Contributed by: Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
You may have noticed 2017 has been an easy year to open your statements. Markets around the world have been trending in a positive direction with only short-lived bouts of risk aversion. As a whole, volatility is extremely low and getting lower by the day it seems. U.S. markets have enjoyed positive returns of 10% for the S&P 500 so far this year as of June 30, 2017. The Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index has also been up 2.27%. Overseas has been the big story of the year with the MSCI EAFE returning 14.1% and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index returning about the same. This strong increase has occurred despite headwinds from Brexit negotiations that are beginning and are expected to be challenging as well as concerns over high and quickly growing debt levels in China.
The Federal Reserve has approved one more rate hike this quarter, during June, which was fully anticipated by markets. One more has been telegraphed by the Fed for this year and would likely come late fall/winter if it does at all. This last potential rate hike of 2017 will depend on the strength of economic data over the coming months.
Our domestic economy continues to grow slowly but steadily. Wages are growing, although, at a pace slower than historical averages. Inflation has been more subdued than expected, in large part because wage growth has been muted. Unemployment has continued to fall, and it has become harder to fill open job positions. Low unemployment ultimately should result in wages increasing, but, so far, we have not seen an impact here in a meaningful way. Energy prices increased over a year ago, and rent and housing costs are on the rise. These last two points serve to take away some of our discretionary spending money which is important to bolster Gross Domestic Product growth that has come in below the Fed’s expectations of 2.2% so far this year.
Brexit – One year later
A little over one year ago, the British voted to exit the European Union on June 23rd, 2016. As you may recall, this created quite a bit of volatility in the market leading up to and immediately after the decision. The British government stepped in quickly, vowing to support liquidity at banks and emphasized it would be an orderly divorce. This action assuaged fears resulting in the markets here in the U.S. as well as overseas bouncing back to where they had been prior the decision. So one year later, what has the impact been?
The British pound is about 15% cheaper than where it was last year. While a cheaper pound helps boost the country’s exports, it, unfortunately, serves to increase the price of imports causing inflation within the country. If you were ever going to take a trip to England, now may be a good time as our dollar is much stronger than it has been in recent years!
Business investment in the U.K. has softened dramatically due to the uncertainty surrounding potential future tariffs. The Gross Domestic Product growth has also slowed as a result.
Immigration is falling into the U.K. meaning many jobs are having a hard time finding workers for farming and construction positions.
Affordable Care Act—Repeal?
ObamaCare is facing a threat of repeal in the Senate. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is working to revise the bill to be looked at again in July after it met resistance from some members of the Republican Party. If he can’t create a bill all Republicans can agree on, then they will be forced to seek a more bi-partisan supported bill, further delaying any change. If repealed, volatility would likely increase in the healthcare sector, but the market effects would be very dependent on the terms that pass. This is something we will continue to keep our eyes on.
While it has been a tranquil year thus far, it is important not to let the resilience in stock markets lull you into a false sense of security. It is easy to forget what downside volatility feels like when we haven’t experienced a meaningful pullback in so long. Rebalancing your portfolio and keeping risk in check is important particularly in this stage of a bull market, when it may be tempting to reach for more. Check out our recent Mid-Year Investment Update webinar if you want to hear more information on these topics as well as other headlines this quarter!
On behalf of everyone here at The Center,
Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
Director of Investments
Investment Pulse: Check out Investment Pulse, by Angela Palacios, CFP®, a summary of investment-focused meetings for the quarter.
Investor Ph.D Series: Why paying a premium for bonds may be ok.
Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF® 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 foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. 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 MSCI EAFE Index 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. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is designed to measure equity market performance in 25 emerging market indexes. The index’s three largest industries are materials, energy, and banks. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and 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. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Rebalancing a non-retirement account could be a taxable event that may increase your tax liability. Please note that international investing involves special risks, including currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic volatility. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well-established foreign markets.