Each quarter we provide an overview of the global financial marketplace and a future outlook on the market’s potential.
Investors throughout the world had much to cheer this past New Year’s celebration, as positive returns were experienced by investors throughout all markets. Stocks in the U.S. had their best year since 2013 as the S&P 500 Index returned 21.8% with December marking 14 consecutive months of positive returns, a feat not achieved since 1970.
The equity markets continued their upward trajectory during the third quarter, with most market indices closing the quarter at an all-time high, or close to their record highs. This defies the well-known trading adage of “sell in May and go away” that warns investors to sell their equity holdings in May to avoid the typical volatile months of the summer and come back in the Fall.
With the momentum in the market carrying over from the first quarter, the first half of 2017 has been the best start for global equities since 1998. Although equity markets outside of the United States were up more, the Standard and Poor’s 500 had its best first half of the year since 2013.
The first quarter ended with the stock market completing its eighth year of the current bull market, with the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index advancing 6.07%, marking the sixth quarter in a row the index closed in positive territory. Not only was the past quarter one of the least volatile quarters in some 50 years, the sectors that performed well were the stocks that lagged during the fourth quarter last year, as the “Trump Trade” faded.
The past year will be remembered as a year of surprises whose consequences will be felt throughout 2017 and beyond. And while the nationalism movement has seemingly been oscillating for several years, the pendulum came to a standstill and started to swing the other way this past June when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The antiestablishment momentum continued into November when Donald Trump caught the world off-guard and became the 45th President of the United States.
The third quarter ended with the stock market higher by 3.85% as measured by the S&P 500 Index. The Federal Reserve (Fed) maintained its target range for the federal funds rate at ¼ to ½ percent. When the Fed increased short-term interest rates last December (for the first time in nearly a decade), market watchers, including ourselves, described the likely slow and well calculated trajectory of future rate increases as “glacial”.
The status of globalization took center stage this past quarter with the United Kingdom’s June referendum (Brexit) to leave the European Union. It was the highest turnout in a UK-wide election since 1992 and fairly evenly divided, as the “leave” camp won by a 52% versus 48% margin. Stock markets dropped world-wide the day after the results but had subsequently recovered most of the initial losses within the week following the vote.
Investors’ concern weighed on the market early in the period as global economic growth continued to struggle, but market sentiment quickly turned to one of hope as central banks throughout the world continued to be willing to try all options to stimulate their economies with accommodating monetary policies.