Markets have rallied in part because a better-than-expected jobs report last week showed the labor market was strong despite a lengthy strike by General Motors workers that stretched into October. Investors have also cheered positive assurances from U.S. and Chinese trade officials that a partial trade deal is forthcoming. The S&P 500 is up more than 20 percent for the year, headed for its best performance since 2013.
“There is no recession out there on the horizon,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, wrote in a research note Monday. “The stock market can rejoice and continue to climb to new record highs.”
The upswing is a welcome shift for investors after a rocky October, when ongoing trade uncertainty collided with a raft of recession warnings that cast doubt on the life span of the economic expansion, which is the longest in U.S. history. About 75 percent of S&P 500 companies that had reported earnings as of Friday had beaten expectations, assuaging fears that the protracted trade war would make a significant dent in corporate profits. Wall Street is expecting a formidable performance in November.
“The market has risen in price nearly two out of every three Novembers and has recorded the greatest percentage of new all-time highs since World War II,” Sam Stovall of CFRA Research wrote in a research note Monday. “November typically kicks off a stretch of improving average total returns and frequencies of reporting positive performances for large, small, and international stocks, along with REITs and bonds.”
Over the weekend, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said American companies would soon be granted licenses to sell to Chinese tech titan Huawei, lifting a ban that has been a contentious point in trade negotiations. Chinese trade officials said on Friday they had reached a consensus with U.S. negotiators on the first phase of a trade deal.
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to sign the first phase at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum later this month, but Chile canceled the forum because of political unrest. Trump, however, has insisted a deal is still coming, and he told reporters at the White House on Friday that he wants it signed on U.S. soil. He suggested Iowa as a possible location — a state he won in 2016 but which has been among the hardest hit by the 16-month trade war.
“We’re thinking about Iowa, you know why, because it would be the largest order in history for farmers. So to me, Iowa makes sense. I love Iowa. It’s a possibility,” Trump said.
The trickle of rosy trade news prompted Goldman Sachs to revise its tariff outlook, saying it expected tariffs to stay at the same levels through 2020.
“While further tariff increases are no longer our base case, we believe the risks continue to lean in that direction, as a US-China deal that substantially reduces US tariffs continues to look much less likely than an eventual breakdown in talks that leads to renewed tariff escalation,” Alec Phillips, the chief U.S. political economist at Goldman Sachs, wrote in a note to investors Monday.
Scandals and shake-ups dragged down some key players in early trading. McDonald’s shares were down 2 percent in premarket trading after the fast-food juggernaut announced Sunday that chief executive Steve Easterbrook had been fired for a consensual relationship with an employee that violated company policy. Chris Kempczinski, former president of McDonald’s USA, will replace Easterbrook as chief executive.
And sportswear giant Under Armour was down more than 14 percent in premarket trading after the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had been under federal investigation for more than two years over accounting practices. Despite posting strong quarterly numbers Monday, Under Armour cut its 2019 revenue forecast for the second straight time.
News of the probe comes just two weeks after founder Kevin Plank announced he would be stepping down as chief executive on Jan. 1, after 23 years with the company. He will be replaced by Patrik Frisk, the chief operating officer.