The wags on Wall Street are starting to refer to Donald Trump as "President Chaos." If you're looking for a winning investment strategy in the Trump era, it's this: always expect the unexpected.
Missile strikes against Syria, troublemaking from Russia, saber rattling in North Korea, disarray in the White House, political warfare in Congress: the outbreak of crisis has become a daily routine.
During turbulent times such as these, investors often behave irrationally and let emotions cloud their judgment. The key to making money (and protecting the wealth you already have) is keeping a cool head and focusing on the trends that really matter. Let's apply this mindset to the week ahead.
One investor's data is another investor's noise, especially when it comes to employment data. The Labor Department's latest employment situation report released on Friday ostensibly was a disappointment. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5%, but only 98,000 non-farm payrolls were added in March, below consensus expectations of 180,000.
However, instead of focusing on job creation, the pace of which is bound to slow as the economy approaches full employment, the real number to watch is wage growth. Average hourly earnings for private-sector employees climbed 0.2% in March and are now up 2.7% over the past year. Those are solid numbers and provide sufficient inflationary conditions to prompt another interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve in May, or June at the latest.
Wage growth bodes well for American consumers but not necessarily for stocks because it pressures corporate earnings. As you calibrate your portfolio toward a higher interest rate environment, you should also reduce your exposure to cyclical growth stocks that are tied to the performance of the overall economy.
As for geopolitical turmoil, don't assume that Trump's vow to boost military spending will benefit all aerospace/defense contractors. The collapse of Trumpcare last month has prompted traders to reassess the narrative of "Trump stocks."
Few people expected Obamacare repeal to fail. Ironically, the health-care stocks that will thrive under Trump are those that were thriving under Obama: hospital and managed care companies such as Molina Healthcare (MOH) , Community Health Systems (CYH) , Tenet Healthcare (THC) , LifePoint Health (LPNT) , HCA Holdings (HCA) , and Universal Health Services (UHS) . All of these stocks got an immediate boost when Trump's health-care bill died.
The same selectivity applies to the defense sector. The winners are likely to be companies that emphasize engineering prowess and high-margin electronics.
Case in point: When Trump launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria on Friday, the stock of Tomahawk-maker Raytheon (RTN) jumped 1.47%. Further gains probably lie ahead for Raytheon, which provides other missile systems as well as the ultra-sophisticated sensors needed to navigate drones.
Another assumption you should challenge is financial deregulation. Trump has promised to gut Dodd-Frank and other banking rules, but Democrats in Congress are increasingly resolved to push back. Again, don't assume all bank stocks will benefit under Trump. Pay careful heed to operating results and the economic data that counts.
The following banks are scheduled to report earnings on Thursday: Citigroup (C) , Commerce Bancshares (CBSH) , First Horizon (FHN) , First Republic Bank (FRC) , JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , PacWest Bancorp (PACW) , PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) and Wells Fargo (WFC) .
Noteworthy on the economic calendar in the week ahead: Labor Market Conditions (Monday); Jobless Claims and Consumer Sentiment (Thursday); Consumer Price Index and Retail Sales (Friday).
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