January Jobs Jump – Weekly Update for February 6, 2017

Political headlines continued to fill the news last week, and while domestic markets declined during mid-week trading, they rebounded on Friday, February 3. Overall, the week showed only modest movement, as the S&P 500 added 0.12%, the NASDAQ was up 0.11% to end at a record high, and the MSCI EAFE grew by 0.01%. The Dow was down by 0.11% but still managed to end above 20,000 after dipping below this benchmark between Tuesday and Thursday.

So, why did domestic markets perform well on Friday? A better-than-expected jobs report.

The January Jobs Report

Depending on which survey you look at, economic experts predicted the economy would add an average of between 175,000 and 180,000 jobs in January. Instead, on Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report showed the economy added 227,000 jobs last month—far higher than predicted. This increase means job growth has continued for 76 months in a row.

You gain a much clearer picture, however, when you look beyond the big headlines and see what other data tells us. Here’s a quick rundown of what we found:

Hourly Earnings Increased, but by a Very Small Margin

Average hourly earnings grew by only 3 cents in January—and showed a 2.5% increase over last year. This monthly growth is less than a third of what we saw in December 2016. However, one industry in particular may have caused these slower gains, as a 1% decrease in financial industry earnings depressed overall wage growth.

Unemployment Increased, but for a Potentially Positive Reason

When you hear that unemployment increased from 4.7% in December to 4.8% in January, this may sound like bad news. However, a major reason for this increase is that labor force participation grew by 0.2% in January, the first increase in months. In other words, after sitting on the sidelines, more people are now rejoining the labor force and creating additional opportunities for economic growth.

Jobs Are Available, but Workers May Need Training or Relocation

While labor force participation increased last month, its 62.9% rate is still near the lowest level in decades. According to Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain, approximately 5.5 million jobs remain open in the U.S.—close to a record number. Some of these jobs, such as retail and food service, don’t require much training, but they aren’t always located near where unemployed workers live. Other jobs in the hot fields of healthcare and technology require training and skills that many workers simply do not have right now. As a result, closing the gap between open jobs and willing workers is a complex challenge for employers and job-searchers alike.

The Bottom Line

The labor market is continuing to improve, but the pace remains slower than what most people would prefer. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest revisions show that private-sector payrolls have increased for 83 straight months, the longest growth streak since the 1920s.

How any potential new pro-growth policies affect the labor market remains to be seen, as does how to fill the millions of open jobs available right now. In the meantime, people are working more hours for higher pay than they were this time last year, and job participation is growing.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:
Monday: Labor Market Conditions Index
Tuesday: International Trade
Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report
Friday: Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment

 

The Dow’s New Record – Weekly Update for January 30, 2017

After a brief pause during inauguration week, stocks continued to climb last week. The S&P 500 added 1.03%, the NASDAQ was up 1.90%, and the MSCI EAFE increased by 1.29%. The Dow also grew, adding 1.34%, ending the week above while hitting 20,000 for the first time ever.

Consumer confidence matched this positive performance, as the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment measurement beat expectations in January and reached the highest levels since 2004. However, one piece of data we received last week gave a less rosy view of the economy: initial gross domestic product (GDP) reports.

What Happened: GDP Missed Projections

On Friday, we received the first report on real GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016. Growth declined significantly to come in at 1.9%—down from the third quarter’s reading of 3.5%.

Looking Deeper

Many aspects of our economy showed solid growth in the fourth quarter. Household purchases grew, business-equipment spending advanced for the first time in over a year, and inventory accumulation increased. Net exports, however, pulled growth down by 1.7%—the biggest drag since 2010—as we saw a jump in imports coupled with a decline in exports. Working to increase U.S. exports is important because it can help strengthen America’s economy, support additional jobs, and promote sustainable growth.

Without net exports pulling down economic expansion, fourth-quarter GDP could have been even higher than in the third quarter. Trade is integral to our economy, and changes in the balance between imports and exports measurably effect growth. The new administration’s potential plans to tax Mexican imports, change trade relationships with China, and restrict visitors from certain countries could affect our imports and exports—and thus our economy.

Between lagging GDP and the Dow reaching historic levels, this week showed us a range of perspectives on where the economy now stands. The markets will always have uncertainty and unanswered questions, and—as always—we must stay focused on the fundamentals that drive performance in the long term. For now, we will continue monitoring policy developments and the trade deficit to determine how they may impact economic growth in 2017 and beyond. We will also pay close attention to the economic data upon which we build our strategies for pursuing your goals.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Personal Income and Outlays

Tuesday: Consumer Confidence

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, ISM Manufacturing Index, FOMC Meeting Announcement

Thursday: Productivity and Costs

Friday: Employment Situation, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index

Economic Data Under President Trump – Weekly Update for January 23, 2017

A new presidential era began last Friday with Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the market reaction was far more restrained than its response to his election. For weeks after the presidential election, we saw markets defy expectations and post significant gains. In fact, the Dow grew by over 1,500 points between November 8 and December 12.

In the four days of trading last week, major U.S. indexes continued the sideways performance we’ve seen since December. For the week, the S&P 500 was down 0.15%, the Dow lost 0.29%, and the NASDAQ gave back 0.34%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE also declined by 0.48%.

Despite these weekly losses, Friday’s market performance marked one milestone not seen since John F. Kennedy’s election: index gains on inauguration day. Nonetheless, we still see a market that has been in a holding pattern for weeks. The S&P 500 has barely moved since the day before the Fed raised rates on December 14. If you analyze this graph of the Dow’s performance, you see a similar scenario – the index grew sharply after the election, but the red box shows performance stalling since December.

Why has the Trump Bump paused?

The markets are incredibly complex and multifaceted, so one answer cannot fully explain their performance. However, after rallying in anticipation of Trump’s promises for lower taxes, decreased regulation, and increased government spending, investors are now waiting to see which policies will come to fruition. No one knows for sure what policy changes or political developments lay ahead. We must look closely at fundamentals to see beyond the headlines and find a clearer view of where the U.S. economy stands today.

What are the fundamentals telling us?

During the current corporate earnings season, 63 companies have reported their fourth-quarter results so far. Of these companies, 63% beat earnings-per-share estimates and 46% exceeded their sales estimates.

Last week, we also saw:

This week, three factors will give us a deeper view of economic performance: 1) fourth-quarter GDP reports, 2) consumer sentiment data, and 3) home sales figures. By analyzing data rather than focusing on hype and predictions, we remain committed to your long-term financial health.

What should you focus on?

No matter your political perspectives, moments of change can elicit emotional reactions from even the most rational investors. As always, emotions have no place in investing.

Consider this: After President Obama’s election in 2008, the S&P 500 dropped 15.5% by inauguration day, as his transition period coincided with the deepening financial crisis. Investors who allowed emotions to take over at that point and left the markets could have missed the S&P 500’s 12% average annual growth each year Obama was in office.

We believe now is the time to continue focusing on your unique risk tolerance, your long-term goals, and the economic fundamentals, not who is in office.

We will continue to monitor economic and market evolution as it occurs, and we will closely watch the political division that seems to grip our country. In the meantime, we are here to answer any questions you may have and help you find the clarity you need.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Existing Home Sales

Thursday: New Home Sales, International Trade in Goods

Friday: GDP, Durable Goods Orders, Consumer Sentiment

December Earnings & a Presidential Week – Weekly Update for January 17, 2017

2017-01-09 Blog ImageAs we look back on markets last week, we see mixed results with none of the major domestic indexes gaining or losing more than 1%. The S&P 500 was down 0.10% for the week, and the Dow gave back 0.39%, yet again failing to reach 20,000. On the other hand, the NASDAQ increased by 0.96% and reached its sixth record close in 2017 on Friday—pushed by a 1.36% rally for Facebook after Raymond James upgraded its stock. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE added 0.82%.

What We Saw Last Week

Big banks reported earnings. Earnings season is upon us. On Friday, we saw JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and PNC Financial beat profit expectations. These positive results add some weight to the post-election financials rally, where financial-sector equities in the S&P 500 have added 17% since the election. A number of other banks will report this week, and we will look to see if their performance also matches the growth we have seen so far.

Retail sales grew. The December monthly retail sales report showed a 0.6% increase, slightly below the 0.7% consensus expectations. With this growth, retail sales are now up 4.1% in the past year. However, not all retailers are performing well. General merchandise stores are suffering as consumers continue to shop online and move away from in-person retail stores. We see the results of this trend in declining retails sales numbers and large companies announcing store closures, including Macy’s, Sears, CVS, and many more.

Consumer sentiment was high but divided. The University of Michigan’s monthly report on consumer sentiment was 98.1, just below predictions but still near highs we have not seen since 2004. One interesting finding in the report is a strong partisan divide in consumer confidence. Richard Curtin, director of the consumer survey, described “extreme differences” between people’s expectations for whether new political policies would help or hurt the economy. He reminded people that the most impact on consumer sentiment will come from “actual changes in the economy” as a result of Trump’s work, which we will have to wait a few months to see.

What We’re Looking at in the Week Ahead

Earnings season continues. The markets will be watching earnings closely during this four-day trading week—specifically to see if other major financial institutions also beat expectations. Some analysts believe that to keep the current market rally going and demonstrate that there is weight behind the post-election growth, we’ll need to see excellent reports from most companies.

A number of high-profile companies report this week, including:

  • Morgan Stanley
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Citigroup
  • American Express
  • Netflix
  • IBM
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • General Electric Co.

Donald Trump becomes President. While earnings reports will be important to track, another event looms larger in many people’s minds: Donald Trump’s inauguration. After he takes the oath of office Friday morning and becomes President of the United States, we will begin to see how the market’s expectations for Trump’s policies match reality.

From trade to taxes to infrastructure and beyond, the next few months will give us a number of insights into how U.S. policies may change. Uncertainty remains, and we will watch for political developments that may affect the markets. In addition, we will continue to focus on the fundamentals that provide deep insight into how the economy is performing—and how we can strive to keep you on track toward your goals.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: U.S. Markets Closed in Observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index
Thursday: Housing Starts

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New Year, New Market Highs – Weekly Update for January 9, 2017

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The first trading week of 2017 is over, and during this time, all three major domestic indexes hit record highs. The DOW reached 19,999.63 in intra-day trading on Friday, January 6 —just 0.37 away from achieving 20,000 for the first time. On the same day, the S&P 500 and NASDAQ both closed at record highs. For the week, the S&P 500 was up 1.70%, the Dow gained 1.02%, and the NASDAQ added 2.56%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE increased by 1.77%.

To say that 2017 has started differently than 2016 would be an understatement. This time last year, we ended the week with all three indexes dropping at least 5.96% on fears about China’s economy.

What else happened last week?

In addition to record highs in the markets, we received a number of economic reports, which provided a mix of positive and less-than-ideal data.

Jobs Grew, But Missed Projection: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employers added an estimated 156,000 non-farm jobs in December. This number missed economists’ projections of 178,000 new jobs but also marked the 75th straight month of job growth.

Unemployment Increased: The percentage of individuals actively seeking jobs in the U.S. increased by 0.1% in December, meeting expectations that it would reach 4.7%.

Wages Grew: One bright spot in this week’s labor report was a 0.4% increase in average hourly earnings. After sluggish growth through much of the economic recovery, wages increased by 2.9% in 2016.

Trade Deficit Increased: In November, U.S. exports declined as our imports grew, pushing the trade deficit to a nine-month high. The inflation-adjusted trade deficit is now $3.2 billion bigger than a year ago, an increase that could deflate Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Manufacturing Hit Two-Year High: For the fourth consecutive month, the ISM manufacturing index showed growth in the manufacturing industry. December’s reading of 54.7 beat expectations.

Services Sector Beat Expectations: The ISM non-manufacturing index, which surveys economic data from executives in 60 service sectors, grew for the 83rd straight month. December’s measure of 57.2 matched November’s reading and beat economists’ predictions of a drop to 56.6.

Overall, beginning a new year with record highs in the markets is encouraging for all of us as investors. Many of the fundamentals seem to point to an economy that is picking up speed—but only time will tell how our new presidential administration’s policies will affect us in the future.

We hope to see continued growth and stability, and no matter what lies ahead, we will be here to guide you toward the goals and priorities that matter most to you.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Labor Market Conditions Index, Consumer Credit

Tuesday: JOLTS

Thursday: Import and Export Prices

Friday: PPI-FD, Retail Sales, Consumer Sentiment

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New Year Special Update: 2016 in Review – Weekly Update for January 3, 2017

2017-01-03-blog-imageFirst things first: Happy New Year! We’re thankful for all of you keeping up with us in 2016 and looking forward to what this next year holds. We appreciate your time and thoughts throughout the past year, and we are excited to work together to accomplish your financial goals in 2017.

Looking back on the final trading week of a very eventful year, we saw low volume and a break from the recent rallies for domestic indexes. While international stocks in the MSCI EAFE added 0.56%, all major U.S. indexes declined. The S&P 500 lost 1.10%, the Dow was down 0.86%, and the NASDAQ gave back 1.46%. For the first time since November 4, the indexes posted three straight days of losses. Despite these last-minute decreases, 2016 ended very differently than it began.

Last January, domestic indexes rang in the New Year with quite unpleasant performances. While the S&P 500 and NASDAQ dropped, the Dow experienced its worst-ever five-day start to a year, losing 1079 points on fears of an economic slowdown in China and plummeting oil prices.

By market close on December 30, 2016, all three indexes showed healthy growth for the year:

  • S&P 500: Up 9.5%
  • Dow: Up 13.4%
  • NASDAQ: Up 7.5%

In addition to this equity growth, last week showed us a number of encouraging economic indicators for 2016, including:

Consumer Confidence Surge: On December 27, Consumer Confidence beat expectations to reach 113.7 — a 13-year high. This metric indicates that consumers feel more positively about jobs, personal finances, business conditions, and more.

U.S. Dollar Increase: The dollar was up for the fourth straight year, showing a 3.7% increase for 2016 after hitting a 14-year high on December 20.

Crude Oil Recovery: After a rough start to the year, oil experienced its largest annual increase since 2009. In fact, three-dozen U.S. gas and oil producers in the S&P energy index gained more than 40% during 2016.

We all know that 2016 brought its fair share of surprises — from victories for Brexit and Donald Trump, to our recent stock market rally and beyond. However, the year ended with domestic indexes up and a number of positive economic indicators. As we look toward our future in 2017, we see opportunities for continued growth, as well as many questions that no one can yet answer.

  • Will President Trump reduce regulation and taxes?
  • Will OPEC keep its pledge to lower oil output?
  • How will China’s economy perform?
  • Could more “Brexits” be on the horizon?

The questions remain, but no matter the answers, we are here to help guide you through the year—and toward your goals—with proactive, strategic support. If you want to talk about what we experienced in 2016, or what we anticipate for the year ahead, we would love to get in touch with you. Please reach out to us at hello@hzcapital.com or give us a call at 419-425-2400.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Markets Closed in Observance of New Year’s Day
Tuesday: PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending
Wednesday: ADP Employment Report
Thursday: PMI Services Index, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
Friday: Employment Situation, International Trade, Factory Orders

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Steady Holiday for the Market – Weekly Update for December 27, 2016

2016-11-28-blog-image-1In the last full trading week of 2016, domestic markets were relatively quiet, with many people out of the office for the holidays. Nonetheless, all three major domestic indexes ended the week in positive territory. The S&P 500 was up 0.25%, the Dow gained 0.46%, and the NASDAQ added 0.47%. International equities in the MSCI EAFE were also up, increasing by 0.36%. The Dow continued to flirt with surpassing the 20,000 mark for the first time—reaching within fewer than 13 points at its highest trading point on Wednesday, December 21—before closing at 19,933.81 for the week.

Outside of the markets, we received a number of reports that painted a mostly positive view of the U.S. economy.

Good News

  • GDP revised up again: For its final report on economic growth in the third quarter, the Commerce Department adjusted the GDP up for the second time—to a 3.5% annual rate. This analysis shows the fastest economic growth in two years.
  • Consumer sentiment hits nearly 13-year high: The monthly index measuring consumers’ views on the current and future state of the economy increased by 4.7 points to reach 98.2 for December. This reading is the highest since January 2004.
  • New home sales beat expectations: Economists predicted that new home sales for November would increase by 2.1%, but last week’s data showed the increase was in fact 5.2%. Consumers anticipating higher interest rates in the future could be contributing to the expectation-beating results.

Mixed News

  • Personal incomes stayed flat: Despite economists’ predictions that personal incomes would increase by 0.3% in November, the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ data showed them flatten. Even with last month’s stagnation, personal incomes are up 3.5% for the year.
  • Durable goods orders declined: After increasing by 4.8% in October, durable goods orders dropped by 4.6% in November—due largely to a 73.5% decrease in civilian aircraft orders. While no one likes to see a decrease, the report had several positive highlights, including an unexpectedly large increase in orders for U.S.-made capital goods.

Overall, even though last week was fairly slow for trading, we continue to see signs that the economy is improving—even if it is still far from perfect. We look forward to discovering what 2017 holds for investors and hope for more record highs and an economy that picks up speed as time goes on.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Markets Closed in Observance of Christmas Holiday
Tuesday: Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Pending Home Sales Index
Friday: Bond Market Closes at 2 p.m. ET

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Rising Rates and Your Portfolio – Weekly Update for December 19, 2016

rates-are-upLast week was mixed for the markets, as the Dow increased by 0.44%, while the S&P 500 lost 0.06%, the NASDAQ dropped 0.13%, and the MSCI EAFE gave back 0.55%. We also saw a variety of data released, giving a similarly mixed view of recent economic activity. Retail sales and the Consumer Price Index showed modest gains, while industrial production and housing starts both declined.

The biggest headline from last week, however, was a development the market anticipated for quite some time: The Federal Reserve decided to raise its benchmark interest rates—for only the second time since 2006.

Why did the Fed raise rates?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the group of Fed officials who meet to determine interest rates and other policies choices, has a mandate to “foster maximum employment and price stability.” In its quest to uphold this mandate, the FOMC aims to keep inflation at 2%, as this level can help support accurate financial forecasting and decisions while preventing harmful deflation.

The act of adjusting interest rates can help control inflation and support economic strength. At its most basic, when the Fed lowers rates, they are indicating that the economy is contracting—and when they raise rates, they are indicating that the economy is growing.

When describing her organization’s decision to raise rates this month to a range of 0.5 – 0.75%, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said, “My colleagues and I are recognizing the considerable progress the economy has made. We expect the economy will continue to perform well.” The FOMC also said they may introduce three additional interest rate increases in 2017, up from their previous prediction of two raises.

In other words, the Federal Reserve believes our economy is on the right track and inflation may begin to rise. They are using the tool of interest rate increases to help keep employment and inflation at healthy levels.

How did the markets react to the interest rate increase?

Overall, investors seemed to react reasonably to the interest rate increase. The VIX, a measure of expected volatility in the markets, increased by 4.6%—but it remains at low levels. In other words, the likelihood of great volatility seems slim.

One area of the market, however, did not respond well to the Fed’s interest rate increase and inflation increase prediction: bonds. This summer, global bond markets experienced a rally in response to a variety of factors, including potential slowing economic growth worldwide. But since the U.S. election, the value of government debt has dropped by more than $1 trillion, as investors now expect greater inflation and a quickening economy. Essentially, the faster the economy and inflation grow, the less value that long-term government debt holds—contributing to the bond market’s recent losses.

How could the rate increase affect you?

Rising interest rates have both positive and negative effects for individuals. If you have money earning interest in the bank, you can expect to earn a slightly higher return. Conversely, if you borrow money—such as taking out a new mortgage or refinancing existing liabilities—your interest rate may be higher than before the Fed’s announcement.

In addition, the interconnected relationships between equities, bond markets, and other financial vehicles will evolve as interest rates increase. These shifts can be much more complex, and we are here to help you stay on top of any changes and align your financial life with the current market environment.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Janet Yellen speaks at 1:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
Thursday: Durable Goods Orders, GDP
Friday: New Home Sales, Consumer Sentiment

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What Do The Rising Markets Mean For The Future? – Weekly Update for December 12, 2016

2016-11-28-blog-image-1On Friday, December 9, all three major U.S. stock indexes ended at record high. For the first time in five years, they each posted gains every day of the trading week. The S&P 500 was up 3.08%, the Dow added 3.06%, and NASDAQ increased 3.59%. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE even gained 2.9%, despite potential risks from the Italian referendum and impending end of the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing.

From our vantage point, we see a rally that appears to be picking up steam. Looking at this impressive growth, however, it’s easy to wonder whether the markets are becoming overvalued and a correction is in order.

In keeping with this concern, last Monday, December 5, marked the 20th anniversary of Former Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan’s famous warning about “irrational exuberance.” Back in 1996, Greenspan worried that overvalued stocks and extreme investor enthusiasm could drive stocks to reach unsustainable levels. His warning didn’t slow the markets’ growth at the time, and several more years passed before the eventual dot-com crash.

So, are we facing the same irrational exuberance as in 1996?

Hardly. We’d argue that rather than being overvalued, the markets have yet to reach their fair price. Domestic fundamentals continue to provide positive data on the economy.  With a new presidential administration coming in 2017, we may see regulations lift and banks push more money into the economy, causing growth to accelerate.

In fact, economist Brian Wesbury posted a video last week predicting the Dow would reach 36,000 in the next four to five years—an increase of more than 84%. He also asserts that the S&P 500 is undervalued by 30% and may gain 14% over the next four quarters.

Now, we aren’t comfortable making specific predictions like this—because no one can predict the future. But, we do agree with Wesbury’s calculations showing that the market is undervalued.

In other words, the markets’ recent growth seems to be based on rational exuberance. Investors see opportunities on the horizon, and they’re ready to grab them.

What’s ahead in this exuberant moment?

We’re happy to see new potential for growth, but we will continue to make choices based on detailed analysis rather than emotional reactions. This week, we’ll be paying close attention to the Federal Reserve’s December meeting, where the markets currently give a 95% chance that interest rates will increase.

Remember that we are here to help you capture momentum that will support your long-term goals. We won’t take more risk than is appropriate for your needs and comfort. If you have questions about your priorities, portfolio, or plan, let’s talk. We are always available at hello@hzcapital.com or 419-425-2400. Thanks for reading!

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: FOMC Meeting Begins, Import and Export Prices

Wednesday: FOMC Meeting Announcement, Fed Chair Press Conference at 2:30 p.m., Retail Sales

Friday: Housing Starts

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Enjoying the Rally, Focused on the Future – Weekly Update for December 5, 2016

2016-12-05-blog-imageAfter a three-week run where all major U.S. indexes posted significant gains, we saw more mixed results last week. The Dow was up 0.10%, but the S&P 500 lost 0.97% and the NASDAQ was down 2.65%. The MSCI EAFE’s measure of international developed markets also dropped 0.24%.

Rallies such as the one we’ve experienced since Donald Trump’s election can’t go on forever, so we aren’t too concerned about these minor pullbacks. In fact, as we’ve recently said, when you look more deeply at the data, we see many reasons to believe that our economy is moving in the right direction.

Good News This Week

Positive economic news for the U.S. continued to come in this week, including reports that:

Of course, despite the ongoing indications that our economy is doing well, everything isn’t perfect in the U.S. We’d like to see the economy growing even faster than it is. And while unemployment is low, the measure of people who are underemployed is still too high at 9.3%.[vi]

Overall, we continue to see signs that our plow-horse economy may be picking up speed and building greater strength in the process.

Potential Risk: Italian Referendum

 From our perspective, the most immediate risk to market performance could be the Italian Referendum. On December 4, Italians voted against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s constitutional amendment that would have reduced their Senate’s size and power while limiting the regional governments’ strength. From Renzi’s perspective, this move would stop the gridlock so common in Italy’s government while helping to stabilize the country, improve investor confidence, and speed economic recovery.

As 2016 has shown us with the unexpected victories of Brexit and Donald Trump, populist sentiments are on the rise worldwide. The Italian “No” vote not only represents a concern with concentrating power in the federal government but also a general pushback against the ruling party and status quo.

Now that “No” has prevailed, we may see additional instability in Europe. Prime Minister Renzi has promised to step down, leaving big questions about who will lead Italy and how they will find a new leader. In addition, some of Italy’s largest banks may now be at risk of insolvency, as they have fewer tools for lifting the $380 billion of bad loans that weigh them down.

No one knows what the long-term outcomes of this vote will be for Italy or Europe. We anticipate that some ripples of volatility may wash up on our shores in the process. We hope that, similar to Brexit, the initial market reaction will not last for long and that investors will quickly return to a focus on growth and fundamentals.

How to Move Forward With Confidence

From the first quarter’s stock-market volatility to a number of surprising votes, this year has presented many opportunities for emotions to enter investing. We understand how tempting it may be to sell when equities aren’t performing well —and to pursue greater growth when they are. Ultimately, emotions have no place in investing.

Recently, we’ve spoken to many clients who want to ride the post-election growth train. Just as we’re here to help you from despairing when stocks tumble, we also want to help control euphoria when the markets rally. Rallies can’t continue forever, and impulsive choices can challenge your security. As always, we want you to take the right amount of risk for your unique circumstances and stay focused on the long-term goals that we’re pursuing together.

If you have any questions about how current events are affecting your financial life, we are here to talk. Please contact us any time.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 Monday: ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
Tuesday: International Trade, Productivity and Costs
Wednesday: Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index
Friday: Consumer Sentiment

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