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

Mixed Worldwide Markets – Weekly Update for June 12, 2017

Markets were mixed last week with leading tech stocks falling dramatically as some investors pulled profits. The NASDAQ took the biggest hit, finishing 1.55% down on the week—its worst week of the year. Meanwhile, the Dow rose 0.31% for the week, notching another record close on Friday. The S&P 500 fell 0.30%, and the MSCI EAFE closed the week down 1.22%.

The S&P tech sector dropped 3.3% on Friday; however, it remained up 18% for the year. Major tech stocks account for almost 13% of the total number of stocks in the S&P 500, while comprising nearly 40% of the S&P 500 increase for the year.

Internationally, Asian markets were mixed while European markets closed the week generally higher. The European equities markets took last week’s UK election in stride, though the pound dropped in response to the Conservatives losing their majority.

Domestically, monthly job openings exceeded 6 million in April. Hiring, however, has slowed to only 5 million per month, suggesting workers’ skills may not match job needs. Moreover, the economy continues to show signs of softening.

Indications of a Softer Economy

  • Wholesale and Retail Inventories Down: Revised wholesale inventories shrunk 0.5% in April, the largest contraction in more than 12 months. In addition, retail inventories fell in April as sales weakened.
  • Inflation Slows: As noted last week, consumer prices remain weak. Inflation slowed in April to an annual rate increase of 1.7% year-over-year, down from the 1.9% recorded in March and 2.1% in February. Falling oil prices, excessive auto inventories, and increasing apartment rental inventories will all create headwinds to reaching the Fed’s target rate of 2.0%.
  • Factory Orders Down: Factory orders fell 0.2% in April. While motor vehicles rose 0.6% and computers gained 1.6%, durable goods orders fell 0.8%.
  • Oil Prices Drop: Though summer driving season is here, U.S. gasoline demand dropped by nearly a half-million barrels a day. While the need for fuel fell—and despite beliefs that oil would fall by 3.5 million barrels—stockpiles rose by 3.3 million barrels. As a result, oil dropped by 4%, ending the week at $45.86 per barrel.

What Comes Next

The Fed will hold a meeting this week to determine whether to raise interest rates. Expectations are that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will raise the fed funds rate 0.25% to 1.25% despite the soft economic news, which the Fed characterized as “transitory.” The FOMC meeting will also address quarterly forecasts for the remainder of the year. The markets expect both Japan and Britain’s central banks to also address the issue of interest rates.

In addressing the federal debt, the Treasury Secretary assured last week that the U.S. will not default on its debt. Congress must address the debt limit this summer or fall, but markets may react negatively if delays occur. Meanwhile, Congress continues to wrestle with policy questions around tax reform, an infrastructure program, and healthcare reform. How the government addresses these important initiatives could alter market dynamics in the future.

If you have questions on where you stand as these events unfold, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to support your financial life with clarity and sound perspectives.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Business Inventories, FOMC Meeting Announcement
Thursday: Industrial Production, Housing Market Index
Friday: Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment

Economic Volatility: Where Are The Markets In Response? – Weekly Update for June 5, 2017

Last week, the S&P 500, Dow, and NASDAQ closed at all-time record highs. The S&P 500 rose 0.96%, the Dow gained 0.6%, and the NASDAQ grew by 1.54%. Meanwhile, the MSCI EAFE gained 1.64% for the week.

Despite strong equity markets, bond yields dropped to their lowest point in the year. The drop in yield caused by rising bond prices, combined with soft employment numbers and low wage growth, could suggest a slowing economy or a tightening labor market.

While the U.S. equity markets advanced to new highs and bond prices rose, other markets were mixed for the week. Pending home sales dropped 1.3% in April, a second straight month of decline. Oil fell to $47.66 a barrel, the dollar dropped to a seven-month low against the euro, and gold gained 0.8% closing at $1,280.20.

Additionally, soft employment numbers and flat wages could lead to a disappointing Q2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With an eye on dropping inflation, the Fed will have to decide whether to still raise interest rates.

Mixed Job Numbers and Slow Wage Growth

May’s job growth reported an anemic 138,000, well below the expected 185,000. At the same time, average hourly wages increased on a year-over-year basis by only 2.5%. Moreover, the revisions to March and April’s payroll numbers fell by 66,000 jobs. The economy is currently averaging 162,000 new jobs per month for the year—again, well below 2016’s 187,000 average.

Despite the unemployment rate falling to 4.3%, the lowest it’s been in over 15 years, the employment-to-population ratio also fell. Still, the data confirms that demand for experienced and skilled workers exists, while the supply is falling.

Fed Will Discuss Raising Interest Rates

On June 14, the Fed FOMC will meet to determine if an interest rate increase is in order. Despite the soft employment numbers and an inflation rate below the Fed’s target of 2%, traders still believe there is a nearly 88% chance that the Fed will raise rates in June. However, the market consensus currently suggests only a roughly 50/50 chance for another rate increase before the end of the year.

International News and Looking Ahead

Manufacturing in China has posted strong returns. Both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs reported gains above 50. The numbers suggest that China is on track to reach its targeted 6.5% growth for the year. This matters because China is the world’s second largest economy at $11 trillion GDP for 2017.

Other developments in the international arena could influence markets going forward. Reaction to President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord could adversely affect American products in the international markets. The landmark decision also runs the risk of hurting U.S. tech and alternative energy companies.

We will continue to follow developing international and national news as they move the markets. As always, if you have questions about how these events may affect your finances, please contact us. We are here to help you remain informed and in control of your financial future.

Economic Calendar

Monday: Factory Orders, ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
Tuesday: JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey)
Thursday: Jobless Claims

Strong Markets & A Positive Outlook – Weekly Update for May 30, 2017

The markets marched ahead last week with the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ reporting all-time records, albeit just slightly above previous highs. The S&P rose 1.43% over last week, while the NASDAQ was up 2.08%. The Dow gained 1.32% and the MSCI EAFE gained 0.14% for the week. Volatility subsided as the CBOE Volatility Index, which gauges fear in the market, fell to 9.8 at the end of the week.

A few important economic developments also caught our attention.

Market News for the Week

  • Strong Corporate Earnings  

Corporate earnings remain a bright spot as approximately 75% of S&P 500 companies beat their Q1 earnings estimates. S&P 500 corporate earnings are averaging a 13.9% increase—the best performance in over 5 years.

  • First Quarter GDP Revised Upward

The good news is that Q1 GDP revised upward from 0.7% to 1.2% growth. However, the economy continues to grow at a less-than-robust rate at approximately 2% on a year-over-year basis, as it has since 2011.

  • Oil Prices Fall  

U.S. crude ended the week at $49.80 after prices fell almost 5% on Thursday following OPEC’s announced 9-month extension to limit oil production. Investors remain cautious; U.S. oil production has spiked by over 10% in the last year, keeping oil prices down by offsetting reduced OPEC production.

  • Softening Housing Sales

New home sales fell 11.4% in April to an annualized rate of 569,000. Median new home prices dropped 3.0% to $309,200, as sales are tracking for only a modest 0.5% gain for the year. April’s existing home sales dropped 2.3% in another indication of softening home sales.

  • The Fed’s Plan to Tighten Its Balance Sheet  

As expected, the Federal Reserve FOMC unveiled a proposal to gradually unwind its $4.5 trillion balance sheet with monthly limits. The process is likely to begin later in the year, though the Fed has not announced a specific date.

Heading Into Summer

After Memorial Day, the shortened workweek brings more attention-worthy reports as investors will continue to evaluate the prospects for a stronger Q2 GDP performance. Tuesday’s April consumer spending reports and Friday’s trade data should give us a better picture of where Q2 GDP is heading.

Investors will continue to monitor the U.S. trade gap. April exports were down 0.9% while imports were up 0.7%, creating an unfavorable gap of $67.6 billion. Investment in new equipment will also provide investors with another important indicator of future economic growth. New equipment orders have so far remained flat for the year, though. Finally, the Fed’s plans for a possible interest rate hike in June will be on investors’ radar.

If you have questions about where you stand today or how to prepare for tomorrow, we are here to talk. Our goal is to give you the facts and insight you need to remain informed and in control of your financial future.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Pending Home Sales
Thursday: ADP Employment Report, Construction Spending, PMI Manufacturing Index
Friday: Employment Situation

Mixed Signals, Positive Performance – Weekly Update for May 8, 2017

Last week, stocks rose but floated within a narrow trading range. By Friday, however, both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ reached record highs. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.63%, the Dow finished up 0.32%, and the NASDAQ rose 0.88%. The MSCI EAFE added 1.7%.

Overall, we experienced another week of generally positive, but somewhat mixed, economic signals. Soft auto sales and tumbling oil prices offset increased job creation and the lowest unemployment recorded in a decade.

POSITIVE MARKET NEWS

  • Increased Job Creation and Low Unemployment
    In April, U.S. payrolls added 211,000 jobs, exceeding the 190,000 predicted and showing a significant bounce back from March’s 79,000 increase. The jobless rate also dropped to 4.4%—the lowest it has been since May 2007. The economy added jobs in several industries:

    • Leisure and hospitality: +55,000 jobs
    • Health care: +20,000 jobs
    • Mining: +9,000 jobs
    • Professional and business services: +39,000 jobs
    • Government: +17,000 jobs
  • Strong Corporate Earnings
    First quarter earnings season continued last week, and U.S. companies once again reported strong results. So far, companies with majority overseas profits are reporting an average revenue growth of 19.9%, outperforming S&P 500 companies with domestic earnings only. This difference helps explain how corporations are reporting strong Q1 earnings despite sluggish economic growth in the U.S. during the same period.

MIXED SIGNALS

  • Auto Sales Below Expectations
    U.S. motor vehicle sales bounced up to an annualized rate of 16.9 million. Though April’s report falls below the predicted 17.2 million, it improves on March’s 16.6 million annualized rate.
  • Oil Prices Tumble
    Oil prices tumbled last week. Both June West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude and July Brent crude finished the week down. WTI closed at $46.22 a barrel, falling approximately 6.3% below last week’s close. Brent crude fell by about 5.6% for the week to $49.10 a barrel.

LOOKING AHEAD

On Wednesday, May 3, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced it would keep the federal funds target range at 0.75% to 1.00%. Nonetheless, the Fed remains encouraged that the second-quarter GDP will rebound, because they believe consumer fundamentals remain solid. This sentiment may indicate the FOMC will raise rates in their June meeting.
On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election, as expected. Macron’s win should ease European Market concerns, as he is a centrist who supports global trade, the euro, and France’s continuing membership in the EU.

As we look ahead to this week, our analysis will include a variety of international and domestic focuses. In particular, consumer prices, retail sales, and business inventories will highlight economic reports for the week while oil prices also should remain in focus for investors.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: JOLTS (tracks monthly changes in job openings)
Thursday: Jobless Report, Producer Price Index
Friday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Business Inventories, Consumer Sentiment

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

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

capture