October 29, 2018 – Why Did Stocks Drop?
Last week did nothing to dispel October’s reputation as a tough month for the markets. The S&P 500 lost 3.94%, the Dow declined 2.97%, and the NASDAQ dropped 3.78% during what was one of 2018’s most volatile weeks so far. All three indexes are down significantly for the month, and both the S&P 500 and Dow have entered negative territory for 2018. International stocks in the MSCI EAFE also struggled, posting a 3.87% drop for the week, and a 13.31% decline for the year.
Why did stocks drop? Will they continue to do so?
Currently, many topics are on investors’ minds, from inflation to tariffs to valuations and beyond, but analysts are not pointing to one single culprit for last week’s performance. Instead, a mixture of concerns, with a large dose of emotion, seemed to drive the markets.
Emotional reactions are understandable when volatility emerges, but they have no place in long-term investment strategies. Instead, we need to focus on the fundamentals.
What did we learn last week?
Trying to find simple explanations for market behavior can feel impossible, in part because the markets aren’t a machine – they’re a reflection of many human actions. Investors make choices based on their interpretations of current conditions, and the effects of these decisions become “market performance.”
Amidst the volatility, we received several updates on the economy, including:
- 3rd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) beat expectations: The initial GDP reading for the 3rd quarter came in at a strong 3.5%, helped in large part by consumer spending.
- Corporate earnings have been strong, but imperfect: So far, this corporate earnings season is showing 22% growth, but fewer S&P 500 companies are exceeding analysts’ predictions than in the 1st quarter of 2018. In particular, some major tech companies’ results disappointed investors.
- Housing continued to struggle: New home sales were lower than expected in September, which followed disappointing results from existing-home sales data, as well.
- Inflation growth eased: The Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, which shows inflation, increased by 1.6% in the 3rd quarter, much lower than projected.
Examined together, this data indicates that while the economy has potential challenges, it also demonstrates solid growth, reasonable inflation, and strong corporate performance. That story feels different than the sharp drop we experienced last week.
However, when you look at the bigger picture, our current circumstances provide another reminder that volatility is normal, and examining economic fundamentals is critical.
Still, risks exist, and in the coming weeks we will pay very close attention to data and performance. In particular, we will follow the Federal Reserve’s comments and actions to see what may lie ahead for interest rates. In the meantime, please let us help answer your questions and address your concerns. We are here to help you pursue your goals, in every market environment.
Monday: Personal Income and Outlays
Tuesday: Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: ADP Employment Report
Thursday: PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending, Jobless Claims
Friday: Employment Situation, Factory Orders
Notes: All index returns (except S&P 500) exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. The total returns for the S&P 500 assume reinvestment of dividends on the last day of the month. This may account for differences between the index returns published on Morningstar.com and the index returns published elsewhere. International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.
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Diversification does not guarantee profit nor is it guaranteed to protect assets.
International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. The DJIA was invented by Charles Dow back in 1896.
The Nasdaq Composite is an index of the common stocks and similar securities listed on the NASDAQ stock market and is considered a broad indicator of the performance of stocks of technology companies and growth companies.
The MSCI EAFE Index was created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) that serves as a benchmark of the performance in major international equity markets as represented by 21 major MSCI indexes from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The Dow Jones Corporate Bond Index is a 96-bond index designed to represent the market performance, on a total-return basis, of investment-grade bonds issued by leading U.S. companies. Bonds are equally weighted by maturity cell, industry sector, and the overall index.
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