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

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

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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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

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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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. 

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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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Advice to Advisors: Buy Japan, Hold U.S., Sell Europe

September 18, 2023   |   LPL Research

Recent data suggests economic conditions in Europe are deteriorating, removing a key element of LPL Research’s positive view of the attractively valued developed international equities asset class. Previous U.S. dollar weakness and strong earnings momentum, which were other key reasons why we became more interested in European investing earlier this year, have reversed and suggest looking elsewhere for investment opportunities. Another international market to consider is Japan, which is also attractively valued with better fundamentals than Europe, in our view.

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The Growing List—and Politicization—of BRICS and Friends

September 11, 2023   |   LPL Research

The BRIC acronym, without the “S,” was introduced in 2001 by the Goldman Sachs chief economist who highlighted the prodigious growth and investment prospects of Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined. In 2009, Russia advanced the BRIC platform to create an informal bloc that could challenge the dominance of Western nations, particularly the United States. In 2010, South Africa joined and became the “S” in the BRICS lexicon. The original bloc, an informal economic alliance, comprises approximately 45% of the global supply chain for commodities, including industrial, precious, and agricultural products. In terms of contribution to global GDP, the BRICS constitute 31%, with expectations for a more expanded share as the new BRICS+ entrants are installed in 2024. The bloc has been characterized as the “commodity powerhouse of the world,” and that title will only strengthen with additional members.

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Interest Rates Are Back to Normal, But What Is Normal?

September 5, 2023   |   LPL Research

Fixed income investors have had a rough time over the last few years. Normally a staid asset class, core bonds (as proxied by the Bloomberg Aggregate Bond Index) have seen negative returns over the last two calendar years and could potentially see negative returns for a third straight year—something that has never happened in the history of the core bond index (since 1975). But, despite the rapid rise in interest rates (fall in bond prices), there’s no reason to believe that we are in the beginning of a sustained bear market. Just because yields fell for many years doesn’t mean that they have to keep rising.

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Opportunities and Risks in the Markets: Lessons Learned from the Grand Tetons

August 28, 2023   |   LPL Research

The Federal Reserve (Fed) often uses the Jackson Hole Symposium to announce tweaks in policy. Other central bank leaders are also worth watching as investors try to perceive where rates will be in the coming months. In this piece, we discuss some of the opportunities and risks we see in the markets and the economy following the central banker confab. We close the piece with investment implications.

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Pullback Perspective: The Reasons Why Stocks Are Pulling Back

August 21, 2023   |   LPL Research

Volatility has returned right on cue as U.S. equity markets continue to pull back from overbought levels. The recent jump in interest rates has proven to be too much too fast for stocks to absorb, especially for the heavyweight and longer-duration technology sector. Deteriorating economic conditions in China and weak seasonal trends have been additional factors behind the selling pressure. However, don’t panic, pullbacks are completely normal within a bull market. With volatility comes opportunity, and as valuations reset, overbought conditions recede, and support is found, we believe a buying opportunity back into this bull market will present itself over the coming months. 

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How This U.S. Debt Downgrade is Different from 2011

August 14, 2023   |   LPL Research

It’s different this time. The four (or five) most dangerous words in investing. We’ll take the risk and use those words here as we break down the recent decision by credit rating agency Fitch to downgrade U.S. government debt to its second-highest rating, AA+ (note that several countries in Europe, including Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland enjoy AAA ratings, as do Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and Microsoft (MSFT)). We compare the potential market impact of this decision to what markets experienced in 2011 when S&P issued its U.S. debt downgrade.

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Key Earnings Season Takeaways

August 7, 2023   |   LPL Research

Earnings season is mostly behind us with about 85% of S&P 500 companies having reported second quarter results. The high level results aren’t particularly impressive, but if we peel back the onion, the numbers are encouraging. Results and guidance probably haven’t been good enough for stocks to add to recent gains, but they have been good enough, in our view, to end the earnings recession and limit the magnitude of any potential pullback. Here we provide some takeaways from this earnings season.

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A Cloudy Outlook Makes for Choppy Markets

July 31, 2023   |   LPL Research

The economy is doing better than expected, and the markets are responding accordingly. In this piece, we discuss some of the factors that cause us to think the Federal Reserve (Fed) hiked for the last time in this cycle as inflation is receding and the outlook for the consumer looks cloudy. We close the piece with investment implications.

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(Still) Waiting on the Fed to Be Done Raising Rates

July 24, 2023   |   LPL Research

The first half of the year probably didn’t go the way many fixed income investors had hoped, particularly after the historically awful year last year. It wasn’t a horrible start—more in line with recent years—but expectations were high this year, with many calling 2023 the year for fixed income. But the themes that negatively impacted fixed income investors last year have carried over into this year as well—namely inflation and the Federal Reserve (Fed). 

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Earnings Need to Do Some Heavy Lifting to Keep Rally Going

July 17, 2023   |   LPL Research

Earnings season is upon us as some banks and a small handful of other blue chip companies have already reported results for their quarters ending June 30. The results on the surface probably won’t offer much to write home about given consensus estimates imply a 7% year-over-year decline in S&P 500 earnings per share. However, the key question is always what’s priced in, which at least offers an opportunity for markets to react positively, though our best guess is we get the typical upside surprises and guidance reductions, giving this rally a convenient excuse to take a breather.

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Capital Markets: The Essence of American Capitalism

July 3, 2023   |   LPL Research

The long dormant capital markets have recently begun showing signs of interest from institutional investors and deal makers anxious to bring companies to market. While activity remains muted at best, expectations are focused on 2024, when there is a prevailing consensus that the Federal Reserve (Fed) will be finished with its rate hike campaign, and that economic conditions will be resilient enough to underpin a strong capital markets environment. 

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The New Standard and Poor's 500 Bull Needs a Breather

June 26, 2023   |   LPL Research

We know it’s old news at this point, but on June 8, 2023, the S&P 500 entered a new bull market. After such a strong rally off the October lows, this young bull probably needs a breather. A look at the charts suggests this market may be due for a pause. Bull markets are not linear. However, the impending end of the Federal Reserve (Fed) rate-hiking campaign, and the economy’s and corporate America’s resilience, help make the bull case that steers LPL Research toward a neutral, rather than negative, equities view from a tactical asset allocation perspective.

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