Stocks, Economy Continue to Make Steady Gains

Market Updates

Stocks, Economy Continue to Make Steady Gains

Equity markets around the world tracked higher in July, despite declines over the last week of the month.

July 31, 2017

Equity markets around the world tracked higher in July, despite declines over the last week of the month. Domestic stocks had dipped amid some disappointing tech earnings and a revised report that showed slower-than-expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter. Earnings overall have been a bright spot, as the majority of S&P 500 companies have reported beating their mean sales estimates.

The major U.S. stock indices ended July in positive territory. The Dow was up 2.5%; the Nasdaq climbed 3.4%; and the S&P 500 was up 1.9%. The Treasury yield curve is nearly unchanged for the month with the long-bond (30-year Treasury) only down 8 basis points in yield and the 1- and 3-month T-bills down 14 basis points.

The Federal Open Market Committee left the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged at its mid-July meeting and repeated that it “expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant gradual increases” in the quarters ahead. The central bankers also indicated that they expect to start unwinding their balance sheet “relatively soon” (most likely in October).

 

12/31/16 Close

7/31/17 Close

Change YTD

Gain/Loss YTD

DJIA

19,762.60

21,891.12

+2,128.52

+10.77%

NASDAQ

 5,383.12

6,348.12

+965.00

+17.93%

S&P 500

 2,238.83

2,470.30

+231.47

+10.34%

MSCI EAFE

1,684.00

 1,931.73

+247.73

+14.71%

Russell 2000

1,357.13

1,425.14

+68.01

+5.01%

Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index

 1,976.37

 2,030.05

+53.68

+2.72%

Performance reflects price returns as of 4:30 EDT on July 31, 2017.

Here’s a look at what else is going on in the economy and capital markets, as well as key factors we are watching:

Economy

  • Real GDP rose at a 2.6% annual rate for the second quarter, averaging a 1.9% pace over the first half of the year.
  • Consumer spending growth rebounded from a soft first quarter, but monthly figures suggest some loss of momentum heading into the second half of the year.
  • Private-sector job growth in 2017 has remained strong, roughly the same as in 2016 – although tighter labor market conditions are expected to be a restraint in the months ahead.

Equities

  • Major domestic stock indexes had once again reached record highs before some less-than-impressive tech earnings reports toward the very end of the month prompted investors to take profits.
  • Amazon briefly dragged tech stocks lower as shares fell 3.3% at the end of the month, following weaker-than-expected quarterly numbers.
  • Other major tech companies, including Apple, also declined during the last few trading days of July.

International

  • The dollar’s recent swoon against the euro and British Pound over recent weeks had an impact on European markets as shares in exporting companies sold down.
  • The tone surrounding European investment opportunities continued to improve as the International Monetary Fund upped its expectations for eurozone growth and reports surfaced that transitional Brexit negotiations were progressing well, according to Raymond James European Strategist Chris Bailey*.
  • Emerging markets in aggregate continued to rally, aided by the lower dollar.

Fixed Income

  • Treasury demand continued to be strong during the month, with better-than-average covers over the past 12 months and strong indirect participation, according to Raymond James Senior Fixed Income Strategist Doug Drabik.
  • Continued demand for U.S. securities from foreign investors assists in keeping interest rates down.
  • The bond market seems to have settled on the idea that interest rates are not necessarily headed higher, Drabik notes. Current fiscal policy and political uncertainty is hindering growth potential and higher yields. Interest rates seemed destined for continued low rates and a tight trading range in the near future.

Bottom Line

  • We remain bullish. In our opinion, pullbacks should be short and shallow.
  • Investors may be able to potentially take advantage of short-term volatility to buy quality stocks at a possible discount.

Your advisor will continue to watch for any changes or shifts that could affect your financial plan. In the meantime, please contact your advisor if you have any questions.

*An affiliate of Raymond James & Associates and Raymond James Financial Services.

Investing involves risk, and investors may incur a profit or a loss. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the Research Department of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., and are subject to change. Past performance is not an indication of future results and there is no assurance that any of the forecasts mentioned will occur. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an unmanaged index of 30 widely held stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ National Stock Market. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) index is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the international stock market. The Russell 2000 is an unmanaged index of small cap securities. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. An investment cannot be made in these indexes.

International investing involves additional risks such as currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic instability. These risks are greater in emerging markets. Small and mid-cap securities generally involve greater risks. Companies engaged in business related to a specific sector are subject to fierce competition and their products and services may be subject to rapid obsolescence. There are additional risks associated with investing in an individual sector, including limited diversification. The performance noted does not include fees or charges, which would reduce an investor's returns. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit nor protect against a loss. Debt securities are subject to credit risk. A downgrade in an issuer’s credit rating or other adverse news about an issuer can reduce the market value of that issuer’s securities. When interest rates rise, the market value of these bonds will decline, and vice versa. While interest on municipal bonds is generally exempt from federal income tax, it may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax, and state or local taxes.



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