October paid off once again for the optimists. Red ink was nowhere to be found among the major asset classes, as our table below shows. Even the battered REIT market posted a handsome gain last month.
What’s extraordinary here is the persistence of bull markets in everything. In fact, it’s downright amazing. On a 1-year basis, everything’s up, and the same can be said when reviewing longer term records as well. The lone case of loss shows up only in REITs in the year-to-date column. But that’s hardly a calamity, given the potent rise in the asset class for the better part of the past seven-plus years.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is doing what it can to keep the bulls happy. Yesterday’s 1/4 point cut in Fed funds received a warm welcome in the stock market. The S&P 500 rallied 1.2% yesterday, reaffirming once again that the equity crowd loves liquidity.
The sentiment’s a bit more complicated in the bond market. The initial reaction to the Fed’s cut among the fixed-income set was to sell first and ask questions later. As a result, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury popped by the close of yesterday’s trading, rising to 4.48%, the highest in nearly two weeks. But no one should confuse the 10-year’s yield as excessive. A 4.48% rate is roughly the lowest in the past two years.
The future, of course, relies more than a little on consumer spending habits in the coming months. But here too optimism springs eternal, at least as it looks from this morning’s update on personal income and spending for September. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that personal income rose 0.4% in September, unchanged from the August rate. Disposable personal income–i.e., what’s left over after Joe Sixpack pays the bills–also rose by 0.4% in September, although that was down slightly from August’s 0.5%.
Speaking of spending, Joe continued to embrace the consuming side of his personality in September as personal consumption expenditures rose by 0.3%. Not bad, although that’s notably down from August’s 0.5% gain. A warning of trouble to come? Perhaps, although predictions of a sharp, sustainable pullback in consumer spending have been rolling around for years. To date, Joe’s proven the pessimists wrong, suggesting that consumers can keep spending for longer than prudent bears can afford to remain consistently anxious. The latest numbers suggest no less.
The markets confirm the trend. As our chart above reminds, there’s been no reward for anything other than embracing risk.
Alas, bull markets in everything at this late date are increasingly worrisome, even if the rear-view mirror suggests otherwise. Oil, to cite an increasingly obvious example, moved above $96 a barrel earlier today, to cite one example. The longer the party goes on in everything, the bigger the potential correction in something will be.
But for the moment, the party rolls on.