The Economy and Markets at Midyear: Is the Outlook Heating Up?
Coming off of a strong year for the economy and markets, we had high hopes for 2018, but the first half of the year didn’t play out as planned. Between the stock market pullback early in the year; the slowdown in economic growth; and rising risks, largely in trade, expectations softened. As we hit the midway point for 2018, though, it looks as if those initial hopes might be more realistic than they seemed even a month ago.
Market Thoughts for July 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps the market and economic news for June. It was a mixed month, as U.S. markets went down with the Dow and up with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. Bond markets pulled back a bit on rising rates. There was also pullback abroad, in both developed and emerging markets. Still, the fundamentals are good, and a step-up in second-quarter growth is expected. Job growth is strong, consumer spending is accelerating, and business investment is solid. Are there headwinds ahead? Stay tuned to learn more. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
2018 Midyear Outlook: Growth and Markets Picking Back Up
2017 was a great year for the economy and financial markets, and we started 2018 with high hopes for even faster growth and continued market gains. But between the stock market pullback early in the year; the slowdown in economic growth; and the rising political risks in Asia, with North Korea, and in Europe, with Britain and Italy, expectations softened. Perhaps 2017 was the end of the cycle after all.
RIP General Electric
One of the big pieces of news in the financial world today focuses on General Electric (GE). The iconic American conglomerate has been removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and its stock will no longer be included when the index is calculated. It will be replaced by the drugstore chain Walgreens.
Market Thoughts for June 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps the market and economic news for May. It was a good month, continuing the recovery from the pullback we saw at the start of the year. In the U.S., markets were up almost across the board. Consumers continue to spend, and businesses remain confident—with manufacturing doing particularly well. Plus, the government is contributing to this growth by cutting taxes and spending more. When we look at emerging and developing markets, however, it's a different story. Stay tuned to learn more. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
Is “Italeave” Greece 2.0?
First, there was “Grexit,” which was the name given to the possibility that Greece would leave the eurozone. Then, there was “Brexit,” the plan for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, which is actually happening (at least potentially). Now, we have “Italeave,” which I think sounds better than the other contender, “Italexit.” So what’s going on with Italy?
Where Can We Beat the Market?
We closed yesterday’s post on whether markets are efficient with the conclusion that it could be possible to beat the market. But, to do so, we would need either better information or to view things differently—specifically referencing time horizons as one way to do that. Let’s start with a couple of areas where better information is a real possibility. Then, we’ll take a deeper look at the second idea, which is both more subtle and more interesting.
The Price of Oil: Is It Time to Worry?
Oil has been in the news quite a bit recently. Prices have risen to multiyear highs, and the recent decision by the U.S. to reimpose sanctions on Iran has rattled markets even further. We know that oil prices are a key risk indicator for the economy, but is it time to start worrying? Plus, what do higher oil prices mean—if anything—for the financial markets?
Will Quantitative Tightening Sink the Market?
As we move away from the financial crisis and as policies normalize, it is a good time to take a look at what the removal of those policies might mean. After all, many of the actions taken in the aftermath of the crisis were explicitly designed to do certain things. If those actions were successful, then presumably their reversal would have the opposite effect.
Market Thoughts for May 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps the market and economic news for April. It was a good month, as both U.S. and developed markets were up. This news was encouraging, indicating that the economy seems to be bouncing back after two down months. In fact, the fundamentals are quite strong, with company earnings surprising to the upside to a degree we have never seen before. Plus, sales beat expectations, which is a positive reflection of the markets and the economy. But will these trends continue? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
More Market Turbulence: Risks Are Rising
Yesterday, we had another breakdown in the stock market. Major indices dropped for the third day out of four, and they were down this morning. Once again, we are getting close to the long-term trend line, the 200-day moving average, which is where I personally start to pay attention.
A Look Back at Q1 2018 and Ahead to Q2
The first quarter of 2018 saw the end of the bull market. Not in stocks necessarily, as the upward trend remains intact, but certainly of the bull market in confidence. January was a strong month, but then the world changed. Markets dropped in early February, only to bounce and then drop again in March. Let’s review why things changed in Q1, plus what we might expect in Q2.
Market Thoughts for April 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps the market and economic news for March. Last month, both U.S. and international markets saw losses. It was the second down month in a row, something we haven't seen in a while. This was due, in part, to markets becoming uncertain on the news of tariffs on China—which rattled companies around the world. Plus, Fed Chair Powell was seen as more hawkish than expected, introducing uncertainty around interest rates. Despite all this, do the fundamentals remain solid? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
Is the Housing Market Rolling Over?
I consider housing to be one of the key drivers of the economy. This is true from a fundamental basis—with housing driving construction and mortgage finance, which are significant parts of the economy, plus all sorts of indirect spending such as furniture.
Could the Great Financial Crisis Happen Again?
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the failure of the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns, widely considered the opening act of the great financial crisis of 2008. Bear was done in, so the story goes, by a mix of ill-considered bets on mortgage securities and excessive borrowing.
An Economic Forecast: The Jobs Report, Tariffs, and Bear Stearns
I woke up this morning to a surprise. It had snowed, which was expected. After all the fear-mongering coverage, in fact, I expected the house to be covered, but it wasn’t so bad. The real surprise was the fact that a combination of wind and heavy snow had taken down several trees—including an 18-footer right across most of my driveway. All of a sudden, I was cut off.
Gary Cohn Resigns: The Other Shoe Has Dropped
Yesterday, I wrote that the markets were likely to continue to trend upward, on the idea that the U.S. tariffs were not really going to happen. But then the news that Gary Cohn had resigned as head of the National Economic Council was announced—and this has changed that perception entirely.
Market Thoughts for March 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps the economic news for February. Last month, there was a 10-percent market drawdown in the U.S., something we haven’t seen for almost two years. Although many were worried that this was the “big one,” the markets recovered more than half of their losses by month-end, and the economic fundamentals remain sound. Job growth is strong, business confidence is high, and consumer confidence is at the highest level since 2000. Will this good news continue into March? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
What the Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Mean for Your Investments
Yesterday, President Trump announced that the U.S. will be imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This shocked markets here in the U.S. and around the world, driving them back down just as it looked like they were recovering from the downturn last month. What happened? And is this a more serious threat going forward? In a word, yes.
The Stock Market Stands Corrected - Time to Worry?
With the declines yesterday, U.S. markets are now in an official correction. Just to get the terminology straight, a “correction” means a 10-percent decline, while a "bear market" indicates a 20-percent decline. As of the close yesterday, the Dow was down 10.3 percent, and the S&P 500 was down 10.1 percent.
Jobs Report: Good, But Not Perfect
Today’s big news is the jobs report. It is the single most informative and important economic report there is. As such, it always gets a great deal of attention. In general, the news this month is quite good—but not perfect.
Market Thoughts for February 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps another great month for the markets. In January, all three U.S. indices were up by at least 5 percent, as were international markets. There was a bit of a pullback at the end of the month, as interest rates moved up to levels we haven’t seen in years. Indeed, fixed income took a bit of a hit on these higher rates. Still, consumers keep spending and businesses are investing. Will this “virtuous circle” lead to continued economic growth? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
A Look Back at the Markets and Economy in January
There is a market adage that states, “as goes January, so goes the year.” We certainly should hope this is the case for 2018, as January was another month of great stock market returns. The U.S. indices were up by 5 percent or more, while international markets—both developed and emerging—did the same.
An Economic State of the Union
With President Trump scheduled to give the annual State of the Union address tonight, I thought it would be a good time to consider the economic state of the union. As usual, of course, I am going to pass on the politics and instead take a big-picture look at the economy.
What Does the Decline of the Dollar Mean?
One of the dominating economic headlines of late has been the weakness of the dollar. These stories have been exacerbated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comment that the “dollar is not a concern of mine.”
Corporate Earnings for the Close of 2017: Good Despite the Headlines?
With the market surging and expectations high, I want to look at the actual corporate earnings numbers for 2017. Of course, it is early in the season to do any definitive analysis. But we can certainly set some context, which will be particularly useful for this year.
Dow 26K: Is This One Different?
With the Dow opening above 26,000 yesterday morning, I was all set to continue down the same path of my Dow 24K and Dow 25K posts. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Although markets are up, the Dow is below the magic number as I write this, which is certainly okay.
What to Watch for in 2018: Housing and Auto Sales
Yesterday, I noted briefly that I would be “keeping an eye” on how long the good times last in the new year. It was one of those offhand comments that, once you think about it, really requires quite a bit more thought and analysis than at first glance.
What Do Higher Interest Rates Mean for Investments?
With interest rates rising recently, I have received a number of questions about what that means for our investments. It’s not as simple a question as you might think. As such, it is worth taking some time to think things through.
Dow 25K: A Look Beyond the Headlines
The Dow has hit yet another milestone: 25,000. By all means, cue the fireworks, cheering, champagne, and so forth. But since this is the sixth time since the start of 2017 that a 1,000-point milestone has been reached, let’s take a step back. After all, anything that happens six times in 12 months is hardly uncommon—and perhaps not worth getting too excited about.
Market Thoughts for January 2018
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps another month of good news for the markets. In December, U.S. markets were up across the board, international markets did even better, and emerging markets hit it out of the park. As a result, we are entering the new year with a huge amount of momentum. Hiring continues to be strong, consumer confidence is very close to the highest level since the dot-com boom, and business confidence remains high. But will the recent tax reform bill have a major impact in 2018? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
What Does the Alabama Election Mean for the Markets?
Yesterday’s news that the Democrats won the Alabama special Senate election, for the first time in 25 years, rattled U.S. politics. By taking the Republican majority in the Senate from 52 to 51, it reduces an already tight margin for difficult votes.
3 Current Economic Trends to Watch
I have been wrestling with what to write about today. There’s not much to add that is new. The economy is doing well, and the data is coming in strong. Although the stock market is reacting to events in Washington, it is still within 1 percent of its all-time highs. From my beat, there is not a lot worth commenting on at the moment.
Market Thoughts for December 2017
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps a month of good news for the markets. In November, U.S. financial markets were up across the board, and developed markets rose substantially. Hiring continued to do well, personal income grew, and consumer confidence rose to the highest level in 17 years. Plus, business confidence improved more than expected, and business spending was up. Given all of these positives, do we need to worry about political uncertainty in Washington, including the debt ceiling? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
Watch Out for the Risks in Washington
As I have been saying, things are pretty good, economically speaking, as we approach the end of the year. At the same time, there are some significant risks in the next couple of weeks that we need to keep an eye on.
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Is a New Crisis Brewing in Germany and Europe?
Many of us were under the assumption that we could go into the holiday season with Europe pretty much checked off the risk list. The economic news is good and getting better, and the major elections that have caused so much angst have passed. Not so fast, bub.
What the Tax Bills Could Mean for You
With the passage of the House’s tax reform bill, the Republicans have moved significantly closer to one of their key political goals. Of course, the Senate bill still needs to pass that chamber, and then the reconciled bill must pass both chambers. But the fact that the fractious Republican factions in the House have come together is a signal that passage is a real possibility.
What Will the Markets Do in 2018?
I am really coming to grips with my 2018 outlook, and I find myself wrestling with the implications of slowing growth on the economy and, in particular, the markets. The fundamentals have been strong, with good earnings growth driving the markets up.
Saudi Arabia and the Republican Tax Plan: Will the Markets React?
It has been a busy couple of days in the news. So, while I don’t ordinarily quote Lenin, his statement that “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen” is just too applicable to ignore.
Market Thoughts for November 2017
Brad McMillan, Commonwealth’s CIO, recaps a terrific month for the markets. In October, U.S., developed, and emerging markets were all up. Companies are making money, and stock markets are positive. Plus, despite three of the worst storms in U.S. history, consumer and business confidence grew. This is a very positive sign. On the corporate earnings front, however, there is some worrisome headline data. Still, profit growth continues to beat expectations. So, with a solid economy, where do we go from here? Stay tuned to find out. Follow Brad at blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer.
Should We Be Worried About Earnings Growth?
One of the key points in my argument that things are actually pretty good—and likely to get better—has been that with a growing economy, companies are selling more and making more money. Rising profits, especially on a per-share basis, are the foundation for a rising market.