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Market Recap: October 2021 Thumbnail

Market Recap: October 2021

Equity markets rebounded in October to new all-time highs. Treasury yields trended higher, leading to modest declines across most fixed income asset classes. U.S. and global central banks took initial steps toward tightening monetary policy.

Market Recap

Late third quarter market volatility quickly abated in October. After U.S. large cap stocks declined in September (the first monthly decline in seven months and the first drawdown of more than 5% for the year), the S&P 500 advanced 7% in October, supported by resilient corporate fundamentals. Overcoming supply chain bottlenecks and inflationary pressures, 84% of S&P 500 companies beat earnings expectations thus far in the reporting period – a near record high – with profits advancing 32% year-over-year. International markets (MSCI ACWI ex-U.S. Index) returned 2.4%, as investors weighed diminishing concerns surrounding the potential default of Chinese property developer Evergrande along with the impact of energy shortages in China and the United Kingdom.

Returns were modestly lower across most fixed income asset classes for the month. Persistent inflationary pressures stemming from supply chain constraints and expectations for less accommodative monetary policy forced the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield to continue the ascent that began from its intra-year low of 1.19% on August 4th, finishing the month at 1.55%. Meanwhile, the yield of two-year Treasuries doubled since mid-September to 0.48%, reflecting a rising probability of an initial rate hike in 2022. U.S. investment-grade bonds (Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond TR) were nearly unchanged as the spreads of the highest-rated segments of corporate credit fell to levels below their pre-crisis lows, offsetting the impact of higher Treasury yields. Five-year inflation expectations rose to their highest level since 2006, leading Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (Bloomberg U.S. Treasury U.S. TIPS TR) to advance 1.1%.

A Policy Transition

A pivot away from emergency levels of fiscal and monetary stimulus began in recent months. In September, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell indicated the Federal Reserve is likely to begin tapering its asset purchase program in November and now nine of 18 FOMC members expect a 2022 rate hike. Meanwhile, the effects of the emergency fiscal stimulus, resulting in the largest expansion of America’s federal budget deficit since World War II, will start to fade. According to the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, overall government spending added significantly to economic growth in 2020 through the first quarter of this year; however, the forecast is for fiscal spending to potentially turn into a significant drag on growth by the fourth quarter of 2021 and through 2023[1].

Policy makers outside the U.S. were more aggressive in their response to rising inflation. Central banks in South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Norway[2] recently moved official rates up from historical lows. Meanwhile, the Bank of England indicated it could raise rates by year-end, and the European Central Bank will likely announce the retirement of its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program next March.

Equity markets displayed resilience throughout the last cycle of monetary policy tightening. The Federal Reserve reduced its balance sheet from a peak of $4.5 trillion in October 2014 to $3.8 trillion in August 2019[3], while raising the Federal Funds Target Rate from a range of 0.00-0.25% in late 2015 to a range of 2.25-2.50% through early 2019[4]. Investors who remained invested through an initial spike in volatility in the early stages of policy normalization were rewarded with an average calendar year return for the S&P 500 of 12.5% from 2015 through 2019[5].

Market Outlook

Markets continue to weigh solid economic activity and corporate earnings against the potential impacts of inflationary pressures and a transition to less accommodative monetary and fiscal policy. Domestic equities ascended with historically low volatility to all-time highs after S&P 500 earnings expanded 94.2% year-over-year in the second quarter. Yet, sentiment based on a somewhat evolving macro-economic outlook caused abrupt swings in leadership within broader indices. With the recovery of S&P 500 earnings to above pre-crisis levels and valuations at elevated absolute levels, we expect equity markets will likely trend more in-line with earnings growth in coming years. Persistent shifts in style leadership are possible as investors grapple with the transition to more normal levels of economic activity and monetary policy. To this end, we recommend investors maintain a portfolio anchored by reasonable long-term return expectations with diversification across assets that may benefit from a variety of macro-economic conditions.

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[1] “Contribution of Fiscal Policy to Real GDP Growth,” Brookings Institution – Hutchins Center of Fiscal Impact, https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/hutchins-center-fiscal-impact-measure/

[2] “Central Policy Rates,” BIS, https://www.bis.org/statistics/cbpol.htm

[3] Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/WALCL

[4] Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/DFEDTARU

[5] Factset

US Capital Wealth Advisors, LLC (“USCWA”) is a Texas-based investment advisory firm registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). As an independent, fee-only, registered investment advisor (RIA), USCWA is able to provide sophisticated, holistic wealth management services, with expanded access to investment solutions. We take our fiduciary responsibility to you seriously, which means we are committed to what is in your best interest. Our long-standing objective is to enable you to achieve your financial goals and to act as a trusted resource for you and your family. 

This material is for informational purposes only and is an overview of the capital markets and is intended for educational and illustrative purposes only. It is not designed to cover every aspect of the markets and is not intended to be used as a general guide to investing or as a source of any specific investment recommendation. Readers should conduct their own research before making any investments. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument, investment product or service. In preparing this material we have relied upon data supplied to us by third parties. The information has been compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made by US Capital Wealth Advisors, LLC, as to its accuracy, completeness or correctness. US Capital Wealth Advisors, LLC does not guarantee that the information supplied is accurate, complete, or timely, or make any warranties with regard to the results obtained from its use. Opinions included do not necessarily represent the views of US Capital Wealth Advisors, LLC. Please see USCWA’s ADV Part 2 for more information about USCWA.

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