Tag Archives: Inflation

Inflation, and Sentiment, and Wages… OH MY!?

With all the craziness going on it’s nice to see that things may be (and I want to emphasize “may be”) calming down as investors start to realize this probably isn’t the end of the world and rather a healthy drop in the market. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of things to worry about, but there also a few positives starting to show up that could help stabilize equities. Here’s a glimpse of what others are saying today:

Are Profit Margins at Risk?

With all of this talk about the economy improving and potential for rates moving higher, it got me thinking. What if we finally see higher inflation this year?

In order for this to happen, we would need to see economic activity pick up enough to require more hiring by companies. As competition in the labor market would theoretically heat up, wages would likely begin to rise, and this would create the kind of inflation we are looking for to really get our economy going. 

Don’t look now, but it appears these two “needs” for inflation may be coming to fruition:

  • Small Business Survey Upbeat (Dr. Ed)
    • “…the percent of firms expecting to increase employment rose to 6.3% in December. That may not seem like much, but it is the highest reading since October 2008. “
  • Empire State Manufacturing Activity indicates faster expansion (Calculated Risk)
    • “The general business conditions index rose ten points to 12.5, its highest level in more than a year. The new orders index climbed thirteen points to 11.0, a two-year high.”

Both of these signs bode well for the economy, but what about the market? If hiring and wages were both to pick-up, we would almost surely witness a compression of profit margins in the short term. Factor in tapering by the FED, higher yields which would be very attractive if the market loses momentum, and the ominous “warnings” throughout the market, could we actually be on the verge short-term pause or pullback in the market? How will investors respond to this new environment? Would they blindly sell on falling margins or instead turn their eyes to newly revived revenue growth from stronger consumer spending? 

Long-term, I think this is a great problem to have. However, there are a lot of “what-ifs” in the air at the moment in regards to the US equity market. Will we have a “regular” year which is up but witnesses a return of volatility and one or more 10%+ drops, or will we see a flat to down year as investors cope with compressed margins yet strengthening economic fundamentals? I remain very bullish over the long-term as we all should be, but I am becoming more cautiously bullish by the day in regards to the next 6-12 months. 

Interesting Week for Markets

Happy Monday all! This week will be interesting as we are facing the first potential 3-week losing stretch on the S&P in 82 weeks… and the FED reports Wednesday afternoon with what could be the dagger (taper announcement) to solidify this drop.

I think there are solid narratives on both sides of the aisle for why the FED will or won’t taper. Many seem too confident they will taper due to recent improvements in economic data. This is setting up like a repeat of this summer/fall when everyone was surprised there was no taper even though inflation expectations fell drastically in the run-up to the “no-taper” press-conference. I’m in the boat of 60/40% for No-Taper/Taper. If we do see a taper, I believe it will come with some sort of caveat to keep things super loose and (hopefully) push inflation.