October Economic Update
Optimism reigned supreme in September as Wall Street shrugged off trade worries which were top of mind for economists and investors overseas. The bulls did not hesitate at the prospect of tariffs and the probability of another interest rate hike. By the end of month, the S&P 500 rose 0.43% for the month; even more impressive is that September has historically been a weak time for the market.
While the broad-based S&P advanced, the Nasdaq and small-cap Russell 2000 indices pulled back; 0.78% and 2.62% respectively. In particular, the Russell index seemed especially sensitive to the Federal Reserve’s announcement of another interest rate hike, which was expected. On the whole, U.S. economic indicators were quite good, and some even offered pleasant surprises. (1,2)
U.S. Economic Developments
On the last day of September, Canada joined the U.S. and Mexico in a new proposed trade pact representing an evolution of the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new accord, if approved by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., would toughen intellectual property and trade secret regulations, require 75% of autos made in North America to use parts from North American manufacturers, stipulate new labor requirements for Mexican industry, and seek to crack down further on unsanctioned fish, animal, and timber imports. (3)
The job market remains strong as new data showed hiring bouncing back in August. The Department of Labor stated that the economy added 201,000 net new jobs in that month. Annualized wage growth reached 2.9%, the best number seen since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The primary jobless rate remained low at 3.9%; the underemployment rate ticked down to 7.4%, which is a 17-year low. (4)
Outlook for the Fourth Quarter
Through the years, October has tended to be one of the more turbulent months for equities. The historic standard deviation (a statistical measurement for large moves) for the Dow Industrials in October is 1.44%, as opposed to 1.05% for the other eleven months. This October may break the pattern and be remarkably calm; the past can be a faulty tool indeed for predicting the future. The fourth quarter has historically finished strong into the holiday season. (5)
Corporate earnings season is around the corner once again and expectations are high. We can expect largely stellar reports, but analysts and investors will be focused on future projections of growth in order for the market to maintain its bullish pace into 2019.
Whether stocks roller-coaster or not this month, investors may want to scale back bullish expectations. Wall Street looks forward to the fourth quarter, year after year, but the trajectory of any gains in Q4 might be flatter than some investors anticipate, since stocks advanced so much in Q3. Still, bullish sentiment is hardly faltering at the moment, and the oncoming earnings season could spark a fall rally.
Monthly Financial Tip:
Life insurance proceeds normally pass to beneficiaries without being taxed. There is one notable exception: if a policy is transferred between business owners to fund a buy-sell agreement, its tax-exempt status may be lost.
1 - markets.wsj.com/us [9/28/18]
2 - quotes.wsj.com/index/SPX [9/29/18]
3 - https://tinyurl.com/y79gdr2y [9/30/18]
4 - bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-07/u-s-payrolls-rise-201-000-while-wage-gains-accelerate-to-2-9 [9/7/18]
5 - marketwatch.com/story/fasten-your-seat-belt-october-is-almost-here-2018-09-25 [9/29/18]5 - investing.com/economic-calendar/ [8/31/18]
This post has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Bob Lawson is not engaged in rendering legal or accounting services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.