Fortis Wealth Management

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June 2020
Market Update
(all values as of 05.29.2020)

Stock Indices:

Dow Jones25,383
S&P 5003,044
Nasdaq9,489

Bond Sector Yields:

2 Yr Treasury0.16%
10 Yr Treasury0.65%
10 Yr Municipal0.82%
High Yield7.02%

YTD Market Returns:

Dow Jones-11.06%
S&P 500-5.77%
Nasdaq5.76%
MSCI-EAFE-15.31%
MSCI-Europe-17.24%
MSCI-Pacific-12.16%
MSCI-Emg Mkt-16.53%
 
US Agg Bond5.46%
US Corp Bond3.00%
US Gov’t Bond6.26%

Commodity Prices:

Gold1,743
Silver18.48
Oil (WTI)35.32

Currencies:

Dollar / Euro1.10
Dollar / Pound1.22
Yen / Dollar107.73
Dollar / Canadian0.72

Macro Overview

A resurgence of sporadic economic activity emerged in May as stay-at-home bans were eased and some businesses slowly reopened. Virus resurgence fears are still a concern as uncertainty lingers regarding the development of an effective vaccine.

Following April’s rebound for U.S. equities, the month of May continued to post recaptured gains for all major stock indices. Slow re-openings by states and cities enabled a gradual reactivation of economic activity that benefited nearly all sectors of the equity markets.

Unemployment reached 14.7%, the highest since the great depression era when unemployment was 25%. Individuals from all income and education levels were profoundly affected, with over 40 million applying for unemployment claims since the middle of March. The extent of the lockdown for businesses nationwide contributed to a surge of small business bankruptcies that may prohibit the re-hiring of millions of workers in numerous industries.

Retail sales in April saw their largest decline on record, the result of mandatory store closings and stay-at-home requirements. Industrial and manufacturing activity also fell in April, an indicator of a slower economic environment. Economic damage may not be fully recognized for months as lagging data tracked by various government agencies trickle into financial markets. Consumer confidence, as measured by the University of Michigan CS Index, improved in May as consumers were encouraged by the gradual easing of the virus quarantine. Inflation expectations also increased as scarce goods demanded higher prices across the country.

Economists and analysts are curious as to how the millions of unemployed workers will sustain themselves when their unemployment benefits expire. The $600 weekly unemployment benefit provided by the federal government expires on July 31st, unless extended by Congress. Individual state benefits vary greatly in terms of maximum weekly amounts, durations, and extension qualifications.

A study compiled by the Chicago Federal Reserve revealed that consumers spent nearly half of their federal stimulus checks within two weeks, then reverted to their prior spending habits. Economists expect that the economic effects of the one-time payments will be short-lived.

Congress is expected to extend the period of time allotted for small businesses to use funds provided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from 8 weeks to 24 weeks. The additional time allows businesses to use funds for approved expenses including payroll, rent, and utilities.

Federal unemployment benefits skyrocketed to $430 billion in April, the single largest monthly increase ever. Monthly unemployment benefits averaged $29.5 billion per month over the last five years, prior to March 2020 following the virus outbreak.

(Sources: Federal Reserve, Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Commerce, Bloomberg)

 
Individual income taxes represent over 30% to state & local governments

Equities Rebound In May – Domestic Stock Market Review

Equity markets continued to move higher in May despite lower near-term earnings expectations and dismal economic data releases. The disparity between current economic data and equity markets reflect market expectations for a rapid recovery in the near future.

A congressional vote has scheduled Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to be delisted if the companies don’t provide required financial disclosures. Senate members said that Chinese companies have disregarded U.S. reporting standards and misled U.S. investors.

The rapid rebound in equities over the past two months was unanticipated by many analysts and economists, as they did not expect fiscal and monetary stimulus efforts to produce significant benefits until later in the year. (Sources: congress.gov, Bloomberg)

Low Rates Supplement Economy – Fixed Income Update

Interest rates held steady in May, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yielding 0.65% at the end of the month. The continued low-rate environment is helping to sustain certain industries in the form of low loan rates, including loans for autos and homes. Discussion of potential negative rates in the U.S. became more pronounced as other developed economies continued to drive their rates near and below zero with the objective of stimulating economic activity. The Federal Reserve Chairman reiterated the central bank’s stance on negative rates, stating that they are not presently a target. The Fed is opposed to negative rates due to the detrimental effects a negative rate imposes on money market funds, government funding calculations and banks.

Investment grade bond issuance year-to-date surpassed $1 trillion of new debt; this level was not reached until November last year. The Fed’s announcement to purchase $750 billion of corporate debt as part of its stimulus program stimulated new activity as demand increased. (Sources: Dept. of the Treasury, Federal Reserve Bank)

States Lose Valuable Tax Revenue – Municipalities Update

States and local government entities are struggling with a steep and rapid drop in tax revenues following business closures and quarantines that were set in place nearly three months ago. Stay-at-home mandates forced consumers to abandon retail shopping, dining out, and visiting salons, forcing numerous small businesses to close doors and lay off employees. The result was a massive increase in unemployment, leaving states with billions of dollars lost in payroll and income taxes. The dramatic loss of jobs led to unpaid mortgages and property taxes as homeowners struggled to meet ends. Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Tax Foundation estimate that over 50 percent of state and local government revenues came from property taxes over the past decade. Individual income taxes are also significant, representing 30% of tax revenues while corporate income taxes make up roughly 5%. That explains why the sharp increase in unemployment is decimating state and local tax revenue. (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, The Tax Foundation)

 
The nation’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7% in April

Where Unemployment Is Hitting The Hardest – Labor Market Demographics

The nation’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7% in April, representing the largest percentage of unemployed workers since the great depression, when the rate reached 25% in 1933. The pandemic’s effect on the labor force has been extensive and rapid, resulting in a dramatic increase in the unemployment rate.

All sectors of the economy have been affected, along with all income and education levels. Data compiled by the Department of Labor show that employment for individuals of all income and education levels fell considerably in April 2020. Unemployment has historically been highest for non-high school graduates and recent high school graduates, compared to those with bachelor and masters degrees who traditionally see the lowest unemployment rates.

Unemployment for non-high school grads rose to over 20% in April, up from 5.2% in April 2019, while workers with a bachelors degree or higher experienced 8.2% unemployment in April. The surprise with the latest unemployment numbers for more educated workers was a significant exponential increase from a year earlier, when only 1.9% were unemployed. Economists view this as confirmation of the profound effect the pandemic has had on the labor market. (Source: Dept. of Labor)

Car Sales Have Cratered Since The Pandemic Began – Auto Industry Update

Car sales dropped dramatically, precipitated by the historic rise in unemployment and business closures, impacting both new and used auto transactions coast to coast. Federal Reserve data, compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, reported an average of around 17 million new vehicle sales each month for the past five years. April data revealed that sales had plummeted to 11.6 million, with May sales expected to also fall year-over-year.

Adding to the glut of new cars are the numerous cars coming back from leases, increasing the number of unsold new and used autos in inventory. Automobile manufacturers have aggressively enacted incentives for buyers to finance and lease cars at historically low rates.

The auto industry is hoping that commuters will opt for individual personal transportation rather than taking mass transit following the fallout of the virus outbreak, with the expectations of increased auto sales nationwide. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

 
consumer expenditures represent about 70% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Consumers Spending Less – Consumer Behavior

Economic recovery is contingent on the ability of the American consumer to regain confidence and start spending again. The amount that consumers spend on goods and services represents roughly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The Commerce Department, which tracks what consumers purchase and how much they spend each month, reported the largest monthly drop in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) since data tracking began in 1959. March PCE saw a 7.5% decline in consumer expenditures, as the pandemic restrained discretionary spending, leading to a drop in over $1.1 billion in expenditures. Expenditures composing the PCE Index include automobiles, food, housing, furniture, healthcare, and clothing.

Consumer behavior has been altered since the pandemic began, with a decrease in demand for certain items including cars, furniture, and clothing, but an increase in demand for food purchases at grocery stores. Economists are having difficulty projecting how exactly consumer demand patterns will continue to develop over the next several months. (Source: Dept. of Commerce)

Over 50% of Unemployed Making More Than When Employed – Employment Update

The National Bureau of Economic Research released findings of a study examining the amount of unemployment benefits that recipients are being paid. The study found that roughly 68% of jobless workers are bringing home more than what their job was paying them. The combination of state and federal unemployment benefits have been extremely generous with the passage of the $2.2 trillion CAREs Act. Unemployment benefit payments replaced an average of 134% of lost wages for the average jobless worker. State unemployment benefits vary as to how long they last, while the federal unemployment benefits of $600 per week are due to expire at the end of July. Findings from the study show that lower income workers have benefited the most from the enhanced unemployment payments. (Source: National Bureau of Economic Research)

Some Government Stimulus Payments Sent As Debit Cards – Fiscal Stimulus Update

The IRS reported that approximately 4 million Americans would receive their stimulus payments as a debit card rather than a check or direct deposit. The CARES Act appropriated $2.2 trillion for Americans in order to bolster economic activity and provide stimulus to combat the effects of the pandemic. For those who have not yet received a stimulus check or direct deposit, a debt card may be on its way. The debit cards are being issued by MetaBank, which is the Treasury Department’s financial agent, and mailed in plain white envelopes from Money Network Cardholder Services. The card is known as an Economic Impact Payment Card (EIP). One potential problem is that the envelope and the card may appear illicit and fraudulent to recipients, who are justifiably wary about what they receive in the mail. The IRS notes that if you’ve received a card and are still not certain if it is a legitimate EIP card, you can visit EIPcard.com for confirmation. (Source: IRS.gov/corornavirus/economic-impact-payment)