The Guidance Wealth office will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday
December 24th and 25th for the Christmas Holiday.
So, what comes next?
Last week was a good week for investors. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s explained:
“The Federal Reserve and European Central Bank both pledged to do what they could to underpin their respective economies. The United Kingdom gave Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party a landslide victory, virtually guaranteeing that the Brexit saga will end, finally.”
‘Get Brexit done’ was the slogan of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative party and British voters confirmed that’s what they want. As a result, Parliament is likely to accept the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement. Under current deadlines, the United Kingdom will begin to transition out of the European Union (EU) at the end of January, reported The Economist.
Prime Minister Johnson promised to complete the transition by December 2020 despite skepticism about whether trade agreements can be negotiated and ratified in such a short time. The Economist reported, “…unless Mr. Johnson is ready to ask for an extension, the risk of Britain leaving the EU with no trade deal in place at the end of next year will be significant. The result would be high barriers to exports and severe disruption to trade.”
There was another important event last week. The United States government announced, “…a phase-one deal with China had been completed and that negotiations on phase two would begin immediately. Details were lacking, but it was surely good news,” reported Levisohn.
The Wall Street Journal reported the deal has been agreed to in principle, although nothing has been signed, and neither the United States nor the Chinese government released the text of the agreement or a detailed summary.
The information released indicates the United States cancelled tariffs scheduled to take effect last Sunday and reduced current tariffs on $120 million of Chinese goods. In return, China agreed to increase purchases of agricultural goods over the next two years. The agreement is scheduled to be signed in January.
Let’s hope they ink the deal!
Ahh, the power of distraction.
On Friday, the unemployment report flashed its numbers like a hair model in a shampoo commercial. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 266,000 new jobs were created in November. That was better than expected even after deducting the 40,000-plus General Motors employees returning to work, reported CNBC.
The sign of economic strength helped major U.S. stock indices recover from losses suffered earlier in the week – mostly.
The week got off to a rough start when President Trump indicated there was little urgency to resolving the trade dispute with China. The statement upset expectations a phase one trade deal would be completed before December 15. That’s the date the United States is scheduled to put additional tariffs on Chinese consumer goods. New tariffs could inspire additional actions by the Chinese government that affect economic growth in the United States.
To date, U.S. economic growth has slowed from 3.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to 1.9 percent in the third quarter.
The slowdown was caused, in part, by Chinese tariffs on American products. Tariffs have had a negative effect on manufacturing and agriculture, as well as other sectors of the market. Trade uncertainty also has led to a decline in business investment. When business investment drops so does the economy’s growth potential. The main engine behind U.S. economic growth has been and remains the American people. Consumer spending accounted for 68 percent of U.S. economic growth in the third quarter.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week in positive territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite finished down 0.1 percent.
It’s a shopping revolution!
Sometime, probably not so long ago, comedian Dave Barry wrote, “Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”
Not so much anymore.
On Black Friday 2019, many shoppers didn’t venture any farther than their favorite digital device. CNBC reported, “The pullback in brick-and-mortar stores mirrored a surge in Black Friday online shopping, which hit $7.4 billion, an all-time record for the day, according to Adobe Analytics.” There was some good news for brick-and-mortar stores. In-store sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 2.3 percent from a year ago.
Despite relatively strong retail sales, overall, major stock indices in the United States dipped on Friday for reasons unrelated to evolving business models in the retail industry. Indices trended lower for the same reason they have on numerous occasions this year: Investors were worried about a setback in U.S.-China trade talks. Barron’s explained:
“The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index, and the Nasdaq Composite dipped on the final day of a boffo November. U.S. legislation supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, to which Beijing reacted furiously, dampened hopes that the highly anticipated phase-one trade deal with China would be inked soon.”
Despite losses on Friday, major U.S. indices were up for the week and the month, reported The Wall Street Journal. In November, U.S. stocks posted the strongest monthly performance since June.
U.S. government bonds have been delivering positive returns, too. Interest rates on 30-year Treasuries have fallen over the course of the year and were down again last week. When bond rates fall, bond prices move higher. When bond rates begin to move higher, prices will fall.
It’s remarkable when stock and bond markets move in the same direction at the same time. Often, strong performance in one market is accompanied by weaker performance in the other.
The Guidance Wealth office will be closed on Thursday and Friday
November 28th and 29th for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Thanksgiving is in the air!
On Thursday, U.S. investors may find themselves giving thanks for the bull market.
Year-to-date, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite have all gained more than 20 percent with dividends reinvested. The MSCI World Index also is up 20 percent year-to-date.
Bond markets have rallied, too. U.S. government bond yields have dropped since January, and prices have risen. Not all asset classes have packed an oomph, but investors are feeling optimistic, reported Michael Mackenzie of the Financial Times.
Ben Levisohn of Barron’s expressed some skepticism about the current level of optimism.
“If you believe the current narrative, everything is right with the world. By cutting interest rates three times, the Federal Reserve has averted a recession. And with the U.S. and China slowly making progress on a trade deal, capital spending could revive and boost the economy. And right on time, the S&P 500 index hit a new all-time high, seemingly confirming this rosy narrative…Strangely, market sentiment appears to be getting better even as the economic data appear to be getting worse.”
He’s not wrong. Economic data suggest U.S. and Chinese economies have begun to experience negative effects related to the two-year-old trade war. Reuters reported economic growth in China has slowed to a 30-year low. Growth in the United States has slowed, too.
While many remain optimistic about progress in resolving the U.S.-China trade dispute, Barron’s Nicholas Jasinski spoke with the chief investment officer of an international wealth management firm, who commented, “Our view of U.S. and China is that it’s a competition that’s going to go on for a generation economically, diplomatically, militarily.”
Last week, major U.S. indices finished lower on concerns about trade talk progress.
Happy Thanksgiving! We’re thankful for you.
The Guidance Wealth office will be closed on Thursday and Friday
November 28th and 29th for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Weekly Market Commentary
November 18, 2019
The longest bull market in history showed no signs of slowing last week.
U.S. stock markets climbed higher for the sixth week straight – the longest rally in U.S. markets in two years – and the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 28,000 for the very first time, reported Bloomberg.
The Economist reported, “It has been a year of mood swings in financial markets. In the spring and summer, anxious investors piled into the safety of government bonds, driving yields down sharply. Yields have recovered in recent weeks…Equity prices in America have reached a new peak. But what is more striking is the performance of cyclical stocks relative to defensive ones. Within America’s market the prices of industrial stocks, which do well in business-cycle upswings, have risen relative to the prices of utility stocks, a safer bet in hard times.”
Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell confirmed the United States appears to be in good economic shape. The U.S. economic outlook remains favorable despite weakening business investment, which has slowed because of sluggish global growth and uncertainty surrounding trade. The unemployment rate remains low and more people are returning to the workforce, which is a positive development. Overall, Powell and his colleagues believe economic expansion is likely to continue.
A similar phenomenon has occurred in European markets.
Randall Forsyth of Barron’s cited a source who stated, “…the global economic backdrop has, for the first time in 18 months, begun to improve.” Forsyth went on to explain, “It’s not just because of prospects of a trade deal. Recession risks have, well, receded. Growth may slow to a 1 percent annual rate in the current quarter, but odds of falling into an outright recession have slid.”
Whenever investors are happy and markets are moving higher, contrarians begin to ask questions. For example, a leading contrarian indicator is the Investors Intelligence Sentiment Survey. The survey queries investors and investment professionals about whether they are feeling bullish or bearish. When the ratio of bulls to bears is above 1.0, the market may be overly bullish. When it is less than 1.0, it may be too bearish.
Yardeni Research reported the ratio stood at 3.22 last week; 57 percent bulls and 18 percent bears
Last week, major United States stock indices finished at historic highs.
According to a source cited by Barron’s, U.S. stock markets are responsible for creating $6 trillion in paper wealth this year. ‘Paper’ wealth is when an asset is estimated to be worth a specific amount. The wealth becomes ‘real’ when the asset is sold.
If you’re having difficulty comprehending $6 trillion, imagine this: 3,786 miles of stacked $100 bills. That’s about 15 times higher than the space station. It’s roughly the distance of a drive from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States and about halfway back again.
To date, 2019 has been an exceptional year for U.S. stocks. At the end of last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 18.7 percent year-to-date, the S&P 500 had gained 23.4 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite had risen 27.7 percent.
Returns like these sometimes inspire investors to ignore their risk tolerance and increase allocations to U.S. stocks. That may not be a wise move. In an article titled, ‘How not to understand money,’ Financial Times explained:
“One of the first things to know about equity investing is that stocks go up as well as down, and even the most successful ones never go up in a straight skyward trajectory.”
There is a theory which holds that, over time, returns revert to the mean. Investopedia describes the phenomenon like this:
“A reversion to the mean involves retracing any condition back to a previous state. In cases of mean reversion, the thought is that any price that strays far from the long-term norm will again return, reverting to its understood state.”
Since the current U.S. bull market in stocks has delivered above average returns for more than a decade, some analysts anticipate future returns may be less robust as returns revert to the mean.
Suffice it to say, it’s not a good idea to be lured into holding more stocks because recent returns have been exceptional. Those returns are, after all, in the past.
They did it.
The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates last week, as expected. There were no enthusiastic fans singing the Baby Shark song, but the Federal Open Market Committee’s decision was well received.
Reuters reported, “Gaps between market expectations and the Fed’s own outlook have been wide at times this year, a source of concern for policymakers who don’t want to kowtow to markets, but also don’t want to surprise or disrupt them. But, the two are now roughly in line with the idea that the Fed is on hold and the economy continuing to chug along, a fact highlighted by data showing 128,000 jobs were created in October…”
Last week’s unemployment report was full of good news. It reported job gains and moderate pay increases, according to Barron’s, but there was a counterintuitive twist. The unemployment rate increased even though the economy added new jobs. That was good news, too, because it meant more people are returning to the workforce.
The only bad news was found in manufacturing. The October ISM manufacturing index ticked higher, but remains in contraction territory. CNBC reported, “Manufacturing has been at the heart of the economy’s sluggishness, with a drop in business investment a big reason for the third quarter’s sluggish 1.9 percent [economic] growth pace.”
Barron’s attributed softness in manufacturing to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.
By the end of the day on Friday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had closed at a record high three times in five days. The Nasdaq Composite also reached a record high.
More money managers are feeling less bullish, but you sure couldn’t tell by the performance of U.S. stock markets last week.
So far, 2019 has been a tremendous year for U.S. stocks. Through the end of last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had gained more than 20 percent year-to-date, the Dow Jones Industrial Index was up more than 15 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite had risen more than 24 percent.
All three indices finished last week in positive territory. Lawrence Strauss of Barron’s reported signs that global markets are stabilizing supported investors’ optimism. In addition, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes increased, which suggested “investors are more optimistic about growth and overall economic prospects.”
Despite strength in U.S. markets year-to-date, Barron’s most recent Big Money Poll found fewer money managers are bullish than just one year ago when 56 percent anticipated gains in the months ahead. When 134 money managers across the United States were asked about their outlook for the next 12 months:
That’s the lowest level of bullishness in 20 years and the highest level of bearishness since the mid-1990s.
Barron’s reported there could be a variety of reasons for the change in attitude, including high valuations, an uncertain economic outlook, or the divisive political environment.
One money manager commented, “There are so many different headlines to watch right now…Brexit, trade, the economy, elections. Trying to predict them all correctly is like trying to predict what the weather will be like in November 2020. We might get things directionally correct, but getting them exactly right is a matter of luck more than skill.”
Last week was like an overstuffed suitcase that busts open on the baggage carousel. A lot was unpacked in a surprising and disorderly fashion.
There was some positive news for investors who prioritize fundamentals. Third quarter’s earnings season – the period of time when companies let investors know how they performed during the previous quarter – got off to a strong start.
Fifteen percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported so far and 84 percent had earnings that beat analysts’ expectations. FactSet said better than expected earnings from companies in the Healthcare and Financials sectors balanced the weaker performance of companies in the Energy sector.
There was some negative economic news, too.
In the United States, retail sales declined in September. It was the first monthly decline since February, reported MarketWatch, and analysts had expected an increase.
In China, gross domestic product growth was 6 percent year-over-year, the slowest growth rate since the 1990s, reported Reuters.
On the geopolitical front, The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. and European investors were cheered by news that Britain and the European Union (EU) had reached an agreement under which Britain could amicably exit the EU. That optimism was dashed on Saturday when Parliament withheld approval of the deal until all supporting legislation has been passed, reported The Washington Post.
The world was also rocked by Turkey’s invasion of Syria.
At the end of the week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite had held onto gains while the Dow Jones Industrials finished lower.
The world breathed a sigh of relief last week when the United States and China took a step toward a trade-war truce.
Financial Times reported the United States agreed to not increase tariffs from 25 percent to 30 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports next week. (Current tariffs remain in place, and it is possible new tariffs will be imposed on additional Chinese goods – electronics, apparel, and other consumer items – in mid-December.)
In return, China agreed to purchase $40 to $50 billion of agricultural goods, including soybeans and pork, although no time frame was established for the purchases. It remained unclear what progress was made on intellectual-property protection and rules to prevent currency manipulation, reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
U.S. stock markets responded enthusiastically to news about one of the great uncertainties hanging over economic growth, namely the trade war between the United States and China, might be resolved. However, after the details of the deal were announced, markets gave back some gains.
“The tentative truce underwhelmed some international businesses that had been hoping the United States and China would finish up a deal that cemented more sweeping structural changes in China’s economy, eliminated additional tariffs scheduled to go into place in December, and even rolled back existing tariffs both sides have added to imports from each country,” reported WSJ.
Derek Scissors, an American Enterprise Institute trade expert and White House advisor told WSJ, “If this turns out to be all there is, we could have achieved these results a year ago or more.”
Yields on U.S. Treasury bonds moved higher during the week, and the yield curve righted itself, reported MarketWatch. The change reflected optimism about trade negotiations. Bond markets also embraced a Federal Reserve announcement it will resume buying Treasuries each month to ensure the banking system has sufficient reserves.
The United States and China hope to have a written draft of the phase-one agreement finalized during the next few weeks.