Hopefully everyone is staying safe and healthy during this challenging time. The toll of the quarantines and shutdowns from covid-19 has been significant – physical, psychological, emotional, and financial. But I have also witnessed amazing acts of kindness, paired with people re-evaluating priorities and coming together in ways that had perhaps been missing.
Most of you know I am not an advocate of timing the stock market unless we have a significant pullback when the underlying economy is expanding. In 2011, 2015, 2018, and now in 2020 I recommended that clients with the means and fortitude add to equities by purchasing shares of SPY, the S&P 500 Index ETF. On March 19th I stated that we needed two things to signal some type of bottoming in the markets – better news on the medical front for covid and 2 consecutive solid up days in the markets. We quickly saw initiation of vaccine trials, and those two solid “up” days occurred on March 24th-25th. Adding to SPY is a quick and cost effective way to increase equity exposure. But you all know I am an active manager who invests in individual stocks of companies with little or no debt, good earnings growth and solid cash-flow. We have seen Q1 earnings and are soon entering Q2 earnings season. So what are our next steps for 2020 and reasons for mid-year portfolio changes?
DEBT: I am monitoring our holdings to see if companies are adding to debt to finance operations, and what impact that has on their overall financial health.
EARNINGS: There are, in my opinion, two important ways to look at earnings during this unique time. First, I am evaluating current stock prices relative to full-year 2019 earnings. Second, I am looking at the speed and amplitude of Q1 and Q2 drops in earnings, and will also monitor the speed and amplitude of Q3-Q4 recoveries.
NEW LANDSCAPE: The quarantines and shut-downs forced our economy into suspended animation in a severe but temporary way. After indiscriminate asset liquidations in late March, the US Government stepped in to back-stop the economy (as did Central Banks across the globe). The yield curve is upward sloping, and in May the Leading Economic Indicators advanced +2.8% (following the covid-induced drops in March and April), both indicating a healthy economy in this opaque time. That being said, the new landscape we are entering will affect companies in different ways. The strong will get stronger, some will not survive, and many will fall somewhere in between.
For the second half of 2020, we will be making adjustments to individual stocks based on clarity that starts to reveal from the above, and shift SPY monies over into individual stocks. It is so important to act with a clear head during challenging times such as these. But we will come through this difficult time and enter our next great economic expansion…and we will grow as individuals and communities in amazing and meaningful ways.
Please see below for more detail above the above references and my complete stream of communication about the markets during covid-19: