As we close in on the Christmas holiday and the end of 2016, we’re reminded of how much there is to be grateful for, even in the face of known concerns and uncertainties so vague we never even know they truly exist until they step out into the light.
It’s been an extraordinary year. After wallowing about in January and February, the market picked up toward the tail end of the 1st quarter and really has had a great year. As I write, the S&P 500 is currently up a touch over 11% YTD and the Dow is flirting with 20,000 for the first time in its history. And yet, we would not say the market is giddy or irrationally euphoric. Economic data is encouraging, and the Fed is gently taming inflation in by occasional, small central rate hikes. In November, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent – the lowest since the 2008 recession, and that the US economy added 178,000 for the month, meeting most economists’ expectations. In other words, while we are far from a piping hot economy, we are enjoying a period of economic sustainability and the potential of further growth. And say what you will about Trump (… a lot could be said), we think the one thing that seems like a reliable conclusion is that the new administration will be favorable to business. Or, it will attempt to be at any rate.
But what we find more encouraging than these observations is that the world didn’t fall apart in the face of various seismic disruptions this year, contrary to what many would have predicted. The United Kingdom, for instance, much to everyone’s great surprise, voted to leave the European Union this year. The significance of this single event is hard to describe or even understand, and basically no one saw it coming. Yet, while the market reacted violently the day following the vote, it very quickly and robustly recovered. The earth shook, but not a single building in Western Civilization fell.
Then, of course, we have our own domestic happenings. What started out as what appeared to be a PR stunt and maybe a joke turned out to produce a new (and very different) President of the United States and along with it, a profound shift of political capital to the Republican Party. We’ve heard many very strong opinions and animated predictions about all this, yet the fact remains that the markets have responded positively and no one we know has liquidated their portfolio in favor of gold bullion and survivalist gear. While some streets were blocked off by protesters for a few weeks and some arrests were made, nobody died and, like Brexit, all the buildings are still standing. And the Dow is nearing 20,000.
Of course we don’t know what the future is going to bring. We recognize there is evil and suffering and injustice in the world. But those statements tell only half the truth. The other half is that the world, despite tremendous and unpredicted upheavals, despite the attacks and storms and tragedies around the globe and in our own communities, remains a resilient and stubbornly positive place to live and serve. Plus, the Cubs won the World Series… so, you know, good stuff happens.
We, at Capital Financial Planners, LLC, find ourselves at the height of the Holiday season feeling both profoundly grateful for our blessings, which includes you, our clients, as well as optimistic about what lies ahead.