Charting a Course for Growth While most of 2014 proved relatively calm, the sharp drop in oil prices in the fourth quarter, and a one-day “flash crash” in the Treasury market in October, offered investors a somewhat wilder ride at year-end than they had experienced earlier.
Even with the drop in oil prices, the Core CPI (Consumer Price Index excluding the volatile food and energy product categories) rose only 1.7% over the last year, which is little changed from previous periods. This indicates to us that a major deflationary trend is not likely for the foreseeable future — potentially good news for growing the U.S. economy.
Keeping a Lid on Bull Market’s Cap Gains Homestead's Value and Small-Company Stock Funds are managed first for performance. Tax efficiency, while not an objective, is an attractive by-product of the funds' generally low portfolio turnover. Of course, just as trading activity changes over time, capital gains distributions will vary also.
For U.S. stocks, the bulls continued to lumber through the second quarter, largely insulated from Greek volatility. However, all eyes remain fixed on the Fed’s anticipated future rate hike.
Managing Turbulent Markets The final weeks of August brought a rush of trading on Wall Street that sent major stock market indices into negative territory for the year. A steep and fast-paced selloff that began on August 18 pushed the S&P 500 Stock Index down nearly 10% for the year as of August 24. By the end of the month, stocks had recovered most of the decline, but broad market benchmarks were showing losses for the year to date. The S&P 500 was down 2.88% for the year as of August 31. Volatility continued into September.
In contrast to the downbeat finish to the quarter, three key metrics indicate to us that the U.S. economy is showing significant improvements in several critical areas.
Beyond the Noise In our view, the core trends in the economy and the markets are positive, overall. This may surprise market watchers, whose laundry list of worries seems to grow every day. Slowing economic growth in China and contraction in Japan, the downward spiral of energy-related commodities, fears of terrorism and other geopolitical events, hand-wringing about interest rates and looming U.S. elections—a quick look at market news can seem scary, indeed.
The fourth quarter delivered generally positive news on the state of the macro economy, though not without setbacks.
Oil and China: Market Bullies? For the last nine months or so, stock markets have essentially moved sideways — pulling back about 10%, then climbing upward, only to erase gains and backpedal again.
Global growth is tepid, but most measures in the U.S. economy remain stable or positive. Investor sentiment continues to be jittery.