The Market Update

The Markets - March 1, 2021

U.S. Markets: The major U.S. benchmarks pulled back sharply in response to a steep rise in longer-term treasury interest rates.  The S&P 500 recorded its biggest weekly decline in a month, while the technology-heavy NASDAQ Composite suffered its worst drop since October.  The narrowly-focused Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 562 points finishing the week at 30,932, a decline of -1.8%.  The NASDAQ Composite ended the week down -4.9%.  By market cap, the large cap S&P 500 declined -2.4%, while the mid cap S&P 400 and small cap Russell 2000 retreated -1.5% and ‑2.9%, respectively. 




International Markets: Major international markets sold off last week as well.  Canada’s TSX declined ‑1.8%, while the United Kingdom’s FTSE ended down -2.1%.  On Europe’s mainland, France’s CAC 40 gave up -1.2% and Germany’s DAX shed -1.5%.  In Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite plunged -5.1%, and Japan’s Nikkei gave up -3.5%.  As grouped by Morgan Stanley Capital International, developed markets ended down -2.9%, while emerging markets dropped a rather large ‑6.6%.  

Commodities: Precious metals were no port in the storm of declining equities markets, and sold off along with the broader indexes.  Gold declined by -$48.60 to $1728.80 an ounce, a decline of -2.7%, while Silver fell -$0.81 to $26.44 an ounce, down -3.0%.  Energy continued its rise.  West Texas Intermediate crude oil finished the week up 3.8% to $61.50 per barrel.  The industrial metal copper finished the week up 0.5%.

February SummaryFor the month of February, the Dow rose 3.2% and the NASDAQ added 0.9%.  The S&P 500 rose 2.6%, while mid caps and small caps surged 6.7% and 6.1%, respectively.  Canada rose 4.2% and the UK added 1.2%.  France and Germany rallied 5.6% and 2.6%, respectively.  In Asia, China ticked up 0.7%, while Japan jumped 4.7%.  Developed markets finished the month up 2.2%, while emerging markets added just 0.8%.  Gold and Silver finished the month down -6.6% and -1.7%, respectively, while the “economy reopening” plays did just fine: Copper gained 15.0% and Oil rallied 17.8%.

U.S. Economic News: The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, but the labor market remains under pressure.  The Department of Labor reported initial jobless claims fell to 730,000 for the week ended February 20th.  That was well below the 845,000 economists had expected, and a sharp decline from the previous week.  Despite the decline, jobless claims remain far above their levels from just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.  Continuing claims decreased by 101,000 to 4.42 million, the lowest reading since March 21st of last year.

A recent Conference Board survey suggests that the U.S. economy is still growing and likely to accelerate in the next six months.  The Conference Board reported its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.5% last month, following gains of 0.4% and 0.9% the prior two months.  The survey noted that as vaccinations accelerate, labor markets and overall growth are likely to continue improving.  Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the board stated, “While the pace of increase in the U.S. LEI has slowed since mid-2020, January’s gains were broad-based and suggest economic growth should improve gradually over the first half of 2021.” 

Home prices rose at their fastest pace in seven years according to a widely followed real estate barometer.  The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index posted a 10.1% annual gain in December—a 9.2% increase from the previous month.  On a monthly basis, the index increased 0.8% between November and December.  Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic noted it was the first time home prices saw a double-digit year-over-year increase since January 2014.  Additionally, the broader S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller national price index, which covers the entire country, demonstrated a 10.4% gain year-over-year in December, up from 9.5% the prior month.  Prices rose in 18 of the 20 large cities tracked by Case-Shiller.  Phoenix, Ariz. experienced the largest price increase for the 19th consecutive month with a 14.4% increase, followed again by Seattle (13.6%) and San Diego (13%).

Sales of newly built homes rose as the number of buyers outpaced the number of homes available for sale.  On an annual basis, sales of new homes were up 19% to 923,000 in January, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  That was 4.3% above the annual rate of 885,000 in December.  The reading exceeded analyst expectations of 850,000.  In the details, new-home sales rose across most parts of the country led by a 12.6% increase in the Midwest.  The Northeast was the only region where sales declined—dropping nearly 14%.  

Inventory dropped to just a four-month supply.  A six-month supply of homes for sale is generally considered a “balanced” housing market.  The median price of a new home was $346,400 in January, down 2% from December. Orders for goods expected to last at least three years, so-called “durable goods”, posted their biggest gain in six months in January—a good sign for the economy going forward.  The Census Bureau reported durable goods orders rose 3.4% last month.  Economists had expected just a 1% advance.  Orders have now returned to their pre-crisis levels, reflecting a shift among consumers towards the purchases of goods such as new cars, appliances, electronics and so forth.  The report shows the increase in orders was led by a large increase in orders for passenger jets and military hardware.  Excluding transportation, durable-goods orders rose a more modest 1.4%.  “Core orders”, which excludes the often volatile defense and transportation segments edged up 0.5% in January—its ninth consecutive increase.

In prepared remarks for the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said inflation and employment remain well below the Federal Reserve’s goals, meaning easy monetary policies are likely to stay in place.  Despite a sharp rise in bond yields this year that has heightened concern over inflation, Powell said price pressures remain mostly muted and the economic outlook is still “highly uncertain”.  The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved,” the Fed chief said.  The Fed last year revised its approach to inflation.  In the past, it would levy preventive rate hikes when it saw unemployment drop, thinking that a stronger job market would push up prices.  Now, it has adopted an approach in which it will allow inflation to average above 2% for a period of time before moving to tighten policy.

A measure of business conditions in the Chicago area retreated in February from a strong reading in the prior month.  MNI Market News International reported its Chicago Business Barometer softened to 59.5 in February from a strong 63.8 reading in January.  The January reading was its highest since July 2018.  Economists had expected the index to slip, but only to 61.  Still, readings above 50 indicate improving conditions.  The index, also known as the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, is the last of the regional manufacturing indices before the closely-watched national ISM data for February is released next week.  Lewis Alexander, chief economist at Nomura, expects a slight decline in the ISM manufacturing index to 58.5 in February.  “While we think the manufacturing sector growth outlook remains firm, power outages [mostly in Texas and Plains states] and low temperatures led to temporary disruptions in production,” he said in a note to clients.

International Economic News: Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem anticipates Canada’s economy will see a solid and sustained rebound this year as the number of COVID-19 inoculations continues to increase.  Speaking in Alberta, Macklem stated as more Canadians are inoculated, the hardest-hit segments of the economy will be able to begin resuming operations, resulting in strong jobs growth.  “Clearly getting vaccines into Canada and into Canadians is top priority,” he said. “The sooner we achieve widespread immunity and can get back to more normal activities, the stronger and more sustained will be the recovery.”  Of note, addressing an audience question about the housing market, Macklem said for the first time that the central bank is starting to see signs of froth in Canada’s hot housing market.  “We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance,” he said.

Across the Atlantic, the British government declared this week that every adult in the UK should receive their first COVID vaccine shot by July 31st—at least a month earlier than its previous target.  The makers of the two vaccines that Britain is using, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have both experienced supply problems in Europe, but UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he now believes they have the supplies to speed up the nationwide vaccination campaign.  News of the new vaccine targets came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with senior ministers to finalize a “road map” out of the national lockdown.

On Europe’s mainland, the French economy shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter of last year, data from the country’s statistics agency INSEE showed.  In the October-December period, gross domestic product shrank 1.4% from the previous quarter--0.1 percentage point more than the preliminary estimate of a 1.3% contraction released in January.  GDP contracted 4.9% from the same time a year earlier.  The French economy--the Eurozone's second largest--is expected to contract again in the first quarter of 2021, as extended government restrictions to contain the coronavirus hinder economic activity.

Business morale in Europe’s economic powerhouse – Germany - bounced back from a six-month low last month, thanks to a brighter industrial outlook and well-stocked order books, recent data showed.  The Ifo Economic Institute reported its business climate index increased 2.1 points to 92.4 in January, hitting its highest level since October and surpassing economists’ estimates.  "The German economy is looking towards recovery again," Ifo economist Klaus Wohlrabe stated.  Germany, once a role model for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, has struggled with a second wave.  But Wohlrabe said companies have now revised up production plans significantly and export expectations for the industry have also risen.  "The order books are well filled," he added.

In Asia, Bank of America head of Asia economics Helen Qiao said China stands a good chance of doubling the size of its economy by 2035—and will surpass the United States along the way.  Doubling of China’s GDP will require annual growth of 4.7% for the next 15 years, but Qiao said reform measures will help China get there.  China was one of the few global economies that grew in 2020 despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Official data showed the Chinese economy expanded by 2.3% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

Japan’s industrial output rose for the first time in three months in January, thanks to a rebound in global demand.  Official data showed factory output advanced 4.2% in January, boosted by sharp rises in production of electronic parts and general-purpose machinery, as well as a smaller increase in car output.  Taro Saito, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute stated, “Manufacturers will continue to increase output over the near term as long as there won’t be any big shock.”  While economic growth will likely be negative in the first quarter, the strength in manufacturing should offset the negative impact of Japan’s state of emergency, which is mainly impacting the services sector.

Finally: Finally, for most young people, retirement is pretty much the last thing on their minds as they enter the workforce.  Still, almost everyone knows that the sooner saving for retirement is begun, the better off they’ll eventually be.  Last year was a tough year financially for most average Americans.  Between March 2020 and January 2021, around 1.6 million people took money out of their 401(k) plans under the CARES Act.  However, despite the volume of withdrawals, around a third of 401(k) savers managed to increase their savings.  So how much money does the average American now have in his/her retirement account?  Fidelity provided CNBC with the average amount of money Americans have saved in retirement accounts as of the fourth quarter of 2020, as well as contribution by % of salary, broken out by age cohort.

Best regards,

The PRS Investment Research Committee:

Dan Pinkerton, CFP®, CKA®, Founder & CEO
Ron Glendening, CPM®, CFP®, Co-Chief Investment Strategist
Matt Weed, CPM® , Certified Portfolio Manager™ 
Paul Steenblik CFA, CFP®, Wealth Advisor, Callan Research Specialist
Gary Pinkerton, MBA, AIFA®, CFP®, Institutional Portfolios Director
Walter Beggs, CFP® , Senior V.P., Investment Committee Consultant
Nick Helgeson, CFP®, Wealth Advisor, Alternative Investments Research

Pinkerton Retirement Specialists, LLC
2000 John Loop
Coeur d’Alene, ID  83814
208-667-8998 or 1-800-634-2008

*S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
*Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
*Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.