Domestic indexes were mixed last week, as the Dow gained 0.36%; the S&P 500 eked out a 0.08% increase; and the NASDAQ lost 0.33%.International stocks in the MSCI EAFE added a solid 0.68%.
Three stories that have dominated conversations and driven investor attention in 2017 continued last week:
- Healthcare policy: The Senate's continuing discussion of healthcare reform impacted stock performance in connected industries.
- Tension with North Korea: The markets responded quietly to continuing conflict between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, although some investments saw a bump later in the week.
- Interest rate updates: While the Fed chose not to raise interest rates in its most recent meeting, it indicated that a December hike is definitely still on the table.
When announcing its latest interest rate perspectives, the Federal Reserve also indicated that it would begin to reduce its balance sheet next month.
But, what does that really mean, and why does the Fed have a $4.2 trillion balance sheet, anyway?
A Look Back on Quantitative Easing
During the financial crisis and recession, the Fed took an unprecedented and controversial approach to stabilizing our economy and the world's markets. By buying trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage bonds between 2008 and 2014, it aimed to encourage hiring, economic growth, and investing. This action is commonly known as Quantitative Easing (QE).
Through the three rounds of QE, the Fed added trillions of dollars of new money to the financial markets. Since QE first began almost a decade ago, we have seen unemployment reach a 16-year low and the S&P 500 more than triple from its bottom in 2009. Although economic growth is still slower than before the recession, the Fed believes the economy is now strong enough to handle more normal monetary policy.
In October, the Fed will start the gradual process of lowering its balance sheet, currently equal to about a quarter of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Thus far, investors have had a mild response to this plan. As the Fed begins slowly allowing billions of dollars of bonds to roll off, we will closely monitor the economic impact.
We know that monetary policy can seem like an incredibly complex topic, and, frankly, it is. However, we think you deserve to understand the large forces at play in your financial life. If you have any questions about the Fed's latest announcement, or any other financial details, we're always here to talk.
Tuesday: New Home Sales, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Durable Goods Orders
Friday: Personal Income and Outlays, Consumer Sentiment
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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.
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The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve and, informally, as the Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. The Federal Reserve System is composed of 12 regional Reserve banks which supervise state member banks. The Federal Reserve System controls the Federal Funds Rate (aka Fed Funds Rate), an important benchmark in financial markets used to influence the supply of money in the U.S. economy.
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