Now What?

What a year it has been. After the worst December for stocks in 87 years that contributed to the worst fourth quarter since the 2008–09 financial crisis, stocks have bounced back in spectacular fashion. In fact, with a day to go, stocks are looking at their best first month of the year in 30 years.

What could happen next? “We like to say that the easy 10% has been made off the lows and the next 10% will be much tougher,” explained LPL Senior Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Things like Fed policy, China uncertainty, and overall global growth concerns all will play a part in where equity markets go from here.”

With the S&P 500 Index about 10% away from new highs, we do think new highs are quite possible at some point this year. Positive news from the Federal Reserve (Fed) and China trade talks, as well as the realization by investors that the odds of a recession in 2019 are quite low could spark potential new highs. Remember, fiscal spending as a percentage of overall gross domestic product (GDP) is higher this year than it was last year. Many think the tax cut and fiscal policies in play last year were a one-time sugar high. We don’t see it that way and expect the benefits from fiscal policy to help extend this economic cycle at least another year—likely more.

As we head into February, note that it hasn’t been one of the best months for stocks. In fact, as our LPL Chart of the Day shows, since 1950, February has been virtually flat, and over the past 20 years only June and September have shown worse returns. Overall, the market gains have been quite impressive since the December 24 lows, but we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a near-term consolidation or pullback.

february can be weak for stocks

For more of our thoughts on where equity markets could go from here be sure to read our latest Weekly Market Commentary due out next Monday.

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