A Week for Giving Thanks – Weekly Update for November 28, 2016

2016-11-28-blog-image-1As we gathered our families and friends to give thanks last week, the market gave us even more to be thankful for. Through the four-day trading week, the Dow gained 1.51%, the S&P 500 was up 1.44%, the NASDAQ added 1.45%, and the MSCI EAFE increased 1.26%.

What Happened Last Week?

The S&P 500, Dow, and NASDAQ hit all-time highs: For the third straight week, the three major domestic indexes increased—and they all reached record highs. By market close on Friday, November 25, the S&P 500 was at 2,213.33, the Dow reached 19,152.14, and the NASDAQ was up to 5,398.92. Each of the indexes is now up over 7% for the year.

U.S. Dollar / Euro move closer together: A combination of positive news in the United States and ongoing economic challenges in Europe have moved the dollar and euro increasingly closer together for the past three weeks. In fact, Deutsche Bank now predicts parity between the two currencies by the second quarter of 2017— and the dollar to be worth more than the euro by the third quarter. The two currencies have not had equal value since November 2002. At the euro’s highest in July 2008, it was worth more than 1.6 times as much as the dollar.

A rising dollar signals our economic strength but can also negatively affect exports. While we wait to see whether EUR/USD parity is ahead, we will say: If you have European travels planned, the favorable exchange rate is certain to be welcome news.

Oil continues to falter: Of course, not everything can be perfect in the markets. Oil continued its patchy performance to close at $47.24 on Friday. OPEC meets this week, and no one knows whether they will be able to reach a deal for oil producers to curb production. As of now, the markets are still oversaturated with oil, but we’re significantly above the 10-year low of below $30 per barrel that we reached earlier this year. If production stabilizes and prices rise to a more sustainable level, then oil companies will be better able to invest in new long-term projects. For the meantime, enjoy the low gas prices while they last — as we all wait to see how OPEC and the major oil producers decide to move forward.

As we’ve mentioned in recent market updates, the Federal Reserve’s December meeting remains the next big event on the economic calendar. The odds of an interest-rate increase are now nearly 100%. But if 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that even highly predicted outcomes don’t always occur. In the meantime, we remain thankful for the recent market growth and continue to focus on your long-term interests. As always, we are grateful for the trust you place in us to care for your family and financial future.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: GDP

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, Personal Income and Outlays

Thursday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Report

Friday: Employment Situation

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What Does Year-End Hold For Our Strengthening Economy? – Weekly Update for November 21, 2016

interest-rates-could-riseFor the second straight week, the major domestic indexes all ended in positive territory: The S&P 500 was up 0.81%, the Dow increased 0.11%, and the NASDAQ added 1.61%. While American indexes performed well, MSCI EAFE’s international equities declined 1.58%.

With the long, drawn-out presidential election behind us, investors are beginning to look past politics and pay closer attention to the economic fundamentals. As we’ve shared in recent market updates, the economy shows many signs of strength and growth. In the past few weeks alone:

Of course, the economy is far from perfect — and growth is still slower than we’d like — but the overarching message is that the economy is doing well.

Thus, we were not surprised this week when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said an interest rate hike “could well become appropriate relatively soon.” Despite what talking heads might warn on television, you should not be afraid of increasing interest rates.

The last increase, which took place in December 2015, may have contributed to the volatility we experienced at the beginning of this year. However, the markets have certainly recovered from their momentary stumble — with all major domestic indexes posting at least 6% increases year to date.

Volatility could increase for a short time after the next interest rate increase, but it also may not. Right now, we see the markets reacting positively despite a 90% chance of the Fed increasing rates next month.

In other words, we believe investors are seeing a potential rate increase as the good news that it is, because it indicates faith in our economy. When Yellen and the Fed decide to raise rates, they are demonstrating belief that the economy is strong enough to move back toward historically normal levels.

We’ve become so accustomed to this post-recession rate world that it’s easy to forget just how unusually low our current 0.5% rate is. Even if we move to 0.75% next month, borrowing money is still incredibly inexpensive, and we have additional room for future increases.

We are heartened to see the economy continue to grow, and President-Elect Trump’s policies may quicken the pace beyond what we’ve experienced in the recovery so far. Of course, as we’ve seen many times this year, a likely outcome isn’t the same as a guaranteed one, so we’ll have to wait and see what the Fed decides in December.

In the meantime, we encourage you to look beyond pundits’ histrionics and headlines to see that our economy is strengthening. We are here to help you make the most of it.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Existing Home Sales
Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders, New Home Sales, Consumer Sentiment
Thursday: Markets Closed for Thanksgiving
Friday: International Trade in Goods

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President Trump and Your Investments – Weekly Update for November 14, 2016

how-will-markets-performLast Tuesday, many Americans watched in great surprise as Donald Trump won our presidential election. Just that day, the New York Times had placed Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning at 85%, based on a range of state and national polls. But, like the Brexit vote this past June, 2016 seems to be the year of unexpected outcomes.

As predicted, the markets initially reacted to uncertainty as they often do: with losses. Futures for the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 all dropped at least 4% in the middle of the night after Trump’s win. But come Wednesday morning, everyone was in for another surprise.

Despite many predictions that the markets would sell-off if Trump won, all of the major U.S. indexes ended the week ahead. The S&P 500 was up 3.80%, the Dow gained 5.36%, NASDAQ increased 3.78%, and MSCI EAFE added 0.05%. The Dow closed at an all-time high on Thursday and posted its best week since 2011, despite being slightly down on Friday. Even today, the Dow reached a new record high.

Needless to say, these developments last week gave significant surprises for most people. Let’s look a bit deeper at the market’s reaction and what may lie ahead.

Understanding the Rally

The markets hate uncertainty, but they love economic growth. After Trump’s win, investors saw potential for decreased corporate tax rates, individual income taxes, and government regulation—plus increased infrastructure spending. All of these changes could help drive economic growth.

When you look at which sectors outperformed, you can see who investors believe may benefit from a Trump presidency:

  • Biotech jumped nearly 16% on expectations that Trump may not fight price increases as Clinton would have.
  • Financials increased 11.33%, because increasing interest rates, deregulation, and infrastructure projects would serve them well.
  • Industrials were up 7.96%, which would benefit from infrastructure projects.

Looking Beyond Stocks

While the major markets posted impressive gains, gold had its worst week in three years, losing roughly 6.2%.

But why?

A multitude of reasons come into play, but one stands out most clearly: If Trump is able to hold to his promise of $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, inflation will likely pick up and the Federal Reserve could significantly increase interest rates during that time. As a result, gold’s appeal would lessen as other investments offer a more attractive income yield.

What Might Be Ahead?

Right now, the election is fresh on everyone’s minds and directly affecting the markets. But like all major events, another one will eventually capture our attention. As we stand now, the fundamentals tell us that the economy is performing well. Unemployment is at only 4.9%, hourly earnings are rising, and GDP is growing. Thus, there is a good chance that the next big event on the financial horizon is a Federal Reserve interest rate increase in December.

If the Fed does choose to increase rates, we may see additional volatility in the short-run—but the underlying data shows us that the economy is fundamentally strong.

A Long-Term Focus

Seeing last week’s market performance might make you want to find even more ways to capture growth. Remember—just as in down cycles—emotion has no place in investing. We are here to help guide you through these tumultuous times and keep a tireless focus on achieving your long-term goals.

The markets and our political environment may be full of surprises, but our goal is to make your financial life as peaceful and comfortable as possible.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Retail Sales
Wednesday: Industrial Production
Thursday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Starts
Friday: Leading Indicators

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November 2016 Market Update Video

The American people have spoken and the next President of the United States will be Donald Trump. In this update, I will discuss what this will mean for investors and the markets.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email us, or give us a call at 419-425-2400. We would be happy to speak with you.

Stay the Course: Choosing Confidence in an Uncertain Market – Weekly Update for November 7, 2016

2016-11-07-blog-pictureWe’re in the middle of an interesting moment for the markets, where short-term volatility and uncertainty might lead you to believe that the economy is faltering. After all, the major stock indexes lost ground last week, with the S&P 500 losing 1.94%, the Dow dropping 1.50%, the NASDAQ dipping 2.77%, and the MSCI EAFE declining 1.59%. On top of these losses, the S&P 500 posted its longest losing streak since 1980.

Of course, we never like to see the markets go down. However, we believe that when you look beneath the surface, the economy is still doing far better than what this week’s performance implies. Behind the losses and ongoing election exhaustion, we see a number of strong indicators that the economy is growing. This week, we learned that the trade deficit shrank, the service sector grew for the 81st consecutive month, and manufacturing continued its steady growth.

On Friday, November 4, we also got to see new data on jobs and payrolls — the last significant economic report before Election Day.

What did the jobs report show us?

  • Unemployment Rate Dropped

The unemployment rate hit 4.9%—only 0.1% above the Federal Reserve’s target unemployment rate.

  • Economy Added 161,000 Jobs

While this job creation rate was below economists’ predictions, we don’t think it is cause for concern. The growth was matched by revised August and September reports that added another 44,000 jobs.

  • Hourly Earnings Increased

Earnings increased by 0.4%, pushing them 2.8% higher than this time last year. We haven’t seen an earnings increase this large since 2009.

  • People Left Their Jobs at Higher Rates

Last month showed the highest number of people who voluntarily left their jobs since 2007. This statistic matters because it can show that people are more confident they’ll be able to find new jobs.

Our Takeaway

For years, this plow horse economy has been adding new jobs at a slow and steady pace. Now that we’ve almost reached the benchmark unemployment rate, people are finally starting to see their wages increase and new opportunities arise. Typically, better jobs mean more disposable income, which equals increased consumer spending—and economic growth.

The rest of 2016 might not be a smooth ride, as the election and potential interest rate increase remain on investors’ minds. We hope you find comfort knowing that beneath this short-term volatility, we see growing economic strength.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Gallup U.S. Consumer Spending Measure, Consumer Credit

Tuesday: U.S. Presidential Election

Wednesday: Wholesale Trade, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Treasury Budget

Friday: Banks Closed but Markets Open, Consumer Sentiment

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Special 2016 Election Update – What effect will the result of the election have on your investments?

We know there is quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election. We have received calls from clients expressing their concerns about what the results would mean for their portfolio.

We put together a special update for you, and hopefully it will ease your mind as to what this election will mean for you and your investments.

If you have any questions or concerns after watching this video, please give us a call at (419) 425-2400.

How Did Big Headlines Influence the Market? – Weekly Update for October 31, 2016

2016-10-31-blog-pictureAt first glance, last week’s headlines may lead you to think that the markets are fluctuating more than they actually are. Yes, Hillary Clinton’s emails are in the news again (more on that below)—but despite that surprise, the major indexes stuck to the same range-bound performance we’ve seen for the past three months. The S&P 500 ended down 0.69%, the NASDAQ was off 1.28%, and MSCI EAFE lost 0.44%. The Dow Jones Industrial Index eked out a 0.09% increase.

Three Key Events Last Week

  1. FBI Announces Renewed Look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails 

What happened?

On Friday, October 28, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress alerting them that the agency would be reviewing new Hillary Clinton emails discovered during their investigation of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. When news of Comey’s letter broke, the major indexes responded quickly—and negatively. For example, the Dow, which had been up 75 points, reacted with a nearly 150-point swing before closing about 10 points lower.

 What does this mean?

The announcement threw a wrench in an already contentious and exhausting presidential race. Recently, polls showed that Clinton held a solid lead over Trump, and the markets had priced in her win. But Friday’s news calls this assumption into question, creating greater uncertainty for the next two weeks.

If there’s one thing the markets hate, it’s uncertainty. And while big headlines rarely affect long-term performance, the markets may react to them in the short run. We expect this story to stay in the news through Election Day—a day we’re pretty sure every American is ready to move past.

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Has Biggest Gain in Two Years

 What happened?

On Friday, the government announced that GDP — essentially, the economy’s scorecard—had 2.9% growth, beating the expectations of 2.5%. Not only is this rate the best we’ve seen in two years, but it also shows far faster economic expansion than the first two quarters of 2016, when U.S. growth averaged just over 1%.

What does this mean?

The economy is growing faster than experts thought, which makes a December interest-rate increase more likely. On Friday, traders showed an 83% likelihood that the Federal Reserve would raise rates at their last meeting of the year.

Keep in mind that if the Fed raises rates, they wouldn’t be doing so to temper the economy’s growth. Instead, they would be using this positive GDP report as further evidence that the economy is strong enough to handle a move toward more normal interest rates.

  1. Durable Goods Orders Decline

What happened?

After gaining 0.3% in August and 3.6% in July, durable goods orders dipped 0.1% in September. Broadly, durable goods are items that last for more than three years—from a toaster to a tractor — and orders for them help us measure business investment. September orders lowered in a number of categories, including an 8.6% drop in orders for computers.

What does this mean?

The drop in durable goods orders is less concerning than it may seem on first glance. Between a strong dollar making U.S. exports more expensive and low oil prices leading energy companies to cut spending, large manufacturing companies have often had to cut their budgets. However, many economists believe these factors should be lessening, which can allow durable goods spending to rebound.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Personal Income and Outlays

Tuesday: Motor Vehicles Sales, FOMC Meeting Begins, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg Index, Construction Index

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs, Factory Orders, PMI Services Index, ISM Non-Mfg Index

Friday: Employment Situation, International Trade

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All Quiet on the Market’s Front – Weekly Update for October 24, 2016

blog-10-24-16After a two-week losing streak, U.S. indexes ended last week in positive territory across the board. The S&P 500 increased by 0.38%, the Dow was up 0.04%, and the NASDAQ gained 0.83%. The MSCI EAFE, a measure of international developed nations’ performance, increased 0.93%.

Of course, seeing positive weekly results is always good, but right now, the general market sentiment seems unsure about where it stands and where to go from here.

Why did the markets have a sluggish week?

Experts last week described the markets as lazy and docile — and we have to agree. If these five days of trading were made into a movie, it would probably put a lot of people to sleep.

On paper, last week seemed to provide plenty of opportunities for market excitement — from major companies’ earnings releases to the European Central Bank’s latest policy announcement. In reality, however, much of what we saw and heard led to little change and few strong reactions.

But why?

We’d point to a few key occurrences:

  1. Earnings reports were mostly good, but few were outstanding.
  2. The European Central Bank held interest rates where they are.
  3. The presidential election continues to hold the markets in limbo.

While last week’s markets seemed more sluggish than normal, a little break from the excitement can be nice sometimes — especially when coupled with increases across all major U.S. indexes.

Looking Ahead

This week not only moves us ever closer to Election Day, but it also brings more earnings reports and ends with a key update on Friday: Gross Domestic Product. GDP gives us insight into how the economy is performing and where we stand with inflation.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Consumer Confidence, State Street Investor Confidence Index

Wednesday: New Home Sales

Thursday: U.S. Durable Goods Orders

Friday: GDP, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

U.S. Dollar Surges: The U.S Dollar hit a seven-month high, rising 0.37% compared to a group of currencies. Right now, the exchange between the Dollar and Euro is at $1.088.

Microsoft Reaches All-Time High: After releasing an expectations-beating earnings report, Microsoft’s stock prices grew — and on Friday they closed higher than their previous record, set in 1999.

Volatility Lowers: The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), which measures fear and volatility in the markets, fell to 13.4.

The Price Paid for Disaster – Weekly Update for October 17, 2016

2016-10-17-blog-postThough stocks rose Friday after statements from Federal Reserve officials, the major indexes ended the week lower amid choppy trading. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 0.96%, the Dow fell 0.56%, the NASDAQ dropped 1.48% and the MSCI EAFE declined 1.40%.

Counting the Cost of Hurricanes

Our deepest sentiments go out to those impacted by the disastrous Hurricane Matthew. The toll these events take on humanity is incalculable; yet, we feel it is important to discuss the economic impact natural disasters have as well. Overall, experts have gotten pretty good at estimating the economic costs of lost production and physical damage due to major storms.

According to one economist, about two-thirds of the economic losses of a hurricane are related to property damage while one third come from economic losses. The insurance costs of property damage due to Matthew’s wind and storm surge are currently estimated to be between $4 billion and $6 billion, though those figures may rise as claims start rolling in. The chart below shows storm damage estimates for four major hurricanes since 1979. We can see that Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina dwarf Matthew in terms of overall damage.

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However, Matthew is estimated to have a higher percentage of losses due to wind damage, which could have implications for insurance companies. Damage from storm-caused wind and surge is generally covered under standard homeowner’s and business policies, though they are often subject to high deductibles.

One estimate of Matthew’s overall cost, including evacuations, lost revenue, and other important factors, puts the total cost at over $10 billion. Though that figure is a drop in the bucket of the overall U.S. economy, the localized effect of closed businesses, damaged roads, and flooding in affected areas could be devastating. Flood damage is not usually covered, and many hurricane victims don’t have specialized flood insurance.

How much do disasters like Hurricane Matthew affect larger economic questions like Federal Reserve policy? We don’t know how the Fed considers natural disasters, but it’s likely that regional Feds like the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta include disaster-related figures in their reports.

Recent comments by Fed officials have left us with a cloudy picture about future interest rates. While it’s clear that many Fed officials believe economic conditions are strong enough to warrant a December rate hike, Fed Chair Janet Yellen isn’t so certain. In a Friday speech, she gave us some insight into the Fed’s reluctance to move on interest rates, saying that anomalies in economic trends leave her inclined to run a “high-pressure economy” to reverse more of the economic damage before it becomes permanent.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Industrial Production

Tuesday: Consumer Price Index, Housing Market Index, Treasury International Capital

Wednesday: Housing Starts, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Beige Book

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, Existing Home Sales

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HEADLINES:

September retail sales rise. Retail sales rebounded 0.6% last month, boosted by auto sales, which could be good news for the holiday shopping season.

Business inventories increase in August. Stocks of goods rose, especially among U.S. retailers, suggesting businesses might be expecting healthy demand for goods this quarter.

Consumer sentiment drops to one-year low. A measure of how optimistic Americans are about their financial prospects plummeted this month, suggesting Americans are concerned about the economy ahead of elections.

Small business confidence falls in September. A measure of confidence among American small-business owners dipped last month as declines in job openings and inventory investment declined.

October 2016 Market Update Video

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In this video, Josh discusses the market performance for the last quarter, the volatility in the markets, and three key factors driving the volatility.