Earnings Season Post Mortem & Valuation Update, May 9, 2017

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The S&P 500 has been largely “stuck” in the 2300-2400 trading range for nearly 10 weeks, despite a big non-confirmation from 10-year yields, modestly slowing economic data and political disappointment. Given that less-than-ideal context, the market has been downright resilient as the S&P 500 only fell to around 2320ish. The main reason for that resilience is earnings and valuation.

While it’s true that stocks are at a valuation “ceiling” right now, and need a new macro catalyst to materially breakout, it’s also true that given the current macro environment the downside risk on a valuation basis for the market is somewhat limited. That’s why we’re seeing such aggressive buying on dips.

Here’s the reason I say that. The Q1 earnings season was better than expected, and it’s resulted in 2018 S&P 500 EPS bumping up $1 from $135-$137 to $136-$138. At the higher end of that range, the S&P 500 is trading at 17.4X next year’s earnings. That’s high historically to be sure, but it’s not crazy given Treasury yield levels and expected macro-economic fundamentals.

However, if the S&P 500 were to drop to 2300 on a macro surprise, then the market would be trading at 16.67X 2018 earnings. In this environment (low yields, stable macro environment), that could easily be considered fairly valued.

Additionally, most analysts pencil in any help from Washington (including even a small corporate tax cut and/or a foreign profit repatriation holiday) adding a minimum of $5 to 2018 S&P 500 EPS. So, if they pass the bare minimum of expectations, it’s likely worth about $5 in earnings, and that puts 2018 earnings at $143.

At 2400, and with $143 expected earnings, the S&P 500 is trading at 16.8X 2018 earnings. Again, that is high historically, but for this market anything sub 17X will elicit buying in equities (whether it should is an open question, but that is the reality).

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Did Trump Just Kill The Reflation Trade? April 13, 2017

Did Trump Just Kill The Reflation Trade? An excerpt from today’s Sevens Report.

Trump - YellenPresident Trump, in an interview with the WSJ yesterday, appeared to change his policy on the Fed and interest rates. Specifically, Trump said he thought the dollar was getting too strong, that he favored a low interest rate policy, and he was open to keeping Yellen as Fed Chair. It was the second two comments that caught markets attention and caused a “dovish” response in the dollar and bond yields (both of which fell).

The reason these comments were a surprise was because it was generally expected Trump wouldn’t keep Yellen and was in favor of a more hawkish Fed Chair and appointing more hawkish Fed governors (there are currently three vacancies on the Fed President Trump can fill).

So, the market was expecting Trump to be a hawkish influence over the coming years, but yesterday’s comments contradict that expectation.

Going forward, from a currency and bond standpoint (the short term reaction aside) I do not see Trump’s comments as a dovish gamechanger for the dollar or rates. Yes, near term it appears the trend for the dollar is sideways between 99.50ish and 102 while the 10-year yield has broken below support at 2.30%.

But, I don’t see Trump’s comments sending the dollar back into the mid 90’s, nor do I see them sending the 10 year yield below 2%.

I also don’t expect this dovish reaction to be a material boost for stocks, because dovish isn’t positive for stocks any more (in fact the comments are causing the stock sell off this morning—more on that in minute).

Bigger picture, the longer-term path of the dollar and bond yields will be driven by growth, inflation and still ultra-accommodative foreign central banks.

Better economic growth (either by itself or with policy help) is the key to the longer-term direction of the dollar and rates (and we think that longer-term trend remains higher).

However, in the near term, his comments sent the 10 year yield decidedly through support at 2.30%, and that is causing stocks to drop as Treasury yields continue to signal that slower growth and lower inflation are on the horizon. And, since the market has rallied since the election on the hopes of better growth and higher inflation (i.e. the reflation trade) this drop in yields is hitting stocks.

The violation of support in the 10 year yield at 2.30% is important and a potentially near term bearish catalyst for stocks. If the ten year yield doesn’t stabilize and make some effort to rally over the next few days, a test of 2300 or 2275 in the S&P 500 would not shock me.

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