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Weekly Update Archives

Weekly Market Update for October 11, 2019

by JM Hanley

The Dow was up on Friday, rising 320 points to close at 26,817. For the week, the Dow was up 0.9% (SP500 +0.6%) and year-to-date is now up 15.0% (SP500 +18.5%). The yield on the 10-year Treasury (an important interest-rate indicator) rose twenty basis points, closing at 1.73%.  The price of crude oil rose 4% this week to $55 a barrel – up 21% YTD.

News related to the trade dispute with China remains the most significant source of day-to-day volatility for US equities. The week seemed to begin with the usual regimen of saber-rattling.  But about mid-week, news broke that China would be satisfied with a “partial” deal if the US would forswear further tariff increases. The Administration reciprocated with licenses permitting US firms to supply Chinese telecom giant Huawei. Today the two sides apparently agreed to negotiate a deal in phases; the first will address intellectual property theft and Chinese agricultural purchases. The next round of tariffs, scheduled to come into effect next Tuesday, has been postponed.

Another positive political development came across the Atlantic. London and the European Union seem to have made substantial progress over the last few days on a Brexit deal. At the outset of the week, another postponement, and months more of uncertainty, seemed most likely. Brexit has never posed much fundamental risk to US equities, but the disruption caused by a volatile departure would likely be felt.

Economic data was less positive.  Inflation, excluding food and energy, was close to zero last month, which was less than expected. Too little inflation can restrain economic growth. The core goods category (which encompasses many expensive household items) pushed inflation up over the summer but down in September. Used vehicle prices showed a big drop. The less volatile cost of services, like rent and housing, increased at a steady clip.

Still-sluggish inflation makes it easier for the Fed to follow through on a plan to cut interest rates at the end of this month. Material improvements in the trade dispute (a major concern of the Fed’s members) could offset this. Some Fed members appear to be getting nervous about cutting rates in the midst of an economic expansion, judging by the most recent meeting minutes. Chairman Powell is apparently not among them. Powell announced that the Fed would resume purchasing short-term Treasury bills to resolve problems that have arisen in overnight bank lending markets. This policy bears a striking resemblance to quantitative easing, one of the “extraordinary measures” the Fed undertook in the aftermath of the recession to stimulate growth. Its reappearance in the midst of a mature recovery underscores the uncertainty currently hanging over monetary policy.

Third quarter earnings reports will come in force next week. Most notable will be those of the big banks at the end of the week. Earnings will be market moving.

*The information contained in this commentary is not investment advice for any person. It is presented only for informational purposes to assist in explaining factors that may have had an impact in the past or may have an impact in the future on client portfolios or composites. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the firm on this date and are subject to change. Included information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing materials are accurate or complete. Clients or prospective clients should contact Ulland Investment Advisors for individualized information prior to deciding to participate in any portfolio or making any investment decision. Ulland Investment Advisors does not provide tax advice. All clients are strongly urged to consult with their tax advisors regarding any potential investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results; there is always a possibility of loss.

Weekly Market Update for October 4, 2019

by JM Hanley

The Dow was up on Friday, rising 373 points to close at 26,574. For the week, the Dow was down 0.9% (SP500 -0.3%) and year-to-date is now up 13.9% (SP500 +17.8%). The yield on the 10-year Treasury (an important interest-rate indicator) fell sixteen basis points, closing at 1.53%.  The price of crude oil fell 5% this week to $53 a barrel – up 16% YTD.

There was little news from the trade front this week. The Administration dismissed talk it would bar Chinese firms from listing on US exchanges. Investor are awaiting the resumption of high-level negotiations next Thursday in Washington. A more proximate source of political risk to equity prices has come closer to home. The stocks of health insurers have suffered as more liberal candidates have gained ground in the Democratic primary. Some “Medicare for All” plans propose to eliminate private health insurance. The plans face resistance from many Democrats in Congress as well as Republicans.  The financial outlook for health insurers remains otherwise healthy.

Domestic economic data pushed the market down early in the week and then reversed most of those losses later on. On Tuesday, an important tracker of manufacturing, which had been expected to rebound after a poor reading last month, declined instead. The report showed that employment, orders for new exports, and total production all went down. Two days later, the service sector equivalent was also worse than expected, and similarly showed feeble capital investment and hiring. Respondents cited concerns about tariffs, economic growth, and a lack of available labor.

Counterintuitively, this second draught of bad news had a positive impact on equity prices.  A deteriorating economic prognosis increases the odds that the Fed will cut interest rates , and could encourage trade negotiators to strike a deal with China. Today’s jobs report bolstered that line of reasoning. There were fewer new hires than expected, though payroll estimates for August were revised upwards and unemployment touched a fifty-year low of 3.5%. Wages were sluggish: hourly pay didn’t increase at all from last month, but has risen three percent since last year. The report offered reassuring news about the health of the economy but weak wage growth could placate the Fed’s concerns about inflation. The odds that the Fed will cut interest rates by a quarter point at the end of the month have risen to 78%, from 49% last week.

Monday marked the last day of the third quarter. The S&P 500 inched up 1.7% for the quarter in the face of uncertainty related to trade policy. Earnings for the index grew about 5% through the first half of the year, which was better than expected. Analysts currently expect third-quarter earnings will drop below the third quarter of last year. Earnings season will begin in earnest with the big banks the week after next.

*The information contained in this commentary is not investment advice for any person. It is presented only for informational purposes to assist in explaining factors that may have had an impact in the past or may have an impact in the future on client portfolios or composites. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the firm on this date and are subject to change. Included information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing materials are accurate or complete. Clients or prospective clients should contact Ulland Investment Advisors for individualized information prior to deciding to participate in any portfolio or making any investment decision. Ulland Investment Advisors does not provide tax advice. All clients are strongly urged to consult with their tax advisors regarding any potential investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results; there is always a possibility of loss.

Weekly Market Update for September 27, 2019

by JM Hanley

The Dow was down on Friday, falling 71 points to close at 26,820. For the week, the Dow was down 0.4% (SP500 -1.0%) and year-to-date is now up 15.0% (SP500 +18.2%). The yield on the 10-year Treasury (an important interest-rate indicator) fell three basis points, closing at 1.69%.  The price of crude oil fell 4% this week to $56 a barrel – up 23% YTD

As investors await the next rounds of trade negotiations, tensions seemed to be thawing this week.  China has resumed purchases of US pork and soybeans after the US agreed to postpone the tranche of tariffs scheduled for October 1st.  Meanwhile, markets were happy to see that the Chinese delegation will reportedly include a Vice Premier – a sign Beijing is serious about making a deal – though his power may have been curtailed.

The good news was disrupted today, when the Administration said it would consider limiting Americans’ ability to invest in China. The Chinese Minister subsequently responded in a hawkish speech. After a few months of escalation, trade negotiations seem to be settling into a period of equilibrium. A deal seems far off. Most important for the market will be the round of tariffs scheduled to come into effect December 15. With the tariffs implemented so far, firms have managed to find alternatives to Chinese sources to avoid raising prices. That will be more difficult for the duties scheduled to come into effect in mid-December.

Economic data this week depicted an economy in which growth has decelerated. Consumer confidence fell, worse than expected, last month. Data from the Richmond Fed showed that manufacturing orders and shipments had weakened, though employment remained robust. Second quarter GDP growth wasn’t revised – it remained at 2% – as higher estimates of government spending and exports offset lower estimates of consumer spending and business investment in capital equipment. This was unsurprising in light of weak consumer confidence.

The lone exception to weak economic trends was in the housing market, which has seen an upswing since the end of July thanks to lower interest rates. New and existing home sales rebounded more quickly than expected in August, and pending home sales also look good. Refinancing has been robust ever since the Fed cut rates. More importantly, one index showed that home price increases have slowed. Starter home prices, unaffordable to debt-burdened first-time buyers, have been an impediment to a sustained housing boom. If builders find a way to add more affordable housing supply, that trend could reverse.

Monday is the last day of the third quarter. Earnings will follow shortly thereafter. The direction of earnings and forecasts for the fourth quarter will have a big influence on the market, as will the tone of comments as the trade discussions with China approach.

*The information contained in this commentary is not investment advice for any person. It is presented only for informational purposes to assist in explaining factors that may have had an impact in the past or may have an impact in the future on client portfolios or composites. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the firm on this date and are subject to change. Included information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing materials are accurate or complete. Clients or prospective clients should contact Ulland Investment Advisors for individualized information prior to deciding to participate in any portfolio or making any investment decision. Ulland Investment Advisors does not provide tax advice. All clients are strongly urged to consult with their tax advisors regarding any potential investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results; there is always a possibility of loss.

Weekly Market Update for September 20, 2019

by JM Hanley

The Dow was down on Friday, falling 160 points to close at 26,935. For the week, the Dow was down 0.5% (SP500 -0.7%) and year-to-date is now up 15.5% (SP500 +19.4%). The yield on the 10-year Treasury (an important interest-rate indicator) fell eighteen basis points, closing at 1.72%.

The price of crude oil rose 6% this week to $58 a barrel – up 28% YTD. Prices rose precipitously early in the week after Iranian-linked militias attacked Saudi Arabian refineries, precipitating the largest known disruption in oil production. Prices settled later on after the Saudi oil ministry said that lost production could be brought back on-line at the end of the month. Tensions between the two Middle Eastern powers remain high.

At their much-anticipated September meeting, the Fed cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, as expected. More surprising was the final vote: five participants, two shy of a majority, voted against the cut. Excluding some volatile industries, inflation has been higher than the Fed’s target since its last meeting.  That may explain the opponents’ change of tune. Markets had previously anticipated the Fed would cut rates again in October, but now more than half say rates should be left unchanged. At least one more cut is expected between now and December, however. Chairman Jerome Powell emphasized his willingness to aggressively cut rates during an economic downturn, so market reaction was sanguine.

Low rates have already provided a fillip to a previously lackluster housing market. Existing home sales rose about a percent last month; Wall Street had expected a decline. “Starts” on the construction of new homes were also better than expected. The week also brought hopeful signs in manufacturing. Industrial production rose by half a percent, with business equipment purchases particularly strong.

China’s latest trade delegation arrived in the US this week. The group mostly consists of low-level emissaries preparing the ground for more consequential officials arriving next month. Bilateral discussions seemed to largely go as expected, though the deputies returned home early. Trade uncertainty remains the market’s most significant worry.

*The information contained in this commentary is not investment advice for any person. It is presented only for informational purposes to assist in explaining factors that may have had an impact in the past or may have an impact in the future on client portfolios or composites. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the firm on this date and are subject to change. Included information has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing materials are accurate or complete. Clients or prospective clients should contact Ulland Investment Advisors for individualized information prior to deciding to participate in any portfolio or making any investment decision. Ulland Investment Advisors does not provide tax advice. All clients are strongly urged to consult with their tax advisors regarding any potential investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results; there is always a possibility of loss.

 

Ulland Investment Advisors

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