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This ETF is different from traditional ETFs. Traditional ETFs tell the public what assets they hold each day. This ETF will not. This may create additional risks for your investment. For example:

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NOVEMBER 2023 MARKET UPDATE

Rising rates take their toll

11/07/2023

Street view of Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Chicago Board of Trade.
WRITTEN BY:
Chief Investment Strategist
WRITTEN BY:
Steve Lowe, CFA,Chief Investment Strategist

Thrivent Asset Management Contributors to this report: John Groton, Jr., CFA, Director of Administration and Materials & Energy Research; Matthew Finn, CFA, Head of Equity Mutual Funds; and Jeff Branstad, CFA, Model Portfolio Manager


Key points

U.S. stocks sell off again

The S&P 500 and NASDAQ indices slumped in October but both are up since a year ago

Interest rates and the economy

Rising Treasury yields impacted mortgage rates, tightening the economy

U.S. Treasury yields surge

U.S. Treasury yields climb past previous 2023 highs

Inflation and the Fed remain front and center

Rates expected to stay where they are through 2023


Chart summarizing the performance of select market indexes, 10-year T bonds, and oil.

 

October was a difficult month for financial markets. U.S. stocks were down and U.S. Treasury yields were up (pushing their prices down). Geopolitical tension, heightened by the emerging conflict in the Middle East, was a factor but surging Treasury yields dominated sentiment for U.S. markets.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields marched past previous 2023 highs, and briefly pierced the psychologically significant 5.0% level, before closing the month at 4.90%, 0.33% higher than September’s end.

The capital loss from rising yields hurts both Treasury bond holdings and other fixed income markets, such as U.S. corporate bonds. Higher rates also take its toll on mortgage rates, with 30-year fixed-rate loans vaulting to around 8%, a level not seen in more than 20 years. More generally, the rising Treasury yields amidst relatively stable inflation rates have only further solidified high real yields (the yield paid less inflation), tightening financial conditions across the economy. As markets accept the U.S. Federal Reserve’s (Fed) prognosis that rates will stay higher for longer, the greater cost of capital is a dampener on the outlook for corporate profitability in the long term.

The good news was that the U.S. economy continued to hum along. Third quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surged to 4.9% (more than doubling the second quarter’s 2.1%) and was the highest quarterly rate seen since the fourth quarter of 2021. Unsurprising, corporate earnings generally beat expectations for the quarter. That said, revenue growth was uninspiring, and forward guidance was muted. With the third quarter GDP surge fueled by consumption, the concern seemed to be that higher interest rates would eventually take their toll on the recently more audacious consumer. That concern may be warranted, as select data points to a struggling consumer. For example, more car owners have become delinquent on their payments. In September, 6.1% of subprime borrowers were at least 60 days past due on a car payment, according to Fitch Ratings, the highest delinquency rate in nearly 30 years. 

Softer unemployment isn’t helping. While the September jobs data was strong, adding 297,000 new jobs, growth decelerated to 150,000 jobs added in October and the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9% from 3.8% last month. However, average hourly earnings slowed their gains slightly, rising just 0.2% over the month.

Nevertheless, inflation remains high. The core Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes the more volatile food & energy components, increased 0.3% month over month in September, the same as it did in August, and rose 4.1% versus September last year. With the core Personal Consumption Index (PCI), the Fed’s preferred measure, up 3.7% year over year in September (the same increase as in August and July), inflation remains too far above the Fed’s target of a long-term average near 2.0%.

However, the Fed again chose to remain on pause for the second consecutive month. In a unanimous vote, the rate-setting policy committee chose to leave rates unchanged, albeit at a 22-year high. As markets do not currently expect a hike in December, it seems likely interest rates will end 2023 at current levels.

Outlook: The long period of rising U.S. policy rates is likely near its end. But the toll that higher rates extract from economic growth has a lagged effect, and we believe the impact will become steadily more apparent as we head into 2024.

Third quarter growth and earnings results were encouraging, but we continue to believe U.S. corporate profit margins will be challenged in 2024 with slowing growth. Higher inflation helped companies raise real prices over the past year, but that tailwind of inflation enabling higher prices is dissipating as inflation has fallen and may likely continue to drift lower. Add tighter financial conditions, higher borrowing costs, and a slowing economy on top of a loss in pricing power, and we think it will be difficult for profits to continue to beat rosy expectations into 2024.

Should the economy slow more abruptly than the market currently expects, the Fed could relent and begin to talk about lowering interest rates. However, we believe they will be very reluctant to do so without a clear and significant decline in inflation or a great deal of confidence it will fall in the near term. We believe the Fed, which has the difficult task of balancing the so-called “dual mandate” of simultaneously targeting lower inflation and higher employment, currently favors the former and will do so until they are confident inflation has stabilized at appropriate levels.

In this environment, we continue to think bonds broadly can be compelling long-term investments. Short-term securities issued by either the U.S. Treasury or high-quality companies offer attractive yields given our expectation that the Fed is likely to keep short-term interest rates high into next year. While longer-dated Treasury bonds have been volatile recently, they offer the opportunity to lock in today’s historically high yields for the length of the bond. If we are right that Treasury yields are likely near their peak, then the total return realized in longer-dated bonds could be impressive as the capital appreciation gained from any decline in rates is added to the already attractive yield earned just by holding them.

High-quality corporate bonds also offer attractive yields, in our view, insofar as the underlying Treasury yield has risen significantly and the spread offered over that yield remains attractive. While this is most apparent in the high-yield (below investment grade) market, we are not convinced their current yields adequately compensate for the risks that could emerge from a slowing economy and increasingly tight financial conditions. Investment-grade corporate bonds, however, are more likely to weather any economic storms.

While weakness in stocks and bonds could well continue in the months ahead, our base case remains that significant further weakness in stocks or bonds is more likely to be short lived rather than longer term. While the short-term effects of volatility can be painful, these same periods can also offer opportunities for actively managed portfolios and investors who have heeded our words of caution and retained some flexibility to add risk when valuations become attractive.

Drilling down

U.S. stocks extend their slide

The S&P 500 Index fell 2.20% in October, from 4,288.05 at the September close to 4,193.80 at the end of October. The total return of the S&P 500 Index (including dividends) for the month was -2.10% and 10.69% year to date. (The S&P 500 is a market-cap-weighted index that represents the average performance of a group of 500 U.S. large capitalization stocks.)

The NASDAQ Index also fell in October (down 2.78%) from 13,219.32 at the end of September to 12,851.24 at the October close. Despite the recent declines, year to date, the NASDAQ is up 22.78%. (The NASDAQ – National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations – is an electronic stock exchange with more than 3,300 company listings.)
 

Chart depicting the value of the S&P 500 Index from November 2022 to October 2023.


Retail sales continue to rise

Retail sales were up 0.7% from the previous month in September, and up 3.8% from 12 months earlier, according to the Department of Commerce retail report issued October 17. Rising sales were led higher in the month by miscellaneous store retailers (+3.0%) and non-store (primarily online sales) retailers (+1.1%), followed by motor vehicle and parts dealers (+1.0%).

On a year-on-year basis, food services & drinking places continued to lead, rising 9.2% from September of last year, followed by non-store sales (+8.4%) and health & personal care stores (+8.3%).

While sales at gasoline stations rose on the month (up 0.9%), year-on-year sales remained low, with sales down 3.5% from last September due to higher average gasoline prices last year.

Electronic & home furnishing stores and clothing & clothing accessory stores weighed the most on the index in September, with both down 0.08% over the month.

Job growth slows again

After a blowout September jobs report (297,000 new jobs), the U.S. economy added 150,000 new nonfarm jobs in October, according to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) November 3 report. Once again, health care added the most employees, with 58,000 new jobs, followed by the government (51,000 new jobs), construction (23,000), and social assistance (19,000).

The unemployment rate was relatively unchanged, at 3.9%, but remains the highest level since January 2022, and the labor force participation rate declined slightly to 62.7%. The number of part-time employees, at 4.3 million, was up slightly from September, while average hourly earnings for all employees rose 0.2% to $34.00 in October, a 4.1% rise from a year ago.

 

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All sectors but Utilities fell in October

The S&P 500 Index again saw broad-based weakness in October, with 10 of the 11 sectors generating a negative return. Energy led the market lower in October, falling 5.97%, in an abrupt reversal from September, when it was the only sector to generate a positive monthly return. Investors’ concern about slowing growth drove the weakness in more cyclical sectors such as Consumer Discretionary (-4.47%), Materials (-3.18%), and Industrials (-2.92%). Even the Information Technology sector which, together with Communications Services, led the market higher over the year, fell a modest 0.02%.

The chart below shows the past month and year-to-date performance results of the 11 sectors:
 

Chart depicting the October 202 and year-to-date returns of 11 S&P 500 sectors.


Treasury yields near 5.0%

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond rose from 4.57% at the end of September to close the month at 4.90%, briefly piercing the psychologically significant 5.0% level mid-month. The rise was largely attributed to sufficiently robust growth to prevent the Fed from cutting rates soon, the greater Treasury bond issuance planned to fund the budget deficit, and concern real rates (the yield a bond pays after subtracting inflation) may stay higher for longer.

The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index was down 1.58% in October. (The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged index considered representative of the U.S. investment-grade, fixed-rate bond market).

 

Chart depicting U.S. Treasury 10-year bond yields from November 2022 to October 2023.


Oil prices tumble

Oil prices fell in October, as concerns grew about the health of the global economy. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate, a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing, fell 10.76% over the month, from $90.79 at the end of September to $81.02 at the October close.

Gasoline prices at the pump retreated in October from their recent highs near $4, with the average price per gallon falling from $3.96 at the end of September to $3.60 at the end of October.

 

Chart depicting the price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil from November 2021 to October 2023.


International equities continue to slide

International equities dropped again in October on continued worries about the economic outlook for Europe and concern about the impact of the current conflict in the Middle East. The MSCI EAFE Index fell 4.10% for the month, from 2,031.26 at the end of September to 1,947.91 at the October close. The index, which tracks developed-economy stocks in Europe, Asia, and Australia, reduced its year-to-date gains to 8.50% as of the October close.

 

Chart depicting the value of the MSCI EAFE Index from November 2022 to October 2023


Before making a change in your investment portfolio, you may wish to consult with a financial professional to determine how that may align with your long-term goals and objectives.

What can you expect from the economy and the markets in the months ahead? See: Thrivent 4th Quarter Market Outlookby Chief Investment Strategist Steve Lowe 

Media contact: Callie Briese, 612-844-7340; callie.briese@thrivent.com

All information and representations herein are as of 11/07/2023, unless otherwise noted.

The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change, and may differ from views expressed by other Thrivent Asset Management, LLC associates. Actual investment decisions made by Thrivent Asset Management, LLC will not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or product. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor's specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the standard measure of the value added created through the production of goods and services in a country during a certain period.

Any indexes shown are unmanaged and do not reflect the typical costs of investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index.

Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

Related Insights

February 2024 Market Update

02/07/2024

On the road to recovery

On the road to recovery

On the road to recovery

2024 is likely to deliver positive total returns in both stocks and bonds broadly. We remain mindful that volatility can spike or remain elevated for extended periods as economic or geopolitical uncertainty rises.

2024 is likely to deliver positive total returns in both stocks and bonds broadly. We remain mindful that volatility can spike or remain elevated for extended periods as economic or geopolitical uncertainty rises.

02/07/2024