Weekly Expert Perspectives PAS

Back to Record Territory

The S&P 500 advanced 0.6% this week, closing Friday at a new record high for the first time since January 26. Political uncertainty, trade ambiguity, and strengthened expectations for two more rate hikes this year all failed to dissuade motivated buyers, who pushed stocks higher in three of the week's five sessions.

As for the other major averages, the Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 also notched new records, adding 1.7% and 1.9%, respectively, while the Dow climbed 0.5%.

The week started on a mildly positive note, with stocks ticking higher on Monday and Tuesday, but investors were cautious over the next two sessions, largely due to the legal woes of President Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Mr. Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud on Tuesday afternoon, while Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to a range of charges, including tax fraud and excessive campaign contributions, and implicated the president directly by saying that Mr. Trump directed him to pay two women hush money "for the principal purpose of influencing the election."

It's too early to say what these developments will mean for President Trump's political future, but it's worth noting that the president chose to say, in regards to the situation, that the market would crash "if I ever got impeached" and that "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job."

Moving on to the trade front, two days of trade talks between the U.S. and China wrapped up on Thursday without any visible sign of progress. President Trump said beforehand that he wasn't expecting much to come out of the talks, which marked the first official negotiations since a breakdown nearly three months ago.

In monetary policy, President Trump reiterated his displeasure with the Fed on Monday, saying he was "not thrilled" with Fed Chair Jerome Powell for raising rates.

Two days later, the Fed released the minutes from the July/August FOMC meeting, which only strengthened the expectation that the U.S. central bank will hike rates at its September meeting, with officials saying in the minutes that it would likely "soon" be appropriate to raise rates.

Then, on Friday, Fed Chairman Powell gave a speech at the Kansas City Fed's annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, saying that gradual rate hikes remain appropriate. Mr. Powell also expressed confidence in the economy and said he doesn't see any signs of inflation getting out of hand.

Seven of eleven sectors advanced this week, with cyclical groups showing relative strength. The energy sector (+2.6%) was the top performer -- rebounding from last week's 3.6% tumble -- helped by an increase in crude prices; West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed 4.2% this week to $68.66 per barrel.

Meanwhile, the consumer discretionary sector (+2.0%) also outperformed amid a steady flow of retail earnings. TJX (TJX) jumped 4.7% on Tuesday after reporting better-than-expected results, while Lowe's (LOW) and Target (TGT) added 5.8% and 3.2%, respectively, on Wednesday after also beating estimates.

On the downside, the four declining sectors were consumer staples (-1.8%), utilities (-1.4%), telecom services (-0.7%), and real estate (-1.1%).

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S&P 500 Index is a market index generally considered representative of the stock market as a whole. The index focuses on the large-cap segment of the U.S. equities market. Indices are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index. Each company’s security affects the index in proportion to its market value. NASDAQ Composite Index is a market value-weighted index that measures all NASDAQ domestic and non-U.S. based common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock market. Dow Jones Industrial Average is a widely-used indicator of the overall condition of the stock market, a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded blue chip stocks, primarily industrials, but also includes financial, leisure and other service oriented firms. Data and rates used were indicative of market conditions as of the date shown and compiled by briefing.com. Opinions, estimates, forecasts, and statements of financial market trends are based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. References to specific securities, asset classes and financial markets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute a solicitation, offer, or recommendation to purchase or sell a security. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the smallest 2,000 companies in the Russell 3000 Index of the 3,000 largest U.S. companies in terms of market capitalization. MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance of emerging markets. Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) tracks the expected volatility in the S&P 500 Index over the next 30 days. A higher number indicates greater volatility.

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2018-65380 (Exp 11/18)