The markets are trading about as we would expect. With the strong run-up in January, a pullback and period of consolidation was warranted. There is room for the market to move either up or down, with the trend still up as identified by the HCM-BuyLine®. The S&P 500 has traded down to support and is close to the 200-day MA. Like I stated last week, volatility is to be expected.

The S&P 500 ex-FAANG is trading at a 14.8 P/E, which shows a lot of value for most of the underlying issues in the S&P 500. A 14.8 average PE is not high for the rest of the S&P 500.

We hear investors say the market is too expensive. But this is distorted by the higher multiples of FAANG, and we think the higher multiples of FAANG are justified. FAANG stocks are also very strong financially and making a lot of money even in this volatile market.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell 3.1 points in February to 102.9, down for the second consecutive month, and below the consensus of 108.5. While the index is down 26.0 points from its cycle high in mid-2021, it has been range-bound over the past several months and is holding up well above the lows during the pandemic. The current level is consistent with a continued economic expansion.

Consumers felt better about the present situation, with that index component up 1.7 points to 152.8, its best level in ten months. The main driver was a pickup in job availability, which is running close to its highest level since 2000 and implies continued downward pressure on the unemployment rate over the near-term. At the same time, current business conditions were broadly viewed as neutral.

Consumer expectations, however, dropped 6.3 points to 69.7, a seven-month low and near the worst level since March 2013. Expectations for jobs, business conditions, and incomes all worsened from the prior month. The confidence spread (present situation minus expectations) widened to 83.1 points, the most since March 2001. It suggests that even though consumer confidence is still high, consumers are nervous about the economic outlook. A peak in the confidence spread, followed by a sizeable decline, has historically been associated with slower economic growth or recession. Although this indicator has not yet peaked, we have it on watch for early signs of deterioration.