September 2018 Newsletter
As Fall Nears, the Markets are a Mix of Good with a Dose of Concerns
In my experience, people seem to have a more serious attitude about their finances at certain times of year than others. The post-Labor Day period through Thanksgiving is when many people typically reassess their saving and investment strategies and decide whether to make changes. With that in mind, I’d like to share a few thoughts about the current state of the markets for you to think about as you review your own strategies. There’s more going on than I can cover in one newsletter, so I’ll stick to an overview of “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
As everyone knows by now, economic growth in the second quarter hit 4.1 percent—a figure that was recently upgraded to 4.2 percent.1 As everyone probably also knows, 4 percent growth was one of President Trump’s chief campaign promises and the main goal behind his massive tax overhaul. He and other Republicans were quick to hail the second-quarter milestone as a direct result of the tax cuts (approved last December) and call the growth rate sustainable.
Meanwhile, the stock market returned to a mostly upward trend in late spring after months marked by a consistent pattern of small gains and drops, but it is important to note that the early February lows held throughout! Now, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has regained its 2018 peak, while the S&P 500 actually surpassed its January high and hit a record 2,916 on August 31 and has continued higher.2
Though the market remained somewhat volatile, investors seemed to focus mainly on the 4 percent GDP figure and other positive economic data around jobs and consumer confidence, and the fact that interest rates so far have remained stable. In other words, investors seem to be focusing on the good, at least for the time being...
The Bad or Concerns
While President Trump and his administration called the second-quarter growth rate sustainable, many analysts and economists continue to maintain that the impact of the tax cuts could be short-lived and that growth will shrink back closer to 2 percent—or lower—early next year. Many have doubled down on this stance based in part on early reports about what corporations have been doing so far with all their extra tax money.
A recent study by the National Employment Law Project and the Roosevelt Institute found that most corporations have used the money on stock buybacks, rather than direct investments into the company for things like technology or expansion.3 While some experts contend buybacks are a viable strategy that can help ensure a company’s financial strength, others argue that buybacks ultimately hurt corporate America by not doing capital expenditures to grow and expand their business.
Also falling into the “concerned” category is the potentially troublesome relationship between President Trump’s tax plan and the federal deficit. From the start, analysts rejected President Trump’s argument that the tax cuts would “pay for themselves” and cautioned that such a drastic reduction in federal revenue would push the sky-high deficit even higher. Now, the White House has acknowledged that short-term the deficit is growing faster than expected. In July, the Office of Management and Budget revised an earlier forecast to account for nearly $1 trillion of additional debt over the next decade.4
Complicating matters further, President Trump recently pledged up to $12 billion in federal emergency relief for farmers hurt by the trade war—which is another one of the concerning factors Wall Street seems to be ignoring lately. Though big investors may be taking a wait-and-see attitude, many real effects from the new tariffs are already being felt across the country for some industries. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said these trade actions could lead to 2.6 million American job losses in total.5
The Potentially Ugly
For years now, I’ve been cautioning that we’re living in an unprecedented age of economic uncertainty—a result of the reckless overuse of experimental artificial stimulus policies by Central Banks around the world, starting with our own Federal Reserve.
There is just as much debate and controversy around President Trump’s trade policies. Will they make the U.S. more globally competitive and ultimately strengthen the economy? Or will they undermine his tax cuts, cripple growth and usher in a new recession?
No one has a crystal ball, of course. But when reevaluating your own portfolio this fall, make sure you’re taking all these important details about today’s market into consideration. Make sure you’re not blindly focused on “the good” (as Wall Street seems to be), to the extent that you overlook “the bad” and “the ugly!” Remember the old adage "failing to plan is planning to fail." Have a plan in place to protect your investments today!
1. Lucia Mutikani, “US Second Quarter GDP Growth Raised to 4.2 Percent,” Reuters, August 29, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-gdp/u-s-second-quarter-gdp-growth-revised-up-to-4-2-percent-idUSKCN1LE1GB?il=0
3. Annie Lowrey, “Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy,” The Atlantic, August 5, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/07/are-stock-buybacks-starving-the-economy/566387/
4. Jim Tankersley, “How the Trump Tax Cut is Helping Push the Federal Deficit to $1 Trillion,” The New York Times, July 25, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/business/trump-corporate-tax-cut-deficit.html
5. William Mauldin, “Trump’s Trade Policies Threaten Millions of U.S. Jobs, Chamber of Commerce Says,” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-trade-policies-threaten-millions-of-jobs-u-s-chamber-of-commerce-says-1527792627
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Pacific Financial Planners, LLC is an Independent Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Western International Securities, Inc., headquartered in Pasadena CA. Pacific Financial Planners, LLC and Western International Securities, Inc. are separate and unaffiliated. The material contained within are the opinions of Jerry Slusiewicz only and are neither an offer or recommendation to buy or sell any securities or strategies mentioned. You should always check with your professional financial advisor and/or tax advisor before taking any action on any of the securities or strategies contained on this site.