During the third quarter, the economy continued its slow, low inflationary expansion and the equity market continued to gain ground. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by an estimated 2.5%, and inflation hovered around 2.0%.
In a nutshell, we believe that the slow growth, low inflation trajectory will continue a while longer and, as a result, the Fed can maintain a very measured pace unwinding its unprecedented monetary ease.
“It is a Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma: but Perhaps There is a Key” - Winston Churchill
“Not see the forest for the trees” is an idiom derived from British English that describes someone who is so focused on the minutiae that they miss the larger picture.
During the first quarter of 2017, the stock market (as measured by the S&P 500 Index) enjoyed a 6.07% total return. The gains reflect (1) the steady, persistent, non-inflationary economic recovery that has characterized the post-2008 period and (2) investor enthusiasm for President Trump’s pro-business, pro-growth policies.
Since the election of Donald Trump as our next President and the Republicans’ win of both the House and Senate, much has changed in regards to our economic and investment outlooks.
Investors would have done well in 2016 to heed the words of Heraclitus, paraphrased: “Expect the unexpected.” Brexit and the U.S. election results were two glaring examples of the unexpected becoming reality.
We still believe our economy is likely to remain in a slow growth and low interest rate environment for some time. If rates do indeed get pushed lower by the relentless search for “safe-haven” yields, then other markets, such as high yield bonds, may follow. Since shorter duration, high yield bonds currently offer meaningfully higher yields than Treasuries, a further boost caused by a rally in Treasuries accompanied by flat or even tighter spreads could have a further positive impact on total returns in high yield bonds. Given the possibility for higher market volatility going into the election and beyond, we are keeping our defensive, shorter-duration bias and maintaining ample liquidity. Hopefully we can take advantage of bouts of market weakness to acquire both convertible and high yield bonds at attractive yields.
We are now seven years into both an economic recovery and a bull market. Because the 2008 Great Financial Crisis and the subsequent economic recovery were unlike any other since the Great Depression, it makes sense to look back and see from whence we came and to look forward and try to see whether current trends can be sustained.