EXCLUSIVE: What Is The Biggest Risk To The Markets Right Now? 2 Strategists Weigh In

Zinger Key Points
  • Benzinga asked two market strategists what the biggest risk to the markets is right now, check out the responses.
  • Michael Lee, founder of investment management firm Michael Lee Strategy, and Matt Orton of Raymond James explain.

Stocks advanced on Tuesday as weak economic data suggested that the Federal Reserve's hawkish monetary policy is having an impact and benchmark Treasury yields were falling, which fueled the surge.

Tuesday’s moves add to the rallies in previous sessions that have driven the S&P 500 4% higher in the last five trading periods. 

All of this, in a bear market.

So while investors are enjoying what could be a temporary lift in equities, they must ask themselves: what is the biggest risk to the markets right now?

Read more: Bounce After The Bloodbath? Here's What's Going On With China Stocks

According to Michael Lee, founder of the investment management firm Michael Lee Strategy, the dollar's strength is of concern.

“In my mind, you have a tremendous amount of economic uncertainty,” Lee said on Benzinga’s “Stock Market Movers” with Money Mitch on Tuesday.

“Half of the earnings in the S&P 500 — or more — come from outside of the U.S., and as the dollar gets stronger, that devastates a lot of economies abroad. It’s much worse elsewhere in the world, so [the concern is] what dollar strength is not only going to do to [other] economies but what it is going to do to overall S&P 500 earnings. [That] is not baked in the cake right now.”

It’s true; S&P 500 companies, including Netflix Inc NFLX and Nike Inc NKE, started the third-quarter earnings season by warning of the damage a strong dollar would cause to export revenues. FactSet noted that, so far, 10 out of 20 companies in the index have issued such a warning.

According to FactSet, the third-quarter earnings growth for S&P 500 businesses will be 2.4%, significantly lower than an earlier forecast of a 9.9% gain. Two out of every five dollars in the income generated by the companies comes from other countries.

While Lee’s concern is that of a strong dollar, Raymond James Investment Management Chief Market Strategist Matt Orton said the biggest risk is the negative feedback loop.

In financial markets, a negative feedback loop refers to behavior that either compounds a bad outcome or minimizes change rather than amplifying it.

“We know consumer confidence is low, we know CEO confidence is low — what I have told clients is watch what consumers are doing, not what they’re saying,” Orton said to Money Mitch.

“There does come a point where that breaks, and what’s really important to follow is [in terms of] confidence, we had bad data this week; CEO confidence is at the lowest it's been in almost a decade. When does that translate to pullbacks in corporate spending?”

Orton noted that recent earnings show that consumer spending remains strong — though it should be noted that recent data from the Federal Reserve shows credit card debt hit an all-time high of $930 billion, surpassing the $870 billion peak during the 2008 financial crisis.

What are the two market strategists invested in?

Orton said large-cap healthcare stocks are and will continue to be his pick for the year.

Lee broke down his portfolio allocation:

  • 20% in short-term treasuries in his equity allocation
  • 15% in long-term treasuries
  • 25% in staples
  • 10% in utilities
  • 15% in healthcare
  • 15% in energy

Lee mentioned he is 65% long and holds 20% in cash.

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Posted In: Analyst ColorEarningsFinancial AdvisorsNewsEconomicsExclusivesMarketsMediaGeneralMatt OrtonMichael Lee
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