Market Commentary 9/30/19

What, Me Worry?

Those of us “of a certain age” will immediately recognize that phrase. It is the tag line for Alfred E. Neumann, the gapped tooth mascot of MAD Magazine. He graced the cover of almost every issue, often superimposed on celebrities or targets of the satire magazine’s articles. MAD Magazine ceased publication of new issues recently, a victim of online media, changing demographics, and rising production costs. The magazine survived for 67 years, published more than 550 issues, and didn’t accept advertising until 2001. Circulation peaked at 2.1 million copies in 1974, but was down to 150,000 by the end. It was a good run, and they left a legacy of great satire.

A satirical “What, me worry?” might be an appropriate analytical basis for the financial markets these days. While returns were modestly positive for both the stock and bond markets this quarter, stocks pushed to new highs in July and interest rates pushed towards new lows. From January through September 2019, stocks, as measured by the S&P 500 index, are up more that 20%, while bonds, as measured by the Bloomberg Barclay Intermediate Treasury index, were up 5.2%. That is impressive considering just nine months ago we were at the end of a disastrous quarter that pushed stock returns into negative territory for 2018. The move by stocks towards new highs this year is concerning, however, given valuation premiums and external risk factors.

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