Three Fed Takeaways from an Extraordinary Year

2020 was an extraordinary year for the Federal Reserve (Fed). The Fed responded swiftly and decisively to the rapidly accelerating financial and economic uncertainty brought on by efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The current Fed was helped by precedents and policies created during the 2008-09 recession, but also went beyond them to address the specific economic needs of the current crisis. We are not on the other side of that crisis yet, although we’re certainly getting closer, but there’s at least enough perspective to look back at what we learned about the Fed and markets in 2020 as we head into 2021

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Chart of the Year

Stocks continue to surprise to the upside, with the Russell 2000 Index (small caps) and the Nasdaq making new all-time highs on Tuesday. The S&P 500 Index, a chip shot from new highs, already has made 30 new highs so far this year. “One thing that surprises many investors is new highs happen in clusters that can last a decade or more,” explained LPL Financial Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Given that this cluster of new highs is only seven years old, history would suggest that we don’t bet against several more years of new highs.”

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Outlook 2021

LPL Financial Research Outlook 2021: Powering Forward

LPL Research Outlook 2021: Powering Forward is designed to help you navigate a year in which economic conditions may continue to improve dramatically. Like the markets, Outlook 2021 looks ahead.

2021 will bring advances to further limit the impact of COVID-19, and the goal remains keeping the economy as open as possible until then. Continued progress in the response to COVID-19, including further stimulus, will be key to sustaining the recovery. As the pandemic subsides, restrictions are lifted, and consumers’ daily lives return to something close to normal, the pace of the recovery should pick up speed—probably in the middle of 2021.

LPL Research’s Outlook 2021 covers post-election policy, the economy, stocks and bonds. Prepare to power forward in 2021 with the economic insights and market guidance in LPL Research Outlook 2021: Powering Forward.

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Is Inflation Looming?

The November reading for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the most well-known measure of inflation, was released Thursday, December 10, and while both the headline and “core” readings (excluding food and energy) came in slightly higher than the Bloomberg-surveyed economists’ consensus, core inflation remains tame at 1.6% over the trailing year. Inflation is likely to pick up as the economy improves and may run a little hotter than we’ve seen in recent years in 2021, but we believe the risks of a substantial inflation surprise over the next year is limited.

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Beige Book Shows Rising COVID-19 Cases Affecting Regional Growth

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in the US, particularly in the Midwest. This latest wave of the virus and related restrictions have begun to hamstring economic growth at a time when momentum was already fading as we entered the fourth quarter, based on the December iteration of the Federal Reserve (Fed)’s Beige Book.

In the Beige Book, the Fed presents qualitative observations made by community bankers and business owners—or “Main Street”—about economic (housing, labor market, manufacturing, nonresidential construction, prices, tourism, wages) and banking conditions (lending conditions, loan demand, loan quality). At LPL Research, we maintain an indicator called the Beige Book Barometer (BBB) to gauge Main Street’s sentiment by looking at how frequently key words and phrases appear in the text.

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2 Post-Election Charts You Need to See

The election is over, but the questions are mounting. We don’t know who will be the next president as of Wednesday morning, but we do know that stocks tend to do well the final two months of an election year. “Once the uncertainty is over, stocks tend to rally in November and December, with November the best month of the year during an election year,” explained LPL Financial Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “Of course, 2020 isn’t like any other year, and we still could be a ways away from who the winner will be.”

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Vote (If You Haven’t Already)

2020 has certainly been a bizarre year, and perhaps we have finally arrived at the culminating event—the US presidential election. While every election may be characterized as a major turning point in our country’s history, the context of the ongoing global pandemic makes a particularly compelling case for this year’s election.

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LPL Street View: How Confident America Really Is

As the US economy transitions from lockdowns—where 90% of Americans were under a stay-at-home order—to continued reopening, we assess the state of American consumer confidence to spend despite the persistent COVID-19 outbreak.

Reopening the economy should, in theory, clear the runway for takeoff, but consumers need the confidence to spend. “While the stock markets have recovered, and employment is getting better, consumer confidence remains very low,” explained LPL Chief Investment Officer Burt White. “The economy’s biggest anchor isn’t that we haven’t reopened—it’s that consumers lack the confidence to spend.”

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Why Munis May Want Joe Biden to Win

Historically it has been unwise to attempt to “play” the stock market ahead of an election in an attempt to position based on perceived implications of a president’s policies, but the municipal bond market may be more susceptible to the results of this election. As stimulus talks in Washington appear stalled but not officially over, we outline the potential for investment opportunity in the municipal bond market going forward.

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