To help investors keep up with the markets, we present our ETF Scorecard. The Scorecard takes a step back and looks at how various asset classes across the globe are performing. The weekly performance is from last Friday’s open to this week’s Thursday close.
- President Donald Trump has appointed Jerome Powell to lead the all-powerful Federal Reserve. The current Fed governor will replace Janet Yellen in February once her first term expires. Under Powell, the central bank is likely to continue its path of gradual policy normalization.
- Powell’s appointment took the spotlight from the Fed’s second-to-last rate decision of the year. The central bank held interest rates at 1.25% on Wednesday, but left the door wide open to a December adjustment.
- In a rare show of unity, GOP leaders unveiled important details about their new tax plan, setting the stage for an end-of-year battle on Capitol Hill. The proposed bill reduces the number of tax brackets from seven to four, increases the standard deduction and calls for a 20% corporate tax rate. It is Trump’s intent to pass the new tax bill before Christmas, however unlikely that may be.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to new records on Thursday, as investors digested the proposed tax reforms. With the gain, the blue-chip index has returned nearly 4% over the last month.
- The price of crude rose to fresh 2017 highs this week, as markets continued to rally behind optimism that global producers would extend output cuts well into 2018. Brent crude futures have notched highs well north of $61 a barrel.
- In a show of strength, U.S. weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest level in over 44 years, according to the Labor Department’s most recent data set. The decline sends a strong signal that the domestic labor market is on firm footing and will continue to improve in the wake of hurricane season. Earlier in the week, payrolls processor ADP said private-sector employers added 235,000 jobs last month.
- The world’s most valuable company Apple (AAPL) crushed earnings this week, topping analysts’ targets across the board in its fiscal fourth quarter. The iPhone maker reported GAAP per-share earnings of $2.07, up 24% annually and much higher than forecasts calling for $1.87. Quarterly revenues rose 12% year-over-year to $52.6 billion, well above expectations of $50.5 billion.
- Spanish authorities have jailed eight members of Catalonia’s deposed government after the autonomous region declared independence in the wake of its October referendum. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is being pursued by Spanish authorities after the sacked leader fled to Brussels.
- Bank of England (BOE) raised interest rates this week for the first time since 2007, but issued a stern warning about Brexit. The rate hike reverses the central bank’s 25 basis point reduction immediately following the EU referendum in mid-2016
Risk Appetite Review
- Risk appetite improved over the past five days, as investors rallied behind corporate earnings and tax reform optimism. High Beta (SPHB ) was the best performer of the week, adding 0.48%.
- The large-cap S&P 500 Index (SPY ) also returned 0.44% over the previous five-day period.
- The Equal Weight (RSP ) ETF was the week’s worst performer from a risk perspective, falling 0.02%.
Major Index Review
- All of Wall Street’s major indices posted solid returns this week, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq (QQQ ) climbing 1.66%. The Dow (DIA ) finished higher by 0.43%.
- Returns were just as robust internationally, with the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM ) adding 1.88%. Meanwhile, the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA ) climbed a healthy 1.35%.
- U.S. small caps (IWM ) were the only major decliners for the week, although losses were limited to just 0.11%.
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- On the sector front, energy stocks (XLE ) were easily the best performers, adding 2.41%. The S&P 500’s latest addition, real estate (XLRE ), also returned more than 2% over the previous five days.
- Other strong weekly performers included technology (XLK ) and utilities (XLU ), which returned 1.79% and 0.66%, respectively.
Foreign Equity Review
- With the exception of Brazil, foreign equity markets put up solid gains this week. The iShares MSCI Germany Index Fund (EWG ) surged 2.35% to lead European markets.
- The WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI ) was the biggest gainer overall, climbing 2.63%. Russian stocks (RSX ) rallied 1.38% on surging oil prices.
- Brazil ETF (EWZ ) plunged 2.80% this week as political woes continued to undermine Latin America’s biggest market.
- Crude oil’s resurgence is best reflected in the performance of the United States Oil Fund (USO ). The ETF surged 4.07% this week to its highest level in more than six months.
- Natural gas has failed to escape volatility despite the recent rally in crude prices. The U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG ) found itself in the red, partially offsetting the previous week’s large gain. Use our Head-to-Head Comparison tool to compare oil and natural gas ETFs on a variety of criteria such as performance, AUM, trading volume and expenses.
- The U.S dollar bulls (UUP ) pared back their exuberance this week, as investors weighed the Fed’s decision to stand pat on monetary policy. The greenback was this week’s worst-performing major currency, falling 0.32%.
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.