10-Year Treasury yields have climbed in response to the December FOMC minutes which suggest a faster taper of QE purchases and faster rate hikes. Breakout above 1.75% would offer a medium-term target of 2.3% (projecting the trough of 1.2% above resistance at 1.75%).
The Dollar Index retreated below short-term support at 96, warning of a correction despite rising LT yields.
Do the latest FOMC minutes mean that the Fed is serious about fighting inflation? The short answer: NO. If they were serious, they would not taper but halt Treasury and MBS purchases. Instead of discussing rate hikes later in the year, they would hike rates now. The Fed are trying to slow the economy by talking rather than doing — and will be largely ignored until they slam on the brakes.
Average hourly earnings growth — 5.8% for the 2021 calendar year — is likely to remain high.
A widening labor shortage — with job openings exceeding total unemployment by more than 4 million — is likely to drive wages even higher, eating into profit margins.
The S&P 500 continues to climb without any significant corrections over the past 18 months.
Rising earnings have lowered the expected December 2020 PE ratio (of highest trailing earnings) for the S&P 500 to a still-high 24.56.
But wide profit margins from supply chain shortages are unsustainable in the long-term and are likely to reverse, creating a headwind for stocks.
Warren Buffett’s long-term indicator of market value avoids fluctuating profit margins by comparing market cap to GDP as a surrogate for LT earnings. The ratio is at an extreme 2.7 (Q3 2020), having doubled since the Fed stated to expand its balance sheet (QE) after the 2008 global financial crisis.
Stock prices only adjust to fundamental values in the long-term. In the short-term, prices are driven by ebbs and flows of liquidity.
We are still witnessing a spectacular rise in the M2 money stock in relation to GDP, caused by Fed QE. The rise is only likely to halt when the taper ends in March 2022 — but there is no date yet set for quantitative tightening (QT) which would reverse the flow.
Gold continues to range between $1725 and $1830 per ounce with no sign of a breakout.
Expect a turbulent year ahead, driven by the pandemic, geopolitics, and Fed monetary policy. Rising inflation continues to be a major threat and we maintain our overweight positions in Gold and defensive stocks. A soft landing is unlikely — the Fed could easily lose control — and we are underweight highly-priced growth stocks and cyclicals, while avoiding bonds completely.