The Chart for Red October

November 01, 2023 | Evan Frazier, CFA, CAIA, Senior Research Analyst

This chart description is for illustrative purposes only and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Please see full disclosures at end of PDF document in the web post. General description: Three-line chart showing cumulative return for various U.S. equity indices. Chart subtitle: Domestic stock indices enter correction territory after recent slide. Chart source: Bloomberg as of October 31, 2023. Chart description: Y-axis is labeled “Cumulative Return” and ranges from -15% to +10%. X-axis is labeled in monthly increments, from Jun-23 to Oct-23. Data ranges 6/30/23 through 10/31/23. S&P 500 Index is plotted in orange line, Nasdaq-100 Index in light tan line, and Russell 2000 Index in dark purple line. Most recent data points, respectively, -5.31%, -4.84%, -11.61%. Please contact us for the full dataset. End chart description. See disclosures at end of document.

U.S. equities declined for the third consecutive month in October amid an environment of higher yields and underwhelming earnings reports for many key index constituents. The S&P 500 Index, while still positive on a year-to-date basis, dropped by more than 2.0% during the month and is now more than 8.0% off its July peak. The Nasdaq-100 Index, which skews more heavily to growth-oriented segments of the market like Information Technology, also saw a decline of more than 2.0% in October. Finally, the Russell 2000 Index, which tracks the U.S. small-cap market, returned roughly -6.8% during the month and is now negative on a year-to-date basis.

As stated above, elevated yields have weighed on equity indices in recent time. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, for instance, recently eclipsed 5% for the first time in over 15 years, while most short-end rates remain at levels not seen since the Tech Bubble of the early 2000s. Higher yields have the effect of applying pressure to equity price multiples and enticing investors to allocate away from stocks and toward bonds. Smaller companies are often disproportionately impacted by higher rates because of the large debt burdens typically associated with those businesses, which helps to explain the underperformance of the Russell 2000 Index relative to the broad market over the last several months. Additionally, optimism surrounding some of the mega-cap technology companies that have exhibited robust returns this year, commonly referred to as the “Magnificent Seven,” appears to be waning. For example, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), saw its shares decline by roughly 10% the day after it reported a smaller-than-expected profit in its cloud computing segment. Amazon, Meta, and Tesla have also seen their shares trade lower in recent weeks due to investor concerns about future sales and margins. While it is important to note that none of these companies reported overly problematic earnings data for the third quarter, lofty valuations and investor exuberance have left their share prices vulnerable to pullbacks when results are even slightly disappointing.

While recent performance of equity indices has surely been challenged, there are several reasons for investors to stay the course. For instance, the Federal Reserve is likely nearing the end of its hiking cycle, meaning the pressure being applied to stock prices by higher yields may soon abate. It is also important to remember that markets often exhibit mean-reverting patterns of performance, meaning strong equity returns typically follow periods of stress. Marquette will continue to monitor dynamics within stock markets and provide guidance to clients accordingly, while also emphasizing the need for prudence and a long-term approach as it relates to equity investing.

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Evan Frazier, CFA, CAIA
Senior Research Analyst

Get to Know Evan

The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

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