In our annual economic Investment Outlook, we predicted that interest rates would rise but not enough to derail the expansion. At the same time, we anticipated that the conflicting signals of robust earnings growth and above-average valuation would settle somewhere in the middle.
One of the four takeaways in our 2018 Outlook was, “It’s the Economy,” meaning that over the long term, financial markets tend to do a good job shrugging off headline risk and political drama. Instead, markets focus on the health of the economy. This attribute was once again demonstrated this week with equity markets gaining more than 2 percent despite heightened geopolitical tension as the U.S. formally exited the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Charles Dicken’s iconic tome illustrates aptly the interplay between earnings news and economic news of late. Every day it seems good earning news is complemented with slowing economic news and vice versa. Recent market volatility has pushed cautious investors to the sidelines and those that remain are riding the markets up and down with every recent news release.
Stock markets were essentially flat for the week, but individual stocks gyrated with earnings announcements. Economic data continues to be solid, but not spectacular. First quarter U.S. GDP came in at 2.3 percent, marking the fastest first quarter growth since 2015. Interest rates were essentially unchanged for the week as well.
Stocks and bonds moved in opposite directions as the S&P 500 finished positive on the week despite falling nearly 2 percent between Thursday and Friday. Bonds, on the other hand, declined due to higher interest rates.
With this week’s latest rebound, the S&P 500 has now closed up or down more than 1 percent 27 times year-to-date ‒ this is more than three times the daily volatility that investors experienced in 2017. Accompanying higher stock prices, safe-haven bonds retreated modestly.
With trade tensions picking up, the S&P 500 experienced a wild ride this week, ending the week declining more than 1 percent. The first week of trading in the second quarter experienced huge intraday swings, highlighted by Wednesday’s volatility.