Market Commentary

Monthly Financial Markets Commentary — June 30, 2024

Stocks advanced again in the month of June, with investors continuint to bid up shares of technology stocks, especially those that claim to be "A.I. plays". The consensus on Wall Street remains that the Federal Reserve Bank has engineered the proverbial "soft landing", with very little chance of a recession. However, recent data that indicates soft hiring and sales, particularly in the retail and consumer spaces, gives some investors pause. There are also indications that notwithstanding tremendous investment, A.I. is yielding very little in the way of revenue, and even less in terms of profits.

Breadth in the market remains very narrow with the "Magnificent Seven" accounting for most of the recent gains in the indices. Too much attention is probably being paid to these seven stocks, however, as there are many other stocks that are also quite expensive by historical standards. These stocks are outside the technology area, but have been dubbed "quality" stocks, for consistent earnings, dividends, etc. They retain the moniker of "quality" investments regardless of the price to which they have risen.

By traditiional measures stocks are overvalued but investors view them as safe, since they have risen the most and not endured significant long-term losses. The equal-weighted S&P 500 Index has returned far less than the cap-weighted S&P 500 Index, demonstrating the disproportionate effect of these stocks. By historical measures, such as price-earnings, price-to-sales, market-cap-to-GDP, Schiller CAPE Ratio, stocks are significantly overalued.

For 2024 the S&P 500 Index, the capitalization-weighted broadest measure of U.S. stock market performance, has returned 15.22%. The Nasdaq Composite Index, another capitalization-weighted index, but more reflective of growth stocks, has returned 18.38%. Finally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a price-weighted index, has returned 4.79%. All returns are on a total return basis in that they include dividends.

The Morningstar U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, a broad measure of the U.S. bond market, has returned -.61% for the year, as interest rates have risen since the start of the year. But investors have interpreted recent news of moderating inflation as indicating the odds of Fed rate cuts have risen. But there are several trends that do not auger well for longer-term interest rates. The government is running gargantuan deficits and it is unclear who the buyers of all this newly issued debt will be (probably not China or Japan, the traditional buyers of U.S. government debt).

The sectors in the equity market that have performed the best in 2024 are Communications Services, Energy and Information Technology at 25.4%, 8.9% and 27.3%, respectively. Materials, Real Estate and Consumer Discretionary have fared the worst at 1.7%, -4.3% and 4.8%, respectively. The softness in Real Estate is over concerns of credit and financing, particularly with respect to the office properties.

The comparison of current price/earnings ratios and dividend yields as of June 30, 2024 to those of the prior year is as follows.



Prior Year*

S&P 500




Dividend Yield (%)



Dow Jones Industrial Average




Dividend Yield (%)



* based on 12-month trailing data

It is to be noted that much of the advance in markets so far is due to multiple expansion rather than fundamental factors such as earnings.

Current national average CD deposit yields for one-year, two-year and three-year instruments are 4.65%, 4.05% and 4.00%, respectively. This class of investments now offers competitive yields.

Gold and crude oil most recently traded at $2.340.75 and $81.50, respectively, compared to $1,905.55 and $70.75 one year earlier. Gold has risen in reaction to global political instability and increased holdings by all central banks; crude oil has risen in line with estimates of quickening global demand and concern over exhaustion of shale-oil deposits in the United States, which have been responsible for almost all the growth in oil production over the past few years.