Weekly Market Commentary December 3, 2018

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Last week provided investors clarity on their two biggest concerns: interest rates and trade. Federal Reserve communication indicated rate increases will likely slow in 2019, and over the weekend, the U.S. and China announced an agreement to delay an increase in tariffs from 10% to 25% on a wide range of U.S. goods. In exchange, the Chinese will buy more U.S. goods, and both sides will seek an agreement in the next quarter.

Markets reacted very positively to the news on rates. The S&P soared 4.8%. The gains marked the second time this quarter the S&P 500 has neared a 10% fall and rallied back. The MSCI ACWI gained 3.3% as global stocks joined the rally. The Bloomberg BarCap Aggregate Bond Index edged up 0.1%.

Despite the volatility, November’s returns were positive, as the strong performance last week pushed stock indexes from negative to positive returns. The S&P rose 1.8%, and the MSCI ACWI climbed 1.3%. The Aggregate Bond Index rallied 0.6% as concerns about slowing economic growth aided bonds.


Key Points for the Week

  • U.S. stocks rallied sharply last week.
  • Interest rates are not likely to rise as quickly as many investors feared.
  • The U.S. will delay an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods as part of trade negotiations.

Economic News

U.S. economic data released last week shows inflation stagnating and consumer spending at the highest level it’s been in seven months. PCE core inflation, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, rose 1.8%. It was the lowest level since February and is below the Fed’s target of 2%. Consumer spending increased by 0.6% in October, while wages rose by 0.3%. Both data points suggest the consumer remains a source of strength in the U.S. economy.

The lower inflation data reinforces other data indicating the economy is slowing. Investors worried the Fed would keep raising rates despite how low inflation has contributed to recent volatility. But when the minutes from the Fed’s most recent meeting were released, the rate hike path for 2019 appeared less certain. While the minutes suggested the plan to raise rates in December is a foregone conclusion, the Fed indicated it would be more flexible and pay close attention to economic data and react accordingly. Fed Chair Jerome Powell stated that interest rates were just below neutral, which is a level where interest rates neither speed nor slow economic growth. This soothed many investors’ concerns on whether interest rates would be raised too high and hurt economic growth.

Fun Story

Customers were mistakenly given $100 bills instead of $20s from ATM

Christmas came early for some Bank of America customers in Texas last week when an ATM started spitting out $100 bills instead of $20s. After news spread, a long line formed of people seeking a quick 500% return. Apparently caught up in the spirit of cheer, Bank of America said customers could keep the money because it was the company’s error.


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