March Madness: Stock Market Edition

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With the NCAA college basketball tournament getting underway this week, LPL Research is getting in the spirit with its own version of March Madness. Here we share our “Final Four Factors” for the stock market in 2021: Vaccines, Policy, Profits, and Rates. While we see several strong competitors in this field, we believe the likely winner of this tournament is clear, and it will push stocks higher over the balance of the year.

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Here Comes the Earnings Boom

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Fourth-quarter earnings season is in the home stretch, and it’s been a good one. After raising our 2021 earnings forecast for the S&P 500 Index in our Weekly Market Commentary on February 8, our upgraded forecast may now be too low, based on what we have learned from corporate America during the three weeks since. In this commentary, we recap earnings season and share our latest thoughts on just how strong the earnings rebound could be in 2021 and beyond.

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Raising Rates and Stock Market Performance

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The 10-year Treasury yield continues to climb higher, but remains low by historical standards. Still, the size of the move since July 2020—and the more recent acceleration—has some market participants worried about the potential impact on stock markets if rates continue to rise. Historically, the S&P 500 Index has endured extended periods of rising rates well. If an improving growth outlook is part of what’s driving rates higher, it should also support corporate profits, creating a positive fundamental backdrop for stocks.

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The Search for Income

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Interest rates have risen steadily over the past six months but remain low by historical standards. That means the traditional high-quality bonds that many of us owned for decades are not doing the job for investors looking for income, while the potential for interest rates have risen steadily in recent months brings more risk in the bond market than has been evident historically. Here we look at some income ideas that may help with these challenges. When investors think about income, or yield, they would normally think bonds first. More on that below. Next they might think about getting extra yield from their stock portfolios, maybe with a dividend strategy that might be heavy on real estate investment trusts (REITs) and utilities. While we don’t have anything against using those types of strategies for a portion of a portfolio to get some yield, they can also carry unwanted interest rate sensitivity if rates rise. We highlight some equity income ideas that we would expect to perform well in a rising rate environment for you to consider when building your portfolio.

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