Industrial commodity prices and the latest ISM figures both point to a stabilization in the manufacturing sector following a two-year deceleration. Expectations for this year’s earnings have turned more optimistic as a result, but are the hopes warranted?
The wreckage is beginning to look interesting and—with our cautious stance on the stock market—it would be fun to be bullish about something. Both our GS Scores and intuition suggest it’s still too early.
Our current view is the lift-off will be December or later. Assuming inflation will pick up and the Fed hikes the rate by the end of 2015, stocks will perform relatively well, with international stocks a better bet than U.S. stocks.
The S&P 500 record median profit margin of 10.3% is now almost a full percentage point above the last cycle’s peak of 9.4% (second quarter of 2007). Trends across S&P sectors are not as uniform as one might expect, though, with only half of the ten sectors last quarter at profitability levels that exceeded their 2001-2007 expansion highs.
While we expect an eventual break in this relationship, today Emerging Market equities are following, fairly tightly, the cycle of industrial commodities—a cycle that rolled over (on a secular basis, we believe) in 2011.
We’ve been negative on industrial commodities for some time, reflecting the persistently (and unsustainably) high levels of investment evidenced by our Global Group analyses of commodity-oriented industries.