It’s hard to believe we’re a few months away from turning the calendar to 2022. While this time of year can feel like it goes quickly, take a moment to enjoy fall: the weather cools, the leaves start to change, playoff baseball begins, and football season kicks off.
We had our fair share of headlines in August, most notably the tragic and disheartening scenes in Afghanistan. Our thoughts go out to the families of the brave American military personnel who served throughout the conflict, as well as those Afghans affected by the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.
We’ve seen a steady climb in new COVID-19 cases caused by the spread of the highly-infectious Delta variant (the story we all hoped would be over by now). We witnessed the impact the COVID-19 virus made on the US economy last year; hopefully, we avoid similar fallout in the future.
House Democrats hurdled internal divisionsto clear a path to pass the $3.5 trillion budget bill, including $1 trillion spending allocation to address the United States’ deteriorating infrastructure. On the one hand, an independent analysis by Moody’s Analytics estimates the infrastructure bill alone could create 650,000 jobs at an average salary of $70,000 per job. On the other hand, the spending adds to an already-bloated federal balance sheet that hasn’t been balanced since the Clinton Administration.
Meanwhile, US stocks cut through the noise to find new highs, propelled by a buoyant earnings season. According to FactSet, 88% of S&P 500 companies reported actual revenues above estimates, which is greater than the five-year average of 65%. In other words, US publicly-traded companies made more money than expected last quarter, which is always a good thing for investors.
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The stock market continued its run of positive performance in August, with all three major indexes finishing the month higher.
On a sector basis, Financial, Energy, and Communication Services stocks have each returned more than 30% year-to-date, outperforming the broad S&P 500 index. Consumer Staples, Utility, and Consumer Discretionary stocks made up some ground during the month and remain positive on the year. Of the eleven sub-sectors in the S&P 500, only Energy stocks posted a negative return in August.
Bonds continue to struggle in 2021, with all three indexes producing negative returns in August. Corporate bonds remain positive for the year on the strength of July’s performance.
Labor Market Improving
Headline labor market data continues to improve. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% in July, a marked improvement after ticking upward in June. Labor participation increased month-over-month as well as more Americans return to work. Both measures continue to lag their pre-pandemic levels.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, consensus hasn’t been reached regarding the impact of 25 states eliminating enhanced unemployment benefits. According to the article, “[s]tates that ended enhanced federal unemployment benefits early have so far seen about the same job growth as states that continued offering the pandemic-related extra aid."
In the same article, Goldman Sachs offered a contradictory opinion, finding that eliminating the enhanced unemployment benefits sooner would have contributed to more robust labor participation.
In a speech from the Federal Reserve’s annual retreat in Jackson Hole, WY, Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated his wait-and-see approach to raising interest rates and “tapering” the central bank’s asset purchases. Historically, rising interest rates suggest a lower total return for the bond market and can potentially lead to higher volatility in stocks. The tapering language bears watching as markets reacted negatively after the Fed modestly reduced its balance sheet in 2014 and 2018.
Regarding the speech, Kathy Jones, chief fixed-income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, remarked to Reuters, "we're still going to have very easy policy for a year probably and that's good for risk assets.”
Parsing the Fed’s every move is something of a parlor game on Wall Street. We maintain our view that a balanced portfolio diversified amongst high quality assets can help clients meet their financial objectives.
If you have questions about your portfolio, please schedule some time with our office!
Some good news out of Afghanistan:
As Taliban extremists reclaimed Afghanistan, an Oklahoma mom took matters into her own hands to rescue the Afghani all-girl robotics team and whisk them safety.
Thought for the Month
Learn more about Marc Benioff.
Dow Jones Industrial Average: The Dow Jones Industrial Average® (The Dow®), is a price-weighted measure of 30 U.S. blue-chip companies. The index covers all industries except transportation and utilities.
Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Total Return Index: The index is designed to track the performance of real estate investment trusts (REIT) and other companies that invest directly or indirectly in real estate through development, management, or ownership, including property agencies.
NASDAQ Composite: The NASDAQ Composite is a market-cap weighted index of all issues listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. It is heavily weighted towards the technology sector.
S&P 500 Bond Index: The S&P 500® Bond Index is designed to be a corporate-bond counterpart to the S&P 500, which is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large-cap U.S. equities. Market value-weighted, the index seeks to measure the performance of U.S. corporate debt issued by constituents in the iconic S&P 500.
S&P 500 Consumer Discretionary: The S&P 500® Consumer Discretionary comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS® consumer discretionary sector.
S&P 500 Consumer Staples: The S&P 500® Consumer Staples comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS® consumer staples sector.
S&P 500 Energy: The S&P 500® Energy comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS® energy sector.
S&P 500 Financials: The S&P 500® Financials comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS® financials sector.
S&P 500 Index: The S&P 500® index is a market-cap weighted index of the largest 500 companies headquartered in the United States. The index covers approximately 80% of available market capitalization.
S&P 500 Utilities: The S&P 500® Utilities comprises those companies included in the S&P 500 that are classified as members of the GICS® utilities sector.
S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index: The S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is designed to measure the performance of publicly issued U.S. dollar denominated investment-grade debt. The index is part of the S&P AggregateTM Bond Index family and includes U.S. treasuries, quasi-governments, corporates, taxable municipal bonds, foreign agency, supranational, federal agency, and non-U.S. debentures, covered bonds, and residential mortgage pass-throughs.
S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Index: The S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Index is a broad, comprehensive, market-value weighted index that seeks to measure the performance of the U.S. Treasury Bond market.
Consumer Prices - CPI: Consumer prices (CPI) are a measure of prices paid by consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The yearly (or monthly) growth rates represent the inflation rate.
PCE (headline and core): PCE deflators (or personal consumption expenditure deflators) track overall price changes for goods and services purchased by consumers. Deflators are calculated by dividing the appropriate nominal series by the corresponding real series and multiplying by 100.
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A portion of this material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite, LLC, is not affiliated with the named representative, broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.
Index performance does not reflect the deduction of any fees and expenses, and if deducted, performance would be reduced. Indexes are unmanaged and investors are not able to invest directly into any index. Past performance cannot guarantee future results.
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