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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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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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.

Special Quarterly Update – Weekly Update for October 10, 2016

adobe-spark-5After a volatile September, stocks ended the third quarter of 2016 resoundingly in the black. In the third quarter, the S&P 500 gained 3.31%, the Dow grew 2.11%, the NASDAQ added 9.69%, and the MSCI EAFE gained 5.80%.

What drove markets in Q3?

After pulling back in late June after Britain’s surprise vote to exit the European Union, markets recovered quickly in the early days of the third quarter. Though investors were able to enjoy a low-volatility summer, stocks returned to a choppy pattern in September.

Two key areas contributed to a lot of stock market volatility last quarter: monetary policy and the timing of the Federal Reserve’s next interest rate hike, and uncertainty around the November elections.

The presidential election is hotly contested and too close to call, giving investors plenty of concern about how the next administration will tackle the many issues facing America. House and Senate races also stand close, giving markets the grim prospect of several more years of filibusters and Washington antics.

Monetary policy also affected markets last quarter as investors speculated on the possibility of a September interest rate hike. Though the Fed chose not to raise rates at the last meeting, December is still in play.

Globally, the majority of the world’s central banks are moving toward lower interest rates (the chief exception being the U.S.). While the Fed is trying to raise rates this year and communicating its intentions clearly, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan are in full-on quantitative easing mode in an effort to boost sagging economic growth.

This tug of war between major monetary players is the source of a lot of uncertainty in the world. Also stoking investor fears is the possibility that central banks have exhausted the limits of what they can do to boost economic growth.

What do we know about Q3 earnings season?

Third-quarter earnings reports are beginning to trickle in, and analysts are expecting another quarter of negative earnings growth. Estimates for Q3 profits and revenue declined as the quarter progressed, which is in line with the trend we’ve seen over the past few years. Overall, S&P 500 company earnings are expected to be down -2.9% over Q3 2015, though revenues are expected to be up +1.2%. These are very preliminary estimates, and we can expect plenty of surprises and individual success stories as earnings season progresses.

What might we expect next?

The weeks ahead will likely be dominated by the upcoming November elections. As election uncertainty resolves, attention will likely turn to the Fed’s December meeting and economic data. We’ll know more about future Fed moves after the official minutes from the September meeting are released this week. Consumer confidence has been volatile this year, but analysts hope that Americans will feel confident enough to open their wallets for the critical holiday shopping season and give economic growth a final boost.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending

Wednesday: FOMC Minutes

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Import and Export Prices, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget

Friday: PPI-FD, Retail Sales, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

U.S. auto sales pause in September. Consumers tapped the brakes on motor vehicle purchases, causing the three major U.S. automakers to report declines in sales.

Construction spending falls again in August. Builders cut back on construction project spending for a second straight month, suggesting demand for residential and non-residential projects may be waning.

Factory activity picks up in September. U.S. manufacturing experienced a surge of unexpected growth last month after declining in August as new orders and production activity both grew.

September jobs report shows labor market strength. The economy added 156,000 new jobs last month, missing Wall Street expectations of 175,000. The labor force participation rate ticked upward as more Americans joined the labor force, and the unemployment rate nudged upward to 5.0%.

Quarter End Questions – Weekly Update for October 3, 2016

2016-10-3-blog-imageThe presidential debate, surging oil prices, and concerns about a global bank all took their toll on the market last week; however, we were pleased to see a positive quarter end for stocks. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.17%, the Dow grew 0.26%, the NASDAQ edged up 0.12%, but the MSCI EAFE lost 0.87%.

Why did Deutsche Bank affect markets?

Last week, concerns about one of the world’s largest banks caused investors to worry that a new “Lehman moment” might spark a new financial crisis. Germany’s scandal-prone banking giant is facing financial penalties in the U.S. for the role it played in the financial crisis; the bank’s problems are causing key clients to distance themselves and analysts wonder about the firm’s financial health. Investors reacted to Deutsche Bank’s woes negatively, setting off a 200-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday.

A similar loss of confidence in Lehman Brothers in 2008 caused counterparties (major clients) to ask the cash-strapped firm for their money back, triggering its collapse and the beginning of the financial crisis. However, Deutsche Bank is not Lehman, and the world is a different place than it was in late 2008. International financial institutions are not as dangerously interconnected as they were then, and global regulators are much better positioned to respond to situations that arise.

Markets agreed with that assessment and rebounded on Friday. While news from Deutsche Bank may still create headlines, we think the worst has passed. If you have any questions about Deutsche Bank or other financial firms, please reach out to us so we can respond to your concerns.

What does the data say about the economy in the third quarter?

With the third quarter officially in the rearview mirror, analysts are turning their attention to the data. Here’s what we know so far:

The third estimate of second-quarter economic growth showed that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew a stronger-than-expected 1.4%, up from initial estimates. Even better, some economists think the economy could have accelerated and grown 2.8% in the third quarter, which would put it closer to the pace we want to see. The latest September data on consumer sentiment, an important indicator of future consumer spending, shows that Americans are more confident in their financial prospects, possibly opening the door to higher spending in the critical holiday shopping season.

What might the final months of the year bring?

As we enter the final three months of 2016, markets are contending with some headwinds we’re watching. We can expect plenty of headlines around the presidential election as we get closer to November. Political beliefs aside, elections represent a lot of uncertainty, especially with wild-card candidates. Markets may react with relief after election uncertainty resolves; however, concerns about the changes a new administration will bring may also trigger further volatility.

Britain’s prime minister announced her intention to begin negotiating the UK’s Brexit from the European Union next spring. By 2019, Britain could be a sovereign nation once again, bringing a slew of changes to the EU. Ultimately, we don’t expect to see too much volatility around the Brexit until next year.

Oil prices might have finally hit bottom and be poised to rally this fall. Major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, seem ready to coordinate production to bring oil prices back up. If a pact is made (and held), oil could head back toward $60/barrel next year, which would bring relief to beleaguered U.S. energy companies. However, higher oil process could bite consumers by making gas more expensive at the pump. It’s likely that oil prices will play a role in market movements in the weeks to come.

The week ahead is packed with data, including the September jobs report, which may factor into future Federal Reserve interest rate decisions. As always, we’ll keep you updated.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, International Trade, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims

Friday: Employment Situation

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HEADLINES:

New home sales tumble in August. Sales of newly constructed homes fell 7.6% in August after surging in July to the highest level in nearly nine years. The retreat isn’t unexpected and further volatility in the housing sector may occur.

Durable goods orders slip. U.S. factories saw fewer orders in August for long-lasting goods like aircraft, appliances, and electronics. However, a core category that represents business investment grew for the third straight month.

Weekly jobless claims edge higher. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but held at stable levels, supporting the view that the labor market continues to improve.

Pending home sales drop. The number of homes under contract slumped in August, suggesting that home sales fell across the board. Since pending sales forecast future activity, it’s likely the drop in housing activity will be felt in the weeks ahead.

Current Events Cause Rates to Remain – Weekly Update for September 26, 2016

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Stocks rallied again last week after the Federal Reserve voted not to raise interest rates this month. While few expected the Fed to act last week, official statements suggest the path to higher rates looks clearer. For the week, the the S&P 500 gained 1.19%, the Dow grew 0.76%, the NASDAQ added 1.17%, and the MSCI EAFE stayed stable.

Let’s dig more deeply into the Fed’s recent statements. The Fed cited continued strength in the labor market, economic growth, and better wage growth in its case for higher interest rates. However, tepid inflation (largely due to lower energy prices) and a desire to get the timing right caused most of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to vote to hold rates steady.

Three members of the FOMC dissented from the majority vote, believing that the Fed should have raised interest rates this month. One dissident, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, believes that the labor market could overheat in 2017, potentially derailing the economic recovery if action isn’t taken.

An overheating labor market could send wages to unsustainably high levels while productivity (output per worker per hour) falls. While higher wages might sound pretty good to American workers, unsustainable labor market trends could lead to the sharp recessionary contraction economists want to avoid. However, the health of the labor market doesn’t boil down to a single measure of unemployment, and the rest of the committee seems to believe that raising interest rates too soon is riskier than potentially raising them too late.

The market appears to agree, and investors see the Fed reinforcing the idea that the economy still has room to grow. At least one Wall Street analyst believes we’re in the “sixth or seventh inning of a nine inning game.” Despite the Fed’s increasingly hawkish tone about raising interest rates, Wall Street isn’t fully convinced the central bank will pull the trigger in December. Though the FOMC will meet again in November, the Fed is unlikely to make a move until after the election. The latest estimate of trading interest shows that traders view the odds of higher rates in December at 54.2%.

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The Fed has worked hard to convince the public that it intends to raise rates soon. Why? One of the tools the central bank can use to affect markets is that of its “bully pulpit,” the leverage of its powerful position. In the past, the Fed has used the bully pulpit to sound the warning about irrational market highs and give Americans plenty of notice about future policy moves. The Fed hopes that telegraphing plays will give markets time to digest the news and avoid a shock.

This week, Monday’s presidential debate and a key meeting of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members could lead to more market volatility. Oil prices have been a major driver of market movements this year and movement toward freezing production (thereby reducing the supply glut that is contributing to low prices) would cause volatility. How likely is a coordinated production freeze? Not very likely since it would require historic cooperation between geopolitical opponents such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. We’ll keep you informed.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: New Home Sales, Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey

Tuesday: S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Consumer Confidence

Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: GDP, International Trade in Goods, Jobless Claims, Pending Home Sales Index

Friday: Personal Income and Outlays, Chicago PMI, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

Housing starts fall more than expected. Groundbreaking on new houses fell 5.8% in August as building activity declined broadly after increasing this summer. However, a rebound in permits for new houses suggests housing demand may strengthen.

Existing home sales fall for second straight month. Home resales fell in August, dinged by a shortage of housing inventory on the market. Growth in home prices is outpacing wage growth, weighing on sales activity.

Weekly jobless claims fall. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to a two-month low last week. Continued labor market growth could give the Fed the green light to raise interest rates in December.

Manufacturing gauge drops to three-month low. A measure of manufacturing activity slipped in September as weakness in new orders and a strong dollar weighed on demand. New orders rose at the slowest rate this year and hiring was slow.

A Volatile Market Waiting for Answers – Weekly Update for September 19, 2016

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Volatility picked up last week due to pressures from lower oil prices and speculation about the timing of the Federal Reserve’s next rate hike. This summer has been historically calm for markets, leading markets to trade without big intraday gains or losses. However, Friday broke that streak, possibly ushering in a period of greater volatility as uncertainty looms. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.53%, the Dow grew 0.21%, the NASDAQ added 2.31%, but the MSCI EAFE dropped 2.49%.

With mixed information and an uncertain political landscape, the market is facing a dilemma. On the one hand, economic data is neither weak nor strong enough to make policymakers’ choice easy on whether they should raise interest rates. On the other hand, the unpredictable nature of the presidential race contributes to market volatility. We’ve discussed throughout the race that it is not the result of the election that cause volatility, but rather the uncertainty leading up to the ultimate vote. All in all, Fed economists have repeatedly stated their intentions to raise rates soon, though no one is certain about the timing of this hike.

The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee will meet this week to decide whether or not to raise interest rates for the first time since December 2015. The Fed has a dual mandate: to maximize employment and keep inflation stable. Headline unemployment is below the Fed’s target of 5.0%, but inflation has remained stubbornly below the Fed’s long-run goal of 2.0%.

Fresh inflation data suggests a warmer trend. Two measures of inflation, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) deflator, rose in recent months, indicating that the economy is getting closer to the Fed’s target. While the increase in inflation might give pro-hike Fed economists ammunition at this week’s meeting, many analysts still don’t think the Fed will immediately raise rates.

Markets have been pushing new highs recently, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see a return to a volatile pattern in the days and weeks ahead. Uncertainty around economic growth, the November elections, Federal Reserve activity, and a future British exit from the EU could cause investors to become more cautious in the weeks ahead. We’ll be closely monitoring the overall market climate and will be in touch if we feel any prudent changes to investment strategies are necessary.

As always, we want to be sure to focus on long-term investing especially when there are brief ups and downs in the market. Please reach out to us by leaving a comment, emailing (hello@hzcapital.com) or giving us a call at 419-425-2400 if you have any questions about your portfolio. We’d love to connect with you and chat about how current events impact the market as a whole. Thanks for reading!

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Monday: Housing Market Index

Tuesday: Housing Starts

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement, Fed Chair Press Conference

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Existing Home Sales

Friday: PMI Manufacturing Index Flash

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HEADLINES:

Consumer sentiment steady in September. A measure of how Americans feel about the economy and their financial prospects remained unchanged between August and September, suggesting households remain upbeat heading into fall.

Retail sales fall unexpectedly. U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in August on weak sales of autos.

Industrial production falls in August. Production in U.S. factories fell 0.4% last month amid a drop in demand for appliances, electronics, and machinery. Cooling demand for big-ticket items could spell trouble this quarter.

Weekly jobless claims rise less than expected. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but increased less than economists expected.