The wild ride in markets that began with Q4 of 2018 continued during H1 of 2019, but this year’s version has been a surprisingly good one. Starting with a powerful rally from January to April, followed by an air-pocket in May, stocks then soared to new all-time highs in late June. The big question now is whether stocks keep rising, run out of steam, or lose elevation during this year’s 2nd half.
What a difference a month makes! During late April, complacency was widespread and the S&P 500 ended at a closing high. Now just five weeks later the focus for investors is assessment of downside risk as the S&P is now 2/3rds of the way to a 10% correction. Two concerns account for this reversal. First, trade, as Trump has now added skirmishes with Mexico & India to his fight with China. Second, there’s a growing realization that central banks may not be able to catalyze higher growth and inflation.
Another month and more record highs for North American stock indices. Throughout the month of April it began to feel as though nothing could take stocks down. Be it the barrage of headlines fuelling optimism towards U.S., China trade talks, U.S. Q1 earnings that were generally not as bad as feared (yes, ’not bad’ is the new good for stocks), and a steady stream of dovish rhetoric from central bankers. These variables combined to propel stocks back to the all-time highs seen last fall.
March 2019 was the third consecutive month of gains for North American equity indices, capping one of the strongest ever starts to a year. Of course this reversed one of the worst ever finishes to a year so if you were an index investor you could have taken the last half year off and saved yourself the stress. March also represented the third consecutive month of gains for our investors in each of our two long short equity hedge funds at Forge First, though during March we admittedly found ourselves at odds with the engine that was driving this rally. Our Long Short LP CL F Lead Series (“FFLSLP”) returned +0.49% net of fees while the Multi Strategy LP CL F Lead Series (“FFMSLP”) gained +0.37% post fees. Similar to the previous month positive drivers of this performance were generated from a wide range of industries to be discussed later.