managing director of the DIHK industry lobby, said Thursday in an emailed statement.

“The consequences are production stops, losses in value creation, the relocation of production abroad and even plant closures,” he added. “The number of companies that either do not receive any energy supply contracts at all or only receive them at extreme prices is currently increasing.”

Although the energy crunch is expected to ease over the medium term, gas prices are likely to remain well above pre-crisis levels, meaning “a permanent loss of prospe­rity for Germany,” the institutes warned.

They cut their growth estimate for this year to 1.4% from 2.7% and said they expect inflation to accelerate in coming months, climbing to an average rate of 8.8% next year — compared with 8.4% this year — before gradually falling back toward 2% in 2024.

Europe’s biggest economy will likely return to growth in 2024, with expansion of 1.9%, the institutes predicted.

The four institutes which compile the twice-yearly forecasts are Munich-Based Ifo, the IfW in Kiel, the IWH in Halle and the Essen-based RWI. The Wifo and the IHS institutes in Vienna also contribute. The government is expected to publish updated economic projections next month.

(Updates with industry lobby comment from sixth paragraph)

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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U.S. economy shrinks at 0.6% annual rate in Q2 – Advisor's Edge

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Consumer spending grew at a 2% annual rate, but that gain was offset by a drop in business inventories and housing investment.

The U.S. economy has been sending out mixed signals this year. Gross domestic product, or GDP, went backward in the first half of 2022. But the job market has stayed strong. Employers are adding an average 438,000 jobs a month this year, on pace to be the second-best year for hiring (behind 2021) in government records going back to 1940. Unemployment is at 3.7%, low by historic standards. There are currently about two jobs for every unemployed American.

But the Fed has raised interest rates five times this year — most recently Sept. 21 — to rein in consumer prices, which were up 8.3% in August from a year earlier despite plummeting gasoline prices. Higher borrowing costs raise the risk of a recession and higher unemployment. “We have got to get inflation behind us,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last week. “I wish there was a painless way to do that. There isn’t.”

The risk of recession — along with persistently and painfully high prices — poses an obstacle to President Joe Biden’s Democrats as they try to retain control of Congress in November’s midterm elections. However, drops in gasoline prices have improved consumers’ spirits in the past two months.

Thursday’s report was the Commerce Department’s third and final take on second-quarter growth. The first look at the economy’s July-September performance comes out Oct. 27. Economists, on average, expect that GDP returned to growth in the third quarter, expanding at a modest 1.5% annual pace, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet.

Commerce also on Thursday released revised numbers for past years’ GDP. The update showed that the economy performed slightly better in 2020 and 2021 than previously reported. GDP rose 5.9% last year, up from the previously reported 5.7%; and, pounded by the coronavirus pandemic, it shrank 2.8% in 2020, not as bad as the 3.4% previously on record.

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Canada’s economy grew by 0.1% in July, bucking expectations it would shrink

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Canada’s gross domestic product expanded by 0.1 per cent in July, besting expectations of an imminent decline, as growth in mining, agriculture and the oil and gas sector offset shrinkage in manufacturing.

Statistics Canada reported Thursday that economic output from the oilsands sector increased sharply, by 5.1 per cent during the month. That was a change in direction after two straight months of decline, which brought second-quarter growth to 4.2 per cent thus far.

The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector led growth with 3.2 per cent. Unlike the United States and Europe, both of which are facing drought conditions, Canada has had a good year for crop production said Scotiabank economist Derek Holt.

On the downside, the manufacturing sector shrank by 0.5 per cent, its third decline in four months. Canada’s export market with the United States has softened and global supply chain issues linger, said Holt. The latter are gradually easing, which could create a better picture for the sector in the second half of the quarter.

Wholesale trade shrank by 0.7 per cent, and the retail sector declined by 1.9 per cent. That’s the smallest output for retail since December.

“What happened this summer was a big rotation away from goods spending towards services spending,” Holt said. Activities like haircuts, travel or outings to the theatre, made popular with the lifting of pandemic restrictions, leave out retail.

While the economy eked out slight growth in July, the data agency’s early look at August’s numbers shows no growth.

“The economy fared better than anticipated this summer, but the showing still wasn’t much to write home about,” said economist Royce Mendes with Desjardins. “While the data did beat expectations today, the numbers didn’t move the needle enough to see a material market reaction.”

The performance of Canada’s economy throughout the fiscal year — 3.6 per cent growth in Q1 and 4.2 per cent thus far in Q2 — remains one of the best in the world, Holt said.

Mendes said he expects growth will stay under one per cent this year: half of the Bank of Canada’s two per cent prediction and a third of the growth seen in the first two quarters.

“We’re definitely slowing, and more of that is coming in a lagged response to higher interest rates and all the challenges of the world economy,” Holt said. “But relative to the rest of the world, for the year as a whole, Canada has been in a sweet spot.”

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