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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Retail sales declined 0.8 percent in January primarily because of a whopping 9.3 percent decrease in gasoline sales, the biggest drop in six years. But core retail sales which exclude gasoline and auto sales were also disappointing, ticking up only 0.2 percent. Clearly consumers are not sinking all of their gas savings windfall into retail goods just yet. However, this report was not entirely negative. Restaurants and drinking establishments posted a 13.1 percent surge suggesting consumers are not averse to spending the extra cash. Perhaps consumers just need a little time to get used to low oil prices. In addition, year-over-year sales are 3.3 percent above January 2014 and total sales for the November 2014 through January 2015 period were up a solid 3.8 percent from the same period a year ago. The encouraging pace of job growth will boost consumer spending which is 70 percent of the economy. Please follow retail sales on page 13 of the Voya Global Perspectives™ Book.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Low oil is unequivocally good for U.S. Consumers. However, it's never that easy. Lower oil prices will take a bite out of capital expenditures especially in the energy sector. Companies will be less willing to invest in new projects and capex is what drives future job growth. Currently the labor market looks strong. In fact the latest JOLTs report released yesterday shows 5 million job openings in the U.S., the most since 1999. But let's keep our eye on capital expenditures as an indication of sustainable robust economic growth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The latest news from Greece cast a shadow over U.S. markets yesterday. Greece is backing off some of the strict economic debt reduction plans just as a high stakes bailout deadline extension is looming. Yes, there is a slight chance that Greece will be forced out of the euro zone and that would undoubtedly roil global markets. But Greece is a small part of the Eurozone economy (2.5%) and has significantly more to lose than the Eurozone as a whole. In addition the ECB has turned on the stimulus spigot to keep bond yields low and many of the countries that were struggling have started to turn the corner limiting the risks of contagion that were dominant in 2011. Tensions are high now but the market should see past Greece. Please see our views on the markets in our latest monthly commentary.

Friday, February 6, 2015

If the Fed is looking for a reason to delay raising interest rates, it is going to have to look somewhere other than the jobs market. The U.S. Economy added 257k jobs in January with solid increases across most industries and the highest private sector job increases since 1997. The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7 percent as more people were encouraged to enter the workforce in search of employment. In addition, December was revised up to 339k from 252k and November was revised up to a whopping 423k from 353k. However, the best news in this report is that workers are starting to see some wage gains. Hourly wages surged .5 percent in January, the biggest jump in six years. Please follow payrolls on page 56 of the Voya Global Perspectives™ book.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The December trade deficit widened 17 percent to $6.8 billion, the highest level in more than two years. The strong dollar has hindered exports and boosted imports. But oil was also a factor in this latest report. There was a sharp and surprising increase in imports of petroleum and a decline in exports of oil-related products. The trade deficit detracts from GDP so the 2.6 percent initial print for Q4 is unlikely to be revised up. Please follow trade on page 21 of the Voya Global Perspectives™ book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The last couple days have been good for U.S. equity markets but while most U.S. markets are still down for the year, emerging markets have been quietly staging a revival. They are up almost 1 percent (MSCI EM Index) for the year. Worries of a strong dollar and low oil prices have not derailed these markets. Most emerging markets are net importers of oil. And emerging market valuations are compelling when compared to the valuations in U.S. markets. Please follow these fundamental valuations on page 53 of the Voya Global Perspectives™ book.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fourth quarter Real GDP substantially missed expectation increasing at an annual rate of 2.6 percent versus consensus of 3.3 percent, reported the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased 4.3 percent which was the standout for the report. We are starting to see the consumer benefit from lower oil prices in contrast with the lagging negative Retail Sales report. Also, as expected, we are seeing fixed investment decelerate and investment in equipment plunge compared to the previous quarter. In the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, fixed investment dropped to +1.9 percent from +8.9 percent and investment in equipment dropped to -1.9 percent from +11.0 percent, wreaking havoc on corporate earnings in the energy sector as well as other sectors that derive a benefit from this important sector. Please see the Voya Global Perspectives GDP report.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Fed pointed to “solid pace” growth in the economy and “strong job gains” (i.e.: today’s initial unemployment claims report of 265K was the lowest in 14 years) and indicated a rise in rates was possible in June. This caused markets to turn tail. Consensus projections for the first rate hike had been the end of year or next. But as Global Perspectives has been saying, Janet Yellen may very well be a hawk in dove’s clothing and the equity market is starting to believe it despite below target inflation and a strong dollar. On the flip side, bond yields fell which seems to be counter intuitive. If the economy is so strong, bond yields should go up. However, global central banks are engaging in extraordinary stimulus which is driving demand and forcing rates down below what would be considered normal given the state of the U.S. economy. The Fed is keeping all options open and a 2015 rate hike is an option. Investors should remain diversified and keep their eye on corporate earnings. So far 40 percent of the companies on the S&P 500 have reported for Q4 and earnings growth is 4 percent. Please follow the fed funds rate on page 40 of the Voya Global Perspectives book.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We continue to expect this market to overcome obstacles and adversities with the bull market intact by year end. We call that the base case for 2015. But, what is the plan of action for investors when the unexpected happens that was truly unforeseeable and it triggers a bear market? I am sure the industry has a contingency plan now, especially since it was so unprepared throughout the Great Financial Crisis. Let’s review the Voya Global Perspectives plan. The plan is to pay attention to the “fundamentals." Fundamentals drive markets. If the key fundamental – quarterly corporate earnings growth – is positive then we stick to our base case of being fully invested. Should corporate earnings descend into negative growth then we move to our defensive positioning by cutting the equity allocation in half and rolling it into fixed income. The innovation is preparedness with a well-thought-out plan that can be reviewed with a client before bad things happen. Please review Voya Global Perspectives “Fundamentals Drive Markets” on page 6 to see the plan in action for the past 15 years.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Capital spending and manufacturing are being hit hard by collapsing oil prices and a stronger dollar. This is negatively impacting today’s bellwether corporate earnings reports and future earnings outlook along with a disastrous durable goods manufacturing report. New orders for manufactured durable goods in December decreased 3.4 percent defying consensus expectations for +0.4 percent rise, but to add insult to injury November’s initial -0.7% read was revised down to -2.1 percent. Corporate earnings expectations have had an unprecedented slashing of expectations for the fourth quarter 2014 from 9 percent as recently as September to slightly negative today. Please see Oil Price and Intensity on page 66 of the Voya Global Perspectives book.


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