Weekly Market Commentary – December 27, 2016

The Markets

Missed it by that much…

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) got within 13 points of 20,000 last Tuesday. It finished the week about 90 points below the vaunted milestone. “The Dow has gained nearly 10 percent since the end of October, more than double its 4.1 percent rise during the first nine months of the year, spurred in part by Donald J. Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Barron’s reported.

The major U.S. indices have been strong performers since early November. Many people are wondering whether they will continue to do well in 2017. The Economist suggested 2017 could hold a surprise that will negatively affect investors’ expectations:

By definition, a surprise is something the consensus does not expect…investors are expecting above-trend economic growth, higher inflation, and stronger profits…So it is not too difficult to see how the first surprise might play out. Expectations for the effectiveness of Mr. Trump’s fiscal policies are extraordinarily high. But it takes time for such policies to be implemented, and they may be diluted by Congress along the way (especially on public spending). Indeed, it may well be that demography and sluggish productivity make it very hard to push economic growth up to the 3-4 percent hoped for by the new administration.

On the other hand, profitability has improved. American companies have seen earnings rebound, and many companies are positioned to benefit from the corporate tax cuts promised by the new administration. However, this good news may already be reflected in current share prices. Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price-earnings (CAPE) ratio, a measure of valuation based on average inflation-adjusted earnings of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index from the previous 10 years, was at 27.99 on December 23. That’s almost 70 percent above its long-term average of 16.05 and indicates markets may be overvalued.

Regardless of potential negative surprises and current market valuation, many analysts expect a positive performance from U.S. stock markets next year. MarketWatch reported, “Most house projections from the big investment banks and brokers converge around the S&P closing the year at 2350 – a scant 5 percent above current levels. Only one strategist…dares to suggest that 2017’s gains could be as much as 20 percent.”

Data as of 12/23/16

1-Week

YTD1-Year3-Year5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s (Domestic Stocks)

0.2%

10.8%9.7%7.4%12.3%

4.8%

Dow Jones Global ex-US

-1.2

0.80.4-3.32.8

-1.1

10-Year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.5

N/A2.32.92.0

4.6

Gold (per ounce)

-2.8

6.55.9-1.9-6.8

6.1

Bloomberg Commodity Index-2.19.810.5-12.2-9.4-6.3
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index-0.57.17.312.211.55.1

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

America’s Most Wanted…

Don’t worry. Robots have not yet replaced human workers. In fact, according to The World In 2017 (published by The Economist):

…automation seems to be pushing people from routine jobs, such as factory work, into non-routine ones, particularly those that require cognitive and social skills. Technological progress will cause a shift in the nature of jobs available and the skills they require. It is impossible to know for sure what these new jobs will be – the Luddites who campaigned against the mechanization of weaving in the early 19th century could not have imagined that new fields such as railways, telegraphy, and electrification were coming. But two tools can help us take a stab at identifying the jobs of the near future: hard-nosed statistics and predictive intuition.

So, what do statistics tell us about the new jobs young people and career changers should be preparing to do? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics looked at current trends and projected the fastest growing jobs from 2014 to 2024 would be:

  1. Wind turbine service technician (up 108 percent)
  2. Occupational therapy assistants (up 43 percent)
  3. Physical therapy assistants (up 41 percent)
  4. Home health aides (up 38 percent)
  5. Commercial drivers (up 37 percent)
  6. Nurse practitioners (up 35 percent)
  7. Physical therapists (up 34 percent)
  8. Statisticians (up 34 percent)
  9. Ambulance drivers (up 33 percent)
  10. Physician assistants (up 30 percent)

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

So, I’m going to challenge all of you. I want you to true your wheels: be honest about the praise that you need to hear. What do you need to hear? Go home to your wife – go ask her, what does she need? Go home to your husband – what does he need? Go home and ask those questions, and then help the people around you. –Dr.Laura Trice, Therapist and life coach

Sources:

  1. http://www.barrons.com/articles/dow-gains-for-seventh-week-but-misses-20-000-1482555878?mod=BOL_hp_we_columns
  2. http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21712144-how-markets-may-take-investors-surprise-what-not-expect-2017
  3. http://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe/
  4. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/will-us-stock-markets-soar-20-in-2017-2016-12-23
  5. The World In 2017 by The Economist
  6. https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_103.htm
  7. http://www.ted.com/talks/laura_trice_suggests_we_all_say_thank_you/transcript?language=en

Weekly Market Commentary – December 19, 2016

The Markets

The Federal Reserve put a hitch in the markets’ giddy-up last week.

It wasn’t the Fed’s second interest rate hike in a decade that caused markets to stumble. December’s rate hike was old news before it happened. In mid-December, Reuters reported Fed funds futures indicated there was a 97 percent probability the Fed would raise rates one-quarter percent at its December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. In addition, all 120 economists polled by Reuters agreed rates were headed higher.

It was the dot plot – a chart showing FOMC members’ assessments of appropriate monetary policy going forward – that unsettled investors. Barron’s explained:

The market, however, was surprised when the Fed turned ever-so more hawkish, with its “dot plot” indicating three rate hikes next year, up from two. Still, stocks handled the news better than might be expected, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropping 0.8 percent immediately following the announcement but still finishing the week down just 0.1 percent to 2258.07. The NASDAQ Composite fell 0.1 percent to 5437.16, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 86.56 points, or 0.4 percent, to 19843.41, its sixth consecutive winning week.

Bond market investors weren’t too happy last week, either. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes has nearly doubled during the past five months, rising from 1.36 percent to 2.6 percent. When bond rates move higher, bond prices move lower.

If there is a silver lining for bond investors, it may be some specialists believe changes in Treasury rates will be modest during 2017. Barron’s reported, “For what it’s worth, the 10 firms surveyed in our Outlook 2017 see the 10-year yield at 2.69 percent late next year, just a tad above today’s level.”

Data as of 12/16/16

1-Week

YTD1-Year3-Year5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s (Domestic Stocks)

-0.1%

10.5%8.9%8.1%13.1%

4.7%

Dow Jones Global ex-US

-1.0

1.01.9-2.73.3

-1.3

10-Year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.6

N/A2.32.91.9

4.6

Gold (per ounce)

-2.8

6.55.2-2.9-6.6

6.3

Bloomberg Commodity Index-1.210.913.0-11.7-8.7-6.3
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index-0.57.27.612.912.45.0

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

To 20,000 and beyond!

You may have noticed investors have been pretty enthusiastic about U.S. stocks in recent weeks. It’s possible the Dow Jones Industrial Average will surpass 20,000. The fervor for U.S. stocks may be due to improving corporate earnings growth or it may reflect expectations for the incoming U.S. President. The Economist reported:

…the American stock market rally since the election has been quite remarkable, given the qualms expressed by many investors before the election. The big hope is that Mr. Trump will focus on his plans for fiscal stimulus and corporate tax-cutting; this will boost America’s economy and corporate profits. But, it may also push up inflation so investors are switching out of Treasury bonds and into equities. At the same time, investors are counting on Mr. Trump to forget about, or downplay, his protectionist rhetoric; as yet, they have been remarkably sanguine about his twitter wars with China.

Last week, the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Sentiment Index showed more than 40 percent of participants (44.7 percent) are optimistic share prices will move higher during the next six months. The historic average for bullish sentiment is 38.4 percent. About 32 percent of participants were bearish, which is also above the historic average of 30.3 percent. It’s interesting to note the percentage of bearish participants rose by 5.8 percent from the previous week when it was below the historic average.

Any time investors become exuberant, the words of Warren Buffett come to mind: “Two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable…We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” The U.S. bull market may have further to run, but contrarians may see better relative opportunities elsewhere.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. –Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

Weekly Market Commentary – December 12, 2016

The Markets

Dad: “Fra-gee-lay” …it must be Italian!

Mom: I think that says “fragile,” honey.

Dad: Oh, yeah.

This holiday season, investors’ enthusiasm for U.S. stocks has rivaled old man Parker’s passion for his major-award leg lamp in ‘A Christmas Story.’ Last week, three major U.S. indices hit all-time highs.

Barron’s reported consumer confidence is helping make this the most wonderful time of the year for U.S. stock markets. The University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment rose to 98 in December, reflecting a surge in consumer confidence. It was the highest reading since January 2015 and is closing in on the highest level since 2004. Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin, wrote:

The most important implication of the increase in optimism is that it has raised expectations for the performance of the economy. President-elect Trump must provide early evidence of positive economic growth as well as act to keep positive consumer expectations aligned with performance. Either too slow growth or too high expectations represent barriers to maintaining high levels of consumer confidence.

In his December Investment Outlook, Bill Gross cautioned while many aspects of Trump’s agenda – tax cuts, deregulation, fiscal stimulus – are good for stocks over the near term, investors should keep an eye on the longer term, as protectionist policies could restrict trade and, together with a strong dollar, could hurt corporate profits.

European stocks also moved higher last week after the European Central Bank (ECB) announced a taper. Quantitative easing will continue through 2017, but ECB purchases will fall each month beginning in April.

Data as of 12/09/2016

1-Week

YTD1-Year3-Year5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s (Domestic Stocks)

3.1

10.6%10.4%7.7%12.5%

4.8%

Dow Jones Global ex-US

2.7

2.02.1-2.82.7

-1.1

10-Year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.5

N/A2.22.92.1

4.5

Gold (per ounce)

-0.8

9.57.6-2.0-7.4

6.4

Bloomberg Commodity Index1.312.211.2-11.2-9.2-6.3
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index3.87.710.812.812.64.8

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

Divorced? You may want to investigate spousal benefits.

If you weren’t the top wage earner in your marriage, or your job was raising the children, then Social Security’s spousal benefit could prove advantageous. It provides the lower-earning spouse with 50 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit at full retirement age, even if you’re no longer married. AARP.org explained:

Social Security operates with a philosophy that a divorced person may deserve a personal benefit, having been the long-term partner and helpmate of a member of the workforce. The benefit is similar, in fact, to the spousal benefit that is available to a person who is still married.

To qualify, you do have to answer ‘yes’ to a significant list of requirements:

  • You were married for at least 10 years
  • You are unmarried now
  • You are age 62 or older
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits
  • The benefit you qualify to receive, based on your work, is less than the benefit your ex-spouse qualifies to receive

There are other factors that could affect your application for spousal benefits, including whether your ex-spouse has begun taking benefits. If you would like to learn more, contact your financial professional or visit www.ssa.gov.

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. –Maya Angelou, American poet

Weekly Market Commentary – December 5, 2016

The Markets

Flirting with higher interest rates.

Last week, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds rose to a 17-month high of 2.44 percent, reported The Wall Street Journal, before retreating to finish the week at about 2.4 percent.

As we’ve mentioned previously, some experts suspect the bull market in bonds, which has persisted for more than 30 years, may be headed into bear territory. In part, this is because the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to increase the fed funds rate in December. Last week, CME’s FedWatch Tool indicated there was almost a 99 percent chance the Fed would raise rates in December. Bond yields often reflect the actions of the Fed. If interest rates rise, bond prices move lower, resulting in a higher bond yields.

Another issue affecting interest rates is inflation. For several years, low inflation has supported the “trend within markets…to invest in rate-sensitive investments like bonds, which benefit from low inflation, and their equity surrogates which benefit from falling bond yields,” wrote Schroders.

In recent weeks, the bond market has been influenced by inflation prospects. The Wall Street Journal explained:

Worries about higher inflation have been a main factor fueling one of the biggest bond market selloffs since the crisis over the past weeks. The selloff had accelerated after the U.S. election in early November. Investors then had bet that the prospect of expansive fiscal and economy policy from the new U.S. administration would lead to stronger growth and higher inflation.

Last week, a measure of wage inflation moved slightly lower. This appears to have assuaged some investors’ concerns about inflation as bond yields moved lower on Friday.

Data as of 12/02/2016

1-Week

YTD1-Year3-Year5-Year

10-Year

Standard & Poor’s (Domestic Stocks)

-1.0%

7.2%5.6%6.8%12.0%

4.5%

Dow Jones Global ex-US

-0.1

-0.7-3.0-3.81.9

-1.3

10-Year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.4

N/A2.22.82.0

4.4

Gold (per ounce)

-1.2

10.511.2-1.5-7.7

6.2

Bloomberg Commodity Index2.410.88.3-11.1-9.9-6.6
DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index-0.63.75.811.412.14.3

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

Growth, Growth, Where’s The Growth?

It’s that time of the year again: The time when pundits and analysts assess the present and forecast the future. Here are a few predictions from The World in 2017, which is published by The Economist:

  • Forecasts suggest the United States will not be among the fastest growing economies in the world during 2017. The top ten countries for economic growth are expected to be: 1) Yemen, 2) Myanmar, 3) Côte d’Ivoire, 4) Mongolia, 5) Laos, 6) Ghana, 6) India, 8) Cambodia, 9) Bhutan, and 10) Djibouti.  
  • One country’s cinema box office gross may surpass that of the United States. Fifteen cinema screens are being added every day in China. During 2017, the box office revenue in the country is estimated to be $10.3 billion, higher than that of the United States.
  • Automobile companies are revving their engines. Did you know there are just 21 cars per 1,000 people in India? In China, the ratio is about 120 per 1,000. That means there is a lot of room for growth – or alternative forms of transportation.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) may create new ethical dilemmas. “Look at ‘medtech.’ Fans claim AI will remake health care, using algorithms to do the grunt work of diagnostics. Yet, could a virtual doctor explain its thinking so patients can make informed decisions?”
  • The sharing economy grows to encompass jets and yachts. Apparently, a bunch of Asian millionaires are interested in private aircraft. Some in the tourism industry are hoping they’ll be willing to share.

We hope 2017 will be filled with pleasing discoveries, stimulating events, and thrilling innovation.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. –George Burns, American comedian