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Mixed Bag for Housing in May

Posted by The Axial Company

Posted by Sam Millette, Jun 24, 2019

 
Last week saw a handful of important economic updates, primarily focused on the housing market. The data was mixed, with disappointing home builder sentiment offset by better-than-expected sales growth. This will be another relatively quiet week on the economic update front, with only a few notable releases scheduled.

Last week’s news

Last week got off to a rocky start. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index fell from 66 to 64 in May, against expectations for a modest increase to 67. This unexpected drop was due to declining sentiment in the northeastern and western regions, which was possibly weather related. Although this decline was disappointing, the index still sits well above lows seen in December and January. As such, there is no immediate cause for concern.

On Tuesday, May’s housing starts and building permits were released. These results were mixed. Starts declined by 0.9 percent, while permits increased by 0.3 percent. Economists had forecast modest growth for both figures, but housing starts surged by 5.7 percent in April. So, the pullback in May is understandable.

The Federal Open Market Committee met last week and released it's rate decision on Wednesday. As expected, the committee left rates unchanged during the meeting. But it also indicated that low inflation figures and the headwinds from continued trade wars could lead to rate cuts at upcoming meetings. There is still more than a month before the committee next meets, but market participants largely expect a rate cut at the July meeting, barring any major economic upheaval in the meantime.

The week ended with the release of May’s existing home sales figure on Friday. Existing home sales increased by 2.5 percent during the month, which beat expectations for 2.1 percent growth. Given the decline in home builder confidence during this same period, the better-than-expected growth in sales is very encouraging.

What to look forward to

Tuesday will see the release of May’s new home sales report. Economists expect sales to grow by 2.2 percent month-over-month, which would be in line with the growth in existing home sales we saw last month. If we do see this modest growth, it would bring new home sales to their second-highest level in the past 12 months, nearing post-recession highs.

 

Tuesday will also see the release of the Conference Board consumer confidence survey. It is expected to decline slightly from 134.1 to 131 in June. Despite this expected pullback, consumer confidence remains near multiyear highs, as a healthy job market and a rebound in U.S. equities supported confidence during the month.

 

On Wednesday, we will receive the first report for May’s durable goods orders. Headline orders are expected to decline by 0.2 percent, primarily driven by a decline in transportation orders. There is further downside risk here, as the impact from the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX could lead to even steeper declines in headline orders. Core orders, which strip out volatile transportation figures, are expected to show modest 0.2 percent growth.

On Friday, May’s personal income and personal spending reports are both set to be released. Income is expected to grow by 0.3 percent, while spending is set to increase by 0.5 percent. This would follow similar growth figures from April. Consumer spending is the backbone of the economy, so this continued steady growth in consumers’ ability and willingness to spend is very encouraging.

Finally, we finish the week with the second and final release of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for June. It is expected to decline slightly from 97.9 to 97.7. Similar to the Conference Board measure of confidence, this index remains near post-recession highs, so this slight pullback is nothing to worry about.

That’s it for this week—thanks for reading!
 
 

Authored by Sam Millette, a fixed income analyst on the Investment Management and Research team at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer–RIA.

With the firm since June 2015, he analyzes individual municipal bonds, responds to advisor inquiries, provides analytics and research support to the Preferred Portfolio Services® Select SMA municipal bond strategies, and assists with market research and commentary. Sam graduated from Tufts University with a degree in economics. Currently, he is a level 1 candidate for the CFA®.

© 2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®


Disclosure: Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly into an index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index measures the performance of all issues listed in the Nasdaq Stock Market, except for rights, warrants, units, and convertible debentures. The MSCI EAFE Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a market capitalization-weighted index composed of companies representative of the market structure of 26 emerging market countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Basin. It excludes closed markets and those shares in otherwise free markets that are not purchasable by foreigners. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged market value-weighted index representing securities that are SEC-registered, taxable, and dollar-denominated. It covers the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, with index components for a combination of the Bloomberg Barclays government and corporate securities, mortgage-backed pass-through securities, and asset-backed securities. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Index covers the USD-denominated, non-investment-grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high-yield if the middle rating of Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below.

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The Fed to the Rescue?

Posted by The Axial Company

The market has concluded that the Fed’s decision to keep rates steady, along with the accompanying statement from yesterday's meeting, is unreservedly dovish. The expectation is for two more rate cuts this year, starting in July. Markets are, unsurprisingly, cheering. Lower rates are good for economic growth and for stocks. In fact, that reasoning would explain why the Fed would cut. If the Fed does cut, it will be stimulative and should help sustain the expansion—as intended.

Indeed, we may get cuts. But before we join in the cheering, we should think a bit more about what those rate cuts might mean beyond an immediate boost to markets.

Real risks to the economy

The first concern is that, if the Fed does cut, it would be signaling that it sees real risks to the economy. Yesterday, Powell stated several times that the base case was for continued growth but that risks to that growth had risen. As dovish as the market deemed yesterday’s announcements to be, the Fed still thinks the economy is basically okay. If we do get a cut, it would mean the Fed has decided the economy is at real and immediate risk. Think about what that perspective might mean for markets.

Recession-fighting ammunition

The second concern is that, if the Fed thinks the economy is okay but cuts anyway, it will use some of its recession-fighting ammunition before it is really needed. Powell and company have been emphatic about how they needed to raise rates to prepare for the next recession. The faster and earlier they cut rates, the sooner they will exhaust their ability to stimulate. Will they really cut if the economy continues to chug along?

The Powell pivot

The third concern is over the Fed’s credibility. After hiking rates last year and talking strongly about the need to construct policy without considering the financial markets, the sudden perceived dovishness has been termed the Powell pivot. I have written on this shift before, and yesterday’s meeting was another step in this direction. At a minimum, this perceived dovishness revives the notion of a Fed put (now the Powell put). In addition, given the president’s recent public pressure on the Fed, it compromises the Fed’s independence. If we were to get another financial crisis, a less independent Fed might be less able to act credibly in the markets. So, this decision matters beyond the question of inflation.

Maybe not so dovish?

For all these reasons, I suspect the actual intent is not as dovish, nor will rates cuts be as fast, as markets are now expecting. Many of the current worries are headline driven, especially around trade, and could be resolved with an agreement. The willingness to cut rates, if needed (which is what the Fed is saying), is not the same thing as the determination or the need to do so soon.

When you look at the details of the meeting, you see further evidence of this argument. The median interest rate projection was unchanged for this year. Half of all committee members don’t see any rate hikes at all this year. There is certainly movement toward an easier policy, but it is not an unstoppable trend—and could again be changed by incoming data.

Two pieces of the puzzle

There are two pieces to this puzzle: the economy and rates. Right now, I suspect the market is expecting the best of all possible worlds: continued economic growth and lower rates. More likely is that we will get continued growth and flat rates, or slower growth and lower rates. These latter two options aren’t bad, but they are certainly not as positive as the first scenario.

Surprise ahead for markets?

What the Fed has indicated in its statement is that scenarios two and three are the likely options (i.e., continued growth and flat rates, or slower growth and lower rates) but that we won’t get a fourth case (i.e., slower growth and flat rates). Further, it makes no commitment to moving toward the first scenario (i.e., continued economic growth and lower rates).

If we truly have a data-dependent Fed, which is what I took from yesterday, the Fed will act only as needed. And that is not what markets are expecting.

 

Authored by Brad McMillan, CFA®, CAIA, MAI, managing principal, chief investment officer, at Commonwealth Financial Network®.

© 2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®


Disclosure: Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly into an index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index measures the performance of all issues listed in the Nasdaq Stock Market, except for rights, warrants, units, and convertible debentures. The MSCI EAFE Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a market capitalization-weighted index composed of companies representative of the market structure of 26 emerging market countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Basin. It excludes closed markets and those shares in otherwise free markets that are not purchasable by foreigners. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged market value-weighted index representing securities that are SEC-registered, taxable, and dollar-denominated. It covers the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, with index components for a combination of the Bloomberg Barclays government and corporate securities, mortgage-backed pass-through securities, and asset-backed securities. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Index covers the USD-denominated, non-investment-grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high-yield if the middle rating of Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below.

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1040 Postmortem: Making Sense of Your Taxes and Withholding

Posted by The Axial Company

 

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Market Hits Turbulence, But Economy Still Growing

Posted by The Axial Company

Yesterday, the tech stocks got hit hard on news that Washington will be taking a much harder look at regulating them. Trade worries continue to reverberate throughout the market. And fears of a more severe slowdown—or even a recession—are building as the yield curve remains inverted. Further, the Nasdaq moved into correction territory yesterday (defined as a decline of more than 10 percent from the peak), although as of this writing, it was showing signs of a strong bounce today. 

Given such turbulence, we find ourselves pondering that familiar question: is it time to panic? Once again, the answer is “not yet.” Although the worries are real, the foundation is solid. Let’s take a closer look.

Economy still growing

Economic growth drives market returns. As long as the economy is growing, markets

tend to do well. In fact, although there can be sharp corrections during expansi o ns, they are usually short. We have seen this scenario with the pullbacks in 2011, 2015–2016, and 2018, w here corrections were sharp but reversed quickly. Sustained bear markets (e.g., 

2000 or 2008), on the other hand, occurred when the economy went into recession. As long as we don’t have a recession, markets should recover from recent weakness.

So, is a recession on the horizon?

At some point, we will have a recession. But the signs indicate that it won’t be soon. We have never had a recession with hiring and consumer confidence as strong as they are right now, for example. Although we did see a pullback in both, we have since had a recovery—which is positive. With consumer spending making up more than two-thirds of the economy, it is hard to get a recession when both hiring and consumer confidence are solid.

What about the yield curve?

Historically, when the yield curve has inverted, a recession has occurred in the following 8 to 18 months. That clock may have just started. In theory, then, we could have a recession early next year. Before that, though, hiring and confidence would have to decline (see the previous paragraph). The yield curve is something to watch but is not an immediate problem.

Trade war affecting confidence

The weakness in business confidence and investment is concerning. But this worry is one based largely around the expanding trade war. Despite that, both sentiment and investment remain positive. Further, although we do see some weakening, there has not been a decline. Right now, that weakness would not be enough to take the economy down.

The economy is like an oil tanker: it moves and turns slowly. Markets are like speedboats, orbiting around the tanker. They move faster and can certainly rock more on the waves, but they follow the big boat. As long as the tanker is moving forward, so do markets.

Right now, the economy is still moving forward, which should continue to support markets. Much of the recent turbulence has come from the news, especially around trade, which has affected confidence. Lower confidence—and more uncertainty—is bad for markets and explains what we have seen recently.

Confidence can improve as quickly as it deteriorates, however, and we have seen that several times during the recovery. The most likely case is that confidence will improve again, as growth continues, albeit at a slower pace. Even if we do see more slowing and a pending recession, we will still have time to plan our next steps.

Are you comfortable with your risk?

And that is what we should be doing: keeping an eye on the economy, the markets, and our portfolios. The real lesson of the recent volatility is that we need to be comfortable with the risks we are taking. If not, we should take steps to ensure that we are comfortable.

After all, at some point we will see a recession and a bear market and will have to ride them out. As such, we must be prepared for when they happen. It just doesn’t look like that will be in the immediate future.

 

Authored by Brad McMillan, CFA®, CAIA, MAI, managing principal, chief investment officer, at Commonwealth Financial Network®.

© 2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Disclosure: Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly into an index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index measures the performance of all issues listed in the Nasdaq Stock Market, except for rights, warrants, units, and convertible debentures. The MSCI EAFE Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a market capitalization-weighted index composed of companies representative of the market structure of 26 emerging market countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Basin. It excludes closed markets and those shares in otherwise free markets that are not purchasable by foreigners. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged market value-weighted index representing securities that are SEC-registered, taxable, and dollar-denominated. It covers the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, with index components for a combination of the Bloomberg Barclays government and corporate securities, mortgage-backed pass-through securities, and asset-backed securities. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Index covers the USD-denominated, non-investment-grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high-yield if the middle rating of Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below.

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Flashback To 1998 For The Markets?

Posted by The Axial Company

 

What Investors Can Learn from 1998


Yesterday, we talked about why it might be 1998—or 1999—all over again. After all, many of the conditions are similar. Although growth continues for now and we may get a lifeline, you might be concerned that the economy could be settling into a recession in the next couple of quarters. Our most recent experience of a recession and market decline, 2008–2009, has left horrific memories. So, should we be panicking? In a word, no. 

In the year 2000


In 2008, we experienced a real crisis for both the economy and markets. In the year 2000, on the other hand, we saw a rather mild recession, not a systemic crisis like 2008. The market declines in 2000 were significant but, again, not as bad as those of 2008. They largely reflected the high valuations of the technology sector, rather than a general collapse of corporate profits. In other words, if we get another 2000, it likely won’t be another 2008. But if we shouldn’t be panicking, what should we be doing?

Ride it out


For many people—including younger individuals who are still accumulating wealth rather than spending it in retirement—the answer is very likely to keep doing what you’re doing. Save and invest. The great thing about market downturns is that you can buy cheap, which helps returns over time. At the same time, the loss of value of your existing investments doesn’t matter, as you won’t be spending them for some time. So, for people who are still saving, sitting tight makes a lot of sense.

Similarly, for those who have enough saved to live off the interest and dividends, or who have enough cash and low-risk investments to ride out a bear market, there is likely no need to do anything different. Bear markets pass. Unless you need the money to spend, it often makes sense to simply ride it out.

Take defensive action


There are, however, two groups of people who might want to take defensive action: those who simply can’t afford financially to see their savings decline and those who can’t afford to do so mentally. In both cases, you must do something. But what?

One simple answer is to switch some at-risk investments (e.g., stocks) to lower-risk areas. You can then draw on the lower-risk investments to spend, if necessary, and give the stocks time to recover. Another, more extreme form of this strategy is to take some of your investment portfolio to cash. Again, you will get spending power, as well as the ability to reinvest when conditions are more favorable. In fact, I wrote a book (Crash-Test Investing) about how to do just that. Although this approach has its downsides, it can reduce the risks—both financial and mental—of a market pullback.

The time is now


In any case, here is the main takeaway from 1998: you can do something, if you want or need to, but you certainly don’t have to. Both approaches work well over time, and both have merit. The course you choose depends on your own situation.

With economic conditions at yellow light status and with the market weakening, you don’t want to delay making that decision. Decisions made ahead of time, without stress, tend to be better than those made in the midst of turmoil. You may not need to do anything, but the time to decide that—on your own or in conjunction with your financial advisor—is now.

So, the real lesson of 1998 (or any time really) is to plan ahead. Now is a good time to do just that.

 


Authored by Brad McMillan, CFA®, CAIA, MAI, managing principal, chief investment officer, at Commonwealth Financial Network®.

© 2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Disclosure: Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly into an index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index measures the performance of all issues listed in the Nasdaq Stock Market, except for rights, warrants, units, and convertible debentures. The MSCI EAFE Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a market capitalization-weighted index composed of companies representative of the market structure of 26 emerging market countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Basin. It excludes closed markets and those shares in otherwise free markets that are not purchasable by foreigners. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged market value-weighted index representing securities that are SEC-registered, taxable, and dollar-denominated. It covers the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, with index components for a combination of the Bloomberg Barclays government and corporate securities, mortgage-backed pass-through securities, and asset-backed securities. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Index covers the USD-denominated, non-investment-grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high-yield if the middle rating of Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below.

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Understanding Basic Estate Planning Documents

Posted by The Axial Company

 

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Axial Implements New Risk Alignment Platform: Riskalyze

Posted by The Axial Company

For Immediate Release

 

AXIAL FINANCIAL IMPLEMENTS RISK ALIGNMENT

PLATFORM TO DRIVE CLIENT SUCCESS

Axial Financial Group announced it has implemented Riskalyze, the world’s first risk alignment platform, which mathematically pinpoints a client’s Risk Number® and equips advisors to empower investors.

Who and what is Riskalyze?

Riskalyze is the company that invented the Risk Number®, which powers the world's first Risk Alignment Platform, enables compliance teams to spot issues, empowers advisors to develop real-time visibility, and navigate changing fiduciary rules.

 

Built on a Nobel Prize-winning framework, Riskalyze calculates the indistinguishable terminology of the financial advice industry, replacing terms like “moderately conservative” and “moderately aggressive” with a Risk Number.

 

A Risk Number is a number between 1 and 99 that pinpoints a client’s exact comfort zone for downside risk and potential upside gain.

 

Click this link for a PDF version of this article: Axial Implements New Risk Alignment Platform: Riskalyze

 

If you would like to obtain further information about the advantages of taking a Riskalyze assessment, please contact your Axial Financial advisor.

 

Axial Financial Group

5 Burlington Woods, Suite 102

Burlington, MA 01803

www.axialco.com - info@axialfg.com

Phone:     (781) 273-1400

Fax:        (781) 273-1402

Toll Free: (888) 408-6937

 

Securities and advisory services offered throughout Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

 


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The Fed Hits the Brakes: No Rate Hikes Projected in 2019

Posted by The Axial Company

 

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April is Financial Literacy Month

Posted by The Axial Company

It's Financial Literacy Month! Congress has officially designated the month of April as a time to raise awareness about Financial Education in the U.S.

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Year-End Tax Planning

Posted by The Axial Company

As the end of the year approaches, it's time to consider strategies that could help you reduce your tax bill. But most tax tips, suggestions, and strategies are of little practical help without a good understanding of your current tax situation. This is particularly true for year-end planning. You can't know where to go next if you don't know where you are now.

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