Apologies for the tardiness of this missive… we’re in the midst of doing some serious integration with W3 systems. We’ve changed our CRM software, which doesn’t mean much to you, but it’s tedious for us. We’re also in the midst of planning and creating a new website which will be a combination of the firms. Normally, summer is a slack period following the joys of tax season, but not this year.
To say the least, May was a crazy month in plenty of other areas. President Trump’s summit with Kim Jung Un was on, then off, now back on again. The Russian investigation inexorably moves ahead, and so does the pace and content of the president’s tweets. New lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been in constant attack mode attempting to continue the narrative of discrediting everyone involved in the legal process. The concept of Presidential pardoning has taken new parameters, with the possibilities of Martha Stewart and Rod Blagoevich receiving the golden nod. It’s no coincidence that they were both contestants on “The Apprentice”. Evidently, the potential abolition of guilt extends to the host of the show as well. It’s a tad incredulous that the framers of the Constitution would have foreseen someone being the judge of their own case, but that’s essentially where we might be heading.
On another front, there was a mini banking crisis in Italy in late May which caused a swoon in both equities and fixed income markets. Memories of the PIGS debacle of a few years back increased volatility overall. At that time, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain were all on the brink of the abyss from a financial health perspective. The impact last month was thankfully quite muted and brief, with little contagion to other countries. That being said, the rate on the ten year Treasury rose to over 3% for a week or so. This also engendered consternation for traders, but that ship seems to have been righted now.
Equities performed decently in May, as April’s losses were mostly reversed. We’re still in a holding pattern for 2018 as far as overall performance is concerned, but I remain cautiously optimistic for stocks despite all the Washington noise. The recently concluded earnings season was quite solid. There were few downward revisions for future profits, and this should bode well for next quarter. Oil rose above the $70/barrel mark, allowing gas to hit the $3/gallon threshold. This spike has mellowed slightly, and that’s a boon for auto and airline travelers during the busy summer season. The Federal Reserve appears to be on a path for three rather than four interest rates hikes in 2018. While GDP is improving, the signs of rampant inflation are still largely below the Fed’s target. May employment numbers were also strong.
President Trump’s ever-evolving tariff policies could throw a wrench in all of this, though. We’ll just have to wait and see how the world reacts. I’m personally in disagreement with tariffs because they historically have resulted in problems for the US (witness the Hawley Smoot Act). I frankly can’t see how tariffs fail to be both inflationary for the consumer and bad for overall employment. A thought… if Boeing has to pay a 25% tariff on steel and aluminum for planes being built in the US, why wouldn’t they simply export manufacturing jobs to Canadian sources?
As we move into vacation time, Wall Street takes a breather. Traders head to the beach, and volume decreases. This paradoxically can increase volatility on the equities side. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time scheduled away from the office, so I’ll be watching things closely. We’ve got plenty of work to do on the W3 integration front, and we’re also beginning to implement our team advisory concept. It’s all exciting stuff, but not conducive to long sojourns away. Thanks as always for your continued faith and support. We look forward to talking with you soon.
The opinions expressed in this letter are those of William Schiffman and should not be construed as specific investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, no representation is made to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results. Diversification cannot assure a profit or guarantee against a loss. Indices are unmanaged and do not incur fees, one cannot directly invest in an index.