The October-November stock market downswoon has wiped out this year’s gains in the S&P 500.
This thanks to huge hits to technology and energy stocks that dragged down the broader market after strong gains in 2016-17.
The financial markets, often a harbinger of the future, have signaled an economic slowdown since October. The Main Street economy has remained pretty strong.
Jim Paulsen, economist and investment strategist at Leuthold Investments has warned for months that this stock market was overly inflated by the huge, several-year run of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and other tech stocks, similar to the “dot.com” runup of 20 years ago.
The S&P 500 index of America's biggest companies is back to 2017 levels. Utilities, traditionally the equity kings in a bear market that has corrected by at least 10 percent since its September high, are the best performers.
“More than 40 percent of the stocks in the S&P 500 are down at least 20 percent,” according to Morgan Stanley analysts.
The S&P 500 index of big stocks, albeit up at midday on Wednesday, is still down more than 2 percent since January. The market was up about 7 percent this year at the peak in September, before it caught a volatile cold in October.
The stock market got ahead of itself this year. It was fueled by the big corporate tax cut of December 2017. That led to 2018 earnings-projection boosts and record stock buybacks. Today, facing higher interest rates and declining earnings projections for 2019, the market is growling.
Strategist Mike Wagner, a bull last year at Morgan Stanley, told MSNBC this week: “We’re in a bear market. Companies are going to cut their earnings [estimates]. We’ve had multiple market dips that have not rewarded when [investors] bought them.’’
Darrell Cronk, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Wealth Management, said in a note to investors that the nearly decade-old economic recovery and bull market are not over. Yet, investors, stung by the market swoon, the specter of more Federal Reserve interest rate hikes and a global economic slowdown attributed at least partly to the Trump administration’s isolating trade policies, are reacting fearfully.
Also, the Fed is likely to slow rate increases.
“We believe investors should continue to fight the urge to overreact to negative headlines and instead focus on implementing their investment plans,” Cronk added. “We also recommend considering increasing equity exposure selectively.”