Hello and welcome to this week’s Jones Financial Blog! Our goal at Jones & Associates is to help keep you up to date with interesting current economic/market happenings as well as some proprietary portfolio happenings. Knowledge is power and thought we would share some of ours with you. Enjoy!
All data is for the week ended December 18, 2020. Economic/Market happenings:
Last week, the S&P had a strong week with returning 1.29%. The small and mid-cap Russell 2000 was even stronger rising 3.05% and the NASDAQ kept pace with that strength rising 3.07%. International developed markets (MSCI EAFE) rose 2.01% while the emerging markets (MSCI EM) rose 0.90%. In the U.S., the technology and consumer discretionary sectors were the best performers while energy and utilities were the biggest laggards. (1)
Interest rates rose slightly last week as the outlook for economic activity improved, helped by a potential government stimulus package. The entire yield curve increased with the 2-year, the 10-year and the 30-year increasing by 2, 5 and 7 basis points, respectively. The 10-year closed with a 0.95% annual rate. (2)
The price of gold (GLDM), a Precious Metals strategy and ETF Endowment Series holding, was up 2.29% last week and is now up 23.78% year-to-date.3 Demand for this precious metal from overseas central banks has been on the upswing, particularly from those countries that have a low ratio of gold to total reserves. (3&4)
For 2021, the Federal Reserve estimates economic growth of 4.2%, well ahead of recent annual growth and slightly higher than their prior forecast. The Fed also reduced its 2021 estimate for unemployment to 5.0% from the prior 5.5%. (5)
New York’s Empire State business conditions index — a leading indicator for the rest of the country— slipped to 4.9 in December from 6.3 in the prior month, well below expectations for a rise to 7.2. Unfilled orders and inventories were the leading causes for the drop. The Empire State index has fallen steadily after hitting 17 in September. Input prices increased at the fastest pace in two years while selling prices were flat from the previous month. Business owners remain positive for their six-month outlook. (6)
A key index for service-oriented companies such as restaurants, financial firms and healthcare providers fell 3 points to 55.3 in November from the prior month. While any number over 50 signals growth, it was the weakest report in the past three months. The similar index for manufacturing edged down 0.2 points to 56.5 last month. (7)
Proprietary portfolio happenings:
Apple Inc. (AAPL) a Core Select strategy holding, is planning a 30% year-over-year boost to iPhone production in the first half of next year, according to key suppliers. Shares rose 3.47% for the week. (8)
AstraZeneca PLC (AZN), a G40i holding, announced a $39 billion deal to buy Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) in cash and stock. Alexion is a fast-growing developer of molecules for the treatment of rare diseases and has over 20 programs in place, which could expand AZN’s offerings from a core of cancer fighting drugs. Shares of AZN declined 7.48% for the week. (9)
Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY), a Core Select and G50 holding, raised its outlook for revenues and earnings and also announced a 15% dividend hike. Shares yield 3.40/~157 or 2.15% on the new rate. Shares rose 7.1% for the week. (10)
Palo Alto (PANW) a Core Select and G33 strategy holding, launched a rapid response program for organizations navigating the SolarStorm Cyberattacks by Russia. The company shared that the Cortex XDR platform successfully prevented an attempted attack as well. This is not anticipated to be the last major hacking by the Russians, according to CEO Nikesh Arora in a CNBC interview. The company was up 14.71% for the week. (11&12)
Baidu Inc. (BIDU) a G33 strategy holding, is considering entering the electric vehicle market according to Reuters. The company has reportedly been in talks with automakers and experts about the matter. The company is up 19.5% for the week. (13)
Did You Know? In the 1930s, Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books each holiday season, buying them for others. In order to save on the cost, in 1939 they selected one of their own ad writers, Robert L. May, to create a short Christmas story. Mr. May was very small as a child and was often picked on, so he decided to make it an Ugly Duckling type tale, which he wrote in the same verse as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The story was then illustrated by Denver Gillen, who worked in Montgomery Ward’s art department. The finished work was a hit, with 2.4 million copies given away in the first season. “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” has been a staple of the Christmas holiday ever since.
Sources: (1) JP Morgan Weekly Market Recap 12-21-20, (2) US Treasury, (3) Morningstar, (4) World Gold Council 12-3-20, (5) Federal Reserve Open Market Committee press release 12-16-20, (6) Federal Reserve Bank of NY 12-15-20, (7) IHS Markit 12-16-20, (8) Nikkei Asia 12-15-20, (9) AstraZeneca press release 12-14-20, (10) Eli Lilly & Co. press release 12-14-20, (11) PANW Press Release 12-17-20, (12) CNBC Article 12-18-20, (13) Reuters Report 12-14-20