ND&S Weekly Commentary 11.25.19 – Trade Comes Back Into Focus

November 25, 2019

Equities finished the week modestly lower as trade came back into focus. President Trump appears reluctant to reduce tariffs without further concessions from China. On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping sounded hopeful the sides could reach a “phase one” trade deal with the U.S. that is based on “mutual respect and equality”. Complicating matters is a bi-partisan bill supporting pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong that was passed by the Senate and House and is awaiting the President’s signature. Beijing has voiced displeasure with the bill. Thus far, they have kept the issue in Hong Kong separate from trade talks, however, that could change the longer the trade issue carries on.

The S&P 500, DJIA, and Nasdaq were all negative on the week as they finished down 0.29%, 0.41%, and 0.20%, respectively. International equities also finished lower with the MSCI EAFE off 0.57% and emerging markets down fractionally. Bonds were positive on the week with yields moving lower. The 10 Year US Treasury closed at a yield of 1.77%. Gold prices continued to hover around the $1,470/oz level. Oil prices rebounded last week closing at $57.88/barrel, the highest level in 2 months.

Economic data released last week was mixed. U.S. housing starts advanced 3.8% month over month in October which came in slightly below expectations. However, existing home sales advanced 1.5% in October which beat expectations. Flash purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs), released on Friday, showed that the global manufacturing sector continued to stabilize with improved readings in the US, Europe and Japan. The upcoming holiday-shortened week includes economic data reports on 3Q19 real GDP (2nd estimate), trade balance, durable goods orders, and personal consumption expenditure (PCE/Core PCE).

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Jim Davis

Weekly Commentary (11/18/19) – Déjà vu – Another Weekly Gain

November 18, 2019

Markets advanced last week on renewed optimism for progress on trade, better than feared earnings reports and confirmation that the U.S. consumer remains in good shape. Headline news surrounding the impeachment process seemed to be dismissed by the markets. After all – It’s the economy, stupid – as James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist in 1992, aptly said.

For the week, the DJIA advanced 1.37% while the S&P 500 gained 0.93%. Noteworthy is the fact that the DJIA breached 28,000 for the first time ever while the S&P 500 notched its sixth straight week of gains. The volatile Nasdaq added on 1.11%. Developed international markets moved higher, albeit at a slower pace. For the week, the MSCI EAFE index gained 0.54% while emerging market equities (MSCI EM) jumped 1.50%. Small company stocks, represented by the Russell 2000, finished ahead by 0.63% for the week. Fixed income, represented by the Bloomberg/Barclays Aggregate, finished the week higher as investors continued to flee to the perceived safety of bonds. As a result, the 10 YR US Treasury closed at a yield of 1.83% (down ~11 bps from the previous week’s closing yield of ~1.94%). Gold prices closed at $1,467.30/oz – up 0.41% on the week. Oil prices jumped $0.48 (or 0.84%) last week as oil remains range bound due to sufficient supply and tepid demand.

Economic news released last week was mixed. On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) advanced 0.4% in October and 1.8% year-over-year. On Thursday, the BLS reported that the Producer Price Index (PPI) advanced 0.4% in October, ahead of expectations for a 0.3% advance. The PPI advanced 1.1% year-over-year. Neither the CPI nor PPI point to unreasonable or out of control inflation, and this gives the Fed more time to remain accommodating. On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims for the week ending November 9 were 225,000, slightly above expectations of 215,000. The labor market remains quite resilient, and jobless claims remain under the 300,000 threshold for the longest streak of weekly records for data reaching back to 1967. On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail and food-service sales moved ahead by 0.3% in October, ahead of expectations for a 0.2% advance. While the consumer remains in good shape, industrial production continues to be challenged. October industrial production fell 0.8% while consensus was for a 0.4% decline. No doubt, lack of clarity on a trade deal is holding back industrial production.

We would not be surprised if the markets paused for a while given the market’s healthy advance over the past month. We suggest investors stay close to their long-term target asset allocations with a slight defensive bias.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”Helen Keller

ND&S Weekly Commentary 11/11/2019 – Happy Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

U.S. stocks reached fresh record highs last week as investors’ hopes for a China trade deal rose. The DJIA, S&P 500, and NASDAQ were up 1.4%, 0.9%, and 1.1%, respectively. International markets were also positive as developed markets (MSCI EAFE) advanced 0.5% and emerging markets (MSCI EM) 1.5%. Consumer spending and jobs data as well as corporate profits that have exceeded expectations have tempered fears of an economic slowdown. So far, 72.5% of companies reporting surpassed earnings per share (EPS) estimates while 57.9% beat on revenues. As a result, cyclical stock sectors were the best performers for the week with financials, energy, and materials making the biggest moves. This week look for economic reports on CPI, retail sales and industrial production.

In fixed income, U.S. government bond yields had their biggest weekly advance in yields in a month. The 10 year U.S. Treasury note ended the week at 1.93%, its highest rate since July 31st. The yield curve is no longer inverted (as shown in the chart below from the Wall Street Journal). This week all shorter dated treasuries yielded less than longer ones for the first time since November 2018 helping to relieve concerns about a possible recession.

On this Veterans Day, we thank all those who have honorably served our great nation. We are especially grateful for all those service members who never returned home as we are reminded of the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”

NDS Weekly Commentary (11.4.19) – Trick or TREAT – S&P 500 and NASDAQ reach all-time highs

November 4, 2019

It was a record setting week on Wall Street as stocks rallied towards all-time highs. Despite the impeachment drama, a Federal Reserve interest rate cut, better-than-expected October jobs report, and reasonable corporate earnings fueled investor’s enthusiasm. On Friday, China announced it reached a consensus with the U.S., in principle, on the first phase of a trade deal.

For the week, the DJIA increased 1.4%, the S&P 500 rose 1.5%, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ rose 1.7%. International equities were also stellar with developed markets (MSCI EAFE) up 1.2% while emerging markets (MSCI EM) increased 1.3%.

As widely expected, the Federal Reserve reduced the federal funds rate by 0.25% and Chairman Powell said that further increases would only come after there is evidence of an uptick in inflation which is now close to 2%. The yield on the 10 year U.S. Treasury declined from 1.80% last week to 1.71%.

Last month, 128,000 jobs were added in spite of 50,000 GM workers out on strike, which far exceeded the 89,000 consensus estimate. This provided an improved outlook for consumer spending and support for the slowing economy.

According to FactSet, 3/4 of companies have reported 3rd quarter earnings, with 76% of S&P 500 companies beating estimates. The best weekly sector performance was healthcare which was up 3.05%. There will be a slew of corporate earnings released this week. On Monday, durable goods will be reported, the services Purchaser’s Managers Index (PMI) on Tuesday, and consumer sentiment on Friday.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.” – John Wooden

ND&S Weekly Commentary (10.28.19) – Earnings Season in Full Swing

October 28, 2019

Strong earnings pushed stocks higher last week. With approximately 40% of companies having reported, reports generally have been better than expected outside of a few disappointments. Blended earnings are currently at -0.4% year over year versus expectations of a 3.25% decline. Revenues are up 3.0% from the same quarter a year ago. There are a number of companies scheduled to report this week which includes Alphabet, Mastercard, Apple, Facebook, and AT&T.

US equity markets closed the week very close to their all-time highs. For the week, the S&P 500 increased 1.23% while the DJIA finished up 0.70%. Smaller US companies represented by the Russell 2000 rose 1.53%. International equities were also positive with developed (MSCI EAFE) and emerging (MSCI EM) closing higher by 1.27% and 1.17%, respectively. Bonds gave a little back last week with the benchmark Barclay’s US Aggregate Index declining 0.15% on the week. The 10 Year U.S. Treasury yield closed at 1.80%, which is up from 1.76% the week prior.

Economic data released last week was a mixed bag. Flash U.S. manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) released last week beat expectations with a reading of 51.5 (a PMI reading above 50 represents an expansion). Manufacturing PMIs in Europe and Japan also stabilized as most countries had month over month increases. Durable goods orders fell 1.1% month over month missing estimates. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales declined 2.2% in September missing estimates of a 0.7% decline.

Earnings reports will accelerate this week with 230 companies comprising the S&P 500 scheduled to report. Investor attention will also key on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting announcement set for Wednesday. The futures market is putting the odds of a 25 basis point cut by the FOMC at 90%. Expect the conversation around the sustainability of economic growth to ratchet up in the coming days. Let’s make it a good week!

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”Charles R. Swindoll

Weekly Commentary (10/21/19) – Markets Tread Water

October 21, 2019

Markets continued to tread water last week as the general economic backdrop remains mostly positive. Headline news, as usual, seems to be holding the markets back from moving higher.

We are right in the midst of 3rd quarter earnings season, and 81% of companies reporting have reported better-than-expected earnings. Last week saw positive commentary from the banks as they got the 3rd quarter earnings season started.

Economic news released last week was mixed. On Wednesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail and food-services fell 0.3%; however, August’s number was revised upward. On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that housing starts fell in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.387 million – up 1.6% from the same time last year. Building permits were better-than-expected and are up 7.7% year-over-year. Also on Thursday, the Federal Reserve reported that industrial production fell 0.4% in September (missing expectations of a 0.2% decline) while August’s reading was revised higher to a 0.8% advance versus the previous reading of a 0.6% increase. Lastly, initial jobless claims for the week ending October 12 were 214,000 and below expectations of 215,000. Claims remained under 300,000 (threshold for a typically healthy jobs market) for 240 consecutive weeks.

For the week, the DJIA slipped 0.13% while the S&P 500 gained 0.55%. The volatile Nasdaq increased 0.40%. Developed international markets fared better. For the week, the MSCI EAFE index jumped 1.24% while emerging market equities (MSCI EM) advanced 1.27%%. Have international equities found a bottom? Small company stocks, represented by the Russell 2000, finished higher by 1.57% for the week. Fixed income, represented by the Bloomberg/Barclays Aggregate, finished the week slightly higher as investors trimmed bond positions. As a result, the 10 YR US Treasury closed at a yield of 1.76% (in-line with the previous week’s closing yield of ~1.76%). Gold prices closed at $1,488.20/oz – up 0.37% on the week. Oil prices dropped $0.92 (or 1.68%) as supply appears to be more than adequate for current demand.

Don’t forget that October has been a traditionally difficult month for the markets, and we expect this October to be no different. The week ahead will see a host of potential challenges – earnings, Brexit, China trade issues, Washington histrionics, and Middle East geopolitics, etc… We suggest investors stay close to their long-term target asset allocations with a slight defensive bias.

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”Theodore Roosevelt

NDS Weekly Commentary 10.14.19 – Earnings Reports Begin

October 14, 2019

Equities finished last week on a positive note as U.S. markets rallied Friday on news that the U.S. and China had reached a truce on trade. Washington announced Friday that it would postpone planned increases in tariffs and China said it would increase purchases of U.S. agricultural products with hopes that more details could be worked out in the months ahead. In response, the DJIA traded up 319 points on Friday and for the week the DJIA, S&P 500 and NASDAQ advanced 0.93%, 0.66% and 0.94%, respectively. International markets were also strong last week with the MSCI EAFE jumping 2.31% and emerging markets closing up 1.53%. In addition to positive news on trade, core CPI rose a modest 0.1% and consumer sentiment numbers improved. With better news on trade, the materials and industrial cyclical sectors were strongest for the week and the defensive sectors of utilities and consumer staples were the weakest. Conversely, fixed income markets declined with the rate on the 10 year U.S. Treasury soaring to 1.76% from 1.52% during the week. This week look for economic reports on retail sales, housing starts and industrial production.

Earnings season starts in earnest this week with major banks, Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola and others scheduled to release earnings. Consensus earnings expectations for the 3rd quarter are forecast to decline as much as 4.3%, however, if you factor in stock buybacks and the tendency of companies to beat forecasts, earnings are likely to come in better than anticipated. We believe the economy will continue to grow modestly and that the Fed will continue to be supportive with a 0.25% rate cut at their December meeting.

“But he that dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose.” – Anne Bronte

Weekly Commentary 10.7.19 – Fight to Zero

October 7, 2019

For the third straight week, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJIA) and S&P 500 declined. Investors and traders created a volatile week as dismal manufacturing data, disappearing trading commissions, and new tariffs on the European Union were announced. The DJIA lost 0.9%, the S&P 500 declined 0.3%, while the NASDAQ Composite rose 0.6%. The strength of the US dollar, worsening trade tariff issues, and weakening global economic growth hit developed international equities (MSCI EAFE), which declined 2.2%. Emerging market equities were down 0.5%. After sliding in the beginning of the week, financial markets rebounded on Thursday and Friday as sluggish employment data was released renewing confidence that the Federal Reserve would maintain their dovish stance and lower rates.
So far, global central banks have been more than accommodative with their monetary policies. There have been 33 interest-rate cuts by global central banks over the last three months. The dovish and accommodative global monetary policies should help lessen further economic declines and cushion the downside of financial asset prices.
The U.S. employment report on Friday showed that there were 136,000 jobs added in September, just slightly below the 150,000 consensus. The good news was that the jobless rate declined from 3.7% in August to 3.5%, the lowest rate in 50 years.

Investors should not get overly concerned about the media’s announced claims and counter-claims regarding the impeachment inquiries of President Trump. There have only been two presidents impeached by the House of Representatives, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both were not convicted by the Senate and allowed to remain in office.

We should remember that one year ago the 10-year US Treasury yield was above 3%. Last week, it declined 15 basis points to 1.53%, a result of the concern of a slowing economy. Interest rates are expected to remain low and possibly be further reduced by Federal Reserve dovish policy later this year.

We recommend that investors remain diversified, retaining a portfolio of safe, low duration bonds, a slightly higher cash position, and quality equities. We will be closely watching the upcoming earnings season and would be enticed to add to stocks with a bias toward dividends on short-term weakness. Please keep in mind that 60% of stocks in the S&P 500 index have a dividend yield higher than the 10-year US Treasury. Also, for most investors the federal income tax rate on qualified dividends is 15% and no higher than 20%. Dividends matter!

There will be important inflation data released this week: the Producer Price Index (PPI) on Tuesday and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on Thursday. Also, the Federal Open Market Committee will release their minutes from its September meeting on Wednesday.

“People who succeed in the stock market also accept periodic losses, setbacks and unexpected occurrences. Calamitous drops do not scare them out of the game.” – Peter Lynch

ND&S Weekly 9.30.19 – Economic Growth Slowing?

September 30, 2019

Major stock indexes declined for the second consecutive week as economic data indicated that consumer spending slowed and businesses pulled back on investment. Also, mixed signals on the U.S. – China trade dispute weighed on the financial markets. The S&P 500, DJIA and the NASDAQ declined 0.98%, 0.43% and 2.18%, respectively. U.S. consumer spending only edged up 0.1% after surging 0.5% in July and orders for core capital goods declined 0.2%. International markets were also negative with the MSCI EAFE down 0.62% and emerging markets down 1.86% as concerns over persistent weakness in global manufacturing continue. The best performing sectors last week were the more defensive ones of consumer staples, utilities and real estate.

U.S. Treasuries did well last week as headlines about the White House considering limits on U.S. corporate investment in China and House Democrats initiating an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s involvement with Ukraine pushed risk-averse investors into the perceived safety of bonds. The yield on the 10 year U.S. Treasury  declined from 1.74% to 1.69%.

This week should be a busy week for economic data with reports on ISM mfg., factory orders, and ISM non-mfg. On Friday, the closely watched employment report which is estimated to be for 140,000 new jobs will be released.

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”William Feather

Weekly Commentary (09/23/19) – Déjà vu – Trade Tensions Weigh on Markets

September 23, 2019

Markets were within reach of all-time highs last week until news broke on Friday that a Chinese delegation had canceled a visit to U.S. farms thus adding more drama to the ongoing trade battle with China. As Yogi Berra was fond of saying – It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Economic news released last week was mostly positive. On Tuesday the Federal Reserve announced that industrial production jumped 0.6% – well in advance of the expected increase of 0.2%. Capacity utilization was also better than expected. On Wednesday the Fed cut interest rates by 25 bps, as expected. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that housing starts for the month of August surged 12.3% m/m to a 12-year high as low interest rates attracted new home buyers. On Thursday the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales jumped 1.3% in August (better than expected). Lastly, initial jobless claims for the week ending September 14 came in better than expected as claims remained under 300,000 (threshold for a typically healthy jobs market) for the longest streak since 1967. Despite headline news, economic data does not point to a recession any time soon.

For the week, the DJIA fell 1.05% while the S&P 500 dropped 0.49%. The volatile Nasdaq declined 0.71%. Developed international markets fared better. For the week, the MSCI EAFE index lost 0.35% while emerging market equities (MSCI EM) gave back 0.46%. Small company stocks, represented by the Russell 2000, finished lower by 1.14% for the week. Fixed income, represented by the Bloomberg/Barclays Aggregate, finished the week higher as investors continued to flee to the perceived safety of bonds. As a result, the 10 YR US Treasury closed at a yield of 1.72% (down ~18 bps from the previous week’s closing yield of ~1.90%). Gold prices closed at $1,507.30/oz – up 1.10% on the week. Oil prices jumped $3.24 (or 5.91%) last week on what is believed to be an Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.

Don’t forget that September and October are traditionally difficult months for the markets – so expect continued volatility. We suggest investors stay close to their long-term target asset allocations with a slight defensive bias.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra