The Fed ended its QE programs in late 2014. From a liquidity perspective, the US has experienced
stern tight money since then. I along with a few others warned that both the economy and the stock
market could be damaged following a large, cumulative QE program as occurred in the few other instances when major QE was halted. From the latter part of 2014, US business sales fell from
a 7% yr/yr rate of growth down into negative territory by the end of last year and nearly went
into recession before stabilizing. Business sales and profits were also damaged by the oil price bust
which took place over the same period. Since new business orders spiked high in late 2014 / early
2015 just as sales momentum turned down, the economy has carried excess inventories ever since.
Super low shorter term interest rates make it easier to carry inventories, so the holding of large
stocks has continued to suppress economic demand. Over this period, SPX net per share has fallen
from about $115 to $98 in 2016. Overall, the economy did not fare that badly, as the Fed wisely
kept interest rates at historic lows.
The stock market did better than profits since late 2014. The SPX is currently about 2.4% higher now
thanks to a premium dividend yield compared to short rates and Treasuries and exceptional investor
and trader confidence.
Looking out a year, most players are mildly bullish, expecting the SPX to grind modestly higher on
a positive bounce in earnings sufficient to overcome worries about upticks to inflation and short
This is a risky environment. There is no liquidity tailwind from the Fed. To avoid a sharp economic
contraction and deeper weakness in profits, excess inventories will need to be worked off slowly.
Such measured inventory policies rarely happen. Inflation will need to be modest enough not to
pressure household incomes too much. Finally, the post - election period will have to yield promise
of either fresh fiscal stimulus or the introduction of a new avenue of monetary easing to assure a
degree of economic rebound.
It is not easy to thread a needle.
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!