8850 Columbia 100 Parkway
Financial markets lived up to their reputation during the month of August, which has a record for being difficult. On the first day of August, markets had to contend with a downgrade of U.S. long-term debt by the rating agency, Fitch. They attributed the adjustment to the “expected fiscal deterioration over the next three years, a high and growing general debt burden, and the erosion of governance.” Many financial leaders characterized the downgrade as “ridiculous,” but the stock and bond markets still felt the effects.
Another setback for markets came from Moody’s, an important credit agency. They issued a credit downgrade for 10 small-to-medium-sized banks and 11 larger banks, with a warning of increasing financial risks in the form of higher interest rates, escalating funding costs, and rising risks from banks’ commercial real estate holdings.
Still, despite the credit-related downgrades, markets were able to navigate their way through the ongoing debate of the country’s financial strength. Better than expected earnings reports, coupled with an optimistic outlook, helped underscore the overall durability of corporate America. That durability showed up in a couple of ways:
Resilience aside, the market still experienced some volatility with a pullback in the stock market and high bond yields—specifically the 10-year Treasury. Reports of consumer confidence and the number of available job openings also came in softer than expected, which helped alter expectations that the Federal Reserve (Fed) would raise rates again this year. Although the debate over the need for another rate hike continues as the Fed monitors incoming data, the equity markets responded decisively and resumed their march higher at the end of the month.
So where does that leave the market through year-end, especially since September historically tends to be another difficult month? Since 1950, a strong market performance in the first seven months of the year has been followed by average returns of 5% until year end. Given that the S&P 500 enjoyed a 19% gain for the first seven months of the year, we may be positioned for a positive end to 2023, although potentially with some bumps along the way.
Please reach out if you have any questions.
This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that the views or strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. Any economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and are subject to change.
References to markets, asset classes, and sectors are generally regarding the corresponding market index. Indexes are unmanaged statistical composites and cannot be invested into directly. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment and do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.
All data is provided as of September 5, 2023.
Any company names noted herein are for educational purposes only and not an indication of trading intent or a solicitation of their products or services. LPL Financial doesn’t provide research on individual equities.
All index data from FactSet.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P500) is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.
This Research material was prepared by LPL Financial, LLC. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.
There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
For a list of descriptions of the indexes and economic terms referenced, please visit our website at lplresearch.com/definitions.
Making economic forecasts and stock market predictions can be humbling. It’s especially tough when you expect stocks to go higher and get a big drop instead. The environment today is the opposite, but still tricky, as recession hasn’t followed the chorus of predictions. In some ways, figuring out what to do now that stocks have gone up is as difficult as considering what to do when stocks are down.
Today’s more fully valued stock market is pricing in an increasingly optimistic outlook for economic growth and corporate profits, but the economy still faces challenges that will likely lead to slower growth in the second half — and perhaps even a mild economic contraction. So why stay invested?
First, it’s difficult to time the market. We’ve seen this play out several times in just the past few years. For example, few foresaw the strong market rebound that occurred as we came out of lockdown in 2020, or that inflation would become the ongoing problem that we’re still dealing with today. We saw it again this past spring – professional portfolio managers and investors alike were broadly pessimistic about the stock market, particularly in the wake of several bank failures. Yet, stocks have gone virtually straight up since.
Another reason to stay invested is recent and encouraging economic data, which supports higher stock prices as the odds that the U.S. economy achieves a soft landing have increased. The U.S. economy grew 2.4% in the second quarter, a solid pace for a typical economic expansion these days. The job market remains healthy with near record-low unemployment. A resilient economy has fueled better profits for corporate America than most expected, setting up a likely end to the ongoing earnings recession in the current quarter.
Third, lower inflation may continue to support stocks in the months ahead as the Federal Reserve (Fed) winds down its interest rate hiking campaign. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure (the core PCE deflator) dropped a half point in June to 4.1% and could potentially reach the mid-3s by year-end — not far from the central bank’s 2% target. Lower inflation may also be good news for bonds by enabling the Fed to cut interest rates in 2024 as most expect.
Fourth is historical comparisons. Since 1950, stocks have gained an average of 40% one year following bear market lows. Nearly 10 months since our bear market low, our current bull market is up about 28% so far. Keep in mind, once the S&P 500 has gained 20% off a bear market low (which it did June 8, 2023), the one-year average historical gain is 18.9%. We’re also in the best year for stocks within the four-year presidential cycle. In other words, more gains, and record highs, in the coming year are reasonable to expect.
Finally, for those worried that gains in the broad market have been driven by only a handful of stocks, stock market leadership has started to broaden out. We believe that’s a necessary condition for the next leg of this bull market. Small cap stocks fared better than large caps in July and the average stock in the S&P 500 rose more than the index over the past two months.
For those who may have missed the rally, we would advocate for dollar cost averaging which is simply investing at regular intervals over a period of time. This can be a great approach as it takes emotion off the table. Consider maintaining a cash reserve so you can take advantage of dips that will inevitably come and use volatility as an opportunity to get back to long-term target allocations.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions.
Dollar cost averaging involves continuous investment in securities regardless of fluctuation in price levels of such securities. An investor should consider their ability to continue purchasing through fluctuating price levels. Such a plan does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.
All data is provided as of August 1, 2023.