When we first featured this a while back, it was about the economy — and we’ll refer back to this outline as we build out our Market Barometers (Extended Version) today…
Economy at Stall Speed?
I finished Bailout Nation this weekend (7/11/2012). As most of you know, I’ve followed the work of author Barry Ritholtz for some time. The following are his thoughts from 35,000 feet about the state of the current economy. We’ll take a closer look at his barometers and see if we can build some findings that have some bearing on prudent asset allocation.
The data continues to come in showing the global economy is slowing. The key question is whether this slowdown is to full on recession or merely a sloppy-muddle-through-barely-above-stall-speed economy.
With all of the cross currents out of Europe and the US, its easy to get distracted with less important nonsense. We watch all of the usual macro signs, but to find clarity, watch this earnings season. I want to especially pay attention to the following 7 factors:
- Transports have been very soft and confirm slowing global trade. Pay attention to UPS, Fed Ex, and Rails.
- A corollary is energy prices and the shifting revenues of the major oil companies.
- Retailers often feel the bite first. Middle market retailers, than luxe goods. Watch for signs of improvement amongst the discounters like WalMart, Target and the dollar stores as consumers feel stressed.
- Defensive issues such as Utilities and Consumer Staples attract buyers (but should not see big changes in revenues)
- Pay attention to visibility and revenue expectations from companies. I expect the uncertainty trope t0 be in full flower;
- More important than that, watch S&P500 Quarterly earnings growth; Is the rate of growth (2nd derivative) slowing?
- Valuations remain reasonable but not cheap; See where the SPX ends after earnings season is over.
These earnings are where the rubber meets the road, and I expect them to be telling.