The Independent Market Observer

Does Market Turbulence Make Sense?

February 26, 2021

We have had some turbulence in the market over the past couple of days. The bond market briefly seized up, with interest rates up by surprising amounts. This, in turn, shook the stock market, taking it down from the highs by about 4 percent for the S&P 500 and almost 8 percent for the Nasdaq. On top of all that, we have had events such as the ongoing GameStop show and the explosion of SPAC offerings. With everything that is going on, the recent pullback, and the signs of frenzy, is it time to worry? My take: not yet.

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Markets Hold Gains Despite Rising Rates

February 25, 2021

*I will be alternating the text and video versions of this update on a weekly basis. This week is text, next week will be video, and so forth. As always, thanks for reading and watching.

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Own the Future: Looking at a Growth Portfolio

February 24, 2021

I am sitting down with an advisor and a client this afternoon to discuss a portfolio. Usual enough. But in this case, the portfolio looks a bit different. It has a large number of individual stocks, most of which are in the tech space. Of course, it has done very well over the past year or more.

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What Do Higher Interest Rates Mean?

February 23, 2021

One of the most common types of questions I have gotten recently has been around interest rates. Rates are going up, and the concern has largely been whether this is a sign of pending inflation. As both my colleague Anu Gaggar and I have written recently, the answer is no, higher rates do not mean inflation is coming. They do mean several other things, however—some bad and some good.

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Monday Update: Retail Sales Surge as Economic Recovery Accelerates

February 22, 2021

Last week saw a number of important data releases, with the much-better-than-expected January retail sales report and strong industrial production report serving as highlights. This will be another busy week for updates, with a focus on consumer confidence, durable goods orders, and the January personal income and spending reports.

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Coronavirus Update: February 19, 2021 [Video]

February 19, 2021

Today I'd like to provide an update on the coronavirus, including the economic and market implications. On the medical front, we appear to be well past the peak of the third wave, with daily infection rates and hospitalizations down. A more contagious variant of the virus could start another wave of infections, although there are no signs of that happening yet.

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Economic News Showing Surprising Strength

February 18, 2021

*Starting next week, February 25, I’ll be publishing my coronavirus update every other week.

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Why Printing Money May Not Create Inflation

February 17, 2021

Today's post is from Anu Gaggar, senior investment research analyst.

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Monday Update (on Tuesday): Consumer Inflation Remains Muted

February 16, 2021

Last week was relatively quiet in terms of economic updates, with only three major data releases. The January Consumer Price Index showed that headline and core consumer inflation remained well constrained to start the year. This week will be busier, as a number of important economic updates are scheduled for release. The January retail sales report will be widely followed, as it is expected to show a return to retail sales growth.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: February 2021

February 12, 2021

My colleague Sam Millette, senior investment research analyst on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Market Risk Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

Markets took a breather in January, as month-end volatility led to a mixed month for major equity indices to start the year. This volatility caused the S&P 500 to decline by 1.01 percent during the month, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.95 percent. The Nasdaq Composite managed to record a 1.44 percent gain. While we have seen markets largely recover to start February, the month-end volatility is a good reminder of the risks markets continue to face.

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Will Positive Market Trends Continue?

February 11, 2021

For the third week in a row, the big picture continues to be very positive. On the medical front, all three major data series—new cases, positive testing rates, and hospitalizations—have continued to trend down, while vaccinations continue to scale up. If current trends continue, we are through the worst of the pandemic and should see continued improvement.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: February 2021

February 10, 2021

My colleague Sam Millette, senior investment research analyst on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Economic Risk Factor Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

The economy showed moderate growth in January, despite the lingering headwind of the third wave of the pandemic. There were signs toward month-end that federal stimulus and an improving public health picture started to have a positive impact on the economic recovery, with a return to job growth and increases in business and consumer confidence. Reflecting the improvements, long-term interest rates also began to show signs of normalization.

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Looking Back at the Markets in January and Ahead to February 2021

February 9, 2021

January was a month of transition. Markets took a break, with small gains or declines. The presidential inauguration handed the reins from the Trump administration to the Biden administration. Winter finally arrived, at least here in Massachusetts. And with the start of mass vaccinations, we began the transition to get past the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Monday Update: Business Confidence Remains Strong

February 8, 2021

Last week was packed with updates, with a focus on January’s business confidence and employment reports. Confidence held up well to start the year, and we saw an encouraging return to job growth in January. This week will be relatively quiet, with only a few major reports set to be released. The highlights will be the January consumer inflation report and the first look consumer sentiment in February.

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Coronavirus Update: February 5, 2021 [Video]

February 5, 2021

Today, I'd like to provide an update on the coronavirus, including the economic and market implications. On the medical front, new daily infection rates and hospitalizations were down, and we saw improvement in positive testing rates. Although the threat of a more contagious variant of the virus remains, substantial progress on vaccinations should help offset that risk.

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Economic Damage Starting to Moderate

February 4, 2021

For the second week in a row, the big picture continues to be very positive. On the medical front, all three major data series—new cases, positive testing rates, and hospitalizations—have continued to trend down, while vaccinations continue to scale up. If current trends continue, we are through the worst of the pandemic and should see continued improvement.

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Ahoy, Inflation Ahead?

February 3, 2021

Recently, I have been getting a number of questions about inflation. Is it coming? How bad will it be? And, of course, what should I do about it? It has been interesting, because inflation has been largely off the radar for some years—it simply has not been a problem. What has been driving the concern now seems to be worries about the effects of the federal stimulus programs, which many think will drive more inflation. But I don’t think so. To show why, let’s go back to history.

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Market Thoughts for February 2021 [Video]

February 2, 2021

Most developed markets were down slightly in January, including the Dow and S&P 500 in the U.S., as well as developed markets abroad. Despite the month's weak numbers, markets remain near all-time highs. On the economic front, layoffs were high and retail spending dropped. But with federal stimulus payments, consumer confidence has begun to recover, boosting higher-frequency spending data.

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Monday Update: Economic Recovery Continued in Fourth Quarter

February 1, 2021

Last week saw a number of important economic updates, with the first look at fourth-quarter GDP growth serving as a highlight. The economy grew at an annualized rate of 4 percent during the quarter, which represents a continued economic recovery to end 2020. This week will also be packed with updates, with a focus on January’s business confidence and employment reports.

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