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Weekly Market Commentary November 6, 2023

Weekly Market Commentary

November 06, 2023

 

The Markets

 

Will there be a year-end rally?

 

Last week, there was a lot of speculation about whether the United States will see a year-end stock market rally. Some say yes, and some say no.

 

For example, at Bank of America, “Chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett broke from his usual bearish view to say technicals no longer stand in the way of a year-end rally for the S&P 500 Index. Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy and an optimist on stocks this year…[said] a contrarian indicator from the bank is also close to offering a buy signal…,” reported Alexandra Semenova and Farah Elbahrawy of Bloomberg.

 

In contrast, Morgan Stanley’s Chief U.S. Equity Strategist Mike Wilson thinks a fourth-quarter rally is unlikely. One bearish sign is that some higher-quality mega-cap growth stocks traded lower even after reporting strong earnings. In addition, “given the significant weaknesses already apparent in the average company earnings and the average household finances, we think it will be very difficult for these mega-cap companies to avoid these headwinds too...Finally, with interest rates so much higher than almost anyone predicted six months ago, the market is starting to call into question the big valuations at which these large cap winners trade.”

 

The bottom line is no one knows with any certainty what the future will bring.

 

Instead of trying to predict market lows and highs, we help investors manage risk by building well-allocated and diversified portfolios that are designed to help them meet their financial goals. These portfolios typically include a mix of stocks, bonds and other assets. By holding a variety of assets that respond differently to market conditions, investment portfolios may provide more consistent and less volatile returns over time. It’s important to remember, though, that while diversification is a valuable tool, it does not ensure a profit or prevent a loss. 

 

After three months of weakness, investors cheered last week’s gains in U.S. stock and bond markets. Major U.S. stock indices moved higher over the week, and yields on U.S. Treasuries moved lower.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. 

Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

PREDICTIONS VS. REALITY. It is notoriously difficult to predict the future, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. In 1904, a banker advised Horace Rackham not to invest in the new Ford Motor Company because, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.” Fortunately for Rackham, he was persuaded otherwise.

 

In 1950, the New York Time’s science reporter predicted a revolution in house cleaning by 2000. Since everything in a home would be made of synthetic fibers, cleaning would require a hose, some detergent, and a few well-placed drains. While many things in homes are made of synthetic materials, hosing down the interior is not a practical method for cleaning.

 

One problem with predicting the future is that forecasts are based on current knowledge – and unexpected things happen all the time. For example, during the past three years, we’ve experienced a few unexpected events:

 

·        A pandemic that caused economies to lockdown around the world,

·        A war in Ukraine that caused a sharp increase in energy prices,

·        Aggressive central bank tightening in many countries,

·        A war in Israel that could expand into the Middle East, and

·        Harry Styles on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.

 

To get an idea of how difficult forecasting is, let’s step back in time to 2020. In January 2020, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2020 to 2030. The CBO forecast the U.S. economy would grow 2.2 percent in 2020, and unemployment would be 3.5 percent. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and the economy went on lockdown. By the end of 2020, the economy had shrunk by 2.2 percent, and unemployment had risen to 8.1 percent.

 

CBO Projections vs. Reality

Notes: The table includes the latest data available for 2023. Inflation shows the 12 months through December for 2020 and through September for 2023. Unemployment shows data for December 2020 and October 2023. The 2020 10-year U.S. Treasury rate is as of December 31, 2020. The 2023 10-year U.S. Treasury rate is as of November 3, 2023.

 

Forecasting proved to be challenging in 2023, too, as the table shows. At the start of the year, the CBO expected economic growth to be very weak (0.3 percent), following aggressive Federal Reserve rate hikes. Instead, as the table shows, economic growth exceeded expectations largely because of strong consumer spending. In addition, inflation and unemployment were lower than forecast and the 10-year Treasury rate was higher.

 

While many organizations, teams, and individuals try to predict the direction of markets and economies, it’s not an easy thing to do.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

"You can only predict things after they have happened.”

—Eugene Ionesco, playwright

 

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Weekly Market Commentary October 30, 2023

Weekly Market Commentary

October 30, 2023

 

The Markets

 

The Mark Twain Effect?

 

Historically, economic theory was based on the idea that financial decisions were grounded in rational thought. In recent years, behavioral economists have recognized that people don’t always behave rationally. In fact, research has found that investors like shortcuts that help simplify decision-making. While rules of thumb can be helpful, it’s important to use common sense. Some investment theories are a bit wacky, such as:

 

  • The Aspirin Indicator: This theory holds that there is an inverse correlation between aspirin production and stock market performance. When aspirin production is down, markets are up (fewer headaches). When production is up, stocks are down (more headaches).

 

  • The Hemline Index: The idea behind this theory is that market rises and falls in line with skirt lengths. When skirts are shorter, the market rises. When hemlines move lower, the stock market does, too.

 

  • The October Effect: This theory is that stock returns will be lower in October than in other months of the year. While there have been some impressive October stock market declines, the data doesn’t support the theory. Some believe the October Effect derives from a book written by Mark Twain. In The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, Pudd’nhead cautions, “October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate stocks in.”

 

This year, U.S. stocks moved lower in October. Last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq 500 Composite Indices both entered correction territory, reported Connor Smith of Barron’s. A correction occurs when an Index (or stock) drops 10 percent to 20 percent from its previous high. In general, corrections are normal adjustments as stocks trend higher. On occasion, a correction can mark the start of a bear market, reported the Corporate Finance Institute.

 

No one likes to see a negative return on an account statement. Sometimes, when markets have moved lower, investors are tempted to make portfolio changes to minimize losses. This is rarely a good idea. Timing the market is exceptionally difficult. Missing just a few days of returns can dramatically affect long-term performance. A better choice is to have a well-diversified portfolio that is invested according to your long-term financial goals and then make changes when your goals change, or you experience a life transition.

 

Last week, major U.S. stock indices moved lower, and yields on most longer-term U.S. Treasuries finished the week lower.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. 

Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

THINGS PEOPLE DON’T LIKE – AND THINGS THEY DO. Many people have strong opinions, especially when it comes to what they like and don’t like. Research has found that preferences are affected by our experiences, genetics, environment, family, friends and other factors, reported Ana Clemente in The Conversation. Some people, for example, have neophobia, an aversion to anything new or unfamiliar. Here are a few things that people have said they dislike, gathered from surveys and social media.

 

·        Driving at night or in bad weather.

·        Redoing a home repair because it was done poorly the first time.

·        Making multiple trips to the hardware store for the same project.

·        Working from 9 to 5 (commenters preferred a flexible schedule).

·        Waiting in line.

·        Rising prices, aka inflation.

·        Oversharing on social media.

·        Taking surveys.

·        Worrying about income after retirement.

 

Sometimes, an unexpected event can spark delight and change your outlook. A snack company in the United Kingdom asked people the kinds of spontaneous surprises that improve their mood during the day or week. Here are some of the moments survey respondents enjoyed.

 

  • Finding forgotten cash in the pocket of a jacket.
  • Receiving a compliment from a stranger.
  • Having someone let them go first at a store checkout.
  • Hearing a favorite song on the radio.
  • Being recognized with a bonus at work.
  • Hitting all green lights as they drive along the road.
  • Getting a whiff of a favorite scent from childhood.
  • Having a loved one say they’re proud of you.
  • Doing something nice for someone else.

Many respondents said spur-of-the-moment events brought joy, or restored their faith in humanity, about twice a week on average, reported The Good News Network.

 

What brings delight to your life?

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

"But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.”

—Ann Patchett, author (Dutch House)

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Weekly Market Commentary October 16, 2023

Weekly Market Commentary

October 16, 2023

 

The Markets

 

Markets were resilient.

 

Last week, investors had a lot to process – geopolitics, inflation, consumer sentiment, the possibility of government shutdown – and markets were volatile. Toward the end of the week, some investors were reassured when earnings season kicked off with reports showing major banks posted stronger-than-expected profits during the third quarter. Here’s a brief look at what happened during the week:

 

War in Israel. Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, and Israel declared war. The human toll has been high and continues to increase. The conflict has potential to spread across the region. While economics is a lesser concern, the war may disrupt energy supplies, keeping inflation – and interest rates – higher for longer, according to Ziad Daoud, Galit Altstein and Bhargavi Sakthivel of Bloomberg.

 

U.S. inflation proved persistent. In September, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed prices rose 3.7 percent year-over-year. When volatile food and energy prices were excluded, inflation was 4.1 percent year-over-year. Inflation has fallen a long way from its June 2022 peak of 8.9 percent, but the decline has stalled, and inflation remains well above the Federal Reserve’s two percent target. That reinforces the idea that the U.S. Federal Reserve may leave rates higher for longer, reported Chris Anstey of Bloomberg.

 

Consumers were less optimistic. Inflation is affecting the finances of individuals and businesses, according to the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers Director Joanne Hsu. The October consumer sentiment survey found, “Assessments of personal finances declined about 15%, primarily on a substantial increase in concerns over inflation, and one-year expected business conditions plunged about 19%. However, long-run expected business conditions are little changed, suggesting that consumers believe the current worsening in economic conditions will not persist.”

 

U.S. budget negotiations remained stalled. Congress has about a month left to negotiate and pass the appropriations bills necessary to fund the U.S. government for fiscal 2024. However, the House of Representatives currently cannot proceed without an elected Speaker of the House. On November 17, stop-gap funding measures end. Without additional funding measures a government shutdown is possible, reported David Morgan, Richard Cowan, and Moira Warburton of Reuters.

 

Banks did well in the third quarter. Earnings season got off to a good start last week. Major U.S. banks were the first to report, and some saw profits rise significantly in the third quarter. One large bank reported its profit was 35 percent higher, year-over-year.

 

Major U.S. stock indices finished a volatile week higher. Bond markets produced mixed results with yields on longer maturities of U.S. Treasuries moving lower.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. 

Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

WHERE IN THE WORLD DO PEOPLE SLEEP WELL? Scientists have been studying how to slow aging and extend longevity. One factor that can affect your lifespan is how well you sleep. According to a new study, there are five hallmarks of a good sleeper. They:

 

1)   Sleep 7 to 8 hours a night,

2)   Have little difficulty falling asleep,

3)   Stay asleep through the night on most nights,

4)   Feel well-rested after waking up most mornings, and

5)   Don’t rely on sleeping pills.

 

People who are good sleepers tend have longer life expectancy, reported the American College of Cardiology. Men who sleep well live 4.7 years longer, on average, and women who sleep well gain 2.4 years, on average.

 

Of course, there are always exceptions. Scientists have discovered that some people are naturally short sleepers. They can get far less sleep, often four to six hours a night, without suffering any negative effects. So far, research has identified three genes that allow people to sleep less without experiencing physical or cognitive costs, reported Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

 

Where you live may affect the quality of your sleep, too, according to a National University in Singapore study. It found that the least successful sleepers are in Asia, where people tend to snooze for less than 6.5 hours a night during the week. The most successful sleepers are in Ireland, New Zealand, Slovakia and the Netherlands. In general, people in countries with high-quality sleep averaged seven hours on weeknights. People in the United States weren’t far behind, slumbering for 6.9 hours, on average, from Monday through Friday.

 

Life expectancy is a key factor when planning for retirement. If you have any questions about how lifespan can affect retirement saving and retirement income, get in touch.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.”

—Aldous Huxley, author

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Weekly Market Commentary October 9, 2023

Weekly Market Commentary

October 09, 2023

 

The Markets

 

Financial markets lost ground during the third quarter.

 

While year-to-date returns for the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index remain above the historic average, which was 10.24 percent, including dividends, from 1973 to 2022, the rally in U.S. stocks stalled during the third quarter of 2023, reported Lewis Krauskopf, Ankika Biswas and Shashwat Chauhan of Reuters.

 

Early in the quarter, U.S. stocks gained, driven higher by better-than-expected corporate earnings, falling inflation and optimism that the Federal Reserve (Fed) might be near the end of its rate-hiking cycle. Since March of 2022, the Fed has lifted the Federal Funds effective federal funds rate from near zero to 5.33 percent and reduced its bond holdings by $1 trillion through quantitative tightening, reported Michael S. Derby of Reuters.

 

The Fed’s actions are designed to bring inflation lower by slowing economic growth and reducing demand for goods and services. However, the U.S. economy continues to hum along. The labor market has been particularly resilient. Last week’s employment data showed number of jobs created in September was almost double the Dow Jones consensus estimate, reported Jeff Cox of CNBC. The U.S. unemployment rate remained near historically low levels, and the labor force participation rate increased over the quarter.

 

The strong economy has been a source of significant uncertainty. Some economists believe it is an indication the Fed has engineered a soft landing and inflation will reach targeted levels without a recession, although 60 percent of the economists surveyed by Bloomberg continue to say a recession is ahead, reported Rich Miller, Molly Smith and Kyungjin Yoo.

 

Government turmoil also has created uncertainty. In early August, Fitch Ratings surprised financial markets by lowering its rating on U.S. Treasuries from AAA to AA+. The company indicated that “a high and growing general government debt burden, and the erosion of governance” were the impetus for the downgrade.

 

In September, when Congress debated whether to approve the necessary appropriations bills to fund the U.S. government for fiscal 2024, Moody’s Investors Service – the only remaining major credit rating agency to award U.S. Treasuries a AAA rating – warned that a government shutdown would be a “credit negative” event, reported Matt Phillips of Axios. Congress temporarily avoided a government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution that provides funding through mid-November.

 

By the end of the quarter, optimism that the end of the Fed’s tightening cycle was near had faded amid uncertainty about the strength of the economy, the possibility of a government shutdown, and a growing number of labor disputes. In late September, the Fed released its economic projections, making it clear that an additional rate hike was possible in 2023, and rate cuts were unlikely before 2024.

 

The Fed’s hawkish outlook helped push stock and bond markets lower. In late September, the S&P 500 Index was down about 7 percent from its July high. From August through September, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose from 4.05 percent to 4.59 percent. Bond prices fall as yields rise.

 

Last week, despite the strong jobs report bolstering the likelihood of another Fed rate hike, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Indices moved higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Index lost ground. Yields on U.S. Treasuries generally moved higher over the week.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. 

Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

STRANGE BUT TRUE…The animal world is filled with wonders. For example, National Geographic reports that the world’s lightest mammal is the Bumblebee bat. It weighs in at two grams – about the same as two standard paper clips. See what you know about recent occurrences in the natural world by taking this brief quiz.

 

1.   Flamingos that may have been flying from Cuba to the Yucatan were blown off course by Hurricane Idalia. So far, they’ve been found in 12 U.S. states, according to news reports. What is the northernmost state where they have been found?

a.   Minnesota

b.   Wisconsin

c.    Montana

d.   Alaska

 

2.   Scientists believe that the ability to solve problems independently is a sign of intelligence among animals. In a recent study, scientists scattered “puzzle boxes with three differently configured compartments that contained highly aromatic jackfruit” across an area to see whether Asian elephants would be willing and able to open the boxes. How many of the 44 elephants that approached the boxes were able to figure out at least one way to open them?

a.   37

b.   24

c.    11

d.   4

 

3.   Blue is one of the rarest colors in nature. Last year, explorers in Thailand found a new species of creature with iridescent blue patches on its body. What type of creature was it?

a.   A sloth

b.   A snail-eating snake

c.    A tarantula

d.   An owl

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

 

Dreams

By Langston Hughes

 

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

 

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow.

 

Answers: 1) b; 2) c; 3) c

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Weekly Market Commentary October 2, 2023

Weekly Market Commentary

October 02, 2023

 

The Markets

 

Inflation is slowing but consumers aren’t feeling it.

 

In August, for the first time in two years, inflation (excluding volatile food and energy costs) dropped below four percent. Last week, one of the Federal Reserve (Fed)’s favored inflation measures – the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index – indicated that prices rose 3.9 percent, year-over-year, in August 2023. That’s an improvement from January, when prices rose by 4.9 percent, year-over-year, but it remains above the Fed’s target of 2 percent.

 

While slowing inflation is good news, many Americans are not feeling relief. “Even as the Federal Reserve’s favored measure of price gains eases, the cost of food, gasoline, car insurance and other essentials is still elevated after two years of persistent increases…It costs $734 more each month to buy the same goods and services as two years ago for households who earn the median income,” according to a source cited by Mark Niquette, Jarrell Dillard and Michael Sasso of The Washington Post.

 

Ongoing pain in the pocketbook is due, in part, to higher oil prices, which are not included in core inflation numbers. The price of crude oil rose to the highest level in more than a year last week, before falling slightly. Rising prices resulted from low inventories and reduced production levels among OPEC+ (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus 11 other non-OPEC members) that reduced global oil supply, reported Lee Ying Shan of CNBC. In August, the cost of gasoline, lubricants, and other oil-related products rose, reported Jeffry Bartash of MarketWatch.

 

Regardless of oil prices, investors were hopeful last week that the Fed might not raise rates again in 2023. Revised economic data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed the economy grew at a slightly slower pace in the second quarter of 2023 than it did in the first quarter. In addition, consumer spending, which is the primary driver behind economic growth in the United States, cooled. The data suggest the Fed is making progress – reducing price pressures by slowing economic growth and lowering demand for goods.

 

Stocks moved higher on Thursday before reversing course. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week lower, according to Barron’s. Yields on longer-term U.S. Treasuries moved higher over the week.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. 

Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; U.S. Treasury; London Bullion Market Association.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

THE DOS AND DON’TS OF CELLPHONE ETIQUETTE. Many people of a certain age were taught a set of rules for making phone calls (between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.), talking on the phone (never do it while eating or brushing your teeth), and greeting callers (“Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon” and never “What do you want?”).

 

As cellphones have become ubiquitous, the etiquette of phone calls has changed. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” of evolving cellphone etiquette:

 

·        Don’t leave voicemail messages. Many people read transcripts of voice messages rather than listening to the message itself. Often transcription is inaccurate. If information needs to be communicated in a timely and accurate way, it is better to send a text message, reported Heather Kelly of The Washington Post.

 

·        Do text before calling. While baby boomers grew up making and receiving phone calls (often on landlines with long tangled cords), younger generations find phone calls to be inefficient, time-consuming, presumptuous, and disruptive, according to a survey conducted by the BankMyCell blog. They also find phone calls to be stressful, and four-in-five indicated they must ratchet up their courage before making a call.

 

·        Don’t take calls in a public place (or use your speakerphone in public). Find a private area to take the call or offer to call the person back when you have privacy. It is discourteous to the people around you to chat in public and it may jeopardize the privacy of the person on the phone. For similar reasons, it is never a good idea to use a speakerphone in a public place, advises Lisa Lyons of Events & Etiquette.

 

Despite a growing preference for texting, calling is not passé. “While hopping on the phone may be less common or involve more planning than it used to, it’s still a wonderful way to communicate. Talking to a person in real time can strengthen relationships, improve mental health, and lessen loneliness,” reported The Washington Post.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

—Anne Lamott, author

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