First Quarter Investment Commentary

Contributed by: Angela Palacios, CFP® Angela Palacios

U.S. markets continued to enjoy positive returns for the first part of the year as the Trump rally extended through February. We began to see a small amount of volatility creep back into the market as March wore on and investors were left to continue to wait and see if there was any progress on economic and corporate friendly Trump policies. The S&P 500 ended the quarter in positive territory, up over 6%, while Bonds ended up just shy of 1% at .82% for the quarter, according to the Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index. Developed international was the clear winner, up 7.25% on the quarter, for the MSCI EAFE Index. Economic data continues to flow in, sending a strong signal that the U.S. economy is healthy and sustainable.

Europe headlines ended the quarter centered on the long awaited invoking of Article 50. While purely a political event rather than a market-moving event, the trigger marks a point of no return for the split between the United Kingdom and the European Union.  The two year countdown on Brexit begins—get your popcorn and settle in to watch!

Steady Headwinds for Interest Rates Ahead

The Federal Reserve is proactively increasing interest rates this year and has begun with the first interest rate increase of the year in March. What is overlooked, though, is all of the assets still on the balance sheet from years of quantitative easing (QE), the process which the Fed has used to increase money in the economy by buying treasury bonds and flushing the system with liquidity. 

In addition to raising interest rates, The Fed will also continue its reverse QE process by letting the bonds they purchased simply mature and roll off the books, essentially taking that liquidity out of the system. Below, you will see a chart by maturity date for the rate this will happen. Because of the lumpy distribution of maturity dates, it is likely the Fed may try to smooth out this maturing process through a combination of letting the bonds mature and outright selling. This would prevent any one month or year from having an outsized event of pulling liquidity out of the economy, leading to bond volatility.

Source: JP Morgan

Source: JP Morgan

Auf wiedersehen T+3! 

In March, the SEC voted unanamously to shorten the trade settling cycle from a maximum of three days down to two. In the day and age of instant gratification, investors have been left scratching their heads wondering why they have to wait the traditional trade date plus three business days in order for the cash and securities to officially change hands after they trade. That meant that if you needed to withdraw funds from your account, you had to wait nearly one week after selling a security to receive a check. That wait will now be reduced by one day! While the biggest benefit is for you, the invester, we will notice there also may be other “behind the scenes” benefits. Some examples include:  reducing credit and counterparty risk, increased market liquidity, and lowering collateral requirements. This is slated to take effect on September 5th of this year.

Investment Pulse: Check out Investment Pulse, by Angela Palacios, CFP®, a summary of investment-focused meetings for the quarter.

Investor Basics Series: Nick Boguth, Investment Research Associate, introduces us to Fundamental Investing

Of Financial Note:  Jaclyn Jackson, Portfolio Coordinator, continues her series on behavioral investing here.

It is important to remember, even with markets up, not to become complacent with your portfolio. While many investors become laser-focused on their statements when volatility strikes, it is important to remember there is a laundry list of items that are best addressed when markets have been positive for an extended period of time:

  • Plan for upcoming cash needs
  • Rebalance portfolios
  • Make your charitable contributions
  • Don’t ditch your plan!

If you have questions surrounding any of these points, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We are here to help! At The Center, we want to help each and every one of our clients to take charge of their financial futures. Newsletters, blogs, webinars and more can be found on our website to help you do so. This is all part of Living Your Plan™.  Thank you for placing your trust in us!

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.


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. This 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 are 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, investors may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy or strategies employed. Rebalancing a non-retirement account could be a taxable event that may increase your tax liability. International investing involves special risks, including currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic volatility. 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 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 21 developed nations. Please note direct investment in an index is not possible. Index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results.