After a historically calm September in which the S&P 500 didn’t drop 1% on a single day for the entire month, the S&P 500 dropped more than 1% on consecutive days to start the month of October. This certainly wasn’t the start of the fourth quarter investors were looking for. In fact, this is the first time in history the S&P 500 fell at least 1% on consecutive days to start the fourth quarter and represented the worst start to the fourth quarter since 2009.
Stop me if you have heard this before. Uncertainty regarding trade and monetary policy are weighing on markets and the economy. These issues have held investors hostage for a number of quarters, and just when we think a resolution is within reach, there is a new disruption that serves to further increase uncertainty. I’ll address each one of these issues individually and explore how both are impacting markets and the economy.
Inflation has been a popular topic of late.
In his press conference to announce the Fed’s decision to cut interest rates following its July meeting, Fed Chair Powell cited “muted inflation pressures” as justification for action.
However, retaliatory tariffs between the U.S. and China have raised concerns this could spark inflationary pressures as consumers are forced to pay higher prices.
I am always hesitant when writing about large market drops. It’s a delicate line to walk. In writing something that will calm your nerves and add perspective to what’s happening in the markets, am I calling attention to something that you may not have been aware of? Now that a few days have passed and the markets have rebounded a little, I think it’s safe to address the events that unfolded last week.
Earlier this month, President Trump announced the United States will impose a new 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of goods imported from China. The new tariffs, which are set to take effect on September 1st, could have a more direct impact on U.S. consumers because the list of target goods include clothes, toys, cell phones, electronics, and other retail items. Up until this point, tariffs levied by the U.S. against Chinese imports have targeted goods that are used mainly as inputs in the manufacturing process, such as steel and aluminum. Those tariffs affected the costs for U.S. companies, but those increases were not necessarily passed through to the consumer. These newest tariffs could hurt consumer’s wallets.
In a widely anticipated, yet highly debated, move, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced this past Wednesday it is cutting interest rates. The Fed lowered the federal funds target rate range by 0.25%, from 2.25%-2.50% to 2.25%-2.00%. This marks the first time the Fed has cut interest rates since 2008. So, why was the Fed’s decision so controversial?
It’s often said there are two things that are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. While there have been many who have expanded this list to include other certainties life has to offer, one that often doesn’t make the list is recessions. As much as we hope and plead that economic expansions will last forever, we know the inevitable truth. The economy is cyclical. It goes through periods of expansion and contraction. Recessions happen as a result.
Markets had a great first half of the year. Major stock indexes, including the S&P 500, reached new highs. However, global economic growth is slowing. Investor concerns about a recession have increased and unresolved trade negotiations with China have created even more uncertainty. Slowing economic growth, rising recession risk, and tariff uncertainty doesn’t sound like a recipe for a stock and bond rally, does it? So, what has spurred stocks and bonds higher?
Things can change quickly. If I was writing this post one month ago, it would be a completely different topic with a much different tone.
Following four straight months of positive performance to start the year, the S&P 500 posted a -6.35% return in May. This was the third time in eight months the S&P 500 had a monthly loss of more than 6%. Fears of a full-blown trade war were reemerging as trade negotiations with China soured and it looked like fresh tariffs would be imposed against Mexico. The trade wars would put downward pressure on an already slowing global economy, putting even more pressure on central banks to ease monetary policy.
It’s not every day a “Jeopardy!” contestant becomes a household name and makes one of the longest running television game shows must watch TV. But that’s exactly what happened during James Holzhauer’s 32-game winning streak. Throughout Holzhauer’s dominant run, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he became the highest-winning contestant in “Jeopardy!” history, a record held by Ken Jennings. Jennings amassed a total of $2,520,700 over his 74-game winning streak in 2004. However, Holzhauer was defeated in his 33rd game, coming just $58,484 shy of Jennings’ record.
As we highlighted in our post “Anatomy of the U.S. Economy,” consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Current consumer spending, as well as future spending, is highly influenced by consumer expectations for the economy.
The U.S. economy is on the verge of breaking the record for the longest stretch of economic expansion in U.S. history. Since the U.S. economy hit bottom in June 2009 following the Great Recession, it has been on a slow and steady recovery that has it on the brink of surpassing the expansion from March 1991 to March 2001 as the longest in U.S. history.
For the past 18 months, two hot button issues for investors have been the Fed and trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. These two issues were the catalysts for two market corrections in 2018, the latter of which nearly approached bear market territory. However, for the first five months of this year fears of a Fed misstep were alleviated and reported positive progress towards a trade deal between the U.S. and China spurred markets to new all-time highs.
On Friday, Uber went public in the what is the biggest initial public offering (IPO) so far this year. Earlier this month, Beyond Meat went public with less hype and saw its price skyrocket 163% in its first trading day, making it the best-performing first-day IPO in nearly two-decades. Beyond Meat is a producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009. The company’s Beyond Burger is sold at Whole Foods and restaurants chains around the country.
At HIGHLAND, one of the cornerstones of our investment approach is that securities offering higher expected returns share particular attributes, which we refer to as the dimensions of higher expected returns (or dimensions for short). These dimensions are based on economic theory, backed by Nobel Prize winning academic research, and supported by decades of real-world historical data. Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment management firm with a long history of applying academic research to practical investing and is one of our preferred investment managers. Dimensional Fund Advisors defines a dimension as a return difference between two assets or portfolios “that is sensible, empirically robust in the data, and cost-effective to capture in well-diversified portfolios.”
When Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters earlier this month, it capped off one of the greatest comebacks in golf history, if not one of the best comebacks in the history of all sports. Woods’s last Masters tournament victory came in 2005 and his last major tournament win was back in 2008. In this 11-year span between major wins, Woods faced a very public divorce, was arrested for driving under the influence, and battled a number of injuries. With his latest Masters win, Woods has 15 major tournament wins and is now three behind Jack Nicklaus for most of all time.
When the calendar turned from March 31st to April 1st, the U.S. economic expansion turned 117 months old. Should the expansion continue through July, it would become the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. Given that the U.S. economic expansion is starting to show signs of its age, many have been questioning how much longer until the next recession.
Nobody likes paying taxes. Even though taxes are necessary to keep our schools open, communities safe, roads clean, and governments running, it’s not a fulfilling experience to see a percentage of your hard-earned income or investment gains vanish into thin air. With that being said, there’s no way of escaping taxes (without risking legal repercussions, of course), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do throughout the year to reduce the amount of taxes you ultimately end up paying.
Author Nancy Hatch Woodward once wrote, “Snow brings a special quality with it – the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.” Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows this all too well.
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the New Jersey/New York area was hit with one of the more notable November snowstorms in history. Parts of Northern New Jersey and New York City received upward of six inches of snow, with some areas getting hit with as much as ten inches.