The U.S. stock market has more than tripled in value during the run-up that started in March 2009, and the most recent quarter somehow managed to accelerate the upward trend. We have just experienced the third-best first half, in terms of U.S. market returns, of the 2000s.
Overseas, the international equities are finally delivering better returns than our domestic stock market and boosting total portfolio returns. Developed foreign stocks have seen a 6% boost and Emerging Market stocks generous double-digit returns thus far this year.
Is the concern over slower domestic growth justified? Economic growth was admittedly meager in the first quarter-U.S. GDP grew just 1.4%. That represents a slowdown from the 2.1% growth in the fourth quarter of last year.
There are other uncertainties to watch in the days ahead. The U.S. Congress is still debating a health care package, and has promised to revise our corporate and individual tax codes later this year. There’s an infrastructure package somewhere on the horizon, and perhaps a round or two of tariffs on imported goods.
Keep in mind uncertainties will always exist.
There does, however, continue to be good news on the unemployment front. The unemployment rate is at a near-record low of 4.7%, and wages grew at a 2.9% rate in December, the best increase since 2009. The underemployment rate, which combines the unemployment rate with part-time workers who would like to work full-time, has fallen to 9.2%-the lowest rate since 2008.
Meanwhile, the energy sector, which was a big winner last year, has dragged down returns in 2017. This proves once again the value of diversification; just when you start to question the value of holding a certain investment, or wonder why the entire portfolio isn’t crowded into one that is outperforming, the tide turns and the rabbit becomes the hare and the hare becomes the rabbit. If only this were predictable.