It has been an awfully good year in most of the capital markets so far. Just like a great summer day with blue skies and bright sunshine, most stock markets have happily been rising and the economy has been chugging along. Bonds of many types have been profitable. We open our account statements and we’re pleased with the progress.
The Economy Has Been Looking Good
From an economic standpoint there has been much to be cheerful about. Corporate earnings in the first quarter came in above expectations and sharply higher than preceding quarters. Unemployment is very low and while we haven’t seen a dramatic uptick in wages we are seeing what looks close to full employment. GDP growth continues to show positive numbers even if the pace of growth is somewhat slower than we would like it to be. Good things haven’t been confined to our shores either; Europe’s economy, in spite of Brexit and some tough election cycles, has continued to firm, China continues to grow, even with concerns about banking and debt, India and other parts of Asia show steady progress, and South American economies continue to improve despite the political turmoil in Brazil and elsewhere.
No Signs of Recession Yet
There doesn’t seem to be any sign of recession on the horizon as yet; the Fed continues to be both transparent about and circumspect towards the execution of rate changes. Our government is promising lower taxes and less regulation, items that can cheer even the most gloomy business owner.
So What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
It’s important to remember (or perhaps re-remember) that markets don’t move in a straight line, not very often at any rate. We’ve had 16 periods of downward market movement since the bull began running back in early 2009! It is entirely possible that we are ready for another, and we think it a useful endeavor to remind ourselves of this every so often. Bear markets begin when markets or economies get pretty far out of alignment and while we don’t think we’re seeing any of that right now, the garden variety market correction can strike at any time.
Planning & Diversification
As always, our defense is two-fold, good planning and diversification. In regards to the former, we sure don’t want to get too excited about stock market gyrations that concern money we won’t be touching for a long time; we know we can’t really time the market and we also know that over the long-term stocks tend to give superior returns in spite of that very same volatility. We also know we don’t want to have to eat our “seed corn” and so shorter term money should be invested in other areas.
What Will The Second Half of 2017 Bring?
We of course don’t know if the second half of 2017 will be as productive as the first has been. As mentioned earlier, we don’t think we’re on the verge of a recessionary time and that bodes well for the economy over the short and intermediate term. US stocks appear a bit richer than average, but that has been the case for some time and that modest overvaluation has moderated a bit in light of the robust first quarter earnings.
We’re also cognizant of the fact that reasonable investment time horizons are often greater than many folks’ attention spans and this can create volatility once someone in the proverbial theater yells “fire”! Watching that sort of “running for the exits” is always disconcerting. It is the age old story: we tolerate shorter term volatility for longer term performance; it isn’t always fun but over time it works exceedingly well.
- Prepared by LSA Portfolio Analytics