Let’s think about the future for a moment. After all, that is what the stock market is doing constantly. Up to this point in 2018, the stock market has had a very positive view of the future. Why wouldn’t it? Corporate sales and earnings growth have delivered in the strongest economy since 2008.
In addition to an economy that is strengthening, we are also experiencing an innovation renaissance. Quantum computing, space exploration, and organ replacement are just a few of the areas announcing major breakthroughs. If you spend any time following science and technology news, rarely a week passes without a new scientific announcement. Contrast that with the DotCom crash of 2000 where we were at the end of the personal computer revolution of the 1990. The future did not look very bright.
The most important market to watch right now, in terms of what the near-term future may hold for stocks, may be high-yield (junk) bonds. Many commentators point to the increase of debt by corporations as a major risk for the economy. So far it is holding up remarkably well which is not what you would expect if the economy was about to fall in to a recession.
At some point in the future we will see another credit event like the sub-prime debacle of 2008. That is the nature of a credit-based global economy and it will likely trigger a deep recession. Perhaps we are on the verge of such an event but the high-yield market does not seem to think so. It is holding up remarkably well considering how much corporate bond doom and gloom is being reported.
If there were serous concerns in the high-yield bond market you would expect a bigger sell-off, but instead high-yield bonds appear to have decoupled from stocks.
I shutter to think what the global economic environment would be like without the corporate tax, personal tax and regulatory reform recently implemented in the U.S. But I digress, that is the past. What is more important is will these policies allow the U.S. economic expansion to continue?
In its totality this selloff has the character of a grind down to lower valuations; not a panic selloff with no bottom in sight. I think the biggest surprise of this market could be the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq reaching new all-time highs before we actually experience the next recession. There are many things that could go wrong but I continue to believe we are experiencing an adjustment in valuations that will allow this market to resume the bull market rally; not the beginning of the end of the this cycle’s expansion.