With the S&P 500 index less than 1 percent away from its record high, many experts say equities are poised for a correction, if not something worse.
Martin Pelletier, a portfolio manager at Canada's TriVest Wealth Counsel, cites several signs that the stock market may be running out of steam.
- "Deceleration in earnings growth. The high U.S. dollar and low oil prices are starting to take their toll on corporate profitability," he writes in Canada's Financial Post. Analysts predict earnings for S&P 500 companies will drop 4.8 percent in the first quarter, after rising 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter, according to FactSet. Oil prices have dropped to six-year lows, and the dollar has risen to multi-year highs against a range of currencies in recent weeks.
- "An over-reliance on the Fed. We are now back to the scenario where bad news economically is considered good news, as investors want the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels," Pelletier says. Many experts say the six-year bull market for stocks was built largely on Fed easing. And now the central bank is on its way toward raising rates, perhaps starting in September.
Former Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher echoes Pelletier's point about the market's reliance on the central bank.
"Are we vulnerable in my personal opinion to a significant equity market correction? I do believe we are, and the reason for that is people have gotten lazy. They've depended totally on the Fed," he told CNBC.
The Fed has kept its federal funds rate target a record low of zero to 0.25 percent since December 2008.
"As the economy improves, things are going to change," Fisher said. "Over time the [Fed] will engineer normalization [of policy], however long that takes. And I think the market should get prepared for that."
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund manager, also sees equities as vulnerable. When the Fed finally does raise interest rates, there could be heck to pay in the stock market, he wrote in a commentary obtained by the Financial Times.
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