Is the Equities Market Looking Up?

The S&P 500 is higher by 3.29% over the past month. Other widely followed domestic equity benchmarks reside around all-time highs.

Alone, those are impressive feats. They are all the more impressive when considering that the calendar reads July, meaning stocks are in the weaker of the two six-month periods. Seasonal trends aside, stocks are sporting plenty of mettle, potentially baking in some optimistic assumptions, even as volatility creeps higher.

“Equity markets remain remarkably resilient, with the S&P 500® Index, Dow and NASDAQ all managing to close at record highs last week despite increased volatility,” notes Nationwide’s Mark Hackett. “The reflation trade continues to unwind as worries arise around peak growth in the economy and earnings, with growth continuing to gain versus value, small caps now lag large caps for the year, and emerging markets up just 2% for the year.”

Recent strength in the Nasdaq Composite, Nasdaq-100 Index (NDX), and various growth benchmarks could confirm the notion that the reflation trade is waning and growth stocks are coming back into style. That move could be supported by investors’ ongoing willingness to buy equities on market retrenchment, putting a floor under stocks.

“Investors continue to lean towards a buy-the-dip mentality, though it is increasingly happening in the ‘security blanket’ areas of leadership over the past decade (growth, large caps, and technology) rather than the pro-cyclical leadership from earlier in the year,” adds Hackett. “Historically, deteriorating breadth is a negative sign for markets, but it has been less predictive in recent years as returns have been driven by a small group of names.”

Adding to the allure of growth stocks over the near-term is that 10-year Treasury yields are declining, which could stoke growth upside due to the long duration cash flows of many well-known technology companies.

“Interest rates continued to drop, as growth concerns have replaced inflation worries in investors’ minds, with the 10-year briefly touching 1.25% last week before bouncing to 1.35%. The market could be tested this week, however, with $120 billion of issuance,” notes Hackett.

Another catalyst for equities could be transitory inflation.

“Inflation expectations continue to moderate, with the 10-year Breakeven Inflation Rate down to 2.22%, the lowest level since March as investor fear shifts from inflation to a Fed policy error. Real yields (adjusted for inflation) are hovering around -1.0%, forcing investors further out the risk curve, at a time when yields on the high-yield index are at record lows,” concludes Hackett.

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