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

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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January 2017 Monthly Market Update Video

Happy New Year! We hope that you had a wonderful holiday season, and feel ready to take on the new year.

In this month’s video, we’ll discuss some of the major headlines that influenced markets in December — and provide insight in  to what these developments could mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions or concerns after watching this video, send us an email, or give us a call at 419-425-2400. We would love to talk with you.

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.

A Slow Week Ends in New Highs Weekly Update – November 17, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Idea go

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Idea go

Markets ended a sluggish week of trading slightly up, notching another record close for the S&P 500. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.39%, the Dow grew 0.35%, and the Nasdaq added 1.21%.1

Though last week’s data was sparse, several important economic reports show that investors may have something to be excited about. The latest retail sales data shows that shoppers came out in droves in October, giving sales a 0.3% boost. The rise in sales is even stronger than it appears, because lower gas station sales (caused by falling gas prices) depressed retail sales growth. Excluding volatile categories like automobiles, food, gasoline, and building materials, retail sales surged 0.5%.2

Much of the increase can be attributed to lower gas prices – in freefall since July – giving consumers more discretionary income to spend. Gas now averages $2.91 across the nation;3 if per-gallon prices stay low, we could see a very healthy holiday shopping season.

In another sign of a solid retail season, Wal-Mart (WMT), America’s biggest retailer, beat earnings estimates. Same-store sales, often considered a better indicator of organic growth, rose 0.5%, indicating that shoppers are coming back. Many of Wal-Mart’s customers are low-income Americans; positive earnings results could show that many of these consumers are no longer feeling the economic pinch.4

Americans are also generally feeling much better about their prospects. Consumer sentiment rose in November to more than a seven-year high. Falling unemployment and lower gas prices boosted confidence, though many Americans are still worried about income gains.5

The week ahead is heavy with economic data on manufacturing, housing, and inflation, which could cause some volatility as investors digest reports. Analysts are also already thinking about Black Friday and the official start of the year’s biggest shopping season. With October’s better-than-expected retail sales data, low gas prices, and optimistic consumers, some are forecasting a great season for U.S. retailers. Are these tailwinds baked into stock prices yet? We’ll see.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Monday: Empire State Mfg. Survey, Industrial Production

Tuesday: PPI-FD, Housing Market Index, Treasury International Capital

Wednesday: Housing Starts, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Minutes

Thursday: Consumer Price Index, Jobless Claims, PMI Manufacturing Index Flash, Philadelphia Fed Survey, Existing Home Sales

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HEADLINES:

Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and Treasury.gov. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Corporate bond performance is represented by the DJCBP. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Great news: Americans are quitting their jobs. The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey shows that workers are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate since 2008. This trend is another indicator of labor market strength because workers tend to quit jobs when they feel confident in finding better work.6

Business inventories rise 0.3% in September. Though sales remained weak, U.S. businesses added to their inventory stockpiles at a faster rate than in August. The modest rise indicates that businesses are optimistic about their ability to sell through inventory in the coming months.7

Eurozone growth rates edges upward. The latest economic figures from Europe show that the overall Eurozone grew 0.2% in the third quarter. While Germany and France (Europe’s biggest economies) posted anemic growth, Greece roared back from recession, posting 0.7% growth.8

Strong dollar and weak oil are helping Americans buy from abroad. While American companies worry about the effect a strong dollar will have on their foreign sales, Americans are benefiting from cheap oil and the strength of the currency to buy overseas goods. September import prices fell by the most in two years, led by a large drop in the cost of imported fuels.9

Why Another Uptick in Spite of Bad News? Weekly Update – September 8, 2014

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of
FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles

Markets chalked up another win last week, pushing the S&P 500 to another record close. After several days of cautious trading, Friday’s August jobs report finally gave investors the push they needed to extend gains for a fifth week. For the week, the S&P 500 grew 0.22%, the Dow gained 0.23%, and the Nasdaq added 0.06%.1

Investors reacted with surprising relief to a disappointing August employment report that showed jobs growth braked to an eight month low. The data shows that payrolls increased by just 142,000, after expanding by over 200,000 in July. Data from June and July was also revised downward, tempering optimism about the labor market recovery. However, even though growth slowed, underlying trends show that slack in the labor market is still slowly being taken up.2 Another positive bit of news is that what jobs were created came from areas like business services, health care, and construction – areas where job seekers can potentially find high-paying, career-oriented jobs.3

Why the positive reaction to disappointing news? This is a case of bad news being treated like good news; investors have been chewing their nails in recent weeks over the possibility that the Federal Reserve could end quantitative easing and hike interest rates sooner than expected. A poor labor market showing takes away some of that risk, giving relieved investors some stimulus to rally.

In Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates to the bone and announced a new plan to boost lending, neatly avoiding the discussion of whether to engage in a full-scale Fed-style quantitative easing program. If “QE-light” fails, the ECB may be forced to take on the debt of struggling states like Portugal and Spain to boost economic growth. Right now, the bank is counting on constituent governments to do their part by cutting taxes and engaging in economic reform.4 Will this be enough to boost Europe’s stagnant economy in the face of waning demand and economic sanctions against Russia? We won’t really know until next year.

The crisis in Ukraine continued last week, with Russians achieving control over the eastern half of the country, and Western leaders debating whether or not to take a more active military role in constraining Russian ambitions. While U.S. leaders are willing to show their displeasure through further sanctions, the European bloc, sensitive to their dependence on Russian energy, are more reluctant to act.5

The week ahead is slow on economic data until Friday, when analysts will get a look at retails sales, consumer sentiment, and business inventories, all important indicators of economic health. With investor sentiment so high, it’s quite possible that a bump in the road may cause stocks to temporarily turn downward in coming weeks as investors hit pause and take stock of their surroundings.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

 

Tuesday: JOLTS

Wednesday: EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, Treasury Budget

Friday: Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Consumer Sentiment, Business Inventories

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HEADLINES:

Factory orders post record gains. Orders for goods from U.S. factories jumped 10.5% in July, driven by strong demand for aircraft and automobiles. Excluding the volatile transportation category, orders for manufactured goods are still on a modest upward trend.6

Fed Beige Book shows pickup in economic growth. The Federal Reserve’s anecdotal snapshot showed that the U.S. economy expanded at a moderate pace over the last six weeks, though its tone was more tempered than other government reports. Overall, the Fed believes economic growth is expanding at a moderate pace.7

Motor vehicle sales grew 6% in August. A strong Labor Day showing helped sales of light vehicles to grow significantly year-over-year, indicating that American consumers are feeling confident enough about their prospects to make big-ticket purchases. Overall, sales are expected to increase in coming months due to pent-up demand and improving employment conditions.8

Chain stores reported solid August sales growth, indicating that the back-to-school shopping season was solid. Though chain stores make up only 10% of retail sales, they are an important indicator of overall consumer spending trends.9