LPL Market Commentary

Each week the LPL Financial Research team assembles thoughtful insight on market news.

Revisiting Energy

April 15, 2024 | LPL Research

As the first quarter earnings season kicked off on April 12, expectations for the energy sector were decidedly negative. That low bar has tempted analysts to forecast a series of positive surprises as recent data releases for both the U.S. and China suggest a stronger economic underpinning, and the manufacturing sector appears to have bottomed in both countries. Oil demand — and prices — typically follow rising manufacturing and factory output, while rising consumer sentiment normally portends an increase in air travel, which also requires higher oil allocations.

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What to Watch This Earnings Season

April 8, 2024 | LPL Research

First quarter earnings season kicks off this week with several big banks reporting this Friday, including sector bellwether JPMorgan Chase (JPM). This quarter will seem quite similar to the fourth in terms of growth and drivers, with mega cap technology leading the way. But importantly, the point when the “493” will start contributing to overall profits is drawing closer (the 493 refers to the S&P 500 minus the seven mega cap technology stocks). Here we preview first quarter earnings season, which will benefit from an improving economic environment and continued strength in technology.

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IPOs as a Market Tell

April 1, 2024 | LPL Research

The initial public offering (IPO) market allows institutional investors to incorporate the macroeconomic landscape with individual corporate earnings data — and future earnings forecasts — to ascertain a share price that will hold up to analyst and media scrutiny coupled with overall market dynamics. However, the IPO market has increasingly included allocations for a retail tranche designed to include clients of brokerage firms that receive shares during the issuance stage of the IPO process. So-called “friends” of the company going public also receive shares via Directed Share Programs (DSPs), but this typically lowers the amount of shares that are available to retail clients. For retail clients, the IPO market is far from a level playing field. The IPO process awards the largest portion of new shares to the institutional market by a wide margin. Here we provide an update on recent IPO activity, performance, and discuss why IPO activity matters for markets.

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Navigating the Strategic Investing Landscape

March 25, 2024 | LPL Research

The difference between strategic and tactical investment time horizons can be likened to the ebb and flow of tidal patterns in oceans. Strategic investing mirrors the steady rise and fall of the tides, focusing on long-term goals and expectations more stable akin to the predictable rhythm of oceans. On the other hand, investing in tactical time horizons resembles the dynamic nature of changing tides, responding to short-term market conditions like unpredictable surges and waves in the sea. Here we compare and contrast these two distinct processes and recap our recent strategic asset allocation change.

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A Busy (and Perhaps Historic) Week for Central Banks

March 18, 2024 | LPL Research

It seems like we just can’t stop talking about central banks. And this week will be no different, with at least 15 central bank meetings planned, some more important than others, of course. While the Federal Reserve (Fed) meeting will likely take top billing in the financial media, it’s the Bank of Japan (BOJ) meeting on Tuesday that could be the real game changer. With inflationary pressures still above target in Japan, the BOJ may finally be ready to take interest rates out of negative territory for the first time since 2016. If true, the era of free money will finally be over, which could have an impact on U.S. markets.

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Gold Shines Brighter Than Ever

March 11, 2024 | LPL Research

Bullion broke new ground last week after rallying to a record high. Growing investor confidence for a Federal Reserve (Fed) rate cut by this summer dragged down yields and the dollar, creating a tailwind for gold. The breakout above key resistance at $2,075 was also a major technical development, confirmed by bullish momentum that suggests the rally could continue. Global central bank demand has been another key catalyst and has shown no sign of slowing down, while a rebound in demand from gold-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs) could provide additional support for the yellow metal.

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Super Six Drives Solid Earnings Season

March 4, 2024 | LPL Research

Fourth quarter earnings season is winding down with only about a dozen companies in the S&P 500 left to report. After a slow start mired by messy bank results early on, corporate America picked up the pace and ended up delivering results well ahead of expectations. The “Super Six” was part of the story — the Magnificent Seven minus Tesla (TSLA) — but resilient profit margins are also noteworthy. Here we review fourth quarter earnings season and share some thoughts on the earnings outlook for 2024.

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Buybacks Are Back

February 26, 2024 | LPL Research

After a brief lull in 2023, buyback activity appears to be back this year. A resilient U.S. economy, easing inflation pressures, and expectations for an eventual shift to interest rate cuts have given corporate America confidence to boost authorized share repurchases. These companies have a history of outperforming the broader market and tend to have more exposure to momentum, value, and growth factors. While buybacks also reduce share count and help support earnings growth and valuations, they can also help limit downside volatility during periods of selling pressure.

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Treasuries: Who’s Buying and Why it Matters

February 20, 2024 | LPL Research

As the Federal Reserve (Fed) continues with its Quantitative Tightening (QT) program, questions abound regarding the Treasury Department’s expanding funding needs. The QT program is designed to reduce the Fed’s balance sheet — now $7.7 trillion down from $9 trillion — after Treasury notes (mostly) were bought after economic concerns intensified during the COVID-19-related pandemic. Households and, perhaps surprisingly, foreign investors have been buyers recently, and with the amount of Treasury supply coming to market, both will need to keep buying.

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Outlook for U.S. Economy Continues to Brighten

February 12, 2024 | LPL Research

When we wrote the annual outlook last November, the data was mixed. Some metrics hinted at emerging cracks in the economy while others suggested the growth trajectory in capital markets and the economy had legs. So, the variety of the data produced the narrative that business activity in the New Year would grow on an annual basis but experience some bumps in the first half of the year. Now, enter the revisions.

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Will the January Barometer Come Through?

February 5, 2024 | LPL Research

A positive January has historically been a bullish sign for stocks. Yale Hirsch, creator of the “Stock Trader’s Almanac”, first discovered this seasonal pattern back in 1972, which he called the January Barometer and coined its popular tagline of ‘As goes January, so goes this year.’ Here, we assess the likelihood that this popular stock market adage delivers more gains for investors this year. The weight of the evidence leans toward yes, as we explain.

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Is Too Much Optimism Priced in?

January 29, 2024 | LPL Research

With the S&P 500 having recently ascended to a fresh record high after such a strong 2023, it’s natural for investors to worry that valuations have become over-extended. On traditional valuation measures, valuations do appear high and it does seem reasonable to expect more moderate stock market returns going forward. Here we walk through several different stock valuation approaches to get a more complete picture and even make the case that they aren’t as pricey as they look. 

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Will Shipping Disruptions Alter Fed Plans?

January 22, 2024 | LPL Research

Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could temporarily impact goods prices but not at the same magnitude as during the pandemic. Tight financial conditions, slowing economic growth, and a disinflationary trend all support the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) pivot away from tightening monetary policy to easing in the new year. Despite these longer term trends, rates possibly got ahead of themselves in recent weeks, exhibiting higher volatility.

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Magnificent Seven and Margins Are Keys to Q4 Earnings Season

January 16, 2024 | LPL Research

Fourth quarter earnings season kicked off last week, and markets were generally left wanting more. That doesn’t necessarily mean this earnings season will be disappointing, especially considering the bar has been lowered so much. Plus, some of the disappointment was around special bank charges and November-quarter-end companies’ results were solid. This reporting period may lack the splashy “earnings recession over” headlines we got last quarter, but it takes on added importance because it sets the tone for 2024. After 2023 was a year in which improving valuations delivered strong gains, this year, earnings will likely have to do the heavy lifting.

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China 2024 Faces Demanding Challenges

January 8, 2024 | LPL Research

As China emerged a year ago from the shadow of the stringent zero COVID-19-related measures that all but shut down its economy for over two years, much was expected in terms of its economic growth prospects. There were numerous reports suggesting the world’s second largest economy would ignite a bout of inflation as its industrial base would require vast quantities of commodities to power a newly energized China. Clearly that didn’t happen. Here we explore why and provide our updated thoughts on investing in China and emerging markets.

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Lessons Learned in 2023

January 2, 2024 | LPL Research

To say 2023 was challenging may be an understatement. While stocks had a surprisingly impressive year, there was no shortage of obstacles for investors to overcome, including historic interest rate volatility, recession risk, banking sector turmoil, and a game of monetary policy chicken played between the markets and the Federal Reserve (Fed). LPL Research had some wins and some losses as the market delivered its usual dose of humility to us and many market participants. In an effort to maintain accountability and learn from our mistakes (and hopefully not repeat them), we are starting the new year with our traditional lessons learned commentary.

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Key Equity Themes Underlying U.S. Stock Market Outlook for 2024

December 18, 2023 | LPL Research

Following the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) aggressive rate-hiking campaign in 2022 and 2023, stocks are entering a phase in which the market narrative is focused on interest-rate stability — as inflation, we believe, comes down further. Low and stable interest rates should help support stock valuations, while corporate profits are moving into a sweet spot. So even though stocks look fully valued, if rates ease as we expect, we could see upside to our year-end 2024 fair-value target range of 4,850 to 4,950. We highlight some key themes for stocks next year.

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Discord in the OPEC+ Oil Patch

December 11, 2023 | LPL Research

Despite a heavy lobbying effort to cajole OPEC+ members to agree to a unified cut in oil production, Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the energy cartel, was unable to orchestrate anything more than pledges on a “voluntary” basis. Accordingly, benchmark oil prices continued to slide lower following the announcement, and without a catalyst to propel prices higher, oversupply in the market coupled with concerns over the global economic landscape, have steadfastly kept prices lower.

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Market Opportunities Amid An Economic Rotation

December 4, 2023 | LPL Research

Opportunities abound in the markets, even during periods when the economy appears ripe for a regime shift. Recent growth metrics surprised to the upside, but leading indicators point toward some downside risk. In this edition of the Weekly Market Commentary, we examine potential opportunities amid a rotation in housing, buying patterns, and inflation.

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Anatomy of a Market Rally: Looking at Key Catalysts

November 20, 2023 | LPL Research

As the market appears to be taking a rest and consolidating its $2.7 trillion rally leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the historical pattern over the last five years suggests the shortened holiday week typically enjoys modest gains. With concerns over the resiliency of consumer spending, however, the market can be affected by any indication that Black Friday doesn’t witness the throngs of consumers out hunting for bargains, or indications that the start to Cyber Monday won’t result in the billions of dollars that are spent online.

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Is the Stock Market Correction Over?

November 13, 2023 | LPL Research

There is nothing like an eight-day winning streak to change the market narrative. Stocks have quickly gone from a correction to a comeback this month, and the S&P 500 is now challenging key resistance at 4,400. While a confirmed breakout above this level raises the odds of the correction being over, there are still a few boxes left to check on our technical list before making that call. One of the unchecked items is market breadth. Despite the recent rally, participation in the latest rebound has been underwhelming, raising questions over the sustainability of the advance.

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Can Muni Investors Catch a Break? We Think So

November 6, 2023 | LPL Research

It’s been another volatile year for municipal (muni) investors this year. While generally outperforming U.S. Treasuries, the Bloomberg Muni Index is on track for its second calendar year of negative returns—something that has never happened before. But, while volatility will likely persist over the coming months, we think muni investors may be able to catch a break, especially if the Federal Reserve (Fed) is done with its aggressive rate hiking campaign. Moreover, the next few months have historically been favorable for muni investors. So, with still solid fundamentals, the broader muni market may be in for a year-end rally, which would certainly be a nice reprieve for investors suffering from one of the worst muni drawdowns on record. 

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Possible Halloween Scares for Markets and the Economy

October 30, 2023 | LPL Research

It’s a tradition here to write about what scares us around Halloween each year. The past few years have offered plenty of material to use in these annual commentaries, but with wars in Israel and Ukraine ongoing, Washington, D.C. dysfunction reaching new heights, the unrelenting rise in interest rates, still-high inflation, unaffordable housing, tight financial conditions, and a Federal Reserve (Fed) that has not yet signaled it’s done hiking rates, the list seems to be a bit longer and scarier than it usually is. But these are risk factors, not our base case. 

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Economic Impact: Can Something Good Come from a Crisis?

October 23, 2023 | LPL Research

Despite headwinds, the U.S. could experience structural changes in the labor market, residential real estate, and inflation as the post-pandemic economy progresses into the New Year. As markets adjust to a new regime, investors should recognize the economy is becoming less interest rate sensitive and they should focus on leading indicators such as the ratio of part-time workers and not on lagging metrics such as the headline growth stats mostly cited in the media.

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Earnings Hope to Keep This One-Year-Old Bull Market Going

October 16, 2023 | LPL Research

Earnings season has kicked off with several of the big banks and a handful of other blue-chip companies having already reported results for their calendar third quarters. The key headline this reporting season will be the (likely) end of the earnings recession. The October-November reporting season can be particularly interesting because full-year numbers are nearly locked in while more companies share thoughts on the year ahead. Here are several things we will be watching as reports stream in.

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Yields Higher for Longer: Why We’re Updating Our Treasury Forecast

October 9, 2023 | LPL Research

U.S. Treasury yields have seemingly been moving in one direction lately (higher), with the 30-year Treasury yield temporarily breaching 5% for the first time since 2007. The move higher in yields (lower in price) has been unrelenting, with intermediate and longer-term Treasury yields bearing the brunt of the move. There are several reasons we’re seeing higher yields, but rates are moving higher alongside a U.S. economy that has continued to outperform expectations, pushing recession expectations out further, and by the unwinding of rate cut expectations to be more in line with the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) “higher for longer” regime. And with the economic data continuing to show a more resilient economy than originally expected, we think Treasury yields are likely going to stay higher for longer as well. As such, we now project the 10-year Treasury yield will end the year between 4.25% and 4.75% (previously 3.25% and 3.75%).

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Prospects for a Fourth Quarter Rally

October 2, 2023 | LPL Research

After a difficult September for stocks, investors are surely ready to flip the calendar to October. That’s the month that kicks off the historically strong fourth quarter. Expecting this pattern to repeat this year is tricky given the overhang of a government shutdown, interest rates near 16-year highs, a market still trying to digest the Federal Reserve’s “higher for longer” message, and a consumer who is facing some stiff headwinds as excess savings are drawn down, student loan payments restart, and the effects of higher borrowing costs are increasingly felt. Amid that complicated backdrop, here we assess prospects for a fourth-quarter rally.

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Managing Market Volatility

July 18, 2022 | LPL Research

One of the things we knew coming into this year was that 2022 will be a midterm year—and those have historically not been kind to stocks. In fact, since 1950, midterm years have seen the largest peak-to-trough pullback of the four years of the presidential cycle, with the S&P 500 Index down 17.1% on average during the year (the max drawdown this year for the S&P 500 has been 23.5%, as of July 15). 

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MidYear Outlook 2022

July 12, 2022 | LPL Research

Turbulence cannot be avoided, but it also need not deter us from making progress toward our financial goals. LPL Research’s Midyear Outlook 2022: Navigating Turbulence is designed to help you assess conditions over the second half of the year, alert you to the challenges that may still lie ahead, and help you find the smoothest path for making continued progress toward your destination.

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Constructive, Not Complacent: Lowering S&P 500 Target

July 5, 2022 | LPL Research

Stocks have been unable to make up much ground since the June 16 lows, with a bear market rally amounting to only around a 4.3% gain in the S&P 500 Index since then (as of July 1). After the more than 6% rally the week of June 24 and the increasing optimism that came with that bounce, stocks pulled back again last week—the 11th down week for the index in the past 13 weeks. While we acknowledge that a V-shaped recovery is probably not in the cards and prior valuation targets no longer appear achievable, we remain constructive on equities for the second half, but not complacent.

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Relief at the Pump and for Portfolios?

June 27, 2022 | LPL Research

2022 has been rough all-around for the American consumer. Not only are we battling decades-high inflation, but investors’ portfolios are off to one of the worst starts to a year in history as we near the halfway point. Our technical work is first and foremost rooted in trend following, and the trend in both stock and bond prices so far this year have of course been down. However, one trend that has been strongly higher is energy prices. It may be early, but we see some potential signs that energy trends could be changing, which would not only have positive implications for consumers’ wallets, but also potentially investors’ investment portfolios.

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Bear Market Q and A

June 20, 2022 | LPL Research

The bear market that started on June 13 has left the S&P 500 Index 23.5% below its January 3 high. After the initial positive reaction to the Federal Reserve’s first 0.75% rate hike since 1994 and tough talk on inflation, heightened fears of recession and that the Fed might “break something” sent stocks down for the 10th week out of 11 for only the second time in history (The first was in 1970). To help investors manage through this difficult period, we answer some of the top questions we’re getting about bear markets and list some things to watch to assess progress toward an eventual durable low.

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Is The 60/40 Portfolio Dead?

June 13, 2022 | LPL Research

It’s been a tough year so far for a traditional “60/40” portfolio, a portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. Using the S&P 500 Index and the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (“Agg”) to represent stocks and bonds, the traditional 60/40 was down 15% as of market close on June 10 on a total return basis. If the year ended now, that loss would trail only 2008 as the worst year on record...

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