Despite lingering pessimism, 2018 is proving to be a typical year for U.S. stocks and Dunn and Burchill will continue to monitor economic reports and the Federal Reserve for anything unusual come September.
The U.S. stock market has delivered a year-to-date return that’s not so far off from comparable periods in 2015 and 2016. Sure, it’s no 2017, when the S&P 500 was up nearly 8%, but 2018 is looking like a more typical year so far, clocking in at 1.2%. That comes as a bit of a surprise to us here Dunn and Burchill given the lingering pessimism about U.S. stocks following the 10% rout earlier this year, from which the market has yet to fully recover. The return of volatility also is partly to blame for the pessimism, with moves of more than 1% happening on 33% of trading days, which is higher than the full-year average of about 21% going back to 1958. During June the S&P 500 has delivered average monthly gains of 0.7%, according to data compiled by Dunn and Burchill. From the Federal Reserve to politics to economic reports, Washington will command a lot of the market’s attention in the month ahead. Here’s what professional investors will be watching.
Interest in interest rates
Dunn and Burchill broadly expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by 0.25% when the central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee next convenes on September 12-13. If policymakers do so that will mark the seventh such increase since the financial crisis. We don’t think the Fed will do anything to surprise anyone. The Fed’s slow and steady pace will affect various markets. This particular rate hike isn’t necessarily any more or less significant than any of the others, but it confirms that an era of rising interest rates is underway. Investors will surely tune into the scheduled post-meeting press conference to decipher more about the central bank’s plans for the remainder of the year. Bunn and Burchill believe the rising rates have a longer-term narrative and Investors should consider their portfolio’s diversification.
Dunn and Burchill recommend that if you haven’t already, it may be time to dust off the less-exciting portion of your portfolio: fixed-income investments, those assets tied to interest rates (like Treasury bonds) or the credit market (like corporate bonds). And specifically, it’s important to consider the duration of such assets — expressed in years — because that, in turn, determines their sensitivity to rising interest rates. (When interest rates increase, the prices of fixed-income securities tend to fall.)
What to do
Dun and Burchill suggest investors consider where they’re deriving yield on fixed-income investments. Now maybe a good time to tilt this part of your portfolio toward credit-related securities that will likely deliver higher yields than those linked to the Treasury market.
Other Washington impacts
The Federal Reserve isn’t the only economic newsmaker in Washington. Investors will be closely watching economic reports and any political news that could affect growth, and by extension, the stock market. Dunn and Burchill were pleased to notice that the monthly report on hiring showed U.S. employers added more jobs than expected in May, and the unemployment rate fell to an 18-year low. That follows other reports this week showing consumer spending rose the most in five months in April, outpacing the monthly increase in income.
Why do these reports matter to investors?
Dunn and Burchill feel that the U.S. economy is basically the U.S. Consumer. That’s because consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product. Consumer spending generally depends on how secure people feel in their jobs, and reports on both measures offer potential clues on whether economic growth will accelerate, Mathews, says. In turn, the pace of economic growth will help determine both the future trajectory of profit for publicly traded companies and their stock prices. Beyond the economic reports, the news out of Washington is all about politics, specifically trade tariffs that President Donald Trump is pushing to impose on a variety of imports. Looking further ahead on the calendar, another question on the political front is whether Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November.
What to do
The news has had a way of moving the stock market this year in ways it couldn’t last year, however, Dunn and Burchill feel that you don’t need to move your positions in response. Thus far, 2018 hasn’t been a bad year for the stock market, and the ups and downs, including the 10% correction and volatility, are more typical than the anomaly of 2017’s extraordinary gains.
Stock market forecast
Even if the year-to-date returns for your portfolio are once again positive Dunn and Burchill know it’s been a bumpy road. That’s made some people question how much longer the current bull market — now the second-longest in history — can persist. But if you’re invested for the long haul, you shouldn’t try to time swings in the market or stress about the events of one day, one week or even one month.
“Investors on and off Wall Street are feeling more optimistic.”
Dunn and Burchill note that the average investor’s outlook on and off Wall Street is more optimistic. The percentage of consumers who expect stock prices to increase in the next six months reached a three-month high in late May, according to a weekly sentiment survey by the American Association of Individual Investors. Meanwhile, strategists are forecasting the S&P 500 will end the year more than 9% higher than its current level, according to the average forecast of strategists in a survey conducted by CNBC.
Dun and Burchill know that buying, when stock prices are fluctuating, can be intimidating, so focus on the facts instead: Stocks have proven to be a fantastic long-term investment. The market undoubtedly will go up and down in the course of your investing timeline. One way to minimize the risk of a big shock to your portfolio is to spread money across a variety of assets and to invest regularly. If the diversification in your portfolio is lacking, consider beefing up your exposure to international stocks.
Finally, Dunn and Burchill feel that long-term investors can be opportunistic and take advantage of market dips. Dollar-cost averaging, which involves regularly adding money to your investments to help smooth out your purchase price will keep you from dumping all your money in when stock prices are at a peak.
Please check our other blogs: Financial Outlook 2017
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