Markets are powering through turmoil, but is a recession looming? Find out what we got right, what we missed, and what the rest of the year might have in store for investors.
Our Top Market Takeaways for April 6, 2023.
Our report card
It’s been a bumpy week. A handful of the latest reads on the economy—from leading indicators, such as PMIs, to gauges on the labor market, such as job openings—have signaled slowing growth. That’s sent bond yields lower and stocks down slightly from their recent highs.
In our 2023 Outlook, we asked investors to “See the Potential” for weaker growth, but stronger markets. So far, that thesis is on track. While growth seems to be slowing down, and new challenges have arisen, markets so far have delivered a much stronger performance than they did in 2022.
Now that the first quarter is over, we wanted to revisit the core tenets of our 2023 Outlook to make an honest judgment about how things are shaping up and to provide our thoughts on what’s to come. We take each pillar of our Outlook in turn.
1. The best in a decade. A dramatic reset in valuations has, in our view, created one of the most attractive entry points for stocks and bonds in over a decade.
On track. Markets have powered through all the turmoil that 2023 has thrown at it. Through the first quarter, a diversified portfolio of global stocks and bonds has returned roughly +6%. Over the last six months, that portfolio is up an even more impressive 10%. What is perhaps most encouraging is that stocks and bonds are both doing their jobs. Equities are driving appreciation (MSCI World +7.6%), while bonds are providing a stable ballast (global aggregate bonds +4.0%).
We believe multi-asset portfolios are on track to continue outperforming cash and inflation this year.
Balanced portfolio performing well this year
2. Bad news, good news. The bad news: We think a recession is likely in 2023. The good news: Central banks should stop hiking and inflation will likely fall.
On track. The turmoil in the banking sector seems like the latest sign that recession probabilities are elevated. Even if the most acute phase of the bank shock has passed, lending to small businesses from banks ought to be more impaired going forward. On the other hand, it seems like inflation is past its peak, and the process of a slow grind back toward more tolerable levels is underway. Encouragingly, wage inflation and other measures of labor market tightness (such as job openings and quits) do not suggest a wage-price spiral even though the labor market has remained resilient (tomorrow’s U.S. jobs report will be the latest indication of any cracks possibly developing).
Given progress on the inflation front and financial stability concerns, the Federal Reserve appears to be on track to pause its rate-hiking cycle sometime this summer.
3. Bonds are back. Core fixed income now offers the potential for protection, yield and capital appreciation.
Exceeding expectations. U.S. core bonds are up +4% so far this year, and we still think fixed income is set to deliver steady returns in a slower growth and lower inflation environment. To be clear, bonds have seen a strong rally over the last month (10-year Treasury yields are down to 3.3% from a year-to-date high over 4%) as softer inflation data and financial turmoil have emboldened the market to start pricing rate cuts as soon as this summer. In the very near term, it seems like markets may be getting ahead of themselves. Bonds have exceeded expectations so far this year, and we may get better entry points in the weeks and months ahead.
But this is how we would think about it as long-term investors: The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is down over 10% from its all-time highs. Over the last 40+ years, this is still the biggest dip in core bonds that investors have had the opportunity to buy.
Core fixed income is still in its worst drawdown in 40 years
4. Reversal of fortunes. We expect mega-cap technology stocks to underperform and small-cap stocks to outperform.
Needs improvement. Mega-cap tech has soared this year. The NASDAQ 100 is up over +20%, and the NYSE FANG+ Index is up almost +40%. Meanwhile, mid- and small-cap stocks are both up a relatively meager +2.5–3.5%. We still expect U.S. SMID-cap stocks to outperform their larger peers over the course of the next cycle, but this particular call needs improvement to prove correct. In the words of The Wire’s Omar Little, if you come at the king, you best not miss.
After releasing our outlook in December, we also warmed up to European and Chinese equities. Europe has posted a very solid 11%+ return for U.S.-dollar-based investors so far this year (outperforming the S&P 500’s +7%), and China offers investors with a higher-risk, higher-reward equity market, given tailwinds from reopening and shifting policymaker priorities. Neither has kept up with the mega-cap behemoths, but we believe they are poised for a relatively strong rest of the year.
5. Real money. The era of underinvestment in the real economy is over.
Keep up the hard work. This one is too early to tell, but all the seeds are sown for an era of investment in the physical economy. Shortages in housing, infrastructure, transportation and energy will likely take years to correct.
In the United States, as our Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon noted in his annual letter, several recent legislative initiatives such as the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS Act have the potential to catalyze ~$1 trillion in clean technology development. In Europe, similar plans are underway to spur investment in the energy transition and defense, and the COVID-era EU Recovery Fund already got a jump start on digitizing and boosting critical infrastructure.
In the near term, real economy sectors such as autos, homebuilders and semiconductors have outperformed so far this year, but this is a thesis that we expect to play out over the course of the next decade.
As for what we’re watching, we’re adding a few courses to this quarter’s syllabus to gauge the path forward:
Economics: The Art of the Pivot. The Fed has the tall order of cooling the economy down with as little economic pain as possible. But with inflation sticky, the most likely cost of getting things under control looks like a recession. The trick will be raising rates high enough and holding long enough to slow things down, while also knowing when to start cutting when growth becomes precarious. The bite of last year’s rate hikes and tighter lending conditions from banks should pressure growth further. We think this means the Fed will hike once more in May and hold on until the final months of this year, when our base case of a recession will likely unfold. For investors, that pivot could provide some much-desired clarity.
History: Is This Time Different? The Study of Crises. In addition to combating inflation, the Fed is focused on the separate but intertwined task of maintaining financial stability. While there may be further shocks, we believe this situation looks very different from the Global Financial Crisis, and bank stress is showing meaningful signs of easing. That said, confidence can be tricky, and it will be a dynamic we’ll continue to watch.
Finance: The Business Life Cycle. It matters how this all affects corporate profits. Heading into this year, many expected earnings to rapidly deteriorate and catalyze another round of market weakness. And while momentum is definitely slowing, the last quarter showed that the average company in the S&P 500 still grew earnings by 3%. Headwinds such as slower growth, higher prices and general business uncertainty must then also be weighed against tailwinds such as growing efforts to cut costs, stronger supply chains and a weaker U.S. dollar (which makes it easier for multinationals to do business abroad). How businesses are impacted by the changing tide—and react to it—will be key, and we’ll get a further sense of this as Q1 earnings season kicks off next Friday.
Home Economics: Personal Finance and Planning. We’ve said over the last few weeks that steady hands often prevail. While markets can always have a bad day, week, month or even year, history suggests investors are less likely to suffer losses over longer periods—especially in a diversified portfolio.
Heading into the holiday weekend, we’d like to say a quick thank you to all our readers. We’re grateful to be able to share our insights with you. Here’s to the rest of the year ahead.
Your J.P. Morgan team is here to discuss what it all means for you.
Investing in fixed income products is subject to certain risks, including interest rate, credit, inflation, call, prepayment and reinvestment risk. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to substantial gain or loss.
Small capitalization companies typically carry more risk than well-established "blue-chip" companies since smaller companies can carry a higher degree of market volatility than most large cap and/or blue-chip companies.
International investments may not be suitable for all investors. International investing involves a greater degree of risk and increased volatility. Changes in currency exchange rates and differences in accounting and taxation policies outside the U.S. can raise or lower returns. Some overseas markets may not be as politically and economically stable as the United States and other nations. Investments in international markets can be more volatile.
Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against loss.
The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged, market-value weighted index comprised of taxable U.S. investment grade, fixed rate bond market securities, including government, government agency, corporate, asset-backed, and mortgage-backed securities between one and 10 years.
Standard and Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks. The index is designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.
The NASDAQ 100 Index is a basket of the 100 largest, most actively traded U.S companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The index includes companies from various industries except for the financial industry, like commercial and investment banks. These non-financial sectors include retail, biotechnology, industrial, technology, health care, and others.
The MSCI World Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed and emerging markets. The index consists of 23 developed market country indexes and 24 emerging market country indices.
The NYSE FANG+ Index is an equal-dollar weighted Index designed to represent a segment of the technology and consumer discretionary sectors consisting of 10 highly-traded growth stocks of technology and tech-enabled companies.
All market and economic data as of April 2023 and sourced from Bloomberg Finance L.P. and FactSet unless otherwise stated.
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