Quarter 1 Market Recap and Analysis
As noted in the KMS quarterly’s Investment Performance section, worldwide stocks enjoyed a strong rally over the last year. Considering the new tax regulations, high government debt levels, and continued uncertainty in Europe, one may wonder why markets have performed so well in recent months. Retail sales, jobless claims, and Fed policy are some of the main contributing factors to the market’s enthusiasm. Retail sales in February were expected to increase .5% over the previous month but came in much better than expected at 1.1% growth. The initial jobless claims reading fell to 332,000 in mid-March, which was lower (better) than expected. And most notably, The Federal Reserve continues its monetary easing program as inflation remains quite low. Bearing in mind the improving economic data noted above, speculation over whether the Fed will stop QE3 (monetary easing) earlier than their initial 2015 projection will surely be at the forefront of investor’s minds as we progress through the year. The central bank said it plans to hold short-term interest rates near zero at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5% (It was 7.7% in February).