The key historical lesson from past U.S. recessions and severe bear markets is that the stock market tends to bottom out three to six months before the economic contraction reaches its maximum. From the recent economic figures, it is plausible that the U.S. stock market is possibly at a stage where the recession is passing its worst phase. If history is any guide, the stock market should have entered a bottoming process a few weeks back.
Cyclically-sensitive sectors and markets have outperformed as shown in my recent posts, which further signals that reflation trades could soon make a comeback. For instance, emerging markets have continued to outperform the global average. Early cyclicals, such as consumer discretionary and technology sectors, are also beginning to outperform the broad benchmark
Finally, it seems that some segments of global financial markets are repositioning themselves for reflation trades. Commodity currencies have experienced a sharp rebound in tandem with the broad commodity price index as well as the crude oil market. In recent history, these moves have been a harbinger of a more broad-based return of the reflation trades.
The key point here is that the decline in stock prices has been the worst since the Great Depression, and has gone a long way to discounting a severe economic recession and financial fallout. Of course, at previous major bear market lows, valuations have been much better than today’s level so it is open to debate whether the worst is discounted – but we should not ignore that reflation this time around is much bigger than ever before, so P/E multiples may not need to go significantly lower than where they stand today. Monetary authorities and governments around the world are getting increasingly aggressive in combating the financial and economic hurricane, all of which means that deflation trades are very late.
The risk-reward tradeoff suggests that going forward, deflation trades are unlikely to reward investors and they should raise their exposure to stocks at the expense of bonds. All that points to a more stable market DESPITE the recent run up. It looks more solid than what I thought it was a few weeks back. A few weeks back, I tended to think it was a bull run with a chance for a 10% correction. But I have shied away from that conclusion, I do think there will be bouts of soft selling which will then attract fresh funds to reposition before launching up the next level. I see the Dow testing 9,300 sometime this year and holding. For KLCI I think 1,140 is possible.
p/s photos: Zhang Xin Yu