Global stock markets jumped last week, with the S&P 500 Index rising 4.5% for its biggest gain since late November 2018.  Short positions were covered due to technicals that suggested stocks were oversold.  This fueled some of the recent recovery, but much of the boost, in our opinion, came after hints of a more dovish turn in Federal Reserve policy. Click here to read more

U.S. equity markets fell more than 2% last week, one of the worst weekly performances in 2019. The breakdown in U.S./China trade negotiations, combined with President Trump’s announcement of new tariffs, ignited the mild sell-off. However, stocks plunged again on Monday morning amid continuing trade war concerns. China has retaliated with their own tariffs; 5%-25% on some $60 billion of U.S. goods. Investors are also expressing concerns over broader geopolitical tensions which is further dampening sentiment. Click here to read more…

As stock markets go, the first quarter of 2019 was a win all around. The S&P 500 experienced its best quarter overall since the third quarter of 2009, when the recovery out of the great recession was just getting underway. The index also had its best first quarter since 1998, which is reaching back to another bull market entirely. Click here to read more…

Stocks closed mixed on Friday, but mostly recovered from early losses. The muted performance is attributable to fourth-quarter earnings, negotiations over a China trade deal and the insipid debt ceiling issues.

The 10-year Treasury yield closed Friday at 2.63%, down from 2.69% the prior week. Last week’s economic reports, which included some catch-ups from prior weeks as government agencies re-opened following the partial shutdown, were generally soft. Motor vehicle sales were reported at 17.5 million in December and 16.6 million annualized in January, with the latter showing a significant drop in light truck sales. Factory orders for November fell 0.6%, hurt by oil’s price drop late last year. The ISM non-manufacturing index for January was 56.7, down from the prior month and below the consensus, but still well into expansionary territory. The government shutdown has likely skewed some economic figures downward as both consumers and businesses paused their spending given uncertainty. Click here to read more…

Our winter edition of Financial Edge 2019 is now available.  The latest on Walgreens/Aspen Dental, Practice Growth via Social Media and your new favorite recipe, Shrimp and Grits. Don’t forget to send us a photo of your creation to be featured on our website. Please share your feedback and requests on content for our next Financial Edge.

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2019 Interest rates and inflation shouldn’t represent a serious roadblock to equities.

Economic and corporate earnings fundamentals have remained relatively positive over the past few months amid increasing volatility; many stocks have entered correction territory. Investor concerns have grown as a number of issues remain unclear; trade talks, oil price declines, strengthening (U.S.) dollar and unresolved monetary policy. The year 2018 is almost in the rear-view mirror, but significant events over the last 12 months will continue to shape economic outcomes.

On the whole, we think the global economy is expanding and reasonably solid, but recent trade conflict presents a significant and serious threat.

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U.S. stocks ended the week slightly lower after reaching new all-time highs last week, with the S&P 500 Index dropping 0.5%. Materials, financials and consumer staples were among the biggest detractors, while telecom, health care and technology moved higher. U.S. Treasury prices and the dollar also advanced and oil prices ended the week up 3% amid growing concerns over tightening supply as a result of U.S. sanctions on exports from Iran.
Vicissitudes in the market should not come as a surprise, equity prices simply don’t move in linear fashion. However, we are entering the fourth quarter (when markets typically post the strongest returns of the year). In theory, investors can breathe a sigh of relief during this time of year. We are not postulating a linear move higher heading into year-end, but we have analyzed data collected on S&P 500 performance from 1980-2017. The way we see it, the final quarter of the year has generated average gains of 4.59%, compared to gains of 2.34%, 2.67% and 0.3% for 1Q, 2Q and 3Q, respectively.

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Stocks prices continued moving higher last week as if to say a somewhat disappointing July jobs report and ongoing trade-related tensions between the U.S. and China are not a serious threat, yet. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both climbed 0.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1%. Second-quarter earnings were mostly above expectations and provided much of the direction for the week. The biggest market story, however, was the sharp rebound in tech stocks following a selloff the prior week. The momentum pushed Apple’s market capitalization to an unprecedented $1 trillion.

Friday’s jobs (non-farm) report showed that the U.S. economy generated 157,000 positions in July, well below the consensus forecast of 190,000. Moreover, the latest numbers are significantly lower than the six-month average of 219,000. The unemployment rate also ticked lower, to 3.9%, while wage growth held steady at a 2.7% annual rate. Looking under the hood, jobs were most plentiful in manufacturing, healthcare, and professional and business services. Overall, the headline jobs number, while weaker than in recent months, appears reasonable at this stage of the economic cycle. As the Federal Reserve meets this week in Jackson Hole, we are anticipating plenty of discussion about the economy’s potential for employment growth. We also expect two more rate hikes in 2018.

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Last week brought modest gains for stocks and volume was underwhelming.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% and the S&P 500 increased 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite was flat. Trade-war concerns surfaced again mid-week, as the Trump administration issued a new list of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, but the market was largely in rally mode ahead of second-quarter earnings. The Dow climbed 2.3%, the Nasdaq was up 1.8%, and the S&P 500 increased 1.5%.  Year-to-date, the S&P 500 is up 4.8% and the Dow has also turned positive with a 1.2% rise.

The 10-year Treasury yield ended Friday at 2.83% and remains range bound.  Last week’s economic news was mixed and included a modest decline in the small business confidence index for June from May’s strong reading.  Finding qualified workers appears to be the culprit for lower optimism.  The consumer price index moved higher by 0.1% in June and is now at 2.9% over the past year.  Medical care and autos were among the largest gainers while housing costs were flat and energy prices moved lower.  The takeaway, however, is that the inflation is running warmer than the Fed would like and it has justification to pursue its continuing rate hike campaign.

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Stocks spent much of Friday in recovery mode following weakness on global trade concerns as President Trump said he would impose tariffs up to $50 billion on goods from China.  According to officials in Washington, China’s theft of intellectual property and technology and other unfair trade practices reignited Trump’s promise to inflict heavy tariffs.  Markets opened deep in the red on Monday amid lingering trade tensions between the two largest economies in the world.

The long-term effect of tariffs is nebulous and full of speculation.  On the other hand, Treasury bond yields are presenting a compelling case as they rose sharply in recent weeks on stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data.  In contrast, corporate bond yields have not risen as fast — so spreads between corporate and Treasury bond yields have narrowed.  The spread between AAA-rated corporate bonds and 10-year government bonds in May was 102 basis points, well below the 35-year average of 123 bps.  The gap between the government 10-year bond yield and a BAA-rated bond in May was 185 basis points, also below the historical average spread of 233 bps.  These spreads help us gauge the bond market’s view of corporate financial strength.  Based on this premise, corporate balance sheets look solid, but corporate bonds are not as favorable to investors.  From an investment standpoint, we are favoring inflation-protected securities and shorter-duration Treasuries.

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