Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Remember: Volatility is normal.

Major U.S. stock market indices climbed into record territory during August. They gave back some gains last week. Peter Wells of Financial Times explained:

“Speculation about a fresh round of tariffs on Chinese imports from the Trump administration weighed on U.S. stocks, handing the S&P 500 its first four-day losing streak in a month. A strong jobs report only hardened expectations that the Federal Reserve views the U.S. economy as healthy enough to withstand a probable interest rate rise later this month.”

Strong economic growth and rising wages have the potential to push inflation – increases in prices of everyday goods – higher than the Fed’s 2 percent target. The Fed battles inflation and promotes financial stability by raising the Fed funds rate. Usually, higher rates make borrowing more expensive and slow economic growth, reported Katherine Reynolds Lewis at Bankrate.com.

Rising rates in the United States have an effect on emerging markets, too. Colin Dwyer of National Public Radio reported higher interest rates in the United States have enticed investors and they have moved money out of riskier emerging markets investments.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Tick, Tock.

Not everybody loves meetings and even fewer enjoy reading the minutes, but investors make an exception with the Federal Reserve. This week the Fed published the minutes from its August 1 meeting. While no changes were made to interest rates, the minutes did provide insight to how the Fed sees the U.S. economy.

Key Insights:

  • The economy is strong. The economy is poised for its best annual growth in a decade due to stimulation from tax cuts and federal spending. The current nine-year bull market is about to be the longest bull market in history and the stock market hit a new high last week. Inflation is back to the 2 percent range, after missing for several years, and the already tight labor market continues to tighten, reported The Wall Street Journal.

While the Fed remains concerned about the risks of inflation, it also is concerned about slowness in the housing market. Home building has declined due to a labor shortage and to higher cost in materials from tariffs, according to The New York Times.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

As Maxwell Smart used to say…

Missed it by THAT much! After a rocky start, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index came within 1 percent of an all-time high last week, reported Ben Levisohn for Barron’s. It’s significant because the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has been trading below its January record all year. The article suggested the lack of progress begs the question: Are we still in a bull market?

It’s the old ‘Shrink Global Markets with Corporate Buybacks’ trick. Last week, Robin Wigglesworth of Financial Times reported, “The global equity market is shrinking at the fastest pace in at least two decades, as a wave of corporate share buybacks swamps the overall volume of companies going public, issuing new stock or selling convertible debt.”

The value of the global equity market is increasing despite the reduction in volume. In part, this is because stock buybacks help push share prices higher.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Let’s talk Turkey!

So, how did a country that represents just about 1.4 percent of the world’s economy spark a global selloff?

Turkey was once a rising star. The country’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office in 2003 and his “conservative, pro-business policies helped pull the country back from an economic crisis,” reported Financial Times.

As Turkey’s economy strengthened, investors saw opportunity. Investments from outside the country averaged about $13 billion a year, according to World Bank figures cited by Financial Times, although investment slowed after terror attacks in 2015.

Bloomberg reported Prime Minister Erdogan has become more authoritarian since being re-elected in 2018, giving himself power to name the head of Turkey’s central bank. Financial Times reported the Prime Minister’s “…unorthodox views on interest rates…has proved disruptive for monetary policy, leaving…Turkey’s central bank, struggling to contain inflation that is running at close to 16 percent.”

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Capital gains tax reform comes with a big price tag: $100 billion over 10 years.

A capital gain is any increase in the value of an asset, such as an investment, a home, land, etc., between its purchase and its sale. The amount of a gain is determined by subtracting the purchase price from the sale price.

Last week, the White House proposed capital gains be adjusted or ‘indexed’ for inflation before they are taxed. Princeton Professor Alan Blinder explained the idea in The Wall Street Journal:

“Why index gains? Suppose you own a stock for many years, during which time overall prices have doubled because of inflation. Over the holding period, the value of your stock also has doubled. When you sell, the proceeds have precisely the same purchasing power as the original purchase. There’s no gain, no loss. But under current tax law, you owe taxes on the phantom ‘gain.’ Worse, if your stock went up by less than the cumulative inflation, you’ll still get taxed despite your loss. This is unfair and dysfunctional.”