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Weekly Market Commentary

Preferred Securities: Still Our Preferred Non-Core Bond Sector

May 13, 2024

It continues to be a challenging environment for a lot of fixed income markets, especially higher quality markets. With the Federal Reserve (Fed) seemingly unlikely to lower interest rates until after the summer months (at the earliest), the “higher for longer” narrative has kept a lid on any sort of bond market rally. And while falling interest rates help provide price appreciation in this higher-for-longer environment, fixed income investors are likely better served by focusing on income opportunities. That’s where preferreds come in. With yields still elevated relative to history, we think preferred securities are an attractive option for income-oriented investors. 

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Sell in May? Maybe Not.

May 6, 2024

“Sell in May and Go Away” is one of the most widely used maxims on Wall Street. There is no shortage of financial media coverage on this topic as the calendar turns to May. However, this phrase may be more rhyme than reason, as stocks tend to trade higher during this period (especially more recently), subject to potentially elevated volatility. Of course, seasonality is one factor that could influence markets, but the economy and monetary policy are much bigger factors. With the Federal Reserve (Fed) pointing to higher-for-longer monetary policy last week (before Friday’s softer jobs report), we also explore how stocks perform during prolonged Fed pause periods.

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That Was Quite a Week

April 29, 2024

Last week was a pivotal one for markets, with the S&P 500 coming off a 3% weekly decline the week before. In terms of economic data, we got our first look at first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) as well as the March reading of the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) favorite inflation measure — the core PCE deflator. If that wasn’t enough to digest, over 150 S&P 500 companies reported quarterly earnings last week, including the first batch of big tech names. Stocks passed the test, with the S&P 500 up 2.7% for the week, recapturing most of the prior week’s losses despite a mixed GDP report and a double-digit decline in shares of social media giant Meta (META) on April 25, after its results. Here we recap the week’s events and check in on sentiment.

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Understanding Ever-Changing Market Narrative

April 22, 2024

Volatility has come back into the market as the narrative shifted toward a higher-for-longer monetary policy backdrop. Signs of sticky inflation and a resilient economy, including a strong labor market, have underpinned the change in expectations. Yields have reacted by rerating significantly higher this month, while stocks have pulled back from overbought conditions. Technical damage is beginning to mount on the S&P 500, but its longer-term uptrend remains intact. The U.S. dollar has followed yields higher, creating headwinds for U.S. multinationals and currency stability headaches for other central banks.

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Revisiting Energy: How Rate Cuts Could Benefit the Space

April 15, 2024

As the first quarter earnings season kicked off on April 12, expectations for the energy sector were decidedly negative. That low bar has tempted analysts to forecast a series of positive surprises as recent data releases for both the U.S. and China suggest a stronger economic underpinning, and the manufacturing sector appears to have bottomed in both countries. Oil demand — and prices — typically follow rising manufacturing and factory output, while rising consumer sentiment normally portends an increase in air travel, which also requires higher oil allocations.

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What to Watch This Earnings Season

April 8, 2024

First quarter earnings season kicks off this week with several big banks reporting this Friday, including sector bellwether JPMorgan Chase (JPM). This quarter will seem quite similar to the fourth in terms of growth and drivers, with mega cap technology leading the way. But importantly, the point when the “493” will start contributing to overall profits is drawing closer (the 493 refers to the S&P 500 minus the seven mega cap technology stocks). Here we preview first quarter earnings season, which will benefit from an improving economic environment and continued strength in technology.

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IPOs as a Market Tell

April 1, 2024

The initial public offering (IPO) market allows institutional investors to incorporate the macroeconomic landscape with individual corporate earnings data — and future earnings forecasts — to ascertain a share price that will hold up to analyst and media scrutiny coupled with overall market dynamics. However, the IPO market has increasingly included allocations for a retail tranche designed to include clients of brokerage firms that receive shares during the issuance stage of the IPO process. So-called “friends” of the company going public also receive shares via Directed Share Programs (DSPs), but this typically lowers the amount of shares that are available to retail clients. For retail clients, the IPO market is far from a level playing field. The IPO process awards the largest portion of new shares to the institutional market by a wide margin. Here we provide an update on recent IPO activity, performance, and discuss why IPO activity matters for markets.

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Navigating the Strategic Investing Landscape

March 25, 2024

The difference between strategic and tactical investment time horizons can be likened to the ebb and flow of tidal patterns in oceans. Strategic investing mirrors the steady rise and fall of the tides, focusing on long-term goals and expectations more stable akin to the predictable rhythm of oceans. On the other hand, investing in tactical time horizons resembles the dynamic nature of changing tides, responding to short-term market conditions like unpredictable surges and waves in the sea. Here we compare and contrast these two distinct processes and recap our recent strategic asset allocation change.

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A Busy (and Perhaps Historic) Week for Central Banks

March 18, 2024

It seems like we just can’t stop talking about central banks. And this week will be no different, with at least 15 central bank meetings planned, some more important than others, of course. While the Federal Reserve (Fed) meeting will likely take top billing in the financial media, it’s the Bank of Japan (BOJ) meeting on Tuesday that could be the real game changer. With inflationary pressures still above target in Japan, the BOJ may finally be ready to take interest rates out of negative territory for the first time since 2016. If true, the era of free money will finally be over, which could have an impact on U.S. markets.

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Gold Shines Brighter Than Ever

March 11, 2024

Bullion broke new ground last week after rallying to a record high. Growing investor confidence for a Federal Reserve (Fed) rate cut by this summer dragged down yields and the dollar, creating a tailwind for gold. The breakout above key resistance at $2,075 was also a major technical development, confirmed by bullish momentum that suggests the rally could continue. Global central bank demand has been another key catalyst and has shown no sign of slowing down, while a rebound in demand from gold-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs) could provide additional support for the yellow metal.

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Super Six Drives Solid Earnings Season

March 4, 2024

Fourth quarter earnings season is winding down with only about a dozen companies in the S&P 500 left to report. After a slow start mired by messy bank results early on, corporate America picked up the pace and ended up delivering results well ahead of expectations. The “Super Six” was part of the story — the Magnificent Seven minus Tesla (TSLA) — but resilient profit margins are also noteworthy. Here we review fourth quarter earnings season and share some thoughts on the earnings outlook for 2024.

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Buybacks Are Back

February 26, 2024

After a brief lull in 2023, buyback activity appears to be back this year. A resilient U.S. economy, easing inflation pressures, and expectations for an eventual shift to interest rate cuts have given corporate America confidence to boost authorized share repurchases. These companies have a history of outperforming the broader market and tend to have more exposure to momentum, value, and growth factors. While buybacks also reduce share count and help support earnings growth and valuations, they can also help limit downside volatility during periods of selling pressure.

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Treasuries: Who’s Buying and Why it Matters

February 20, 2024

As the Federal Reserve (Fed) continues with its Quantitative Tightening (QT) program, questions abound regarding the Treasury Department’s expanding funding needs. The QT program is designed to reduce the Fed’s balance sheet — now $7.7 trillion down from $9 trillion — after Treasury notes (mostly) were bought after economic concerns intensified during the COVID-19-related pandemic. Households and, perhaps surprisingly, foreign investors have been buyers recently, and with the amount of Treasury supply coming to market, both will need to keep buying.

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Outlook for U.S. Economy Continues to Brighten

February 12, 2024

When we wrote the annual outlook last November, the data was mixed. Some metrics hinted at emerging cracks in the economy while others suggested the growth trajectory in capital markets and the economy had legs. So, the variety of the data produced the narrative that business activity in the New Year would grow on an annual basis but experience some bumps in the first half of the year. Now, enter the revisions.

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Will the January Barometer Come Through?

February 5, 2024

A positive January has historically been a bullish sign for stocks. Yale Hirsch, creator of the “Stock Trader’s Almanac”, first discovered this seasonal pattern back in 1972, which he called the January Barometer and coined its popular tagline of ‘As goes January, so goes this year.’ Here, we assess the likelihood that this popular stock market adage delivers more gains for investors this year. The weight of the evidence leans toward yes, as we explain.

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Is Too Much Optimism Priced In?

January 29, 2024

With the S&P 500 having recently ascended to a fresh record high after such a strong 2023, it’s natural for investors to worry that valuations have become over-extended. On traditional valuation measures, valuations do appear high and it does seem reasonable to expect more moderate stock market returns going forward. Here we walk through several different stock valuation approaches to get a more complete picture and even make the case that they aren’t as pricey as they look.

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Will Shipping Disruptions Alter Fed Plans?

January 22, 2024

Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could temporarily impact goods prices but not at the same magnitude as during the pandemic. Tight financial conditions, slowing economic growth, and a disinflationary trend all support the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) pivot away from tightening monetary policy to easing in the new year. Despite these longer term trends, rates possibly got ahead of themselves in recent weeks, exhibiting higher volatility.

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Magnificent Seven and Margins Are Keys to Q4 Earnings Season

January 16, 2024

Fourth quarter earnings season kicked off last week, and markets were generally left wanting more. That doesn’t necessarily mean this earnings season will be disappointing, especially considering the bar has been lowered so much. Plus, some of the disappointment was around special bank charges and November-quarter-end companies’ results were solid. This reporting period may lack the splashy “earnings recession over” headlines we got last quarter, but it takes on added importance because it sets the tone for 2024. After 2023 was a year in which improving valuations delivered strong gains, this year, earnings will likely have to do the heavy lifting.

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China 2024 Faces Demanding Challenges

January 8, 2024

As China emerged a year ago from the shadow of the stringent zero COVID-19-related measures that all but shut down its economy for over two years, much was expected in terms of its economic growth prospects. There were numerous reports suggesting the world’s second largest economy would ignite a bout of inflation as its industrial base would require vast quantities of commodities to power a newly energized China. Clearly that didn’t happen. Here we explore why and provide our updated thoughts on investing in China and emerging markets.

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Lessons Learned in 2023

January 2, 2024

To say 2023 was challenging may be an understatement. While stocks had a surprisingly impressive year, there was no shortage of obstacles for investors to overcome, including historic interest rate volatility, recession risk, banking sector turmoil, and a game of monetary policy chicken played between the markets and the Federal Reserve (Fed). LPL Research had some wins and some losses as the market delivered its usual dose of humility to us and many market participants. In an effort to maintain accountability and learn from our mistakes (and hopefully not repeat them), we are starting the new year with our traditional lessons learned commentary.

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Discord in the OPEC+ Oil Patch

December 18, 2023

Following the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) aggressive rate-hiking campaign in 2022 and 2023, stocks are entering a phase in which the market narrative is focused on interest-rate stability — as inflation, we believe, comes down further. Low and stable interest rates should help support stock valuations, while corporate profits are moving into a sweet spot. So even though stocks look fully valued, if rates ease as we expect, we could see upside to our year-end 2024 fair-value target range of 4,850 to 4,950. We highlight some key themes for stocks next year.

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Discord in the OPEC+ Oil Patch

December 11, 2023

Despite a heavy lobbying effort to cajole OPEC+ members to agree to a unified cut in oil production, Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the energy cartel, was unable to orchestrate anything more than pledges on a “voluntary” basis. Accordingly, benchmark oil prices continued to slide lower following the announcement, and without a catalyst to propel prices higher, oversupply in the market coupled with concerns over the global  economic landscape, have steadfastly kept prices lower.

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Market Opportunities Amid An Economic Rotation

December 4, 2023

Opportunities abound in the markets, even during periods when the economy appears ripe for a regime shift. Recent growth metrics surprised to the upside, but leading indicators point toward some downside risk. In this edition of the Weekly Market Commentary, we examine potential opportunities amid a rotation in housing, buying patterns, and inflation.

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Is the Stock Market Correction Over?

November 13, 2023

There is nothing like an eight-day winning streak to change the market narrative. Stocks have quickly gone from a correction to a comeback this month, and the S&P 500 is now challenging key resistance at 4,400. While a confirmed breakout above this level raises the odds of the correction being over, there are still a few boxes left to check on our technical list before making that call. One of the unchecked items is market breadth. Despite the recent rally, participation in the latest rebound has been underwhelming, raising questions over the sustainability of the advance.

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Can Muni Investors Catch a Break? We Think So

November 6, 2023

It’s been another volatile year for municipal (muni) investors this year. While generally outperforming U.S. Treasuries, the Bloomberg Muni Index is on track for its second calendar year of negative returns—something that has never happened before. But, while volatility will likely persist over the coming months, we think muni investors may be able to catch a break, especially if the Federal Reserve (Fed) is done with its aggressive rate hiking campaign. Moreover, the next few months have historically been favorable for muni investors. So, with still solid fundamentals, the broader muni market may be in for a year-end rally, which would certainly be a nice reprieve for investors suffering from one of the worst muni drawdowns on record. 

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Possible Halloween Scares for Markets and the Economy

October 30, 2023

It’s a tradition here to write about what scares us around Halloween each year. The past few years have offered plenty of material to use in these annual commentaries, but with wars in Israel and Ukraine ongoing, Washington, D.C. dysfunction reaching new heights, the unrelenting rise in interest rates, still-high inflation, unaffordable housing, tight financial conditions, and a Federal Reserve (Fed) that has not yet signaled it’s done hiking rates, the list seems to be a bit longer and scarier than it usually is. But these are risk factors, not our base case. 

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Economic Impact: Can Something Good Come from a Crisis?

October 23, 2023

Despite headwinds, the U.S. could experience structural changes in the labor market, residential real estate, and inflation as the post-pandemic economy progresses into the New Year. As markets adjust to a new regime, investors should recognize the economy is becoming less interest rate sensitive and they should focus on leading indicators such as the ratio of part-time workers and not on lagging metrics such as the headline growth stats mostly cited in the media.

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Earnings Hope to Keep This One-Year-Old Bull Market Going

October 16, 2023

Earnings season has kicked off with several of the big banks and a handful of other blue-chip companies having already reported results for their calendar third quarters. The key headline this reporting season will be the (likely) end of the earnings recession. The October-November reporting season can be particularly interesting because full-year numbers are nearly locked in while more companies share thoughts on the year ahead. Here are several things we will be watching as reports stream in.

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Yields Higher for Longer: Why We’re Updating Our Treasury Forecast

October 9, 2023

U.S. Treasury yields have seemingly been moving in one direction lately (higher), with the 30-year Treasury yield temporarily breaching 5% for the first time since 2007. The move higher in yields (lower in price) has been unrelenting, with intermediate and longer-term Treasury yields bearing the brunt of the move. There are several reasons we’re seeing higher yields, but rates are moving higher alongside a U.S. economy that has continued to outperform expectations, pushing recession expectations out further, and by the unwinding of rate cut expectations to be more in line with the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) “higher for longer” regime. And with the economic data continuing to show a more resilient economy than originally expected, we think Treasury yields are likely going to stay higher for longer as well. As such, we now project the 10-year Treasury yield will end the year between 4.25% and 4.75% (previously 3.25% and 3.75%).

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Prospects for a Fourth Quarter Rally

October 2, 2023

After a difficult September for stocks, investors are surely ready to flip the calendar to October. That’s the month that kicks off the historically strong fourth quarter. Expecting this pattern to repeat this year is tricky given the overhang of a government shutdown, interest rates near 16-year highs, a market still trying to digest the Federal Reserve’s “higher for longer” message, and a consumer who is facing some stiff headwinds as excess savings are drawn down, student loan payments restart, and the effects of higher borrowing costs are increasingly felt. Amid that complicated backdrop, here we assess prospects for a fourth-quarter rally.

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Advice to Advisors: Buy Japan, Hold U.S., Sell Europe

September 18, 2023

Recent data suggests economic conditions in Europe are deteriorating, removing a key element of LPL Research’s positive view of the attractively valued developed international equities asset class. Previous U.S. dollar weakness and strong earnings momentum, which were other key reasons why we became more interested in European investing earlier this year, have reversed and suggest looking elsewhere for investment opportunities. Another international market to consider is Japan, which is also attractively valued with better fundamentals than Europe, in our view.

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The Growing List—and Politicization—of BRICS and Friends

September 11, 2023

The BRIC acronym, without the “S,” was introduced in 2001 by the Goldman Sachs chief economist who highlighted the prodigious growth and investment prospects of Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined. In 2009, Russia advanced the BRIC platform to create an informal bloc that could challenge the dominance of Western nations, particularly the United States. In 2010, South Africa joined and became the “S” in the BRICS lexicon. The original bloc, an informal economic alliance, comprises approximately 45% of the global supply chain for commodities, including industrial, precious, and agricultural products. In terms of contribution to global GDP, the BRICS constitute 31%, with expectations for a more expanded share as the new BRICS+ entrants are installed in 2024. The bloc has been characterized as the “commodity powerhouse of the world,” and that title will only strengthen with additional members.

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Interest Rates Are Back to Normal, But What Is Normal?

September 5, 2023

Fixed income investors have had a rough time over the last few years. Normally a staid asset class, core bonds (as proxied by the Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index) have seen negative returns over the last two calendar years and could potentially see negative returns for a third straight year—something that has never happened in the history of the core bond index (since 1975). But, despite the rapid rise in interest rates (fall in bond prices), there’s no reason to believe that we are in the beginning of a sustained bear market. 

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Opportunities and Risks in the Markets: Lessons Learned from the Grand Tetons

August 28, 2023

The Federal Reserve (Fed) often uses the Jackson Hole Symposium to announce tweaks in policy. Other central bank leaders are also worth watching as investors try to perceive where rates will be in the coming months. In this piece, we discuss some of the opportunities and risks we see in the markets and the economy following the central banker confab. We close the piece with investment implications.

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