Technology shares, home to the bear market’s largest casualties, climbed Tuesday as the retreat in bond rates eased some pressure for the richly valued industry. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 jumped 1.7% after falling in 11 of the last 13 weeks.
To Esty Dwek, chief investment officer at Flowbank, it’s too early to call all clear.
“Market sentiment is fragile and recession fears are mounting,” said Dwek. “It does not feel like we are at the bottom yet, so it’s still a trader’s market and we are not buying.”
In the past, a sustained market recovery tended to happen when valuations are depressed, and clear evidence exists of an economic slowdown. Right now, the opposite is largely on display, going by the model developed by Strategas.
Inflation, a target of the Fed’s raging tightening campaign, stood at a four-decade high of 8.6% in May, compared with an average of 3.5%. On the other hand, the labor market is robust, with the 3.6% jobless rate hovering near multi-decade lows. During past bear-market bottoms, unemployment averaged 5.8%.
Meanwhile, credit spreads on corporate bonds are subdued, a sign of relatively easy financial conditions. The premium demanded on junk debt is 569 basis points, roughly half the average seen at the end of last three cycles, Strategas data show.
At the low in June, the S&P 500 was trading at 18 times earnings, a multiple that exceeded trough valuations seen in all previous 13 bear cycles. Put another way, should stocks recover from here, stocks at this bear-market bottom will have been the most expensive on record.
Calling a floor here requires a firm belief that stocks either deserve a higher premium than usual or that earnings will keep growing into the stretched valuations. To Marcus Morris-Eyton, a portfolio manager at Allianz Global Investors, that’s a lot to ask.
“The market’s focus has shifted from worrying about inflation to concerns surrounding the extent of the likely upcoming economic slowdown, at a time when central banks are withdrawing liquidity,” said Morris-Eyton.
“While valuations have fallen across the board this year, we have yet to see material earnings downgrades, with many fearing that declining earnings will provide the next leg down for equity markets,” he said.