U.S. stock indices rose in May, even as some key economic indicators left something to be desired. Most overseas equities markets also saw May gains with Emerging Markets besting all equity asset classes, which has been the case for the last 3 months with Emerging Markets coming in at 7.02% versus 3.97% for the S&P 500.
A 60/40 stock/bond investor using the indices below has received a 4.14% return for 2014 through the end of May.
Key index performance shown in the table below.
Consumer spending had retreated 0.1% in April, even with consumer incomes up 0.3% for that month. That news from the Commerce Department came 24 hours after Q1 GDP was revised down to -1.0% by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The BEA’s second Q1 GDP estimate attributed the poorest economic quarter in three years largely to 1.6% slips in business investment and business stockpiles, plus a 6% in exports – that is, not necessarily winter weather.2,3
Was Abenomics finally ridding Japan of its deflation problem? The latest data seemed encouraging. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “three arrow” economic strategy began with a Bank of Japan commitment to double the nation’s monetary supply in two years; Q1 2014 had seen GDP of 5.9% (thanks to a promise to raise sales taxes by 3% in Q2) and core inflation of 3.2%. While the Bank of Japan wants to see 2% inflation soon, the International Monetary Fund doesn’t see that happening until 2017 or later and just cautioned the central bank against abandoning its stimulus too quickly.8
Few stock benchmarks lost ground in May. Russia’s RTS rebounded 12.12% and Spain’s IBEX rose 3.25%; elsewhere in Europe, the DAX rose 3.54%, the CAC 40 0.72% and the FTSE 100 0.95%, with Italy’s FTSE MIB down 0.71%. Further west, May gains came for the Merval (13.72%) and the IPC All-Share (1.60%) while the S&P/TSX Composite retreated 0.33%. In the east, May saw an 8.03% jump for India’s Sensex, a 2.29% gain for the Nikkei 225, a 4.28% climb for the Hang Seng, a rise of 2.85% for Pakistan’s KSE 100 and advances of 1.69% for the Kospi and 0.63% for the Shanghai Composite.1
Both new and existing home sales improved in April. The Commerce Department recorded a 6.4% rise in purchases of new homes, while the National Association of Realtors announced a 1.3% gain in residential resales. NAR also said that pending home sales were up for a second straight month in April, rising 0.4%.2,14
More buying than selling, and not much fear – that is the simple summation of May on Wall Street. The CBOE VIX ended the month at a low, low 11.40, plunging 14.99%.1