If you’re a fan of home renovation TV shows then you’re probably familiar with the types of bad news home inspections can uncover. Last week, the Commerce Department inspected its previous estimate for real gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the first quarter of 2014 and found some bad news. As it turns out, the rate of economic growth in the United States declined by 1 percent rather than increasing slightly, as previously thought.
The revision sparked debate among economists and politicians about the health of the U.S. economy. According to The Guardian, some economists found the revised numbers difficult to reconcile because they seem to contradict other first quarter economic data – such as expansion of non-farm payrolls, healthy manufacturing activity, and stronger retail sales – which indicate a more positive growth trend.
News that the U.S. economy might have shrunk slightly didn’t deter investors at all. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index finished the week at a new record high. This could mean investors are confident economic growth will rebound in the second quarter of 2014 or it may reflect a belief economic weakness in the United States will encourage a more stimulative monetary policy.
The Wall Street Journal suggests signs of slower growth in the United States and Europe are behind the resurgent popularity of emerging markets. If you recall, investors pulled about $60 billion from emerging countries early in 2014 as they worried these markets would be affected negatively by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s less stimulative monetary policy. In May, a Reuters’ poll found 51 investment houses in the United States, Japan, and Europe had reduced their cash positions to the lowest levels since last November and invested the proceeds in emerging markets.
One expert cited by The Wall Street Journal called the rush into emerging markets a “global chase for yield.” No matter what you call it, last Friday, Morgan Stanley Capital International's emerging markets stock index rose to its highest level since October 2013. It was up 3 percent for the year.
S&P 500, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
*Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged index. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The DJ Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.