The Independent Market Observer
The Independent Market Observer
Commonwealth’s chief investment officer, Brad McMillan, provides insight on the economic, market, and political events of the day—both domestically and on a global scale.
Today, I’m at the Barron’s Top Independent Advisors Summit, where I will be moderating a discussion titled “Fear and Greed” with two impressive panelists, Brian Wesbury and David Iben. I am very interested to hear what they have to say, and as moderator, I’ll be doing much more listening than speaking (no doubt to the benefit of the audience).
Yesterday, we finally saw a market decline of more than 1 percent, after a very long time without one. Is this the end of the rally?
As the end of the first quarter approaches, expectations are high for a new burst of economic growth. With consumer confidence at the highest point since before the financial crisis, business confidence rising to very healthy levels, and job and wage growth continuing to move in the right direction, spring seems just around the corner.
Last week’s economic data was all over the place, but despite some significant disappointments, the overall tone was positive. With the Federal Reserve raising rates but declining to speed up the process, the most likely path looks to be continued growth at about the same pace we’ve seen recently.
St. Patrick’s Day, at least here in the U.S., is all about the wearing of the green. Everyone is Irish today, the green beer flows, and we have a great time—until waking up the next day with a hangover. Living in Boston, with the surname McMillan, I certainly get it.
Just as I do with the economy, I review the market each month for warning signs of trouble in the near future. Although valuations are now high—a noted risk factor in past bear markets—markets can stay expensive (or get much more expensive) for years and years, which doesn’t give us much to go on timing-wise.
Yesterday’s post ended with the idea that, if interest rates go up, market valuations will have to rise for many investors to meet their return goals. Based on the example we used, market valuations would have to increase by 3 percent per year for investors to see their required returns.
I’m at the Commonwealth Chairman’s Retreat this week, which, as usual, is a real treat. The conference is always held in a wonderful location, with great speakers and content—not to mention the chance to connect with some of the best financial advisors in the world.
Last week was all about the February employment report, which surprised to the upside for the second month in a row. This was the last remaining hurdle the economy needed to clear before a Federal Reserve interest rate hike, and the positive results essentially ensured that the hike will happen as expected this week.
The data for February was positive across the board, recovering from some slight pullbacks the previous month. The indicators we track here continue to point toward economic expansion, which is encouraging following the downtrend established in 2016. This marks the fourth straight month of positive data, indicating that the current uptrend may be here to stay.
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