Sell in May, but don’t go away

by: , Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director | IndexIQ; IndexIQ,


  • In a sharp U-turn, the S&P 500 Index returned 7.05% in June. YTD, this was the second largest monthly return. Both January and June 2019 monthly returns each followed large drawdowns from their prior months.
  • U.S. small caps followed a similar path as large caps, returning 7.07% in June.
  • Global markets continue to lag the U.S. with the MSCI EAFE returning 5.93%. Emerging Markets fared better in June with the MSCI EM Index returning 6.24%.
  • The U.S. yield curve steepened with Short-Term yields dropping more than longer-term yields, resulting in the 2 and 10-year yield spreads widening.
  • The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index was up 1.26% while the Bloomberg Barclays US Universal (US Aggregate plus High Yield) Index returned 1.41%.
  • The Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury Bond Index returned 0.92% while the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Bond Index returned 2.45%. The Bloomberg Barclays US Short-Term Treasury Bond Index returned 0.36% while the Bloomberg Barclays US Long Treasury Bond Index returned 1.34%. Along with the strong equity market and Fed cut expectations, credit outperformed treasuries and long-duration outperforming short-duration.
  • Oil prices reacted to exogenous shocks in June with the mid-month attack of two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and from a fire at the U.S. East Coast’s largest refinery. Due to supply disruption concerns, WTI spot prices were up 9.07%.
  • In other commodities, Industrial Metals were up 1.82%, Precious Metals up 7.26%, and Softs up 3.02%.
  • Small Cap REITs outperformed Large Cap REITs in June with the Bloomberg Real Estate Investment Trust Small Cap Index returning 4.31% versus 1.54% by the Bloomberg Real Estate Investment Trust Large Cap Index.
  • 6 of the 8 tracked hedge fund strategies performed positively in June. Global Macro was the highest performing strategy in June while Merger Arbitrage was the only negative returning strategy. Distressed strategies were flat.
  • Hedge Funds posted their best first half since 2009.

Economic Data

  • Q1 2019 GDP QoQ growth was re-confirmed at 3.1%. The prior 3 quarterly GDP growth figures were 2.2% for Q4 2018, 3.4% for Q3 2018, and 4.2% for Q2 2018.
  • The June CPI (YoY) report shows soft Headline inflation of 1.8%, down from 2.0% in the prior report. Core CPI remains relatively flat at 2.0% versus 2.1% from the prior report. On a MoM basis, Headline inflation was 0.1% (down from 0.3%) and Core inflation was 0.1% (unchanged from the prior month). Soft inflation below the Fed’s target would fuel further speculation of a rate cut.
  • The most recent PMI and ISM manufacturing measures each disappointed, falling from their prior levels and missing the survey estimates. The PMI was reported at 50.5 from 52.6 in the prior report while the ISM came in at 52.1, down from 52.8.
  • In June, the April Durable Goods report was finalized at -2.1% while the May (Preliminary) figure is at -1.3%. Over the last 12-months, the Durable Goods report was split evenly between Up and Down periods.
  • While the Services PMI came in at the survey estimate of 50.9, the latest report was also below the prior report of 53.
  • Retail Sales have shown more life, up 0.5% versus -0.2% in the prior month. Retail inventories have not changed, holding steady at 0.5% while Wholesale Inventories are up 0.4% compared to 0.8% in the prior month.
  • The most recent housing data shows an improvement in new Mortgage Applications which are up 1.3% versus -3.4% in the prior report. While new home sales are down -7.8% on lower Building Permits growth of 0.3%, existing home sales are up 2.5% and pending home sales are likewise up 1.1%.
  • The Unemployment Rate was unchanged at 3.6%. The May JOLTS Job Opening report was at 7449, dropping below the survey estimate and the prior period. The change in Private Payrolls also underwhelmed, coming in at 90k versus 236k in the prior period and the survey estimate of 174k.
  • Measures of sentiment were divergent, with the Conference Board Consumer Confidence indicator reported at 121.5, missing the survey expectation of 131.0, and falling short of the prior report of 134.1. Alternatively, the University of Michigan Sentiment measure was reported at 98.2, slightly beating the prior report and expectation of 97.9.

Central Bank

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve June meeting resulted in maintaining the upper bound unchanged at 2.50%.
  • Parsing through the Fed minutes, the word “patient” was dropped, and the Fed communicated it would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”.
  • Trade war risks have been the key rationale behind a potential Fed cut.
  • The ECB has signaled a willingness to continue providing monetary stimulus through rate-cuts and asset purchases.
  • The BOE has also signaled the possibility of a rate cut should a no-deal Brexit and global trade risks persist.

Sell in May, but Don’t Go Away

The U.S. market rebounded from its May “spring fever” to reach newer highs, topping off at 2954.18 on June 20, to outperform the rest of the world to end the month and the first half of the year. However, we were reminded that both exogenous and endogenous shocks remain an impetus for market moves. The narrative of geo-political risks, tight employment, trade wars, and slowing growth persist as we head into the second half of 2019.

With the Iran Nuclear deal showing further signs of fraying, the oil tanker attack in the Persian Gulf highlighted how geo-political risks can have a direct market impact. The risk of supply disruption, further compounded by the PES oil refinery fire, caused a jump in the price of energy.

This spike in energy prices may appear in the next headline CPI report as the U.S. continues to challenge the softer than expected inflation that has called into question the Fed’s more recent rate increases. While the Fed’s recent dovish rhetoric has raised the possibility of potential rate cuts in the future, the Fed’s other mandate of full employment remains satisfied. However, wage growth was dealt a blow with the disappointing change in the recent Non-Farm Payrolls report of 75k, down from the previous report of 263k and far from the survey estimate of 175k.

Currently, both the recent Manufacturing and Services PMI figures have come below their prior report. While the change in ISM New Orders has been positive, the ISM Prices Paid have risen by a larger margin. As the concern for the trade war persists, the risk of rising input costs may begin to dampen productivity thereby threatening overall economic growth.

The final act of the first half of 2019 concluded with the G-20 summit in Japan where Trump and Xi agreed to restart trade talks, and while he was in the neighborhood, Trump and Kim met at the DMZ to shake hands.

As markets continue to operate, teasing out the noise from the signal may continue to provide challenges for market participants, challenging the anecdotal advice of “Sell in May and go away”.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, which will vary. All investments are subject to market risk and will fluctuate in value.

This material represents an assessment of the market environment as at a specific date; is subject to change; and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding the funds or any issuer or security in particular.

The strategies discussed are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes and are not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. There is no guarantee that any strategies discussed will be effective.

This material contains general information only and does not take into account an individual’s financial circumstances. This information should not be relied upon as a primary basis for an investment decision. Rather, an assessment should be made as to whether the information is appropriate in individual circumstances and consideration should be given to talking to a financial advisor before making an investment decision.

The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks. The index is designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

The MSCI EAFE Index is a stock market index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets outside of the U.S. & Canada.

The MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) Index captures large and mid-cap representation across 24 emerging markets countries.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, US dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. The index includes Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, MBS (agency fixed-rate and hybrid ARM pass-throughs), ABS and CMBS (agency and nonagency). Bloomberg Barclays US Universal Index includes high yield.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Treasury Bond Index measures US dollar-denominated, fixed-rate, nominal debt issued by the US Treasury. Treasury bills are excluded by the maturity constraint but are part of a separate Short Treasury Index.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Bond Index measures the investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. It includes USD-denominated securities publicly issued by US and non-US industrial, utility and financial issuers.

Bloomberg Real Estate Investment Trust Large Cap Index (BBRELRGC Index) The BBREIT Large Cap Index is a capitalization-weighted index of all property type infinite life Real Estate Investment Trusts having a market capitalization of $1 billion or greater. The BBRELRGC Index is adjusted semi-annually to reflect capitalization changes and was developed with a base of 100 as of January 3, 1994.

Bloomberg Real Estate Investment Trust Small Cap Index (BBRESMLC Index) The BBREIT Small Cap Index is a capitalization-weighted index of all property type infinite life Real Estate Investment Trusts having a market capitalization of greater than $15 million but not exceeding $500 million.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Short-Term Treasury Bond Index measures the performance of public obligations of the U.S. Treasury that have a remaining maturity of between 1 and 12 months.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Long Treasury Bond Index measures the performance of public obligations of the U.S. Treasury that have a remaining maturity of greater than 12 months.

The ISM Manufacturing Index is based on surveys of more than 300 manufacturing firms by the Institute of Supply Management. The ISM Manufacturing Index monitors employment, production inventories, new orders and supplier deliveries. A composite diffusion index is created that monitors conditions in national manufacturing based on the data from these surveys.

The Purchasing Managers Index is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment. A PMI of more than 50 represents expansion of the manufacturing sector, compared to the previous month. A reading under 50 represents a contraction, while a reading at 50 indicates no change.

A yield curve is a curve on a graph in which the yield of fixed-interest securities is plotted against the length of time they have to run to maturity.

U.S. Treasuries are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government as to payment of principal and interest if held to maturity.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers Ex Food and Energy (Core CPI) is an aggregate of prices paid by urban consumers for a typical basket of goods, excluding food and energy, is widely used by economists because food and energy have very volatile prices.

“New York Life Investments” is both a service mark, and the common trade name, of the investment advisors affiliated with New York Life Insurance Company. IndexIQ® is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Investment Management Holdings LLC and serves as the advisor to the IndexIQ ETFs. ALPS Distributors, Inc. (ALPS) is the principal underwriter of the ETFs. NYLIFE Distributors LLC is a distributor of the ETFs. NYLIFE Distributors LLC is located at 30 Hudson Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302. ALPS Distributors, Inc. is not affiliated with NYLIFE Distributors LLC. NYLIFE Distributors LLC is a Member FINRA/SIPC.


Salvatore J. Bruno

Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director | IndexIQ

Sal is Chief Investment Officer at IndexIQ, where his primary responsibility includes developing and maintaining the firm’s investment strategies. Sal joined IndexIQ in 2007 from Deutsche Asset Management (DeAM) where he held a number of senior positions

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