Former hedge fund star says this is what will trigger the next bear market.

Much of Wall Street expects easing inflation, but an overshoot could dash hopes of a May rate cut, curtailing the S&P 500’s
SPX
waltz with 5,000, warn some.

Read: Arm’s frenzied stock rally continues as AI chase trumps valuation.

What might take this market down eventually? Our call of the day from former hedge-fund manager Russell Clark points to Japan, an island nation whose central bank is one of the last holdouts of loose monetary policy.

Note, Clark bailed on his perma bear RC Global Fund back in 2021 after wrongly betting against stocks for much of a decade. But he’s got a whole theory on why Japan matters so much.

In his substack post, Clark argues that the real bear-market trigger will come when the Bank of Japan ends quantitative easing. For starters, he argues we’re in a “pro-labor world” where a few things should be playing out: higher wages and lower jobless levels and interest rates higher than expected. Lining up with his expectations, real assets started to surge in late 2023 when the Fed started to go dovish, and the yield curve began to steepen.

From that point, not everything has been matching up so easily. He thought higher short-term rates would siphon off money from speculative assets, but then money flowed into cryptos like Tether and the Nasdaq recovered completely from a 2022 rout.

“I have been toying with the idea that semiconductors are a the new oil – and hence have become a strategic asset. This explains the surge in the Nasdaq and the Nikkei to a degree, but does not really explain tether or bitcoin very well,” he said.

So back to Japan and his not so popular explanation for why financial/speculative assets continue to trade so well.

“The Fed had high interest rates all through the 1990s, and dot-com bubble developed anyway. But during that time, the Bank of Japan only finally raised interest rates in 1999 and then the bubble burst,” he said.

He notes that when Japan began to tighten rates in late 2006, “everything started to unwind,” adding that the BOJ’s brief attempts [to] raise rates in 1996 could be blamed for the Asian Financial Crisis.

In Clark’s view, markets seem to have moved more with the Japan’s bank balance sheet than the Fed’s. The BOJ “invented” quantitative easing in the early 2000s, and the subprime crisis started not long after it removed that liquidity from the market in 2006, he notes.

“For really old investors, loose Japanese monetary policy also explained the bubble economy of the 1980s. BOJ Balance Sheet and S&P 500 have decent correlation in my book,” he said, offering the below chart:


Capital Flows and Asset Markets, Russell Clark.

Clark says that also helps explains why higher bond yields haven’t really hurt assets. “As JGB 10 yields have risen, the BOJ has committed to unlimited purchases to keep it below 1%,” he notes.

The two big takeaways here? “BOJ is the only central bank that matters…and that we need to get bearish the U.S. when the BOJ raises interest rates. Given the moves in bond markets and food inflation, this is a matter of time,” said Clark who says in light of his plans for a new fund, “a bear market would be extremely useful for me.” He’s watching the BOJ closely.

The markets

Pre-data, stock futures
ES00,
-0.41%

NQ00,
-0.80%

are down, while Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
hold steady. Oil
CL.1,
+0.79%

and gold
GC00,
+0.46%

are both higher. The Nikkei 225 index
JP:NIK
tapped 38,000 for the first time since 1990.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

5,021.84

1.60%

4.98%

5.28%

21.38%

Nasdaq Composite

15,942.55

2.21%

6.48%

6.20%

34.06%

10 year Treasury

4.181

7.83

11.45

30.03

42.81

Gold

2,038.10

-0.17%

-0.75%

-1.63%

9.33%

Oil

77.14

5.96%

6.02%

8.15%

-2.55%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points

The buzz

Due at 8:30 a.m., January headline consumer prices are expected to dip to 2.9% for January, down from 3.4% in December and the lowest since March 2021. Monthly inflation is seen at 0.3%.

Biogen
BIIB,
+1.56%

stock is down on disappointing results and a slow launch for its Alzheimer’s treatment. A miss is also hitting Krispy Kreme
DNUT,
+1.99%
,
Coca-Cola
KO,
+0.24%

is up on a revenue rise, with Hasbro
HAS,
+1.38%
,
Molson Coors
TAP,
+3.12%

and Marriott
MAR,
+0.74%

still to come, followed by Airbnb
ABNB,
+4.20%
,
Akamai
AKAM,
-0.13%

and MGM Resorts
MGM,
+0.60%

after the close. Hasbro stock is plunging on an earnings miss.

JetBlue
JBLU,
+2.19%

is surging after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a near 10% stake and said his firm is discussing possible board representation.

Tripadvisor stock
TRIP,
+3.04%

is up 10% after the travel-services platform said it was considering a possible sale.

In a first, Russia put Estonia’s prime minister on a “wanted” list. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Best of the web

Why chocolate lovers will pay more this Valentine’s Day than they have in years

A startup wants to harvest lithium from America’s biggest saltwater lake.

Online gambling transactions hit nearly 15,000 per second during the Super Bowl.

The chart

Deutsche Bank has taken a deep dive into the might of the Magnificent Seven, and why they will continue to matter for investors. One reason? Nearly 40% of the world still doesn’t have internet access as the bank’s chart shows:

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-2.81%
Tesla

NVDA,
+0.16%
Nvidia

ARM,
+29.30%
Arm Holdings

PLTR,
+2.75%
Palantir Technologies

NIO,
+2.53%
Nio

AMC,
+4.11%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.90%
Apple

AMZN,
-1.21%
Amazon.com

MARA,
+14.19%
Marathon Digital

TSM,
-1.99%
NIO

Random reads

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Messi the dog steals Oscars’ limelight.

Love and millions of flowers stop in Miami.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

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#hedge #fund #star #trigger #bear #market

Stock-market rally faces Fed, tech earnings and jobs data in make-or-break week

Stock-market investors may take their cues from a series of important events in the week ahead, including the Federal Reserve’s monetary-policy meeting, a closely-watched December employment report and an onslaught of earnings from megacap technology names, which all promise insight into the state of the economy and interest-rate outlook. 

The benchmark S&P 500 index
SPX
Thursday closed at a record high for five straight trading days, the longest streak of its kind since November 2021. The index finished slightly lower on Friday, but clinched weekly gains of 1.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite
COMP
advanced 1% and the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA
gained 0.7% for the week, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

“What we’re seeing is the market participants are still playing catch-up from 2023, putting money on the sidelines to work,” said Robert Schein, chief investment officer at Blanke Schein Wealth Management.

“Wall Street is still back at it trying to eke out gains as quickly as possible, so it’s very short-term oriented until we get big market-moving events,” he said, adding that one of the events could well be “a disappointing Fed speech.”

Fed’s Powell has good reasons to push back on rate cuts

Expectations that the Fed would begin easing monetary policy as early as March after its fastest tightening cycle in four decades have helped fuel a rally in U.S. stock- and bond-markets. Investors now mostly expect five or six quarter-point rate cuts by December, bringing the fed-funds rate down to around 4-4.25% from the current range of 5.25-5.5%, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. 

See: Economic growth underlined by fourth-quarter GDP reinforces Fed’s cautious approach to rate cuts

While no interest-rate change is expected for the central bank’s first policy meeting this year, some market analysts think comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell during his news conference on Wednesday are likely to shift the market’s expectations and push back against forecasts of a March cut. 

Thierry Wizman, global FX and interest rates strategist at Macquarie, said a stock-market rally, “too-dovish” signals from the Fed’s December meeting, a still-resilient labor market and escalating Middle East conflicts may indicate that Powell has to keep the “[monetary] tightening bias” next week. 

The rally in the stock market could “conceivably backfire” by virtue of a loosening of financial conditions, while the labor market has not weakened to the extent that the Fed officials would have hoped, Wizman told MarketWatch in a phone interview on Friday.

Further complicating things, fears that inflation could spike again in light of the conflict in the Middle East and Red Sea could reinforce Fed’s cautious approach to rate cuts, he said. 

See: Oil traders aren’t panicking over Middle East shipping attacks. Here’s why.

Meanwhile, a shift to “neutral bias” doesn’t automatically mean that the Fed will cut the policy rate soon since the Fed still needs to go to “easing bias” before actually trimming rates, Wizman said. “I think the market gets too dovish and does not realize the Fed has very, very good reasons to push this [the first rate cut] out to June.” 

Markets are ‘laser-focused’ on January employment report

Labor-market data could also sway U.S. financial markets in the week ahead, serving as the “big swing factor” for the economy, said Patrick Ryan, head of multi-asset solutions at Madison Investments. 

Investors have been looking for clear signs of a slowing labor market that could prompt the central bank to start cutting rates as early as March. That bet may be tested as soon as Friday with the release of nonfarm payroll data for January.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal estimate that U.S. employers added 180,000 jobs in January, down from a surprisingly strong 216,000 in the final month of 2023. The unemployment rate is expected to tick up to 3.8% from 3.7% in the prior month, keeping it near a half century low. Wage gains are forecast to cool a bit to 0.3% in January after a solid 0.4% gain in December. 

“That’s going to have everyone laser-focused,” Ryan told MarketWatch via phone on Thursday. “Anything that shows you real weakness in the labor market is going to question if the equity market is willing to trade at 20 plus times (earnings) this year.” The S&P 500 is trading at 20.2 times earnings as of Friday afternoon, according to FactSet data. 

Six of ‘Magnificent 7’ may continue to drive S&P 500 earnings higher

This coming week is also packed with earnings from some of the big tech names that have fueled the stock-market rally since last year. 

Five of the so-called Magnificent 7 technology companies will provide earnings starting from next Tuesday when Alphabet Inc.
GOOG,
+0.10%

and Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
-0.23%

take center stage, followed by results from Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-0.90%
,
Amazon.com
AMZN,
+0.87%

and Meta Platforms
META,
+0.24%

on Thursday. 

Of the remaining two members of the “Magnificent 7,” Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
+0.34%

has reported earlier this week with its results “massively disappointing” Wall Street, while Nvidia Corp.’s
NVDA,
-0.95%

results will be coming out at the end of February.

See: Here’s why Nvidia, Microsoft and other ‘Magnificent Seven’ stocks are back on top in 2024

A number of the companies in the “Magnificent 7” have seen their stock prices hit record-high levels in recent weeks, which could help to drive the value of the S&P 500 higher, said John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet Research. He also said these stocks are projected to drive earnings higher for the benchmark index in the fourth quarter of 2023.

In One Chart: Tech leads stock market’s January rally by wide margin. Watch out for February.

In aggregate, Nvidia, Alphabet, Amazon.com, Apple, Meta Platforms, and Microsoft are expected to report year-over-year earnings growth of 53.7% for the fourth quarter of last year, while excluding these six companies, the blended earnings decline for the remaining 494 companies in the S&P 500 would be 10.5%, Butters wrote in a Friday client note.

“Overall, the blended earnings decline for the entire S&P 500 for Q4 2023 is 1.4%,” he said. 

Check out! On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching — and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet. MarketWatch’s Jeremy Owens trains his eye on what’s driving markets and offers insights that will help you make more informed money decisions. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple.  

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#Stockmarket #rally #faces #Fed #tech #earnings #jobs #data #makeorbreak #week

Why investors should be wary of New Year ‘head fakes’ for this hot asset class

The first trading day of the New Year looks set to challenge the Santa Rally theory, with Dow futures down over 200 points as bond yields surge. An Apple downgrade may not have helped investor confidence.

This week will bring the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting and important December jobs data.

“Data that comes in too hot will kill the idea of rate cuts starting as soon as March, and data that comes in too cold will kill the idea of a soft landing. It means Goldilocks must return from her Christmas trip to Aruba and appear this week,” says Michael Kramer, founder of Mott Capital Management.

Read: A stock investor’s guide to the first trading days of 2024

Onto our call of the day from MacroTourist blogger Kevin Muir, who sees a rally in small-cap stocks as one big theme for the coming year, though investors should beware of getting in too soon.

In a post, Muir draws on a 2021 observation from Raoul Paul, co-founder and CEO of Real Vision financial media platform, who posted on Twitter now X, at the time about the perils of piling into “head fakes” or new ideas in January.

Paul noted how hedge funds and asset managers start the new year with a clean investment slate, but then two weeks later start moving into so-called consensus Wall Street year-ahead trades. And once the rest of the investment world gets in, the trend reverses or corrects, and those managers get back to flat or have to start over.

Muir says given the Fed’s pivot away from monetary tightening at the end of 2023, small-caps will end up as stock leaders this year. A bull on that asset class, he flagged his readers to buy in early November and December.

After a tough year, the Russell 2000
RUT
rallied late in 2023 as it became clearer that Fed interest rate increases, particularly hard on smaller companies, were drawing to a close.

As per this Russell 2000 chart, Muir says he did get the timing right on that bullish call:

However, Muir says he’s concerned that the rally was mainly from “hedge fund covering,” and not a solid signal that the bear market for those stocks has ended.

One reason, he notes was that the stocks blasting higher at the end of 2023 were the most heavily shorted — he offers the Goldman Sach’s most-shorted index chart here:

MacroTourist

The chart is evidence of how hedge funds that got caught out when the Fed surprisingly guided toward interest rate cuts at the December meeting. Within a few hours of the Fed announcement, the Most-Short index had rallied 15%. But along with that, the ARKK Innovation ETF
ARKK
also shot higher, a red flag for Muir.

That short index is tightly correlated to ARKK and the Russell 2000 small-cap index, he said.

So says it’s possible the small-cap push was “just a hedge fund short-covering rally that will sag back down now that the buying has flamed out.” And based on Raoul Paul’s theory, it makes sense that hedge funds and other investors may be piling into the asset class.

Muir says he stands by his view that small-caps are cheap and deserving of gains. “However, if this small-cap rally is for real, then it can’t be led by crap. We can’t have the GS Rolling Most-Short leading the charge. We need quality small-cap stocks to rally,” he said.

So the correlation between broader small-cap indexes and the most-shorted index (also tightly correlated with ARKK) will have to break down.

“As a proxy for this index, and a hedge against my small-cap long position, I am shorting ARKK. So far, the short covering drove all these smaller capitalized stocks higher, but my bet is that an actual small-cap bull market will see much better differentiation, and that new small-cap leadership will emerge (and it won’t be ARKK),” he says.

The markets

U.S. stock index futures
ES00,
-0.67%

YM00,
-0.26%

NQ00,
-1.19%

are falling sharply as Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
climb. Gold
GC00,
+0.32%

is up, and oil
CL.1,
+0.14%

is up 2% after Iran sent warships to the Red Sea after the U.S. Navy sank some Houthi militia-backed boats. The Hang Seng
HK:HSI
fell 1.5% after weak China factory activity.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

4,769.83

0.32%

3.81%

24.23%

24.23%

Nasdaq Composite

15,011.35

0.12%

4.94%

43.42%

43.42%

10 year Treasury

3.933

3.28

-24.22

5.23

18.77

Gold

2,082.50

0.87%

1.67%

0.52%

13.79%

Oil

72.78

-0.97%

-0.70%

2.03%

-9.60%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points.

The buzz

U.S. nonfarm payroll data for December is due Friday, with the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing report and minutes of the Dec. 12-13 Fed meeting both on Wednesday. Construction spending is due at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Read: Health of U.S. labor market looms large on markets’ radar this coming week

Apple
AAPL,
-2.97%

is down 2% in premarket after Barclays’ analysts cut the iPhone maker to underweight from equal weight, on signs of weak iPhone 15 and other hardware sales.

Voyager Therapeutics stock
VYGR,
+29.74%

is up 32% after the biotech announced a licensing deal with Novartis unit Novartis Pharma
NOVN,
+0.99%
.

Joyy
YY,
-14.65%

is off 11% after Baidu
BIDU,
-3.40%

cancelled a $3.6 billion offer for the Singapore-based live-streaming platform.

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+4.23%

is at $45,447, a high not seen since April 2022, on ETF approval hopes.

Tesla
TSLA,
-0.55%

said it delivered 484,507 EVs in the fourth quarter, producing 494,989. Deliveries grew 83% to 1.81 million for 2023 as a whole. Tesla shares are slipping. Meanwhile, China’s BYD
002594,
-2.73%

sold 3.02 million electric vehicles in 2023, eclipsing Tesla a second-straight year.

Japan’s western coast was hit by several heavy earthquakes on New Year’s Day, leaving at least 30 people dead and more quakes could come. A collision between a Japan coast guard plane and a Japan Airlines flight that caught fire on the runway on Tuesday resulted in the deaths of five people.

Best of the web

This year, resolve to pack a ‘go bag’ to be ready for the next disaster: Here’s what to put in it

Why Suze Orman never goes out to dinner

Topless massages, cage fights and private flights: CEO mishaps of 2023

The chart

More on small-cap caution from Chris Kimble at See It Market. He points out that investors may be getting greedy as some big resistance levels approach for the Russell 2000:


See It Market

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.:

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-0.55%
Tesla

MARA,
+7.47%
Marathon Digital Holdings

NIO,
-5.79%
Nio

NVDA,
-3.27%
Nvidia

GME,
-1.14%
GameStop

AAPL,
-2.97%
Apple

AMC,
AMC Entertainment

COIN,
-2.62%
Coinbase GLobal

MULN,
-4.69%
Mullen Automotive

RIOT,
+5.69%
Riot Platforms

Random reads

New Year’s Eve in a Japanese cat bar.

Woman sues Hershey for $5 million over a faceless Reeses pumpkin.

Viral Burger King worker buys first home after crowdsourcing.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Source link

#investors #wary #Year #fakes #hot #asset #class

The Magnificent 7 dominated 2023. Will the rest of the stock market soar in 2024?

2023 will go down in history for the start of a new bull market, albeit a strange one.

Despite some year-end catch-up by the rest of the S&P 500 index, megacap technology stocks, characterized by the so-called Magnificent Seven, have dominated gains for the large-cap benchmark
SPX,
which is up 23.8% for the year through Friday’s close.

That’s the result of “extreme speculation,” according to Richard Bernstein, CEO and chief investment officer of eponymously named Richard Bernstein Advisors. And it sets the stage for investors to take advantage of “once-in-a-generation” investment opportunities, he argued, in a phone interview with MarketWatch.

MarketWatch’s Philip van Doorn last week noted that, weighting the Magnificent Seven — Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-0.55%

 , Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
+0.28%
,
 Amazon.com Inc.
AMZN,
-0.27%
,
 Nvidia Corp.
NVDA,
-0.33%
,
 Alphabet Inc.
GOOG,
+0.65%

GOOGL,
+0.76%
,
 Tesla Inc.
TSLA,
-0.77%
,
 and Meta Platforms Inc. 
META,
-0.20%

— by their market capitalizations at the end of last year, the group had contributed 58% of this year’s roughly 26% total return for the S&P 500, and that’s down from a breathtaking 67% at the end of November.

The chart below shows that the percentage of stocks in the S&P 500 that have outperformed the index in the year to date remains well below the median of 49% stretching back to 1990:


Richard Bernstein Advisors

Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite
COMP
has soared more than 40% this year, while the more cyclically weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
which hit a string of records this month, is up 12.8%.

The narrowness of the rally gave some technical analysts pause over the course of the year. They warned that that it was uncharacteristic of early bull markets, which typically see broader leadership amid growing confidence in the economic outlook.

Bernstein, previously chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch, sees parallels with the late-1990s tech bubble, which holds lessons for investors now.

The market performance indicates investors have convinced themselves there are only “seven growth stories,” he said. It’s the sort of myopia that’s characteristic of bubbles.

The consequences can be dire. In the 1990s, investors focused on the economy-changing potential of the Internet. And while those technological advances were indeed economy-changing, an investor who bought the tech-heavy Nasdaq at the peak of the bubble had to wait 14 years to get back to break-even, Bernstein noted.

Today, investors are focused on the economy-changing potential of artificial intelligence, while looking past other important developments, including reshoring of supply chains.

“I don’t think anyone is arguing AI won’t be an economy-changing technology,” he said, “ the question is, what’s the investing opportunity.”

For his part, Bernstein argues that small-cap stocks; cyclicals, or equities more sensitive to the economic cycle; industrials; and non-U.S. stocks are all among assets poised to play catch-up.

“I don’t think one has to be overly sexy on this one…it may not make a huge difference as to how you decide to execute and invest” in those areas, he said. “There’s a bazillion different ways to play this.”

Those areas are showing signs of life in December. The Russell 2000
RUT,
the small-cap benchmark, has surged more than 12% in December versus a 4.1% advance for the S&P 500. The Russell still lags behind by a wide margin year to date, up 15.5%, or more than 8 percentage points behind the S&P 500.

Meanwhile, an equal-weighted version of the S&P 500
XX:SP500EW,
which incorporates the performance of each member stock equally instead of granting a heavier weight to more valuable companies, has also played catchup, rising 6.2% in December. It’s now up 11% in 2023, still lagging behind the cap-weighted S&P 500 by more than 8 percentage points.

Bernstein sees early signs of broadening out, but expects it to be an “iterative process.” What investors should be aiming for, he said, is “maximum diversification,” in direct contrast to 2023’s historically narrow market, which reflects investors rejecting the benefits of diversification and taking more concentrated positions in fewer stocks.

To be sure, while the Magnificent Seven-dominated stock-market rally has attracted plenty of attention, it doesn’t mean those individual stocks have been the sole winners in 2023.

“I will say, ‘magnificent’ is in the eye of the beholder,” said Kevin Gordon, senior investment strategist at Charles Schwab, in a phone interview.

The seven stocks that account for such a large share of the S&P 500’s gains do so mostly due to their extremely “mega” market caps rather than outsize price gains. And that’s just, by definition, how market-cap-weighted indexes work, analysts note.

That doesn’t mean the megacap stocks are necessarily the best performers over 2023. While Nvidia, up 243%, and Meta, up 194%, top the list of year-to-date price gainers in the S&P 500, Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-0.55%

is only the 59th best performing stock, with a 49% gain. Combine that with a $3 trillion market cap, however, and Apple proves one of the biggest movers of the overall index.

What was bizarre about the 2023 rally wasn’t so much the megacap tech performance, Gordon said, but the fact that the rest of the market languished to such a degree until recently.

Clarity around the economic outlook and interest rates help clear the way for the rest of the market to play catch-up, he said. Fears of a hard economic landing have faded, while the Federal Reserve has signaled its likely finished raising rates and is on track to deliver rate cuts in 2024.

For stock pickers that didn’t latch on to the few winners, 2023 was brutal. Passive investors who just bought S&P 500-tracking ETFs should feel good.

So why not just chase the index? Bernstein argues that could spell trouble if the megacap names are due to falter. That could make for a mirror image of this year where gains for a wider array of individual stocks is offset by sluggish megacap performance.

Gordon, however, played down the prospect of “binary outcomes” in which investors sell megacaps and buy the rest of the market.

If troubled segments of the economy, such as the housing sector, recover in 2024, investors “could definitely see a scenario where the rest of the market catches up but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of highfliers,” he said.

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#Magnificent #dominated #rest #stock #market #soar

Silver’s window of opportunity is closing, with prices poised for an ‘explosive move’ in 2024

Silver prices could be headed for an “explosive” rise in 2024 if global supplies continue to fall short of demand, and the Federal Reserve makes good on its plans to pivot to interest rate cuts in the coming months, according to metal-markets analysts.

While silver this year has underperformed gold, which saw prices touch record highs this year, the opportunity to snap up silver at bargain prices may be brief.

“The window for buying silver in the low- to mid-$20s is ending,” said Peter Spina, president of silver news and information provider SilverSeek.com.

It is likely that silver prices next year will be pushing up toward the major $30-an-ounce technical resistance, he told MarketWatch, adding that he “fully” believes that the price barrier will fall. 

On Thursday, the most-active March contract for silver futures
SIH24,
-0.95%

SI00,
-0.95%

settled at $24.39 an ounce on Comex, with prices up 6.4% for the session to erase what had been a loss for the year. It traded 1.4% higher year to date, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Gold futures
GCG24,
-0.43%

GC00,
-0.43%
,
on the other hand, settled at $2.044.90 Thursday, up 2.4% for the session, up 12% for the year so far, and trading close to its record finish of $2,089.70 from Dec. 1.

Silver’s underperformance

Generally, silver moves with gold much more than with other commodities such as copper or oil, and silver’s moves tend to be bigger than gold’s as a percentage, said Keith Weiner, chief executive officer of Monetary Metals.

That’s what happened with silver’s recent move lower, he said. Silver, on Wednesday, tallied an eighth consecutive session loss, marking the longest streak of losses in just over a year and a half.

Both gold and silver had experienced similar trends in terms of “lack of investment demand” due to rising interest rates, said Chris Mancini, research analyst at Gabelli Funds. This has primarily manifested in outflows from both gold- and silver-backed exchange-traded funds, he said.

The iShares Silver Trust
SLV,
which holds 441.47 million ounces of silver, has seen a year-to-date net asset value return of negative 0.3% as of Thursday.

Gold, however, has benefited from a surge in demand this year from central banks, which are buying gold to “diversify out of the U.S. dollar,” said Mancini.

Read: Global central-bank gold purchases reach a record high for the first 9 months of the year

Also see: Gold just hit a record high. Is it too late for investors to add it to portfolios?

Solid economic performance this year around the world, and specifically in the U.S., led to higher short-term rates from the Fed and other central banks, and the “subsequent decline in investor demand for gold and silver,” Mancini said.

Global physical investment demand for silver is forecast at 263 million ounces this year, down 21% from 333 million ounces in 2022, the Silver Institute reported in mid-November, citing data from Metals Focus.

Change of course

Silver prices rallied by late Wednesday afternoon, after the Federal Reserve penciled in three interest-rate cuts in 2024, instead of the two that were projected in September. 

That marked quite a change, as prices for silver had been trading lower for the year before that rally.

Prospects for an end to the Fed’s rate-hiking cycle weakened the U.S. dollar and Treasury yields, providing support for dollar-denominated gold prices — and silver along with them.

Read: Gold futures leap closer to record highs in one fell swoop

The Fed decision “put a reversal on industrial demand fears,” so the temporary pressure brought on by those fears has been removed, said Spina.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday had said officials from the central bank were starting to discuss when to cut interest rates.

New York Federal Reserve President John Williams appeared to walk back on those comments, telling CNBC Friday that Fed officials weren’t really talking about cutting rates right now.

At some point, the Fed is going to have to reverse course on interest rates, said Monetary Metals’ Weiner.

“When they do, it will be a catalyst for higher gold and silver prices, “perhaps much higher,” he said. “We are in a secular bull market now — this is not the bear market of 2012-2018.”

Bullish fundamentals

Global supply of silver, meanwhile, is expected to fall short of demand this year, for a third year in a row.

The “fundamentals for the silver market are extremely bullish,” Spina said, particularly with a structural deficit continuing for silver.

The report from the Silver Institute showed that global industrial demand for silver is expected to grow by 8% to a record 632 million ounces this year, buoyed by investment in photovoltaics — used in solar technology — power grid and 5G networks, growth in consumer electronics, and rising vehicle output.

The report showed 2023 global silver supply estimated at about 1 billion ounces, while total demand is seen at a larger 1.143 billion ounces. Metals Focus said it believes the deficit will “persist in the silver market for the foreseeable future.”

“The only last big driver missing for silver prices to explode is investor interest,” said Spina.

Keep in mind that silver is a “precious green metal,” he said. It benefits from strong growth in mandated green energy demand, which will continue to “push industrial demand to fresh records.”

Meanwhile, silver inventory stocks are being “drained,” as a structural deficit for physical silver competes for remaining inventories, said Spina.

“If the gold price is moving to record price highs in the coming weeks, silver is in the perfect set-up to test $30, with a likely breakout to $50…coming in 2024.”


— Peter Spina, SilverSeek.com

He expects silver prices to “re-challenge” $30 an ounce within the coming months, “if not sooner.”

Watch gold prices for the initial direction, he said. “If the gold price is moving to record price highs in the coming weeks, silver is in the perfect set-up to test $30, with a likely breakout to $50 [and ounce] coming in 2024.”

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#Silvers #window #opportunity #closing #prices #poised #explosive #move

Stock-market rally faces make-or-break moment. How to play U.S. October inflation data.

It has been a while since a hot inflation report sparked wild gyrations in U.S. stocks, like it frequently did in 2022, but that doesn’t mean Tuesday’s consumer price index for October is destined to be a snooze-fest for markets.

To the contrary, some Wall Street analysts believe it is possible, even likely, that the October CPI report could emerge as a critical catalyst for stocks, with the potential to propel the market higher on a softer-than-expected number.

At least one prominent economist expects the data to show that consumer prices were largely unchanged last month, or even fell.

“I would not be surprised to see a negative CPI inflation print for October,” said Neil Dutta, head of economics at Renaissance Macro Research, in commentary emailed to MarketWatch.

“After all, retail gasoline and heating oil prices declined a little over 10% over the month and we know that energy, while representing a small share of total CPI, roughly 7%, can account for a large chunk of the month-to-month swings in CPI.”

Markets at a crossroads

The October CPI report arrives at a critical juncture for markets. Investors are trying to anticipate whether the Federal Reserve will follow through with one more interest rate increase, as it indicated in its latest batch of projections, released in September.

Speaking on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell left the door open to another move, but qualified this — as the Fed almost always has — by insisting that whatever the Fed decides, it will ultimately depend on the data.

These comments added even more emphasis to next week’s data, said Thierry Wizman, Macquarie’s global FX and interest rate strategist, in commentary emailed to MarketWatch on Friday.

“Our own view — expressed over the past few days — is that the Fed — and by extension the fixed-income markets — won’t be anticipatory. Rather, the Fed will be highly reactive to the data,” he said. “The next milestone is…CPI. It is likely to have a calming effect on markets, as traders weigh the prospect that a very low headline CPI result will further cool the prospect of excessive wage demands in the labor market.”

Asymmetric risks

While assessing the potential impact of a soft inflation report next week, at least one market analyst expects the market’s reaction to the June CPI report, released on July 12, might serve as a helpful template.

Stocks touched their highest levels of the year within that month, as many interpreted the slower-than-expected increase in prices as an important turning point in the Fed’s battle against inflation. The S&P 500 logged its 2023 closing high on July 31, according to FactSet data,

Tom Lee, who anticipated both the outcome of the June CPI report and the market’s reaction, told MarketWatch that, at this point, inflation would need to meaningfully reaccelerate to have an adverse impact on the stock market.

The upshot of this is that the risks for investors heading into Tuesday’s report are likely skewed to the upside. Even a slightly hotter-than-expected number likely wouldn’t be enough to derail the market’s November rebound rally. While a soft reading could reinforce expectations that the Fed is done hiking rates, likely precipitating a rally in both stocks and bonds.

“I’d say the setup looks pretty favorable,” Lee said.

Even a modestly hotter-than-expected number likely wouldn’t be enough to derail the market’s November rebound.

“I think the reaction function is changing for the stock market,” Lee said.

“Because the Federal Reserve and public market kind of viewed the September CPI as a pretty decent number, and Powell even referred to it as such. Earlier in 2023, I think people would have viewed it as a miss.”

U.S. inflation has eased substantially since peaking above 9% on a year-over-year basis last summer, the highest rate in four decades. The data released last month showed consumer prices climbed 0.4% in September, softer than the 0.6% from the prior month, but still slightly above expectations.

However, the more closely watched “core” reading reflected only a 0.3% increase, which was in-line with expectations.

How long will the ‘last mile’ take?

There is a perception on Wall Street and within the Federal Reserve that driving inflation down from 3% to the Fed’s 2% target could pose more difficulty for the Fed. After all, most of the easing from last summer’s highs was driven by falling commodity prices and supply-chain normalization as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic faded.

Powell has repeatedly warned of a “bumpy ride,” and he reiterated on Thursday that the battle against inflation is far from over.

See: Powell says Fed is wary of ‘head fakes’ from inflation

Inflation data released this month, and in the months to come, could help to define investors’ expectations for how long this “last mile” might take, helping these reports regain their significance for markets.

“I like a calm market, but I think CPI is coming more in focus these days now that we’re getting closer to that 2% target,” said Callie Cox, U.S. investment analyst at eToro, during a phone call with MarketWatch.

Since the start of 2023, the S&P 500 index hasn’t seen a single move of 1% or greater on a CPI release day, according to FactSet data. By comparison, the biggest daily swings seen in 2022 occurred on CPI days, with the large-cap index sometimes swinging 4% or more in a single session.

Economists polled by FactSet expect consumer prices rose 0.1% in October, following a 0.4% bump in September. They expect a 0.3% increase for core prices, which excludes volatile food and energy. Powell has said that he’s keeping a close eye on core inflation, as well as so-called “supercore” inflation, which measures the cost of services inflation excluding housing.

To be sure, the CPI report isn’t the only piece of potentially market-moving news due during the coming week. Investors will also receive a monthly update from the Treasury that includes data on foreign purchases and sales of Treasury bonds, as well as a flurry of other economic reports, including potentially market-moving readings on housing-market and manufacturing activity.

There is also the producer-price index, another closely watched barometer of inflation, which is due out Thursday.

U.S. stocks have risen sharply since the start of November, with the S&P 500
SPX
up more than 5.3%, according to FactSet data.

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#Stockmarket #rally #faces #makeorbreak #moment #play #October #inflation #data

‘The high for equities is not in,’ says technical strategist who unpacks the stocks to buy now.

Siegel argues that bonds, which have been giving stocks the shove, have proven to be a terrible inflation hedge, but investors have forgotten that given it’s 40 years since the last big price shock. “Stocks are excellent long-term hedges, stocks do beautifully against inflation, bonds do not,” he told CNBC on Tuesday.

Don’t miss: ‘Bond math’ shows traders bold enough to bet on Treasurys could reap dazzling returns with little risk

Other stock cheerleaders out there are counting on a fourth-quarter rally, which, according to LPL Financial, delivers on average a 4.2% gain as portfolio managers snap up stock winners to spiff up performances.

Our call of the day from Evercore ISI’s head of technical strategy, Rich Ross, is in the bull camp as he declares the “high for equities is not in,” and suggests some stocks that will set investors up nicely for that.

Ross notes November is the best month for the S&P 500
SPX,
Russell 2000
RUT
and semiconductors
SOX,
while the November to January period has seen a 6% gain on average for the Nasdaq Composite
COMP.
He says if the S&P can break out above 4,430, the next stop will be 4,630 within 2023, putting him at the bullish end of Wall Street forecasts.

In addition, even with 10-year Treasury yields back at their highs, the S&P 500 is still ahead this week and that’s a “great start” to any rally, he adds.

Evercore/Bloomberg

What else? He says “panic bottoms” seen in bond proxies, such as utilities via the Utilities Select Sector SPD exchange-traded fund ETF
XLU,
real-estate investment trusts and staples, are “consistent with a bottom in bond prices,” which is closer than it appears if those proxies have indeed bottomed.


Evercore/Bloomberg

Among the other green shoots, Ross sees banks bottoming following Bank of America
BAC,
+1.14%

earnings “just as they did in March of ’20 after a similar 52% decline which culminated in a year-end rally which commenced in Q4.”

He sees expanding breadth for stocks — more stocks rising than falling — adding that that’s a buy signal for the Russell 2000, retail via the SPDR S&P Retail ETF
XRT
and regional banks via the SPDR S&P Regional Banking
KRE.

The technical strategist also says it’s time to buy transports
DJT,
with airlines “at bear market lows and deeply oversold,” while railroads are also bottoming and truckers continue to rise.

As for tech, he’s a buyer of semiconductors noting they tend to gain 7% on average in November, and Nvidia
NVDA,
-2.88%

has been under pressure as of late. He also likes software such as Microsoft
MSFT,
+0.82%
,
Zscaler
ZS,
+0.66%
,
MongoDB
MDB,
+0.90%
,
Intuit
INTU,
-1.43%
,
Oracle
ORCL,
-0.05%
,
Adobe
ADBE,
+0.93%
,
CrowdStrike
CRWD,
+0.55%

and Palo Alto Networks
PANW,
+1.38%
.


Evercore/Bloomberg

“The strong tech will stay strong and the weak will get strong,” says Ross.

The markets

Stocks
SPX

COMP
are dropping, with bond yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
mixed. Oil prices
CL.1,
+1.82%

BRN00,
+1.69%

have pared a stronger rally after a deadly hospital explosion in Gaza City, with Iran reportedly calling for an oil embargo against Israel. Gold
GC00,
+1.84%

has shot up $35.

For more market updates plus actionable trade ideas for stocks, options and crypto, subscribe to MarketDiem by Investor’s Business Daily.

The buzz

Morgan Stanley
MS,
-6.02%

posted a 10% earnings fall, but beat forecasts, with shares down. Abbott Labs
ABT,
+3.12%

is up after upbeat results and aguidance hike and Procter & Gamble
PG,
+2.91%

is up after an earnings beat. Tesla
TSLA,
-0.89%

(preview here) and Netflix
NFLX,
-1.20%

(preview here) will report after the close.

Read: Ford CEO says Tesla, rival automakers loving the strike. He may be wrong

United Airlines shares
UAL,
-7.83%

are down 5% after the airline lowered guidance due to the Israel/Gaza war. Spirit AeroSystems
SPR,
+22.60%

surged 75% after the aircraft components maker announced a production support deal with Boeing
BA,
+0.88%
.

Housing starts came short of expectations, with the Fed’s Beige Book of economic conditions coming at 2 p.m. Also, Fed Gov. Chris Waller will speak at noon, followed by New York Fed Pres. John Williams at 12:30 p.m. and Fed Gov. Lisa Cook at 6:55 p.m.

China’s third-quarter GDP rose 4.9%, slowing from 6.3% in the previous quarter, but beating expectations.

Middle East tensions are ratcheting up with protests spreading across the region after a massive deadly blast at a Gaza City hospital, and airports evacuated across France over terror threats. President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “it appears as though it was done by the other team.”

Read: Treasury says Hamas leaders ‘live in luxury’ as it unveils new sanctions

Best of the web

Bridgewater says the market has entered the second stage of tightening

Why the FDA needs to halt Cassava Sciences’ Alzheimer’s clinical trials

Hail, heat, rot in Italy push France to top global winemaking spot

Attacks across Europe put Islamist extremism back in spotlight

The tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.:

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-0.89%
Tesla

AMC,
-0.73%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.39%
Apple

GME,
-1.20%
GameStop

NIO,
-2.99%
Nio

AMZN,
-1.10%
Amazon

PLTR,
-0.59%
Palantir

MULN,
-0.06%
Mullen Automotive

TPST,
-11.20%
Tempest Therapeutics

TTOO,
-8.20%
T2 Biosystems

Random reads

Loudest purr in the world. Congrats Bella the cat.

Asteroid sample offers window to ancient solar system

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Listen to the Best New Ideas in Money podcast with MarketWatch financial columnist James Rogers and economist Stephanie Kelton.

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Here’s where ETF investors could turn to hide as Treasurys sell-off upends U.S. stocks

Hello! This is MarketWatch reporter Isabel Wang bringing you this week’s ETF Wrap. In this week’s edition, we look at how ETF investors can navigate the choppy financial markets which remain on edge after a sell-off in U.S. government bonds drove long-term borrowing costs to the highest level in more than a decade, undercutting stock prices.

Sign up here for our weekly ETF Wrap.

A renewed rout in the U.S. government bond markets that sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond to 16-year highs as a new era of higher-for-longer interest rates takes hold, is leaving ETF investors scrambling for the exits on a wide range of exchange-traded funds in the past week, most notably the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF
TLT.
 

TLT, one of the most popular fixed-income ETFs that tracks a market-weighted index of the U.S. Treasury bonds with maturities of 20 years or more, earlier this week suffered its lowest close since the early days of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The yield on the 10-year Treasury 
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y
slipped 2 basis points to 4.715% on Thursday, after reaching 4.801% on Tuesday, its highest closing level since Aug. 8, 2007, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

See: Bond investors feel the heat as popular fixed-income ETF suffers lowest close since 2007

The bond market, particularly the U.S. Treasury market, has historically been less volatile and and has often performed better than other financial assets during economic slowdowns. However, that doesn’t mean bonds don’t come without their own risks.

Rising yields reflect a diminishing price for the securities when interest rates rise, and hit existing holders of Treasuries.

See: Rising Treasury yields are upsetting financial markets. Here’s why.

The surprising strength of the U.S. economy, as demonstrated by this week’s labor-market data, coupled with hawkish talk from Federal Reserve officials indicating the central bank may need to keep tightening monetary policy, have led to the bond sell-off this week.

Meanwhile, a positive Treasury term premium, or the compensation that investors require for the risk of holding a Treasury to maturity, have also contributed to a steep sell-off as a ballooning U.S. budget deficit and the Treasury’s need to issue more debt have pushed Treasury prices to 16-year lows.

TLT
TLT
has fallen over 50% since its peak in August 2020, according to FactSet data. The losses are “pretty much” what the equity-market loss was from peak to trough during the global financial crisis, said Tim Urbanowicz, head of research and investment strategy at Innovator ETFs. 

“It is not insignificant… It really makes you think about how you’re doing risk management because you can’t have the piece of the portfolio that’s supposed to be the risk mitigator falling the worst we’ve ever seen in the equity-market fall. That’s a big issue,” Urbanowicz told MarketWatch. 

That’s why ETF investors have very few options when developing or adjusting their asset allocation play in the higher-for-longer rates environment, but there are still some shockproof assets for safety, according to ETF strategists. 

Ultra short-term bond funds 

ETF investors that still favor bonds can consider hiding in ultra short-term bond funds to avoid duration risk as the Fed may still need to raise interest rates to curb inflation by the end of 2023, said Neena Mishra, director of ETF research at Zacks Investment Research. 

The SPDR Bloomberg 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF
BIL,
which tracks all publicly issued U.S. Treasury Bills that have a remaining maturity of less than 3 months and at least 1 month, offers a yield of 5.43%. The fund attracted over $1 billion of inflows in the week to Wednesday, the largest inflows among over 800 ETFs that MarketWatch tracked in the past week, according to FactSet data. 

Meanwhile, Mishra said investors who want active management with “better navigation to the markets” can consider the JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF
JPST,
which is an actively managed fund that invests in a variety of debts including corporate issues, asset-backed securities, and mortgage-related debt as well as U.S. government and agency debt. JPST recorded $15 million of inflows in the past week and has yielded 5.76%, according to FactSet data. 

Flows into longer duration bonds, utilities sector

Despite the bond rout hitting the popular TLT fund hard as the 10-year Treasury yield surged, some retail traders have already started to buy the historic dip of the fund devoted to longer-dated Treasuries, said a team of Vanda Research data analysts led by Marco Iachini, senior vice president.

TLT attracted a total of $686 million flows in the week to Wednesday, ranking the 8th out of over 800 ETFs that MarketWatch tracked in the past week, according to FactSet data. 

Along with the strong “dip buying” in TLT, retail traders have also poured an “unprecedented amount” of capital into the utilities sector, Iachini and his team said in a Thursday note. The Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLU
recorded $141 million of inflows last week, according to FactSet data. 

“While purchases of utilities stocks are typically of a significantly smaller scale than purchases of tech stocks, the inflow seen over the past week is far larger than any other prior 5-day stretch, easily surpassing inflows into the sector at the onset of the Covid downturn,” the Vanda team said. “The flip side of this dynamic is that institutional investors have likely lightened up their utilities exposure during this bond sell-off episode, making the sector a potentially more appealing equity bet should rates be nearing a local peak.” 

See: Utilities stocks ‘decimated’ by rising rates fall into uncommon trading territory, Bespoke chart shows

Small-caps are ‘cheap for a reason,’ so don’t buy them too soon

Many small-cap stocks have traded at a significant discount to their larger-company counterparts, creating an attractive entry point for some investors who think the forward price-earnings ratio for small-caps are low enough to offer potential for outperformance in the longer run. 

However, small caps
IWM
are by nature more sensitive to higher interest rates compared with a lot of the larger-cap stocks which have the ability to be “nimble” with strong cash flow, said Urbanowicz.

“It is really important right now not to just rely on a specific sector but really have that built-in risk management at the index level to take a lot of that guesswork out of the equation,” he added.

See: Small-cap ETFs may look attractive as recession concerns fade, but blindly chasing the rally is not without risk

Defined-outcome ETFs

That’s why Urbanowicz and his team at Innovator ETFs think the increasingly popular defined-outcome ETFs, or the “buffer” funds, could limit the downside risk and help investors navigate a stormy rates environment.

See: An ETF that can’t go down? This new ‘buffer’ fund is designed to provide 100% protection against stock-market losses

For example, the Innovator Equity Defined Protection ETF
TJUL,
the “first-of-its-kind” fund, aims to offer investors the upside return of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust
SPY
to a 16.62% cap, as well as a complete buffer against its downside over a two-year outcome period. 

Meanwhile, the Innovator Defined Wealth Shield ETF
BALT
offers a 20% downside buffer on the SPY every three months, which is a “very shortened outcome period” and doesn’t require the equity market to actually go up for the strategy to appreciate a value, Urbanowicz said. 

“A big reason [to consider this strategy] is it gives investors a place to not only maintain equity exposure, but also to hide out because they [funds] have known levels of risk management that are in place,” he added. 

As usual, here’s your look at the top- and bottom-performing ETFs over the past week through Wednesday, according to FactSet data.

The good…

Top performers

%Performance

YieldMax TSLA Option Income Strategy ETF
TSLY
6.2

United States Natural Gas Fund LP
UNG
2.0

Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF
IVOL
1.6

Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLK
0.9

ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BITO
0.9

Source: FactSet data through Wednesday, October 4. Start date September 28. Excludes ETNs and leveraged products. Includes NYSE, Nasdaq and Cboe traded ETFs of $500 million or greater.

…and the bad

Bottom performers

%Performance

AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis ETF
MSOS
-11.3

Sprott Uranium Miners ETF
URNM
-10.6

Global X Uranium ETF
URA
-10.2

VanEck Oil Services ETF
OIH
-9.2

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF
XOP
-9.1

Source: FactSet data

New ETFs

  • J.P. Morgan Asset Management Friday announced the launch of a new actively managed hedged equity ETF, JPMorgan Hedged Equity Laddered Overlay ETF
    HELO.
    The outcome-oriented ETF invests in U.S. large-cap equities with a laddered options overlay designed to provide downside hedging relative to traditional equity strategies.

  • Zacks Investment Management Tuesday announced the launch of the Zacks Small and Mid Cap ETF
    SMIZ,
    which seeks to generate positive risk-adjusted returns by investing in small and mid-cap companies.

  • Calamos Investments LLC Wednesday announced the launch of the Calamos Convertible Equity Alternative ETF
    CVRT,
     the first product of its kind to provide ETF investors with targeted access to equity-sensitive convertibles.

Weekly ETF Reads

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Meta, Alphabet and 10 under-the-radar media stocks expected to soar

The media landscape is going through a difficult transition, and it isn’t only because streaming is such a tricky business.

Companies such as Walt Disney Co.
DIS,
Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.
WBD
and Paramount Global
PARA
have made heavy investments in streaming services as their traditional media businesses wither, only to find that it is harder than it looks to emulate Netflix Inc.’s
NFLX
ability to make money from streaming.

Some of the companies are also saddled by debt, in part resulting from mergers that don’t hold the same shine in the current media landscape.

Needless to say, this is the age of cost-cutting for Netflix’s streaming competitors and many others in the broader media landscape.

Below is a screen of U.S. media stocks, showing the ones that analysts favor the most over the next 12 months. But before that, we list the ones with the highest and lowest debt levels.

All the above-mentioned media companies are in the communications sector of the S&P 500
,
which also includes Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL

GOOG
and Meta Platforms Inc.
META,
as well as broadcasters, videogame developers and news providers.

But there are only 20 companies in the S&P 500 communications sector, which is tracked by the Communications Services Select Sector SPDR ETF
.

High debt

Before looking at the stock screen, you might be interested to see which of the 53 media companies are saddled with the highest levels of total debt relative to consensus estimates for earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for the next 12 months, among analysts polled by FactSet. This may be especially important at a time when long-term interest rates have been rising quickly. Dollar amounts are in millions.

Company

Ticker

Debt/ est. EBIT

Total debt

Est. EBIT

Debt service ratio

Total return – 2023

Market cap. ($mil)

Dish Network Corp. Class A

DISH 1,245%

$24,556

$1,973

15%

-57%

$1,773

Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. Class A

MSGS 1,125%

$1,121

$100

-14%

-4%

$3,400

Paramount Global Class B

PARA 656%

$17,401

$2,654

-29%

-13%

$9,529

Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc.

CNSL 651%

$2,152

$331

-26%

6%

$441

TechTarget Inc.

TTGT 629%

$479

$76

16%

-36%

$788

Cinemark Holdings Inc.

CNK 616%

$3,630

$589

61%

81%

$1,908

Cogent Communications Holdings Inc.

CCOI 548%

$1,858

$339

-19%

27%

$3,388

E.W. Scripps Co. Class A

SSP 529%

$3,084

$583

80%

-42%

$552

AMC Networks Inc. Class A

AMCX 492%

$2,945

$599

26%

-29%

$357

Live Nation Entertainment Inc.

LYV 466%

$8,413

$1,805

135%

22%

$19,515

Source: FactSet

Click on the tickers for more about each company, including business profiles, financials and estimates.

Click here for Tomi Kilgore’s detailed guide to the wealth of information available for free on the MarketWatch quote page.

The debt figures are as of the end of the companies’ most recently reported fiscal quarters. The debt service ratios are EBIT divided by total interest paid (excluding capitalized interest) for the most recently reported quarters, as calculated by FactSet. It is best to see this number above 100%. Then again, these service ratios cover only one quarter.

Looking at the most indebted company by quarter-end debt to its 12-month EBIT estimate, it would take more than 10 years of Dish Network Corp.’s
DISH
operating income to pay off its total debt, excluding interest.

Shares of Dish have lost more than half their value during 2023, and the stock got booted from the S&P 500 earlier this year. The company has seen its satellite-TV business erode while it pursues a costly wireless build-out that won’t necessarily drive success in that competitive market. Dish plans to merge with satellite-communications company EchoStar Corp.
SATS
in a move seen as an attempt to improve balance sheet flexibility.

It is fascinating to see that for six of these companies, including Paramount, debt even exceeds the market capitalizations for their stocks. Paramount lowered its dividend by nearly 80% earlier this year as it continued its push toward streaming profitability, and Chief Executive Bob Bakish recently called the company’s planned sale of Simon & Schuster “an important step in our delevering plan.”

You are probably curious about debt levels for the largest U.S. media companies. Here they are for the biggest 10 by market cap:

Company

Ticker

Debt/ est. EBIT

Total debt

Est. EBIT

Debt service ratio

Total return – 2023

Market cap. ($mil)

Alphabet Inc. Class A

GOOGL 22%

$29,432

$133,096

711%

47%

$1,528,711

Meta Platforms Inc. Class A

META 47%

$36,965

$78,129

717%

137%

$634,547

Comcast Corp. Class A

CMCSA 266%

$102,669

$38,539

77%

33%

$187,140

Netflix Inc.

NFLX 197%

$16,994

$8,641

192%

41%

$184,362

T-Mobile US Inc.

TMUS 378%

$116,548

$30,838

32%

-5%

$156,881

Walt Disney Co.

DIS 263%

$47,189

$17,975

88%

-4%

$152,324

Verizon Communications Inc.

VZ 370%

$177,654

$48,031

36%

-11%

$140,205

AT&T Inc.

T 378%

$165,106

$43,681

31%

-20%

$100,872

Activision Blizzard Inc.

ATVI 93%

$3,612

$3,891

2159%

21%

$72,118

Charter Communications Inc. Class A

CHTR 434%

$98,263

$22,651

89%

23%

$62,380

Source: FactSet

Among the largest 10 companies in the S&P Composite 1500 communications sector by market cap, Charter Communications Inc.
CHTR
has the highest ratio of debt to estimated EBIT, while its debt service ratio of 89% shows it was close to covering its interest payments with operating income during its most recent reported quarter. Disney also came close, with a debt service ratio of 88%.

Charter Chief Financial Officer Jessica Fischer said at an investor day late last year that “delevering would only make sense if the market valuation of our shares fully reflected the intrinsic value of the cash-flow opportunity, if debt capacity in the market were limited or if our expectations of cash-flow growth, excluding the impact of our expansion were significantly impaired.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Lansberry, Disney’s interim CFO, said during the company’s latest earnings call that it had “made significant progress deleveraging coming out of the pandemic” and that it would “approach capital allocation in a disciplined and balanced manner.”

Disney’s debt increased when it bought 21st Century Fox assets in 2019, and the company suspended its dividend in 2020 in a bid to preserve cash during the pandemic.

When Disney announced its quarterly results on Aug. 9, it unveiled a plan to raise streaming prices in October. Several analysts reacted positively to the price increase and other operational moves.

Read: The long-simmering rumor of Apple buying Disney is resurfacing as Bob Iger looks to sell assets

The largest companies in the sector, Alphabet and Meta, have relatively low debt-to-estimated EBIT and very high debt-service ratios. Netflix has debt of nearly twice the estimated EBIT, but a high debt-service ratio. For all three companies, debt levels are low relative to market cap.

Low debt

Among the 52 companies in the S&P Composite 1500 communications sector, these 10 companies had the lowest total debt, relative to estimated EBIT, as of their most recent reported fiscal quarter-ends:

Company

Ticker

Debt/ est. EBIT

Total debt

Est. EBIT

Debt service ratio

Total return – 2023

Market cap. ($mil)

New York Times Co. Class A

NYT 0%

$0

$414

N/A

32%

$6,968

QuinStreet Inc.

QNST 18%

$5

$26

-153%

-35%

$513

Alphabet Inc. Class A

GOOGL 22%

$29,432

$133,096

711%

47%

$1,528,711

Shutterstock Inc.

SSTK 26%

$63

$241

39%

-20%

$1,502

Yelp Inc.

YELP 31%

$106

$344

78%

55%

$2,909

Meta Platforms Inc. Class A

META 47%

$36,965

$78,129

717%

137%

$634,547

Scholastic Corp.

SCHL 54%

$108

$201

319%

12%

$1,314

Electronic Arts Inc.

EA 73%

$1,951

$2,678

605%

-2%

$32,425

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Class A

WWE 93%

$415

$448

479%

66%

$9,455

Activision Blizzard Inc.

ATVI 93%

$3,612

$3,891

2159%

21%

$72,118

Source: FactSet

New York Times Co.
NYT
takes the prize, with no debt.

Wall Street’s favorite media companies

Starting again with the 52 companies in the sector, 46 are covered by at least five analysts polled by FactSet. Among these companies, 12 are rated “buy” or the equivalent by at least 70% of the analysts:

Company

Ticker

Share “buy” ratings

Aug. 25 price

Consensus price target

Implied 12-month upside potential

Thryv Holdings Inc.

THRY 100%

$21.11

$35.50

68%

T-Mobile US Inc.

TMUS 90%

$133.35

$174.96

31%

Nexstar Media Group Inc.

NXST 90%

$157.08

$212.56

35%

Meta Platforms Inc. Class A

META 88%

$285.50

$375.27

31%

Cars.com Inc.

CARS 86%

$18.85

$23.79

26%

Alphabet Inc. Class A

GOOGL 82%

$129.88

$150.04

16%

Iridium Communications Inc.

IRDM 80%

$47.80

$66.00

38%

News Corp. Class A

NWSA 78%

$20.74

$26.42

27%

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

TTWO 74%

$141.42

$155.96

10%

Live Nation Entertainment Inc.

LYV 74%

$84.79

$109.94

30%

Frontier Communications Parent Inc.

FYBR 73%

$15.24

$31.36

106%

Match Group Inc.

MTCH 70%

$43.79

$56.90

30%

Source: FactSet

News Corp.
NWSA
is the parent company of MarketWatch.

Finally, here are the debt figures for these 12 media companies favored by the analysts:

Company

Ticker

Debt/ est. EBIT

Total debt

Est. EBIT

Debt service ratio

Total return – 2023

Market cap. ($mil)

Thryv Holdings Inc.

THRY 227%

$433

$191

53%

11%

$730

T-Mobile US Inc.

TMUS 378%

$116,548

$30,838

32%

-5%

$156,881

Nexstar Media Group Inc.

NXST 358%

$7,183

$2,009

63%

-8%

$5,511

Meta Platforms Inc. Class A

META 47%

$36,965

$78,129

717%

137%

$634,547

Cars.com Inc.

CARS 223%

$451

$202

41%

37%

$1,253

Alphabet Inc. Class A

GOOGL 22%

$29,432

$133,096

711%

47%

$1,528,711

Iridium Communications Inc.

IRDM 306%

$1,481

$483

54%

-7%

$5,977

News Corp. Class A

NWSA 261%

$4,207

$1,611

109%

15%

$11,940

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

TTWO 272%

$3,492

$1,283

-40%

36%

$24,017

Live Nation Entertainment Inc.

LYV 466%

$8,413

$1,805

135%

22%

$19,515

Frontier Communications Parent Inc.

FYBR 453%

$9,844

$2,173

85%

-40%

$3,745

Match Group Inc.

MTCH 287%

$3,839

$1,337

540%

6%

$12,177

Source: FactSet

In case you are wondering about how the analysts feel about debt-free New York Times, it appears the analysts believe the shares are fairly priced at $42.60. Among eight analysts polled by FactSet, three rated NYT a buy, while the rest had neutral ratings. The consensus price target was $43.93. The stock trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 27.7, which is high when compared with the forward P/E of 21.7 for the S&P 500
.

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‘Own what the Mother of All Bubbles crowd doesn’t.’ This market strategist expects stagflation and is investing for it now.

There’s always a bull market somewhere — if you can find it.

Keith McCullough encourages investors to join him in the hunt. You’ll need to be agnostic and open-minded, the CEO of investment service Hedgeye Risk Management says. If you’re wedded just to U.S. stocks, or the market’s latest darlings, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment — particularly in the hostile environment McCullough sees coming.

This coming challenge for U.S. stock investors, in a word, is stagflation, McCullough says. Stagflation — higher inflation plus slow- or no economic growth — is hardly a bullish outlook for stocks, but McCullough’s investment process looks for opportunties wherever they may be. Right now that’s led him to put money into health care, gold, Japan, India, Brazil and energy stocks, among others.

In this recent interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, McCullough takes the Federal Reserve and Chair Jerome Powell to the woodshed, offers a warning about the potential fallout from Powell’s upcoming speech at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and implores investors to discount happy talk and always watch what they do, not what they say.

MarketWatch: When we spoke in late May, you criticized the Federal Reserve for being obtuse and myopic in its response to inflation and, later, to the threat of recession. Has the Fed done anything since to give you more confidence?

McCullough: The Fed forecast of the probability of recession should be trusted as much as their “transitory” inflation forecast or a parlor game. People should not have confidence in the Fed’s forecast. The “no-landing” or “soft-landing” thesis is looking backwards. The Fed is grossly underestimating the future, doing what they always do, in looking at the recent past.

Their policy is wed to what they say. They claim they’re not going to cut interest rates until they get to their target. But any hint of the Fed arresting the tightening gives you more inflation. So there’s this perverse relationship where the Fed is the catalyst to bring back the inflation they’ve spent so much time fighting. 

Read: ‘The Fed is way late and they’ve already screwed it up.’ This stock strategist is banking on gold, silver and Treasurys to weather a recession.

MarketWatch: U.S. Inflation has come down quite signficantly over the past year. Doesn’t that show the Fed is well on the way to achieving its 2% target?

McCullough: A lot of people are peacocking and declaring victory over inflation when we’re about to have reflation that sticks. We have inflation heading back towards 3.5% and staying there.

Our inflation forecast is that it’s set to reaccelerate in the next two inflation reports, which will lead to another rate hike in September. The Fed’s view is that until they get to the 2% target they’re not done. A lot of people are really confident because inflation went from 9% to 3% that it’s getting closer to 2%, therefore the Fed is done. Given what Fed Chair Jerome Powell said, the next two inflation reports are critical in determining whether we hike rates in September. I think maybe even one in November. This is a major catalyst for the next leg down in the equity market.

The Fed is going to see inflation go higher, and they’ve already articulated to Wall Street that no matter what happens, that should constitute a rate hike. That’s a policy mistake. They’re going to continue to tighten into a slowdown. When the Fed tightens into a slowdown, things blow up.

MarketWatch: By “things blow up,” you mean the stock market.

McCullough: I don’t think the Fed cuts interest rates until the stock market crashes. The Fed is going to be tightening when the U.S. economy and corporate profits are at a low point, going into the fourth quarter. It’s not dissimilar from 1987 where all of a sudden a market that looked fine got annihilated in very short order. There are a lot of similarities to 1987 now; the market’s quick start in January, people in love with stocks. That’s a catalyst for the stock market to crash.

When the Fed has an inconvenient rule, particularly for the U.S. stock market, they just move the goal posts or change the rule. If they actually started to cut interest rates, inflation would go up faster. This is exactly what happened in the 1970s and what Powell explains is the risk of going dovish too soon – that he becomes [much-criticized former Fed chair] Arthur Burns. That’s why you had rolling recessions in the 1970s; the Fed would go dovish, devalue the U.S. dollar
DX00,
-0.21%
,
and the cost of living for Americans would reflate to levels that are prohibitive.

People can’t afford reflation at the gas pump, or in their health care. It’ll be fascinating to see how Powell pivots from fighting for the people to bailing out Wall Street from another stock market crash, which will therein create the next reflation.

‘The Federal Reserve has set the table for a major event in the U.S. stock market and the credit market.’

MarketWatch: Speaking of a Powell pivot, the Fed chair speaks at Jackson Hole this week. Last year he put markets on notice for rate hikes. What do you think he’ll say this time?

Powell’s going to see inflation accelerating. I think Jackson Hole is going to be a hawkish meeting. That might be the trigger for the stock market.

Take the bond market’s word for it.  The bond market is saying the Fed is going to remain tight and seriously consider another rate hike in September. The reasons why markets crash in October during recession is that the fourth quarter is when companies realize that there’s no soft landing and they need to guide down.

The Federal Reserve has set the table for a major event in the U.S. stock market and the credit market. We’re short high-yield and junk bonds through two ETFs: iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond
HYG
and SPDR Bloomberg High Yield Bond
JNK.
 On the equity side the best thing is to short the cyclicals; I would short the Russell 2000
RUT.

MarketWatch: What’s your advice to stock investors right now about how to reposition their portfolios?

McCullough: Own what the “Mother of All Bubbles” crowd doesn’t. The things we’re most bullish on include gold
GC00,
+0.21%
.
 The Fed is going to keep short term rates high and both the 10 year and 30 year go lower. Gold trades with real interest rates. I think gold can go a lot higher, towards 2,150. Our ETF for gold is SPDR Gold Shares
GLD.

Also, you can be long equities and not take on the heart-attack risk that is the U.S. stock market. I’m long Japanese equities — ETFs for this include iShares MSCI Japan
EWJ
and iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap
SCJ.

We’re long India with iShares MSCI India
INDA
and iShares MSCI India Small-Cap
SMIN.
Both Japan and India are accelerating economically. Were also long Brazil iShares MSCI Brazil
EWZ,
which is weighted to energy. We are bullish on energy. 

MarketWatch: Clearly accelerating inflation and slowing economic growth is an unhealthy combination for both investors and consumers.

McCullough: What I’m looking for, with inflation reaccelerating, is stagflation.

Stagflation pays the rich and punishes the poor. You want to be the landlord. The prices of things people own are going to go up, and the prices of things you need to live are also going to go up. So for example, we are long energy, uranium and timber as stagflation plays. ETFs we’re using for that include Energy Select Sector SPDR
XLE,
Global X Uranium
URA,
and iShares Global Timber & Forestry
WOOD.

One positive thing that happens from stagflation is that because it’s so hard to find real consumption growth, there’s a premium on the growth you can find.

If there is something that actually accelerates, then those stocks will work, which puts a nice premium on stock picking. You can be long anything that is accelerating because so many things are decelerating. So avoid U.S. consumer, retailers, industrials and financials, which are all decelerating. Health care is our favorite sector, which we own through the ETFs Simplify Health Care
PINK
and SPDR S&P Health Care Equipment
XHE.

Instead, people are betting we’re going to go back to some crazy AI-led growth environment. Now everyone thinks everything is AI and rainbows and puppy dogs. I’m old enough to remember we were in a banking crisis in March. From an intermediate- to longer-term perspective, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to protect yourself until this inflation cycle plays out.

Also read: Jackson Hole: Fed’s Powell could join rather than fight bond vigilantes as yields surge

More: Will August’s stock-market stumble turn into a rout? Here’s what to watch, says Fundstrat’s Tom Lee.

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