October 2023
Market Update
(all values as of 05.31.2024)

Stock Indices:

Dow Jones 38,686
S&P 500 5,277
Nasdaq 16,735

Bond Sector Yields:

2 Yr Treasury 4.89%
10 Yr Treasury 4.51%
10 Yr Municipal 3.11%
High Yield 7.84%

YTD Market Returns:

Dow Jones 2.64%
S&P 500 10.64%
Nasdaq 11.48%
MSCI-EAFE 5.34%
MSCI-Europe 6.25%
MSCI-Pacific 3.57%
MSCI-Emg Mkt 2.46%
 
US Agg Bond -1.64%
US Corp Bond -1.12%
US Gov’t Bond -1.53%

Commodity Prices:

Gold 2,347
Silver 30.55
Oil (WTI) 77.16

Currencies:

Dollar / Euro 1.08
Dollar / Pound 1.27
Yen / Dollar 156.92
Canadian /Dollar 0.72

Macro Overview

A federal government shutdown was averted on September 30th, when Congress voted to fund government operations until mid-November. Volatility in the financial markets increased during September, as uncertainty surrounding a resolution persisted. The possibility of a shutdown will evolve again in November, as Congress once again deliberates on the passage of the federal budget. Should a shutdown occur, the impact on the economy would initially be mild as previous shutdowns, and possibly expanding as millions of government workers go without salary. Private sector contractors would also be impacted with delayed payments, while consumer uncertainty hinders spending.

The federal government shutdown dilemma has increased the possibility of a credit downgrade by Moody’s, the last agency with a AAA rating on government debt. Credit agencies S&P and Fitch have already lowered their ratings on U.S. government debt to AA+, down from the top tier rating of AAA. Another downgrade is expected to make it more costly for the government to borrow funds and maintain already excessive debt levels. The last downgrade was on August 1st when Fitch lowered its rating to AA+ from AAA.

A shutdown of the federal government is expected to affect only government operations and payments that are not funded by permanent appropriations. Those funded by permanent appropriations such as the Postal Service, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, will not be affected. Other essential and critical departments would also continue operations, such as the Defense Department and the Treasury Department. Scheduled debt payments such as on Treasury bills, notes and bonds would also continue to be made.

Relentless rising oil prices are hindering portions of the economy, inflicting rising costs on transportation, manufacturing, and food distribution. Higher costs can eventually be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Medicare open enrollment is from October 15th to December 7th, allowing changes for existing Medicare recipients and enrollments for new members. Any changes and new enrollments are effective January 1, 2024. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that there are currently over  65.7 million people enrolled in Medicare. (Sources: Social Security Administration, Medicare.gov, Treasury Dept., Federal Reserve)

 
Medicare Open Enrollment Starts October 15th

Equities React To Congressional Uncertainty – Global Equity Overview

Domestic equities were off in September and in the third quarter, as stocks retracted further with shutdown concerns increasing towards the end of the quarter. Rising interest rates and the labor union strikes also contributed to market anxiety, as uncertainty drove volatility higher throughout the month.

The energy and communication services sector were the only positive sectors for the third quarter. Elevated fuel prices along with improving technology earnings supported the rise in the sectors. Pessimism amid renewed inflation concerns hindered equity momentum during the quarter.

Developed and emerging market equities also pulled back in September and the quarter as uncertainty surrounding the U.S. dollar and elevated fuel prices drove valuations lower.  (Sources: S&P, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, MSCI, Bloomberg)

Yields On The Rise – Fixed Income Overview

Looming government shutdown threats hindered the bond markets as concerns surrounding heightened funding costs for the government came into focus. Yields on U.S. Treasury bills, notes, and bonds rose in September as confidence regarding reaching a compromise diminished. Analysts expect the rise in government debt yields to be short-term unless another impasse materializes in mid-November as Congress deliberates the federal budget again. The yield on the 10 year Treasury bond surpassed 4.5% at the end of September, luring investors as equity volatility continued to dampen performance. (Sources: Treasury Dept., Congress.gov)

Medicare Coverage Heading Into 2024 – Retirement Planning

With open enrollment upon us, millions of Americans will be deciding on which, if any, changes to make to their Medicare coverage. The Open Enrollment Period for 2024 coverage is from October 15, 2023 to December 7, 2023. Coverage for any changes or new plans begins January 1, 2024.

Since Medicare doesn’t cover all medical expenses, the decision to buy supplemental insurance coverage or to obtain a Medicare Advantage Plan is important for millions of Medicare recipients. Medicare Advantage Plans allow a recipient to get both Medicare Part A and Part B coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans are sometimes called Part C or MA Plans, and are offered by Medicare-approved private companies. Medicare Supplemental Insurance or Medigap helps pay for gaps in coverage not paid for by Medicare. Even though Medicare does pay for many procedures and services, some remaining expenses such as copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles are covered by supplemental plans. Some Medigap policies also cover services that are not covered at all by Medicare, such as coverage while traveling abroad. So it’s worth shopping and determining what expenses are covered by the various supplemental insurance policies. (Source: medicare.gov)

 
Student Loan Payments Start Again in October

For 28 Million Americans, The Federal Student Loan Payment Pause Is Over

After three and a half years, student loan balances began accruing interest again on Sept. 1, and payments are due in October.  Between Oct. 1, 2023 and Sept. 30, 2024, borrowers who don’t make payments won’t default, but interest will still build, increasing the overall amount owed.  Unless you graduated recently and are currently in your loan grace period, payments will come due in October. Your monthly payment amount and due date depends on your loan terms. You can find that information on your monthly bill, by contacting your servicer or logging into your online account.

The interest-free payment pause began as an emergency pandemic measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.  Federal student loan borrowers were allowed to skip payments. Loans on autopay were stopped, and collection activities on defaulted loans were also paused. Most importantly, interest did not accrue. In addition, all of the payments that you missed during the freeze count as qualifying payments towards loan forgiveness.

Three years and nine extensions later, renewed student loan bills could come as a shock. There’s no chance of another extension due to a provision in the debt ceiling deal passed by Congress in June.

Consumers Are Saving Less – Consumer Behavior

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, data has revealed that Americans are saving less than initially thought. From 2017 through 2022, American consumers were thought to have saved an average of 9.4% of their disposable income. However, revised data figures have identified that the actual savings rate was 8.3%. Various possible explanations as to why such a drop may have occurred include higher fuel prices, recently implemented student loan repayments, lower real wages, and exhaustion of pandemic relief funds.

Economists view decreased savings as a signal that consumers may be shifting expenditure patterns thus altering where their funds are being spent. Inflationary pressures over the past two years have already redirected some consumer funds from non-essentials to more essential items such as food and gasoline. Spending habits adjusted during the pandemic, as stimulus funds padded consumer savings for millions. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that roughly 30% of stimulus checks went to consumer savings, while another 30% went to pay off debt. Personal savings reached a historical high, as retail stores and restaurants were shuttered and stimulus checks went unspent. The savings rate reached 32% of disposable income in April 2020, yet has fallen to 3.9% as of this past August. (Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research, BEA)

 

 
Credit Scores Tend To Drop During Retirement

The Common Occurrence Of Government Shutdowns – Fiscal Policy

Government shutdowns have been a common occurrence over the years under most every president. The length of the shutdowns have varied from 2 days in 1981 under President Reagan, 21 days in 1995 under President Clinton, and 34 days in 2019 under President Trump. A shutdown occurs when Congress fails to pass or the President refuses to sign legislation funding federal government operations and agencies.

Estimated costs of the most recent government shutdown are still unknown, with lost wages, exports, and government services essential to the operation of private sector businesses being affected. How much the shutdown may have weighed on the economy may not be known until later in the year. Government shutdowns entail partial closure of certain agencies and departments, not complete closures. Departments affected during the most recent shut down include Homeland Security, Housing & Urban Development, Commerce, FCC, Coast Guard, FEMA, Interior, Transportation, and the Executive Office of the President.

Federal employees deemed as “essential” among the various departments are required to work without pay until a funding bill is passed by Congress. The closures affect numerous private businesses that rely and adhere to regulatory rules imposed by the Federal government, such as mortgage loans and Housing & Urban Development.

Credit Scores Tend to Drop After Retirement – Retirement Planning

Credit scores are a vital piece in determining whether an individual is qualified for a plethora of life-changing purchases, from mortgages to auto loans. However, even consumers with a pristine history of on-time payments and proper debt management can see that their credit scores decline in retirement.
Data shows that credit scores tend to peak for consumers in their 70s, while tending to decline going into one’s 80s and beyond. Retirees of these ages typically enter retirement with long credit histories, but when they close decades-old accounts they can inadvertently cause swift declines to their credit scores. Additionally, at older ages, many individuals have already finished paying off mortgage loans, whereas credit scores reward individuals for paying current loan payments on time.
While a greater percentage of retirees have financial freedom and take out fewer loans, credit scores can be crucial in determining insurance premiums and in applications to assisted-living facilities. However, today’s seniors have accumulated debt faster than any other age group over the past 20 years, surpassing $4 trillion in senior debt in 2023.
Sources: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax