Wall of Worry Returns

We start the week with the annual World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland. This enclave of business leaders has a mixed message for U.S. and international investors due to the global economic slowdown and concerns that the China/U.S. trade talks might drag on longer than anyone would imagine. Along with the trade talks investors are eyeing weakening business conditions in Germany and the UK that definitely puts more pressure on the ECB to keep purchasing bonds to keep Europe steady economically speaking. Here in the U.S. we completed our fourth week of market gains with the S&P 500 Index up 2.9% and the technology heavy NASDAQ up 2.7%.

Overall, last week was pretty satisfying from the standpoint of earnings and profitability reports from a wide spectrum of banks and financial institutions. Most had better than expected loan growth and strong consumer facing businesses. The only real area of weakness was fixed income and equity trading which felt the freeze and lack of customer business due to the heavy downward shift in markets over the fourth quarter. Business and trading activity looks to be picking up at most financial institutions indicating a better outlook as we move through the first six months of 2019.

This week we will work through a wider spectrum of companies from diverse industries giving us a better picture of economic conditions across the country and overseas. I will be focused on reports and forecasts by global technology and healthcare companies hoping to get a good read of conditions and sustainability across international markets. Like the bank stocks, expectations are not that great which provides an opportunity for companies to beat expectations. And, as I mentioned last week, we saw some buying interest in leading international semiconductor and software companies that tends to be a good leading indicator that global conditions are looking better with a six to nine month forward view.

Additionally, conditions continue to be good for continued announcements in the merger and acquisition arena. I would actually be surprised if we didn’t see more announcements this week. It is easier for companies with loads of cash from the recent tax legislation to make strategic acquisitions rather than try to build new products and services themselves.

Considering the negative commentary from Davos and the ongoing government shutdown, it may be difficult for investors to continue to ignore the macro environment and focus on individual company earnings and forecasts. Let’s see if the earnings are good enough to keep investors focused on fundamentals and not outside noise and distractions.

Have a great week,

Roger N. Steed

January 22, 2019

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