Quarterly Market Update

We hope you are enjoying your start to the fall season and had a pleasant summer.

The predominant market topics for the most recent quarter were: more rounds of tactical negotiations between Chinese and U.S. diplomats; monetary easing with another Federal Reserve interest rate cut; a formal impeachment inquiry launched at President Trump; continued strong and positive indicators of the U.S. consumer; tensions with Iran enduring; and new developments in the controversial Brexit saga.

The U.S. and China are set for the next round of trade talks in Washington, D.C. in mid-October. This will be the 13th round of negotiations which have featured tariffs and the blacklisting of companies among trade policies. Talking points covered in recent negotiations include protection of intellectual property and China continuing to enjoy status as an emerging market nation with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The argument presented by U.S. officials is that as the world’s second largest economy and one with a sizable number of billionaires, not graduating as a developed nation in order to receive the accommodations that nations like Zimbabwe and Rwanda receive is purposefully and wrongfully deceitful. Recent countries to graduate emerging into developed status include Lithuania and Latvia.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) held its latest meeting in September and cut interest rates by .25%. Despite external pressure, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has been reluctant to predict more rate cuts.

Domestic consumer spending, which has been growing steadily in recent times, was up slightly in September. Consumer driven companies like Walmart, Target, and Nike delivered strong earnings this quarter. Both Walmart and Target added comparable stores’ sales growth, but a big surprise to expectations was the growth rate for online sales. After a short drop in August, consumer sentiment rose in September. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported an unchanged low unemployment rate of 3.7% in August and jobs added rose by 130,000, most notably in health care and financial services.

Annualized inflation edged up to 1.8% this quarter, closing in on the 2.0% target set by the central bank. Lastly, U.S. housing starts increased to the highest levels seen since before the housing bubble, although they are still relatively muted compared to the 2005-2006 highs.

Iran was accused by multiple sovereignties of orchestrating a drone and cruise missile attack on Saudi Arabian firm Aramco’s oil fields in September. Aramco is Saudi Arabia’s largest oil producer and the attack temporarily cut off around 50% of the company’s production. President Trump took to Twitter to announce increased sanctions on Iran in September and considered a military strike on the Iranian manufacturing facility where the weapons were allegedly made.

Brexit is heating up as the October 31 deadline approaches. The opposition party is positioning itself to take a no-deal off the table and bring about a possible delay to the incumbent deadline. Meanwhile, the conservative party led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, remains set on a deal or no deal come October end. There is a law in place that requires the government to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline by October 19th, contingent on whether a deal is inked at the next EU Summit on October 17-18. Mr. Johnson has been unclear on how his government plans on bypassing the law. We are awaiting the outcome of a potential deal at the EU Summit in mid-October.

A strong U.S. consumer combined with low inflation, low unemployment, in a low rate environment will continue to fuel a domestic market that continues to produce healthy signals. While several geopolitical risks remain on the horizon, we feel the U.S. market is poised for a strong finish to the year.

We hope you enjoy the change of season and as always, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or to check in on your accounts.

QUARTERLY MARKET UPDATE

The market has rallied in the first half of the year, albeit with a degree of volatility. The market’s volatility has been driven by projections and unmet expectations. However, investors are still finding confidence in a growing economy, low unemployment, little inflation and an accommodating Federal Reserve. During this quarter, we have carefully monitored escalations in the trade war with China, economic indicators, consumer spending, geopolitical risks with Iran and interest rates.

The trade war has been dominating the headlines in recent times, with tariffs declared on $250B of Chinese goods in May and further tariffs looming as a trade weapon. The most recent round of negotiations occurred at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan last week. President Trump and President Xi Jinping met on Saturday. The result of their meeting was a postponement on additional tariffs and a commitment from both sides for further negotiations.  Stock futures were up over the weekend with the markets reacting positively to the G-20 meeting. On Monday, the S&P500 opened to a record high.

At the same time on Monday morning, news surfaced about Iran crossing over their nuclear stockpile limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal. Tensions in the gulf have risen with Iran allegedly downing a US drone and allegedly arranging several oil tanker attacks. Iran has refused to negotiate with the current administration, stating its discontent for the sanctions placed on its oil markets. Oil prices are being depressed by higher production from the US, while simultaneously being inflated by OPEC’s supply cut and a risk premium for Iran. Oil is trading at around $59 per barrel.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced an openness to rate cuts if necessary, citing “trade negotiations and other matters.” The Fed’s latest forecast however, was no rate cuts expected until 2020. Lower yields in the bond markets have driven bond investors to look for yield alternatives. Some yield alternatives are high dividend paying stocks, Real Estate Investment Trusts, and Exchange Traded Funds concentrating on dividend yield. In addition, Gold prices have rallied this quarter, trading at just under $1400 per ounce in response to the Federal Reserve Monetary policy as investors anticipate inflation in the coming years.

The US economy has continued to produce healthy economic data. The unemployment rate is sitting at 3.6% and during April and May we saw a continued trend of positive wage inflation and consumer spending. In the latest US Employment Report, the US economy added 75,000 jobs in May.

 

The current US economic environment constructed of low unemployment, suppressed interest rates, and wage growth will optimize the U.S. consumer’s purchasing power and confidence.

Looking ahead, we remain optimistic on the U.S. equity markets based on healthy economic data, the China Trade agreement, an accommodating Federal Reserve and the increased US consumer purchasing power. We are expecting the June Employment Report due later this week as our next guide for economic health. We will be closely monitoring earnings season which starts in mid-July.

The market has rallied from the December low last year. While there are still several risks on the horizon, we believe the upside of this bull market outweighs the downside risk.

Again, thank you for your continued support and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Happy 4th!


 Sources of Information:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • Federal Reserve Economic Data

Quarterly Market Update

In the opening two months of 2019, we saw the markets rally off the back of a disappointing December. The equity markets then took pause in a more tranquil March and closed the quarter up around 13%. We believe that this timely rebound from a December slump and the maturation in March reflects the market’s health and robustness. The stock market outperformed initial expectations for the first quarter with subdued volatility. Every sector contributed positive performance with technology, real estate, and energy leading the markets while materials, financials, and healthcare lagged. Healthcare stocks were among the best performers in 2018 and more recently the financial sector came under pressure as interest rates were pushed lower.

 This past quarter provided clarity on several key developments including: the government shutdown, the Federal Reserve’s stance on interest rates and normalization, and progress on a U.S./China trade deal. The slowing global economy, global political polarization, and negotiation tensions like trade and Brexit remain a concern. Notwithstanding, we believe the robust U.S. economy will continue to drive the U.S. equity markets.

 The trade dispute with China remains unresolved but has made some progress. The dispute has hampered U.S. based companies in key areas like capital spending and earnings growth estimates. The impact has been felt more by the Chinese, given that growth there has been its slowest since 1990. We believe a solid agreement is mutually beneficial, but progress remains slow and diplomatic. China has recently been linked to purchasing more US coal from West Virginia to reduce the trade deficit, which currently sits at $400 billion and is a major talking point between the two global powers.

 The European economy is sluggish with stagnant GDP and wage growth. In March, the European Central Bank (ECB) lowered its 2019 forecasts. The German 10-year bond has fallen below zero, economic activity has decreased, and the United Kingdom’s anticipated Brexit remains very much unknown. European elections are due in May this year and will be of interest to markets. Additionally the Japanese economy remains a concern.  Looking to further bolster its own economy, the U.S. has increased pressure around trade on Japan as well as Europe.

 Overall earnings growth forecasts for U.S. companies softened in the first quarter. After robust earnings in 2018 when companies reaped the benefits of the 2017 tax changes, we believe this meets expectations. Wall Street sentiment remains mostly bullish, considering the market absorbs the risks from the horizon and volatility stabilizes. 

 The Federal Reserve provided further clarity in mid-March after keeping rates unchanged. During the March meeting, they outlined a plan for balance sheet normalization. Beginning in May, asset reduction from the balance sheet is expected to slow and be discontinued in September. The Federal Reserve also announced that no rate hikes were expected in 2019 and likely only one in 2020. 

 The U.S. consumer drives the U.S. economy, making up nearly 70% of GDP growth. Consumer sentiment remains strong as the tight labor market and wage growth continue to positively affect the consumer. GDP growth is estimated to be around 2.4% this year, higher than other developed countries.

 Although housing data has been mixed, mortgage rates have been falling since the Federal Reserve took a more dovish approach to raising interest rates. Low lending rates keeps housing more affordable and positively impacts the consumer. Reasonable gasoline prices will also help stimulate the U.S. consumer, considering we are approaching the summer driving season. In summary, the following factors: low unemployment, interest rates, energy prices, and wage growth will optimize the U.S. consumer’s purchasing power and confidence.

In summary, we remain positive and optimistic on the U.S. equity markets based on the healthy economic data and the U.S. consumer. We believe the domestic markets are the best place for capital investment, considering a period of stagnant global growth, global politics, and low interest rates in the bond markets. 

 As always, please don’t hesitate to give us a call with any questions or to review your accounts. Happy Spring!

 

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Quarterly Market Update

Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support.

2018 ended as one of the most volatile times in history. Starting in the third quarter, the markets floated with a 20% decline. Throughout that quarter, 2% daily swings were common, and volatility spiked to historic levels.

Over the next couple of years, success in investing will rely on our ability to lift our gaze from the daily news and focus on future opportunities. Recent pullbacks in the market have created a better investment landscape; investors who maintain a longer term perspective should be successful in 2019.

There are three major reasons for the onset of concern last quarter: a global slowdown; a possibly hawkish Federal Reserve; and domestic and global political turmoil.

China’s economy is maturing and is trying to keep its place as the premier low-cost manufacturer for the world. That will be difficult, as wage inflation and a growing middle class in China are preventing low cost production. However, this is a positive global development and an opportunity as the growing middle class in China will start becoming more active consumers. Historically, China has been reluctant to open its markets to foreign suppliers and that is why our current government is trying to negotiate a better trade platform.

In addition, the European economy is slowing due to ongoing budget issues with Italy, France’s destructive and disruptive yellow jacket protests, and Britain’s undefined exit commonly known as Brexit. This year, the European Union has an opportunity to construct a better definition of an active member of the EU and to define its trading partnerships. In 2019, I believe that the EU will make progress as a unified region with enhanced trading capabilities better suited to its different nations.

Market weakness in December was focused on the Federal Reserve’s raising interest rates and shrinking balance sheet. Even though the Fed oversees a growing US economy, some experts were looking for more accommodating language in response to deteriorating foreign economic numbers. The Fed’s commentary, coupled with tax loss selling at the end of the year caused the markets to test levels not seen since 2017.

Lastly, continued trade disputes, turnover in the President’s cabinet and a change in leadership in the House of Representatives are cause for additional concern for the markets.

On the other hand, I believe that the markets are oversold and that there are opportunities in 2019. The Fed has stated that it is evaluating global conditions and will consider amending current policies in response to a changing global economic environment. On a positive note, the Fed believes unemployment numbers will continue to decline, which will aid US consumers. Corporate earnings and expectations were reduced last quarter, but US sales remain strong due to declining unemployment and evidenced by record-setting holiday sales. Healthcare, Technology and Retail/Household sectors will be areas of opportunity this year.

Lastly, any improvement in the trade disputes, an end to the US government shutdown or the Fed communicating a clear dovish policy will cause the markets to trend higher.

Even though the markets will be defined by volatility in 2019, I believe the risk in the markets remains to the upside.

Again, Happy New Year and please do not hesitate to call with any questions.

QUARTERLY MARKET UPDATE

The U.S. stock market remained resilient over the last quarter, as two of the best three months of 2018 occurred over the summer. The months of July and August both added over 3% to the S&P 500. After a slight consolidation in early September, the markets rallied on anticipated good earnings and ended the month with positive gains. Overall, Q3 was the best quarter for the U.S. markets this year.   

Economic fundamentals remain strong as one of the longest bull markets in history climbs a “wall of worry.” GDP growth continues to rise above levels we haven’t seen in several years, unemployment fell below 4% in September, and consumer confidence remains at levels not seen since 2000. Wage inflation reported last month was the highest in years, as the job market continues to tighten. The positive economic environment faces several challenges including rising interest rates, trade and tariff concerns, and mid-term elections. We believe these concerns and headwinds will keep the growing economy in check from detrimental inflation.  

The Federal Reserve raised rates by 25 basis points in September, the third rate hike this year. The committee reiterated their positive assessment of the U.S. economy and removed the accommodative language from their statement. Another interest rate hike is anticipated this year with several more expected next year. The Federal Reserve remains aware of the potential economic risks and are willing to reevaluate their outlook and time table if needed.

Healthcare, technology, and consumer discretionary sectors lead the U.S market higher while the defensive sectors underperformed. 

The third quarter was the best quarter for healthcare in several years. This comes as consumers realize the positive impacts of the strong economy and become more willing to utilize healthcare and engage in life-changing treatments.

Technology remains the dominant driver of this bull market. As innovation continues to advance, tech companies are capturing additional consumer and corporate spending. Apple and Amazon both hit $1 trillion in market cap, providing additional momentum for both stocks. We believe consumer-oriented sectors will continue to lead the market through the holiday season.

The energy sector is also higher for 2018 as the price of oil has steadily increased over the past year and now trades comfortably over $70/barrel. We expect oil prices to continue to gradually increase as the global economy expands and the U.S. prepares to impose sanctions on Iran in the next couple months.

Looking ahead, we anticipate strong consumer spending through the close of the year. Consumers seem to be willing to spend on lifestyle enhancements as wages tick up and consumer confidence continues to be robust. In addition, we believe corporate earnings will remain strong as the tax cuts take effect and create a greater competitive edge for U.S companies. During this past quarter, 80% of the earnings reported by S&P 500 companies beat earnings expectations.

Despite the robust U.S economy, there are several headwinds in the U.S. economic outlook. Trade tensions, political turmoil in Washington, and rising material costs could negatively impact the markets. The international markets remain under pressure as trade tensions, the strong U.S. dollar and foreign debt issues weigh on the global markets.

We remain cautiously optimistic on the U.S. equity markets for the balance of the year. We anticipate the healthy U.S. economy and strong consumer confidence to be the defining force for the fourth quarter.

As always, please don’t hesitate to give us a call with any questions.

QUARTERLY MARKET UPDATE

The U.S. stock market pushed slightly higher during the second quarter of 2018. Consumer and business confidence, strong economic data, and earnings growth continued to boost the market.  However, gains were tempered by recent developments in Washington. Trade concerns and geopolitical risks caused uncertainty which lead to volatility in the stock market.

The current economic outlook remains positive, supported by the accelerating U.S. economy, U.S. consumer spending, and low unemployment. Job growth accelerated in May and the unemployment rate fell to 3.8%, indicating a strong economy and tight labor market. Wage growth remains low, but more recently has shown some improvement as employers are forced to increase wages to retain or attract employees.

The solid economic activity and low unemployment has encouraged the U.S. Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates. The Fed increased rates again in June and expect to raise rates another two times before the end of the year. Fed Chairman Powell continues to take a hawkish stance as the unemployment rate falls and the economy strengthens. Inflation remains low, but has recently come under some upward pressure.

We remain optimistic on U.S. equities, as corporations benefit from the 2017 tax-reform and robust consumer spending. Productivity has strengthened and retail sales increased, pushing the U.S. GDP higher. We believe earnings growth will continue in the second half of the year. In addition, an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions have developed recently as companies use their cash piles and tax savings to increase capital spending and fund new opportunities. AT&T was recently approved to acquire Time Warner by the DOJ, a deal that will be remembered for years to come. The media landscape continues to change rapidly as Comcast and Disney battle over acquiring 21st Century Fox.  In our opinion, the wave of mergers and acquisitions will spread to other industries as capital remains historically cheap and easing regulations are supporting mergers.

A couple of areas of emphasis are the consumer discretionary, energy and technology sectors fueled by the momentum of the strong economy and consumer spending. In addition, we continue to believe rising interest rates will positively impact the financial sector.

Despite the strong U.S. economy, trade tensions persist and geopolitical issues remain on the horizon. The Trump-Kim summit in June was monumental and reduced some geopolitical concerns as the two agreed to work together to end North Korea’s nuclear program. In more recent news, trade concerns have ramped up, specifically with China and Canada. We believe Trump continues to use trade tariffs as a negotiation tool with foreign countries. However, if the trade rhetoric continues, it will negativity affect economic growth and become a drag on corporate earnings.

Despite the volatility, geopolitical risks, and trade concerns, we remain cautiously optimistic for investors in the equity markets for the balance of the year. We believe the healthy economy combined with consumer confidence will be the defining force in the second half of 2018.

As always, please don’t hesitate to give us a call with any questions. 

Quarterly Market Update

The three week “melt-up” in January continued the 2017 rally, but soon came to an end as the markets quickly pulled back, falling 10% in two weeks. After a relatively calm 2017 with volatility near all-time lows, heightened volatility is to be expected for 2018. We believe the pullback is healthy and needed for the market to continue higher. Although we think the recent volatility has been short-term focused, we continue to monitor the daily moves in light of the bigger economic picture.

Recent developments involving the Trump administration, such as the resignation of Gary Cohn and the announcement of tariffs has negatively impacted the equity market, but these negative reactions have primarily been followed with fairly quick rebounds. As we have learned over the past year, the President seems to soften his rhetoric during negotiations. We believe this is part of his overall strategy to instigate change. The end result of the tariffs is uncertain. We continue to monitor their impact on the consumer and the economy, but we believe the Trump administration will successfully negotiate to avoid a full-blown trade war.

Uncertainty with the new Federal Reserve Chair has also contributed to market volatility. Last week the Fed raised interest rates and Chair Powell took a more aggressive approach than many expected. We continue to anticipate at least two more interest rate hikes this year. Although this has raised inflation worries, we believe intense competition drives down the threat of runaway inflation, allowing the bull market to continue as long as rates rise modestly and predictably.

We believe the market will continue to climb the “wall of worry” as solid economic growth and earnings overcome new developments of political, economic, and global risks. The U.S. economy looks healthy, earnings remain strong, unemployment remains low and wage inflation is gradually increasing. In addition, we believe the tax reform and repatriation of foreign held dollars will expand economic growth. 

Therefore, we anticipate the bull market to continue, albeit with increased volatility.

As always, please call with any questions or concerns regarding your investments. 

Quarterly Market Update

Happy New Year! Thank you for a great year and your continued business.

All three major indexes closed at or near their all-time highs. The S&P 500 ended the year up approximately 22%, led by the technology sector. It was a stellar year for investments and overall capital growth. The markets experienced very little volatility as the VIX (Volatility Index) is near historic lows and the biggest single-day drop on the S&P 500 was less than 2%.

We believe the market appreciation was the result of many factors, primarily increased consumer spending and low interest rates. The job market strengthened as unemployment continued to fall and ended the year near historic lows. Increasingly positive consumer sentiment and glimmers of wage inflation helped to push consumer spending higher. Wage inflation in the labor market grew slightly, keeping overall inflation in check.

Generally, consumers remained selective with their spending by only buying products believed to be worth the cost. This trend persisted through the fourth quarter, with a sharp division between the successful retailers and retailers struggling for sales. In addition, two major hurricanes and the California fires will extend spending, as rebuilding continues and homes are reestablished.

Corporate earnings strengthened as the current administration pushed to lower corporate taxes, roll back regulation, and create more pro-business policies. With the passage of the Tax Reform Bill, we believe repatriation of domestic earnings from foreign markets will be a primary market driver in 2018. We expect that repatriated dollars will lead to more mergers and acquisitions among corporations.

A growing middle class in China, positive economic activity, and strengthening expansion pushed international equities higher. We believe foreign economies will continue to recover, providing an opportunity for further growth. In addition, oil recently closed above $60/barrel. We believe the energy sector will continue to benefit from global growth and be a favorable area for new investments in 2018.

We also expect the financial sector to be favorable in 2018. As the Federal Reserve gradually raises interest rates over the next couple years, financial institutions will be a direct beneficiary.

Although we expect the markets to push gradually higher in 2018, we believe increased volatility and normal pullback to be expected. A few areas we believe could negatively impact the markets are heightened geopolitical issues, concerns around our current administration, and a drastic uptick in inflation or interest rates.

As always, we continue to monitor the market environment and your portfolio. Please feel free to give us a call with any questions.