SPECIAL UPDATE: Examining North Korea and the Markets

No one wants to see a clash between two nations with nuclear capabilities. So, when the war-of-words between North Korea and the U.S. reached a new level earlier this month, markets briefly stumbled as investors grew uneasy. While we don’t normally opine on geopolitical events, we wanted to help ease any financial worries you may have related to this recent conflict.

When sharing this analysis, we certainly do not have a crystal ball—and we recognize that any military escalation could affect far more than your investments. But, as we all look to see what’s on the horizon, we believe that historic perspective may help ease concerns about the tension’s impact on your financial future.

What can we learn from the past?

Data from Strategas Research Partners shows us that while the markets often have negative reactions to events when they first occur—they can recover within days or months.

For instance, on the day of Pearl Harbor, the S&P 500 declined 3.8%, but it was back within positive territory 20 days later. And just last year, the S&P 500 dropped 3.6% when the BREXIT vote came through — then was up by 19.5% a few months later.

History also shows us that war often does little to bring down the financial markets. In the month that two atomic bombs fell on Japan, the S&P 500 gained 5.8%.

Of course, no one wants to imagine the tension with North Korea escalating into war. Thankfully, Pyongyang announced on August 15 that they would not, in fact, strike near Guam. And with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assertion that there is no “imminent threat” of nuclear attack, the risk of war seems to be retreating.

What should you do now?

Looking forward, we must remember that the markets don’t always bounce back quickly after geopolitical events — but making fear-based choices can be very costly in the long run. No matter what happens, we are here to help you stay abreast of current market dynamics and focus on the economic fundamentals that drive lasting value.

We will continue to monitor the situation in North Korea, but headlines won’t distract us from pursuing our true goal: moving you toward the future you desire. If you want to discuss your specific strategy or investments in greater detail, please contact us any time.

And if you’d like to gain a wider understanding of how the markets have responded to geopolitical events in the past, explore the chart from CNBC and Strategas Research Partners included below at the end of this message.

Source: CNBC, Strategas Research Partners

We appreciate the thoughts of David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff who said, “Geopolitics can create anxiety in financial markets, but aren’t going to bring the $18.5 trillion beast, otherwise known as the U.S. economy, to its knees.”

Markets Turn Jittery – Weekly Update for August 14, 2017

Last week, rising tension between North Korea and the U.S. rattled the world’s markets. As the two countries traded tough words, concerns escalated and markets reacted emotionally to the news. Though stress is building internationally, we remain committed to focusing on the market fundamentals that drive long-term value.

We recently published a special update outlining the details of how markets have reacted to other significant geopolitical events. History shows that markets can fall in the wake of alarming news but do recover, given time. We encourage you read through the post and talk to us if you have questions or concerns. You can find the special update HERE.

Amidst the pressure last week, volatility returned to markets—and all three major U.S. market indexes turned south. The Dow dropped 1.06%, the S&P 500 fell 1.43%, and the NASDAQ declined 1.50%. Global markets also reacted as the MSCI EAFE lost 1.59% for the week.

Though international developments dominated headlines, economic news important to markets and investors continued to roll out. The data reflects a solid economy, but some possible headwinds are on the horizon. Here are the highlights:

  • Impressive Corporate Earnings: Q2 corporate earnings reports both domestically and internationally were impressive. Reported corporate earnings in the U.S. increased an average of over 10% for the second quarter in a row—their first time doing so since 2011.
  • Low Inflation: The consumer price index, which measures changes to the average price of specific goods and services, rose only 0.1% in July. Expectations for a 0.2% increase failed to materialize as housing and travel costs, wireless services, and auto sales all slumped in July. At 1.7%, year-over-year inflation remains below the Federal Reserve’s targeted 2% growth rate. Continued low inflation may cause the Fed to rethink its plans to raise interest rates.
  • Rising Demand for Labor: Labor markets continue to be a key economic driver as evidenced by sharply rising job openings. June’s job openings jumped to 6.2 million from 5.7 million in May. Year-over-year, job openings climbed an impressive 11.3%. Moreover, jobless claims remain at historic lows.
  • High U.S. Household Debt: The current outstanding consumer debt of $12.7 trillion is now higher than the previous record reached in 2008. This debt load could wind up being a drag on consumer spending and the economy as a whole.

What Is Ahead

Tense geopolitical headlines may continue, but there will be plenty of market news, too. Retail, manufacturing, and housing data will come out this week, and Friday’s August consumer sentiment numbers will be of interest. Though the markets may move with emotions, economic fundamentals should continue to be the base for long-term value.

No matter what questions you may have, we always welcome you to reach out and contact us. We are here to help.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Tuesday: Retail Sales, Import and Export Prices, Housing Market Index, Business Inventories
Wednesday: Housing Starts
Thursday: Jobless Claims, Industrial Production
Friday: Consumer Sentiment

August 2017 Market Update Video


A slow first quarter followed by stronger growth in the spring has been a familiar pattern over the past several years. Because of it, the government began combined efforts to manage shortcomings in the government’s seasonal adjustment process. Even with this spring rally, though, economic analysts do not think it will meet the ambitious targets set by President Trump. For 2017, economic experts believe growth will come in around 2.2%, which is where growth has been since the Great Recession recovery began in mid-2009.

In this video, Josh will battle the mosquito apocalypse, and discuss some of the economic headlines that influenced markets in July, and give you some insight into what they could mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions or concerns about your portfolio after watching this video, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by email, or by giving us a call at (419) 425-2400. We would be happy to talk.

Markets Remain Bullish – Weekly Update for August 7, 2017

Another week of economic performance brought more news that the markets continue their bullish streak. After eight consecutive record-high closings, the Dow rose above 22,000 for the first time ever and finished the week up 1.20%. The S&P 500 was up 0.19% for the week, and the NASDAQ slightly fell by 0.36%. Meanwhile, the MSCI EAFE closed with a 0.82% increase.

The positive news continued with other upbeat reports. Manufacturing and employment each posted impressive numbers, suggesting a favorable Q3 start. And investors are looking ahead to possible Fed action on unwinding its balance sheet and bumping interest rates up again in December.

Here are key market developments that emerged last week:

Manufacturing Is On the Rise

Manufacturing is gaining speed as a key economic factor for Q3 and Q4. In June, new factory orders rose to almost a 10% annual increase, the best rate in the last 3 years. Unfilled orders also jumped 1.3% on rising demand for transportation equipment and capital goods. In addition, business confidence is at a 6-month high and inventories are up, though inflationary pressure remains soft. As a result, factory payrolls jumped 16,000 in July on top of June’s 12,000 increase.

Jobs Reports Remain Robust

Last Friday’s Employment Situation report marks the 5th time this year that payroll growth surpassed 200,000. While analysts predicted payrolls would grow by an additional 178,000, the actual number came in at 209,000. The solid employment increase helped lower the unemployment rate to 4.3%—the best rate since 2001.

Average hourly earnings also rose last week. The welcomed 0.34% increase on the month was the highest increase since October. Analysts hoped that low unemployment numbers would push yearly wage growth to over 3%, but year-to-date numbers continue to hover around growth of 2.5%.

Federal Reserve Weighs Options

Expect the Fed to raise interest rates in December by an additional ¼ point, though Fed Chair Janet Yellen has indicated that low inflation remains a concern for the economy. Despite robust financial markets, low unemployment, and a flourishing job market, inflation sits below the targeted 2% increase, with modest increases in both wage growth and consumer spending. Some analysts think that soft inflation could give pause to a year-end Fed rate hike.

Many observers believe the Federal Reserve will begin in September to shrink its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. The Fed balance sheet consists primarily of U.S. treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. To reduce this position, the Fed can either sell those securities, or it can opt not to reinvest securities as they mature.

What Is Ahead

Domestically

Widespread positive indicators are at the heart of a solid start to Q3. In addition to rebounding manufacturing activity and robust employment data, other aspects of the economy are brightening:

Internationally

In addition, economies around the world are moving in the right direction. The euro economies are showing continued strength, while emerging economies are expanding at their fastest rate since 2014.

As always, we encourage you to continue focusing on your long-term goals. Should you have any questions about the economy or your financial life, we are here for the conversation.

Economic Calendar

Tuesday: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS)
Thursday: Jobless Claims
Friday: Consumer Price Index

Markets March Ahead – Weekly Update for July 31, 2017

Last week, markets marched ahead within a busy reporting week. The Dow rose 1.16% to close Friday on another new high. The S&P 500 notched a record high during the week, despite closing the week slightly down 0.02%. Meanwhile, the NASDAQ slipped 0.20%, and the MSCI EAFE rose 0.21%.

Generally strong corporate earnings reports helped markets continue to hit highs. The majority of companies that have posted Q2 earnings so far have beaten their estimates. Those earnings performances helped push financials, materials, and energy stocks up by over 1% early in the week. Health care companies also posted substantial earnings as S&P 500 health care stocks have risen 16% this year. Health insurer stocks have also increased by 22%.

Additionally, Q2 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), consumer confidence, exports, housing, and oil all reported noteworthy developments.

A Rundown of Last Week’s Developments

  • Solid GDP Performance: For the second quarter, GDP came in at a 6% annualized rate—one of the strongest quarters in the last 2 years. GDP growth was based on robust consumer spending for durable and nondurable goods. In addition, business investment hit a solid 5.2% annualized increase for the quarter.
  • Healthy Consumer Confidence: Consumer confidence remains quite high with the index rising in July almost 4 points to 121.1. The index beat the optimistic estimate of 118 and has jumped approximately 20 points since last November’s election, staying near March’s 17-year high of 124.9. In addition, the consumer sentiment index moved up modestly the last two weeks of July to end at 93.4.
  • Decent Export and Import Numbers: Food products and capital goods helped exports rise by 1.4% in June. Further, wholesale and retail inventories both jumped 0.6%. Imports, however, fell 0.4% on lower industrial supplies and consumer goods.
  • Mixed Home Sales: A tight labor market and low mortgages continue to spur demand for housing. In June, new home sales recorded a strong 610,000 annualized rate. Meanwhile, existing home sales dropped 1.8% in June to an annualized rate of 5.5 million, which was lower than anticipated. Existing home prices, however, were up 6.5% year-over-year, with a median price of $263,800.
  • Better Oil Prices: Oil prices rose this week, hitting the highest weekly percentage gains this year. Prices strengthened with news of shrinking U.S. crude and gas inventories, along with foreign efforts to reduce output.

What Lies Ahead

The Fed observed in its meeting last week that risks to the economic outlook seem stable. In its analysis of the economy, the Fed pointed to moderate economic growth, a sturdy employment environment, and positive business investments. As expected, the Fed did not increase interest rates but suggested that unwinding its $4.5 trillion balance sheet could begin as early as September.

This week will again offer key economic data to help provide a better understanding of market performance in June and early indicators for July. As always, we are here to answer any questions you may have about our economy and your financial life.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR

Monday: Pending Home Sales Index
Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, Personal Income and Outlays, PMI Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending
Wednesday: ADP Employment Report
Thursday: Factory Orders
Friday: Employment Situation, International Trade

 

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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

 

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

 

 

June 2017 Market Update Video

The economy has sped up a bit during spring. In this month’s video, Tony takes a tour around Findlay as he talks about some of the major headlines that influenced markets in May. We hope this information offers insight into what these developments might mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions after watching this video, or would like a second opinion on your portfolio, send us an email, or give us a call at (419) 425-2400. We would be happy to talk. Thanks for watching!

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