Adrian A. Hedwig
Financial Advisor, CUSO Financial Services, L.P.*
Available at all Salal Credit Union branches
The Markets (as of market close September 28, 2018)
The third quarter proved to be very strong for domestic stocks. July saw the major benchmark indexes listed here enjoy robust gains, led by the large caps of the Dow and S&P 500. Global stocks also rebounded in July, with the Global Dow surging 3.76% by the end of July. Favorable economic indicators and encouraging corporate earnings reports were enough to quell investor concerns over the continuing saga that is the back-and-forth trade tariffs between the United States and China.
August saw stocks continue to push ahead. Several of the benchmark indexes listed here reached record highs during the month. Both the Dow and S&P 500 posted monthly gains of 2.16% and 3.03%, respectively. However, tech stocks and small caps made notable monthly gains. The Nasdaq increased by almost 6.0%, while the Russell 2000 eclipsed 4.0%. Corporate earnings continued to soar on the heels of corporate tax cuts, consumer spending, and global growth.
Toward the end of September, a new round of reciprocal tariffs between the United States and China kicked in as it appears neither economic giant is ready to flinch. The United States imposed an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, prompting China to assess $60 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. products. This follows each country’s initial volley of $50 billion in tariffs on their respective imports. As a result, the benchmark indexes listed here produced a mixed bag of returns for the month. The large caps of the Dow and S&P 500 posted gains, as did the Global Dow, which rose a strong 1.50% for September. However, the Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 fell from their August end-of-month values.
For the third quarter, each of the indexes listed here posted solid gains, led by the large caps of the Dow and the S&P 500. The tech-heavy Nasdaq continued its strong showing while the small caps of the Russell 2000 posted moderate quarterly gains. Prices for 10-year Treasuries dropped by the end of the quarter, pushing yields higher by 20 basis points. Crude oil prices closed the quarter at about $73.53 per barrel by the end of September, $0.72 per barrel lower than prices at the close of the second quarter. Gold closed the quarter at roughly $1,195.20, noticeably lower than its $1,254.20 price at the end of June. Regular gasoline, which was $2.833 on the 25th of June, inched higher to $2.844 on September 24.
As of September 28
Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.
Last Month’s Economic News
- Employment: Total employment rose by 201,000 in August after adding 147,000 (revised) new jobs in July. The average monthly gain over the last 12 months is 196,000. Notable employment gains for the month occurred in professional and business services (53,000), health care (33,000), and wholesale trade (22,000). The unemployment rate was unchanged for the month at 3.9% (4.4% in August 2017). The number of unemployed persons fell to 6.2 million (7.1 million unemployed in August 2017). The labor participation rate was relatively unchanged at 62.7%. The employment-population ratio decreased 0.2 percentage point to 60.3%. The average workweek in August was unchanged at 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.10 to $27.16. Over the last 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen $0.77, or 2.9%.
- FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee met in late September and raised the target rate range 25 basis points to 2.00%-2.25%. This is the highest rate since April 2008. There is also the likelihood that another 25 basis point increase is on tap for December, with the possibility of three more hikes coming next year.
- GDP/budget:The second-quarter gross domestic product showed the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 4.2%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The first-quarter GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.2%. According to the report, consumer spending surged, expanding at a rate of 3.8% (0.5% in the first quarter). Net exports expanded by 9.3%. Imports fell 0.6%, while government spending grew by 2.5% (1.5% in the first quarter). The government deficit sits at roughly $898 billion through August — an increase of almost $224 billion, or 33.3%, over the same period last fiscal year. The deficit increased by $137 billion in August over July. Through 11 months of the fiscal year, individual tax receipts are up 7.0% while corporate tax receipts are down 30.4%.
- Inflation/consumer spending: Inflationary pressures have remained weak while consumer spending continues to be strong. Prices for consumer goods and services rose only 0.1% in August, the same mark reached in July. Core consumer prices, a tracker of inflationary trends, showed no increase following July’s 0.2% gain. Core prices (excluding food and energy) have increased 2.0% over the last 12 months. Consumer spending climbed 0.3% in August after jumping 0.4% in July. Consumer income (pre-tax and after-tax) rose 0.3% for the month.
- The Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% in August after increasing 0.2% in July. Over the last 12 months ended in August, consumer prices are up 2.7%. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, climbed 0.1% for the month and are up 2.2% over the 12 months ended in August.
- According to the Producer Price Index, the prices companies receive for goods and services actually fell 0.1% in August after remaining unchanged in July from June. Producer prices have increased 2.8% over the 12 months ended in August. Prices less food and energy also dropped 0.1% in August from July, and are up 2.9% over the last 12 months.
- Housing: New home sales rose 3.5% in August after falling 1.7% in July. Sales are up 12.7% over the August 2017 estimate. New home prices fell in August. The median sales price of new houses sold in August was $320,200 ($328,700 in July). The August average sales price was $388,400 ($389,000 in July). Inventory rose to an estimated 6.1-month supply, slightly behind July’s 6.2 months. Sales of existing homes didn’t expand in August, but they didn’t slow down either, as they maintained their pace set in July. Year-over-year, existing home sales are down 1.5%. The August median price for existing homes was $264,800, down from $269,600 in July. Nevertheless, prices are up 4.6% from August 2017. Total housing inventory for existing homes for sale in August remained unchanged from July, representing a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace.
- Manufacturing:Industrial production advanced 0.4% in August, its third consecutive monthly increase. For the year, industrial production has advanced 4.9%. Manufacturing output increased 0.2% following a 0.3% increase in July. The output of utilities moved up 1.2% on the heels of a marginal 0.1% bump in July. The index for mining gained 0.7%. New orders for long-lasting durable goods, up two of the past three months, grew a robust 4.5% in August, following a 1.2% July decrease. Shipments jumped 0.8% and unfilled orders increased 0.9%, while inventories decreased 0.4%.
- Imports and exports:The advance report on international trade in goods revealed that the trade gap expanded in August by $3.8 billion, or nearly 5.0%, over July. The deficit for August was $75.8 billion compared with July’s deficit of $72.2 billion. August exports of goods fell 1.6%, while imports increased 0.7%. Prices for imported goods fell 0.6% in August after dropping 0.1% in July. Export prices decreased 0.1% for the month. Over the last 12 months ended in August, import prices are up 3.7%, while export prices have advanced 3.6%.
- International markets: Some global stocks have enjoyed a strong run of late. Japanese stocks have approached highs not seen since the early 1990s. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom all saw gains in their respective stock benchmarks. While stocks have flourished, tensions have risen between the United Kingdom and the European Union as they continue to hash out a Brexit deal. Throughout the past several months, the ever-escalating trade battle between the United States and China has weighed on investors around the globe. Toward the end of the month, Chinese stock benchmarks gained strength, possibly signaling investor apathy toward the potential impact of the trade war with the United States.
- Consumer confidence:Consumer confidence, as measured by The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, soared in September, nearing an 18-year high. Consumer confidence in present economic conditions grew, as did consumer expectations for continued economic growth.
Eye on the Month Ahead
The summer months proved full of volatility for stocks, as investors were inundated with negative rhetoric between the United States and several of its trade partners. The last quarter of the year is expected to bring much of the same. The Federal Open Market Committee meets twice more, in early November and mid-December, with the likelihood of at least one more interest rate increase on tap. The economy enjoyed robust growth during the second quarter, according to the gross domestic product. Will growth approach 4.0% in the last quarter of the year? If consumer spending continues to expand as it did during the summer months, economic expansion could equal or surpass third-quarter growth rate.
Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e. wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. The U.S. Dollar Index is a geometrically weighted index of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to six foreign currencies. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.
On the Road to Retirement, Beware of These Five Risks
On your journey to retirement, you’ll likely face many risks that have the potential to throw you off course. Following are five common challenges retirement investors face. Take some time now to review and understand them before your journey takes an unplanned detour.
- Traveling aimlessly
Setting out on an adventure without a definitive destination can be exciting, but probably not when it comes to saving for retirement. As you begin your retirement strategy, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is identifying a goal. While some people prefer to establish one big lump-sum accumulation amount — for example, $1 million or more — others find that type of number daunting. They might focus on how much their savings will need to generate each month during retirement — say, the equivalent of $5,000 in today’s dollars, for example. (“In today’s dollars” refers to the fact that inflation will likely increase your future income needs. These examples are for illustrative purposes only. They are not meant as investment advice.)
Regardless of the approach you follow, setting a goal may help you better focus your investment strategy. In order to set a realistic target, you’ll need to consider a number of factors — your desired lifestyle, pre-retirement income, health, Social Security benefits, any traditional pension benefits you or your spouse may be entitled to, and others. Examining your personal situation both now and in the future can help you determine how much you may need to accumulate.
- Investing too conservatively…
Another key to determining how much you may need to save on a regular basis is targeting an appropriate rate of return, or how much your contribution dollars may earn on an ongoing basis. Afraid of losing money, some retirement investors choose only the most conservative investments, hoping to preserve their hard-earned assets. However, investing too conservatively can be risky, too. If your investment dollars do not earn enough, you may end up with a far different retirement lifestyle than you had originally planned.
- …Or too aggressively
On the other hand, retirement investors striving for the highest possible returns might select investments that are too risky for their overall situations. Although you might consider investing at least some of your retirement portfolio in more aggressive investments to potentially outpace inflation, the amount you invest in such higher-risk vehicles should be based on a number of factors. Appropriate investments for your retirement savings mix are those that take into consideration your total savings goal, your time horizon (or how much time you have until retirement), and your ability to withstand changes in your account’s value. Would you be able to sleep at night if your portfolio lost 10%, 15%, even 20% of its overall value over a short time period? These are the types of scenarios you must consider when choosing an investment mix.
- Giving in to temptation
On the road to retirement, you will likely face many financial challenges as well — the unplanned need for a new car, an unexpected home repair, an unforeseen medical expense are just some examples.
During these trying times, your retirement savings may loom as a potential source of emergency funding. But think twice before tapping your retirement savings assets, particularly if your money is in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA. Consider that:
- Any dollars you remove from your portfolio will no longer be working for your future
- You may have to pay regular income taxes on distribution amounts that represent tax-deferred investment dollars and earnings
- If you’re under age 59½, you may have to pay an additional penalty tax of 10% to 25% (depending on the type of plan and other factors; some exceptions apply)
For these reasons, it’s best to carefully consider all of your options before using money earmarked for retirement.
- Prioritizing college saving over retirement
Many well-meaning parents may feel that saving for their children’s college education should be a higher priority than saving for their own retirement. “We can continue working, if needed,” or “our home will fund our retirement,” they may think. However, these can be very risky trains of thought. While no parent wants his or her children to take on a heavy debt burden to pay for education, loans are a common and realistic college-funding option — not so for retirement. If saving for both college and retirement seems impossible, consider speaking with a financial professional who can help you explore the variety of tools and options.
What is the federal funds rate?
The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other from their deposits at the Federal Reserve (the Fed), usually overnight, in order to meet federally mandated reserve requirements. Basically, if a bank is unable to meet its reserve requirements at the end of the day, it borrows money from a bank with extra reserves. The federal funds rate is what banks charge each other for overnight loans. This rate is referred to as the federal funds effective rate and is negotiated between borrowing and lending banks.
The Federal Open Market Committee sets a target for the federal funds rate. The Fed does not directly control consumer savings or credit rates directly; it can’t require that banks use the federal funds rate for loans. Instead, the Fed lowers the federal funds rate by buying government-backed securities (usually U.S. Treasuries) from banks, which adds to the banks’ reserves. Having excess reserves, banks will lower their lending rates for overnight loans in order to make some interest on the excess reserves. To raise rates, the Fed sells securities to banks, decreasing the banks’ reserves. If enough banks need to borrow to meet overnight reserve requirements, banks with extra reserves will raise their lending rates.
The federal funds rate serves as a benchmark for many short-term rates, such as savings accounts, money market accounts, and short-term bonds. Banks also base the prime rate on the federal funds rate. Banks often use the prime rate as the basis for interest rates on deposits, bank loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
The FDIC insures CDs and bank savings accounts, which generally provide a fixed rate of return, up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured institution. The principal value of bonds may fluctuate with market conditions. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. U.S. Treasury securities are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest.
Source: Federal Reserve, 2018
Can the federal funds rate affect the economy?
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the policymaking branch of the Federal Reserve. One of its primary responsibilities is setting the federal funds target rate. The FOMC meets eight times per year, after which it announces any changes to the target rate. The Federal Reserve (the Fed), through the FOMC, uses the federal funds rate as a means to influence economic growth.
If interest rates are low, the presumption is that consumers can borrow more and, consequently, spend more. For instance, lower interest rates on car loans, home mortgages, and credit cards make them more accessible to consumers. Lower interest rates often weaken the value of the dollar compared to other currencies. A weaker dollar means some foreign goods are costlier, so consumers will tend to buy American-made goods. An increased demand for goods and services often increases employment and wages. All of which should stimulate the economy. This is essentially the course the FOMC took following the 2008 financial crisis in an attempt to spur the economy.
However, if money is too plentiful, demand for goods may exceed supply, which can lead to increasing prices. As prices increase (inflation), demand for goods decreases, slowing overall economic growth. When the economy recedes, the need for labor decreases, unemployment grows, and wage growth slows. To counteract rising inflation, the Fed raises the target rate. When interest rates on loans and mortgages move higher, money becomes more costly to borrow. Since loans are harder to get and more expensive, consumers and businesses are less likely to borrow, which slows economic growth and reels in inflation.
The Fed monitors many economic reports that track inflationary trends and economic growth. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation is the Price Index for Personal Consumption Expenditures produced by the Department of Commerce. To forecast economic growth, the Fed looks at changes in gross domestic product and the unemployment rate, along with several other economic indicators, such as durable goods orders, housing sales, and business fixed investment.
Source: Federal Reserve, 2018