September 2023 | Monthly Economic Update
Equities pulled back in August, with volatility back on the rise. Notable events driving the market volatility were a US credit downgrade, China continuing to experience worsening economic conditions, and uncertainty on future Federal Reserve monetary policy decisions as a result of persisting inflation. US equities, as measured by the S&P 500, saw their first monthly decline since February, dropping 1.6%. International equities fared worse, with international developed and emerging market equities down 3.8% and 6.1%, respectively. Bleaker economic conditions in these regions, as well as the US dollar strengthening during the month, posed headwinds for both international markets.
Looking across US equity sectors, only the energy sector saw positive performance in August, with a gain of 1.81% as energy prices rose in response to ongoing production cuts from OPEC and potential impacts from Hurricane Idalia affecting production in the Gulf. Utilities fared worse for the month, declining 6.16%, in response to rising energy prices and interest rates. Comparing equity styles, growth outperformed value and large outperformed small as the narrow technology leadership of the “magnificent seven” stocks remain a dominant theme of the year, and more defensive, interest rate-sensitive sectors continue to be challenged.
Moving to fixed income, all broad markets were in negative territory. US bonds fared best with the broad market declining 0.6% despite the US seeing its credit downgraded from the highest credit rating, AAA, down one spot to AA+, and persisting inflation, leaving more room for potential future rate hikes. While these events triggered volatility within fixed income, a strengthening US dollar provided a boost to domestic bonds relative to international bonds that saw larger declines with backdrops of weaker economies. Shorter-duration government bonds and high yield outperformed longer-duration government bonds due to less interest rate sensitivity.
Despite a strong month for energy, commodities broadly saw a decline of 0.8%. Industrial and precious metals were the detractors from the index. Gold dropped -1.7%, even with a volatile month as a result of the strengthening US dollar. Real estate pulled back after a strong July, with US REITs declining 2.7% for the month.
Balanced portfolios struggled in August, with the global 60/40 index blend down 2.2%. Relative to the 60/40, broad allocations to bonds, commodities, and gold helped while equities and real estate hurt.
The Monthly Riddle
What has two banks but no money?
LAST MONTH’S RIDDLE: Some are quick to take it. Others must be coaxed.
Those who choose to take it gain and lose the most.
Tip of The Month
Small reductions in spending add up to big savings over time. You can start small like making a coffee at home every morning rather than buying it out!
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