July Market Review and Outlook

July Market Review and Outlook

Going into July, leading indicators and relative valuations lead multi-asset strategist Doug Sue to see greater potential for stocks than bonds this month.

Market Review

Global trade continued to be a challenge and a concern for markets, with many issues originating in May continuing to escalate in June. President Trump began the month with an acrimonious meeting with the G7, after he pulled the United States’ support of a common set of values. During the middle of the month, Trump imposed further tariffs on China announcing a 25% tax on a range of imported goods. This led to retaliatory tariffs from China, followed by another announcement for $200Bn of additional tariffs announced by the United States.

Despite trade friction, global equity markets managed to end the month flat (0.0%), while U.S. markets were slightly up (0.6%) and international-developed stock markets were slightly down (-0.3%). Following elevated levels seen in February 2018, equity volatility has fallen back to below-average levels. The VIX averaged 13.8 during June compared to its historical long-term average of 19.3. Emerging market countries took the brunt of the trade war news, ending June down 2.4%. Particularly affected were China and Brazil, both falling around 5% in local currency terms.

In bond markets, the U.S. Fed announced a rate hike of 25 basis points. This move was widely anticipated by global bond markets as indicated by minimal volatility following the June 13th announcement. Global bonds fell 0.4% and U.S. bonds were down 0.1% during the month. After reaching a 7-year high of 3.11% in May, U.S. 10-year treasury yields were range bound in June and finished the month lower at 2.86%.

Short-Term Market Outlook

Tactically, at the end of June, we moderately favor stocks versus investment grade bonds. Two factors are in favor of equities – positive positioning of our proprietary leading indicator index and our view on relative valuation between the two assets. We have consistently seen stocks as more fairly valued than bonds, where we compare earnings yield to that of the U.S. 10-year treasury. Offsetting our preference for stocks was a pullback in leverage growth, which favors fixed income.

In turn, our proprietary leading indicator index was positive at the end of June, and this was largely driven by strong growth in our measurement of global trade activity. Other factors in the model, including change in jobless claims, manufacturing data, hours worked, and building permits had a negligible impact at the end of the month.

Our preference for international-developed stocks strengthened compared to the end of May. Stronger price growth in U.S. stock markets (momentum) favors that region, but this was offset by steeper yield curves and more favorable valuations in international equity markets. Steeper yield curves typically signal inflation and GDP growth, boding well for those country’s stock markets.

Global Equities represented by the MSCI ACWI Gross Total Return Local Index; Emerging Market Equities represented by the MSCI EM Gross Total Return Local Index; International Equities represented by the MSCI Daily TR Gross EAFE USD Index; U.S. Equities represented by the S&P 500 Total Return Index; Japanese Equities represented by the MSCI Daily TR Gross Japan Local Index; Italy Equities represented by the MSCI Italy Index (MXIT index); Spain Equities represented by MSCI Spain Index (MXES Index); U.S. Dollar (USD)represented by the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index; Global Fixed Income represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Global Agg Total Return Index Value Unhedged USD; U.S. Fixed Income represented by the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Agg Total Return Index Value Unhedged USD; U.S. Treasuries represented by the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Long Treasury USD. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged, and not available for direct investment. Index returns do not include fees or sales charges. This information is provided for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the performance of an actual investment.  

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IMPORTANT INFORMATION: All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. An investor cannot invest directly in an index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect any fees, expenses or sales charges.

Equity securities are subject to price fluctuation and possible loss of principal. Fixed-income securities involve interest rate, credit, inflation and reinvestment risks; and possible loss of principal. As interest rates rise, the value of fixed income securities falls. International investments are subject to special risks including currency fluctuations, social, economic and political uncertainties, which could increase volatility. These risks are magnified in emerging markets.

The opinions and views expressed herein are not intended to be relied upon as a prediction or forecast of actual future events or performance, guarantee of future results, recommendations or advice.  Statements made in this material are not intended as buy or sell recommendations of any securities. Forward-looking statements are subject to uncertainties that could cause actual developments and results to differ materially from the expectations expressed. This information has been prepared from sources believed reliable but the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed. Information and opinions expressed by either Legg Mason or its affiliates are current as at the date indicated, are subject to change without notice, and do not  take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs of individual investors.