Market In A Snap! December 20th-December 24th, 2021

By: Jeff Anderson, CFA

This Week: Markets finished ahead during this shortened holiday week. As you know, markets are closed today for Christmas. The market digested last week’s Federal Reserve Chairman Powell’s comments and resumed their upward trajectory for the year. Bond yields remain benign keeping a lid on mortgage rates. Housing starts have slowed but, overall, residential real estate construction demand is strong. Inventory is still relatively low, pushing prices higher. With all the stock market news focused on technology companies, you might be surprised to note that the best performing companies in December have been from defensive sectors, such as Utilities, Consumer Staples, and Healthcare. Year-To-Date, the best performing sectors have been Energy (up 66.6%), Home Construction (up over 50%), Semiconductors (up ~42%) and Financials (up over 33%).

Crude Oil finished up 2.6% through Thursday, closing at $73.83 per barrel. Happy Holidays!

 CloseWeekly returnYTD return
    
S&P 5004,725.721.22%25.82%
Nasdaq15,653.373.12%21.45%
Russell 2,0002,243.714.24%13.61%
US Treasury 10yr Yield1.495%  

Source: Wall St. Journal

This Issue:

  • Market Update
  • Consumer Spending Cooled off in November
  • Bloomberg: New Study Shows Omicron Has 80% Lower Risk of Hospitalization
  • Build-Back-Better Act Derailed Again

Consumer Spending Cooled off in November:

The Wall Street Journal reported personal spending rose 0.6% in November compared with 1.4% in October. Many consumers purchased holiday gifts earlier this year because of fears of shortages. Overall, the consumer is still in good shape, with unemployment around 4.2% and personal savings of over $2.5 trillion.  However, the labor participation rate is still lower than in the past (see chart) and the personal savings rate, albeit still relatively high, is back to around pre-pandemic levels. As we have written in previous updates, economists were unsure how much demand was pulled forward because of certain product shortages on top spending down of the stimulus checks in 2020 and early 2021.

Bloomberg: New Study Shows Omicron Has 80% Lower Risk of Hospitalization:

The Omicron variant spreads much faster than the previous variants. However, these infections are 80% less likely to be hospitalized if they catch it. Unfortunately, if admitted to the hospital, the risk of severe disease is like the previous two. As many of us are somewhat numb or tired of hearing about Covid-19, the risks of illness for many still exist. The US reported nearly 240,000 new cases yesterday. Dr. Fauci said earlier in the week that the peak wave for Omicron would come much faster and the risk of infections are much higher for the unvaccinated. There have been many vaccinated people contracting Omicron, but the symptoms have been much milder on balance.

Build-Back-Better Act Derailed Again:

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has put a wrench in the legislation, citing concerns over the spending bill’s effects on inflation and debt levels. Senator Manchin has rejected certain provisions like extended paid leave plan, and a program aimed at pushing utilities to use more clean energy. President Biden has publicly stated that a deal will get done.  The bill has already come down from $3.5 trillion to around $2 trillion. Senator Manchin has publicly stated that he would only support up to $1.5 trillion in spending.  With the Fed accelerating bond purchases and signaling rate increases in 2022, this fiscal stimulus could be even more important for the economy in 2021.

Market In A Snap! August 31st- September 3rd, 2021

By Jeff Anderson, CFA

Record Highs

“U.S. Hiring Slowed Sharply in August. The economy added 235,00 jobs as the Delta variant appears to be weighing on consumer confidence”, was the title in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.  Economists’ estimates were for 720,000.  A big miss to put it bluntly. Payrolls are still 500,000 below the levels prior to the onset of the pandemic in Q1 of 2020.  Despite this, employer demand for workers is still strong.  We are still muddling our way back to normal and this is just another example of how disruptive this past 18 month has been. The S&P 500 shrugged this off and closed essentially flat on the day.  The market continues to march higher despite these challenges. Many leading economic indicators have weakened and it’s clear, to some, that the economy is decelerating.

As Labor Day is finally upon us, money managers will be back from vacation and digesting the recent economic data. Couple that with September being historically one of the tougher months for the market, it will be interesting to see if the US equity markets can continue to march higher.

Gas Prices Soaring

Californians vacationing out of state are always pleasantly surprised at the cost of filling up their rental cars. Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas all have prices that are roughly 33% cheaper.  California gas prices are even more expensive than Hawaii.  How can that be? Taxes.  Total taxes per gallon amount to $1.18 or 42% of the average price for a gallon of fuel in Texas.  See the picture for the breakdown, compliments of the Western States Petroleum Industry.