The Independent Market Observer

Monday Update: Personal Spending Beats Expectations

February 28, 2022

Last week’s important economic updates centered around consumer confidence, personal income and spending, and durable goods orders reports. Personal spending growth increased more than expected in January, echoing a similar, better-than-expected rebound in retail sales growth during the month. This will be another busy week of updates, with a focus on business confidence and the February employment report.

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Could Some Sectors Benefit from Inflation?

February 25, 2022

Recent equity market volatility is being partially attributed to potential Fed tightening, as the Fed has signaled a shift from an accommodative monetary policy stance to one that is more restrictive. It is doing so in response to the recent hot inflation reads and a rebound in inflation expectations. In general, equities are considered a hedge against inflation. Why, then, are equity investors so concerned? The reason is that not all equity sectors are created alike. Specifically, some can combat inflation and subsequent interest rate increases better than others.

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What Does the Ukraine Invasion Mean for Investors' Portfolios?

February 24, 2022

The next phase in the Ukraine crisis has begun, as Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine. With a war underway, it’s unsurprising that the markets are reacting. Before the market opened, U.S. stock futures were down between 2 1/2 percent and 3 1/2 percent, while gold was up by roughly the same amount. The yield on 10-Year U.S. Treasury securities has dropped sharply. International markets were down even more than the U.S. markets, as investors fled to the more comfortable haven of U.S. securities.

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What Does the Russia-Ukraine Crisis Mean for Investors?

February 23, 2022

I have been holding off on commenting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict until some sort of resolution occurred. Lots of things could have happened, and we could drive ourselves crazy worrying about the possibilities. But now something has happened, and it is time to take a look.

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Monday Update: Omicron Economic Impact Less Than Feared

February 22, 2022

Last week was full of important economic updates, many of which showed that the economic impact from the Omicron variant was relatively muted compared to earlier waves of the pandemic. The January retail sales report was a highlight, as sales growth experienced its best month since last March. This will be a quieter week for reports, with only three major releases scheduled that will provide updates on consumer confidence, personal income and spending, and durable goods orders.

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More Stock Market Turbulence: Could It Get Worse?

February 18, 2022

Yesterday was another bad one for the market, with the S&P 500 down more than 2 percent. The S&P as a whole is now down more than 8 percent from the peak, with the Dow down about 5 percent, and the Nasdaq down more than 13 percent as of this writing. What is going on—and will it get worse?

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Investor Expectations Vs. Reality

February 17, 2022

This will be a quick post, as I am finishing up a Commonwealth conference. As usual, it has been a wonderful chance to see old friends, make new ones, and have a great time in a beautiful place. It was as I expected, given the great people—and even better meeting planners—who make Commonwealth so special. In this case, at least, my expectations were well-founded and have been fully met. But today I want to talk about expectations in a more general way.

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A Broader and Deeper Look at Interest Rates

February 16, 2022

One of the major current risks to the market is the Fed’s tightening of policy. Much has been written about the Fed’s plans to raise rates, to start downsizing its balance sheet, and so forth. But what has been missing so far is the fact that many of the changes have already been factored in by the market—and what the market seems to be expecting is not really in line with the headlines.

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Wordle, Investing, and Russia/Ukraine: What’s the Connection?

February 15, 2022

Three hot topics at once. Talk about efficiency! Beyond efficiency, though, I do think there is a fairly deep connection here—and one that is worth talking about right now.

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Monday Update: Consumer Inflation Accelerates in January

February 14, 2022

There were a number of important economic data releases last week, with a focus on international trade, consumer prices, and consumer sentiment. The reports showed that continued high levels of inflationary pressure weighed on consumer sentiment to start February. This will be a very busy week of updates, with reports scheduled to cover producer inflation, retail sales, industrial production, new home construction, and the minutes from the most recent Fed meeting.

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Taper Tantrum Part 2?

February 11, 2022

Yesterday, the market sell-off continued, reportedly driven by a higher-than-expected inflation report and a comment by St. Louis Fed President James Bullard that he wanted to hike rates even faster than the market had been expecting. For a market that was already nervous about inflation and rates, it was a one-two punch. The Fed is being forced to act, by inflation, and at least one Fed member is very willing to hike rates quickly in response.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: February 2022

February 10, 2022

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

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Economic Risk Factor Update: February 2022

February 9, 2022

My colleague Sam Millette, manager, fixed income 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!

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Looking Back at the Markets in January and Ahead to February 2022

February 8, 2022

January was a terrible month. Worries about economic damage from the Omicron wave were combined with the Fed’s perceived decision to start raising interest rates based on inflation levels at a 40-year high. Stocks were knocked down around the world. Tech stocks got hit especially hard, but even fixed income was down. It really was a terrible month.

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Monday Update: January Jobs Report Surges Past Expectations

February 7, 2022

Last week’s important economic data releases included January’s business confidence and employment reports. The January jobs report was a highlight, as it showed the economy added significantly more jobs than expected throughout the end of 2021 and start of 2022. Among the updates to come this week, the focus will be on international trade, consumer prices, and consumer sentiment.

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Strangest Jobs Report Ever?

February 4, 2022

Wow. I have rarely been so wrong about an economic report—or so glad to be wrong. And it wasn’t just me. The range of expected values for today’s jobs report was roughly between -400,000 and +250,000. Everyone was very wrong as it came in at +467,000. This was a much, much larger-than-expected gain, and it clearly shows there is something going on that analysts are missing.

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Signs Say Terrible Jobs Report Ahead

February 3, 2022

The official jobs report comes out this Friday. Expectations are for another slowdown, with about 175,000 jobs added, down from 199,000 in December. With everything that is going on, especially the number of people who have the Omicron variant and are presumably not at work, that would be a great result. Unfortunately, the real number is likely to be well below that and will probably be negative—maybe significantly so.

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Russia-Ukraine Tensions: Implications for Investors

February 2, 2022

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are showing no signs of abating. The geopolitical implications of further escalation could be quite dire and complicated. Although the deadlock may be resolved through diplomacy, we are watching for the impact on asset prices if the conflict escalates. Energy and commodity markets could be in the immediate line of fire, but repercussions may also be felt in the region’s equity and fixed income markets. Finally, if the situation worsens, the ripple effects could be more broad-based and have an impact on global inflation expectations and monetary policy.

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Market Thoughts for February 2022 [Video]

February 1, 2022

After a strong close to 2021, markets pulled back to start the year, with U.S. indices dropping between 3 and 10 percent. On the medical front, the Omicron wave continued. As case growth rose to new highs, consumer and business confidence took a hit. Finally, January reports showed inflation at a 40-year high, and the Fed announced a rate hike in March was very likely.

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