With billions of shares bought and sold each day, ascribing one statement as responsible for a day’s trading in the stock market is, to put it mildly, an oversimplification. Someone sold shares in a mutual fund held in a 529 plan to raise money to pay college tuition for his daughter’s spring semester. Someone else accumulated shares in a company that she believes represents a likely acquisition target. Neither investor paid the president’s trade comments much mind.
Conflicting signals. Volatility, for reasons ranging from lingering to topical, is on the rise. As we embark on the final quarter of 2019, now seems an appropriate time to recall Mark Twain’s 19th century observation about October: “This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks.”
The Consumer Confidence Index increased more than 10 percent from its January reading through its high in May. At the same time, exposure to the consumer discretionary sector among the portfolios we manage decreased by one-fourth. We’re comfortable with the divergence. Consumer confidence is an important indicator in an economy primarily driven by domestic consumption, but, by itself, it doesn’t influence a single investment decision that we make.
The theory is that stock buybacks, by boosting earnings per share among companies that execute them, can lift share prices as the pool of outstanding shares shrinks. Considering last year’s nosebleed levels and the since-passed anniversary of the tax cuts that helped juice their rise, predicting an impending loss of buyback steam seems like a reasonable prognostication once again. So, trouble lurks, right?