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Economy Outlook: Recalibrating for the Road Ahead

A 2024 Midyear OutlookWith the midpoint of 2024 here, we are taking a look back at the start of the year while simultaneously looking ahead to what’s on the horizon.  Over the next few weeks, we will be offering fresh insights into the economic and market landscape.  This includes important topics such as the economy, the stock market, the bond market, geopolitics, the election, and more.This week, we kick things off with an economy review.We Have a Delayed Landing, But Still a LandingRecent data on refinancing activity provides a clue on why the economy has experienced a delayed landing. The housing market often explains a lot of what is happening in other sectors of the economy, and this time is no different. Roughly one-third of mortgages were refinanced in the quarters following the pandemic recession of 2020.¹ And because of 2020's extremely low mortgage rates, these homeowners lowered their monthly payments, thereby increasing their disposable income. Other homeowners took advantage of healthy home equity and took cash out to support more spending. The incredible impact of such historic refinancing activity caught many, including us, by surprise. In addition to the oft-mentioned excess savings from stimulus and temporarily curtailed spending, improved…

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Stocks Benefit From Solid Fundamental Foundation

April showers brought May flowers as markets placed greater importance on economic growth and corporate profits than the “higher for longer” interest rate messages from the Federal Reserve (Fed). In fact, the S&P 500 ended May above where it ended March. So, as you prepare for summer vacations, how much should you worry about your stock portfolios?First, based on history, stocks tend to do just fine between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the S&P 500 rising 1.8% on average between holidays with gains 70% of the time (source: Bespoke). Also consider stocks tend to do better the rest of the year when they rise in May, with an average June–December gain of 5.4% with positive returns 73% of the time. Seasonality is not particularly worrisome.Investing involves much more than seasonality. Looking at the U.S. economy, slower growth in the first quarter of about 1.3% is expected to be followed by a slight pickup in the second quarter. Consumer spending did slow in April as inflation remains elevated and may slow further now that excess savings from the pandemic have generally been spent. However, business investment — particularly in artificial intelligence — is helping pick up the slack. The Fed’s…

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Earnings Are Doing Their Part: Exploring Q1 Earnings

The first quarter earnings season is largely in the books, and it was excellent. In fact, S&P 500 earnings per share (EPS) would have been up double digits in the quarter if not for a big loss Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) absorbed in an acquisition. Even with that nearly three-point drag from the drugmaker, a nearly 7% increase in earnings — the biggest since the first quarter of 2022 — is impressive. Big tech strength was again the primary driver, and estimates impressively rose.Impressive NumbersOn April 8, 2024, we predicted three to four percentage points of upside to the then-consensus estimate of 3%. It turns out that estimate will be right on the money, with earnings growth tracking near 7%. That sounds good, and it is, but it could’ve easily been quite a bit better. If not for BMY, that number would be about 9.5%. Remove biotech and pharmaceuticals and S&P 500 EPS would be up 10.5%, with about 20 S&P 500 companies still left to report.That said, all results count, as there are always big drags from somewhere. But that doesn’t change the fact that earnings are currently growing at a solid mid-to-high-single-digit pace with a realistic opportunity for…

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Volatility & Understanding The Ever-Changing Market Narrative

Wall Street narratives can change relatively quickly as investors translate new information into speculation over future events. One of the widely publicized narratives at the beginning of the year was the ‘Goldilocks’ economy. This theme was used to describe an ideal economic state, where inflation is not too hot and growth is not too cold, analogous to the porridge that was “just right” in the popular Goldilocks and the Three Bears children’s story. Stocks tend to do well against this backdrop, evidenced by the S&P 500’s 10.2% price gain in the first quarter — a rally that also included 22 record highs and a maximum drawdown of only 1.7%.On Main Street, narratives often change with the seasons. I was reminded of this when watching snowfall quickly turn into rain during a volatile week of weather in the Midwest. Inevitably, as the narrative goes, April showers bring May flowers, at least that is the hope. With markets, hotter-than-expected inflation data underpinned a volatile few weeks of price action and delivered the proverbial April showers, driving the S&P 500 down 5.5% this month, as of April 19.Akin to spring, there is also hope for May flowers blooming in the form of a market rebound.…

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Intern Spotlight: Meet Matt Tuley

In our latest Capital Planning Spotlight, we spoke with our newest intern, Matt Tuley.What did we learn? Well Matt has a great book recommendation, a go-to sport, and was drawn to one specific subject in school.Read on to find out more!What’s the best book you’ve read recently? I recently enjoyed reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton G. Malkiel. This is a wonderful introductory book on stock markets and makes many investing concepts easier to understand.Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies? I enjoy spending my free time on the golf course. I had the pleasure of spending two summers working at a golf course during college. I love the competition and free-mindedness while being on the course.What was your favorite subject in school?My favorite subject in school was Mathematics. I have enjoyed working with numbers from a young age and this ultimately led to myself seeking a job in Finance.

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Outlook For U.S. Economy Continues To Brighten

Let's take a look at the latest news with the economy, highlighted by several bright spots.Strong Job Momentum Has SurprisedIn the latest employment report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued revisions to the prior 12 months, and it turns out that firms added more jobs in 2023 than originally reported. As last year ended, investors thought businesses added 2.7 million jobs, but after revisions, businesses added roughly 3.1 million.Job Growth Healthier Than Originally ReportedThe stronger employment figures tell us that businesses and households have stronger momentum going into 2024, and therefore, we believe it is prudent to increase our forecasts for economic growth. Headwinds remain but on an annual basis, we believe the U.S. and global economy is poised for a bit stronger growth this year than originally forecasted last year.It’s More Than Just JobsAnother factor that suggests the economy could move through this year with fewer headaches is the improving credit conditions. The latest Senior Loan Officer Survey tells us credit supply and credit demand are getting into better balance. Financial conditions improved in recent months as fewer banks tightened credit conditions in Q4 because fewer firms were pessimistic about demand. As investors digest the experience of loan…

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As Goes January, So Goes the Year

After a relatively slow start, the S&P 500 rallied during the back half of January and closed out the month with a gain of 1.6%. Buying pressure was relatively narrow, as declining shares on the index modestly outpaced advancers. Similar to 2023, a few mega-caps did most of the heavy lifting. Shares of NVIDIA (NVDA), Microsoft (MSFT), and Meta (META) contributed 80% of the S&P 500’s total return during the month.From a historical perspective, a positive January has been a bullish sign for stocks. Yale Hirsch, creator of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, first discovered this seasonal pattern back in 1972, which he called the January Barometer and coined its popular tagline of ‘As goes January, so goes this year.’As highlighted in the chart below, the popular Wall Street maxim has stood the test of time. Since 1950, the S&P 500 has posted an average annual return of 16.8% during years that included a positive January. Furthermore, the index generated positive returns during these years 89% of the time. In contrast, when the index traded lower in January, annual returns dropped to -1.7%, with only 50% of occurrences yielding positive results.S&P 500 January Barometer (1950–2023)Source: LPL Research, Bloomberg 02/01/24Disclosures: Past performance…

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Will Shipping Disruptions Alter Fed Plans?

Shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could temporarily impact goods prices but not at the same magnitude as during the pandemic. Tight financial conditions, slowing economic growth, and a disinflationary trend all support the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) pivot away from tightening monetary policy to easing in the new year. Despite these longer term trends, rates possibly got ahead of themselves in recent weeks, exhibiting higher volatility.Supply Chain Shocks Not the Same Magnitude as Pandemic OnesThe global economy experienced multiple shocks in recent times from the Russian attacks on Ukraine, atrocities in the Middle East, the seating of an unconventional president in Argentina, and most recently, a crisis in the Red Sea. Yet, markets and the economy remain surprisingly resilient. Could the recent challenges in inter-continental shipping contribute to a resurgence of inflation and hamper the Fed’s plans this year?During the depth of the pandemic, shipping lanes backed up due to understaffed ports and insufficient supply of intermodal containers. Additionally, activity at production plants was hampered from governmental restraints and inconsistent labor supply. Investors often overlook the length of time for the backlogs to clear — ports didn’t return to more normal levels until the middle of 2022.1 The lack of supply…

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Outlook | The Geopolitics Landscape

We can’t look back in history without seeing eras marked by war and conflict. With the onset of the war in the Middle East, geopolitical concerns have broadened from the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict and implications for a wider confrontation along the NATO border. The recent military threat imposed by Hamas has also brought the Middle East back into the spotlight, with questions around how long the Israeli/Hamas conflict will last. From an investment standpoint, any geopolitical tension has the potential to affect the markets. There’s also an impact on commodities, meaning we’ll want to keep a closer eye on those asset classes producing goods in these regions of conflict.Despite rising tensions and uncertainty across the globe, investors should keep a long-term orientation and favor a well-diversified portfolio. We believe that diversification across sectors, regions, and asset classes can help investors hedge against and make the most of volatile markets.TECHNOLOGY’S ROLE IN U.S.-CHINA RELATIONSDespite attempts to foster deeper commercial ties, the U.S. has two goals dominating its relations with China. The first goal is keeping China from acquiring advanced semiconductor technology that can be applied to its expanding military buildup. The second is establishing a U.S. domestic semiconductor supply chain infrastructure. Protectionism,…

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Outlook | Are Bonds Back to Normal?

For the first time in over 10 years, we’re seeing new growth opportunities in the fixed-income market. Some might say the turning point for bonds is a return to normal, one where investors can expect decent returns without the risk that comes with stocks. This is a key reason we believe investors can feel confident about bonds for 2024.RATES LEAD THE WAY U.S. Treasury yields moved higher in 2023 with the interest rate on the 30-year Treasury bond briefly trading above 5% for the first time since 2007. The steady increase in interest rates (which makes bond prices go down) hit the intermediate and longer-term Treasury bonds the hardest. There are several reasons we saw higher yields, but rates moved higher alongside a U.S. economy that continued to outperform expectations. As the U.S. economy continued to perform better than expected, interest rates went up, and the chances for a recession went down, which in turn led the Fed to stick to its “higher for longer” approach—rather than lowering rates to stave off a looming recession.As the economy has continued to be better than expected, we have witnessed some spikes in Treasury bond yields. While we think the 10-year Treasury yield…

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Planning for an unpredictable future can feel overwhelming, with so many decisions to make it can be hard to know if you're going to have enough money to support yourself through retirement.

In this guide, experts from the Capital Planning Team have simplified the 10 steps you can take, so that you can live a life without worry, sfe in the knowledge that your financial future is secure.