Regardless of what the Bureau of Labor reports on Friday (3/9/2012), job market conditions in the U.S. may actually be softening. For the last three weeks, new jobless claims have headed higher. What’s more, Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measures show net job gains on the decline.
Considering the fact that voters continue to rank the economy as the number one issue in primary contests, and with gas prices well above $100 per barrel, should one expect the stock market to roll over? Not necessarily.
A genuine job boom might actually put pressure on treasury bond yields, not to mention the Federal Reserve’s promise to keep rates near 0% through 2014. If job creation and GDP both remain modest, however, the Fed would likely continue purchasing 7-10 year maturities in the ongoing effort to support business and consumer borrowing. The Fed’s ongoing intervention would also ensure that the spread between earnings yields (E/P) and 10-year treasuries remains “gynormous.” And investors could conclude that 0 in the absence of any domestic recession fears - shares of profitable corporations deserve higher prices.
As I type, the S&P 500 is precisely at the spot it inhabited on the last day of April ... at the previous 52-week high of 1363.61. (We all know what followed in 2011.) However, earnings are 15% higher than they were last April, suggesting that prices could still be fairly valued at a new all-time high for the S&P 500 at 1567. Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to look at today’s stock prices - even if you’re a perma-bear - and argue that equities are fundamentally overvalued.
Naturally, bears do have their honey. Middle East tensions, commodity price inflation and “boxed-in” Fed policy decisions could weigh on sentiment. The endless European debt disaster as well as slower growth from China could also sink stock ships.
Nevertheless, pullbacks, mini-corrections and profit-taking are likely to empower institutional advisers to take more risk in 2012. Why? Because the street adage, “Don’t fight the Fed” now extends to the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and People’s Bank of China. All of the world’s major economies intend to maintain ultra-accommodative policies - policies that practically force investors further out on the risk ladder. In essence, big money is not going to fight the world’s central banks.
Granted, the bull ride will end ... and perhaps quite miserably. But until central banks begin tightening the screws, stocks probably have enough buyers to fight off short-sellers, bears and profit-takers. In other words, you may want to use the dips for opportunistic purchases.
Here are two ETFs that I will continue to purchase opportunistically:
1. Vanguard High Dividend Yield (VYM). In the second half of 2011, dividend investing became all the rage. In the first few months of 2012, however, investors appear to have abandoned slow-n-steady performers for greater capital appreciators. And yet, many reliable dividend payers - Abbott Labs (ABT), Altria (MO), Cintas (CTAS) - are still notching 52-week highs. If the geopolitical and economic risks have you on edge, Vanguard High Dividend Yield (VYM) may be a safer ticket to ride.
2. EG Shares Low Volatility Emerging Market Dividend (HILO). There’s a lot to like about this emerger. In February, the pursuit of dividend yield and less volatile price movement prevailed. In fact, HILO outhustled its older cousin and materials-heavy Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO). HILO tracks an index with a yield north of 6%, but doesn’t rely on riskier financial stocks in its higher-yielding efforts. Rather, telecom, industrials and utilities lead the pack.
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Disclosure: Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. Gary Gordon, Pacific Park Financial, Inc, and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs, mutual funds, and/or any investment asset mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities. At times, issuers of exchange-traded products compensate Pacific Park Financial, Inc. or its subsidiaries for advertising at the ETF Expert web site. ETF Expert content is created independently of any advertising relationships.