by Clare Market Investments on Sep 4, 2023
Monthly Market Summary
- The S&P 500 Index declined -1.6% in August but outperformed the Russell 2000 Index’s -5.1% decline. Energy was the only S&P 500 sector to trade higher, while Utilities and Consumer Staples led the remaining nine sectors lower.
- Corporate investment-grade bonds produced a -1.2% total return in August, underperforming corporate high-yield bonds’ +0.2% total return.
- International stocks underperformed U.S. stocks in August as the U.S. dollar strengthened. The MSCI EAFE Index of developed market stocks declined -3.9%, outperforming the MSCI Emerging Market Index’s -6.6% return.
Stocks Trade Lower in Early August but Rebound Later in the Month
The S&P 500 traded lower during the first half of August, at one point erasing all of July’s 3.3% gain. The sell-off occurred as investors worried about the potential for further interest rate hikes and increased bond issuance by the Treasury to fund government spending. Interest rates rose to levels last seen in 2007, with the 10-year Treasury yield climbing to 4.35%. This sudden rise in interest rates caught the market by surprise and weighed on stock market valuations. However, interest rates reversed a portion of their rise later in the month, with the 10-year Treasury retreating to 4.09%. The S&P 500 found its footing as yields declined and recovered to finish the month with a -1.6% decline, its first monthly loss since February of this year.
Two data points caused interest rates to decline and contributed to the stock market’s rebound into month-end. First, the number of U.S. job openings fell below 9 million for the first time since March 2021, with separate data showing that fewer employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs. The declines in job openings and quits suggest the tight labor market is improving and may help ease wage inflation. Second, consumer sentiment weakened to a 3-month low in August due to higher borrowing costs and concerns about lingering inflation. Investors interpreted the labor market data and weak consumer sentiment as an indication that the Federal Reserve is making progress in its battle against inflation and may not need to raise interest rates further.
Investors Remain Fixated on the Federal Reserve’s Next Move
The August market action is a continuation of the primary trend we have seen this year. The market remains fixated on the Fed’s next move, including how high the Fed will raise interest rates and whether it will cut interest rates in 2024. Those decisions will significantly impact the economy and stock market, and investors want to position their portfolios correctly. Each economic data point and Fed speech are analyzed for clues about interest rate policy, and as we saw in August, stocks and interest rates can change direction suddenly as new information becomes available. The market outlook has changed multiple times this year due to investors’ short-term focus on Fed policy, but this dynamic is poised to shift as the Fed concludes its rate hike cycle.
Clare Market Investments, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as and should not be used to provide investment advice and is not an offer to sell a security or a recommendation to buy a security. The information is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate as of the date of this report, but Clare Market has not audited this information to validate accuracy. Further, information may be at a point in time and subject to change. This summary is based exclusively on an analysis of general market conditions and does not speak to the suitability of any specific proposed securities transaction or investment strategy. Judgement or recommendations found in this report may differ materially from what may be presented in a long-term investment plan and are subject to change at any time. This report’s authors will not advise you as to any changes in figures or views found in this report. Investors should consult with their investment advisor to determine the appropriate investment strategy and investment vehicle. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s specific financial needs and objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Except for the historical information contained in this report, certain matters are forward-looking statements or projections that are dependent upon risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to such factors and considerations such as general market volatility, global economic risk, geopolitical risk, currency risk and other country-specific factors, fiscal and monetary policy, the level of interest rates, security-specific risks, and historical market segment or sector performance relationships as they relate to the business and economic cycle. See claremarket.com for additional information and disclosures. © 2023 Clare Market Investments, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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