The Sevens Report is the daily market cheat sheet our subscribers use to keep up on markets, seize opportunities, avoid risks and get more assets.
The first half of 2017 was defined by historically low volatility, and one of the quietest macro calendars we’ve had in years. However, with several parts of the market and economy in flux heading into the second half of the year, we’re likely going to see an uptick in volatility, and I think we got a preview of that during June.
So, we’ve identified four key events and seven key dates associated with those events that we believe could either 1) Lead to an acceleration of the rally, or 2) Cause a reversal and substantial pullback in stocks.
We haven’t included the regular monthly economic data (Jobs reports, PMIs, Core PCE Price Index) because that’s always important, every month. Instead, the list below is comprised of events that are not typically on a quarterly calendar, and we want you to be aware of
1) What they are,
2) Why they are important, and
3) How they can move markets.
Everything we do at the Sevens Report is based around efficiency—giving you only the critical information in the shortest amount of time, so in that vain this list is organized by potential impact on markets (i.e. the first events listed have the most potential to move markets).
Q3 Market Event #1:
Q2 Earnings Season. Date: 7/17.
What It Is: Second quarter earnings season. Specifically, big banks (C, WFC, BAC, etc.) start to report earnings as early as 7/14, but the real volume of reports won’t kick in till 7/17, and that’s when things could get interesting.
Why It’s Important: As we’ve said frequently, the unsung hero of the 2017 rally is earnings expectations. Markets are expecting nearly 10% yoy earnings growth for the S&P 500 from 2017 to 2018. That means that conservatively, we’re looking at $137 or $138/share for 2018 S&P 500 EPS, and that doesn’t include a boost for any corporate tax cuts. Those rising earnings make the valuation math work for investors, as it keeps the S&P 500 at 18X 2018 earnings, the historical top for valuation levels. Without that earnings growth, the valuation math on this market won’t make sense, and we’ll get a pull-back.
How It Could Move Markets: If earnings growth looks to be slowing in Q2, that could cause that 2018 expected S&P 500 EPS to decline, to say $135ish. If that occurs, this market is too expensive, and we could easily see a 3%-5% pullback.
Q3 Market Event #2:
What It Is: Government Funding Expires. Date 9/30. What It Is: Markets have taken increasing levels of government incompetence in stride so far in 2017, but that’s only because the market still expects corporate tax cuts in 2018, and because all the noise and distraction hasn’t had any negative effect on the economy. That could change in the next few months.
Why It’s Important: First, the government must raise the debt ceiling by the fall, otherwise we’ll have another default scare. Second, the government must pass a budget to keep funding the government. If they don’t, we’ll have another shutdown scare.
How It Could Move Markets. If the drama in Washington threatens to have real, concrete implications on the markets and economy, then stocks will get hit, potentially hard.
Q3 Market Event #3:
What It Is: Fed Tightening. Date(s): 7/26, late August, 9/20. What Is It: Easily the biggest issue for mar-kets as we exit 1H ’17 is that the Fed is more hawkish than we are used to, and how that materializes over the next three months will move markets. There is a Fed meeting on July 26, and while no one expects a rate hike at that time, if bond yields remain low and financial conditions continue to ease, the Fed could try and send a message. Then, in late August, the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole conference takes place. The Fed could again try and deliver a hawkish message to markets. Finally, the September meeting on 9/20 is where the Fed is expected to begin to reduce its balance sheet.
Why It Matters: No one knows how markets will react if the Fed gets more hawkish. Bonds have been stubbornly buoyant, but that could change, and then the question is whether the rise in interest rates is gradual, or whether we get another “Taper Tantrum.” Conversely, if economic data stays uninspiring in Q3, we could have a scenario where yields are rising but economic growth is not.
How It Could Move Markets: If yields rise too quickly or economic data remains lackluster but the Fed stays on a tightening path, that could hit stocks. Conversely, if economic growth accelerates and the rise in rates is gradual, that could power a reflationary rally, led by banks, small caps and cyclicals.
Q3 Market Event #4:
What It Is: Washington Policy—Healthcare & Tax Cuts. Dates: 7/28, 9/5. What Is It: Things are coming to a head on healthcare and taxes, and over the next few months we’ll see whether the expectation for corporate tax cuts in 2018 is still reasonable. Specifically, the healthcare issue will be resolved one way or the other by July 28, as a bill will either pass the Senate, or it will be dead. Regarding taxes, the Trump administration has promised a specific tax plan by the time Congress returns from the August recess on September 5. If there isn’t something concrete by then, tax reform in Q1 ’18 (which is expected by markets) will become very difficult to achieve.
Why It Matters: Markets still expect corporate tax cuts in Q1 2018, and if that expectation proves false, then investors will reassess owning stocks at these valuations, as there won’t be a visible, positive earnings catalyst on the horizon.
How It Could Move Markets: If there is no concrete, real tax plan (and I’m talking about agreement on border adjustments, interest deductibility, etc.) then that changes the market’s valuation paradigm. Conversely, if we do get progress on this issue that will be bullish for highly taxed sectors such as retail, energy, healthcare, etc.
There are real, potentially significant market-moving events in the third quarter that could easily cause a “melt up” in stocks, and turn 2017 into a banner year… or cause a nasty pullback. Because just based on the calendar, we’re due for a pullback (there’s been no real pullback since Feb. ’16). While it’d be nice if we got a continuation of the calm, levitating market we saw in the first half, given these looming events (and considering many of them are Washington oriented) it’s unlikely.
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