When Overbought is Bullish

The bull market continues to march higher. The S&P 500 Index is near one of the most overbought levels in history and this has many wondering how much longer the rally can continue. The longer-term technical indicators continue to look strong, but sentiment is flashing some warning signs suggesting market volatility could finally be heating up.

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Forecasting Follies: Fed hits its mark in 2017

With the end of the year fast approaching, ‘tis the season for reflection on forecasts past and the sharing of forecasts future. We do not have an award for “Forecast of the Year,” but if we did, in 2017 it would go to the Federal Reserve (Fed). While the Fed’s “dot plots” are not a forecast strictly speaking, it’s fair to take the median dot as a rough consensus view. With its rate hike last week, the Fed hit its mark of three hikes in 2017, matching the view set out in its final set of dot plots in 2016. With the economy surprising to the upside, the Fed was able to follow through on its expected rate hike path in 2017, and begin to reduce its balance sheet.

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Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Jim Nabors, who played the bumbling but lovable Gomer Pyle in The Andy Griffith Show and subsequent spinoff Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., passed away on November 30. Inspired by a couple of Gomer Pyle’s catch phrases, this week we look at some recent strength in economic surprise indexes that hit multi-year highs in November. These new highs might have led Gomer — if he were an economist instead of a filling station attendant and then Marine Corp private — to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

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Corporate Beige Book

Companies remained generally upbeat during the third quarter earnings season, based on the LPL Research Corporate Beige Book Barometer. This is hardly surprising, given actual earnings results were good again and estimates of future earnings held up relatively well as companies provided forward-looking guidance.

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2018 Stock Market Outlook

Back to business: fundamentals to drive stock market gains in 2018. With a focus on business fundamentals and the impact of fiscal policy, the return of the business cycle means that earnings growth may have to shoulder most, if not all, of the load if stocks are going to produce attractive returns in 2018.

The good news is the S&P 500 Index may be well positioned to generate earnings growth at or near double-digits in 2018 thanks to a combination of better economic growth and potentially lower corporate tax rates, despite some possible downward pressure on profit margins from higher wages.

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529 Account News – Gold for Illinois

Treasurer’s Note

Gold for Illinois

I am proud to announce that we’ve made historic advances in our college savings plans.

Illinois’ Bright Start and Bright Directions are the highest rated programs in the country, according to an independent analysis by Morningstar.

Bright Start earned a gold rating. It is the first time the college investment fund received that honor.

In late October, Bright Directions earned a silver rating for the second consecutive year, the highest rating for an advisor-sold plan.

Morningstar evaluated plans in nearly every state in the country and based its ratings on five key pillars: process, performance, people, parent, and price. The restructuring of Bright Start’s investment portfolio and a significant reduction in fees specifically was mentioned in the analysis.

This great news is a direct result of the feedback that we have received from our college savers. Today, we have more than 460,000 active college savings accounts valued at more than $9 billion.

Attending college or a qualified trade school is a key component to career success. How many times have we heard a parent say, ‘I just want my child to have a better life than me.’

Opening a Bright Start or Bright Directions college saving account is the first step.

Sincerely,

Michael W. Frerichs

Illinois State Treasurer

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

The Morningstar Analyst RatingTM is not a credit or risk rating. It is a subjective evaluation performed by Morningstar’s manager research group, which consists of various Morningstar, Inc. subsidiaries (“Manager Research Group”). In the United States, that subsidiary is Morningstar Research Services LLC, which is registered with and governed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Manager Research Group evaluates funds based on five key pillars, which are process, performance, people, parent, and price. The Manager Research Group uses this five pillar evaluation to determine how they believe funds are likely to perform relative to a benchmark, or in the case of exchange-traded funds and index mutual funds, a relevant peer group, over the long term on a risk-adjusted basis. They consider quantitative and qualitative factors in their research, and the weight of each pillar may vary. The Analyst Rating scale is Gold, Silver, Bronze, Neutral, and Negative. A Morningstar Analyst Rating of Gold, Silver, or Bronze reflects the Manager Research Group’s conviction in a fund’s prospects for outperformance. Analyst Ratings ultimately reflect the Manager Research Group’s overall assessment, are overseen by an Analyst Rating Committee, and are continuously monitored and reevaluated at least every 14 months.

For more detailed information about Morningstar’s Analyst Rating, including its methodology, please go to global.morningstar.com/managerdisclosures/

The Morningstar Analyst Rating (i) should not be used as the sole basis in evaluating a fund, (ii) involves unknown risks and uncertainties which may cause Analyst expectations not to occur or to differ significantly from what they expected, and (iii) should not be considered an offer or solicitation to buy or sell the fund.