Capital Market Commentary

By: Stephen Clinton, President, Capital Market Securities

Mid-November Market Update
The U.S. is undergoing its longest economic expansion on record, breaking the record of 120 months of economic growth recorded from March 1991 to March 2001. Starting in June of 2009, this record-setting run saw GDP recording growth, albeit at a slower growth rate than previous expansions. The unemployment rate is at 3.6% and job growth continues with employers adding an average of 167,000 jobs this year. The current expansion also includes the longest stretch of job creation on record. The current U.S. economic growth is being driven by consumer spending as businesses have slowed business investment due to the uncertainties surrounding tariffs and global growth concerns.

In late October, the Fed lowered short-term interest rates for the third time this year. These moves follow last year’s four interest rate increases designed to guard against concerns about inflation and financial bubbles. The move to a more accommodative stance is designed to cushion the economy against a slowdown in business investment and in recognition of the uncertainties surrounding the U.S.-China trade conflict. U.S. inflation remains low and below the 2% Fed target which has reduced the Fed’s concern about rising prices and higher labor costs.

While the U.S. economy continues to chug along, things are not as optimistic for our trading partners. China’s economy is slowing dramatically; Japan’s economy grew at the slowest pace in a year in October; and Germany barely skirted a recession in the third quarter. These countries represent the world’s second, third, and fourth largest economies in the world. The global economic slowdown may make it difficult for the U.S. to continue to record GNP growth.
The home mortgage market has benefited from lower interest rates. The average 30-year home mortgage rate has fallen to near 4% from a recent high of 5.2% last November. Lenders made $700 billion in home loans in the July-to-September quarter, the most in 14 years. Mortgage origination activity is on pace to hit the highest level since 2006, the peak of the last housing boom. Refinancing activity is in part responsible for this renewed lending activity with refinancings jumping 75% from last year.

The U.S. government spent nearly $1 trillion more in fiscal year 2019 than it took in, which resulted in the highest deficit in seven years. The deficit has now increased for the last four years, the longest stretch of U.S. deficit growth since the early 1980’s, a period that included two recessions and an unemployment rate near 11%. The deficit has increased 68% since 2016 during a time when there is historically low unemployment and a growing economy. The loss of tax revenues from tax cuts, along with a bipartisan budget deal that increased government spending, are responsible for the growing deficits. Long-term costs associated with an aging population, including Social Security and Medicare, are expected to continue to put pressures on balancing the budget in the future.

U.S. corporate earnings remain strong. With most of the third quarter earnings announcements in the books, 75% have posted results above analysts’ expectations. While overall profits are lower than last year by approximately 2.7%, analysts are projecting improved earnings next year. One growing concern about nonfinancial companies being discussed is the high level of debt corporations hold. The level of corporate debt is at the highest level ever. Low interest rates have made the choice of debt preferable to equity for corporations. This has caused a leveraging of balance sheets.

Short-term interest rates have fallen 35% this year as of November 15. The 3-month T-Bill ended at 1.57%, principally due to the three Fed interest rate cuts. The 10-year T-Note was at 1.84% at November 15, down 85 basis points from the end of last year. After spending some time with a partially inverted yield curve, the shape of the yield curve has moved to its more traditional upward slope. The spread between the 3-month T-Bill and the 10-year T-Note was a narrow 27 basis points.

The stock market reached new highs as of November 15. The Dow Jones Industrial Index was up 20.05% for the year. The broader Nasdaq Index closed up 28.72%. The Nasdaq Bank index was up 16.73%, but the KBW Bank Index was up 26.44%. The stronger upward movement of the KBW Bank Index reflects the strong price increases recorded by larger banks this year.
The market has experienced a high level of market volatility this year. The ups and downs of the U.S.-China trade talks has caused wide market swings. Brexit has been a concern for the market. Protests in Hong Kong have captured attention. The U.S. impeachment inquiry presents market risk. We expect the market to continue to be volatile due to these concerns as well as other issues that may surface and capture the market’s attention.

Interesting Tid Bits

      Tariffs – The U.S. collected a record $7 billion in import tariffs in September. This was up 50% from last year as new duties kicked in on Chinese imports.
      Taxation – For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate (federal, state, and local taxes) than any other income group. The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households was 23% last year compared to 70% in 1950 and 47% in 1980.
      Manufacturing – Manufacturing makes up approximately 11% of the U.S. GNP, which is down from 16% twenty years ago. Factory workers now make up 8.5% of the overall workforce which is down from 13% two decades ago. There are now more local government employees than factory workers.

Merger and Acquisition Activity
Through November 15 this year, there were 229 bank and thrift announced merger transactions. This compares to 231 deals in the same period last year. The median price to tangible book for transactions involving bank sellers was 158%.

Capital Market Services
Capital Market Securities, Inc. has assisted clients in a variety of capital market transactions. For more information on our capital market services, please contact Stephen Clinton at 1.800.376.8662 or sclinton@younginc.com.