Bull Market Remains Unfazed During Global Disasters
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Bull Market Remains Unfazed During Global Disasters

Over the past quarter, North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb; devastating hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and the Caribbean; political dysfunction in Washington featured more Russia controversy and significant White House staff turnover; Equifax reported a massive personal data breach; and the Fed indicated it remains on track to raise interest rates another 0.25% this year while beginning the process of deleveraging its massive balance sheet. Yet through it all, the bull market remained unfazed.

Market Recap & Capital Markets Outlook

US stocks rose for an 8th consecutive quarter, and daily volatility stayed conspicuously absent. The US Total Stock market returned 4.5% for the quarter. Globally diversified investors fared better, as international stocks outperformed the US for a third straight quarter by gaining 5.9%. S&P 500 earnings growth for Q3 is estimated at 5%, according to FactSet. This is respectable, but means the majority of gains in US Stocks over the last year came from PE multiple expansion rather than earnings growth. Q2 US GDP growth was revised up to a healthy 3.1%.

Ten years ago this week, the global stock market peaked. It then slowly declined for about a year before the crescendo of the Lehman bankruptcy and near collapse of the financial system. The nine-year-old bull market added another solid quarter to the history books in Q3. There may be new scary headlines across the news, but the fundamental backdrop for capital markets hasn’t significantly changed. Valuations remain elevated – but not extreme. Economic growth and corporate earnings are solid – but not exciting. Meanwhile, major central banks including the Fed have taken their foot off the gas and are contemplating periodic light taps on the brakes.

Equifax Breach

News of a significant data breach at Equifax affected an estimated 143 million U.S. consumers. While this is not the largest breach of recent times, it may very well be the most damaging to American families due to the nature of the data that is now in the hands of cybercriminals. Our Chief Security Officer, Maxime Rousseau, shared his tips for staying safe from any potential hacks including: signing up for free monitoring, freezing and monitoring your credit file actively, keeping a close eye on your financial accounts, and complying with the latest password security standards.

Tax Reform

There is no wall being built and the Affordable Care Act remains intact nearly a year into President Trump’s term. But we expect President Trump and the GOP will make their best effort to enact some tax reform. The next several months will probably be the last, best shot to pass meaningful legislation such as the proposed elimination of AMT (alternative minimum tax), reduction in the number of tax brackets, plan to double the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples, tax code deduction of mortgage interest, estate tax repeal, lower rate on pass-through businesses and lower corporate tax rate.

Our Takeaway

While uncertainty ravages the globe and a current bull market will only last so long, diversification is the best tool available to manage risk while maintaining upside potential. A portfolio’s total allocation to stocks is the biggest driver of both return and risk, but diversification within stocks also remains important. The US has dominated most of this bull market, but international stocks have a healthy lead this year and we wouldn’t be surprised if the tide has shifted. A good mix of both is the best approach. At the sector level, it is important to remember what goes up the most often goes down the most. It is fine to have healthy exposure to trendy technology stocks, but it can be risky to ignore other sectors.

To learn more about this quarter, read our free Q3 Market Review and Commentary.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.

Craig Birk leads the Personal Capital Advisors Investment Committee and serves as Chief Investment Officer. His focus is translating improvements in technology into better financial lives. Craig has been widely quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CNN Money, the Washington Post and elsewhere. Prior to Personal Capital Advisors, he was a leader within the portfolio management team at Fisher Investments, helping assets under management grow from $1.5 billion to over $40 billion. Craig graduated from the University of California at San Diego and has earned the Certified Financial Planner® designation.
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