Weekly Market Commentary

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

And the answer is…

A Jeopardy! contestant captured the nation’s attention last week by setting multiple records for the most money earned in a single episode. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has been setting some records, too.

Michael Mackenzie of Financial Times explained:

“Less than four months through the year, the S&P 500 including the reinvestment of dividends has returned to record territory, along with the technology sector…Around the world, many benchmarks enjoy double-digit gains, led by China’s CSI 300 index, having risen more than a third already during 2019.”

Pessimism about economic growth prospects has kept institutional investors – including professional money managers whose performance is typically evaluated quarterly – on the sidelines. As a result, despite a “market-friendly shift by central banks and an expansion in China’s credit growth that laid the ground for a rebound in activity,” they have missed out on some significant gains.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Investors took an intermission.

The curtain appeared to close on the first act of 2019 last week – and what an impressive act it was. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index delivered some dramatic returns and is less than 1 percent away from a new all-time high.

Despite relatively few shares changing hands, major U.S. indices eked out gains. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s explained:

“Trading volume was tepid at best. This past Monday, fewer shares changed hands than on any day since December 24 – when the market closed early for Christmas. Tuesday’s volume was lower than Monday’s, Wednesday’s was lower than Tuesday’s, and...well, you get the point. That was just another sign that no one wanted to place any big bets on the market this past week – in either direction.”

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

“Fascinatingly counterintuitive…”

That’s how Michael Arone, an investment strategist, described the U.S. market environment to Avi Salzman of Barron’s:

“‘Stocks are rallying, but bond yields are reflecting much lower growth.’ Stocks rose during the quarter because the Fed backed away from raising interest rates, and investors grew more confident that the U.S. and China would sign a trade deal, Arone said. The market was also rebounding from a very rough fourth quarter – ‘conditions at the end of the year were wildly oversold,’ he noted.”

Through the end of last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up more than 13 percent year-to-date, despite falling corporate earnings and modest consumer spending gains.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Wonder what the Federal Reserve’s 40-yard dash time is?

On Wednesday, the Fed juked like an NFL running back and left investors wondering whether they should buy or sell. Heather Long of The Washington Post reported the U.S. central bank:

1.     Lowered its 2019 estimate for U.S. economic growth to 2.1 percent

2.     Announced its intention not to raise rates in 2019

3.     Indicated it will stop shrinking its balance sheet in September

Fed Chair Jerome Powell explained, “My colleagues and I have one overarching goal: to sustain the economic expansion with a strong job market and stable prices for the benefit of the American people. The U.S. economy is in a good place and we will continue to use our monetary policy tools to keep it there…We continue to expect that the American economy will grow at solid pace in 2019, although slower than the very strong pace of 2018.”

The Fed’s decision to adopt a looser monetary policy was informed by a variety of factors, including slower economic growth in the United States, China, and Europe, as well as unresolved policy issues like Brexit and ongoing trade negotiations.

Weekly Market Commentary

The Markets

Stock and bond markets rallied.

Last week, major U.S. stock indices finished higher for the 10th time in 12 weeks. Bond markets moved higher, too, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries dropping just below 2.6 percent, reported Randall Forsyth of Barron’s. Yields on 10-year Treasuries haven’t been this low since January 2018.

The simultaneous rallies are curious because improving share prices are often an indication of a strong or strengthening economy. Improving bond prices tend to be a sign of weakening economic growth, reported Michael Santoli of CNBC.

Why are U.S. stock and bond markets telling different stories?

It may have something to do with investor uncertainty. A lot of important issues remain unsettled. The British government appears incapable of resolving Brexit issues, the United States and China have not yet reached a trade agreement, and recent economic reports have caused investors to take a hard look at the U.S. economy.