11/17/17 – Stocks Lower for 2nd Straight Week

  • Volatile Week Driven by Fed Selling, Bond Yields and Walmart Earnings
  • Senate Bill Provision Could Impact Investors

Stocks continued lower again in a volatile trading week. Stocks were down sharply early in the week before a strong rebound yesterday. For a week that ended down only slightly, it was a bouncy path to get here. Early in the week there was concern about the Fed reducing its balance sheet and the flattening of the yield curve. The slope of the yield curve is based on the difference between short-term rates and long-term rates. As that difference shrinks, it’s called a flattening yield curve and can mean the economy is heading for a slowdown. This action in bond yields contradicts other economic indicators that suggest the economy is heating up. Yesterday’s strength was largely driven by strong earnings by Walmart that carried over into better optimism about the overall economy. Walmart’s earnings continued what has been a good earnings quarter, with earnings in aggregate growing better than expected. For the week the Dow was down 0.3% while the S&P 500 was down 0.1%. Next week will likely be relatively quiet on the news front with the Thanksgiving holiday. Markets will be closed Thursday and will close early on Friday.

An interesting provision in the Senate version of the tax reform bill could have a big impact for certain investors. The change would standardize how shares are sold for tax purposes. Currently, when you sell a portion of a position, you can select which specific shares you want to sell. This is important for tax purposes because there might be times you want to minimize or maximize your investment gain/loss. The current Senate plan eliminates that flexibility and requires investors to sell the oldest shares first. For example, consider someone who bought an equal number of shares in Company A three times over the course of a year. For the first purchase the price was $20, the second $25 and the third $30. If they wanted to sell a third of the position for say $35, the Senate plan would force them to sell the shares purchased at $20, creating a $15/share gain. Currently, an investor could decide to sell the $30 shares, creating a smaller taxable gain, if they wanted too. This provision is a a revenue raiser for the government as most shares increase over time, so forcing investors to sell the oldest shares, should, on average, increase taxable gains. This change has no impact on IRAs, Roth IRAs or 401k accounts as those accounts are allowed to grow tax-free. Read More

Oil declined slightly this week, decreasing 0.4% to close at $56.59/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury ticked higher, up to 2.34% from 2.33% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr mortgage held increased to 3.95% from 3.90% a week ago.

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11/10/17 – Stocks Lower for First Time in Last Nine Weeks

  • Stocks Down as Tax Reform Questions Linger
  • How Will Tuesday’s Election Impact GOP Agenda?

Stocks saw an eight-week winning streak broken this week, largely on questions surrounding tax reform. Stocks initially sold off sharply yesterday as headlines hit that the reduction of the corporate tax rate would be pushed to 2019. Corporate tax reform has helped drive stocks this year, although I’ve argued the market hasn’t priced in the entire benefit and that much of this years growth has been fueled by stronger economic growth and corporate earnings. For the week, the Dow declined 0.5% while the S&P 500 declined 0.2%.

Tax reform was a major focal point this week for a few reasons. The Senate released its tax plan which has some key differences with the House plan, most notably it pushes the reduction of the corporate income tax into 2019. Senate rules allow a simply majority vote for tax reform if the 10-yr deficit from the changes is less than $1.5 trillion. The CBO scored the House bill as having a $1.7 trillion cost, so pushing the corporate income tax out a year helps close the gap.

One of the things I find interesting about the CBO scores is how many variables are involved and how different the numbers can be with small changes in assumptions. The CBO has been using a 1.9% annualized growth rate. That’s essentially the average since 2000, so it’s not an unreasonable assumption. However, Republicans have argued that tax cuts, especially corporate tax cuts, can help growth approach or exceed 3%. If a 3% growth figure is used, which was the US average from 1946 to 1999, then the tax cuts can are significantly less expensive. You might hear people talking about static vs dynamic models and this is what they are talking about. In a static model, constant variables are used. In a dynamic model, analysts give future growth credit for changes in tax law. Dynamic models are much more complex and subjective, because analysts have to decide how much various changes will positively or negatively impact future economic growth. In theory though, they are better because they recognize policy changes impact future growth.

The other big issue with tax reform is the results of Tuesday’s election. The outcome in Washington and New Jersey doesn’t tell me much about the countries opinion on Trump and the Republican agenda. The Virginia governor race also doesn’t say much to me. Democrats have won four of the last five Gubernatorial races in VA and Obama and Hillary both easily won the state. The VA House of Delegates, however, is an interesting story. The Democrats took control for the first time since 1999 and many rural and suburban seats thought to be safely Republican either flipped or turned out very close. This is somewhat analogous to the 2009 Virginia election which foretold what would happen in the 2010 midterms when Republicans rode a wave to major national victories. It will be interesting to see how Republicans react to this election. In 2010, Democrats put aside their differences and passed Obamacare and other legislation before the midterms flipped the House majority. Will Republicans do the same and rush to push through legislation while they can, worried that Democrats have a very real chance to retake the US House next November? There’s been a lot of disagreement about tax reform among Republicans, but if they want to get something done, it seems they need to get it done soon while they still control both houses of Congress.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 23,422.21 (0.5%) 18.5%
S&P 500 2.582.30 (0.2%) 15.3%
Oil 56.82 2.1% 5.4%
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.33 (1) (12)

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11/3/17 – Stocks Higher, New Fed Chair Nominated & Trump’s Tax Plan

  • Stocks slightly higher as earnings continue
  • Jerome Powell nominated for Fed Chair
  • GOP tax plan released

Stocks finished the week slightly higher in a busy week for financial news. This week marked the last busy earnings week for larger companies and saw companies such as Starbucks, Facebook and Apple exceed expectations. For the week the Dow gained 0.4% while the S&P 500 increased 0.2%.

As expected, President Trump nominated Jerome Powell to be the next Fed Chair. Powell is a Republican who was appointed Fed Governor by President Obama. I thought Janet Yellen was doing a great job, but this is a good replacement choice. Over the last five years, Yellen and Powell have voted the same on all policy change issues. I would expect Powell to continue the course Yellen established. This seems like Trump was able to replace Yellen with someone very similar while still appeasing some of his base by replacing Yellen who was appointed by Obama. Yellen becomes the first Fed Chair to not serve a second term since Warren Miller in the late 70s. It’s unfortunate that she appears to be a political victim in a position that really should be non-partisan. Read More

The GOP released its tax plan this week. The tax bill includes a large cut to corporate income tax rates. The current corporate rate is 35% while this bill proposes a 20% rate. I’ve written many times how we need to lower our corporate tax rate. We have the highest corporate tax rate among developed countries by a wide margin. A 20% rate would bring us close to the average rate of advanced economies. The changes to the individual tax rates are less clear. The plan proposes fewer tax brackets, a larger standard deduction, but allows for fewer deductions. The income brackets are also different, so it’s not a cut and dry tax cut for people, although almost everyone will see some sort of tax deduction. The top 20% of taxpayers pay almost 95% of all personal income taxes, so it makes sense that more affluent Americans will see a bigger benefit from any tax cuts. I’m neither here no there on changing the personal tax code, but I do believe reducing the corporate rate would be beneficial to economic growth, investment and employment. Read More

Oil rose sharply again this week, increasing 3.2% to close at $55.65/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved lower, down to 2.33% from 2.42% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr mortgage held steady at 3.94%.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 23,539.14 0.4% 19.1%
S&P 500 2,587.84 0.% 15.6%
Oil 55.65 3.2% 3.3%
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.33 (9) (12)

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10/27/17 – Stocks Higher As Economic Growth Remains Strong

  • 3rd quarter GDP better than expected
  • Retail sector down sharply today, led by JC Penney sell-off
  • When will the new Fed Chair be announced

Stocks finished the week slightly higher on strong earnings and a potential Fed Chair announcement. The market was also buoyed by a better-than-expected first report on 3rd quarter economic growth. The economy grew at an estimated annual rate of 3.0%, well above the 2.5% consensus estimate. The 3rd quarter is often strong as companies build inventory into the holiday shopping season. Last year, the economy grew at a 2.8% annualized rate in the 3rd quarter. The 2nd quarter of this year grew at a 3.1% annualized rate. The two quarters are the best consecutive quarters we’ve seen in three years. For the week the Dow gained 0.5% while the S&P 500 increased 0.2%.

The retail sector has been under assault for several years by Amazon and other online retailers. More and more consumers choose to order online. I order plenty online because I know I’ll get it quicker even with shipping versus when I’ll have time to go to the store. Within the retail sector, traditional department stores seem to be getting hit really hard. Department stores need huge inventory levels yet are facing declining foot traffic. JC Penney’s reduced its 2017 earnings forecast and the stock was hit hard, closing down around 15%. The news hurt the rest of the sector as well as Macy’s declined 8% while Kohl’s was down 5%. Retail shopping is going to continue to decline, but there has to be some floor of consumers who like going to the physical mall to buy clothes. We haven’t found that level yet. Read More

Speculation around the next Fed Chair has been going on for months, but today the White House Press Secretary said an announcement was coming next week. Reports suggest Trump will appoint current Fed Governor Jerome Powell. Powell was appointed to the Board in 2012 by President Obama. I think Janet Yellen has a done a nice job as Fed Chair. She’s taken a prudent, measured view to raising interest rates, resisting some calls for a quicker progression. I’ve been of the view that rates should rise at a slower rate than many have predicted. The economy is growing, but not overheating, and inflation is largely at bay. What company has pricing power right now to drive higher inflation? Very few. Mr. Powell isn’t that different from Ms. Yellen, so it’s unclear to me why Trump wouldn’t appointed Yellen to a second term. Potentially he just wants to make a change, but if Powell is appointed, I think we’ll continue to see a more measured increase in interest rates. Read More

Oil rose sharply this week, increasing 4.4% to close at $53.95/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved higher, up to 2.42% from 2.38% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr moved higher, to 3.94% from 3.88% last week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 23,434.19 0.5% 18.6%
S&P 500 2.581.07 0.2% 15.3%
Oil 53.95 4.4% 0.1%
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.42 4 (3)

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10/20/17 – Stocks Higher as Dow Closes Above 23,000 for First Time

Stocks Higher as Dow Closes Above 23,000 for First Time

  • Thursday was the 30th anniversary of the Black Monday stock market crash
  • Could tax reform affect retirement savings?

Stocks finished the week higher as earnings reports kicked into high gear. So far, earnings have been mixed with companies like Johnson & Johnson and IBM exceeding expectations while GE, Proctor & Gamble and Philip Morris International disappointed. On the week the Dow gained 2.0% while the S&P 500 increased 0.9%.

Thirty years ago yesterday, the Dow fell 22.6%. That’s incredible. The index lost almost a quarter of its value in one day. Dubbed Black Monday, it remains the single largest daily drop in history by almost a 2:1 margin. A 22% drop equates to a loss of approximately 5,200 Dow points today. Fortunately, I don’t see anything in the current market suggesting we’re in for another crash. Bank balance sheets are strong, the labor market remains healthy, we’re beginning to see real wage growth and Europe/Asia are trending in a good direction. We are at all-time highs on the stock indices and it’s natural to think we must be at a peak. There have been a variety or articles and commentary making that same point recently. However, people have made those arguments for the last five years and yet stocks kept climbing. With interest rates near historic lows, stock valuations look okay to me, even though valuations are above the historic average. We continue to hold a slightly higher than normal cash balance, but overall I’m happy with how we’re positioned for the current economic and market situation. Read More

As the tax reform discussion continues talk about reducing the deduction for retirement savings is back in the news. Currently, individuals are allowed to contribute pretax money into 401k and IRA accounts. The 401k limit is $18k a year for people under 50 and $24k a year for those 50 and older. For Traditional IRA accounts, the limits are $5,500 and $6,500 for the same age brackets. The financial services industry will vigorously fight this change, but I think it could be a good thing for individual investors. If you reduce or eliminate the tax deduction for 401k’s and IRAs, these accounts would essentially be treated like a Roth 401k or  Roth IRA. With a Roth account, there is no tax deduction in the current year, but withdrawals in the future are tax-free and the accounts grow tax-free. Some will argue that people will save less without the deduction. That’s probably true, but people will need to save less since there will be no future tax liability on the accounts. This is why the financial services industry will fight it. They would rather have more assets under the management today because they can make more money and won’t be paying the taxes in the future anyway. Read More

Oil rose this week, increasing 0.5% to close at $51.66/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved higher, up to 2.38% from 2.28% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr moved lower, to 3.88% from 3.91% last week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 23,328.63 2.0% 18.0%
S&P 500 2,575.21 0.9% 15.0%
Oil 51.66 0.5% (4.1%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.38 11 (6)

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10/13/17 – Stocks Slightly Higher as Earnings Kickoff

Stocks Slightly Higher as Earnings Kickoff

  • Dow up 0.4%, S&P 500 up 0.2%
  • Banks Start 3Q Earnings Season
  • US Men’s Soccer Fails to Qualify for World Cup

Several big financial firms kicked off earnings season this week with JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America reporting earnings. All but Wells Fargo exceeded earnings estimates, but it wasn’t all positive news. Trading revenue was down sharply, especially fixed income trading. While the steady rise in stocks this year has been great for regular investors, this lack of volatility hurts investment banks since this type of environment doesn’t lead to clients doing a lot of buying/selling. Loan volumes were also very mediocre. This hurts banks’ future profits and also raises some questions as to why personal and commercial loans aren’t increasing. Many economic indicators continue to look strong, but a slowdown in lending is somewhat concerning. Over the next three weeks we’ll get earnings reports from most major companies and their outlooks on the economy.

In a story that blends sports with the financial world, the US Men’s National soccer team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It took a confluence of events on the final day of qualifying and every break went against the US. Either way, the US team will sit out a World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. This has two fascinating financial aspects. First, Nike will likely miss out on significant sales of US National Team jerseys and other merchandise next summer. Don’t worry about Nike though, they still sponsor Brazil, France, England and Portugal, among others. The company will sell of a ton of soccer stuff next year during the World Cup.

The other issue is the pay disparity between the US Men’s and Women’s National Team. The main argument for the difference is the claim the men’s team generates more revenue for USA Soccer. Not qualifying for the World Cup is a big blow into the revenue the men’s team generates. For various reasons, US Soccer is one entity and revenues aren’t broken down publicly. TV revenue is an important source of money, but USA Soccer’s TV contract is a total amount for both men’s and women’s games. The women’s team has been wildly successful, often has better TV ratings and likely aren’t getting a fair share of the revenue they generate. I would love to see the organization split into two. It would be very clear how much revenue each team is generating and then players could be paid accordingly. Read More

Oil rose this week, increasing 4.2% to close at $51.38/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved lower, down to 2.28% from 2.36% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr moved higher, to 3.91% from 3.85% last week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 22,871.72 0.4% 15.7%
S&P 500 2,553.17 0.2% 14.0%
Oil 51.38 4.2% (4.7%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.28 (9) (17)

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10/6/17 – Stocks Higher, Amazon to Enter Pharmacy Business?

Stocks Continue Higher in First Week of October

  • Dow and S&P 500 each increase over 1% this week
  • September jobs report disappoints, likely impacted by Harvey & Irma
  • Amazon to enter pharmacy business?

The September jobs report released this morning showed a reduction of 33k jobs, although that likely understates the strength in the labor market. It also highlights the difficulty and discrepancy between the various ways the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the labor market. The headline number is from surveying almost 150k companies about employment levels. This is the jobs report most followed by Wall Street. However, the BLS also surveys households and those results show the US economy reaching a record number of workers with a total of 154.3 million people working. Wages also looked strong, growing at 2.9%, the largest monthly increase in just over 10 years. Wage growth could provide a nice boost to the economy. For much of the last 10 years, there was so much excess labor supply, that wages barely moved. Now that we’ve seen the unemployment rate under 5% for sometime, it appears wages are starting to increase as companies need to attract and retain employees. Beyond the discrepancies of the two studies, the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey & Irma will likely require the September estimates to be revised in future months. Read More

Pharmacy benefit companies like CVS and Express Scripts sold off today on rumors that Amazon is close to entering the pharmacy business. People have long speculated that Amazon would eventually start selling prescription drugs through the mail. Amazon has the potential to significantly impact the industry. Under Amazon’s current model, it seems patients on regular medication would be the most likely to switch, but as the company continues to work on drone delivery, it could eventually serve sick patients who needs drugs the same day. The fascinating thing about Amazon is how it can disrupt numerous industries. Investors don’t seem to care that Amazon doesn’t make much money. It can compete on price because investors are happy with top line sales growth assuming at some point the company will start making money. Much is discussed about the rivalry between Amazon and Walmart, but the relative profits between the two are shocking. In the last nine months, Walmart made $9.7 billion in net income. In the last 10 *years*, Amazon has only made $6.8 billion. A few weeks back an NYU professor put out a study showing that Walmart paid 46 times more in federal taxes since 2008 than Amazon, $64 billion vs $1.4 billion. The fact that Amazon shareholders don’t seem to care about profits gives it a huge advantage in pricing versus its competitors. Read More

Oil declined this week, decreasing 4.4% to close at $49.31/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved higher, up to 2.36% from 2.33% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr also moved higher, to 3.85% from 3.83% last week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 22,773.67 1.6% 15.2%
S&P 500 2,549.33 1.2% 13.9%
Oil 49.31 (4.4%) (8.5%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.36 4 (8)

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9/29/17 – Stocks Higher on GDP Growth and Tax Reform

Stocks Higher, Framework of Tax Reform Released

Stocks finished the third quarter on a positive note as both major indices finished higher. The Dow gained 0.2% while the S&P 500 added 0.7%. The big financial news out this week was strong second quarter GDP growth and a rough framework for potential tax reform.

The US economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.1% rate in the 2nd quarter. This was revised up from 3.0% estimate last month and is the best quarterly growth since the 1st quarter of 2015. This report looks good, but sustainability is the key. Over the last 10 years we’ve had multiple quarters that grew at a 3%+ annualized rate, but have never put up a whole year with that level of growth near 3%. Read More

Increasing GDP growth is a central aspect to Trump’s tax reform proposal. The key provision of his plan is a reduction in corporate tax rates to 20% from 35% currently. The US corporate tax rate is the highest in the developed world. We’re also the only country to tax global earnings. The Trump plan includes a 10% tax on repatriated foreign earnings, which could lead to over $2 trillion of US corporate cash to be returned to the US. Current tax law allows company to defer taxes on global income until the cash comes back to the US. Bringing $2 trillion back to the US strikes me a very positive thing. Even if the money is simply paid out in one-time dividends or used for share repurchases, that’s a big win versus it sitting in overseas bank accounts. If some of the money is reinvested back into the economy, that’s even better. While the corporate reform framework seems very positive to me, the likelihood of it happening seems pretty low. I don’t believe the market expects it will happen either, so if Republicans are able to pass tax reform, it could provide a nice boost to stocks. Read More

We’ve never seen a President use social media to the extent Trump uses Twitter. Twitter, as a company, has never made money. It’s lost over $2 billion over the last two years. Since it’s Initial Public Offering, the stock is down 60%. That said, the President is helping to support Twitter’s value. One analyst estimated that Trump being so active on Twitter is worth $2 billion. The company currently has a market valuation of $12.5 billion, so the President is responsible for over 15% of Twitter’s value, according to this analyst. Anecdotally, this makes sense to me. Twitter seemed to be slowly dying until Trump became President. Now, numerous media outlets and people check Twitter first thing every morning to see what the President tweeted out overnight. Read More

Oil increased again this week, gaining 1.9% to close at $51.58/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved higher, up to 2.33% from 2.26% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr fixed held steady at 3.83%.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 22,405.09 0.2% 13.4%
S&P 500 2,519.36 0.7% 12.5%
Oil 51.58 1.9% (4.3%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.33 7 (12)

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9/22/17 – Stocks Higher, Walmart Testing Unique Home Delivery

Stocks Slightly Higher in Week That Sees Toys ‘R’ Us Bankruptcy Filing

Markets were up slightly this week as the Federal Reserve held the Fed Funds rate constant and hinted at a slower rate of future increases. I would be surprised if we see a rate increase at the December meeting even though the Fed still signaled one is likely. For the week, the Dow increased 0.4% while the S&P 500 was up 0.1%.

One interesting outcome of the Fed’s meeting is the announcement it will start reducing the assets it holds. Prior to the financial crisis, the Fed’s balance sheet was less than a $1 trillion. It’s currently more than $4.5 trillion (roughly 25% of total GDP). Much of what the Fed owns are mortgage securities and Treasury bonds. The Fed started buying assets for a few reasons: to create markets in securities that had become illiquid, to give banks the ability to sell the risky assets to someone and to help hold down longer-term interest rates by a being prominent buyer in those markets. The Fed hasn’t bought much over the last three to four years, but hasn’t started selling for concerns about what adding this much debt back into the market would do to prices and interest rates. The Fed plans for reduce its balance sheet over the next 3-4 fours, so hopefully it can slowly sell assets without causing large moves in interest rates.

Walmart announced this week it is testing a grocery delivery service where the delivery person will come in your house and put your groceries in your refrigerator/freezer, even if you aren’t home. The testing will occur in Silicon Valley with customers who use the August home security system. The system will grant a one-time access code and also has video cameras installed inside the house. This sounds very convenient, but I’m sure how I would feel about a stranger putting away groceries in my house without me there. This is another move by Walmart to compete with Amazon. A few weeks ago, the company started heavily advertising its free 2-day shipping on online orders, a direct shot at Amazon’s popular Prime membership. Amazon has been very disruptive in the retail space and it will be interesting to see how it will compete with Walmart, arguably the best run supply-chain company in the world, now that Walmart has firmly turned its sights on Amazon.  Read More

Toys ‘R’ Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, meaning it will continue operating as it attempts to restructure its debt. While the retail sector has struggled amid Amazon competition and changing consumer preferences, Toys ‘R’ Us is a story of excessive debt. The company was purchased by a trio of private equity firms in 2005. The buyers used significant debt to pay for the purchase and the company was never able to reduce its debt load. Toys ‘R’ Us was actually doing okay from an operational and financial standpoint, but it had no money to invest in the stores and build out it e-commerce business because its debt service was so large. Bankruptcy was probably the right decision as the company can move forward with a friendlier capital structure. For the three private equity firms though, they are officially losing their $1.3 billion combined investment. Debt is always appealing because it’s someone else’s money, but debt can significantly increase the financial risk of a company. Read More

Oil increased again this week, gaining 1.5% to close at $50.63/barrel. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved higher, up to 2.26% from 2.20% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr fixed increased to 3.83% from 3.78% last week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 22,349.59 0.4% 13.1%
S&P 500 2,502.22 0.1% 11.8%
Oil 50.63 1.5% (6.0%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.26 6 (19)

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9/15/17 – Teflon Market Closes at New Highs

Stocks Power Through Geopolitical Risk

In spite of North Korea launching another missile over Japan, stock markets rallied this week to close at all-time highs. The market seems to resemble teflon in that nothing negative sticks to it. Investors seems comfortable that new sanctions and diplomacy will diffuse the situation. This is almost the inverse of what we saw five years ago when markets sold-off on every bit of bad news out of Greece. Today, markets shake-off most negative news. On the week the Dow gained 2.2% while the S&P 500 gained 1.6%. Both indices closed the week at all-time highs.

Historically, September is the worst month for the stock market. It’s the only month with a negative average return. So far this month though, markets have been very strong, including this week, which posted the best weekly gain all year. Why is the market shrugging off potential concerns? The North Korea situation seems like a legitimate risk to me. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seems borderline crazy and continues to provoke the international community. It’s hard to figure what Kim’s ultimate objective is, but given the proximity to South Korea and Japan, the potential for a major economic event exists. Since the financial crisis, markets have grown to believe that central bank liquidity can solve any problem. I agree with that idea on a sovereign debt crises, but North Korea seems like a risk that isn’t being priced into stocks at the moment.

Oil increased sharply this week, gaining 4.9% to close at $49.87/barrel. Oil hasn’t closed a week above $50 since May. The yield on the 10-yr Treasury moved sharply higher, up to 2.20% from 2.05% last week. The average rate on a 30-yr fixed remained constant at 3.78%. Given the sharp increase in Treasury rates, mortgage rates will likely follow next week.

Close Weekly YTD
Dow Jones 22,268.34 2.2% 12.7%
S&P 500 2,500.23 1.6% 11.7%
Oil 49.87 4.9% (7.5%)
10-yr Treasury (∆ in bps) 2.20 15 (24)

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