The market is excited at the prospect of Fed rate cuts (in response to the US-CCP trade war), with the S&P 500 headed for another test of its earlier high at 2950. A Trend Index trough above zero indicates short-term buying pressure.
Falling bond yields, however, warn of a flight to safety. 10-Year Treasury yields have fallen close to 120 basis points (bps) since late 2018, as investors shift from equities to bonds. Prices are being supported by stock buybacks rather than investor inflows.
The Yield Differential between 10-year (purple) and 3-month (lime) Treasury yields is now negative, a reliable early warning of recession.
Corporate bond spreads, the difference between lowest investment grade (Baa) and Treasury yields, are rising. An indicator of credit risk, a spread above 2.5% (amber) is an early warning of trouble ahead, while 3.0% (red) signals that risk is elevated.
Falling employment growth is another important warning. Annual employment growth below 1.0% (amber) would normally cause the Fed to cut interest rates. In the current scenario, that is almost certain.
What is holding the Fed back is average hourly wages. Annual growth above 3.0% is indicative of a tight labor market and warns against cutting rates too hastily.
Stats for Q1 2019 warn that compensation is rising as a percentage of net value added, while profits are falling. As can be seen from the previous two recessions (gray bars), rising compensation (as % of NVA) normally leads to falling profits and a recession. Cutting interest rates would accelerate this.
Annual GDP growth came in at 3.2% (after inflation) for the first quarter, but growth in hours worked is slowing. GDP growth is likely to follow.
Personal consumption expenditure for Q1 was largely positive, with an uptick in services and non-durable goods. But consumption of durable goods fell sharply, warning that consumer confidence in the medium-to-long-term is declining.
On the global stage, commodity prices are falling, indicating an anticipated drop in demand, especially from China.
Nymex crude is following, and expected to test support between $40 and $45 per barrel.
Short-term prospects may appear reasonable, but the long-term outlook is decidedly negative.
In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.
~ Benjamin Graham