Analyst Team Point Out Asset Classes that Slingshotted in the 1970s
While the traditional fine print usually says, “past performance is no guarantee of future results,’ we all know trading decisions, whether the stocks are to be held for seconds, or decades, are based on probabilities. And market probabilities are rooted in past performance. What does past performance tell us about the chances that the markets can survive high inflation and low growth? Well, if the stagflation of the 70s repeats, there may be a small section of the markets to keep a solid footing.
Michael Hartnett is the chief investment strategist at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. Hartnett sees in our current economy the ingredients in the macroeconomic picture that lead to the difficult economic combination of high inflation and low growth. His team, in their Flow Show note on Friday, wrote: “Inflation and stagnation was ‘unanticipated in 2022…hence $35 trillion collapse in asset valuations; but relative returns in 2022 have very much mirrored asset returns in 1973/74, and the 70s remain our asset allocation analog for 2020s.”
If the conditions of the 1970s are being mirrored and we are creating a foundation similar to 1973/74, Hartnett and team have a list of assets that could springboard off the stagflation cycle.
The assets with potential include taking long positions in small-caps, value, commodities, resources, volatility, and emerging markets. The group also highlights the short positions that worked well in the 1970s, the note indicates these are larger stocks, bonds, growth, and technology.
As it applies to the smaller companies, the note points out that stagflation persisted through the late 1970s, but the inflation shock had ended by 1973/74, when the small-cap asset class “entered one of the great bull markets of all-time.” The Hartnett team sees small-caps set to keep outperforming in the “coming years of stagflation.”
The current year-to-date status has the Russell 2000 small-cap stock market index (measured by iShares ETF) down 19.8% in 2022. At the same time, the Dow Industrials are down 11%, S&P 500 lost 21%, and the Nasdaq Composite gave back 33%.
The current state of the Fed and Chairman Powell is they continue to be adamant about tightening, Powell said he’d prefer to overdo withdrawing stimulus than do too little. He also knows that until the market believes this, his tightening efforts will have a lower impact.
The BofA team isn’t helping market expectations as they noted, despite Powell’s clear signal that the Fed isn’t ready to declare even a slight victory from its raising rates; the analyst team says, don’t give up on that pivot.
After tightening interest rates through 1973/74 amid inflation and oil shocks, the central bank first cut in July 1975 as growth turned negative, Hartnett points out. A sustained pivot began in December of that year, and importantly, the unemployment rate surged from 5.6% and 6.6% that same month.
The “following 12 months, the S&P 500 rose 31%. The note suggests the lesson learned is that job losses when they occur, will be the catalyst for a 2023 pivot,” said Hartnett and the team.
We’re not there yet. Today’s economic release on jobs showed the U.S. added a stronger-than-expected 261,000 jobs during October. This is a slower pace than the prior month’s 315,000 job gains but still shows the Fed can comfortably notch rates up more and continue reducing its balance sheet.
The team of analysts at BofA/Merrill Lynch, reporting to Michael Hartnett, drew conclusions from the stagflation and financial markets’ performance of the 1970s. They shared their thoughts in a research note with investors. Looking at past performance, their expectation is that the Fed will pivot away from aggressively raising rates when it begins to negatively impact job creation. At this point, many markets will have already reacted to inflation expectations and would then react to a more accommodative monetary policy.
The asset sectors to avoid or short are larger stocks, bonds, growth, and technology. The preferred sectors that, in past situations, have done well are small-caps, value, commodities, resources, volatility, and emerging markets.
Be sure to sign-up at no cost for small and microcap company research sent to you each day by Channelchek.
Managing Editor, Channelchek