Strong Stocks and a Falling Dollar – Weekly Update for July 24, 2017

Last week, the Dow, S&P 500, and NASDAQ again hit record highs. The midweek peaks fell by Friday, though market performance remained strong. By week’s end, the Dow dropped 0.27%, and the S&P 500 and NASDAQ dipped on Friday but closed up 0.54% and 1.19%, respectively. The MSCI EAFE finished with a 0.46% increase.

Corporate Earnings Drive Growth

Analysts noted that stocks were particularly “strong” last week due to generally robust Q2 corporate earnings reports. With roughly 20% of S&P 500 companies reporting, corporate earnings should remain solid through the quarter. So far, 73% of reporting companies beat their estimated earnings per share, and 77% have higher-than-expected sales against a 5-year average.

Weakened Dollar Continues

The dollar continued its downward trend, dropping 1.3% during the week. So far, our currency has fallen 8.1% since the start of 2017. A weakening dollar will boost companies with exports or overseas business. As such, the U.S. consumer will take a hit, since a falling dollar causes price increases on imported goods. The latest fall started last week after the Fed expressed concerns over low inflation.

By and large, European markets reacted negatively to the falling U.S. dollar, and uneven EU corporate earnings reports did not help either. With the euro’s value against the dollar rising to its highest point since January 2015, the value of EU company exports and overseas earnings measured in dollars will fall.

Other Key Market Developments

Here are some other key developments in fundamentals from last week:

  • Housing Tensions Relax: Housing starts jumped to a 1.215 million annual rate, the first gain in three months. Similarly, housing permits increased to a 1.254 million rate, the strongest numbers since March. Homebuilders are cautious, however, with the Housing Market Index and Components falling 3 points in July. The rising cost in lumber—due to tariffs on Canadian softwood—has builders concerned, as homebuyers will ultimately pay higher prices.
  • Jobless Claims Fall: July’s employment numbers look hopeful as the initial jobless claims for the week of July 15 dropped to 233,000, far below the consensus estimate of 246,000. The numbers should help lower July’s overall unemployment rate and suggest that—despite low wages and productivity—labor demand remains high.
  • Oil Prices Drop: Oil prices fell over 2% on July 21, after reaching a 6-week high earlier in the week. The drop followed news that OPEC increased July production by 145,000 barrels daily while U.S. stockpiles largely decreased, contributing to the temporary price hikes.

A Busy Week Ahead

This week will be busy. More housing news starts the week, and expect Wednesday’s Fed meeting to get some attention, though interest rates should not increase. Further, Friday’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Price Index and Consumer Sentiment Index will be of interest to markets.

Though the news from Washington can dominate the headlines, remaining focused on key drivers of market performance is key. Contact us if you have questions as to how the past week’s markets may influence your portfolio. We are always happy to help.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Existing Home Sales
Tuesday: FHFA House Price Index, Consumer Confidence Index
Wednesday: New Home Sales
Thursday: Durable Goods Orders, International Trade In Goods, Jobless Claims, Chicago Fed National Activity Index
Friday: GDP, Employment Cost Index, Consumer Sentiment

 

Q2 Coming into Focus – Weekly Update for July 17, 2017

Last Friday, stocks closed on more record highs. The S&P 500 rose 1.41% and the Dow climbed 1.04%—both closing at new peaks. The NASDAQ reported a 2.58% gain and the MSCI EAFE posted a 2.38% increase. Despite continuing headlines from Washington, the markets remain productive and strong. New Q2 numbers also rolled in last week, giving us a clearer picture of what happened from April through June.

Q2 Coming Into Focus

Over the second quarter, the S&P 500 rose 2.57%, the Dow gained 3.32%, and the NASDAQ jumped 3.87%. Meanwhile, the MSCI EAFE improved by 5.0%. Analysts are now predicting that Q2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow to 2.4%—stronger than Q1’s soft 1.4% increase.

While we wait for more numbers and reports, here are some highlights so far:

  • Corporate Earnings: Corporate Earnings should remain strong for Q2, with an expected S&P 500 earnings growth of 6.5%. As of July 14, only 6% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings.
  • Core Consumer Pricing: Core Consumer Pricing, which measures the price of consumer goods excluding food and energy, remained at 60-year historically low June’s numbers increased by only 0.1%—the third month in a row for low rates.
  • Retail Sales: Retail sales were soft, declining unexpectedly by 0.2% following May’s 0.1% drop and April’s 0.3% rise.
  • Labor Market: Employers hired at a record increase of 8.3% in May, filling 5.5 million jobs. Consequently, job openings fell in May to 5.7 million from April’s strong 6.0 million. The strong labor market further reflected in June’s low unemployment rate of 4.4%.

On the international front, global economic growth is set to post a predicted 3.0% increase for Q2. Emerging and advanced economies both should record positive results based on strong global trade growth and favorable economic indicators. Both China and Japan are expected to post strong economic growth.

News From Last Week and Looking Ahead

For Q3 and Q4, the economy should continue to produce strong job data and decent housing markets—along with growing investments in businesses. For the year, the economy is expected to expand at an estimated 2.2% in 2017. With that said, consumer sentiment fell to 93.1 in July—much lower than expected. Because consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of the economy, the markets will continue to follow consumer attitudes and spending. Given current global economic trends, some analysts expect the global economy to grow by 3.0% for 2017.

Finally, Fed Chair Janet Yellen testified before Congress last week. She confirmed that the Fed’s reduction in its $4.5 trillion balance sheet—known as “tapering”—will start later this year. She also suggested that interest rate hikes might continue for a couple of more years. With inflation hovering at 1.4%, however, the Fed may be losing confidence in reaching its targeted goal of an annual 2% increase. Meanwhile, The Bank of Canada has followed the Fed’s lead by raising its interest rates 25 basis points to 0.75%—its first raise since 2010.

As always, we are here to help you navigate the often-complex economic environment. Contact us if you have any questions about how this information may impact your financial life. 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Empire State Manufacturing Survey
Tuesday: Import and Export Prices, Housing Market Index
Wednesday: Housing Starts
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Business Survey Outlook, Fed Balance Sheet

 

July 2017 Market Update Video

June 30 marked the final trading session not only of the month, but also the first half of 2017. It’s a period marked by strong stock market returns and exceptionally low volatility, although volatility returned the last week of June. We also saw markets alternating between gains and losses.

In this video, Adam will talk about some of the economic headlines that influenced markets in June, and give you some insight into what they could mean for you as an investor.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your portfolio, or if you would like a second opinion, give us a call at (419) 425-2400, or send us an email. Thank you for watching!!

Slow Start to Second Half for Markets – Weekly Update for July 10, 2017

As the country celebrated the Fourth of July last week, the markets experienced some volatility, though they finished a bit flat overall. The Dow fell then rose to close the week up 0.30%. The S&P 500 climbed a modest 0.07% for the week, and the NASDAQ finished the week up 0.21%. The MSCI EAFE fell 0.48%.

Internationally, European markets posted soft gains on Friday, though emerging markets fell for a second-straight week. Further, gold dropped to a 5-month low, while bond yields rose globally on weakening bond markets. In addition, world leaders met last week at the G20 Global Summit and issued a statement supporting open markets. They agreed to fight unfair trade practices, such as countries blocking or heavily taxing imports to protect domestic industries.

 A Closer Look at U.S. Market News

  • Auto Sales Continue to Drop: Auto sales dropped in June by 3% from a year ago. Though vehicle sales are still generally high, numbers in the second half of 2017 are expected to remain soft.
  • Employment Numbers Give Mixed Signals: Payroll growth rose a strong 222,000, exceeding expectations of 170,000. The employment growth numbers, along with continuing low unemployment figures, reflect a high demand for workers. However, wage growth remains low at an annual rate of 2.5%.
  • Inflation Stays Weak: Inflation came in at a weak 1.4% in May, staying well below the Fed’s target of 2.0%. Despite weak inflation numbers, the Fed appears committed to raise interest rates one more time this year.
  • Manufacturing Rises and Falls: The PMI manufacturing index closed at a low 0, down from May’s 52.7 on weak cost pressures and selling prices. Meanwhile, some good news emerged: The ISM manufacturing index surprised expectations of 55.1 and rose to 57.8—the strongest number since August 2014.
  • Oil Prices Continue to Slump: Oil dropped to $44.33 per barrel on continuing oversupply concerns. The week’s price erosion comes after a 14% drop in the first half of 2017.

A Look Ahead

 On Friday, July 14, key economic data will emerge such as consumer price index, retail sales, and consumer sentiment. As we look to the second half of 2017, a variety of developments could boost markets: strong corporate earnings, strengthening wage rates, and growing global trade and Gross Domestic Products (GDPs).

We want to remind you to avoid letting geopolitical ups and downs sway your investment focus. Instead, stay tuned to the fundamentals as you work toward your long-term goals. Feel free to contact us for any perspectives that can help you make sense of your financial life.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)
Wednesday: Beige Book
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Industrial Production, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

 

 

Mixed Markets Continue – Weekly Update for June 19, 2017

Markets remained mixed last week as the Dow closed at another record high, while the NASDAQ fell and the S&P 500 held steady. By Friday, the Dow gained 0.52%, the NASDAQ fell -0.92%, and the S&P 500 gained a slight 0.05%. Meanwhile, the MSCI EAFE remained virtually unchanged from last week, down only -0.002%.

In other markets, oil closed at $44.74 a barrel, down 2.4% on the week—its fourth week of declines. Overall, European equity markets remained steady while most Asian markets recorded modest gains at week’s end.

The Fed Increases Interest Rates

As expected, the Fed announced last week that it raised the short-term interest rate target by 25 basis points to a range between 1.00 and 1.25%. This was the third interest rate hike by the Fed in the last six months. The Fed also announced its intention to reduce the $4.5 trillion balance sheet by selling off assets acquired in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed currently plans to sell approximately $10 billion monthly starting later this year.

Further, last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reported on the Fed’s belief that the current weak inflation numbers are temporary. However, the Fed’s plan to continue raising interest rates going forward and sell off its assets may change if the economy does not gain momentum in Q3 and Q4. To date, the economic data continues to point to a Q2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that may be weaker than previously anticipated.

Soft Economic Data Continues

Consumer Sentiment Dampens: The preliminary consumer sentiment index for June dropped to 94.5, the lowest since last November. The index fell from May’s reported 97.1.

Retail Sales Soften: Retail sales had their largest monthly drop since January 2016.  Sales declined 0.3% in May against predictions of a 0.1% gain over April. The report includes a variety of disappointing numbers:

  • 1% decrease for restaurants
  • 2% dip for automotive vehicles
  • 0% fall for department stores

Business Inventories Drop: In April, business inventories dropped 0.2% from the prior month, which was 0.1% under the consensus. Further, retail inventories also dropped 0.2%, and wholesale inventories abruptly fell 0.5% for the month.

CPI Falls: The Consumer Price Index fell 0.13% in May. The disappointing numbers mark another decline—the 2nd in 3 months—as economists had expected a 0.2% increase from April’s number.

Housing Weakens: In May, housing starts dropped 5.5% from April and permits fell 4.9%. The trend continues the decline from Q1 and could signal another negative quarter.

Market Details on the Horizon

More housing news will influence the week ahead as the existing home sales report comes out on Wednesday and the new home sales report comes out on Friday. Markets will continue to watch the fundamentals, including consumer spending, which makes up 69% of GDP. So far this year, consumer spending has been soft with vehicle sales and restaurant sales sliding downward most months.

As always, we are here to talk should you have any questions about the markets or your own financial objectives. Our goal is to help you understand your financial life with clarity and confidence.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: PMI Composite Flash, New Home Sales

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.

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%.

Interest Rate Debate: The Fed’s Decision is Nearing – Weekly Update for September 12, 2016

blog-post-2016-09-12Monetary policy was at the forefront of investors’ minds last week as we all continue to calculate the odds of an interest rate increase at this month’s Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. After trading flat for most of the week, stocks sank Friday on fears of the future rate hike. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 2.39%, the Dow fell 2.20%, the NASDAQ dropped 2.36%, and the MSCI EAFE lost 0.16%.

The European Central Bank (ECB) declined to increase its stimulus program, voting to stand pat on interest rates and current bond-buying activity. The decision wasn’t a total surprise as the Eurozone economy has proved resilient after Britain voted to exit the EU. However, the ECB did confirm that it will consider further quantitative easing in 2017 if conditions worsen. No exit date for Britain has been announced, though the new prime minister has indicated it will not begin before next year.

On our side of the Atlantic, surprise comments by a voting member of the Fed increased speculation that a rate hike may come this month. When markets are quiet, even rumors can be enough to spark a selloff. In previous weeks, Fed officials have ramped up hawkish rhetoric, suggesting sentiment that the Fed is moving toward a rate hike. Even reliably dovish officials, who have historically maintained a cautious stance, are showing interest in raising rates again.

We have now entered the quiet period before the FOMC meets September 20th, meaning we won’t get more statements from Fed officials before they vote on monetary policy. The information blackout will give investors plenty of spare time to digest previous statements and come to grips with the idea that the Fed is serious about raising rates this year.

All the speculation around the Fed’s increasing assertiveness about rates had a palpable effect on markets, which may be what the Fed wants to achieve. The chart below shows Wall Street trading probabilities of higher interest rates in coming months.

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On Thursday, traders put the odds of a September hike at just 18.0%. By the close of trading on Friday, the odds had surged to 24.0%. The odds of a December hike had been about even; now, traders seem to believe the Fed will raise rates again this year.

Is last week’s pullback a minor blip? We can’t know for certain, but investors should prepare for a bumpy ride this fall.

The week ahead is packed with economic data, including critical reports on business inventories. Positive data could contrarily cause further selling if investors believe it could spur the Fed to act. Negative data might likewise be greeted with cheers. As we move to a Fed vote and uncertainty around the November election peaks, markets are likely to remain volatile and perhaps even move into a more prolonged selloff. Ultimately, we want to focus on investing for the long term, and encourage you to tune out the media “noise” as volatility occurs. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the latest.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Treasury Budget

Wednesday: Import and Export Prices, EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday: Jobless Claims, PPI-FD, Retail Sales, Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Industrial Production, Business Inventories

Friday: Consumer Price Index, Consumer Sentiment, Treasury International Capital

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HEADLINES:

Fed Beige Book shows wage gains restricted to skilled workers. A key report released by the Federal Reserve showed that the economy grew modestly in July and August. However, data shows that most wage gains occurred only in skilled jobs where employers are struggling to find qualified workers.

Weekly jobless claims drop. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly last week, marking the 79th straight week that claims remained below the key 300,000 level associated with a healthy labor market.

Monthly job openings increased in July. The number of available jobs, a data point closely watched by Federal Reserve economists, increased by 3.9% In addition, the hiring rate rose by 3.6%, pointing to a strong labor market.

Gas prices slide after summer. The summer driving season is over and falling gas prices might slip further this winter. Americans enjoyed the cheapest summer gas since 2004, and economists hope the “gas dividend” will boost spending this quarter.

Stocks Bounce After Jobs Blowout – Weekly Update for August 8, 2016

S&P 500 at (1)

Stocks bounced last week, ending sharply higher after a better-than-expected jobs report. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.43%, the Dow rose 0.60%, the NASDAQ added 1.14%, but the MSCI EAFE lost 1.41%.

Among last week’s major events was a shockingly good July jobs report. Last month, the economy added 255,000 new jobs, blowing away expectations of 180,000 jobs. Even better, the gains were broad-based and the labor force participation rate (an area of concern because fewer people in our population were actively participating in the labor force) ticked upward. Overall, not too shabby.

Headline unemployment remained stable at 4.9%, but that single number hides a lot of complexity. We’d like to dig a little deeper. The chart below shows six different measures of unemployment, each slicing the data in a different way.

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The U-6 unemployment rate is the most comprehensive, showing total unemployed, marginally attached workers (discouraged workers and those considered barely employed), and those total employed part time for economic reasons.

You can see that all measures rose during the recession and have been steadily dropping ever since. While headline unemployment (U-3 unemployment in official parlance) stands at 4.9%, U-6 is still at 9.7%, almost two percentage points higher than the pre-recession low of 7.9% achieved in 2006. This indicates that there are many people who haven’t participated fully in the labor market recovery; however, the rate has fallen significantly from the 17.1% high it reached in 2009. All told, most areas of the labor market are still making gains.

Britain’s central bank moved to lower interest rates to fight the Brexit blues. The Bank of England cut interest rates for the first time in nearly seven years and announced an aggressive round of bond purchases to stimulate economic activity. The bank is moving quickly to head off a possible economic blowback from Britain’s vote to exit the European Union.

Will the Federal Reserve raise rates while one of our major trading partners is going the other way? We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Productivity and Costs
Wednesday: JOLTS, EIA Petroleum Status Report, Treasury Budget
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Import and Export Prices
Friday: Retail Sales, PPI-FD, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

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HEADLINES:

Motor vehicle sales miss expectations. July sales of cars and trucks by major U.S. automakers slipped as pent-up demand slackened.

Consumer spending increases more than expected. Spending by American consumers rose more than expected in June, suggesting consumption remained strong throughout the second quarter.

Factory orders fall. New orders for manufactured goods fell in June for the second month in a row, though stabilizing business spending offers some hope.

Construction spending falls to one-year low. Spending on construction projects fell in June, suggesting a downward revision to second-quarter economic growth may come.

Is Britain Really Going to Leave the EU? – Weekly Update for June 13, 2016

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Before we begin our usual weekly commentary, we wanted to take a moment to honor the victims of Sunday’s terrible attack in Orlando. Though details are still scarce, it is the most devastating mass shooting in U.S. history. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and with the community that now must cope with the aftermath of the tragedy. As we look for answers, let’s also remember to be grateful for the ones we love.

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Though stocks reached new 2016 highs last week, they ended the week mixed as investors showed nervousness ahead of Britain’s vote on exiting the European Union. For the week, the S&P 500 slipped 0.15%, the Dow gained 0.33%, the NASDAQ fell 0.97%, and the MSCI EAFE lost 1.79%.

Though fear took over last week, some strategists believe that the S&P 500 could still test new historic highs in the days ahead, indicating that there’s still some optimism on Wall Street.

What’s going on in Britain?

On June 23, Great Britain will hold a national referendum on whether or not to remain within the EU. The polls had shown that both sides were neck and neck, though the pro-“Brexit” (British exit) side has recently opened a 10-point lead. Though Britain retains the pound sterling and isn’t part of the monetary union, it is a member of the 28-member European Union, which gives it access to the EU’s tariff-free single market, accounting for 45% of Britain’s export trade. One estimate suggests that Britain’s trade with Europe is 55% higher than it would be had it not joined the EU.

Why would Britain want to leave such a lucrative arrangement?

The debate over whether to stay or go comes down to a few key issues:

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What would a Brexit mean for U.S. investors?
Markets would likely react badly if Britons voted to leave the EU. The situation would create serious uncertainty about the future of the EU, and markets hate uncertainty. We don’t know exactly how a Brexit would play out; many legal agreements would have to be renegotiated, work situations for EU and British citizens would be left in limbo, and the political climate would drastically change. However, these consequences would play out over several years as both sides negotiate the exit.

Estimates on the cost of a Brexit vary; one worst-case scenario projects a 6.2% loss of economic growth in Britain by 2030. Another estimate projects a best-case scenario of a 1.6% increase in Gross Domestic Product. It’s very difficult to predict the relative benefits and costs because so much depends on exit negotiations. However, since Britain and Europe need each other, it’s likely that post-Brexit negotiations would be favorable to free trade, making the worst-case scenario unlikely.

Many of the worst-case fears regarding a Brexit are similar to those we faced in 2015 with the “Grexit” or Greek exit. The departure of an important member nation could fracture the EU and cause other countries to consider following suit.

Though it seems unlikely that a Brexit would seriously harm U.S. interests, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stated that the Fed would consider the potential impact of a Brexit when setting interest rate policy this month. Most experts don’t expect the Fed to raise rates this week, though there’s always room for a surprise.

Our view

Is a Brexit the black swan event that could throw a wrench into markets? It’s certainly possible, but it’s not the most likely scenario. Though a British exit would certainly affect global markets, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Headwinds and threats come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s important to take them in stride. Some headwinds blow in for a while and then go away; others linger and cause more significant volatility. Being a long-term investor means staying flexible and maintaining focus on your individual goals. If you have any questions about how Britain’s vote may affect your portfolio, please give us a call.

 

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Business Inventories

Wednesday: PPI-FD, Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Industrial Production, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement, FOMC Forecasts, Fed Chair Press Conference 2:30 PM ET, Treasury International Capital

Thursday: Consumer Price Index, Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, Housing Market Index

Friday: Housing Starts

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HEADLINES:

Consumer sentiment slips in June.
A measure of how Americans are feeling about the economy and their prospects fell slightly even though Americans are feeling the benefit of higher wages.

Jobless claims fall unexpectedly. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting strength in the labor market after May’s weak hiring.

Employers announce most job openings in nine months. Though employers are posting record job openings, they are holding back on filling them, suggesting businesses may have concerns about economic growth.

Oil prices jump on supply disruptions.  Though the world is still gripped in an oil-supply slump, supply disruptions in several oil-producing nations gave oil prices a recent boost.