Equity markets were mostly positive this week as the Fed firmed its language surrounding prospective monetary tightening. Fed Chair Powell all but declared that the central bank would begin tapering its asset purchases program in November, likely providing some reassurance to markets that the economy is on firm footing and can handle such a move. In other economic news this week, PMI numbers came in near expectations, with manufacturing and services figures both missing expectations by slim margins. PMI readings are still healthy and reveal an expansionary environment. Overall, the economy is well positioned to continue recovering from pandemic lockdowns, but inflation risks as well as labor challenges and limited production capacity are eating into productivity. In addition to macroeconomic factors, high COVID infections also risk slowing economic progress.
Overseas, developed markets outperformed emerging markets, with both indices returning negative performance. European indices were positive, while Japanese markets returned negative performance for the week. Improving prospects against the pandemic as well as improved prospects for economic recovery should continue to help lift markets globally over time.
Equity markets were mostly positive this week as investors continue to assess the state of the global economy. While fears concerning global stability and health overall appear to be in decline, the recent volatility serves as a great reminder of why it is so important to remain committed to a long-term plan and maintain a well-diversified portfolio. When stocks were struggling to gain traction last month, other asset classes such as gold, REITs, and US Treasury bonds proved to be more stable. Flashy news headlines can make it tempting to make knee-jerk decisions, but sticking to a strategy and maintaining a portfolio consistent with your goals and risk tolerance can lead to smoother returns and a better probability for long-term success.
Chart of the Week
Treasury yields have increased considerably in recent weeks, with this last week seeing a substantial spike. One of the daily increases was large enough to nearly exceed three standard deviations on the yield change distribution curve.
Broad market equity indices finished the week mostly positive, with major large cap indices performing comparably to small cap. Economic data has been mostly encouraging, but the global recovery has a long way to go to recover from COVID-19 lockdowns.
S&P sectors were mixed this week. Energy and financials outperformed, returning 4.70% and 2.21% respectively. Real estate and utilities underperformed, posting -1.51% and -1.20% respectively. Energy has the lead in 2021 with a 35.10% return.
Oil rose this week as crude oil inventories shrunk more than expected. Energy markets have been highly volatile in the COVID era, but it appears that higher oil prices may be more of the norm given recent market fundamentals. Demand is still low compared to early 2020, but as global economies are continuing to improve, oil consumption is recovering rapidly. On the supply side, operating oil rigs are still well under early 2020 numbers, but trending upwards. In addition to supply and demand, a volatile dollar is likely to have a large impact on commodity prices.
Gold was little changed this week as the U.S. dollar strengthened slightly. Gold is a common “safe haven” asset, typically rising during times of market stress. Focus for gold has shifted again to include not just global macroeconomics surrounding COVID-19 damage and recovery efforts, but also inflation and its possible impact on U.S. dollar value.
Yields on 10-year Treasuries rose this week from 1.3616 to 1.4509 while traditional bond indices fell. Treasury yield movements reflect general risk outlook, and tend to track overall investor sentiment. Expected increases in future inflation risk have helped elevate yields since pandemic era lows in rates. Treasury yields will continue to be a focus as analysts watch for signs of changing market conditions.
High-yield bonds fell this week as spreads loosened. High-yield bonds are likely to remain more stable in the short term as the Fed has adopted a remarkably accommodative monetary stance and major economic risk factors subside, likely helping stabilize volatility. A headwind could be on the horizon, as the Fed has expressed that asset tapering will likely take place in November 2021, which could raise yields.
Lesson to be Learned
The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator. This means … that he should be able to justify every purchase he makes and each price he pays by impersonal, objective reasoning that satisfies him that he is getting more than his money’s worth for his purchase.”
FormulaFolios has two simple indicators we share that help you see how the economy is doing (we call this the Recession Probability Index, or RPI), as well as if the US Stock Market is strong (bull) or weak (bear).
In a nutshell, we want the RPI to be low on a scale of 1 to 100. For the US Equity Bull/Bear indicator, we want it to read at least 66.67% bullish. When those two things occur, our research shows market performance is typically stronger, with less volatility.
The Recession Probability Index (RPI) has a current reading of 28.88, forecasting a lower potential for an economic contraction (warning of recession risk). The Bull/Bear indicator is currently 100% bullish, meaning the indicator shows there is a slightly higher than average likelihood of stock market increases in the near term (within the next 18 months).
It can be easy to become distracted from our long-term goals and chase returns when markets are volatile and uncertain. It is because of the allure of these distractions that having a plan and remaining disciplined is mission critical for long term success. Focusing on the long-run can help minimize the negative impact emotions can have on your portfolio and increase your chances for success over time.
The Week Ahead
This week sees updates to a wide range of economic indicators, including durable goods, consumer sentiment, housing, consumer income and spending, as well as the PCE deflator index.
More to come soon. Stay tuned.