Q3 2019 Economic and Market Perspective

As we move into Q4, it’s important to differentiate between an economic outlook globally, and an economic outlook domestically. Fears of a recession are fading as this fact settles into the minds of Americans and we can logically conclude that with the long-term slow down of global growth, U.S. markets will be affected accordingly. Results have been an inverted yield curve, interest rate cuts, and a stock market that is non-directional and increasing in volatility. These are not, in and of themselves, indicators of a recession from a domestic standpoint, however it is prudent to take them into account from a global standpoint.

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This is not 2008

Looking to get the attention of millions of people? Just say the word “recession.” Data from Google shows that searches for “recession” are at their highest level since November 2009, just a few months after the end of The Great Recession.

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Negative Bond Yields - All the Talk

“Some $14 trillion in global sovereign/government debt now offers negative yields and the U.S. could soon be a part of that legion, according to Joachim Fels, a global economic adviser for Pimco.” With 25% of the worldwide market now trading at negative yields, there’s a lingering fear of the potential endangerment of the way the global economy is intended to function. Between the US-China trade conversations, a shift in demographics, and an immediate reaction to blame the global central banks, the amount of global debt with negative yields continues to grow behind an economy that seems to be getting slower by the hour.

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Mortgage Rates

At 2 PM EST today (July 31st, 2019), we received confirmation that The Federal Reserve has reduced the target range for its overnight lending rate 2% to 2.25%, or 25 basis points from the previous level. This is the first drop since December 2008, right around the time of the great financial crisis. With this 25 basis points cut comes problems as well as benefits, and various things that we finance professionals are keeping a close eye on moving forward.

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Q2 2019 Economic and Market Perspective

The last few days of Q2 2019 were not typical of the end of a period. The trade summit between Presidents Trump and Xi on June 29 came one day after the final trading session of Q2 and the path of least resistance of the stock market is likely to weigh in the balance. The rise of tension that accompanied the trade dispute in mid-May led to selling in the stock market which has moved up and down over the past months as a result of the shift from optimism to pessimism over the impending trade deal between the world’s leading GDPs. While the “renewed” trade talks have already begun, we can continue to expect the fluctuation as we make our way to a peaceful but costly negotiation.

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Q1 2019 Economic and Market Perspective

With Q1 behind us, our humanity has led to the perception of much smoother sailing moving into Q2. However, we believe this is all relative. In December 2018, panic ensued following the longest shutdown in government history in anticipation of the US-China trade deal. Index performance was the worst the market had seen since the 1930’s and served to close out one of the most volatile quarters in the 21st century. Historically speaking, we had every reason to believe the market would recover in Q1; but still our humanity got the best of us. Simply put, when things looked bad, investors were scared.

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Q4 2018 Economic and Market Perspective

In the fourth quarter of 2018 the major indexes suffered their worst quarterly decline in roughly a decade and December went on the books as the worst month since the Great Depression. Plunging oil prices caused the energy sector to be the worst performer in the S&P 500 index, falling by nearly 24%. Technology, industrials, and consumer discretionary shares were also exceptionally weak, while the typically defensive utility sector was the sole segment to escape with a small gain, less than 1%.

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Recent Market Sell Off

The S&P 500 has officially crossed over into correction territory (1), which is generally defined as a decline of -10% to -20% over a reasonably short period of time, generally a few weeks to a month. The breadth of the market has deteriorated immensely with many stocks down 40% or more over the last quarter (2). As I have written recently, little has changed fundamentally over the past weeks with regards to interest rate expectations, earnings expectations and the potential length of a trade war with China. Yet, the market is acting like all three of those factors turned sharply negative overnight: in my view, they did not. I suggest avoiding the urge to get caught up in day to day movements, and instead focus on economic data releases, earnings reports, and other economic fundamentals.

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Q3 2018 Economic and Market Perspective

Normally I'd start this note by looking back at the behavior of the market and economy over the prior quarter but given the tumult and maelstrom of October it seems more appropriate to look at recent developments first. It seems the market has finally realized that interest rates are likely to rise more and faster than expected and the "I" word (inflation) along with uncertainties of a trade war with China caused the market to do its customary October sell off.

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U.S Midterm Elections and the Markets

On November 6, 2018, U.S. voters will determine whether Republicans maintain control of both chambers of Congress. Up for election are all 435 House seats and 35 of 100 Senate seats. At stake for investors is the impact the midterm elections could have both on corporate earnings and on the U.S. economy. It’s interesting to note that according to Bloomberg since 1946, the S&P 500 has never declined in the 12 months following midterm elections. Furthermore, the S&P 500 has seen an average fourth-quarter return of 7.9% during midterm election years. That being said, I feel comfortable saying we should expect heightened volatility during and after this election season given the current administration and sitting President.

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Taking Stock of the Recent Volatility

Market pullbacks and violent spikes in volatility can be unnerving, as they were last week when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 800 points on Wednesday, October 10th, and more than 540 points on Thursday, October 11th. As we wrote in the first quarter of this year after a swift decline in U.S stocks, it is important for our investors to not panic and let their emotions take over when turbulence hits portfolios. Rather, these periods should be used as a reason to analyze and assess investment objectives and investment time horizons for each asset class.

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Q1 2018 Economic and Market Perspective

As expected (and stated in our Q4 2017 report) volatility has made its presence known as stock and bond markets around the world suffered losses during the first quarter of 2018. The S&P 500 had a 1% single day swing 23 times during Q1. This occurred only 8 times in total during 2017. The CBOE Volatility index (VIX) catapulted 81% during the first quarter and posted a 20% plus jump during 6 trading days – the most ever for a quarter. A strong start to the year, in the U.S. equity markets, with a string of record high closing prices in January quickly retracted to end the quarter in negative territory with the S&P 500 index down 0.8% and the Russell 2000 down 0.1%. The only two equity market sectors to post positive Q1 returns were Technology (+3.53%) and Consumer Discretionary (+3.10%). Fixed Income markets suffered similar results with the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index down 1.46% and the ICE U.S. Treasury 20+ year Bond Index down 3.36%.

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act - Update

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Although massive changes are set to take place, most will not impact 2017 returns. In fact, the bulk of the individual tax provisions are temporary and set to expire in 2025. These provisions will revert back to the 2017 rules unless they are extended by a future Congress. That is not the case on the corporate side, as most of those changes were made permanent. The bill fills more than 1000 pages so our overview below will be somewhat brief in comparison.

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Q4 2017 Economic and Market Perspective

Threats of a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, increased tensions between right and left here at home and the aftermath of the spate of major hurricanes would in a typical environment likely lend to a pullback in risk assets and a flight to quality. However, the rally in U.S. equity markets continued in the fourth quarter at a pace consistent with what investors experienced in the first three quarters of the year. A strong earnings season, continued healthy economic growth and U.S. tax cuts have helped equity markets. Over the year, we saw a synchronized global growth acceleration, unemployment rates continued to decline and stabilization in emerging market currencies. As economic slack continued to diminish, several central banks modestly tightened monetary policy, although some emerging markets (EM) central banks were able to cut interest rates in response to lower inflation. It was also a quarter when downside political risks failed to materialize and the major upside political risk, in the form of U.S. tax cuts was delivered, as a result risk assets remain in demand.

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Q3 2017 Economic and Market Perspective

Stocks Hit New Highs:
Global equity markets posted gains during the third quarter of 2017, with major U.S. market indices hitting a series of new highs.    The U.S. enjoyed a goldilocks like environment last quarter- not too hot, not to cold (characterized by continued low unemployment and inflation, reasonably strong economic growth, and relatively healthy corporate profits).   Positive business and investor sentiment also helped support stocks and push them gradually higher over the quarter.

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Q2 2017 Economic and Market Perspective

Global equity markets ended the second quarter of 2017 higher, building on their first-quarter gains. Those gains were driven by several factors that included generally positive economic and corporate profit results in the U.S., continued confidence the U.S. government will promote more pro-business policies going forward and greater stability and growth in many international markets. For the quarter, the S&P 500 was up 3.09%, with the international equity markets up even better at 5.99% (S&P Global Ex-US BMI index). Those results were driven mostly from developed Europe.

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Q1 2017 Economic and Market Perspective

Despite recent turbulence in the stock market, the major indexes wrapped up the First Quarter of 2017 on a positive note. For the three months ending March 31st, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones were up 4.65% and 3.93%, respectively, while the NASDAQ had its best quarter since late 2013, achieving an 8.89% return. Despite some bouts of volatility, such as the Dow posting its longest losing-streak since 2011, the quarter was mostly marked by gains. In February, the Dow closed at an all-time high for a record-setting 12 days straight.

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Dow 20,000

When the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was first published in 1896 by Charles Dow, the index stood at a level of 62.76. On Wednesday, 121 years later, the DJIA closed above 20,000 for the first time in its history! After inching closer over the course of several weeks and climbing within fractions of a point from 20,000 last Friday, the Dow opened on a strong note Wednesday and charged higher as the day went on.

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2016 Market and Economic Re-Cap

From crashing oil prices that fueled Wall Street’s worst-ever start to a year, to unpredictable political events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the year in stocks was not for the faint of heart.

The U.S. stock market began 2016 with the worst start to a year in history.

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Q3 2016 Economic and Market Perspective

The 3rd Quarter began with a sharp upward move in risk assets, a surprising development given the UK’s decision to leave the E.U. at the end of the 2nd Quarter of 2016. For the most part, these gains were maintained, and July and August were both characterized by exceptionally low levels of volatility. Investors spent most of the summer confident that growth would remain slow-but- steady, and that monetary policy would remain accommodative. Although some of these gains were given back in September, due largely to concerns about the trajectory of monetary policy, equities generally performed well.

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Q2 2016 Economic and Market Perspective

The final days of the second quarter were marked by a decline that averaged 5.0% in U.S. markets as they reacted to the results of the historic United Kingdom referendum to exit the European Union. (Source: http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/26/investing/markets-brexit-reaction-monday/) The surprise Brexit vote sparked concerns of future economic and political uncertainty in the U.K. The negative market action lasted two days and was followed by an immediate rally recovering most of the decline by the end of the quarter.

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Q1 2016 Economic and Market Perspective

Equity markets began 2016 on the back foot falling 6% in the first week of trading. The selloff continued with the S&P 500 falling another 5% before bottoming out in early February. At the peak of pessimism on Feb. 11th, all of the major U.S. stock indexes were down more than 10% for the year. That day the Dow Jones industrial average closed nearly 15% off its May 2015 record high, the S&P 500 was down 14.2%, and the NASDAQ composite was down 18.2%. This was the worst start to a year in stock market history. (www.finance.yahoo.com)

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Rate Hike

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate for the first time in almost a decade yesterday from 0% to 0.25%. While the rate hike is a small one, Janet Yellen has stated that she feels confident about the fundamentals driving the U.S economy, the health of U.S. households, and domestic spending. She noted pressure on some sectors in the economy, particularly in manufacturing and energy, but went on to say that the underlying health of the U.S. economy is quite sound. Yellen assured that future tightening would be gradual, dependent on higher inflation and the quality of economic data. 

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March 2015 Economic and Market Perspective

Recently, as I was listening to a broadcast of Bloomberg, I was reminded of the many challenges we are facing in the market today.   We seeing renewed political tension, domestic and international elections, potential changes in interest rates, and continued confusion with regard to fiscal policy, all of which are violently moving the currency markets. 

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