At End of May, Investors Signalling They May Stay Away
Are investors growing worried?

It's almost the end of May. Have investors gone away, and will they stay away?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.24% on Friday, slipping for a second day, leaving the index up about a tenth of a percentage point for the week. The S&P 500 fell 0.24% and the Nasdaq rose 0.13%.

The price of oil was the main concern for investors after energy ministers from Saudi Arabia and Russia confirmed plans to ease production cuts in order to offset supply shortfalls from Venezuela. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 4.2% to $67.73 a barrel.

Helping push markets down were shares in supermajor producers Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) , down about 2%, and Chevron Corp. (CVX) , off 3.5%, as well smaller producers such as Apache Corp. (APA) , which pumps much of its crude from the Permian fracking fields in Texas. Earlier this week it looked as though Apache would be a good bet based on the price of WTI versus the $25/barrel cost of extraction, but investors and oil ministers saw it differently. The Permian frackers still seem like a decent long-term bet, but this was oil's worst week since February. Apache lost 4.8% on Friday.

It's worth wondering whether markets and the U.S. economy are heading into the sort of cycles they've seen in the past under Republican governance. Boosted by President Trump's low corporate taxes, a restricted or reversed regulatory environment and lax enforcement, corporate America is in a sweet spot that should be supportive of growing equity prices. The fact that markets are stuck in a range that's not quite 10% below their peaks in January may signal that investors are concerned that the Trump trade is closer to its end than its beginning.

A clue to that comes from an interview that TheStreet's executive editor Brian Sozzi conducted with Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari that can be seen elsewhere on our site. Sozzi notes that Kashkari is concerned about new regulations that ease business conditions on the banking industry, restrictions that were put in place after the financial debacle of 2007.

Kashkari told Sozzi he fears investors have forgotten the lessons learned in that era:

"It has only been 10 years and we are already forgetting how devastating the financial crisis was, we are already convincing ourselves that everything is fine again and we can relax some of the rules and we will be fine in the future. The fact is we are going to repeat the same mistakes again, it's a question of when not if."

Until that happens, the best bet in the markets would probably be some combination of bread and circuses, if only to avert the gaze from the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Might as well watch some more TV.

To that end, investors have embraced Netflix (NFLX) , which just signed Barack and Michelle Obama to produce some content and passed Disney (DIS) as the most valuable media company. Another good bet along those lines is Alphabet (GOOGL) , which is set to leverage its near-monopoly position in search and search advertising to get even richer than it already is - and at a price/earnings ratio that's a lot lower than Netflix.

Anyway, gasoline prices aren't rising this weekend as fast as many people thought, so it's a good time to strap the dog on top of the car and head to the beach or the mountains. Whatever - drive safely.

To contact the writer: john.pickering@thestreet.com. On Twitter: @johnpickering16

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