All was relatively calm for most of the quarter, as US stocks floated in a range of about +/-2.5% and international stocks actually rebounded 5%, partly on the expectation that the UK would vote to remain in the European Union.
Quarterly Economic and Market Reviews
Dave's quarterly reviews of markets, the economy and relevant current events. They include our thoughts on client portfolios and address timely planning issues.
The slide in stock markets in December continued into January, with the Dow having its worst opening day of the year in 84 years and the Chinese market experiencing such steep declines that it closed for the day after being open for a total of 14 minutes.
Despite a market decline toward year-end, the quarter was generally positive for stock market returns. Still, for the year US stocks had their worst performance since 2008 and both the Dow and S%P 500 finished with small negative returns.
The quarter was dominated by stock market turmoil and indicators of slowing growth in China. Along with mixed economic data in the US, domestic stock markets turned in their worst quarter since 2011.
The focus for the quarter can be summed up pretty easily – The Fed!! Greece!! Greece!! The Fed!! The musical chairs stopped on Greece at quarter end, and the S&P 500 eked out a tiny gain (after dividends) after hitting an all-time high close in May.
The quarter was a bit of a bumpy ride, but the broad US market still eked out a positive return for the quarter. The S&P 500 had its longest “down streak” – 5 days – in 13 months to start the year, which got investors’ attention.
Despite a slide on New Year’s Eve, a Santa Claus rally lifted the US stock market to a respectable return for the quarter. This was despite two slumps in October and December, with October flirting with the 10% “correction” level before investors came back into the market to buy on the dip.
The US stock market traded in a range of a few percentage points for the quarter, hitting new highs but then settling down a bit and still closing with its seventh consecutive quarterly gain. International stocks slid on concerns about slowing growth in China as well as the ongoing strife in Ukraine, which contributed to the euro weakening against the dollar.
Global stock markets eked out somewhat better gains than in the first quarter, with the Dow and the S&P 500 hitting a series of incremental all-time highs. Interest rates continued to drift back lower.
After a very strong 2013, and the typical minor ups and downs, the major market indices were close to flat for the first quarter, before dividends. The primary index for developed country international stocks, MSCI Europe, Asia and Far East (EAFE), was exactly flat.