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August 2023 Economic Commentary

The first seven and a half months of 2023 have been encouraging thanks to a more stable market environment. Many benchmarks are positive so far in 2023, with the S&P 500 gaining 14.33% year-to-date as of the close of business August 21st, 2023 [1]. Interestingly, the index of 30 large “blue-chip” U.S. Stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 3.46% year-to-date [2]. Unexpectedly, technology and growth stocks have performed best thus far in 2023, after significant downward pressure from late 2021 through the end of 2022. Bonds, while improving, have remained under pressure from the ongoing uncertainty in the interest rate environment. The AGG or iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is down .14% year-to-date [3]. A recent spike in interest rates, along with profit taking in stocks, has led to a small sell off in both stocks and bonds during the month of August. Despite this recent spike in interest rates, it is more likely that we are nearing the end of this rate hiking cycle. To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark rate 11 times since January of 2022, going from the zero-rate level to a target rate range between 5.25% and 5.5% [4]. The goal of the Fed has been clear- to get inflation to the target rate of 2%. While it may not feel much different for us while out shopping or at the gas station, inflation has indeed declined from a 40-year high of 9.1% in June of 2022 to just 3.2% in July 2023 [5]. This positive trend has been the catalyst for optimism in the markets! However, this unprecedented shift in interest rate policy has not happened without consequence. In recent weeks, various regional U.S. banks were downgraded by ratings agencies due to the operational challenges of the elevated interest rate environment. On Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023, the current average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 7.62% [6]. Credit card rates have ballooned up to 24.76% on average [7]. Higher rates across a broad spectrum of lending avenues have hurt consumers who want to buy a house, a car, and small businesses looking to expand, hire, and grow. Fortunately, the American consumer remains vibrant, in the face of ongoing challenges. Through August 7th, 2023, with the second-quarter reporting season nearly complete, 79% of companies within the S&P 500 topped analyst expectations! [8] This resilience in corporate America has been welcome news. Additionally, the average personal annual income in the U.S. has grown to $63,214 with the average household income at $87,862. [9]. This has helped combat higher prices and maintain lifestyles as the Fed works to drive down inflation.

I remain steadfast in my belief that over the long term, planning, preparation, and proper diversification, aligning your portfolio to your comfort level with risk remains the prudent strategy. Time and time again, it is proven that markets cannot be timed. No one has a crystal ball, and no one knows what major world event will occur next. Our best strategy is to be well-diversified, across asset classes and remain optimistic and vigilant during times of fear and panic. Our companies remain some of the best in the world, providing goods and services to every corner of the earth. Our people are some of the brightest and hardest working in the world. I believe more strongly than ever in the long-term trajectory of the U.S. and global economy!

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. My priority remains and always will be to ensure that you continue to receive high quality guidance and a client service experience second to none. While I continue to reach out via phone and e-mail, please know that I am available via Zoom, Facetime, any other digital technology you prefer and in person if you would like to meet. I am happy to meet with you at any one of my offices or at your home or near your home, whatever you prefer and with whatever you are most comfortable.

Wishing you, your family, friends, colleagues and community continued hope, health and positivity in the coming weeks, months and beyond!

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