On Our Minds

Equity markets moving higher

The equity markets continue to move higher on news of steady economic growth and the receding COVID virus. The S&P 500 Index has grown in each of the first seven months of the year and when this has occurred historically, it has led to further gains through year-end. Recent economic indicators are demonstrating slower and more stable U.S. domestic growth and that has inspired optimism for future earnings.

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Economy enjoys stable growth

Economic indicators are proving that consumers and businesses are fueling the economy with pent-up demand on spending. Consumers are reacting to the vaccinations with robust spending on vacations, furniture, automobiles and homes, while businesses are trying to ramp up production and services to meet the need. With GDP growing at 6.5% and now back to pre-pandemic levels, this pace is not sustainable and should decelerate in the coming quarters. This does not foreshadow a recession: the economy is returning to steady 2-3% sustainable growth with stable employment and lower inflation. GDP growth would have been stronger if supply chains, home building, and product delivery had not been suppressed by inventory and labor shortages.

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PLANNING YOUR RETIREMENT

As retirement approaches, experts say, maximize your income by eliminating unnecessary expenses. Carefully review how you spend your money and see if you can reduce or cut certain expenses.

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WITH INTEREST RATES LOW, GROWTH STOCKS ARE COMING BACK.

Welcome to the Roaring ’20s

The S&P 500 Index gained 8.1% for the second quarter and 14.4% year-to-date despite concerns over Federal Reserve policy, fiscal spending and the spreading delta variant of COVID. Most investors see an improving economy with continued low interest rates being positive for corporate earnings. Small cap stocks, which are mostly leveraged to an improving domestic economy, are leading the market higher. The best performing sectors were energy, financial, healthcare, and materials as value and cyclical companies are perceived to have more inflation-induced pricing power. The reflationary and cyclical trade into financials, industrials, basic materials, and travel-related companies is beginning to wane, however, as earnings expectations are set astronomically high. This will make the second quarter earnings period more challenging for those companies that miss high expectations. In addition, most commodity prices appear to have peaked. Growth stocks, particularly large cap technology stocks that are known for more consistent earnings, are coming back into favor as interest rates remain lower for longer.

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Investable funds fuel financial markets

The S&P 500 index was up slightly in the month of May due to growing investor confidence in higher 2021 corporate revenues and earnings. With the receding COVID pandemic, consumers and businesses are emerging from social-distancing protocols and accelerating their spending. This strong growth in demand for goods has led to inventory shortages in many cases. Temporary delivery delays for raw materials and components are constraining global growth. Employment is expanding, however, which means goods manufacturing should improve and service industries should gain momentum.

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Revenue accelerating in some sectors

Most first-quarter corporate earnings reports have been meeting or beating expectations and this has raised the confidence that equity valuations are not excessive. The S&P 500 Index is trading at a reasonable 22x Price to Earnings multiple, but earnings estimates are being actively raised by analysts who see stronger revenue and profit growth in the second half of 2021. Financial, industrial, energy and basic materials companies are showing considerable revenue acceleration, expense control and order backlogs. Earnings from Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Qualcomm were all above expectation and guidance was strong for the year ahead. Both growth and value stocks are rising, but the pervasive microchip shortage is constraining production at some cyclical companies like Caterpillar and Ford. Small Cap and Mid Cap stocks continue to lead the market, while the service sector, especially travel and leisure, is gradually recovering.

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Cryptocurrency Becoming Less Cryptic

The creation of cryptocurrencies or digital currencies such as Bitcoin has bankers, financiers and governments pondering the long-term potential economic and political ramifications for the future. While the increasing use of digital currencies demonstrates the power of a secure, secretive payment transfer system, it also has created a loophole from government control.

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Federal Spending Strengthens U.S. Dollar

The S&P 500 Index grew 5.8% in the first quarter in response to the massive fiscal stimulus and the anticipation of a significant economic rebound. The recent passage of the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package added to the previous five major stimulus bills totaling over $5.2 trillion. Lawmakers as well as the Federal Reserve have responded dramatically to the COVID pandemic flooding the market with liquidity and the markets responded positively. The COVID-relief money flooding into depository institutions is being used for consumption and investment and helping corporate earnings rebound quickly.

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Economic recovery is underway

With the completion of the fourth quarter of 2020 corporate earnings releases, investors are monitoring daily COVID headlines, rising interest rates, and the potential for a new stimulus program. Corporate earnings were mostly better than expected and guidance for the year ahead was surprisingly strong.

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Investment Market Update, Q3 2020

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq index had wonderful performance during the third quarter, with returns of 8.5% and 11%, respectively. However, pre-election politics obstructing a new federal stimulus package and an escalation in COVID cases caused both indexes to decline in September. The political stalemate over aid to bailout states and cities is dampening confidence. A multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package will eventually be implemented that should focus support for small businesses and unemployed individuals. The interminable wait for a COVID vaccine is also weighing on the markets and suppressing economic activity. The year-end target for a vaccine is unlikely, although a “cocktail” of antibiotics and steroids has shown to help patients recover, so the management of the virus is becoming more tenable. With the health crisis reduced, we should expect a gradual return to a stable growth economy.

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