How often does your financial adviser recommend diversifying your portfolio globally to hedge against a domestic downturn? That’s usually a good plan, but investors today might be better served by bringing the money home and putting more of it to work here in the U.S.
The strong U.S. dollar puts pressure on commodities prices and that, in turn, puts pressure on emerging markets that rely on exporting them. Some fear that the Trump administration’s trade policy may add to emerging markets problems. However, the dollar’s advance began long before the election when Trump was still behind in the polls.
The first question we have to answer is whether the dollar’s run is sustainable. The long-term chart shows a rather important upside breakout about two years ago. (See Chart 1.) It did not feel like much of an event since the greenback settled into a trading range. But now, it appears ready for another breakout, this time from that range.
To be sure, the dollar is overextended in the short term and in need of a little rest or pullback. However, the rising trend from earlier in the year is intact, and it is hard to argue with a market that is speeding along the way it has done since the election.
The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF has been in a long-term decline since 2011. However, it seemed to bottom in January and rallied nicely until August. It even outperformed the SP 500 over that span and scored a few other technical wins including a bullish “golden cross,” when the 200-day average moves above the 50-day average.
Read: Is the bond market still smarter than the stock market?
But all that came crashing to a halt the day after the election, when global markets got their chance to react to the Trump victory. The ETF broke down below short-term support, moved below its rising 2016 trend line and kept falling. In contrast, the SP 500 rallied back to its earlier highs, and other indexes such as the Russell 2000 Index recorded all-time highs.
Clearly, the emerging markets are no longer the place to be. And that includes stocks and bonds. The iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Market Bonds ETF is down nearly 5% from its pre-election close and 7% from its 2016 peak. In the bond market, that is a big move, and the chart really drives that point home. (See Chart 2.)
True, bonds in general are in rough shape and that includes U.S. Treasuries. Weak bond prices and the commensurate rise in interest rates are combining with a strong dollar for a double whammy on emerging markets bonds.
Indeed, investors are already responding, moving billions of dollars from bonds to stocks, and from emerging markets to domestic stocks. The question is where to put that money once the decision is made to move it.
The answer is not unique to this column, and it is easy to find a plethora of pundits suggesting a rotation into the “Trump rally.” The new administration made it clear that it wants to focus on infrastructure and reducing regulation, especially from the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Investors immediately bid up construction, steel, transportation, banks, health-care and consumer-services stocks such as restaurants.
See: Dow 19,000? It’s been a slow march
Some of those areas, such as banks, have already soared to nose-bleed heights and present big risks at this time. But others offer better risk profiles. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index Fund is one such example.
After being one of the worst performers since the summertime, biotech got quite a boost from the election. (See Chart 3.) After the initial jump, it eased back over the past week but on lower volume to suggest profit taking and not active selling.
Demand for the biotech ETF actually started to pick up months ago even as prices started to fall. That left a bullish divergence between on-balance volume and price action that seems to have only begun to resolve. On-balance volume keeps a running tab of volume trading on up-days minus volume on down-days. It gives us an idea of which side is consistently more aggressive, and now that is the bulls’ side.
There is resistance above current trading from the top of the 2016 trading range but the overall configuration of the chart seems to have the spirit of a pause before a breakout attempt.
Wendy’s Co. is a restaurant stock that also got a tremendous boost from the election and scored a significant long-term breakout at that time. (See Chart 4.) Since it already had quite a short-term run, it seems ripe for a correction. Consider that to be good news as it could make for a nice long-term entry for patient investors.
I submit that many restaurant stocks would also be worthy of consideration after pauses. And transportation stocks could offer a few candidates to buy on pullbacks such as railroad company Norfolk Southern Corp. (See Chart 5.)
The bottom line is that global investing seems to be focusing on the U.S. as emerging markets stumble and even developed Europe offers little to like at this time. It does seem to be time to bring the money home.