Prices Down, Stocks Up: Is This a Turning Point?

Prices Down, Stocks Up—Is This a Turning Point?

Signs that peak inflation may be past, coming on the heels of last week’s strong jobs report, have sparked a rebound on Wall Street. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite entered a bull market on Wednesday, up 20% from its June nadir, a technicality that has no real significance but that Wall Street statisticians love to trot out. The index remains more than 19% off its November 2021 high and is down 18% for 2022.

Other themes that caught our eye this week and why they matter:

  • Yesterday’s consumer price index (CPI) reading suggests that inflation may finally be cooling. Easing inflation pressures could mean a less aggressive Federal Reserve—a possible boon for equity investors. More on this below.
  • The Senate passed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act last weekend, and passage by the House of Representatives is expected in the coming days before the bill lands on the president’s desk. What might it mean for you? Read on.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations registered notable declines in short-, medium- and longer-term inflation expectations. This matters because inflation sentiment can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you expect higher prices, you ask for a higher wage. But as wages go up, company costs go up, which leads to higher prices. As you see higher prices, you ask for another raise and the cycle continues. So far, this cycle has not kicked into gear.
  • With second-quarter earnings season nearly complete, companies that did better than expected saw their stock prices jump by larger amounts than usual, according to FactSet. One reason: Fewer companies are projecting a negative outlook compared to the past decade—those relatively rosy expectations have caught traders’ attention.

Rising Prices: A Breather or a Peak?

Stocks rallied on Wednesday after July’s headline CPI data showed prices up 8.5% annually in July—down from 9.1% in June. Most of the relief came from falling gas and airfare prices.

But consumers didn’t get a full reprieve from higher costs in July. Gas prices fell, but food prices maintained their ascent and rent rose at the fastest pace in over 30 years. While food and energy prices are notoriously volatile, shelter is often less so.

Let’s take this a step further. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta breaks goods and services down into two buckets: Flexible (goods and services with prices that change a lot) and sticky (prices don’t change often). In July, flexible inflation declined, but sticky prices actually rose slightly.

We don’t think it’s time yet to declare victory over inflation. Even if the year-over-year number declined, plenty of consumer costs moved higher in July, and inflation is likely to remain above the Fed’s preferred target of 2% for some time.

With that, we expect the central bank to hike interest rates again at their September meeting. As it stands today, two out of three traders expect the Fed to hike the fed funds rate by 0.5%. The third is looking for the Fed to move the benchmark rate up by 0.75% again.

The So-Called Inflation Reduction Act

Manager of Financial Planning Andrew Busa:

Inflation may be leveling out—and that’s before the Inflation Reduction Act even passes into law. This sweeping legislative package seeks to lower energy prices and health care costs, but will it really lower inflation’s impact on you and me?

Tough to say.

When we were bracing for the American Families Plan proposed back in 2021, we had our eyes peeled for some far-reaching reforms: Changes to ordinary and capital gains tax rates, limits on Roth conversions, new required minimum distribution (RMD) rules and some estate-planning techniques were in the congressional crosshairs. 

Perhaps those issues will resurface in legislation down the road, but you won’t find them in this bill. However, there are a few high-level points to mention:

  • Medicare Part D premium growth. The bill aims to limit the growth of Medicare Part D premiums to the tune of 6% per year over the next decade. It also allows the government to negotiate the prices for some high-cost drugs. While this could eventually change how we project Medicare expenses for clients, we aren’t making any adjustments just yet.
  • Shorter wait times from Uncle Sam… The IRS is getting a shot in the arm, with a chunk of funding going toward taxpayer services. In theory, this could result in shorter wait times on their help lines. We’ll be checking in with our industrious tax team to see if that holds true.
  • …But potentially more audits. IRS enforcement is also getting a boost in funding. The result could mean a large increase in the number of taxpayer audits. Audits have decreased over the last decade, so the aim of this provision is to bring them closer to historical levels. The IRS has pledged that this would not result in increased audits for households earning less than $400,000 per year and would instead focus on “…large corporate and global high-net-worth taxpayers.” 

As Senior Research Analyst Liz Laprade mentioned in Tuesday’s Adviser Takeaway video, investors should know that the Inflation Reduction Act brings good tidings for some industries (including electric vehicle and renewable energy companies) and headwinds for others (pharmaceutical firms and some large-cap companies). Check out her informative take at the link above.

We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears open for any future legislation that may affect you. In the meantime, we’re here anytime you need us.

Chart of the Week: Market Responses to Outstanding Months

Interim Chief Investment Officer Jeff DeMaso

Vanguard’s 500 Index fund (a proxy for the S&P 500 index, since you can’t invest directly in an index) gained 9.2% in July—the fund’s 13th best month since its 1976 inception.

Given that the S&P 500 fell more than 20% in the first half of the year, the market was probably “due” for a bounce. Now that we’ve gotten a nice rebound, investors may be wondering what’s next. Those who held cash on the sidelines may be worrying, “Have I missed out?” Others may wonder, “Is an outsized month of gains an opportunity to sell?” The short answer to both questions is no.

Here’s why I’m unequivocal on the topic: I identified the strongest months in the market since 500 Index’s inception and looked at how the fund fared over the year following each. On average, the index posted a 15% return following the best months compared to a 13% average return in all 12-month periods from 1976 on.

The takeaway is simple: A strong month in the market isn’t a good reason to avoid the market going forward.

Note: Chart shows the 15 best single-month total returns for Vanguard 500 Index since its 1976 inception, ranked in descending order from left to right. It also shows the 12-month return following each of those months for which data is available. Sources: Adviser Investments, Vanguard.

Podcast: Cash Is Back—How Can You Make the Most of It?

Zero, or near enough. That’s how much you could expect to earn on your cash holdings for the last dozen years or so. But now, with interest rates on the rise, cash is making a bit of a comeback.

In this episode of The Adviser You Can Talk To Podcast, Chairman Dan Wiener is joined by Jeff DeMaso and Andrew Busa to discuss exactly how much you should be keeping in your personal cash reserve, what your options are for deploying it and what pitfalls to watch out for when it comes to I-Bonds.

Listen now to learn more!

Ask Us a Question!

We’re always interested in the topics or concerns you might like us to comment on. As much as we try to cover the investment and economic fields every week, we know there’s still more that you might want to hear about. Ask us a question about investing, the markets or financial planning and one of Adviser Investments’ experts will answer it in a future edition of The Week in Review. CLICK HERE NOW TO POSE YOUR QUERY.

Adviser in the Media

Portfolio Manager Adam Johnson appeared on Fox Business, where he expressed his excitement over the latest inflation read.

Dan Wiener and Jeff DeMaso also made the media rounds this week. Dan discussed actively managed fund outflows with Ignites, money market fund yields with Crane Data and factor investing trends with RIA Biz. Meanwhile, Jeff spoke to Ignites and Citywire about Vanguard’s manager shuffle on its Global Equity fund.

In this week’s Adviser Takeaways, Senior Research Analyst Liz Laprade examined the Inflation Reduction Act while Account Executive and Financial Planner Diana Linn discussed the future of Social Security.

Looking Ahead

Next week we’ll get a broad, informative sampling of data, including reads on housing (permits, housing starts, existing home sales and homebuilder sentiment), manufacturing, retail sales, jobless claims and leading economic indicators.

As always, please visit for our timely and ongoing investment commentary. In the meantime, all of us at Adviser wish you a safe, sound and prosperous investment future.

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Please note: This update was prepared on Thursday, August 11, 2022, prior to the market’s close.

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