The Fed acted as expected by not acting on interest rates; and although there was no associated press conference, the statement had a few nuggets of note.
The economy and earnings grabbed headlines last week; with a sharp acceleration in real GDP growth, and concerns about earnings thanks to Facebook’s face plant.
Rising trade tensions are making us a bit more cautious, although the economic and earnings fundamentals remain healthy, which could cushion some of the blow from a trade war. Stay invested, but don’t reach too far out the risk spectrum, be prepared for bouts of volatility, and remain patient, diversified and disciplined.
Job growth remains strong and the importantly-lagging unemployment rate ticked up for “good” reasons; but the skills gap remains ample.
Halfway through 2018, the S&P 500® Index, which represents the broad U.S. stock market, had gained 2.7%—a relatively modest return that belied the drama of the first six months of the year.
The noise surrounding the stock market is getting louder, resulting in more violent moves in equities. Much of the sound and fury is best ignored by long-term investors, but there are growing risks to the bull market in the form of rising trade disputes and the possibility of a central bank mistake. For now, we believe the secular bull market is intact, but are growing more concerned and urge investors to remain disciplined and diversified.
We continue with our theme of “it’s getting late” when looking ahead to the second half; with important and rising risks to weigh against the rewards.
Despite a recent modest pullback in U.S. stocks, and a sharper one in international markets—reflecting both trade worries and the recent strength in the U.S. dollar—we don’t believe it marks the beginning of a more severe correction. Risks of a prolonged trade dispute have risen but it’s too soon to declare war; while the possibility of a positive resolution that would likely be a tailwind for equities. For now, a healthy U.S. economy is an offset to those growing worries. Threats to the current bull market have risen, and they include this being a midterm election year—which have historically been accompanied by larger-than-average maximum drawdowns. We continue to espouse discipline and diversification; but for now it’s in the context of an ongoing bull market.
I spend a lot of time on the road speaking to our investors and advisors and one of the common questions I get during the Q&A sessions is, “What keeps you up at night?” Aside from having an 18-year old daughter—and being a chronic insomniac anyway—my reply usually centers around debt and the burden it has and will continue to place on our economy.
U.S. stocks have moved toward the top of the recent range but volatility is likely to rise at times during the summer as investors deal with various global geopolitical headwinds. Further strength in the U.S. dollar would likely exacerbate the volatility—particularly within emerging markets. But limited signs of pending recession risk—at least in the United States—should keep the path of least resistance for the stock market higher. That said, patience and discipline are more important than ever in the face of sometimes ominous-sounding headlines.