Market Update August 2020

Around my house, we’re starting to get ready–although very slowly–for the return to school for our kids.  We love summer, so it’s a bit sad that it’s coming to a close.  But, autumn is becoming my favorite season, since we’ll get a break from the heat and humidity and, with any luck, I’ll get to see some college football.
Usually, when Labor Day rolls around, the stock market is at about the same level as it was on Memorial Day.  This year, though, is anything but normal (there was a hurricane in Iowa!?), so we can set aside usual market patterns.  It’s been an amazing year for stocks, with most of them suffering a terrible first quarter before rebounding sharply since then.  As I write this on August 18, the S&P 500 index is very near an all-time high.  This doesn’t seem to make sense, with the economy clearly not firing on all cylinders.
It’s important to remember that the stock market is a leading indicator of the economy, with investors putting their money where they think we are headed, not where we are right now.  Obviously, investors think the economy will be healing soon.
There’s more to the story than that, though.  Central banks all over the world, including our own Federal Reserve, have flooded the markets with liquidity in an effort to keep the financial infrastructure of our economy running at full throttle.  I think that’s what explains how stocks, bonds, gold, and real estate prices have all risen over the past quarter.  Ordinarily, without all of the liquidity being added, I would expect bonds and gold to fall when stocks rise, and vice-versa.  But I think that all of that money being added to the system is chasing after a limited number of assets, causing (nearly) all prices to rise.  It’s supply and demand.
While the market-cap weighted index of the largest U.S. stocks is near a record high (the S&P 500), the equal-cap weighted index is still down about 4% for the year.  This tells us that the rebound in the market is being led by a small number of the very largest stocks.  If you didn’t own that small list of stocks (the big technology stocks, for example), you may not have seen your portfolio rebound as quickly.  That’s okay, though…that means that if the economy continues to move forward, the rest of those stocks could play catch-up.
Going forward, I would expect stocks to continue to be good investments.  We are being cautious right now, though, preferring to add new money into stocks on a pullback.  With ever-changing news about COVID and an election coming up, the odds of a pullback seem pretty high.  There’s plenty of uncertainty out there, so we’re not willing to chase stocks now.
Bonds, especially corporates (as opposed to government-issued), in my opinion look attractive.  The Federal Reserve has been buying corporate bonds to provide even more support for the markets, which gives corporate bonds a sort of “safety net.”  Of course, the Fed could stop buying at any point, and the bonds that are issued are only as strong as the company backing them, so you do have to be careful.  Lower-rated bonds have enjoyed a great rally from their lows, so we’re less likely to be investing in those for our clients now.
Our favorite areas of the stock market continue to be technology and consumer discretionary.  Many industrial sector stocks look interesting too.  While there are great opportunities in energy (oil and gas), we are not ready to move back in there, yet.  The same is true for basic materials stocks.  We’re also underweighting utilities.
Like a hurricane in Iowa, the possibility for the unexpected is always out there.  We’re busy evaluating lots of investment options for different scenarios (including the election), making preparations before the storm hits.  If you have any questions regarding your portfolio’s preparedness, please give your financial advisor a call, or you can respond to this email.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer, and that you stay well and avoid the coronavirus.




The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the 2,000 smallest companies in the Russell 3000 Index, which represent approximately 8% of the total market capitalization of the Russell 3000 Index. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the United States & Canada. The EAFE consists of the country indices of 22 developed nations. Individuals cannot invest directly in any index. Index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect investment performance. Individual investor results will vary. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Scott Mitchell and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

About Scott Mitchell

AAMS ®, Chief Investment Officer SWG, Senior Wealth Advisor RJFS, Scott is a cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University School of Business. He received additional training from the College of Financial Planning and earned the accreditation of Accredited Asset Management Specialist℠ as well as earning the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designation.  Scott began his career at Southern National Bank. He then joined his father, Bob Mitchell, at First Union Securities for six years. At Signature, Scott directs investment strategy for the team and oversees the research and management of individual stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Scott lives in Florence with his wife and two children. He is a member and past President of St. Luke Lutheran Church, member and past President of the Florence Rotary Club, and on the board of directors of the Pee Dee Area Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Follow Scott on LinkedIn. Raymond James is not affiliated with any of the above-mentioned organizations.