Anna Rathbun, Chief Investment Officer
Not to be outdone by the first two months of the year, March saw its own share of significant events. A freight ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, creating a backlog of ships and aggravating an already stressed global supply chain. A second hedge fund mishap took place just two months after the GameStop-related frenzy, and days later the ramifications of losses and regulatory implications are still not clear. Finally, Washington swiftly passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), providing a one-time stimulus to American families among other aids and fueling an already accelerating momentum on the economic recovery. Upon improving consumer sentiment and business conditions, the prospect of growth and fears of inflation continued to push Treasury yields upward.
- In the U.S., stocks traded around record highs with large cap indices recording positive gains during the month.
- Volatility stemmed from the rising Treasury yields and the resulting repricing of growth-oriented stocks.
- Small cap stocks reacted to COVID-19 infection rates and gave away some gains.
- With some currency headwind, the international developed equities returned positive results for March.
- The impending reopening of the U.S. economy and the extra firepower provided by the $1.9 trillion bill fueled expectations of growth as well as inflation in the days ahead.
- Year to date, the rising yields have meant the worst quarter since 2008 for the investment grade corporate index, although in 2021 the headwind did not come from widening spreads or otherwise worsening credit conditions.
- During the March meeting, the Federal Reserve maintained its current policy and projected near-zero interest rates at least through 2023. Growth expectations, however, were revised upward to 6.5% GDP growth in 2021 while core inflation is expected to rise to 2.2% this year.
As we start the second quarter of 2021, there is a new conversation around President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill and potential corporate tax hikes designed to fund it. In this eight-year program, there are provisions for transportation, manufacturing, non-defense research and development, high-speed broadband, and more. We only have an outline of this ambitious program, and details will emerge in the coming months as Congress struggles with the sticker price. The general expectation is that this bill would not be passed as swiftly as the ARPA, and that there would be a real debate in Washington about the meaning of spending. This initial proposal will likely see multiple revisions over the next few months as it goes through the legislative process, but there are consequences to the outcome of this debate - where corporate taxes are concerned, the markets will weigh the impact on future earnings, while there will also be companies and industries poised to benefit from the infrastructure investment. While we wait to see the fate of this bill, we hope to see continued reopening of our economy, restoration of lost jobs, and a steady march toward normality.
For more information on the March financial market activity, please contact CBIZ Investment Advisory Services.
The information included in this update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice. The views expressed are those of the author based on the data available when this update was written and are subject to change based on market conditions or other factors. CBIZ Investment Advisory Services and/or CBIZ Retirement Plan Services disclaims any liability for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying information supplied in this update.
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