At a retreat in September of 1982, Steve Jobs is reported to have said, “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Jobs, the “pirate,” experienced many highs and lows between then and when the iPhone went on sale June 29, 2007. Over the past ten years, iPhone technology has had a profound impact on how we live and has positioned Apple as the most valuable company on the planet.
Technology will continue to change our lives. Regardless of whether you view these changes as progress, change will continue. Ten years from today, how will we view Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods and its impact on how we shop? Ten years from today, who will be the winners in autonomous vehicles? Will it be Google? Apple? General Motors? Or, perhaps companies we are not familiar with today.
We will continue to invest in great companies around the world, cutting edge technologies as well as mature industries such as energy, in the belief that as a people, we will continue to innovate and improve our standard of living.
Returning to the recent past, in the second quarter of 2017, foreign stock markets continued to outperform the U.S. market. The MSCI EAFE index ended the quarter up 6.1% and year to date is up 13.8%. U.S. stocks enjoyed their best first half of the year since 2013. The S&P 500 set 24 new closing highs on low volatility, recording a gain of 3.1% for the quarter and 9.3% for the year to date. Information technology was the leading U.S. sector while the energy sector continued to bring up the rear.
Based on mixed U.S. economic news, the Federal Reserve continues to walk a fine line. The Fed would like to continue to raise interest rates from recent historic lows. However, they are concerned that raising rates too far too fast will push the economy into recession. That said, in June the Fed raised the federal funds target rate for the second time this year by 25 basis points or ¼ of 1% to a range of 1.00% - 1.25%. The market anticipates one more rate hike in 2017.
At home, financial markets face uncertainty over legislation on health care, tax reform, and infrastructure as well as foreign trade agreements. Overseas, the nuclear threat from North Korea has increased and new tension between Saudi Arabia and Qatar poses a new threat to stability in the Middle East. Investors could use any of these issues as an excuse to take profits from this long running bull market:
We are in our ninth consecutive year of stock market gains. In the 70 + years since the end of WWII the stock market has experienced 14 bear markets, an average of once every 5 years. These bear markets have seen stocks decline an average of 30%. Each of these bear markets have been followed by new stock market highs. We believe no action is required if you have a financial plan that includes a diversified portfolio based on your tolerance and capacity for risk.