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2nd qtr 2024 Market Update

Wall Street got off to a slow start to begin the second quarter of 2024. Stocks lagged for much of April, rebounded in May, and were choppy in June. Investors spent the quarter watching economic data, trying to gauge whether the Federal Reserve might lower interest rates. In April, investors were discouraged by the unexpected rise in inflation, which dampened hopes of several interest rate decreases during the year. However, the latest economic data gave some indication that inflationary pressures may be scaling back. The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index for May rose at its slowest pace since March 2021. Nevertheless, lowering price pressures has been a slow process and inflation could push higher again. In response, the Federal Reserve has remained cautious in its assessment of inflation going forward and will look for more concrete data confirming downward price pressures before loosening its restrictive monetary policy. Several indexes reached new records throughout the quarter. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed out the quarter at new highs, marking the 32nd record close of the year for the S&P 500 and the 21st for the Nasdaq. Among the market sectors, information technology outperformed, gaining 14.5% in the quarter, followed by communication services, and utilities. Materials, industrials, and real estate lagged. Rising bond yields weighed on prices, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries closing the quarter up nearly 15.0 basis points from the end of the first quarter, while the yield on the 2-year note ended the quarter about where it began. Corporate earnings got off to a good start for the year, with first-quarter earnings exceeding analyst expectations for the fifth consecutive quarter. Roughly 78.3% of S&P 500 companies reported earnings that beat expectations, as companies in consumer staples, financials, health care, real estate, and communication services bested their prior four-quarter average.

Gold rose more than 4.0% in the second quarter and nearly 13.0% in 2024 as anticipated interest rate cuts by central banks supported trading precious metals. In addition, higher demand for gold by several Asian central banks, particularly the People's Bank of China, helped lift the price of gold, which reached a record high of $2,450 per ounce in May. Crude oil prices dipped about $1.75 per barrel by the end of the first quarter. Prices on March 28 were $83.17 per barrel, dropping as low as $74.07 per barrel in early June, and settling at about $81.51 per barrel on the last business day of June. However, fears that the unrest in the Middle East will escalate, coupled with a cut in production, could drive prices higher through the remainder of the year. The retail price for regular gasoline was $3.438 per gallon on June 24, $0.139 below the price a month earlier and $0.085 less than the price March 25 estimate. Regular retail gas prices decreased $0.113 from a year ago. The U.S. dollar ended the quarter trading at its highest price since November 2023. Home mortgage rates began the quarter at about 6.82% for the 30-year fixed rate, according to Freddie Mac. Rates jumped as high as 7.03% at the end of May, ultimately settling at 6.86% on June 27.

Traders will look to the third quarter for more stability and steady gains in the market.
Financial Facts and Stats

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Latest Economic Reports

Employment: Total employment increased by 272,000 in May, following a net downward revision over the previous two months. The May jobs increase was well above expectations. Employment trended up in health care, government, leisure and hospitality, and professional, scientific, and technical services. In May, the unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point to 4.0% and was 0.3 percentage point above the rate from a year earlier (3.7%). The number of unemployed persons was relatively unchanged at 6.6 million. In May, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.4 million, accounted for 20.7% of all unemployed people. The labor force participation rate, at 62.5%, was 0.2 percentage point below the prior month's estimate, while the employment-population ratio dipped 0.1 percentage point to 60.1% in May. In May, average hourly earnings increased by $0.14, or 0.4%, to $34.91. Since May 2023, average hourly earnings rose by 4.1%, which is up from the April figure of 3.9%. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.3 hours in May.

There were 233,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended June 22, 2024. During the same period, the total number of workers receiving unemployment insurance was 1,839,000. A year ago, there were 238,000 initial claims, while the total number of workers receiving unemployment insurance was 1,750,000.

FOMC/interest rates: The Federal Open Market Committee met twice in the second quarter, in May and in June. Following each of those meetings, the Committee kept interest rates at their current levels. Each time, the FOMC noted that the economy in general, and the labor market in particular, had remained steady, while inflation stayed well above the Fed's target rate of 2.0%. Overall, the FOMC maintained its hawkish stance toward lowering interest rates, with the possibility of one rate cut before the end of the year.

GDP/budget: The economy, as measured by gross domestic product, accelerated at an annualized rate of 1.4% in the first quarter of 2024, according to the third and final estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. GDP increased 3.4% in the fourth quarter. Personal consumption expenditures rose 1.5% in the first quarter compared to a 3.3% increase in the previous quarter. Consumer spending on goods dipped 2.3%, while spending on services rose 3.3%. Gross domestic investment rose 4.4% in the first quarter, well above the 0.7% increase in the fourth quarter. Nonresidential fixed investment advanced 4.4% in the first quarter (3.7% in the fourth quarter), while residential fixed investment increased 16.0% in the first quarter compared to a 2.8% increase in the fourth quarter. Exports inched up 1.6%, while imports, which are a negative in the calculation of GDP, increased 6.1%. Consumer prices increased 3.4% in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 1.8% in the previous quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index increased 3.7%, compared with an increase of 2.0% in the fourth quarter.

The federal budget deficit in May was $347.0 billion, well above the May 2023 deficit of the $240.3 billion. April saw a budget surplus of $209.5 billion. In May, government receipts totaled $323.6 billion, while government outlays were $670.8 billion. Through the first eight months of fiscal year 2024, the total deficit sits at $1,202.3 trillion, which is roughly $37.0 billion higher than the deficit through the first eight months of the previous fiscal year.

Inflation/consumer Spending: Inflation/consumer spending: According to the latest Personal Income and Outlays report, personal income rose 0.5% in May (0.3% in April) and disposable personal income also increased 0.5%, up from 0.3% in April. The PCE price index was unchanged in May after rising 0.3% in each of the prior three months. The PCE price index excluding food and energy (core prices), ticked up 0.1% in May. Consumer prices rose 2.6% since May 2023, down 0.1 percentage point compared to the 12 months ended in April. Core prices increased 2.6% over the same period, 0.2 percentage points lower than the 12 months ended in April. Consumer spending rose 0.2% in May after advancing 0.1% in April.

The Consumer Price Index was unchanged in May after rising 0.3% in April. Over the 12 months ended in May, the CPI rose 3.3%, down 0.1 percentage point from the period ended in April. Excluding food and energy, the CPI rose 0.2% in May, (0.3% in April), and 3.4% from May 2 023. Increases in prices for shelter (0.4%) and food (-0.1%), particularly food away from home (0.4%), were offset by a decrease in prices for energy (-0.2%) and gasoline (-3.6%). In addition to advances in prices for shelter and food, May saw increases in prices for medical care, used cars and trucks, and education, while prices for airline fares, new vehicles, communication, recreation, and apparel were among those that declined.

Prices that producers received for goods and services fell 0.2% in May after rising 0.5% in April. The May decline was attributable to a decrease in prices for goods (-0.8%), while prices for services were unchanged from the prior month. Nearly 60% of the May decrease in prices for goods can be traced to a 7.1% decline in prices for gasoline. Producer prices increased 2.2% for the 12 months ended in May, unchanged from the increase over the 12 months ended in April. Producer prices less foods, energy, and trade services were flat in May after increasing 0.5% in April. For the 12 months ended in May, prices less foods, energy, and trade services moved up 3.2%, the same increase as estimated for the 12 months ended in April.

Housing: Sales of existing homes fell 0.7% in May and 2.8% over the last 12 months. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), existing home sales have stagnated due to low inventory, rising home prices, and high interest rates. The median existing-home price was $419,300 in May, the highest price ever recorded. The May price was 3.1% above the April price of $406,600 and 5.8% higher than the May 2023 price of $396,500. Unsold inventory of existing homes in May represented a 3.7-month supply at the current sales pace, up slightly from 3.5 months in April. Sales of existing single-family homes decreased 0.8% in May and 2.1% from the prior year. The median existing single-family home price was $424,500 in May, up from $411,100 in April and well above the May 2023 estimate of $401,500. According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.87% as of June 20, down from 6.95% the previous week but up from 6.67% one year ago.

Consumer confidence: Consumer confidence dipped in June to 100.4, down from 101.3 in May, according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®. The Present Situation Index, based on consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions, increased to 141.5 in June, up from 140.8 in the previous month. The Expectations Index, based on consumers' short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions, fell to 73.0 in June, down from 74.9 in May.

Eye on the Quarter Ahead

Investors will likely focus much of their attention on the Federal Reserve during the third quarter of 2024. While the Fed has maintained interest rates at their current level for several months, they suggested that one decrease could be in the offing this year. Stock performance was choppy during the second quarter, with some indexes reaching record highs, only to fall back. Traders will look to the third quarter for more stability and steady gains in the market.

Wishing you and yours a Happy 4th of July! As always, we are here to address any questions you may have,

Your Financial Focus Team

Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). News items are based on reports from multiple commonly available international news sources (i.e., wire services) and are independently verified when necessary with secondary sources such as government agencies, corporate press releases, or trade organizations. All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Forecasts are based on current conditions, subject to change, and may not come to pass. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. The principal value of Treasury securities and other bonds fluctuates with market conditions. Bonds are subject to inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall. A bond sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 largest, publicly traded companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. The U.S. Dollar Index is a geometrically weighted index of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to six foreign currencies. Market indexes listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.