Fourth Quarter Investment Commentary

Contributed by: Angela Palacios, CFP® Angela Palacios

2016 has been the year of the stock market taking major geopolitical news in stride. From the UK Brexit vote to an unexpected Trump victory in the U.S. presidential election, the market has shrugged off some major news that could have jolted it in a very negative way. Equity markets, however, once again demonstrated their resilience, and along the way this has become the second longest bull market in US history as of April of 2016. The S&P 500 ended the year up strong returning 11.96%, while bonds gave back great returns in the first three quarters of the year (they were up 5.8% as of 9/30/16) to end up only 2.65% on the Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index. International markets continued to struggle as they were nearly flat in 2016 with a 1% return for the MSCI EAFE while emerging markets bounced back strongly returning 8.5% on the MSCI Emerging Markets index.

Source: JP Morgan

Source: JP Morgan

2017 is likely to usher in a market driven more by fiscal policy than by monetary policy. The Federal Reserve is anticipated to continue their slow pace of raising interest rates into the New Year while Trump takes office very soon and launches his 100 day action plan. So if you choose not to give up and move to Canada, here is what we are watching in the New Year!

Trump’s 100 Day Action Plan:

Donald Trump has plans to shake up many potential areas such as trade, Obamacare, immigration, education (common core), tax code, and infrastructure improvements. Political risk could amplify volatility globally, although it hasn’t yet. This populist movement as shown by Brexit and our own election (people fed up with the status quo) is a theme likely to continue abroad as France, Germany, and Holland will host their own elections in 2017. The U.S. dollar has reached its highest level in 14 years in the wake of the presidential election, and a strong dollar has traditionally been a headwind for the earnings of large companies with significant international exposure. Taken together, these factors tell a somewhat cautionary tale for equities going into 2017.

The Economy:

Our economy continues to chug along with unemployment at very low levels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of November 2016 we were at 4.6% unemployment. We are considered at full employment now. This means that wage inflation is starting to pick up, although slowly, which could start to be reflected in the overall inflation rate creeping up in the U.S even though it has been subdued for an extended period of time. Inflation currently stands at 1.7% (bls.gov). 

A Note on Diversification:

2016 has tested our patience on diversification yet again. Locally, The U.S.’s flavor of the month benchmark has morphed from the S&P500 to the Dow as the benchmark to keep up with. Pure U.S. equity exposure has continued to drastically outperform a diversified portfolio to historically unusual levels. This year other asset classes have had the opportunity to shine as Emerging markets*, small cap equities** and high yield debt*** have also performed well. Diversification seems to once again be working after a long drought. We, at The Center, still see merit to utilizing a diversified approach when it comes to managing our investments. As geopolitical risk rears its ugly head around the world, it will likely be important to tap into the long-term returns of many different asset classes to hopefully limit portfolio volatility.

We understand that you need to retire and achieve your goals regardless of what markets are doing. This is why we build portfolios to be all weather and stick by our strategy of diversification as a sound long-term approach to investing. It is a task that we take very seriously and we thank you for your continued trust in us.

Checkout Investment Pulse, by Angela Palacios, CFP®, a summary of investment focused meetings for the quarter.

Does the order in which you achieve your average returns really matter?  Of course, it all depends.  Check out when the sequence of returns matter!

Nick Boguth, Investment Research Associate dives into the surprising reality of what it takes to dig out of the hole of negative returns.

Jaclyn Jackson, Portfolio Coordinator, discusses the trends of investor behavior during significant events over recent history.

If you have topics you would like us to cover in the future, please let us know! As always, we appreciate the opportunity to meet your financial planning and investment needs. Thank you!

Angela Palacios, CFP®
Director of Investments
Financial Advisor

Angela Palacios, CFP® is the Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Angela specializes in Investment and Macro economic research. She is a frequent contributor The Center blog.


* As measured by the MCSI EAFE Index
** As measured by the Russell 2000 Index
*** As measured by the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index
The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios, CFP®, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of the Wall Street Journal. The Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, US dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the United States & Canada. The EAFE consists of the country indices of 22 developed nations. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well established foreign markets. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss. International investing involves special risks, including currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic volatility.