By CNBC, Contributor
When it comes to stocks over the next few months, one strategist is telling investors to look beyond the Trump administration and at the market’s fundamentals instead.
The so-called “Trump rally” has seemed to cool off as stocks sit near all-time highs, but have generally traded in a range since the end of February. On that note, Eaton Vance’s chief equity investment officer, Eddie Perkin, told CNBC that if investors look even deeper, the Trump rally may not be because of President Donald Trump after all.
“If we look at how the markets performed in the first quarter of the year, the stock market overall was very strong and I think a lot of people are attributing that to the Trump rally,” Perkin said last week on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”
However, “if you look at the underlying stocks and sectors that worked, it was actually the stocks that had lagged previously,” he added.
Following the November election, investors had their eyes on a variety of sectors that they believed would benefit under Trump’s pro-business and deregulation-based policies. Financials and materials, for example, were two of the hottest “Trump trades” in the first few months out of the election.
Yet now, financials have slumped and are sitting almost flat from the start of the year, and materials have actually faded away from their year to date highs and are trading sideways. Instead, technology and health care have become two of the best-performing sectors.
A ‘2018 story’
Health care, which has been in the spotlight due to stalled repeal and replace in Washington, is up over 7 percent year to date. Meanwhile tech has rallied nearly 12 percent in 2017. Tech stocks were expected to come under pressure as Trump aimed to target the H-1B visa hiring tool. T
he surge in both these groups leads Perkin to point out that the supposed Trump trades are not what have been driving the market this year.
So what should investors be looking at to get a read on the market? Perkin actually believes that earnings growth will be the biggest factor moving stocks and will set the markets up for the “2018 story.” Analysts are predicting a second quarter straight of improved earnings, with Thomson Reuters IBES saying that if all earnings meet estimates, the S&P 500 Index would see 10 percent growth.
“I think the bull case for stocks is you’ve got a bit of earnings growth this year, and then you’ve got an inflection upward in 2018,” said Perkin. “If that doesn’t come through, then I’m a little reluctant to bet on further multiple expansion from here.”
Perkin does believe, however, that should the Trump administration manage to pass a tax reform bill, then the markets will likely head higher off the news.