Laser-focus on inflation was the key driver of both interest rates and market performance over the past two years.
Inflation continues retreating towards the targeted 2% range, which should largely be achieved around mid-year. We expect the Fed will begin lowering rates during the summer. While the bond market has priced-in 6 rate cuts for the year, beginning as early as March, we believe it will be a more modest and later cutting cycle. From there, the narrative should shift from inflation and interest rates back to the fundamentals of economic growth and earnings. There is still a risk that the economy could pick up steam and inflation return to haunt us once again, a la 1980. Nor are we out of the woods of potential economic weakness. But we see light at the end of the tunnel.
We remain optimistic about the long-awaited resurgence of small-cap, value, and international stocks closing the performance gap versus U.S. large-cap growth over the ensuing economic cycle.
The old maxim of ‘no tree grows to the sky’ will ultimately prevail. We find it unlikely that valuations of the “Magnificent 7” can continue to rise unabated. Valuation is a fundamental driver of long-term performance, and small caps and international markets remain undervalued relative to history.
As we expect a return to economic fundamentals over 2024, much depends on the economic growth and labor productivity needed for earnings to meet or exceed expectations. Should the economy slow, stock markets will have a hard time producing meaningful gains. While not our base case, we will remain mindful of the many economic indicators still flashing red.
We understand it is an election year. As November approaches, we typically see markets stagnate or slightly decline as the uncertainty and anticipation mounts. However, history tells us that regardless of who wins, there is negligible impact on financial markets in aggregate. In the end, regardless of whether your favored party wins or loses, there is no advantage in changing investment policy.
The normalization of interest rates is an uncertain path and forecasting economic growth is even more difficult. As investment themes change throughout the year, we will be looking for areas where valuation and earnings potential appear strongest – a disciplined approach that has served us well long-term.
What remains paramount is our desire to always take care of our clients’ current investment needs, while working towards achieving long-term investment goals.
With our time horizon investment process, we have successfully sheltered near-term spending needs from market disruptions, giving the longer-term assets the time needed to allow these disruptions to play out. Our long-held mantra of “go live life, we’ve got your back” has worked throughout this period of upheaval and we will be making sure that continues.
So, enjoy today and tomorrow, and let us do the worrying!
Call us to review your investment approach at (404) 941-2800.