There’s no doubt that 2016 will be remembered for two major events that sent shock waves around the world: the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and the UK’s Brexit vote. And while those events certainly created some doubts as to the political direction of the US and Great Britain, neither outcome was able to dampen the growth of the US economy. As a result, the Fed raised interest rates for the first time since last December, noting that although inflation is currently below the Fed’s target of 2.0%, the Committee expects inflation to rise to its target level in the near future.
That said, the year delivered a pretty bumpy ride to get us where we are today. A plummeting Chinese stock market pushed stock prices down and bond prices up, and Great Britain’s decision to exit the European Union wreaked havoc on equity prices, but the impact was short lived and stock prices rose again in Q3. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the dramatic surge in stock prices following the Presidential Election. The unexpected Q4 market rally had everyone watching for the Dow to break 20,000 for the first time, but that momentum stalled heading into the New Year, and only time will tell whether the trend will continue following President-elect Trump’s first few months in office. At year-end, the numbers across all financial markets landed on a positive note, bringing a little extra holiday joy to investors.
This time last year, I encouraged everyone to stay disciplined and stay the course. For those who did, that tenacity paid off—in spades—and by the end of 2016, each of the indexes listed above posted year-over-year gains, some reaching all-time highs. The Dow recorded its best performance since 2013, gaining almost 13.5% from its 2015 closing value. The large-cap S&P 500 proved less volatile during the year, yet closed 2016 up almost 11.0%. The Russell 2000 came in as the year’s biggest gainer, soaring almost 20.0% over last year’s closing value.
Numbers like these keep investors happy, but it’s important to remember that volatility is almost certain in the coming year. A carefully constructed, well diversified portfolio can help protect against the ups and downs of the market as equity prices, bonds, and currency values fluctuate in response to global, political, and economic events moving forward. The US dollar is strong, and our economy is continuing to improve. Unemployment is down, GDP is up, and inflation and consumer spending remain stable. I expect the worldwide rise of populism to go beyond rhetoric and bring surprises that may cause stock prices to fluctuate (as they always do!) as long-term market values continue to climb higher (as they always do!). We look forward to continuing to work together, leveraging the power of investing to support your personal financial goals.