June 10, 2024 | 3 MIN READ

Weekly Market Update

Stock Market Makes New Highs

What happened last week?

Last week, the S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq rose by 1.32%, 0.29% and 2.38%, respectively.

Investors took in a stronger-than-expected 272K jobs reading for May that seemed at odds with a rising unemployment rate to 4.0% from 3.9% previously.

We recently released our Mid-Year Outlook. For additional insight and analysis please click here.

3 Things to Know

Mid-Year Outlook: Global Growth Is a Bright Spark

As we head into a seasonally softer period for market performance, many could lose sight of potential long-term investment opportunities with eyes glued to short-term performance.

Last week’s US employment news for May presents such a challenge with “too hot” and “too cold” data in one report. Just the opposite of April, the May employment report’s headline showed a hiring gain nearly 100,000 above consensus estimates (with a base of 159 million employees).

The data threw cold water on the view that the Fed would follow the European Central Bank and central banks of Canada and Switzerland in dialing back the sharp policy tightening steps of 2022-2023 anytime soon.

While news that growth persists is welcome, we would share caution in assuming much from sample-based extrapolations of monthly data. In short, data-obsessed investors (and policymakers) can be misled.

As part of diversification, we favor exposure to assets that directly relate to some of the challenges the world faces.

Geopolitical risk, for example, is prompting some countries to bolster their economic security, such as their access to semiconductors and energy, while also ramping up their military capabilities and readiness for cyberattacks.

Select investments across defense, traditional energy, cybersecurity, and technology may perform better alongside deteriorating geopolitics. The global economy’s normalization and growth are cause for some relief, after the extreme distortions that went before.

However, we recognize that neither the economy nor markets present “ideal” conditions. At the same time, we see many possibilities as we navigate this environment and seek to preserve and grow wealth. Resilient portfolios are our response.

After the rally from late 2022’s lows, we take a more discerning approach to equities. In our view, markets now price in continued economic expansion.

However, we expect broadening gains for corporate earnings per share (EPS) across more regional economies in 2024. This broadening should enable a wider range of stocks to outperform the highly concentrated S&P 500.

While in 2023 just 29.5% of stocks beat the US large cap index, this year 46.7% have done so – a trend we expect to continue into 2025. Broadening strategies are also compelling on a valuation basis.

While in most years profitable small- and mid-caps trade at a premium to their large cap peers, today the S&P 1000 SMID index trades at a 23% discount to the S&P 500. Improving macro signals in Europe and Asia could be a catalyst for a catchup in shares outside the US.

Recent US Employment Data Isn’t as it Seems

In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 272,000 new jobs were added. The BLS also reported that 408,000 households lost jobs, pushing the unemployment rate up to 4.0% from 3.9% and 3.4% early last year.

That’s right: the US government said employment both rose and fell in the same month. Because the survey of households is smaller and more volatile, the contradiction is not particularly uncommon.

However, because it has persisted for a full year, the gap between the two measures of employment has risen toward a record divergence. As always, tax data and other inputs used to extrapolate new business formation will lead to revisions in the data even as we rely on these to make real-time financial decisions.

The historical monthly changes in nonfarm payrolls have been revised by as much as 300,000 per month. For this reason, the National Bureau of Economic Research — which dates US business cycles — uses an average of the two competing jobs measures to assess employment growth.

In our view, the preponderance of evidence is not suggesting an overheating or accelerating jobs market.

bulb icon What does this mean for investors?

We suggest investors look beyond these data anomalies and many other distractions. In addition to worries about data, over the months ahead, we believe markets may become increasingly captivated by the unpredictable US presidential and congressional election results. The choice of US president alone will be critical for US foreign policy, with great importance for security and trade with some countries.

However, the result is highly unlikely to dictate the direction of the economy and the overall market opportunity, as the experience of the first Trump and Biden terms suggests. Instead of portfolio paralysis, we suggest qualified and suitable clients may use hedging or structures that may smooth near-term volatility while retaining core portfolios through our fairly upbeat medium-term outlook.

Citi Global Wealth Investments
Charlie Reinhard - Head of North America Investment Strategy
Lorraine Schmitt - North America Investment Strategy

See our weekly CIO Strategy Bulletin for more details