While Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last Sunday—which means six more weeks of winter, according to local tradition—some of the chill that gripped the stock market last week is starting to thaw. After getting off to a shaky start on Monday, the major indices rebounded over the week, with the S&P 500 closing up 0.8% for the week.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a moment to process all that has happened, what caused the rapid cool down in January and what my thoughts are for February.
After what was a record year for the markets, Wall Street was looking for an excuse to correct. And it looks like they found it.
Three main factors have been weighing on the markets:
1) Sudden interest rate changes from Turkey, India and South Africa have raised fears about the general state of the world’s emerging markets and whether they’ll be able to repay their debts.
2) The Fed’s recent announcement that it’s tapering its asset purchases to $65 billion per month. Interestingly, the Fed’s latest actions have firmed up some dividend stocks—particularly Comcast (CMSA), Hershey (HSY) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB). As rates settle back down in the U.S., I may be adding more dividend stocks to my holdings, particularly stocks that have generous dividends and strong forecasted sales and earnings.
3) Mixed economic news—most recently, the Labor Department’s payroll report disappointed economists.
I recently speculated that the market volatility we saw in January was the storm before the calm, so to speak. And I still believe that things will calm down with the overall market. To be clear, February typically is a month for profit taking, but I think we saw much of that come early this year.
With the market still yielding significantly more than the bank there is nowhere else to go for investors looking for the best returns.