February 2019 Market Update
Market Update
(all values as of 08.31.2020)

Stock Indices:

Dow Jones 28,430
S&P 500 3,500
Nasdaq 11,775

Bond Sector Yields:

2 Yr Treasury 0.14%
10 Yr Treasury 0.72%
10 Yr Municipal 0.81%
High Yield 5.38%

YTD Market Returns:

Dow Jones -0.38%
S&P 500 8.34%
Nasdaq 31.24%
MSCI-EAFE -6.23%
MSCI-Europe -7.39%
MSCI-Pacific -4.42%
MSCI-Emg Mkt -1.18%
 
US Agg Bond 6.85%
US Corp Bond 6.94%
US Gov’t Bond 8.09%

Commodity Prices:

Gold 1,973
Silver 28.43
Oil (WTI) 42.82

Currencies:

Dollar / Euro 1.19
Dollar / Pound 1.33
Yen / Dollar 105.37
Dollar / Canadian 0.76
 

Macro Overview

U.S. equities continued to defy negative sentiment and sanguine market readings as tepid economic data advanced stocks higher in February. Equities posted their best first two months of the year since 1991, rebounding from the volatile fourth quarter of 2018. Gross domestic product (GDP), the primary measure of U.S. economic growth, expanded at a 2.6% annualized pace for the fourth quarter of 2018. Despite negative sentiment and market turmoil towards the end of the year, consumer spending and business investment continued to gradually expand.

GDP as well as other economic indicators that were not released during the government shutdown were posted in early February, a month past its scheduled release. It is expected that additional lingering data will continue to be released throughout March, helping to shed light on the economy’s current stance.

According to Federal Reserve data, declines in stock values, as which occurred in late 2018, have a far greater impact on middle and upper income earners now relative to 30 years ago. Middle America now has many of the same investment opportunities that only the very wealthy had decades ago.

A key housing report, which was delayed due to the government shutdown, revealed that new housing starts in December 2018 fell to the lowest monthly level since September 2016. Economists believe that the slowdown may have been in response to the market pullback in December as well as continued weakness in the housing sector.

Trade tensions with China eased as a March 1st deadline was extended by the President, with discussions between U.S. and Chinese negotiators continuing into March. Another notable deadline looms in Europe as the exit of Britain from the EU, known as Brexit, approaches on March 29th. 

Comments by the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, hinted that the Federal Reserve has become increasingly concerned with stock prices and market volatility. Some economists believe that the Fed slowed its pace of rate increases in order to alleviate further market turmoil following December’s rout.

Federal government offices and agencies avoided a second shutdown following a Congressional compromise on border security. The prior shutdown at the beginning of the year lasted 45 days, which hindered businesses reliant on governmental permits and authorizations.

The IRS reported that for 2018 tax returns filed as of February 22, 2019, the average federal tax refund was $3,143, slightly above the average refund of $3,013 for the same period last year. This tax season is the first year where the 2017 tax cuts have become fully effective, including revisions to withholdings and standard deduction levels. According to data from the IRS and the Tax Foundation, American taxpayers had $140 billion less withheld from their paychecks in 2018. (Sources: Fed, BLS, IRS, EuroStat, Bloomberg)

 
485,000 workers went on strike in 2018...the most since 1986

Rates Hold Steady……For Now – Fixed Income Overview

The Fed intends to stop reducing its balance sheet this year, which influences the rise in rates, but still remains devoted to raising rates when economic data deems it. The markets interpret this strategy as a mixed signal, whereas the Fed may be unsure as to what direction the economy may actually head. The yield on the 1-year Treasury has been trending higher than the yield on the 5-year Treasury, creating what is know as an inversion, perhaps indicating slower economic growth.

Global government yields dipped to their lowest levels in months, with the German 10-year bund (bond) reaching near zero percent and the Japanese 10-year government bond falling below zero percent. Nearly $11 trillion of global debt securities reached negative yields in February, representing a reaction to slowing global growth and the Fed’s current hold stance. (Sources: Federal Reserve Bank, U.S. Treasury)

Stocks Post Early Gains – Equity Update

The S&P 500 posted its best two-month start for the year since 1991, with the information technology, energy, and industrial sectors leading the index. Volatility was mostly absent in February following several weeks of heightened market swings that drove uncertainty.

Stocks were bolstered by the expectations of a formalized China trade deal and the shift in stance by the Fed to hold off raising rates. Sentiment in Europe has become more uncertain as negative yields on various bonds have become negative, meaning that economic growth expectations have weakened. As a key trading partner, the European Union (EU) comprised of 28 countries, has become an integral component of U.S. trading activity. Some analysts have noted that prices may have risen faster than growth expectations over the past two months, meaning that there will be greater emphasis on earnings over the next few weeks. (Sources: S&P, Bloomberg, Reuters)

2018 Saw An Increase In Striking Workers – Labor Market Overview

As occupations and trades evolved over the decades in the United States, so have the workers that have been on strike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics monitors and tracks the number of idle workers on strike nationwide, known as work stoppages.

For over 200 years, strikes in the United States have usually evolved from a specific group of workers or labor group. This past year, educational service workers including teachers and office staff for schools, accounted for over 90% of all workers on strike in 2018.  Other industries whose employees were also on strike in 2018 included healthcare, hospitality, and information. Incidentally, 2018 saw the most number of workers strike since 1986. Workers in America have been going on strike since the days of the Thirteen Colonies. Among one of the nation’s earliest strikes was the chimney sweepers’ strike of 1763, which occurred in Charleston. Other significant strikes that happened during the 1700’s included tradesman such as tailors, printers, weavers, and river pilots. The 1800’s saw numerous occupational strikes as well, many of which have become obsolete, such as shoebinders, bookbinders, cigar makers, cloakmakers, and pullmen.(Source: BLS)

 
The EU imports more from China than it does from the US...

Europe Buys More From China Than It Does From The U.S. – International Trade

Over the years, Chinese exports have inundated not only the United States, but the European Union (EU) as well. Similar to the trade imbalances with the U.S., the EU also has trade imbalances with China. China has become a significant influence on the EU and its trading characteristics, garnering more trade expansion than with the U.S. China is now the EU’s second-largest trading partner behind the United States, while the EU is China’s largest trading partner. The U.S. represents about 17% of the EU’s total trade, while China currently makes up about 15% of the EU’s total trade.

The EU, like the U.S., wants to ensure that trade with China is fair, respects intellectual property and meets its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The majority of the imports into the EU from China include consumer goods, machinery, shoes, and clothing. The bulk of exports from the EU to China are automobiles, planes, and chemicals. (Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, EuroStat, CIA Factbook)

Global Uncertainty Drives Demand For U.S. Treasuries – Fiscal Policy

The prospect of an increasing deficit has led to an increase in debt issuance by the Treasury due to an expected shortfall of tax revenue. The Treasury issues debt in order to fund the ongoing operations of the U.S. government. Some of the recent tax measures passed by Congress are expected to reduce revenues while increasing spending, which will in turn be funded by issuing new Treasuries. The debt management process is comprised of both the issuance of new debt and the retirement of pre existing debt. Should the Treasury issue more debt than it is retiring, there is a net increase in the amount of debt outstanding.

Over the past 18 years, the Treasury has issued an average of $505.4 billion of debt each month, while also retiring or simply paying off an average of $454.8 billion every month. This deficit has been a subject of constant political debate.  A heightened supply of Treasuries follows tax cuts and increased government spending, along with growing entitlement payments and higher service costs for government debt. The Treasury Department’s total net new issuance in 2018 amounted to $1.34 trillion, more than double the 2017 level of $550 billion. It is estimated that new debt issuance for 2019 will be $1.4 trillion, then range from $1.25 trillion to $1.4 trillion over the next four years. Despite the increased flood of new government debt supply, demand has surprisingly kept up as an insatiable demand from abroad continues to drive investors to the liquid and transparent market of U.S. government debt.(Sources: U.S. Treasury Department)

 

 
Generation Z taking over the workforce...

There is no exact consensus on the definition of Generation Z, and demographers can differ on where it starts. Some have Gen Z beginning as early as the mid-1990s, while others see it starting in the mid-2000s.   Regardless, Generation Z is the group that follows the Millennials – and many Gen Zers are wrapping up high school, finishing up their university degrees, or looking to get their first real jobs.

MILLENNIALS VS. GEN Z

While generational differences cast a wide net and don’t necessarily apply to every individual, here is what demographers say are some key similarities and differences between Gen Z and Millennials.

Millennials                                                         Generation Z

Raised by Baby Boomers                                   Raised by Gen Xers

Grew up during an economic boom                 Grew up during a recession

Tend to be idealistic                                            Tend to be pragmatic

Focused on having experiences                         Focused on saving money

Mobile pioneers                                                   Mobile natives

Prefer brands that share their values               Prefer brands that feel authentic

Prefer Facebook and Instagram                        Prefer Snapchat and Instagram

Generation Z tends to be more pragmatic, approaching both their education and career differently than Millennials. It appears that Gen Z is also approaching money in a unique way compared to past groups.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Generation Z does not remember a time when the internet did not exist – and as such, it’s not surprising to learn that 50% of Gen Z spends 10 hours a day connected online, and 70% watches YouTube for two hours a day or more.   But put aside this ultra-connectivity, and Gen Zers have some unique and possibly unexpected traits. Gen Z prefers face-to-face interactions in the workplace, and also expects to work harder than past groups. Gen Z is also the most diverse generation (49% non-white) and values racial equality as a top issue. Finally, Gen Z is possibly one of the most practical generations, valuing things like saving money and getting stable jobs.

You may already have Gen Zers in your workplace – but if you don’t, you will soon.