Stock Market Struggles, Recession Threat Minimal

Yesterday the market experienced a follow-through day according to Investor’s Business Daily, only to open sharply lower today and continue lower most of the day.  Overall, the action today increases the odds this correction is going to continue but there is little evidence, if any, we are going into a sustained bear market or recession.

The issue of the day revolves around the yield curve, which is a measure of interest rates at different maturities.  The difference between a 2-year rate and a 10-year rate is essentially zero and is close to inverting (short-term rates higher than long-term rates), which has historically been an early recession indicator.  That may not be the case in the current environment due to the pervasive and continuing low-interest rates here and around the world.  There is even talk of the U.S. eventually moving to a negative-interest rate environment like European and Japanese investors are experiencing.

The Federal Reserve can fix the yield curve inversion by lowering short term rates, which is why the recession warning may be misplaced.  Other parts of the U.S. economy are doing fine.

The more interesting development over the last several weeks is the upward price movement of assets that benefit from inflation.  Gold has move higher and so have some real estate assets.  This may be an indication that if a recession does materialize, investors believe it will be met with a massive round of money creation through both monetary (The Fed) and fiscal (president/congress) policies.

My favorite indicator for the health of the stock market is the behavior of leading stocks.  Below is a chart of 12 top performing stock in 2019, several of them are younger companies or even recent IPOs.  There are many others I could have included.  Generally this type of company is the first to see massive declines when risk leaves the market.  Even after recent selling these stocks are holding up.

Leading Stocks Remain at the top of their trading range.

When the price action for leading stocks I follow start to deteriorate in unexpected ways, I become more concerned about future market action.  That is not how I feel today.

The conversations I have with business leaders and investors suggest there are a lot of opportunities to go after right now and government tax and regulatory policy in the U.S. is favorable.  Overall their outlook is positive.  I think this market will turn positive too, once this correction has run its course.

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