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Second Quarter Investment Outlook: Let the Good Times Roll(over) ???

By: Nicholas Perini, CFA
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The first half of 2017 has been a good one for both stocks and bonds. While the second quarter wasn’t as good as the first for stocks, it was still positive and added to the year-to-date return. There has been positive economic data points coming out to support the upward movement in stocks. Earnings have been good at the company level, real estate prices continue to trend higher, and salaries are climbing higher. All of these points tend to bode well for economic growth and a positive stock market. But there remain a few unanswered questions that could cause the good times to rollover. Is the rally in the stock market long in the tooth with valuations getting ahead of themselves? Will the president successfully push through his business friendly legislation?
All three major stock indices were up in the second quarter of the year. The leader for the year is the Nasdaq Composite which returned 3.87% for the quarter and 14.07% for the first half of the year. In second place, the S&P 500 returned 3.09% for the quarter and 9.34% for the first half. Finally the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned 3.93% for the quarter and 9.30% for the first half.
While the market action overall has been strong, there are sectors of the economy that have lagged dramatically. The sectors that significantly underperformed this quarter include Energy and Telecommunications. On the other hand, Technology has had a good quarter and great year. Even with a little volatility in the Technology sector around quarter-end, it is still one of the only sector that is significantly outperforming.  
Even as the Federal Reserve continues to raise the Fed Funds rate, which they once again did on June 14th, the yield curve as a whole remains stubborn. While the Federal Reserve controls the short-end of the yield curve and tries to influence the longer end of the curve, economic forces really control the medium and longer end of the curve. Since yields have been coming down for most of the medium and long term bonds, the return on bond indices has been good this quarter and year. The 10 year treasury yield decreased from 2.43% at year end to 2.30% while the 3 month treasury increased from 0.48% at year end to 1.00% at the end of the quarter. The Barclays Intermediate Government Credit Index returned 1.70% in the first quarter. 

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