2022 has been a challenging year for investors so far. Markets don’t like uncertainty but it’s getting a healthy dose of it this year, dealing with high inflation, tighter Federal Reserve monetary policy, COVID-19 shutdowns in China, and snarling global supply chains, all while the war in Ukraine continues.
When markets are shaky, it can be helpful to look to long-term fundamentals that have provided the foundation of positive returns for stocks and bonds over the long run. For stocks, gains depend on the ability of corporations to grow earnings, which they have continued to do during first quarter earnings season—S&P 500 Index earnings per share are on track to increase 10% year over year.
For bonds, the key fundamental has simply been the ability of borrowers to make required payments. Corporations and consumers enjoy strong balance sheets and have the financial firepower to pay their debts. While the future is always uncertain, we believe those fundamentals remain in place.
With or without this potentially supportive fundamental backdrop, the volatility we’ve seen in stocks this year is not unusual. Although negative returns for a full calendar year are infrequent, corrections are fairly common. Since 1980, the S&P 500 has been negative for a calendar year just seven times, but the average decline within any year has been 14%.
Mid-term election years have tended to see increased early year volatility, as the honeymoon period for a new president ends and political uncertainty rises. Inflation can also be challenging. Years with inflation over 5% have seen more frequent stock market declines than a typical year, but stocks have still been higher more often than not.
Amid the global economic and geopolitical uncertainty, the core domestic economy is still quite stable. Weekly consumer spending data is above typical baseline levels. Job seekers are participating in a tight labor market with twice as many openings as unemployed people. Businesses are enjoying high profit margins despite cost pressures.
The economy is expected to grow in the latter part of this year after a surprise contraction in the first quarter, though the growth path may be bumpy as monetary policy is recalibrated from exceedingly loose to moderately tight and consumers and businesses adjust to higher borrowing costs. Our base case is still for above-trend economic growth in 2022.
If you feel that your portfolio’s risk is out of alignment with your comfort zone, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss re-calibrating your target allocation to match your ideal risk target. If you haven’t received an updated risk score in a while, it may be a good idea to complete this questionnaire to confirm that you are still on track.
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Bryan Foronjy, CFP®
Founder and Principal Wealth Manager
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