The political world has presented many topics of conversation lately, but one discussion has been relatively quiet: tax reform. Last week, however, the president announced that a "phenomenal" tax plan is forthcoming, and domestic markets responded by reaching record highs. In fact, we saw positive market performance even before the announcement, as the S&P 500 and Dow posted new records two days in a row, while the NASDAQ reached record highs every day except Monday. By Friday, the Dow was up 0.99%, the NASDAQ added 1.19%, and the S&P 500 capped its fourth consecutive week of gains to increase by 0.81%. On the other hand, the MSCI EAFE languished this week, posting a 0.03% loss.
In today's highly politicized market environment, we understand that you seek insight on how changes could affect your financial life. While we could focus on potential policy or tax adjustments, many of these details are still unclear. Rather than addressing speculation, we prefer to analyze and share key data that we do have details on from last week: the trade deficit.
What happened? The most recent trade deficit numbers came in last week, showing that in December 2016 the following occurred:
- The trade deficit fell to $44.3 billion.
- Trade volume grew more than it has in over a year and a half.
- The trade deficit was higher than in December 2015.
Why should you care? As we discussed a few weeks ago, trade is integral to our economy, and we saw a decrease in net exports slow GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2016. Essentially, when the U.S. imports more goods than we export, the economy may not perform as well.
However, analyzing the trade deficit is not a simple "lower is better, higher is worse" circumstance. In a healthy economy, the trade deficit can increase, as Americans' incomes grow and they buy more imported goods. Understanding which signs are positive and which are negative can help you better know where we stand.
What can we learn from this week's findings? The trade deficit is larger than a year ago, but the increases are less dramatic than what some headlines may imply. For instance, a MarketWatch article shared that "U.S. trade deficit hits highest level in four years," but when you look at the changes on a graph, the difference may seem less extreme than the headline implies.
Ultimately, while the balance between imports and exports is meaningful, the volume of trade matters greatly as well. December's increasing trade volume - both imports and exports - can show us that both U.S. and global economies are improving.
Looking ahead, changes to trade deals and corporate tax rates could have significant effects on the trade balance and volume. We will continue to evaluate this monthly metric to look for insight into our economy's fundamental strength. As always, we will work to keep you informed so you know what is happening and how we are pursuing your goals in an evolving world.
- Tuesday: Producer Price Index
- Wednesday: Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales, Industrial Production, Housing Market Index
- Thursday: Housing Starts
- Friday: E-Commerce Retail Sales
Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
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 indices from Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The S&P U.S. Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index contains U.S.- and foreign-issued investment-grade corporate bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.
The SPUSCIG launched on April 09, 2013. All information for an index prior to its Launch Date is back-tested, based on the methodology that was in effect on the Launch Date. Back-tested performance, which is hypothetical and not actual performance, is subject to inherent limitations because it reflects application of an Index methodology and selection of index constituents in hindsight. No theoretical approach can take into account all of the factors in the markets in general and the impact of decisions that might have been made during the actual operation of an index. Actual returns may differ from, and be lower than, back-tested returns.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices are the leading measures of U.S. residential real estate prices, tracking changes in the value of residential real estate. The index is made up of measures of real estate prices in 20 cities and weighted to produce the 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.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of output from U.S. factories and related consumption in the U.S. It does not include products made by U.S. companies in foreign markets.
Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
Past performance does not guarantee future results.
You cannot invest directly in an index.
Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
Fixed income investments are subject to various risks including changes in interest rates, credit quality, inflation risk, market valuations, prepayments, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors.
These are the views of Platinum Advisor Marketing Strategies, LLC, and not necessarily those of the named Broker dealer or Investment Advisor, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Broker dealer or Investment Advisor gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your financial advisor for further information.