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Market Commentary - Page 4

Various stock indexes are enjoying an all-time high, with the Dow Jones Industrials crossing the 22,000 mark for the first time. Almost three quarters of companies reporting have far exceeded expectations in both revenue and profits, and FactSet forecasts this trend continuing through the second half of the year. While real economic growth at home for 2Q wasn’t great, the overall outlook is still quite bright.

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The U.S. financial sector may finally be back on its feet, with growth indicators from S&P 500 financials showing profits close to the 2007 peak. Rising profits are predicted to be returned to shareholders by way of dividends and stock buybacks, and banks are poised to become dividend growers, all of which contribute to an economy on the upswing.

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Skilled active management can provide returns above broad-based market benchmarks over time using a variety of techniques such as factor based investing. Value and momentum can be helpful in generating attractive returns relative to the amount of risk taken.

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At the halfway mark of 2017, the dominant market themes are the same as when the year started, like the Trump economic plan and the Federal Reserve’s decision-making. An optimistic vision of economic growth under Trump lifted asset prices in the months following the November election. Investors rushed to position themselves for major tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and an infrastructure boom. Over the past eight months, some regulatory actions have been taken, but the rest is still in the promise phase.

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As we approach the midpoint of 2017, investors are still trying to make up their minds about the Trump agenda. Primarily they are trying to decide whether to keep hoping for results or to write it off. Whatever they end up deciding may have a sizable impact on how the second half of the year plays out.

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