Archives for May 2017

Strong Markets & A Positive Outlook – Weekly Update for May 30, 2017

The markets marched ahead last week with the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ reporting all-time records, albeit just slightly above previous highs. The S&P rose 1.43% over last week, while the NASDAQ was up 2.08%. The Dow gained 1.32% and the MSCI EAFE gained 0.14% for the week. Volatility subsided as the CBOE Volatility Index, which gauges fear in the market, fell to 9.8 at the end of the week.

A few important economic developments also caught our attention.

Market News for the Week

  • Strong Corporate Earnings  

Corporate earnings remain a bright spot as approximately 75% of S&P 500 companies beat their Q1 earnings estimates. S&P 500 corporate earnings are averaging a 13.9% increase—the best performance in over 5 years.

  • First Quarter GDP Revised Upward

The good news is that Q1 GDP revised upward from 0.7% to 1.2% growth. However, the economy continues to grow at a less-than-robust rate at approximately 2% on a year-over-year basis, as it has since 2011.

  • Oil Prices Fall  

U.S. crude ended the week at $49.80 after prices fell almost 5% on Thursday following OPEC’s announced 9-month extension to limit oil production. Investors remain cautious; U.S. oil production has spiked by over 10% in the last year, keeping oil prices down by offsetting reduced OPEC production.

  • Softening Housing Sales

New home sales fell 11.4% in April to an annualized rate of 569,000. Median new home prices dropped 3.0% to $309,200, as sales are tracking for only a modest 0.5% gain for the year. April’s existing home sales dropped 2.3% in another indication of softening home sales.

  • The Fed’s Plan to Tighten Its Balance Sheet  

As expected, the Federal Reserve FOMC unveiled a proposal to gradually unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet with monthly limits. The process is likely to begin later in the year, though the Fed has not announced a specific date.

Heading Into Summer

After Memorial Day, the shortened workweek brings more attention-worthy reports as investors will continue to evaluate the prospects for a stronger Q2 GDP performance. Tuesday’s April consumer spending reports and Friday’s trade data should give us a better picture of where Q2 GDP is heading.

Investors will continue to monitor the U.S. trade gap. April exports were down 0.9% while imports were up 0.7%, creating an unfavorable gap of $67.6 billion. Investment in new equipment will also provide investors with another important indicator of future economic growth. New equipment orders have so far remained flat for the year, though. Finally, the Fed’s plans for a possible interest rate hike in June will be on investors’ radar.

If you have questions about where you stand today or how to prepare for tomorrow, we are here to talk. Our goal is to give you the facts and insight you need to remain informed and in control of your financial future.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Pending Home Sales
Thursday: ADP Employment Report, Construction Spending, PMI Manufacturing Index
Friday: Employment Situation

Volatility Returns: The Markets’ Response to Change – Weekly Update for May 22, 2017

Early last week, both the S&P and NASDAQ recorded all time highs before tumbling along with the Dow as political concerns rose. By Friday, though, the markets had largely rebounded and steadied. The S&P 500 closed the week down 0.38%, the Dow saw a 0.44% loss, and the NASDAQ reported a 0.61% decline. The MSCI EAFE reported up 0.79% for the week.

The CBOE VIX is designed to measure market volatility by using S&P 500 put and call index option prices. For most of the year, volatility in the markets has been low. However, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) spiked 40% midweek before falling back by week’s end, indicating a possible increase in market volatility.

Through the week’s ups and downs, investors followed some other important economic developments.

LAST WEEK’S DEVELOPMENTS:

  • Solid Regional Business Index
    The Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey again pointed to progress in the factory sector. While the consensus range was 16.0 – 25.0, the General Business Conditions Index-Level reported 38.8.
  • Mixed Housing Reports
    New home sales remained strong as the housing market index rose 2 points to 70. The data came out well ahead of the 65 – 69 consensus range. However, April housing starts were lower than expected. Housing starts are now at a 1.172 million annualized rate, after falling 2.6%.
  • Household Debt Rises
    Total household debt rose to a new high, reporting a $149 billion increase to come in at $12.73 trillion. Student loans and auto loans were major contributors to the rising debt:

WHAT’S AHEAD

Economy
Manufacturing output rose 1.0 percent in April, the strongest monthly result in over 3 years. As such, investors will track how the rest of the second quarter shakes out. In addition, we will be interested in this week’s housing reports, hoping for a better handle on where this up-and-down sector is heading.

Geopolitical
Financial markets could experience some headwinds as geopolitical situations fester. Concerns over North Korea and political opposition to globalization remain. In addition, Brazil is facing political disruption and a deep recession that could mean problems for companies with business interests in that country. Similarly, continuing political challenges for the Trump administration may adversely affect proposed tax reform, health-care legislation, and infrastructure initiatives.

As always, we will continue keeping abreast of market and economic updates. We encourage you to focus on your long-term financial outlook. Should you have any questions, we are happy to help.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday:  New Home Sales
Wednesday:  Existing Home Sales
Friday: Durable Goods Orders, Consumer Sentiment

Invest Lifestyle Expenses on Memorable Experiences

Financial envy is even more of a thing now than it was back in 1913 when cartoonist Arthur R. “Pop” Momand debuted the comic strip “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” which centered on the misadventures of Aloysius P. McGinnis and his family, who were always trying to keep up with their never-seen neighbors, the Joneses.

Today, we not only have television shows displaying lifestyles of the rich and famous, we’re punched with images and status updates in social media, too.

We not only see the “Joneses” on television, but we are likely connected on social media to colleagues and friends who post frequent photos and statuses about their new luxury car, boat, or 3-carat diamond ring.

Though we may think the grass is greener at the Joneses, we have no way of knowing whether that snapshot is a true picture of “the good life,” or a depiction of living beyond one’s means.

One 2016 study of household debt in America shows the average household has debt balances totaling almost $17,000, and the average household with any kind of debt, including mortgages, owes nearly $135,000.

Most people pursue happiness and there are economists who assert that happiness is the best indicator of a society’s health. In that pursuit, some folks assume if we spend money on an object, we will be happier longer because that item lasts longer than say, a one-off experience like a vacation or a concert. According to recent research, though, that assumption might be incorrect.

That same study showed buying things makes us happy, but only briefly. Its continual presence makes it fade into our surroundings. The study also showed that among those surveyed, people’s satisfaction with buying things decreased, while those who spent money on experiences showed increased satisfaction over time. That is because experiences tend to become imbedded in our identity.

There are at least two tactics we can employ to enhance and prolong our enjoyment of spending our lifestyle expenses: spending on experiences, not things, and savoring those experiences.

The good news is that there are techniques you can develop to savor your experiences and amplify the happiness you derive from them. Researchers have identified 4 common strategies for relishing. You can use one or combine tactics:

1. Build your anticipation of your experience or trip. Talk to family, friends and/or coworkers about what you will be doing or where you are going. If you are traveling with a group, get together with them and learn more about the destination or adventure and plan your activities. During your gathering, immerse yourself in the culture by eating foods and listening to music from the area where you are planning to travel.

2. Stay present and fully appreciate what’s happening. Do not observe everything around you from behind a camera lens, phone camera or otherwise. First, take in and really absorb everything around you. Savor the experience, the landscape, the city skyline—whatever it is you are in or doing. Afterward, take time memorializing everything; purchase a quality keepsake from your experience, take pictures, write in a journal, post your adventures on your social media accounts. Choose a unique hashtag for your trip/adventure and share it with your family and friends. When you are back home, look up your hashtag and follow the chronology of your trip and see all the things people said about your posts.

3. When you get home, reminisce, relish, relive. Get together with your travel mates and share stories, photos, and souvenirs. Place your keepsake where you can see it and recall memories of your trip/adventure. You also might consider putting up a photo or postcard in your home or office, or changing the image on the home screen on your phone to one from your adventure. Read a fiction or nonfiction book set in or written about the place you visited.

4. Talk about and share with others at every stage of your trip/adventure. By sharing at every stage (anticipation, experience, reminiscence), you prolong and enhance all the things you enjoyed about your trip/experience. While you are on your trip, talk with your travel mates at each meal about favorite moments. Share your experience by talking to others, writing or blogging about it, or posting visual and written snapshots on your social media accounts. Last Fall, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Honduras with a team from my church. We got to see how a church, a medical clinic, a child development program, and new homes are transforming lives in the city of La Ceiba. It was life-changing. I wanted to share the incredible experience with everyone so that they could get a glimpse into what we experienced, and wrote a post with pictures about the trip, and you can view the post here as an example.

These ideas help prolong your experience and make it bigger than life, which ultimately makes you feel as though you have gotten the most out of your investment, whether you spent $300, $3,000 or $30,000 on your experience.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or would like to discuss any financial topics, we are happy to talk.

 

Markets Ignore The Politics – Weekly Update for May 15, 2017

Markets tuned out noise from Washington last week and continued to focus on economic fundamentals. Mildly rebounding retail sales and strong consumer sentiment seem to point toward a modestly stronger second quarter.

After a three-week winning streak, both the Dow and S&P 500 reported slight losses. The Dow closed with a 0.53% loss, and the S&P 500 reported a 0.35% decline for the week. The NASDAQ, however, rose 0.34% while the MSCI EAFE reported a modest 0.16% gain.

MIXED SIGNALS CONTINUE

  • Soft retail earnings

Consumer retail purchases were up after a first-quarter decline. Sales rose by 0.4% (just shy of the 0.6% consensus), and 9 of the 13 retail categories posted gains.  As expected, early second-quarter gains suggest the first-quarter decline was just a blip.

  • Continuing concerns over store closings

A report last month concluded that in excess of 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores could close in 2017 due to poor sales. Last year, at least 2,000 stores shut their doors, while just over 5,000 closed in 2015. The record for store closings occurred in 2008 when over 6,000 stores closed.

  • Strong consumer sentiment

Despite modest retail sales, consumer confidence reached a 4-month high. Consumer expectations are positive regarding job growth, income, and low inflation. Furthermore, 44% of surveyed consumers expressed optimism in their financial prospects—the highest percentage since 2004.

  • S. consumer prices rise in line with expectations

The consumer price index rose 0.2% in April, in line with expectations for the month. However, the medical care and communications sectors saw continuing price weakness.

LOOKING AHEAD

This week, we will look forward to data regarding the strength of the housing market. Though the highest percent of consumers in over 10 years report positive opinions on selling homes, next week’s numbers will give us a better idea of where the markets stand. Finally, the market will continue to watch oil prices, which steadied this week after three weeks of decline.

In the weeks ahead, possible corporate tax rate reductions and potential trade policy changes will remain in focus for markets. In addition, markets will remain interested in the Fed’s interest rate plans and its plan to reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

As always, we will continue to track the impact of international and domestic political news on the markets and the economy.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Housing Market Index
Tuesday: Housing Starts, Industrial Production
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report
Friday: Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey

May 2017 Market Update Video

In this month’s video, Josh will talk about some of the major headlines that influenced markets in April and about a few first-quarter reports. We hope this information offers insight into what these developments might mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like another opinion on your portfolio after watching this video, please don’t hesitate to send us an email, or give us a call at (419) 425-2400. We would be happy to talk with you.

Mixed Signals, Positive Performance – Weekly Update for May 8, 2017

Last week, stocks rose but floated within a narrow trading range. By Friday, however, both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ reached record highs. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.63%, the Dow finished up 0.32%, and the NASDAQ rose 0.88%. The MSCI EAFE added 1.7%.

Overall, we experienced another week of generally positive, but somewhat mixed, economic signals. Soft auto sales and tumbling oil prices offset increased job creation and the lowest unemployment recorded in a decade.

POSITIVE MARKET NEWS

  • Increased Job Creation and Low Unemployment
    In April, U.S. payrolls added 211,000 jobs, exceeding the 190,000 predicted and showing a significant bounce back from March’s 79,000 increase. The jobless rate also dropped to 4.4%—the lowest it has been since May 2007. The economy added jobs in several industries:

    • Leisure and hospitality: +55,000 jobs
    • Health care: +20,000 jobs
    • Mining: +9,000 jobs
    • Professional and business services: +39,000 jobs
    • Government: +17,000 jobs
  • Strong Corporate Earnings
    First quarter earnings season continued last week, and U.S. companies once again reported strong results. So far, companies with majority overseas profits are reporting an average revenue growth of 19.9%, outperforming S&P 500 companies with domestic earnings only. This difference helps explain how corporations are reporting strong Q1 earnings despite sluggish economic growth in the U.S. during the same period.

MIXED SIGNALS

  • Auto Sales Below Expectations
    U.S. motor vehicle sales bounced up to an annualized rate of 16.9 million. Though April’s report falls below the predicted 17.2 million, it improves on March’s 16.6 million annualized rate.
  • Oil Prices Tumble
    Oil prices tumbled last week. Both June West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude and July Brent crude finished the week down. WTI closed at $46.22 a barrel, falling approximately 6.3% below last week’s close. Brent crude fell by about 5.6% for the week to $49.10 a barrel.

LOOKING AHEAD

On Wednesday, May 3, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced it would keep the federal funds target range at 0.75% to 1.00%. Nonetheless, the Fed remains encouraged that the second-quarter GDP will rebound, because they believe consumer fundamentals remain solid. This sentiment may indicate the FOMC will raise rates in their June meeting.
On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election, as expected. Macron’s win should ease European Market concerns, as he is a centrist who supports global trade, the euro, and France’s continuing membership in the EU.

As we look ahead to this week, our analysis will include a variety of international and domestic focuses. In particular, consumer prices, retail sales, and business inventories will highlight economic reports for the week while oil prices also should remain in focus for investors.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: JOLTS (tracks monthly changes in job openings)
Thursday: Jobless Report, Producer Price Index
Friday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

Earnings, Taxes & International News: What’s the Market Impact? – Weekly Update for May 1, 2017

Stocks continued their advance on generally strong earnings reports this week despite the GDP report showing a slow first quarter economy. The S&P 500 rose 1.51%, the Dow gained 1.91%, and the NASDAQ added 2.32%. On Tuesday, the NASDAQ posted record highs as it closed over 6,000 for the first time. Internationally, the MSCI EAFE was up 2.97%.

On Friday, April 28, we learned that first quarter GDP increased a modest 0.7%, lower than the reported consensus expectations of approximately 1%. Oil drilling and housing performed well, but consumer spending fell, largely due to poor auto sales and lower utility bills. Consumer spending, the largest segment of our economy, rose by only 0.3%.

While this growth is slower than the 2.1% last quarter—and the lowest we’ve experienced in three years—the picture is likely not as negative as it may seem at first. Not only did mild weather affect consumer spending on heating, but the government has also acknowledged its challenges accurately calculating data for first quarter GDP.

In addition to these GDP readings, a number of other events and data releases contributed to market performance this week.

Domestic Developments

  • Corporate Earnings Were Largely Positive
    Thus far in the first quarter, 79% of reporting companies published strong profits. In particular, consumer discretionary companies and commodity producers reported robust earnings while phone services and real estate investment trusts had weaker results.

  • Trump Announced Tax Plan
    President Trump outlined his new tax proposal, including plans to cut corporate taxes to 15%. Individual tax rates would fall to 10%, 25%, and 35% if Congress adopts the President’s plan.

International News

  • North American Trade Experienced Tension
    On Wednesday, April 26, reports that the U.S. may pull out of NAFTA created concern in financial markets. By Thursday, however, markets calmed after President Trump said he would agree to requests from Canada and Mexico’s leaders to renegotiate the decades-long trade deal. As these negotiations continue, two controversies lay in the background:

    • U.S. dairy farmers’ claims that Canadian action concerning milk imports violates the trade agreement.
    • A new tariff of up to 24% on Canadian softwood lumber that President Trump announced last week.

Finding the right solution for the negotiations is important to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA affects a significant portion of each country’s economy, including industries such as farming, automotive, and energy. Trade with the two countries accounted for approximately $584 billion in U.S. exports in 2016.

What’s Next

With Congress avoiding a shutdown last week, the markets should focus this week on:

  • Earnings reports
  • Construction spending
  • April auto sales
  • Manufacturing data
  • Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday

By Friday, most remaining S&P 500 companies’ earnings reports will be in, including Apple, Facebook, and Pfizer. Looking ahead, we will watch for what economic stories emerge from the data we receive, including the upcoming jobs report. For now, despite the first quarter’s initially slow GDP growth of 0.7%, expectations continue for 2.5% growth in 2017.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Construction Spending, Personal Income and Outlays, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index
Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, PMI Service Index, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
Thursday: International Trade, Productivity and Costs
Friday: Employment Situation