Quarterly Commentary


April 2024

The U.S. stock market is off to its best start in five years and 14th best since 1926. Most ICC clients have benefited meaningfully by remaining overweight relative to their investment policy statement’s target equity exposure as the Standard & Poor’s 500 climbed to record highs. Unlike the beginning of the rally late last year, when the largest gains were concentrated among the Magnificent Seven (Google’s parent company, “Alphabet,” Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, Nvidia, and Tesla).  This rally is now broad-based. U.S. mid, small, and foreign companies are participating, too, carrying stocks in most industries along. Even old economy companies in the energy, industrial, and financial sectors are contributing to market gains. As a result, household wealth has hit a record high, rebounding from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic lows. Most astounding is stock ownership by wealth group. According to the Federal Reserve, the top 10% of households…


January 2024

Last year was filled with a multitude of surprises for economists, Wall Street pundits, and investors, too. Our economy remained stronger than almost anyone expected, including the Fed. On average, the 21 economists and Wall Street strategists who published a 2023 year-end target, followed by Birinyi Research, were looking for a below average stock market gain of 6%. Actual results shocked many who held little optimism and were therefore under invested while large U.S. stocks gained +26%, smaller stocks +17%, and even international advanced +15%. 2023 was the second year in a row where professional forecasts missed actual results by 18%. In other words, they were unable to foresee the down market of 2022 as well as the up market of 2023. This lack of accuracy is not even close enough to place better than last in a game of horseshoes. This is why we repeatedly remind clients that reacting to market predictions can be misleading and expensive for investors who…


October 2023

Since the beginning of 2022, economists and Wall Street strategists have repeatedly told investors that the probability of the Federal Reserve avoiding a recession was about the same as discovering gold in your back yard. To everyone’s amazement, so far, the Fed has transitioned the U.S. economy and inflation to more sustainable levels while simultaneously maintaining full employment and economic growth. Supported by recent comments by Mary Daily, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, many forecasters now believe that the Federal Open Market Committee is finished raising interest rates…

Q3 2023

July 2023

It’s official…the U.S. stock market made its way back into bull market territory, meaning a rise of 20% or more from previous lows recorded last fall. Furthermore, the S&P 500 posted its second-best performance since 2000. Notably, three sectors (groups of related industries), Consumer Discretionary, Technology, and Communications Services led the market’s performance so far this year, carrying the other eight that underperformed -Consumer Staples, Industrials, Materials, Real Estate, Energy, Financials, Health Care, and Utilities. Narrow market leadership like this, with only a few stocks in a handful of sectors driving results, are not as uncommon as investors may think…

Q2 2023

April 2023

What happens when depositors want their money all at once? You get SVB (Silicon Valley Bank)! To prevent a further run on banks, the Federal Reserve recently established the Bank Term Funding Program. In addition to restoring confidence in the U.S. banking system, an indirect benefit of the Program provides stability to equity and fixed income markets. Banks can access the Program to borrow by pledging eligible debt securities, such as U.S. Treasury and government agency instruments, currently held at unrealized losses, and receive full value for their collateral at one hundred cents on the dollar or par (the price at maturity). The result provides stressed banks’ balance sheets with an additional $620 billion in collateral, covering the shortfall in unrealized market losses of fixed income securities caused by the Fed’s repeated interest rate hikes. This strategy is similar to previous temporary moves by the Fed during the 2020 Pandemic and the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis. Like those prior incidents, losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be covered by a special assessment on banks, not taxpayers.

Q1 2023

January 2023

Investment companies traditionally start their January communication by first covering the year in review then addressing their outlook for the new year. We believe our clients would be better served by devoting less time to rehashing yesterday’s news or focusing on current industry predictions. Why? Over the past 20 or more years, Wall Street annual forecasts miss the mark by 12 percentage points compared to the actual S&P 500 return. More beneficial is gaining an awareness of events that can influence financial markets in the short-term yet not detract from longer-term market results.

Q4 2022

October 2022

Given today’s elevated uncertain state of economic and political conditions, both here and abroad, financial markets unsurprisingly remain turbulent. Everyone is aware that our nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve (Fed), is raising interest rates, which influences much of the world to do the same. But are they moving too far, too fast to reduce inflation? Will they cause a recession or steer our economy toward a softer landing? Nobody knows for certain, not even the Fed. Many of the measures of economic activity, including inflation, that influence Fed actions look to the recent past rather than provide perfect insight into the future. Nevertheless, their decisions can have consequences that materially impact the welfare of all societies around the globe. That is the reason for such strong attention focused on every Fed talking point.

Q3 2022

July, 2022

Many of today’s investors have never been through a period where inflation has risen to such uncomfortable levels or when a war has so dramatically impacted global commodity prices. Adding to these circumstances are the lingering implications of COVID supply chain disruptions as well as anticipated consequences from mid-term elections. These concerns, often driven by alarming headlines, are putting many investors in an anxious state of mind and causing some to feel they need to act.

Q2 2022

April, 2022

The Investment Counsel Company’s latest quarterly commentary discusses our thoughts on current economic conditions, challenges and other trends, important to investors.

Q1 2022

January, 2022

The Investment Counsel Company’s latest Quarterly Commentary discusses our thoughts on current economic conditions and other trends, important to investors, that will likely develop in 2022.

Q4 2021

October, 2021

We thought you might be interested in our Firm’s latest quarterly commentary discussing our thoughts on the current economic conditions. After a historic run of new highs and rising over 20% this year alone, U.S. equity markets are finally experiencing their first 5% pullback in 11 months.

Q3 2021

July, 2021

The world has undergone unprecedented changes since the beginning of 2020. Never have stock market gains occurred so quickly as the post-COVID bull market. To the surprise of many, the market continues to shrug off investors’ strongest fears to date, including inflation, COVID resurgence, Federal Reserve tapering/rising interest rates, and excess retail investment speculation.

Q2 2021

April 2021

The stock market recently marked the one-year anniversary of the 2020 bear market waterfall lows, providing an opportunity to examine what history suggests might occur this year based on the recent recovery. The S&P 500’s four-quarter gain of 54% is the fourth-highest since 1926 and best since WWII.

Quarterly Insights

January 2021

2020 was a year unlike any other, that meaningfully contributed to over a decade of recovery in the financial markets that is impressive by historical comparison over the past century. Even if a person was so unlucky to start investing at the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis in late 2007 but remained steadfast through both the worst financial crisis and pandemic in 100 years, this investor still would have prospered handsomely.

Q4 2020

October 2020

Dominated by a handful of stocks benefitting from Covid-19…Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, and Google, the S&P 500 soared 35% from April through August, its best five months since 1938. The index fell 4% in September, but the six-month gain of 30% was still the best since 2009. During a recovery, as recently experienced, there are always investors that succumb to instinctive fears by irresistibly extrapolating possible negative outcomes of future economic and political events, often disrupting their longer-term strategic investment plans.

Q3 2020

July 2020

It’s hard to believe that the “Good Old Days” were just six months ago. High volatility is now the norm and not the exception. So far this year, the shortest major decline in history was followed by the second fastest rising bull market since 1932. To what degree this trend continues can have long-term market implications.

Q2 2020

April 2020

Financial markets never like uncertainty. Although many things stemming from this devastating virus are unprecedented, investor behavior continues to follow historical patterns.

Q1 2020

January 2020

Investors everywhere are cognizant that 2019 was a wonderful year for the global financial markets. U.S. stocks led the advance from +25% to over +30%, depending on their market capitalization (company size).  But how important is this, really?

Q4 2019

October 2019

The global economy continues to weaken, with some countries, such as Germany, on the brink of a recession. Less than ten percent of developed countries are now expanding.  So why does the U.S. stock market continue to meander near all-time highs…

Q3 2019

July 2019

If past trends continue to prove indicative of future performance, the stock market can attain further sizable gains before the longest bull market in history ends. Contrary to this outlook, Duke University’s recent survey of CFOs across the U.S. reports that two-thirds believe a recession will begin in 2020…

Q2 2019

April 10, 2019

Stocks and bonds seldom rise together. Fortunately, 2019 is proving to be an exception along with many other investment, economic, and political precedents in recent years. Global financial markets have fully recovered from their modest declines in 2018, leading the way to even further gains…

Q1 2019

January 9, 2019

A great deal has changed since investors’ overenthusiasm drove stocks up 20% to 30% in most major financial markets in 2017. By contrast, in 2018 stocks rose nine months and fell three months, resulting in negative returns overall….

Q4 2018

October 7, 2018

U.S. investors are increasingly optimistic about the future as they continue to pour more money into our stock market. The U.S. is one of only three global stock markets (along with India and Australia) making new highs recently. But can the U.S. remain an oasis during this global correction while China and many developed countries struggle for higher growth?

Q2 2018

July 9, 2018

Investors are aware that the U.S. stock market’s upward momentum has temporarily ceased and is now in a sideways trading range. However, many were caught off guard by U.S. stocks continuing to outperform their foreign counterparts during the first half of 2018. Institutional and retail investors alike took profits in U.S. stocks earlier this year after last year’s stellar performance…

Q1 2018

April 5, 2018

You may find surprising that the real news during first quarter 2018 was not the stock market back-tracking its year-to-date progress, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates for the 6th time, or even Trump’s introduction of trade tariffs; instead it was something else…