Market Commentaries

  • Labor Market Conditions and Interest Rates


    Market Overview

    Sources: Rates Data and Economic Calendar—Bloomberg Markets as of 10/7/14; Equity Market Returns and Fixed Income and Alternatives Data—Wells Fargo Advisers as of 10/7/14


    Happening Now

    Labor Market Conditions and Interest Rates

    On the back of a volatile September, market participants this week are awaiting the release of the FOMC’s meeting minutes and the release of Alcoa’s earnings (which signal the start of Q3 reporting season), both scheduled for Wednesday October, 8. The FOMC’s September statement made it clear that the central bank plans to finish their historical asset purchase program this month when they gather again in a few weeks. This is in light of a stubbornly improving U.S. economy and a U-3 unemployment rate that has grinded lower despite sub-par, consistent U.S. GDP growth. The minutes will shed light on the discussions that took place behind closed doors last month and should offer insight into the various member views of the labor market.

    Underutilization of the workforce is a phrase that Fed Chair Janet Yellen used multiple times in the press conference that followed the September Fed meeting and provides for continued monetary ease in the face of an official unemployment rate that has dipped below 6% for the first time since July of 2008. The term underutilization is an acknowledgment of the 5 other unemployment rate measures the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates and the FOMC voting members take into consideration when voting on monetary policy. These six measures are defined below:

    • U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
    • U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
    • U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
    • U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
    • U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
    • U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.


    While easy monetary policy has played a role in the continuing bull market that U.S. stocks have experienced since march of 2009, we, at Hennion & Walsh, believe that a return to normalcy should serve as a signal to businesses that the economy is ready to start standing on its own too legs. For this reason, we are optimistic about the prospects for continued growth in the U.S. stock market heading into and throughout 2015 and believe an increase in business confidence will lead to better labor market conditions and help fuel additional consumer spending.

    Historically, periods of steadily rising interest rates are associated with rising stock and real estate prices as interest rates can be a tool that is used to help put the brakes on an economy that is expanding and prevent it from overheating. The U.S. economy may not quite be overheating but after 6 years of a near zero federal funds target rate, measured increases, and the confidence they signal, should be welcomed.


    Important Information and Disclaimers

    Past Performance is not a guide to future performance.

    Investing in foreign securities presents certain risks not associated with domestic investments, such as currency fluctuation, political and economic instability, and different accounting standards. This may result in greater share price volatility. These risks are heightened in emerging markets.

    There are special risks associated with an investment in real estate, including credit risk, interest rate fluctuations and the impact of varied economic conditions. Distributions from REIT investments are taxed at the owner’s tax bracket.

    The prices of small company and mid cap stocks are generally more volatile than large company stocks. They often involve higher risks because smaller companies may lack the management expertise, financial resources, product diversification and competitive strengths to endure adverse economic conditions.

    Investing in commodities is not suitable for all investors. Exposure to the commodities markets may subject an investment to greater share price volatility than an investment in traditional equity or debt securities. Investments in commodities may be affected by changes in overall market movements, commodity index volatility, changes in interest rates or factors affecting a particular industry or commodity.

    Products that invest in commodities may employ more complex strategies which may expose investors to additional risks.

    Investing in fixed income securities involves certain risks such as market risk if sold prior to maturity and credit risk especially if investing in high yield bonds, which have lower ratings and are subject to greater volatility. All fixed income investments may be worth less than original cost upon redemption or maturity. Bond Prices fluctuate inversely to changes in interest rates. Therefore, a general rise in interest rates can result in the decline of the value of your investment.


    MSCI- EAFE: The Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe, Australasia and Far East Index, a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed-market equity performance, excluding the United States and Canada.

    MSCI-Emerging Markets: The Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Market Index, is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure the performance of global emerging markets of about 25 emerging economies.

    Russell 3000: The Russell 3000 measures the performance of the 3000 largest U.S. companies based on total market capitalization and represents about 98% of the investible U.S. Equity market.

    ML BOFA U.S. Corp Mstr [Merill Lynch U.S. Corporate Master]:  The Merrill Lynch Corporate Master Market Index is a statistical composite tracking the performance of the entire U.S. corporate bond market over time.

    ML Muni Master [Merill Lynch U.S. Corporate Master]: The Merrill Lynch Municipal Bond Master Index is a broad measure of the municipal fixed income market.

    Investors cannot directly purchase any index.

    LIBOR, London Interbank Offered Rate, is the rate of interest at which banks offer to lend money to one another in the wholesale money markets in London.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an unweighted index of 30 “blue-chip” industrial U.S. stocks.

    The S&P Midcap 400 Index is a capitalization-weighted index measuring the performance of the mid-range sector of the U.S. stock market, and represents approximately 7% of the total market value of U.S. equities. Companies in the Index fall between S&P 500 Index and the S&P SmallCap 600 Index in size: between $1-4 billion.

    DJ Equity REIT Index represents all publicly traded real estate investment trusts in the Dow Jones U.S.  stock universe classified as Equity REITs according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices REIT Industry Classification Hierarchy. These companies are REITSs that primarily own and operate income-producing real estate.

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