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Weekly Market Commentary August 22, 2022

Weekly Market Commentary

August 22, 2022

 

The Markets

 

Is this a bear market rally or a new bull market?

 

Investment professionals are in the middle of a heated debate. Since mid-June, United States stock markets have moved higher, regaining about $7 trillion as many investors who had sold shares during the first half of the year began buying again, reported Lu Wang of Bloomberg. The debate is about whether the stock market is in the midst of a bear market rally or a new bull market.

 

A bull market occurs when share prices rise steadily over time. In a recent Morning Briefing on LinkedIn, Edward Yardeni of Yardeni Research, explained the debate:

 

“From a fundamental perspective, the bears expect that inflation will remain elevated, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates much higher, causing a severe recession. The bulls, like us, believe that inflation might have peaked in June and that the Fed is likely to pause for a while following one more rate hike of [0.50 to 0.75 percent] in late September. The bears see lots more downside for earnings and valuation multiples. We see flattening corporate earnings through the end of this year and believe that forward valuation multiples bottomed on June 16. In our bullish narrative, the market could move sideways for a while before moving to new record highs next year.” 

 

Will Daniel of Fortune reported, “Morgan Stanley has repeatedly argued that the recent stock market rally is nothing but a bear market trap, while Bank of America has warned that stocks have more room to fall based on historical trends.”

 

In an effort to determine whether it is possible to distinguish bull markets from bear market rallies, one Minnesota research group examined data going back 65 years, reported Bloomberg. “The answer is that it remains next to impossible to say in real time which ones will last. Methods people claim work often fall apart when looked at rigorously.” 

 

Last week, a pause in the rally added fuel to the debate. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined after four weeks of gains, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s. U.S. Treasury yields moved higher as investors parsed Federal Reserve commentary, reported Samantha Subin and Natasha Turak of CNBC.

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.

 

TAX BREAKS AND REBATES…The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which was recently signed into law, offers some financial incentives for households and businesses that are ready to begin transitioning to cleaner energy. Here are a few of the key tax breaks and rebates for individuals.

 

·        $7,500 tax credit for a new electric vehicle (EV). Anyone who purchases an electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle between now and 2032 may qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits. Americans who purchase used EVs may qualify to receive up to $4,000 in tax credits or 30 percent of the sale price, whichever is less, reported Greg Iacurci of CNBC. Next year, car buyers will be able to choose whether to take the tax credit as a discount at the point of purchase, reported Kelley R. Taylor of Kiplinger

 

These credits could give the EV market a boost if consumers who were deterred by the higher cost of electric vehicles, reconsider the option. Consumer Reports recently found that “the latest generation of mainstream EVs typically cost less to own than similar gas-powered vehicles, a new development in the automotive marketplace with serious potential consumer benefits.”

 

·        Tax credit for solar panels and other renewable energy sources. There is also a tax credit available for consumers who install solar panels or other equipment designed to capture and store renewable energy from wind, geothermal, and biomass fuel, reported CNBC. The credit extends and enhances an existing program. Under the current rules, homeowners who complete clean energy projects may qualify for a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost if the project is done before 2032. The credit falls to 26 percent in 2033, and 22 percent in 2034.

 

·        $2,000 annual tax credit for improving home energy efficiency. From 2022 through 2032, homeowners may receive a tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows, skylights, water heaters, and doors, as well as electric or natural gas heat pumps, and biomass stoves or boilers.

 

The legislation also includes rebate programs, which will be administered by state governments, for consumers who cut home energy use by at least 20 percent.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: try being rich first. See if that doesn't cover most of it. There's not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job.

—Bill Murray, actor

 

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Weekly Market Commentary August 15, 2022

Weekly Market Commentary
August 15, 2022
 
The Markets
 
Rally caps were waving.
 
In recent weeks, investors have embraced the idea that economic data will persuade the Federal Reserve to slow the pace of rate hikes. Last week’s inflation data fanned their enthusiasm.
 
The big news was that the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, didn’t change from June to July. That doesn’t mean all prices remained the same during the month. They didn’t. For instance, the cost of energy dropped by 4.6 percent, while the cost of food rose by 1.1 percent. When all price changes were combined, the overall result was zero percent inflation for July. Year-to-year, though, the CPI was up 8.5 percent.
 
Investors didn’t care that a single month is not a trend, and stocks moved higher. “The gains this week continue a longer run for the stock market, which had already been optimistic that evidence would point to peak inflation…The hope is that cooling inflation will make the Federal Reserve more likely to slow down the pace of interest rate hikes,” reported Joe Woelfel and Jacob Sonenshine of Barron’s.
 
“That narrative got another boost Thursday. The producer price index for July gained 9.8% year-over-year, below expectations for 10.4% and below June’s result. That further validates the peak inflation thesis, as companies would raise prices at a slower pace, given that their costs are rising at a slower pace.”
 
The bond market was less optimistic about what the future may hold. The U.S. Treasury (UST) yield curve steepened after CPI data was released, which suggests some optimism about the future. However, the curve remained inverted, suggesting that bond investors think the current Federal Reserve policy – raising rates and tightening monetary policy – may eventually lead to a recession, reported Liz McCormick of Bloomberg.
 
Bloomberg’s July survey of economists put the chance of a recession within the next year just below 50-50, reported Vince Golle and Kyungjin Yoo.
 
Last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index delivered a fourth consecutive week of gains, the Dow Jones Industrial Average trimmed its losses for the year, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 20 percent from its June low, reported Andrew Bary of Barron’s
 
 
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 ARE THE BEST PLACES TO LIVE IN NORTH AMERICA? This year, the Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a “liveability” study to evaluate which cities around the world had the most to offer residents. They analyzed 30 quantitative and qualitative factors across five categories – stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure – in 172 cities.
 
As it turns out North America is the second most livable region of the world, trailing just behind Western Europe. Every North American city in the survey received a score of at least 80 out of 100. The top cities in North America included:
 
1.   Calgary
2.   Vancouver
3.   Toronto
4.   Montreal
5.   Atlanta
6.   Washington, D.C.
7.   Honolulu
8.   Pittsburgh
9.   Los Angeles
10. Seattle
 
The desirability of North American cities may explain why more people are moving to the continent. “Over 630,000 people moved to North America from other parts of the world in the first half of 2022, a rise of 51% from the same period a year earlier,” reported The Economist.
 
In case you’re wondering, the least livable cities in North America – and no place had a low score – were Lexington, Detroit, Houston, Cleveland and New York.
 
Where would you live if you could choose anywhere in the world?
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“We all have our time machines, don't we? Those that take us back are memories...and those that carry us forward, are dreams.”
—H.G. Wells, author
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Weekly Market Commentary August 8, 2022

Weekly Market Commentary
August 08, 2022
 
The Markets
 
The strength of the United States economy continues to surprise.
 
If you have ever been camping, you may have banked your campfire by covering the hot coals with ash. It’s a process that keeps the coals burning low so the fire can be easily rekindled. The U.S. Federal Reserve has been trying to bank the fire of U.S. economic growth – and it’s proving to be challenging.
 
There are signs that U.S. economic activity is burning less brightly. For example, economic growth declined during the last two quarters, the U.S. housing market appears to be cooling, and consumer sentiment is low, reported Colby Smith of Financial Times. However, last week’s data suggested some parts of the economy are still ablaze.
 
·        Unemployment fell to 3.5 percent, tying a five-decade low. The U.S. labor market was on fire in July, adding more than twice the number of jobs economists had expected, reported Jeffry Bartash of MarketWatch. The primary driver behind the gains was women returning to work, reported Catarina Saraiva and Maria Paula Mijares Torres of Bloomberg.
 
The jobs numbers added fuel to the debate about whether the U.S. is in a recession. “The labor market in the first seven months of 2022 looks nothing like the labor market in most recessions. Friday’s jobs report was unambiguous. Far from losing steam, the labor market recovery has been firing on all cylinders,” wrote labor economist Julia Pollak in a Barron’s opinion piece.
 
·        Corporate profits grew in the second quarter. So far, 87 percent of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported on second quarter earnings. While the pace of growth is slower than the five-year average, three-out-of-four companies have reported higher than expected profits, reported John Butters of FactSet.
 
“The blended…earnings growth rate for the second quarter is 6.7% today,” reported FactSet. “Six of the 11 sectors are reporting year-over-year earnings growth, led by the Energy, Industrials, and Materials sectors. On the other hand, five sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings, led by the Financials, Consumer Discretionary, and Communication Services sectors.”
 
·        The services sector continued to recover. Economic activity in the services sector grew for the 26th month in a row. It was up 1.4 percentage points in July, according to the latest Services ISM® Report On Business®. “Growth in the U.S. services sector unexpectedly strengthened to a three-month high in July on firmer business activity and orders, easing concerns of a broader economic slowdown,” reported Jordan Yadoo of Bloomberg.
 
Last week, major U.S. stock indices delivered mixed performance, while U.S. Treasury yields rose, reported Jack Denton of Barron’s.
 
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.
 
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT’S REALLY HOT OUTSIDE? In the United Kingdom, they’re cooling off by eating ice cream. It has been hot in England this summer. Temperatures reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time ever. Asphalt buckled at airports and on roads, and the British government recommended that people stay home, reported Becky Sullivan of NPR.
 
Those who ventured out could visit a pop-up store offering a unique treat: ice cream flavored to taste like savory sauces, condiments, breakfast cereals, and other foods that might be found in a British pantry. The adventurous could pick up pints of ice cream flavored to taste like:
 
·        Tomato ketchup
·        Rolled oats
·        Coco pops
·        Soy sauce
·        Black tea
·        Mayonnaise
·        Salad cream
·        Golden syrup
·        Worcestershire sauce
·        Baked beans
 
“’There's lots of weird flavors and...me and my sister were very excited to try lots of them," one nine-year-old customer told Natalie Thomas of Reuters.
 
What’s do you like to do when it’s hot outside?
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”
—Franz Kafka, novelist
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Weekly Market Commentary August 1, 2022

Weekly Market Commentary
August 01, 2022
 
The Markets
 
Investors thought they heard a dovish note from the Federal Reserve and markets rallied.
 
Last week, we learned from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that economic growth in the United States slowed for the second consecutive quarter. Economic growth is measured by gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the value of all goods and services produced during a specific period. GDP includes household, business and government spending, as well as exports and imports.
 
Before inflation, the U.S. economy grew by 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and by 7.9 percent in the second quarter, according to the FRED Economic Data. After inflation, GDP shrank by 1.6 percent in the first quarter and by 0.9 percent in the second quarter.
 
Is it a recession or isn’t it?
 
Two consecutive quarters of negative growth is the popular definition of recession, and there was a lot of debate last week about whether the U.S. is in a recession. One reason for the debate is that the main driver of U.S. economic growth is household spending, which accounts for about 68 percent of GDP. During the first half of the year, household spending continued to increase, although it slowed.
 
“While a low unemployment rate and still-healthy consumer and corporate balance sheets mean the economy continues to show resilience for now, expectations that the U.S. will enter a formal downturn within the next year continue to rise,” reported Megan Cassella of Barron’s.
 
Financial markets rallied
 
In unscripted remarks, Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated that interest rates had reached a neutral level. When rates are neutral, monetary policy is neither contractionary nor expansionary. Investors took Powell’s comment to mean the Fed might ease rates sooner rather than later, and markets rallied, wrote Economist Mohamed A. El-Erian in a Bloomberg opinion piece.
 
“The S&P 500 soared 4.3% for the week and 9.1% in July, the best monthly advance since November 2020…Treasury yields dropped across the curve as well…Taken together, the equity and bond rallies helped loosen U.S. financial conditions,” reported Katherine Greifeld and Vildana Hajric of Bloomberg.”
 
While the rally was welcomed by investors, looser financial conditions are the opposite of what the Fed wants to achieve. It is trying to tighten financial conditions and reduce demand. It appears the Fed has more work to do.
 
 
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.
 
COMPANY SALES AND PROFITS WERE UP IN THE SECOND QUARTER. A perceived dovish tilt at the Fed wasn’t the only reason stocks rallied last week. It’s earnings season – that wonderful time when leaders of publicly traded companies tell investors how they performed during the last quarter and share expectations for the future. Investors review the information and use it to make decisions about whether to buy, sell or hold shares.
 
More than half of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had reported by the end of last week. Earnings (profits) were better than expected for about three out of four of those companies. So far, companies in the energy and industrials sectors are the standouts for the second quarter. Energy sector earnings were up 290.3 percent and industrial sector earnings were up 25.7 percent, reported John Butters of FactSet. The consumer discretionary (down 17.9 percent) and financials (down 25.0 percent) sectors are the weakest performers, to date.
 
Revenue, which is the value of goods and services sold, was up more than 12 percent among the companies that have reported so far. Every sector of the index reported higher revenue for the second quarter with energy (up 66.4 percent), materials (up 16.1 percent), and real estate (up 14.7 percent) leading the way. The communication services (up 5.8 percent) and financials (up 2.5 percent) sectors lagged.
 
“Despite worrisome signals from economic proxies like [a big box retailer] and [a shipping and supply chain management company], the earnings season as a whole has turned out to be brighter than expected...That’s fueling speculation that Corporate America will be able to weather the perfect storm of hot inflation, jumbo-sized rate hikes and dwindling growth,” reported Rita Nazareth of Bloomberg.
 
While a significant number of companies have yet to report, blended second quarter earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index were up 6 percent.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations.”
—Ryūnosuke Satoro, author and poet
 
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Weekly Market Commentary July 25, 2022

Weekly Market Commentary
July 25, 2022
 
The Markets
 
A lot of people are worried that a recession may be in our future. Some think it may already be here.
 
Unemployment is low (3.6 percent), and inflation is high (9.1 percent). Both tend to occur when an economy is experiencing strong growth. That makes it difficult to believe the United States is in a recession, but some data is pointing that way.
 
Last week, the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow estimated that economic growth in the United States was -1.6 percent for the second quarter of 2022, after adjusting for inflation. They measured economic growth using gross domestic product or GDP, which is the value of all goods and services produced in the United States over a specific period of time. GDPNow is based on a simple, unadjusted mathematical model. It is not an official reading, and the model tends to be a bit volatile. For example:
 
·         On April 29, when relatively little data was available for the second quarter, it was +1.9 percent.
·         On May 17, as retail trade and industrial production statistics filtered in, it was +2.5 percent.
·         On July 1, when construction spending and manufacturing data came out, it was -2.1 percent.
·         Last week, after housing starts were released, it was -1.6 percent.
 
The Atlanta Fed’s estimate becomes more accurate as more data is added. It tends to be most accurate near the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BES)’s official GDP release date, reported a source cited by Jeff Cox of CNBC.
 
Since the United States economy shrank by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2022, that would mean the U.S. has experienced two quarters of declining economic growth. Technically, that’s a recession.
 
Not everyone expects GDP to shrink. Bloomberg surveyed economists and found they anticipate 0.5 percent growth in the second quarter, which would be an improvement on the first quarter.
 
There is an important distinction between the two quarters. The slowdown in the first quarter was caused by surging imports and slowing exports, which is unusual. The slowdown in the second quarter may be caused by a slowdown in consumer spending, which is the primary driver of U.S. economic growth, and business spending.   
 
The next BEA’s GDP numbers will be released this Thursday, July 28.
 
Last week, Randall Forsyth of Barron’s reported that major U.S. stock indices ­­­­gained. Yields on shorter maturity Treasuries rose last week, while yields on Treasuries with maturities of one year or longer fell.
 
 
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 CHALLENGES OF DATING. As if the pandemic didn’t create enough dating challenges, inflation is now pushing the cost of dating a lot higher. More than 40 percent of people on the dating app Hinge said they think more about the cost of dating today than they did a year ago, especially members of Gen Z (the oldest Gen Zers are age 25), reported Paulina Cachero of Bloomberg.
 
Instead of meeting for drinks (the cost of alcoholic beverages was up 4 percent year-over-year in June) or sharing a meal in a restaurant (the cost of full-service dining was up 8.9 percent year-over-year in June) many people are opting for less expensive options, such as meeting for coffee, taking a walk, or cooking a meal at home.
 
Another challenge is keeping up with ever-evolving dating slang. “When you’re looking for love these days, it’s totally possible you might get breadcrumbed and orbited on your way to the soft launch,” reported Ashley Austrew on Dictionary.com. Here are a few definitions to know.
 
·        Breadcrumbing. This is slang for leading someone on. Usually, breadcrumbing is chatting or flirting online through text or social media.
 
·        Orbiting. When an ex – or someone else – stops communicating completely (i.e., they ghosted you) but they immediately offer a reaction when you post a picture or story on social media, they are orbiting you, reported Sophie Lloyd of Newsweek.
 
·        Soft launching. When a product is soft launched, it goes through testing in limited groups. It’s the same with dating. A soft launch gives a person’s friends and followers the chance to get used to the idea of a significant other. It’s a slow-motion version of the boyfriend or girlfriend reveal, reported Kaitlyn Tiffany of The Atlantic.
 
The bad news is that it’s never easy to learn a new language. The good news is that the price of gas is dropping so the cost of dating should, too.
 
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”
—Adam Smith, economist and philosopher

 

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