The second quarter was full of ups and downs for stocks as investors had plenty to worry about. Throughout the quarter, the trade war between the United States and China ebbed and flowed as news continuously changed from positive to negative. Employment was steady and the unemployment rate remained low, but wage growth was moderate at best. Manufacturing and industrial production hit a snag during the second quarter, as did business fixed investment.
Stocks fell sharply in May, closing out their worst month since last December. Each of the benchmark indexes posted month-over-month losses exceeding 6.5%. While market performance has largely swung on trade rhetoric, it appears investors have reached their boiling point and are moving away from stocks and floating toward bonds, pushing yields on 10-year Treasuries down (-37 bps in May) as bond prices soared. Oil prices fell sharply on trade tensions and a slowing Chinese economy. For the month, small caps and tech stocks lost almost 8.0%, followed by the large caps of the Dow and the S&P 500. Year-to-date, only the Nasdaq remains more than 10% ahead of its 2018 closing value.
As April came to a close, each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted strong monthly returns. In fact, for several of the indexes, April brought to a close the best four-month stretch in many years. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 reached new highs during the month, as investors were encouraged by a shrinking trade deficit, favorable economic projections, low inflation, and stable interest rates. The Nasdaq led the
way, nearing a monthly gain of almost 5.0%, followed by the large caps of the S&P 500, the small caps of the Russell 2000, the Global Dow, and the Dow, which gained over 2.5% for the month. During April, consumers saw gas prices climb as oil prices continued to soar.
Following a tumultuous close to 2018, stocks enjoyed a robust January. Positive feedback from ongoing negotiations between the United States and China, coupled with strong job growth, low inflation, and stable interest rates, helped fuel investor confidence that pushed the major benchmark indexes to levels not seen
in 30 years — despite a partial government work stoppage. Each of the indexes listed here posted notable gains, led by the small-cap Russell 2000, followed by the Nasdaq, S&P 500, Global Dow, and the Dow.
Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted positive monthly gains, led by the Russell 2000, which lapped the field after gaining over 5.0% for the month. The small-cap index is almost 17.0% ahead of its 2018 closing value. Signs that a trade accord with China may be in the offing helped stimulate investors to trade throughout February. Also, word from the Federal Reserve that it may not raise the target interest rate range as aggressively as proposed last year has had a positive impact on stocks. Corporate earnings season continued on a relatively positive trend, while energy stocks rebounded as oil production was curbed, sending gas prices at the pumps higher. Overall, following the Russell 2000, the Dow posted the next highest monthly gain ahead of the Nasdaq, S&P 500, and the Global Dow.
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