Strong 1st Quarter for Investors
Stocks finished the first quarter (Q1) on a relatively strong note with the S&P 500 Index gaining 0.8%. With last week’s rebound, the S&P 500 Index managed to gain 6.1% during the quarter. The Russell Midcap and Russell 2000 Indexes also finished last week on an upbeat note with gains of 1.3% and 2.4% respectively. While outpacing large cap stocks last week, mid-sized and smaller companies lagged larger companies overall for the first quarter. For the quarter, the Russell Midcap Index gained 5.1% while the Russell 2000 gained 2.5%. International equities outperformed domestic stocks during the first quarter despite ending March with two consecutive weeks of only minor changes in value. The MSCI EAFE Index, which measures international developed markets, finished last week flat while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 1.1% during the week. Despite this final week downturn, international developed markets finished the first quarter with gains of 7.4% while emerging markets led the geographic way overall with an 11.5% gain.
A noticeable trend thus far this year has been the outperformance of growth versus value stocks. As a reminder, growth stocks are those that have generally exhibited a relatively higher growth rate in sales and earnings, while value stocks are those that typically trade at relatively attractive levels as measured by ratios such as Price-to-Earnings (P/E) and Price-to-Book (P/B). Through March 31, 2017, large cap growth stocks have gained 8.9% while large cap value stocks have risen by only 3.3%. This is a major reversal from last year. Consider that during 2016, a basket of large cap growth stocks earned only 7.1% compared to the 17.3% earned by large cap value stocks.
The impressive returns that stocks have delivered so far this year are partially due to three tailwinds in our view. First, optimism of expected pro-growth policies from the Trump Administration such as tax reform, de-regulation, and infrastructure spending are positives for stocks. Second, global economic data such as PMI’s, activity indicators, and measures of confidence accelerated, and also seem to be promoting higher stock prices. Third, companies are growing their profits again. It appears that we have officially recovered from the earnings recession that was brought on by the collapse in oil prices two and half years ago.
Looking ahead, two of these three factors remain firmly in-tact. Global economic activity, while perhaps not accelerating to the degree it did during Q1, shows no sign of reversing course and we expect it to stabilize from here. The corporate earnings environment should continue to be supportive this year as well. For example, according to FactSet, earnings are expected to grow 9.8% during 2017 compared to 2016. Optimism surrounding Trump’s policies, however, may remain tempered. While we believe tax reform, de-regulation, and infrastructure spending will ultimately benefit certain sectors of the U.S. stock market, allocations to these areas may not bear fruit until later depending on the machinations of Washington DC.
Given the shifting tide in capital markets, investors would be wise to consider the diversification they have in place in their investment portfolios. International markets may continue to outperform their U.S. counterparts and portfolios that have little or no exposure to these geographies may not be in a position to benefit from this shift. We encourage you to take the time to review your current asset allocation strategy. If you would like a complimentary portfolio review performed, please do not hesitate to speak with your Hennion & Walsh Financial Advisor or a member of the Hennion & Walsh Asset Management Team.
Large cap growth stocks are measured by the Russell 1000 Growth Index. Large cap value stocks are measured by the Russell 1000 Value Index.
Important Information and Disclaimers
Disclosures: Past performance does not guarantee future results. We have taken this information from sources that we believe to be reliable and accurate. Hennion & Walsh cannot guarantee the accuracy of said information and cannot be held liable. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any of the asset classes or sectors discussed.
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 US companies based on total market capitalization and represents about 98% of the investible US Equity market.
ML BOFA US Corp Mstr [Merill Lynch US Corporate Master]: The Merrill Lynch Corporate Master Market Index is a statistical composite tracking the performance of the entire US corporate bond market over time.
ML Muni Master [Merill Lynch US 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.