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Weekly Market Commentary, December 1, 2020

 
 
 
 The Markets
 
Last week, vaccine optimism immunized investors against signs of economic weakness.
 
In previous commentaries we’ve written about narrative economics, which holds that popular stories may affect individual and collective economic behavior. Last week, diverse narratives had the potential to influence consumer and investor behavior, but not all did. You may have read that:
 
  • Coronavirus anxiety is high. “Figures from recent days suggest infections may have fallen off from record highs in some states. But no one is cheering in the emergency wards. Health workers fear that Thanksgiving gatherings will prove to be super-spreader moments… Meanwhile many college students have just gone home for the year… [A medical professional said], ‘It is like slow-motion horror. We’re just standing there and being run over,’” reported The Economist.
 
  • Unemployment claims moved higher. “The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits increased further last week, suggesting an explosion in new COVID-19 infections and business restrictions were boosting layoffs and undermining the labor market recovery,” reported Lucia Mutikani of Reuters.
 
  • Economic stimulus is needed. “As it stands, tens of millions are already struggling to make rent payments and put food on the table. The $1,200 stimulus checks sent out by the government in the spring have long run dry and 12 million Americans are set to lose unemployment insurance the day after Christmas if Congress does not act,” reported Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post.
 
  • Vaccines are on the way. “As G20 leaders pledged to ensure the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, and tests so that poorer countries are not left out, the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany each announced plans to begin vaccinations in their countries in December…,” reported The Guardian.
 
  • Fiscal and monetary policy will reinvigorate the economy. “Surely the market strength reflects the fact that barring [vaccine] rollout disasters, we should have our normal lives back within months…Now add in the widely held assumption that the expected new Treasury secretary Janet Yellen will deliver the additional stimulus she has called for, and the newish Federal Reserve rhetoric that holds interest rates need to stay low…Suddenly it makes perfect sense to think that pent up demand and possible productivity gains created by the crisis could help set off what Goldman Sachs calls the Roaring 20s Redux,” wrote Merryn Somerset Webb for Financial Times.
 
The optimistic stories – the potential for vaccines to restore ‘normal’ and the possibility of new stimulus measures if Janet Yellen becomes Treasury Secretary – helped drive markets higher last week. Global stock markets rose and were positioned to deliver their best monthly performance ever, reported Camilla Hodgson of Financial Times.
 
In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved above 30,000 before retreating, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq Composite Indices both finished the week at record highs, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
 
 
AND THEY'RE OFF! Holiday shoppers may not have been racing into brick-and-mortar retail stores, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t shopping. Consumers have earmarked about $998 for spending on winter holidays, which include Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, according to the National Retail Federation. They plan to spend:
 
  • Slightly less on gifts for family, friends, and coworkers than they did last year
  • Slightly more on food and decorations
  • Significantly less on non-gift spending (buying that special something for yourself because the price is so attractive)
 
A lot of that money will be spent online. On Black Friday, U.S. consumers shelled out more than $9 billion online, reported TechCrunch. It was the second biggest day for digital commerce in history. The first was Cyber Monday 2019.
 
Overall, online holiday sales are expected to break all previous growth records. A report from Adobe estimated 2020 digital sales will be up 20 to 47 percent, year-over-year. That’s a broad range because there is a lot of uncertainty about levels of disposable income and capacity limits for brick-and-mortar stores. The report stated:
 
  • “If flu season brings with it a spike in [coronavirus] cases and an increase in store restrictions, a reduced store capacity will drive more people online. E-commerce is still only around one out of every $4 spent on retail. That’s a large bucket of dollars that could move online, leading to potential for big swings this season.”
 
Whether you are holiday shopping in person or online, or using a smartphone or computer, watching trends may help investors identify new investment opportunities. 
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December’s bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.”
--Donald E. Westlake, Crime fiction writer
 
 
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary, November 16, 2020

 
The Markets
 
Vaccine can be a powerful word. It’s worth 14 points in Scrabble (42 on a triple word square) and, last week, it was worth a whole lot more than that to financial markets.
 
On Monday, a pharmaceutical company and a biotech company announced preliminary trials of their vaccine show it may be 90 percent effective, reported Financial Times. The revelation conjured tantalizing visions of a future in which virus precautions are unnecessary and life returns to normal.
 
Around the world, pandemic-fatigued populations cheered and markets rallied. CNBC reported:
 
“The Dow was up nearly 3 percent, while Nasdaq fell 1.5 as laggard sectors like
energy and financials outperformed tech. Stay-at-home plays…were sharply lower,
but airlines rallied 16 percent. The S&P energy sector, still down 45 percent this
year, was up more than 14 percent, and financials were up 8 percent.”
 
As demand for risk assets, like stocks, increased so did bond yields. In the United States, the yield on 10-year Treasuries rose to 0.97 percent. Rising long-term interest rates caused analysts to speculate about the possibility of inflation and stagflation (rising prices during a period of weak economic growth), reported Barron’s.
 
Mid-week, enthusiasm moderated. While investors remained confident a vaccine could lead to economic recovery over the longer term, concerns about the shorter-term took center stage. Markets retreated a bit as investors mulled:
 
  • Weaker-than-expected consumer sentiment. In November, consumer sentiment has declined by 5.9 percent month-to-month and it was off by more than 20 percent year-to-year. Sentiment is an important measure because consumer spending is a major driver of U.S. economic growth. When sentiment declines, people may spend less.
 
  • A surge in coronavirus cases. The number of daily cases has increased by more than 70 percent nationwide since the beginning of November. Eighteen states are at risk of reaching full hospital capacity, reported NPR.
 
  • New pandemic restrictions. As holidays approach, many cities and states introduced or re-introduced restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus. The measures could slow economic recovery.
 
  •  No progress on new stimulus. If good news about a vaccine throttles political appetite for additional stimulus, small business owners could be in trouble. In 2019, small businesses employed almost 60 million people – 47 percent of working Americans. A new Goldman Sachs survey found “…more than half of small business owners (52 percent) have stopped paying themselves in a bid to keep their businesses afloat and four in 10 (42 percent) already have begun laying off employees or cutting worker pay,” reported Axios.
 
Market volatility is likely to persist. Stay calm and don’t let short-term events jar you from your long-term financial goals.
 
 
 
 
Is value investing making a comeback? In 1949, Benjamin Graham, who is known as the father of value investing, penned The Intelligent Investor. His book offered insights about how to reduce the risk of loss when investing in stocks.
 
Graham encouraged investors to understand a stock is more than a ticker symbol. Stockholders are owners of businesses that have underlying value, and that value does not depend on its stock price. He believed investors should purchase shares when a stock is trading below the underlying worth of the business. Value investing is all about looking for bargains, for diamonds in the rough.
 
Value investing is often discussed in tandem with growth investing.
 
Growth investors are less concerned about share price and more concerned about above-average earnings growth. They invest in companies that are expected to grow quickly and deliver impressive returns as a result of that growth.
 
Value investing has had a rough decade. Despite a long history of outperformance – from 1983 through 2019, the FTSE Russell 1000 Value Index outperformed the Russell 1000 Growth Index – value has underperformed since the 2008 financial crisis.
 
Last week, there was a move from growth-oriented stocks into value-oriented stocks. The Economist explained, “In the past week or so, fortunes have reversed. Technology stocks have sold off. Value stocks have rallied, as prospects for a coronavirus vaccine raise hopes of a quick return to a normal economy. This might be the start of a long-heralded rotation from overpriced tech to far cheaper cyclicals – stocks that do well in a strong economy. Perhaps value is back.”
 
Time will tell.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“The vaccine news airlines have been waiting for arrived this week, raising hopes for a recovery in passenger air travel – but only if the crippled industry can muster the resources to deliver billions of life-saving doses to the world…Just providing a single dose to the world's 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 freighter planes…”
--Joann Muller, Axios News, November 13, 2020
 
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary, November 10, 2020

The Markets
 
It’s said markets hate uncertainty, but that wasn’t the case last week.
 
Despite tremendous uncertainty about the outcome of the United States election, major domestic and international stock indices moved higher and the CBOE Volatility Index, better known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, moved 35 percent lower. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s reported:
 
“By all accounts, it should have been a terrible week for the stock market. At the close of trading on Friday, we still didn’t know whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump had won or which party would control the Senate. There was also set to be at least two recounts – one in Georgia, and one in Michigan – with likely more to come. It’s the kind of uncertainty that the market is supposed to hate.”
 
Yet, there was little fear to be found in financial markets. Investors’ confidence may have been grounded in a wave of positive economic news:
 
  •   15 of 18 manufacturing industries grew in October. The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index rose 3.9 percent in October. The Index finished at 59.3 percent, an indication manufacturing is improving and the economy is growing.
 
  • Rates remained low. The Federal Reserve kept rates near zero, which supports economic growth. The Fed’s Open Market Committee statement indicated supportive monetary policy would continue. “The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals.”
 
  • People are going back to work. More jobs were created in October than economists expected. The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Unemployment report showed 638,000 new jobs for October. The U-3 unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent. That’s an improvement on April’s unemployment level of 14.7 percent.
 
While that’s all good news, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States continued to increase last week. Randall Forsyth of Barron’s reported, “As politics at long last fades as a factor, the renewed surge in COVID-19 cases looms large…Even without renewed mandated lockdowns, however, people are apt to hunker down voluntarily…that could dampen the labor market’s recovery.”
 
 
A SALUTE TO VETERANS AND GOLD STAR FAMILIES. This week we celebrate Veterans Day. The U.S. Department of the Interior is celebrating by giving veterans and Gold Star families free access to national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands, reported the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
 
To gain free admission on Veterans Day 2020 – and every day after – anyone who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, can show one of the following forms of identification:
 
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Department of Defense ID Card
  • Veteran Health Identification Card
  • Veteran’s designation on a state-issued driver’s license or state ID card
 
The most frequently visited National Park Service sites across the country include:
 
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area
  • Natchez Trace Parkway
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
 
Happy Veterans Day!
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
 
“There is nothing so American as our national parks…The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd U.S. President
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
 
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary (October 21, 2020)

The Markets
  
It was a turbulent week for investors.
 
Waves of positive and negative news buffeted financial markets last week:
 
The financial sector delivered upbeat earnings news
Currently, many financial companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index have reported third quarter earnings and have done better than expected. Despite upbeat earnings, some companies' shares declined because of uncertainty about the path of economic recovery. If recovery continues, some banks may have excess reserves; however, if recovery falters and a double-dip recession occurs, banks may need to add to reserves, reported Barron's.
 
Coronavirus cases surged across the United States and Europe
A rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases worried investors at home and in Europe. New restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus were implemented in France and the United Kingdom. A source cited by Financial Times reported, "...economists and investors had not expected governments to allow the virus to reach the point it has now."
 
Two treatment and vaccine trials paused
The surge of new cases was compounded by setbacks in the search for effective coronavirus treatments and vaccines. Two COVID-19 trials, one for a treatment and one for a vaccine, were temporarily put on hold because of safety concerns.
 
Retail sales were strong, but manufacturing and industrial production weren't
Last week, economic data provided a mixed picture of the economy. On the plus side, September's retail sales were stronger than expected despite the tapering of unemployment benefits. On the negative side, U.S. manufacturing and industrial production both came in below expectations, reported Financial Times.
 
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased
The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits was higher than expected, and higher than it had been for the past two weeks, even though California had temporarily stopped processing new claims. Almost 3 million people filed for extended benefits, meaning they'd been unemployed for 26 weeks or more­­­. Overall, more than 25 million people relied on unemployment benefits last week.
 
Major U.S. stock indices eked out gains last week.
 

Data as of 10/16/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 0.2% 7.8% 16.5% 10.9% 11.4% 11.4%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. -1.0 -4.4 2.4 -1.0 2.9 1.6
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.7 NA 1.8 2.3 2.2 2.5
Gold (per ounce) -1.0 25.1 28.3 13.5 10.0 3.4
Bloomberg Commodity Index 0.2 -9.3 -6.3 -5.2 -4.0 -6.6
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, 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.
 
One dollar is a lot like another, isn't it? In theory, we think of all money in the same way. In practice, we don't.
 
Money is fungible. That means one dollar has the same value as another dollar or four quarters or ten dimes or 100 pennies. If you are buying something valued at $1.00, you can purchase it with $1.00 in bills or coins.
 
However, when making financial decisions, people tend to engage in something called mental accounting. One aspect of mental accounting is assigning labels that identify the intended purpose of money. Sometimes this decision-making shortcut can improve financial choices. Other times, it can produce a financial setback.
 
Mental accounting often guides spending and saving decisions
A common mental shortcut is budgeting. People and companies rely on budgets to help them make sound financial decisions. Typically, budgets allot specific amounts of income to spending and saving. For an individual:
 
  • Spendable money may go to housing, food, utilities, clothing, entertainment, and other expenses.
  • Saved money may go into emergency, vacation, retirement, or other savings accounts.
 
When people categorize money, they are reluctant to spend it on other things. Behavioral Economics reported, "When a resource [in this case, money] is divided into smaller units...consumers encounter additional decision points - a psychological hurdle encouraging them to stop and think...opening a partitioned pool of resources incurs a psychological transgression cost, such as feelings of guilt."
 
In other words, your brain will be reluctant to spend your retirement savings on a vacation.
 
Some shortcuts lead to irrational financial decisions
Mental accounting is a double-edged sword. If people do not think flexibly then mental accounting can cost them. For instance, focusing too intensely on labels can result in decisions that hurt your financial position rather than help it. Kiplinger's provided an example:
 
"Mental accounting leads us to hoard money in a savings account that earns 0.3 percent interest while keeping a high balance on a 15 percent-interest credit card. We like the psychological comfort we get from having money in the bank, even though transferring cash from savings to pay off a credit-card balance can essentially 'earn' us a quick 14.7 percent."
 
Like many things, mental accounting can be helpful or hurtful, depending on how it's applied.
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides.  Time makes more converts than reason."
                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           --Thomas Paine, Author of 'Common Sense'
 
Best regards,
 
Lee Barczak
President
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate. *Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index. * The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. * The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index. * The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. * Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce. * The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. * The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. * Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. * Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. * Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. * Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. * You cannot invest directly in an index. * Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Weekly Market Commentary (October 13, 2020)

The Markets
  
Yes. No. Maybe?
 
Markets were sharply focused on the status of stimulus last week. First, it was on. Then, it was off. Then, it might be on. Then, it was off again. There was a big bill. There was a smaller bill. There were stand-alone options.
 
'Maybe' was enough for investors
Major U.S. stock indices finished the week higher, per Barron's, and global indices were bullish on Friday because of U.S. stimulus talks, reported Financial Times.
 
"Markets are dizzy from all the talk on both sides about what they want from a deal but believe that something will inevitably happen anyway...Markets are essentially drunk on massive government spending just as they are inebriated from all the Fed quantitative easing and zero-interest rate policy," said an advisory group chief investment officer cited by Financial Times.
 
Earnings season is upon us
Another factor that influences investors is earnings season, which begins this week. During earnings season, companies communicate how profitable they were during the previous quarter.
 
Third-quarter earnings estimates for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index remain subdued. John Butters of FactSet reported, "For Q3 2020, the estimated earnings decline for the S& P 500 is -20.5 percent."
 
While that is a significant decline, it is an improvement on -25.3 percent, which was the June 2020 estimate for third quarter earnings. It is also an improvement on second quarter's -31.9 percent.
 
Some companies haven't provided guidance
It's notable one of four companies in the S&P 500 did not provide earnings per share (EPS) guidance for 2020 or 2021. (Guidance is a forward-looking statement that tells investors what the company expects will happen in the near future.) "Almost all of these companies cited the uncertainty of the future economic impacts of COVID-19 as the reason for not providing or withdrawing EPS guidance for the full year," reported FactSet.
 
Certainty about earnings may improve when a treatment or vaccine for the virus becomes available. The Milken Institute reported there are 318 treatments for COVID-19 and 213 vaccines in the works. Thirty-five of the vaccines are in clinical trials.
 

Data as of 10/9/20
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor's 500 (Domestic Stocks) 3.8% 7.6% 19.1% 11.0% 11.5% 11.6%
Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. 3.3 -3.4 6.6 -0.1 3.2 1.8
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 0.8 NA 1.6 2.4 2.1 2.4
Gold (per ounce) 1.1 26.3 27.6 14.6 10.8 3.6
Bloomberg Commodity Index 4.9 -9.4 -6.0 -4.5 -4.3 -6.6
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, 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 is everyone going? You may have read Americans are moving out of cities to escape the coronavirus or violent protests. During the past few months, pundits have said things like, "...the coronavirus pandemic has shifted attitudes about city living, altering the dynamics of the real estate market for years ahead."
 
Marie Patino of Bloomberg CityLab decided to look at the data and see if it was true. She gathered information from moving companies, real estate aggregators, and real estate consultants.
 
As it turns out, people are leaving cities - two cities in particular.
 
Patino wrote, "According to [moving company] data, between May and August 2020, move requests out of New York City to any destination were up 45 percent, and in San Francisco, up 23 percent, compared to the same time last year."
 
Where were people moving?
 
Some were moving to other cities, continuing trends that had been identified before the pandemic arrived. For instance, San Franciscans began to migrate to Seattle before 2020. Other top destinations for San Franciscans this year have included:
 
  • Austin, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • New York, NY
  • Boston, MA
 
Likewise, New Yorkers had been moving to Los Angeles and the west coast prior to 2020. This year, they also have favored:
 
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
  • Orlando, FL
 
One real estate aggregator's 2020 Urban-Suburban Market Report found, "Both urban homes and suburban homes are selling more quickly now than they were in February, and the percent change in time on market has been nearly equal for both classifications. The share of homes selling above their list price in suburban areas vs. urban areas exhibit the same trend nationally."
 
Weekly Focus - Think About It
 
"Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine."
                                                                 --Peter Sondergaard, Business executive
 
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Lee Barczak
President
 
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