Stocks Trade Higher in February as the Rally Broadens Out

  • The S&P 500 Index gained +5.2%, underperforming the Russell 2000 Index’s +5.6% return. All eleven S&P 500 sectors traded higher, with cyclical sectors outperforming.
  • Corporate investment-grade bonds produced a -1.9% total return as Treasury yields rose, while corporate high-yield bonds produced a +0.3% total return.
  • International stocks underperformed U.S. stocks. The MSCI EAFE Index of developed market stocks returned +3.0%, while the MSCI Emerging Market Index gained +4.2%.

Stocks traded higher in February, with the rally broadening after large cap stocks accounted for most of January’s gains. The S&P 500 traded above 5,000 for the first time, setting a new all-time high, and has now returned +21.5% since the start of November. The Dow Jones Industrial Average set a new closing high in February, and the Russell 2000 Index of small cap stocks outperformed the S&P 500 after trailing by -5.5% last month. The Consumer Discretionary, Industrial, and Material sectors outperformed the S&P 500, while the Utility, Consumer Staple, and Real Estate sectors underperformed.

In the credit market, bonds traded lower for a second consecutive month as two themes caused rates to rise. First, the Federal Reserve told investors it wants more confirmation that inflation will return to its 2% target. This statement effectively pushed back the timing of the first interest rate cut. Second, multiple inflation reports were hotter than expected, hinting at sticky inflation. This year’s bond sell-off suggests the market got ahead of itself by forecasting too many rate cuts. Investors now expect three rate cuts this year, a decrease from the forecast for six rate cuts at the start of the year.

The Bloomberg Commodity Index, which tracks a broad group of commodities, currently trades at its lowest level since December 2021. It’s been a volatile two years. Commodity prices spiked in early 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted the energy, metal, and agriculture markets. The sharp rise in commodity prices sent inflation soaring above 9% in June 2022, the highest level in 40 years. Since peaking in mid-2022, commodity prices and inflation have both trended lower. The consumer price index rose by 3.1% year-over-year in January 2024, the slowest since March 2021.

Investors and the Federal Reserve are debating the risk of a second inflation wave. The price declines across commodity markets helped ease inflation pressures, but there are questions about whether the trend can continue. The price of crude oil has risen by +9.2% year-to-date and currently trades at a 3.5-month high, while gas prices have risen by +13.3% this year. With the summer driving season fast approaching, there is concern that gasoline prices could continue to rise. Investors will be watching other commodity markets to see if prices start to rise, as that could delay the Fed’s plan to cut rates.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The S&P 500’s Concentration Offers a Lesson on Diversification

The odds are high that you have read or heard about artificial intelligence or Chat GPT this year. In the stock market, there is a small group of stocks known as the “7 Tech Titans”, which includes leading technology firms exposed to the AI theme. The group of stocks has significantly outperformed this year due to growing excitement about AI, which has in turn increased its weight in the S&P 500. The five largest companies in the S&P 500, which are all part of the 7 Tech Titans, account for 22% of the entire index’s total market capitalization. These five companies include Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, NVIDIA, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google).

The S&P 500 is now highly concentrated, surpassing the previous record set in December 1999. In that era, Microsoft, General Electric, Cisco, Walmart, and Intel collectively represented around 19% of the S&P 500. How have those five stocks fared since 2000? Figure 1 shows their combined weight in the S&P 500 has declined over time, while the weight of today’s five largest stocks has steadily increased. Figure 2 shows the five stocks have produced an average total return of 216% since 2000, compared to the S&P 500’s return of 349%. At an individual stock level, only one out of the five stocks managed to outperform the S&P 500 over the past two decades.

The two charts highlight the importance of diversification. In both instances, the high concentration resulted from the outperformance of a small group of stocks. However, the return data in Figure 2 shows that today’s winners are not necessarily tomorrow’s winners. Diversifying your stock holdings across different sectors and companies can help manage this risk. It’s also important to diversify across bonds, real estate, and other asset classes, as well as regularly rebalance your portfolio to avoid concentration risk like the S&P 500. Financial markets are constantly changing, and owning a portfolio that is diversified across asset classes can help smooth returns over time and decrease overall portfolio risk. Our goal is to help you create a well-balanced investment portfolio that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.

Why Interest Rates Could Remain High Heading Into 2024

The current economic environment is drawing comparisons to the 1970s. In the early 1970s, oil prices surged following OPEC’s oil embargo, and U.S. fiscal deficits expanded as government spending increased. Today, oil prices are elevated due to supply concerns, and fiscal deficits are expanding as the government invests in infrastructure improvements and renewable energy. While the 1970s and today share rising oil prices and budget deficits, the most direct link between the two periods is high inflation, as shown in Figure 1 below.

The chart compares the path of inflation during the 1970s and today. The numbers differ, but a similar pattern emerges. In both periods, inflationary pressures began building early when interest rates were low in the 1960s and 2010s, respectively. Inflation subsequently eased as economic activity slowed around the 1970 recession and the 2020 COVID pandemic. However, inflation later reversed higher in both periods, with oil prices spiking in the early 1970s and supply chain disruptions following the 2020 pandemic. In both instances, the Fed responded by aggressively raising interest rates, causing inflation pressures to ease.

However, the 1970s serve as a cautionary tale, as inflation reaccelerated to over 13% by the end of the decade. The rapid rise in inflation prompted the Fed to take drastic action and raise the federal funds rate to a staggering 20% in early 1980. An inflation resurgence like the late 1970s is the primary risk today, which is why the Fed is hesitant to declare victory despite the recent dip in inflation. The Fed’s fear is that the economy will re-accelerate and inflation will run away like in the late 1970s. While this is not necessarily the Fed’s forecast, it is widely discussed as a potential risk. The Fed is determined to avoid repeating its errors from the 1970s. The implication is that the Fed may decide to keep interest rates higher for longer, which could keep the cost of capital high in the coming years. Consumers may find it more expensive to buy homes and vehicles or refinance their existing mortgages. Likewise, businesses may find it more expensive to fund operations, finance inventory, and reinvest in their business. Given this uncertainty, it is wise to take a long-term perspective when dealing with interest rates. Borrowers can put themselves in a difficult position if they take out a loan with the expectation of refinancing, only to find that rates remain high.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.

S&P 500 and Dow Jones Trade Within 5% of Their All-Time Closing Highs

Monthly Market Summary

  • The S&P 500 Index gained 3.3% in July but underperformed the Russell 2000 Index’s 6.1% increase. All eleven S&P 500 sectors traded higher, led by the Energy, Communication Service, and Financial sectors.
  • Corporate investment grade bonds produced a 0.1% total return in July, underperforming corporate high yield bonds’ 1.1% total return.
  • The MSCI EAFE Index of developed market stocks rose by 2.7%, underperforming the MSCI Emerging Market Index’s 6.0% return.

S&P 500 Trades Toward its All-Time Closing High from January 2022

The S&P 500 extended its winning streak to five months in July, bringing its year-to-date total return to 20.5%. The S&P 500 has now recovered most of its losses from 2022 and is currently trading less than 5% below its all-time closing high set in January 2022. On a related note, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which tracks 30 prominent U.S. companies, recorded a 13-day winning streak in July – its longest since 1987. Like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones is also trading less than 5% below its all-time closing high, set back in January 2022.

What is fueling the stock market’s gains? In one word: expectations. The U.S. economy has defied expectations for a recession, with job growth, consumer spending, and corporate earnings remaining resilient despite higher interest rates. The recent downward trend in inflation data is adding to the optimism, with investors hopeful that the Federal Reserve can achieve a soft landing or potentially avoid a recession altogether. Despite the favorable trends in the first half of 2023, there is concern that the Fed may need to keep raising interest rates due to recent increases in home prices and commodity prices.

Gasoline Prices Rise to a 3-Month High, Prompting Inflation Concerns

Gasoline prices are rising again, sparking concerns among consumers and central bankers alike. According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline reached a three-month high of $3.75 on July 31st. The recent rise in oil prices is driving this increase, with West Texas Intermediate crude hitting $80 per barrel. Other contributing factors include supply cuts by OPEC and Russia, extreme heat disruptions at refineries that are leading to lower gasoline inventories, and overall optimism about the global economy and demand for oil. While current prices are still below the level of $4.22 per gallon one year ago, the rise in fuel costs could slow the Fed’s progress in curbing inflation and may even require additional interest rate hikes by the central bank. Markets will pay close attention to the energy and overall commodity markets in the upcoming months as the situation unfolds.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.

Navigating the Changing Landscape of Income Generation: Bonds vs. Stocks

Investors can earn income in one of two primary ways – dividends paid on stocks or interest paid on bonds. While both generate income, stocks and bonds have remarkably different risk profiles. Stocks tend to be more volatile than bonds because stocks are more sensitive to the state of the economy and changes in a company’s financial performance. Stocks also face a higher degree of income uncertainty since companies may choose, but are not obligated, to pay dividends to shareholders. In contrast, borrowers are contractually required to pay interest on their bonds at specified intervals. Bondholders also rank more senior in a company’s capital structure and are typically paid back before stockholders if a company declares bankruptcy. While bonds tend to produce lower price returns, their contractual interest payments and seniority may make them a less risky income source.

The last decade of low interest rates made it difficult for savers to generate income. If savers wanted to earn more income than bonds offered, they turned to the stock market. Figure 1 below tracks the number of S&P 500 companies with a dividend yield above the yield on a 5-year Treasury bond. From 2008 through 2022, many S&P 500 companies offered higher yields than the 5-year Treasury bond. However, the situation changed considerably during the past 12 months as interest rates rose. As of July 11th, only 51 companies in the S&P 500 paid a dividend yield above the yield on a 5-year Treasury bond. It is the fewest companies since 2007, a period when savers could generate more income by owning bonds rather than stocks.

Bonds sold off in 2022 as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, but those interest rate hikes now present an opportunity for savers. Figure 2, which graphs the yield across various U.S. Treasury maturities, shows bonds are now more competitive as an income source. Yields on shorter maturity Treasuries approach 5.5%, and investors can lock in a yield near 4% on longer maturity Treasuries. Rather than relying on stocks to generate income, savers can now earn a higher level of income by owning bonds and diversifying their portfolio.

Important Notices & Disclaimer

The information and opinions expressed herein are solely those of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (PFG), are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to buy or sell a security, nor as an offer to buy or sell a security. Recipients of the information provided herein should consult with their financial advisor before purchasing or selling a security.

The information and opinions provided herein are provided as general market commentary only, and do not consider the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any one client. The information in this report is not intended to be used as the primary basis of investment decisions, and because of individual client objectives, should not be construed as advice designed to meet the particular investment needs of any investor.

The comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. PFG is not soliciting any action based on this document. Investors should consult with their financial adviser before making any investment decisions. There is no guarantee that any future event discussed herein will come to pass. The data used in this publication may have been obtained from a variety of sources including U.S. Federal Reserve, FactSet, Bloomberg, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, iShares, Vanguard and State Street, which we believe to be reliable, but PFG cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of data used herein. Any use of graphs, text or other material from this report by the recipient must acknowledge MarketDesk Research as the source. Past performance does not guarantee or indicate future results.   Investing   involves   risk,   including   the possible loss of principal and fluctuation of value. PFG disclaims responsibility for updating information. In addition, PFG disclaims responsibility for third-party content, including information accessed through hyperlinks.

No mention of a particular security, index, derivative or other instrument in the report constitutes a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold that or any other security, nor does it constitute an opinion on the suitability of any security, index, or derivative. The report is strictly an information publication and has been prepared without regard to the particular investments and circumstances of the recipient.

READERS   SHOULD   VERIFY   ALL   CLAIMS   AND   COMPLETE    THEIR    OWN RESEARCH AND CONSULT A REGISTERED FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE INVESTING IN ANY INVESTMENTS MENTIONED IN THE PUBLICATION. INVESTING IN SECURITIES AND DERIVATIVES IS SPECULATIVE AND CARRIES A HIGH DEGREE OF RISK, AND READERS MAY LOSE MONEY TRADING AND INVESTING IN SUCH INVESTMENTS.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor.