Risk Aversion and Negative Sentiment Push Stocks Lower in January

In the first two weeks of 2016, risk-off sentiment has swept through global and U.S. markets despite positive signs for the domestic economy including a solid employment data, a growing services economy, and more evidence that the Fed will remain dovish through the early stages of the rate hiking cycle.  A confluence of global factors has triggered the stock market drop of 8% (S&P 500) so far in January, including a sell-off in Chinese equities, new lows for oil prices, and lowered estimates for global growth.  Investors wonder if the early market stumble this year foreshadows a difficult year.  Clearly, January returns do not always predict full year returns, and 60% of the time that January returns are negative, the full-year return is positive. The persistent decline in prices of oil and gas and mining and minerals have been a drag on the U.S. manufacturing sector.  That drag should become less significant with easier year over year comparisons starting in Q2-2016, which should gradually accelerate and flow through to supportive earnings growth in the back half of this year.   With continuing consumer strength, growth in the U.S. economy should pick up as the year progresses, setting the stage for better stock market sentiment.