Although the market won’t break 20,000 this year, 2016 has been quite a ride. In the third week of January I was speaker at the annual ETF Conference held in Ft. Lauderdale that attracts over a 1000 advisors and money managers. The bearishness was stifling.
A year ago, we were looking back on the 2015 equity market, which like its predecessor had been relatively unimposing—at least in terms of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the smaller indexes.
Although in modern times you can find markets open almost 24/7, trading around holidays has actually slowed in recent years. This year many have started that Christmas holidays early, leaving town last night. The markets have lost their momentum as interest turns to family, friends, and holiday dinners.
The Federal Reserve continues to maintain a relatively transparent monetary policy. So, after months of expressing assorted concerns about the health of the economic up cycle, and holding interest rates unchanged as a result, a now more confident lead bank—which has been upfront recently in putting forth its evolving economic views—has opted to raise interest rates
The Fed’s actions were perfectly predictable last Wednesday, yet the rate projections did not jibe with the forecast changes. Certainly the Fed hiked 25 bps (no surprise), and the vote was unanimous: no holdouts by the doves or 50 bp advocates among the hawks. The projections of future funds rate were, as expected, far more aggressive.
The current jobs picture would seem to have something for almost everyone. On point, those looking for further modest growth were cheered by November’s in-line gain of 178,000 positions, which was on par with this year’s average monthly increase of 180,000 jobs.
Donald Trump’s surprise victory may radically alter the future path of U.S. monetary policy. Yields on long-term Treasury bonds have jumped by more than one-half percentage point since the election. In addition, the markets are pricing in possibly two or three interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in 2017.
The economic pieces appear to be falling into place as the old year winds down. On point, retail and housing data remain largely positive, while consumer confidence is gaining strongly, along with stock prices and home values.
The interesting parts of the labor report was what happened away from the headline payroll number (which virtually hit expectations at up 178k). The unemployment rate spiked down to a 4.6%, well below the Fed’s definition of the "full employment" rate, and only 2 tenths above the lowest unemployment rate in the boom that preceded the financial crisis.
Only history will tell us whether this remarkable equity rally since Trump’s election is justified or not. But, in the meantime, it hard to stand apart from this massive shift from bonds to equity.