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Weekly Equity Market Commentary

Retail sales, bank earnings keep equities aloft

Equities Investment Council
The Nuveen Equities Investment Council is led by Saira Malik and comprises the firm’s senior portfolio managers averaging three decades of investing experience.
Saira Malik
CIO, Head of Global Equities
Equities Investment Council member Saira Malik

Weekly market update highlights

Global equity markets closed out a second consecutive week of gains. U.S. equities had their best week since July with the DJIA gaining 4.3% and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq advancing 3.9% and 3.1%, respectively. Outside the U.S., the MSCI EAFE, EM, and ACWI ex USA each added nearly 2% or more for the week.

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Market drivers & risks

Economic week in review

The next few months could remain challenging, and continued high volatility and possible near-term market selloffs are likely.

Risks to our outlook

The agreement to delay the U.S. debt ceiling deadline may have calmed markets for now, but volatility might continue to rear its head as the December 3 deadline approaches.

Earnings season could prove to be more of a headwind for equities, as investors begin to digest the true fallout from the Delta variant surge, tax and regulatory risks from legislative plans, supply chain issues and corporate warnings.

Markets are beginning to assess the expected impacts of potential increases in the U.S. corporate tax rate and the minimum tax on U.S. companies’ foreign income.

The Fed will be under intense scrutiny as it tiptoes toward contractionary policy. With markets so accustomed to quantitative easing and low rates, volatility is likely to rise as investors grow leery of a misstep in timing and/or magnitude.

Best ideas

In the U.S., reflation and expectations for higher yields could bolster returns for small caps, as well as companies with pricing power and reopening tailwinds. Supportive monetary policy and the prospect of stronger relative earnings growth could be catalysts for select stocks in cyclically oriented sectors to outperform in developed non-U.S. markets, particularly in Europe. Select growth companies well-positioned for reopening, such as front-office software leaders, also look attractive given recent weakness. We continue to advocate a long-term approach that tilts toward cyclicals and value stocks exhibiting strong earnings growth and pricing power.

In focus: Even-keeled earnings expectations

The largest financial institutions in the U.S. provided ballast for equity market bulls last week following a round of earnings reports that exceeded expectations and spoke to the underlying strength of the U.S. economy. While the messaging from big banks was broadly positive, we are approaching the rest of earnings season with a degree of caution.

Consensus expectations for third quarter earnings growth among S&P 500 companies are between 25% and 30%, slightly higher than for the first quarter of 2021. While earnings growth eventually topped 50% in 1Q, a number of high-profile factors (Delta, supply chains, inflation, the end of stimulus) will likely keep actual 3Q growth rates around the 30% to 35% range. In fact, earnings revisions for the third quarter are the lowest of 2021 so far, with estimates increasing by a modest 3%-4% since the end of June, versus double-digit percentage increases in the previous two quarters. Guidance has been more moderate, too; nearly half of companies reporting so far have issued negative EPS guidance.

Our caution, however, should not be mistaken for bearish sentiment. Trailing and forward-looking valuations have compressed significantly for the S&P 500, having fallen 10% to 20% from first quarter levels. This should allow equities to grind higher even in the face of decelerating earnings growth. The best-positioned companies are those that can build inventories and protect/grow their margins until the headwinds created by inflation and global supply chain disruptions begin to dissipate.

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All market data from Bloomberg, Morningstar and FactSet

The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature.

Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such. For term definitions and index descriptions, please access the glossary on nuveen.com. Please note, it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

A word on risk 

All investments carry a certain degree of risk and there is no assurance that an investment will provide positive performance over any period of time. Equity investing involves risk. Investments are also subject to political, currency and regulatory risks. These risks may be magnified in emerging markets. Diversification is a technique to help reduce risk. There is no guarantee that diversification will protect against a loss of income.

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