Macroeconomic Clarity Leads to the Best Performance Since 2013
Markets welcomed the positive resolution of several key macroeconomic unknowns in the fourth quarter, and that improved clarity sent the broader stock market higher over the past three months. The solid fourth quarter gains helped the S&P 500 index achieve its best annual return since 2013.
Markets Remain Resilient Despite More Volatility
Markets in the third quarter of 2019 looked surprisingly similar to the second quarter as more U.S.-China trade war uncertainty and a lack of clarity on future interest rate policy caused a sharp increase in volatility in the middle of the quarter, but the S&P 500 remained resilient and ultimately recouped those losses to finish the quarter not far from the new all-time highs established in late July.
Trade Uncertainty and Expected Fed Rate Cuts Make for a Volatile Quarter
Historically typical volatility returned in the second quarter as uncertainty regarding U.S.-China trade relations, future Federal Reserve interest rate policy, and the state of the U.S. and global economies caused a more-than-6% pullback in the S&P 500 during May, before stocks broadly recovered in June and finished the quarter near fresh all-time highs.
A Strong Start to the Year, But Risks Remain
Stocks rebounded strongly in the first quarter thanks to a combination of improving U.S.-China trade relations, the Federal Reserve halting interest rate increases, and a better outlook for corporate earnings. The S&P 500 finished the first quarter of 2019 with the best quarterly return since 2009.
Market Correction: What Happened and What’s Next
A decade of consecutive positive annual returns from the S&P 500 ended in 2018. In the final three months of the year the S&P 500 registered its worst quarterly performance in seven years and ended 2018 with a negative annual total return for the first time since 2008.
A Strong Economy Helps Power Markets to New Highs
The third quarter was the best-performing quarter for markets so far this year as the major U.S. stock indices each hit new all-time highs. The broad market gains were driven by strong economic data, solid earnings growth and improved clarity on global trade.
Markets in Review
The second quarter of 2018 saw lots of themes emerge, but increasing trade tensions seemed to drive the markets and the return of volatility. In fact, investors would be hard-pressed to find an asset class, sector or region that didn’t see decent-sized swings over the second quarter as investor sentiment seemed to change every day. On the heels of most equity markets being down in the first quarter of 2018, generally speaking, the U.S. equity markets recovered during the second quarter. International markets, on the other hand, didn’t fare nearly as well.