Market Update - Is This Normal?

From Your Gilbert & Cook Investment Team

Market fluctuations (volatility) come in many shapes, sizes, and timeframes.  The origin of a stock falloff sometimes stares us right in the face such as the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 or the Great Recession of 2008-2009.  Other times the downturn is a detached concern when compared to negative movement in investor portfolios.  In those cases, it matters most that the downturn is occurring, not necessarily what event is the catalyst.

Most trading days in October of 2018 fall into the latter category.  There are a litany of issues drifting in and out of headline news.  Mid-term elections, unemployment, interest rates, trade and tariffs, corporate earnings, etc, etc.  Important sure, but not enough on their own merits to cause a meltdown.  These issues and many others are the stuff of “normal” stock market volatility.  Let us explain.

For the next few minutes, grant us that “normal” shall be defined by “how it usually works”.  Usually, generally, typically, regularly, customarily, you get the picture.  The chart below shows the price action of the S&P 500 index in each of the past 38 years.  The gray bar shows the price change for the respective calendar year.  The red dot illustrates the largest intra-year decline.  So what is “normal” in this graphic?  Well, usually, the market has gone up.  29 of the past 38 years or 76% of the time.  76% does not equal “always”, only typical.  The red dot average is down -13.8%.  So, a normal year still sees a pullback of nearly -14% at some point.  Even if we eliminate the two worst years, the average downturn is -12.3%. Ups and Downs in stocks are normal.  

Chart Oct 25.JPG

Back to the year 2018.  The S&P 500 saw a drop from January 26th to February 8th of -10.2%.  Our worst stretch of the year, so far, and it happened in the timeframe of 9 business days.  That February 8th low point marked the S&P 500 being down just -3.5% from the beginning of 2018.  At its highest, the S&P 500 index level was up +9.6%.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average follows a similar pattern up +8.5% YTD at peak and down -4.8% YTD at bottom.  Through October 24th, both of these US Large Cap indices are hovering around flat for the year while bonds, small caps, and international stocks are all negative on the year.  Pullbacks feel painful when happening, but don’t let emotions get the best of you.  After some extraordinary years in 2012, ’13, ‘16 and ‘17, treading water in 2018 would appear quite possible.

The entire Gilbert & Cook team is here to help you navigate and discuss any topics you feel are key.  We know it is imperative that you have access to your G&C Investment Team portfolio managers and to understand what is driving your investment performance.

Is this still normal?  Yes.

Mid-Year Economic Outlook

Mid-Year 2018 : Economic Update


U.S. stocks have been trending higher, but have endured some rough water over the past few weeks. In May, investors were left to interpret mixed signals. The historic U.S.-North Korea summit was on, then off, then on again. An apparent truce emerged in the U.S.-China tariffs battle, but it did not last. Oil rallied, but then prices fell. Federal Reserve policy meeting minutes indicated central bank officials would accept above-target inflation for a while. Other economic signals were clear: new and existing home sales were down, consumer confidence was back up, and consumer spending was strong. In the end, the markets took all this in stride – the S&P 500 rose 2.16% for the month.

Now in June, U.S. stocks continue to fall as a threat of new tariffs on Chinese imports from the U.S. is ramping up global trade fears. Treasury yields are dropping and the U.S. dollar is rising.


Mortgage rates may have soared in April, but they stabilized in May. On May 31, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey found the mean interest rate for a conventional home loan at 4.56%, which was 0.02% lower than on April 26. (At the end of May 2017, the average interest rate on a 30-year ARM was 3.95%.) 

Home buying fell off in April. According to National Association of Realtors research, there was a 2.5% retreat in the pace of existing home sales. Construction for single and multi-family units were solidly higher compared to the prior month and are up noticeably year over year. Building permits, one of the leading indicators tracked by the Conference Board as it is a gauge of future construction, fell in May compared to April. Permits for single and multi-family unit structures both declined month over month but both remain higher year over year.


The economy is still in good shape, and is likely to withstand possible storms ahead. Volatility is unlikely to diminish Fed tightening expectations for the rest of 2018. The Fed hiked rates 0.25% on June 13th.

Trade concerns continue to rise. Tariffs are now being levied on imported steel and aluminum, and the trading partners affected by these taxes are responding or planning to respond with tariffs of their own on U.S. goods. Could stocks stall out because of this? An impeded flow of international trade would certainly impact the GDP of the world’s major economies and exert a drag on corporate earnings. The uneasiness about the brewing trade war gives some investors pause; the potential scope of it seems too large to price in. It is hard to imagine any kind of summer rally if the measures and countermeasures taken by various countries escalate. Not all investors appear to be worried, though – witness what happened in May even as the distinct possibility of trade wars emerged. The blue chips were hurt, but the tech sector and the small caps held up. Do these shares have further room to advance, and will investors retain their bullishness about them? June presents significant questions for investors worldwide, and we may see equities take a pause as threatened tariffs become reality.

That being said, patience and endurance are important in the face of occasional ominous headlines as we look forward to long-term goals.