Markets continue to drift along with seemingly little conviction. This could continue for a bit before action ramps back up toward the end of summer.
Volume has been low and stocks have managed to drift higher, despite some volatile days; but conviction appears to be lacking. We seem to be biding time until the action heats back up as summer winds down, but market-moving events can happen at any time.
The U.S. economy continues to slow and Fed Chairman Bernanke had a relatively dour outlook before Congress, but it appears things would have to get worse before another round of easing is initiated — the effectiveness of which we continue to question.
In contrast to the athletes in the Olympics that are laser-focused on moving forward and achieving their objectives, markets seem to be caught in a sort of summer malaise. Volume has been depressed and sentiment surveys show retail investor skepticism at high levels-despite stock market performance being relatively decent this year, with the S&P 500’s 8.5 percent gain through July 20 the best showing to this point in the year since. But with policymakers lacking the discipline and focus of Olympic athletes (the understatement of the year), and continuing publicity hits to the financial sector, we can’t blame investors for their doubts; and determining what direction the next major move will likely be more difficult than usual. Whenever you get politicians and the courts involved in the financial picture, predictions become even more difficult than usual, and that’s saying something!
In this frustrating, unpredictable environment, we find it helpful to take a step back. Asset allocation continues to be important and investors need to pay attention to their distribution of money relative to their time horizon and risk tolerance. In this environment, investors ignore their portfolios at their peril as things can and likely will change quickly. We are unlikely to see any resolution to the fiscal cliff before the election. But if you look out the five years that we suggest is an appropriate time horizon for equities, it’s difficult to imagine that we’ll still be dealing with these same issues. And US equities remain quite cheap based on historical measures and recently hit a cyclical high in terms of relative performance to most other global equity markets. Our view that the US market will be the best relative performer through at least the balance of 2012 has not changed.
Stan Evans is a Financial Planner and Registered Investment Advisor. He can be contacted at 740-682-0012; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.stanevansfinancialplanning.com.