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Economics

An Investor’s Look Back for 2022

As we approach the end of June, now is a good time to look back over the market to see what has been happening. The price action is in the bottom right…

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As we approach the end of June, now is a good time to look back over the market to see what has been happening.

The price action is in the bottom right corner of the charts, whereas, at the end of 2021, it was in the top right corner of the charts. Who could have seen the problems coming? I think the technical analysis arena did an excellent job of showing the risks for downside momentum to increase.

On December 17th, I recorded a video about the technical problems aligning in the market and how they created the situation for a rough start to 2022.

A historical look back

In six-month increments, let's take an educational look back on what has been happening.

June 2021

Starting in June 2021, we came off the effervescent high of the SPAC boom. As the book Reminiscences of A Stock Operator highlights so clearly, when there is an abundance of money trying to enter the market, the bankers will respond with new offerings. Nowadays, venture capitalists have all the data they need to be ready to hand over these companies at lofty valuations and step aside for the downside slide. By June 2021, the SPAC announcements had slowed to a relative crawl compared to the 4th quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

The defensive side of the market was out of favour, still showing positive returns to their investors, but vastly underperforming. Energy raged forward as the vaccines were rolling out, suggesting the economy would surge with post-pandemic freedom. More on that later. Real Estate and financials were on fire. Interestingly, the growth areas of discretionary, communications and technology were middle of the pack.

December 2021

As the second half of 2021 rolled in, the market changed significantly. Communications and industrials vastly underperformed everything. Technology was back to a glory story, while discretionary and real estate continued to flourish. Financials were in the bottom third. Materials, energy and defensive names were middle of the pack.

By late December, we were also narrowing our focus on the Sexy Six large cap names that kept holding up, even while there was a large breakdown in many of the trendy areas of the market. We didn't know it at the time, but the November high in the Nasdaq was behind us. The move to electric cars and the investment theme around them came and went. Copper made a high in May 2021 and most of the metals moved sideways for the remainder of the year. Oil continued its steady climb in a big bull market that kicked off with the vaccine announcements fourteen months prior.

June 2022

As we turned the corner into 2022, almost all of the upward momentum was focused in energy. Technology stocks, including semiconductors and software, moved down meaningfully as the sexy six slowly let go. Alphabet, Meta and Amazon were the early leaders to the downside. Consumer discretionary and communications dropped hard.

By the end of June, the continuous slow demise of investors' love for the technology space came to the fore. By March, investors were touting the start of a new bull market in Energy. After a 1000% gain in the oil and coal stocks, the relative strength community reluctantly decided it was a new bull market in fossil fuel energy. (You can't make that stuff up!) Still, the technology investment community has been reluctant to dive into the dark side. While the tiger cubs watched 50% of their asset valuations disappear, they couldn't muster a shift into the best performing sector for the past 18 months.

To end the quarter, the financials wobbled sideways but slowly moved lower. On Friday, June 17th, the bank ETF closed at new 52-week lows. Commodity stock markets like Australia and Canada dropped meaningfully as oil names sold off hard. Oil stocks quickly plummeted for 10 days from new highs to their 200-day moving averages, casting down 25%. The technology names continue to be sold as inflation roars. The Fed is speeding up their time line for rate hikes as the economy slows quickly under the pressure of firm gasoline prices and rising food prices.

What's next?

The graph below shows the stock market price/earnings ratio (P/E) ticking down over the past 6 months. The move down is a 20% drop from all-time highs. Because this is a 100-year chart, the log scale makes the move down look small. An arithmetic chart would show this as a 20% plunge of the entire chart height. With the Fed continuously providing a trampoline for the markets from 2008 to 2022, the market has stretched into higher and more extreme valuations compared to history. Since the early nineties, the market has hugged the red line a lot more than the middle of the range at the blue line. Now that we are below the red line, we are in a relative value area for investment managers, as they have seen the market above the 20 P/E level most of their careers.

The next move for the market is unknown, but the fight between the headwinds of inflation forces and the desire for investment managers to make money before year-end should be an epic battle. Throw in the US Mid-terms and that adds more pressure.

The strength indexes we use at the Osprey Strategic website to evaluate when to put money to work are trying to turn up. If you are interested in getting help evaluating the market, check out the one-month trial at $7 on the homepage of OspreyStrategic.org. We are looking for the fourth buy point of the year right now. The last three were very short. Will this one be the one that extends into the next bull market?

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Economics

Reduced myocardial blood flow is new clue in how COVID-19 is impacting the heart

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to…

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Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

Credit: Houston Methodist

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

In a new study published today in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, Houston Methodist researchers examined the coronary microvasculature health of 393 patients with prior covid-19 infection who had lingering symptoms. This is the first published study linking reduced blood flow in the body and COVID-19.

Using a widely available imaging tool, called positron emission tomography (PET), researchers found a 20% decrease in the ability of coronary arteries to dilate, a condition known as microvascular dysfunction. They also found that patients with prior COVID-19 infection were more likely to have reduced myocardial flow reserve – and changes in the resting and stress blood flow – which is a marker for poor prognosis and is associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

“We were surprised with the consistency of reduced blood flow in post covid patients within the study,” said corresponding author Mouaz Al-Mallah, M.D., director of cardiovascular PET at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, and president elect of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology. “The findings bring new questions, but also help guide us toward further studying blood flow in COVID-19 patients with persistent symptoms.”

Dysfunction and inflammation of endothelial cells is a well-known sign of acute Covid-19 infection, but little is known about the long-term effects on the heart and vascular system. Earlier in the pandemic, research indicated that COVID-19 could commonly cause myocarditis but that now appears to be a rare effect of this viral infection.

A recent study from the Netherlands found that 1 in 8 people had lingering symptoms post-covid. As clinicians continue to see patients with symptoms like shortness of breath, palpations and fatigue after their recovery, the cause of long covid is mostly unknown.

Further studies are needed to document the magnitude of microvascular dysfunction and to identify strategies for appropriate early diagnosis and management. For instance, reduced myocardial flow reserve can be used to determine a patient’s risk when presenting with symptoms of coronary artery disease over and above the established risk factors, which can become quite relevant in dealing with long Covid.

Next steps will require clinical studies to discover what is likely to happen in the future to patients whose microvascular health has been affected by COVID-19, particularly those patients who continue to have lingering symptoms, or long COVID.

This work was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health under contract numbers R01 HL133254, R01 HL148338 and R01 HL157790.

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For more information: Coronary microvascular health in patients with prior COVID-19 infection. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. (online Aug. 16, 2022) Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed, Jean Michel Saad, Yushui Han, Fares Alahdab, Maan Malahfji, Faisal Nabi, John J Mahmarian, John P. Cook, William A Zoghbi and Mouaz H Al-Mallah. DOI: www.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcmg.2022.07.006

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Spread & Containment

War, peace and security: The pandemic’s impact on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to improve the lives of women and girls in postwar countries…

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Nepalese girls rest for observation after receiving the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Attention to the pandemic’s impacts on women has largely focused on the Global North, ignoring countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, which continue to deal with prolonged effects of war. While the Nepalese Civil War concluded in 2006 and the Sri Lankan Civil War concluded in 2009, internal conflicts continue.

As scholars of gender and war, our work focuses on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. And our recently published paper examines COVID-19’s impacts on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka, looking at policy responses and their repercussions on the women, peace and security agenda.

COVID-19 has disproportionately and negatively impacted women in part because most are the primary family caregivers and the pandemic has increased women’s caring duties.

This pattern is even more pronounced in war-affected countries where the compounding factors of war and the pandemic leave women generally more vulnerable. These nations exist at the margins of the international system and suffer from what the World Bank terms “fragility, conflict and violence.”

Women, labour and gender-based violence

Gendered labour precarity is not new to Nepal or Sri Lanka and the pandemic has only eroded women’s already poor economic prospects.

Prior to COVID-19, Tharshani (pseudonym), a Sri Lankan mother of three and head of her household, was able to make ends meet. But when the pandemic hit, lockdowns prevented Tharshani from selling the chickens she raises for market. She was forced to take loans from her neighbours and her family had to skip meals.

Some 1.7 million women in Sri Lanka work in the informal sector, where no state employment protections exist and not working means no wages. COVID-19 is exacerbating women’s struggles with poverty and forcing them to take on debilitating debts.

Although Sri Lankan men also face increased labour precarity, due to gender discrimination and sexism in the job market, women are forced into the informal sector — the jobs hardest hit by the pandemic.

Two women sit in chairs, wearing face masks
Sri Lankan women chat after getting inoculated against the coronavirus in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in August 2021. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The pandemic has also led to women and girls facing increased gender-based violence.

In Nepal, between March 2020 and June 2021, there was an increase in cases of gender-based violence. Over 1,750 incidents were reported in the media, of which rape and sexual assault represented 82 per cent. Pandemic lockdowns also led to new vulnerabilities for women who sought out quarantine shelters — in Lamkichuha, Nepal, a woman was allegedly gang-raped at a quarantine facility.

Gender-based violence is more prevalent among women and girls of low caste in Nepal and the pandemic has made it worse. The Samata Foundation reported 90 cases of gender-based violence faced by women and girls of low caste within the first six months of the pandemic.

What’s next?

While COVID-19 recovery efforts are generally focused on preparing for future pandemics and economic recovery, the women, peace and security agenda can also address the needs of some of those most marginalized when it comes to COVID-19 recovery.

The women, peace and security agenda promotes women’s participation in peace and security matters with a focus on helping women facing violent conflict. By incorporating women’s perspectives, issues and concerns in the context of COVID-19 recovery, policies and activities can help address issues that disproportionately impact most women in war-affected countries.

These issues are: precarious gendered labor market, a surge in care work, the rising feminization of poverty and increased gender-based violence.

A girl in a face mask stares out a window
The women, peace and security agenda can help address the needs of some of those most marginalized. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Policies could include efforts to create living-wage jobs for women that come with state benefits, emergency funding for women heads of household (so they can avoid taking out predatory loans) and increasing the number of resources (like shelters and legal services) for women experiencing domestic gender-based violence.

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to achieve the agenda’s aims of improving the lives of women and girls in postwar countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Luna KC is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Research Network-Women Peace Security, McGill University. This project is funded by the Government of Canada Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program.

Crystal Whetstone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Economics

Target Sets Sights on Holiday Season, Has Plan for High Inventory

Target said that it still expects spillover from inventory rightsizing to the tune of $200 million in the third quarter.

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Target said that it still expects spillover from inventory rightsizing to the tune of $200 million in the third quarter.

Target's  (TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report strategy is paying off as the company's stock falls on heavy volume following its earnings release. 

Normally, a profit miss as wide as Target's, 39 cents per share vs. expectations of 72 cents per share, would result in a bigger drop than Target's, but the retailer has been prepping the market for this miss all summer. 

The inventory the company built up during the height of the pandemic, as Americans shopped more from home, needs to go, and the only way get rid of the excess product is deep discounts. 

"Back in June, we announced that our team would be undertaking a bold effort to rightsize our inventory position in the categories for which demand patterns have radically changed," CEO Brian Cornell said during the company's earnings call. "While this decision had a meaningful short-term impact on our financial results, we strongly believe it was the best path forward."

Now, looking forward the company sees some overhang for the third quarter, but expects a big holiday season ahead. 

While some fear a recession and what it might do to the economy, Target is convinced that the holiday season will be strong.

Image source: John Smith/VIEWpress.

Target Aims for Holiday Season

While Target is focused on the back-to-school season currently underway, the company expects "spillover" from its inventory issues to be present during the third quarter to the tune of $200 million. 

But the company's own checks suggest that its shoppers are excited about the holiday season. 

"The one thing that seems to be very consistent is a guest and consumer who says they want to celebrate the holiday seasons so we certainly expect that they are going to be celebrating Halloween this year and actively trick or treating and hosting parties with friends and family," Cornell said.

"We know they're looking forward to Thanksgiving and they're going to look forward to celebrating the Christmas holidays and that comes down each and every week as we survey consumers and talk to our guests so that gives us great optimism for our ability to perform during these key holiday seasons"

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Not only does Target expect a strong quarter, but the company also expects favorable comps as fourth quarter headwinds from a year ago aren't present this time around. 

"Guests already have their sights set on upcoming holidays and seasonal moments in Q3 and beyond," Cornell said.

Target's Q2 Collapse

Target said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in July were pegged at 39 cents per share, down 89% from the same period last year and well shy of the Street consensus forecast of 72 cents per share.

Group revenues, Target said, rose 3.5% to $26 billion, essentially matching analysts' estimates of a $26.04 billion tally. Target said same-store sales rose 2.6%, again shy of the Refinitiv forecast of 3.2%, while operating margins fell to 1.2%, below the group's July guidance of a 2% level. 

Earlier this summer, Target cautioned that its bigger-than-expected 35% build-up in overall inventories over the first quarter would trigger price cuts, adding that deeper discounts would be needed to shift the excess goods onto a customer base that was already pulling back on discretionary spending.

Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report, Target's larger big box rival, said Tuesday that improving spending trends, as well as actions the group has taken to shift excess inventory, will ease some of the pressures it expects to face in terms of overall profits over the back half of the year.

Walmart said adjusted earnings for the three months ended in July came in at $1.77 per share, down one penny from the same period last year but well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.62 per share.

Group revenues, the company said, were tabbed at $152.9 billion, an 8.4% increase from last year that topped analysts' estimates of $150.81 billion. U.S. same-store sales rose 6.5% from last year, the company said, firmly topping the Refinitiv forecast. 

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