2018 is over.
Welcome to 2019.
Over the last week, we’ve seen surveys indicating investors turning more cautious, Wall Street have a falling out with its favorite stock (Apple), and data showing just how harshly investors judged poor earnings over the last quarter.
The more than 18% drop in shares of Nvidia (NVDA) on Friday — which followed the company’s earnings report on Thursday that missed expectations — was but the latest evidence of a market ready to hammer yesterday’s winners for not living up to the hype. Through Friday’s close, Nvidia shares are down 38% from their all-time high.
If 2018 was a year where investors tried to sort out how much tax cuts changed the long-run trajectory of the U.S. economy and the health of corporate America, 2019 will be about investors bracing for the start of the next downturn.
“I feel like in the last six weeks, we’ve actually exited 2018 and gotten into 2019 three months early,” Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, told Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round on Thursday.
“2018 was this period of high earnings growth, high economic growth, and now all of a sudden we’re zapped forward into 2019,” Nick added. “[In 2019] we know a lot of those tailwinds we had this year — tax stimulus, spending stimulus — those are wearing off and then next year, instead of tailwinds, we’re going to have headwinds.”
Nick added that the selling we’ve seen since the beginning of October have been in the “growthier” names, and the shift in investor sentiment towards more a cautious year-ahead in part explains this pressure.
This shift away from the market’s 2017-era tendency to discount all bad news quickly and bid markets higher followed the swift decline seen in October and the volatile trading that has followed since.
The darkening mood in markets was captured late in the week by CNBC’s Jim Cramer, when offered a rejoinder to his famous “they know nothing” rant from 2007 about the Fed’s ignorance of the current economic situation.
“So many CEOs have told me about how quickly things have cooled,” Cramer said on “Mad Money” Thursday night. “So many of them are baffled that we could find ourselves in this late-cycle dilemma that wasn’t supposed to occur so soon.”
On Friday, Cramer followed up by saying “I know more than they do” in response to an interview with Fed vice chair Richard Clarida.
The issues at hand for executives are rising interest rates and Trump’s trade war. Neither of which are going away. Several Fed speakers in the last few days of the week made clear that the Fed is not going to be moved off its current course of raising rates in December and then again at least two times in 2019 because of the recent bout of market volatility.
On trade, the headlines from the Trump administration may be contradictory at times but there still exists nothing more than a preliminary outline of what a trade deal with China might look like. But it’s clear Trump will continue pressing until a new deal is made.
In its latest corporate Beige Book, an overview of what companies said about the economy on their earnings conference calls, Goldman Sachs’ equity strategy team noted that though executives acknowledged a slowing pace of global growth, they see the market as overstating the potential dangers.
Cramer’s off-record comments would suggest executives think the market has sniffed out a worry about the economy they aren’t willing to express in public. A worry that will be the defining theme for investors in 2019.
Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland