Profits Continue Strong Despite Geopolitical Tensions

by: , Managing Director, Economist, and Portfolio Manager, New York Life Investment Management

After a very calm market environment in the months of June and July, we are recently seeing some turbulence with a rise in geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. The nuclear threat from North Korea and the stern response from the U.S. have caused anxiety among investors, and as a result, the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index, or the VIX, has spiked more than 50% from its July lows.

VIX Index Spikes Due to North Korea Threat

Source: Bloomberg, as of 8/10/17. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, which will vary. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

However, history tells us that geopolitical events rarely have an enduring impact on the markets. We have seen many instances in the past where heightened geopolitical tensions unsettled the markets in the short term, but in most cases, beyond the initial shock, markets held up well through the subsequent period of geopolitical uncertainty. For example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, the S&P 500 Index fell close to 4% immediately, but recovered within a week.

We also saw similar patterns during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996 and during the artillery engagement between North and South Korea during November 2010.1 We believe the parties involved understand the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear conflict, and this will most likely restrict the current engagement. Historically, very often, geopolitical tensions turned out to have little impact on the trends of the economy and corporate profits, which – at the end of the day – were key drivers of equity returns.

S&P 500 Index 2Q 2017 Earnings Surprise

Source: Bloomberg, as of 8/9/17. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, which will vary. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Corporate profits continue to be strong. So far this quarter, the S&P 500 has seen an earnings growth of almost 10%, and 10 out of the 11 Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) sectors have beaten their estimates. In addition, the forward-looking expectations from analysts point towards an earnings growth of 10% – 11% over the next 12 months. Overall, we believe the backdrop remains quite supportive of risk assets.

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1. Bloomberg, as of 8/10/17.

The information contained herein is general in nature and is provided solely for educational and informational purposes. New York Life does not provide legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should obtain advice specific to your circumstances from your own legal, accounting, and tax advisors.

All investments are subject to market risk, including possible loss of principal. Investing in smaller companies involves special risks, including higher volatility and lower liquidity. There is no assurance that the investment objectives mentioned will be met. Diversification cannot assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

The information and opinions contained herein are for general information use only. MainStay Investments does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness, nor does MainStay Investments assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. Such information and opinions are subject to change without notice, and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sales of any security or as personalized investment advice. There can be no guarantee that any projection, forecast, or opinion in these materials will be realized. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) is an index of 500 stocks seen as a leading indicator of U.S. equities and a reflection of the performance of the large-cap universe.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX Index) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices.

MainStay Investments® is a registered service mark and name under which New York Life Investment Management LLC does business. MainStay Investments, an indirect subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company, New York, NY 10010, provides investment advisory products and services. Securities distributed by NYLIFE Distributors LLC, 30 Hudson Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302, a wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company. NYLIFE Distributors LLC is a Member FINRA/SIPC.


Poul Kristensen, CFA

Managing Director, Economist, and Portfolio Manager, New York Life Investment Management

Poul Kristensen, CFA is Managing Director, Economist, and Portfolio Manager with New York Life Investment Management’s Strategic Asset Allocation & Solutions (SAS) Group

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1 Comment

  1. Great article Poul! Definitely provided piece of mind for myself when talking with prospective clients and their investments. Keep them coming!

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