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Markets Strong but Correction Looming

Sometimes it’s okay to follow the crowd, and given the economic, monetary, and fiscal backdrop this is one of those times. The U.S. economy is opening up quickly and is clearly not waiting for herd immunity. Most concurrent and leading indicators are flashing green with ISM and PMI both exceeding all-time highs last week. Rarely are both the services and manufacturing sectors hitting on all cylinders at the same time, and the stock market’s recent performance reflects the current optimism about broad economic strength. Most asset classes had a strong first quarter with large cap technology lagging.

While we think the shift toward Value sectors over the last six months has been justified, we still believe a balance between secular growth and undervalued equities is the best approach. Currently, keeping equity exposure at the top end of our target range is justified and should provide the best returns for the balance of the year. Fiscal and monetary support will not wane even in the face of increased inflation expectations. The Federal Reserve has made it very clear in their minutes this week that they are willing to tolerate a significant amount of inflation in pursuit of higher employment. While job gains over the last six months have been strong, unemployment is still above pre-pandemic levels. New record job opening numbers, however, could push us toward full employment as the economy opens up.

The fixed income market has struggled in the first quarter given higher rates, and our allocations have been at the low end of our target range. The great unknown is how far will rates climb and at what point will it impact the equity markets. Although reflation has gained momentum, the growth-driven rates sell-off has kept corporate spreads tight.

We maintain our recommendation to actively manage duration exposure with a preference for private debt and ultra-short funds. There are very few things on our radar that could upend this recovery which is worrying in and of itself. Complacency and speculation are very high, as well as valuations. These three can coexist for a while, but severe and quick corrections tend to follow such periods and we are due one of those correction soon!

Policy changes out of Washington, including tax increases above current expectations, as well as Chinese or Russian geopolitical risk or any shortfall in corporate earnings growth could put a damper on equity valuations this year, but we place a low probability on these occurring. In fact, 2021 earnings could really surprise to the upside. What’s most difficult is finding pockets of value as the market inflates, but we will stay disciplined in our process as we continue to navigate this market.

Please call or email me with any questions or observations at jess.ellington@aubwm.com or 843-412-1420.


Disclosures:
Atlantic Union Bank Wealth Management is a division of Atlantic Union Bank that offers asset management, private banking, and trust and estate services. Securities are not insured by the FDIC or any other government agency, are not deposits or obligations of Atlantic Union Bank, are not guaranteed by Atlantic Union Bank or any of its affiliates, and are subject to risks, including the possible loss of principal. Deposit products are provided by Atlantic Union Bank, Member FDIC.

Past performance quoted is past performance and is not a guarantee of future results. Portfolio diversification does not guarantee investment returns and does not eliminate the risk of loss. The opinions and estimates put forth constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. We believe the information provided here is reliable, but do not warrant its accuracy or completeness. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. The views and strategies described may not be suitable for all investors. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, accounting, legal or tax advice. References to future returns are not promises or even estimates of actual returns a client portfolio may achieve. Any forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be relied upon as advice or interpreted as a recommendation.

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