Download the Schwab app from iTunes®Get the AppClose

  • Find a branch
To expand the menu panel use the down arrow key. Use Tab to navigate through submenu items.

Is the Bear Back: What’s Behind the Renewed Volatility?

Click to show the transcript

RANDY FREDERICK: After six weeks of mostly sideways-moving markets, volatility is definitely back. Jeff Kleintop, Schwab’s chief global investment strategist, joins me for the September 13 Schwab Market Snapshot to discuss exactly what it was that sparked this transition from calm to storm. Welcome back, Jeff.

JEFF KLEINTOP: Thanks, great to be here, Randy.

RANDY: So, Jeff, it’s no secret that we’ve been cautioning investors for quite a while now that, after an unusually quiet August, September and October could live up to their well-deserved reputations for high volatility. And, sure enough, on Friday, September 9 stocks tumbled and volatility spiked. So from your perspective, what were the primary causes of last Friday’s sell-off?

JEFF: Well, the uncertainty over the next action by the Fed and other central banks certainly was a catalyst for Friday’s move. And the outlook for oil supply from the International Energy Agency is rattling stocks today. But I think the buildup of uncertainty over the upcoming election, over some of the mixed economic reports that we’ve seen, and the fact that analysts’ earnings expectations may have gotten a little bit too optimistic, created a fragile backdrop for stocks, and then the jitters over the Fed and oil prices sparked sell-off.

RANDY: Well, Jeff, when you and I recorded our last Market Snapshot, you mentioned that corporate earnings had been finally rising after several years of cuts by analysts. And since that’s still the case, it seems like that should be stimulative, but now it sounds like you’re saying that maybe that’s at least partially responsible for this fragile backdrop that you’re talking about.

JEFF: Yeah, it seems like good news. For a year and a half, we saw estimates decline for earnings growth. Finally, since February, we’ve started to see earnings on the rise again, that’s for the stocks of the MSCI All Country World Index. But the problem is the gap between forward expectations—the growth over the next 12 months—and where they actually are now, is the widest gap we’ve seen since 2009. Analysts are now expecting more than 20% earnings growth over the course of the next 12 months. And, Randy, while that’s not impossible it seems pretty unlikely, given the pace of global economic growth that we’re seeing—kind of below average. So I think that those optimistic expectations left the market vulnerable to a pullback, and so this return of volatility, you’re right, not surprising. But it’s a reminder here—rebalancing’s important, taking a look at your allocation—making sure you rebalance back to your strategic asset allocation targets, probably the smart move here.

RANDY: So just a little bit too much optimism. Now I don’t think investors should be too surprised by this pickup in volatility, but every time that happens then we start to hear these worries that, oh, maybe another bear market is right around the corner. I don’t see it that way, and I don’t think you do, either. What economic data are you watching right now that sort of contradicts this bear market story?

JEFF: Right, so usually bear markets go along with global recessions. And while the risk isn’t a zero of a global recession, it doesn’t look likely. I’d point to the Global Index of Leading Economic Indicators, put out by the OECD—that’s up five months in a row now. And one of the favored indicators I like to watch, the Global Purchasing Manager’s Index, the Global Composite PMI, that’s now up three months in a row. So economic growth is low on a level basis, but it’s been improving, so the change is going in the right direction. It doesn’t look like a recession’s right around the corner, even over the next 12 months or so, so I’d say that looks pretty good. I think instead we’re just seeing more lackluster growth, capable of generating modest earnings growth, but not the kind of numbers that analysts are expecting.

RANDY: So even if a bear market isn’t on the horizon, we do think investors probably should continue to expect more volatility in the near-term. So what global catalysts are out there that you’re keeping an eye on, that might be contributing to this volatility pickup in the coming months?

JEFF: Well, in September we’ve got some central bank meetings—both the Fed and the Bank of Japan meet on the 21st—and there’s certainly potential for surprises there. On the political front we’ve got an election here in the U.S., and debates at the end of this month in September. And in October there’s a referendum in Italy that raises concerns about would they leave the EU, all those kinds of issues. And then I guess we’re getting close to the earning season, that’ll be kicking off in about a month from now. And as I said, expectations are a bit high, not necessarily for this quarter, but future guidance could come down a little bit, that could rattle the markets as well. So we could be looking at couple of months of some ups and downs in the stock markets, Randy.

RANDY: Well, that’s about all the time we have, Jeff. Thank you again for sharing your global perspective with us. Listen, if you have questions please call and talk to a Schwab financial professional. You can read more from Jeff in the International Investing Section of You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffreyKleintop, and you can follow me on Twitter @RandyAFrederick. We will be back again. Until next time, invest wisely, own your tomorrow.

Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. Please note that this content was created as of the specific date indicated and reflects the author’s views as of that date. It will be kept solely for historical purposes, and the author’s opinions may change, without notice, in reaction to shifting economic, business, and other conditions.

Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results and the opinions presented cannot be viewed as an indicator of future performance.

Diversification and rebalancing strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets.

Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses, and cannot be invested in directly.

Index Definitions
MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) offers a modern, seamless, and fully integrated approach to measuring the full equity opportunity set with no gaps or overlaps. MSCI ACWI represents the Modern Index Strategy and captures all sources of equity returns in 23 developed and 23 emerging markets.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) total composite leading indicator is designed to provide early signals of turning points in the global business cycle.

Global Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, or Global Report on Manufacturing & Services, is compiled by IHS Markit based on the results of surveys covering over 16,000 purchasing executives in over 30 countries. Together these countries account for an estimated 88% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Questions are asked about real events and are not opinion based. Data are presented in the form of diffusion indices, where an index reading above 50.0 indicates an increase in the variable since the previous month and below 50.0 a decrease.


Thumbs up / down votes are submitted voluntarily by readers and are not meant to suggest the future performance or suitability of any account type, product or service for any particular reader and may not be representative of the experience of other readers. When displayed, thumbs up / down vote counts represent whether people found the content helpful or not helpful and are not intended as a testimonial. Any written feedback or comments collected on this page will not be published. Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. may in its sole discretion re-set the vote count to zero, remove votes appearing to be generated by robots or scripts, or remove the modules used to collect feedback and votes.