First Glance: What Does Our Economy Look Like This Year? – Weekly Update for April 17, 2017

Last week, major indexes experienced losses for the second week in a row, with the S&P 500 falling 1.21%, the Dow giving back 1.01%, the NASDAQ dropping 1.26%, and the MSCI EAFE declining 0.14%.

Markets closed on April 14 for the Good Friday holiday, but in the four trading days, a number of headlines dominated the news cycles:

  • International tensions surrounding Syria and North Korea continued to heighten.
  • The U.S. dropped its biggest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan.
  • United Airlines lost $250 million in market value on Tuesday after footage emerged of a passenger’s violent removal from an overbooked flight.

These headlines drew great attention last week, and we will continue to follow events as they develop. Meanwhile, we want to focus on newly released data from last week that gives perspectives on where the economy is today—and what we should watch for in the coming months. In a nutshell, the reports hinted at relatively slow growth in the first quarter of 2017.

Inflation and Spending Dropped

  • The producer price index, which measures price changes for producers of goods and services, missed expectations and fell 0.1% in March.
  • The consumer price index, which measures price changes in a group of goods and services consumers purchase, fell 0.3%—much more than predicted.
  • Retail sales declined 0.2% in March, the second monthly drop in a row.

Consumer Sentiment and Jobless Claims Were Positive

  • The April Consumer Sentiment Index readings beat expectations, revealing people’s assessment of current economic conditions being near the all-time high.
  • Jobless claims came in well below expectations to show fewer people filing first-time unemployment claims—indicating a strong labor market.

Analyzed together, this new data could indicate that the Federal Reserve will be less likely to raise rates in June. However, we still have two more months of data and market performance until that meeting, and much can change in that time. Consumer spending accounts for approximately 70% of the total economy. Thus, high consumer sentiment and a tightening labor market—coupled with delayed income-tax returns—could help the economy pick up in the coming months.

Right now, we are in the thick of quarterly earnings season. Last Thursday, we saw J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup exceed their earnings estimates and still lose value in their shares that day. Determining whether this investor response is industry specific or indicative of other sentiment changes will be a key detail to examine in the coming weeks. The forthcoming reports will give key insights into the health of corporate America—and the market’s reaction to the companies’ performance.

We will continue to watch political and market developments and how they affect our overall economy. In the meantime, we encourage you to keep a focus on your long-term goals and the strategies that can help support your financial life.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Housing Market Index
Tuesday: Housing Starts, Industrial Production
Wednesday: Beige Book
Friday: Existing Home Sales

How Rising Interest Rates Can Inspire Your Portfolio – Weekly Update for March 20, 2017

For the fifth time in six weeks, domestic stock indexes ended last week in positive territory. The S&P 500 gained 0.24%, the NASDAQ added 0.67%, and the Dow eked out a 0.06% increase. International equities in the MSCI EAFE grew by a sizable 1.99%.

Over the week, we received a series of economic updates that gave a mostly positive view of the economy’s progression, including the following data for February:

In addition, the most recent data indicated that fewer people filed for unemployment benefits the week of March 11. We have now experienced 106 straight weeks of unemployment claims staying below 300,000 people, which is a healthy labor market indicator.

Given this information—and the wealth of economic data released recently—the markets expected the Federal Reserve’s March 15 decision to raise benchmark interest rates. Last week’s 0.25% increase is only the third jump since the Great Recession, and the pace of hikes is quickening. The Fed has now raised rates in December 2015, December 2016, and March 2017 and expects at least two more increases this year.

Like with all economic data, understanding the context is critical. While interest rates are on the rise, they are still low, as you can see in the chart below.

How will rising rates affect your financial life?

When the Fed raises rates, they are demonstrating a belief in the economy’s strength. As with all changes to monetary policy, the outcomes can be complex and interconnected. While no one can predict the future, here are a few places where interest rates may affect your finances:

  1. Stocks

Stocks rose following the Fed’s announcement, with the S&P 500 gaining 0.84% on Wednesday. A strong economy is good for stocks; but anticipating exactly what lies ahead is impossible because so many outside forces impact equities. Right now, however, the markets are performing well and responding positively to increasing rates.

  1. Bonds

Generally speaking, as interest rates rise, bond yields go up and their prices go down—with long-term bonds suffering the most. However, those are not hard-and-fast rules for how to move forward. Your specific needs and strategies will determine the best way to move forward with bonds in a rising interest rate environment.

  1. Revolving Debt

If you have revolving debt—credit cards, home equity line of credit, etc.—and your interest rates are variable, you will likely see a difference in your payments very soon. In fact, a 0.25% increase like we experienced last week may cost consumers an additional $1.6 billion in credit-card finance charges in 2017 alone.

  1. Cash

When revolving debt interest rates go up, banks may quickly adjust the interest rates they charge, but they often wait to increase the interest rates they pay. Right now, the average savings account pays 0.11% interest, but some institutions offer rates up to 1.25%. Finding opportunities to capture a larger return on your cash is possible.

If you have questions about why the Fed is raising rates and how their choices may affect your life, we are always here to talk. Our goal is to give you the insight you need to feel informed and in control of your financial future.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR
Wednesday: Existing Home Sales
Thursday: New Home Sales
Friday: Durable Goods Orders

Bull Market’s 8th Anniversary – Weekly Update for March 13, 2017

After at least four consecutive weeks of growth, the three major domestic indexes all lost ground this week. The S&P 500 was down 0.44%, the Dow lost 0.49%, and the NASDAQ declined 0.15%. Meanwhile, international stocks in the MSCI EAFE grew by 0.38%.

This week, the Fed meets to determine whether or not to raise benchmark interest rates for the first time in 2017. Right now, the market gives a 93% chance of a rate hike.

In this update, rather than analyzing what lies ahead or what happened last week, we would like to acknowledge just how far the U.S. economy has come since 2009.

On March 9, we marked the 8-year anniversary of when markets during the Great Recession hit the bottom on their lowest day. At that point in the economic meltdown, the Dow and S&P 500 had both lost more than 50% of their value since October 2007. Every investor likely remembers the fear that gripped the U.S. and global economies, as questions lingered of how low we could go.

Today, we can see just how far the markets and economy have come since March 2009—and the growth investors could have missed if they avoided the markets. Take, for instance, the S&P 500.

On March 9, 2009, the index fell to 676.53. Eight years later it rebounded to 2364.87.  With reinvested dividends, that growth represents an average annual increase of 19.45%. And the fundamental data tells a very similar story.

Four Economic Measures: From March 2009 to Today

  1. Gross Domestic Product
  • March 2009: We learned the economy had fallen by a 6.3% annual rate during the fourth quarter of 2008—its largest decline in 26 years.
  • Today: GDP recovery has been more plodding than many people might prefer, but nonetheless, nearly every quarter has shown growth since 2009. And over the past two years, GDP has increased at a 3.2% annual rate.
  1. Home Prices
  1. Unemployment
  1. Total Employment

Throughout this economic recovery, people have seemed concerned the bull market was about to end. When discussing the bottom of the market 5 years ago, in the March 12, 2012 Weekly Update, we wrote about many analysts’ worries that a pullback was imminent. Even last year, one MarketWatch columnist wrote an article titled “Happy Birthday Bull Market—Now Write Your Will,” warning that the markets would not reach new peaks in the near future. The S&P 500 has gained around 19% in the months since then.

Of course, no one can predict exactly when this bull market will begin to decline. And at 8 years old, only one recovery has lasted longer since World War II.

As always, we will continue to offer the advice we believe suits your best interests in every market environment: Focus on your long-term goals and personal needs, not headlines and emotions. We have come a long way in 8 years, and we will continue to guide you through the market’s changing times and inevitable fluctuations. If you have questions about where you stand today or how to prepare for tomorrow, we are here to talk.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: FOMC Meeting Begins
Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Housing Market Index, FOMC Meeting Announcement
Thursday: Housing Starts
Friday: Consumer Sentiment

Too Close to Call: Fed’s Decision on Interest Rates – Weekly Update for March 6, 2017

On Wednesday, March 1, the three major domestic indexes all had their best performance in 2017 and reached record highs yet again. In fact, the S&P 500 hit 2,400 for the first time ever on the same day the Dow went above 21,000 for the first time. While the markets cooled slightly on Thursday and Friday, all three indexes were up for the week. The S&P 500 added 0.67%, the Dow increased by 0.88%, and the NASDAQ was up 0.44%. International equities in the MSCI EAFE also grew, adding 0.39% for the week.

In the midst of more record performance, we received a number of data updates that help improve our understanding of the true economic environment and potential for the Fed to increase interest rates next week.

What We Learned Last Week

  • Fourth Quarter 2016 GDP Readings Stayed the Same

On February 28, we received the second reading of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2016. The consensus expectation was for the reading to increase to 2.1% from the 1.9% growth in January’s Advance report. However, the newest data did not show any change in Q4 GDP.

  • Manufacturing Activity Increased

The ISM manufacturing survey beat expectations to come in at 57.7 for February—the highest reading in 2.5 years and the best yearly start since 2011. Levels over 50 indicate expansion, so this data provides a positive signal for our manufacturing sector.

  • Service Sector Activity Increased

In February, the service sector grew for the 86th straight month, with the ISM non-manufacturing survey coming in at 57.6. Both new orders and business activity had faster expansion, and the employment index also increased.

  • Consumer Confidence Hit a More Than 15-Year High

The latest consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board have not been this high since July 2001. Fewer people think that jobs are “hard to get,” and many “consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead.” Of course, consumer confidence is no guarantee for future circumstances; instead, it measures sentiment and currently indicates that many people feel more positively about the economy.

  • Personal Income Went Up

The latest personal income data indicated a 0.4% increase in January—for a 4.0% yearly increase. In addition, the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) deflator, which measures consumer inflation, grew by 0.4% in January, the largest monthly increase since 2011. The Federal Reserve follows the PCE deflator very closely, so this recent jump could be another sign that a March interest-rate increase could be more likely to occur.

These data updates are only a few of the economic details we learned last week, but together, they may help explain why the Fed could increase rates in the March 14 – 15 meeting. As recently as Tuesday morning, the odds of a rate hike were only 35%. By Friday, they had increased to 81%, due to strong economic data and remarks from Fed representatives. On Friday, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said that if employment and inflation continue to change as they expect, then a change to the “federal funds rate would likely be appropriate.”[xviii]

Combined with the recent PCE deflator increases, this Friday’s employment data should help provide more context for the Fed’s decision. However, as we have seen before, no one truly knows what the Fed will decide until they make their announcement after the meeting. For now, we will monitor the data and wait to hear the Fed’s announcement on March 15.

Economic Calendar

Monday: Factory Orders
Tuesday: International Trade
Wednesday: Productivity and Costs
Thursday: Import and Export Prices
Friday: Employment Situation

Upcoming Reports Impacting the Market – Weekly Upate for February 27, 2017

Once again, domestic markets reached record highs last week. The S&P 500 was up by 0.69% and the NASDAQ increased by 0.12%. With its 0.96% week-over-week growth, the Dow has posted gains for 11 straight days and is currently experiencing its longest record streak since 1987. On the other hand, international equities in the MSCI EAFE lost ground, dropping by 0.25% for the week.

Last week did not offer much new information on economic fundamentals. With the exception of January increases for new single-family homes and the fastest pace of existing home sales since 2007, we do not have a tremendous amount of new data to share.

In the absence of this data, focusing on the roiling political conversations becomes much easier. As we have said before, we encourage you to pay attention to how the economy is performing—not what the headlines are blaring. Rather than recount the policy debates and political back-and-forth, we will discuss three important economic developments on our horizon: revised GDP, February CPI, and Fed interest rate deliberations.

What’s Ahead?

February 28: Revised Q4 2016 GDP

On Tuesday, we will receive the second growth estimate of the U.S. economy during the fourth quarter of 2016, which came in at 1.9% in the first estimate. Consensus is that the revised estimate will increase to 2.1%, but we will have to wait until March 30 to see the third and final measurement of Q4 economic growth.

The Bottom Line: GDP is key in measuring the U.S. economy’s strength. Any upward revisions would signal our economy is growing faster than the initial readings indicated.

March 15: February Consumer Price Index (CPI)

In January, the CPI experienced its largest month-over-month jump since 2013. The upcoming February report will help to show whether prices are continuing to increase and how the cost of living is changing.

The Bottom Line: The CPI measures changes to the average cost of specific goods and services that consumers purchase and is a key indicator for inflation. This data
affects the bond and equity markets, labor contracts, Social Security payments, tax brackets, and more 

March 15: Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Meeting Announcement

From March 14 – 15, the FOMC will meet and determine whether or not to raise the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rates. After the meeting concludes, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will announce their decision—a move that market participants will watch very closely. Yellen recently commented that “Waiting too long to [raise rates] would be unwise.” However, Wall Street does not expect an increase in March and shows a less than 1 in 5 chance of this move.

The Bottom Line: When the Fed changes its benchmark interest rate, the effects reverberate throughout our economy. According to Barron’s, the FOMC interest-rate policy meetings “are the single most influential event for the markets.” If the Fed decides to raise rates, this choice would affect interest rates now and also imply that monetary policy will continue to tighten throughout 2017.

These upcoming details are only a few of the noteworthy economic details on the horizon. If you have questions about what other fundamental data we are tracking or believe could affect your financial life, we are always here and would love to connect!

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Durable Goods Orders, Pending Home Sales Index
Tuesday: GDP, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg Index,
Friday: PMI Services Index, ISM Non-Mfg Index

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

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

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

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

Why has the Trump Bump paused?

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

What are the fundamentals telling us?

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

Last week, we also saw:

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

What should you focus on?

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

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

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

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

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: Existing Home Sales

Thursday: New Home Sales, International Trade in Goods

Friday: GDP, Durable Goods Orders, Consumer Sentiment

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

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

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

Why did the Fed raise rates?

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

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

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

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

How did the markets react to the interest rate increase?

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

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

How could the rate increase affect you?

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

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

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s ahead in this exuberant moment?

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

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

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: FOMC Meeting Begins, Import and Export Prices

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

Friday: Housing Starts

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

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

What Happened Last Week?

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

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

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

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

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

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

Tuesday: GDP

Wednesday: ADP Employment Report, Personal Income and Outlays

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

Friday: Employment Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:

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

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