Seasonally, the month of July isn't known for stock market strength as fund managers go on vacation and trading volumes dry up. With low volumes often come swift stock moves, however, and July 2022 could be poised for a ramp-up in volatility.
As the old saying goes, from volatility comes opportunity. Amid geopolitical strife and whipsaw market moves, this summer is as unpredictable as it gets -- yet market participants must engage in some form of prediction just to make sense of the situation. With that in mind, I'll now stick my neck out and propose a trifecta of forecasts for what looks to be a wild, weird 31 days.
1. Stocks will roil in anticipation of further aggressive Fed action
If one word describes the financial markets of the 2020s, it's efficient. All investors have instant access to the latest available information, and the data gets priced in immediately. As a result, the market is extremely forward-looking as everyone tries to stay one step ahead of the crowd -- and this results in crowded trades.
What will events traders scramble to front-run in July, then? The most obvious answer would be the May Consumer Price Index (CPI) report, but obvious answers are rarely the right ones on Wall Street. Besides, after three consecutive CPI readings above 8%, inflation is clearly here to stay -- it's the Federal Reserve's response that will either rock or quell the markets.
The July 6 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes reading for the June 14 to 15 meeting will be closely monitored, but minutes readings are rarely events of consequence. Rather, it's the July 26 to 27 FOMC meeting that will be make-or-break for stocks. In the wake of a 0.50% interest rate hike in May and a 0.75% hike in June, investors will have most of July to wring their hands in anticipation of an ultra-hawkish Fed. The markets don't tolerate uncertainty well, so brace yourself for fresh lows in the major stock market indexes as the weeks slowly and ponderously pass.
2. Americans will travel, and that's bullish for oil stocks
Regardless of Covid-19, monkeypox, and gasoline prices exceeding $5 per gallon in many places, Americans often refuse to let any obstacle prevent them from moving from point A to point B. Summertime is travel time in the U.S., and the data indicates it will be full speed ahead for travel-related industries in July.
Per a survey from The Vacationer, 55.4% of American adults, or 143 million people, "intend to travel for Fourth of July or Fourth of July weekend this year," up 8% year over year. AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross reinforced those survey results when he said earlier this month, "So far, the pent-up urge to travel caused by the pandemic outweighs high pump prices for many consumers."
However, due to a shortage of workers and especially pilots, airlines have canceled thousands of flights in recent months. Rather than jump headfirst into the airline sector, investors can ride fossil-fuel prices higher with small positions in profitable drillers with low valuations. My current pick is Occidental Petroleum, which has a very reasonable price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 8.1.
3. More high-flyers will be brought back to Earth
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. It's a cliche, sure, but 2022's first half has taught folks too young to remember the dot-com bust that triple-digit P/E ratios aren't necessarily a bragging point. Still, Tesla's trailing 12-month multiple of 88 and Roku's 81 illustrate that some air could still be let out of the proverbial tires in July.
Before richly valued growth stocks like Tesla and Roku pull back further due to the market's aforementioned rate-hike fears, investors can start making a wish list of high-conviction names and preferred buy prices.
Above all, don't make the rookie mistake of panic-selling at the bottom when the financial markets go haywire. As long as your holdings consist of well-capitalized, consistently profitable (or growing) companies, you should be able to withstand a potentially cruel summer with minimal fiscal damage.