Headline inflation continues to move in the right direction.
Stocks rebounded in November with widespread gains.
Bond yields declined in November as did the probability of future rate increases.
With one month left in 2023 stocks and bonds are both in positive territory for the year.
Consumers and Inflation
The Federal Reserve appears to continue gaining traction in its fight against inflation. The headline US inflation rate decreased to 3.2% in October, down from 3.7% in August and September. At this time last year headline inflation was still running at 7.7%. While the stated goal of bringing the rate down to 2% still has not been achieved, progress has been made.
Stripping out energy and food prices, which tend to be more volatile, results in what is known as the Core Inflation rate. This measure decelerated for the seventh consecutive month, from 4.2% in September to 4.0% in October. A year ago, this measure of inflation was at 6.3%, so the October reading was better, but not as much of an improvement as the headline measure.
Stocks and Bonds
Stocks rebounded in the month of November as the S&P 500 advanced 9.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average charged 9.2% higher, and the NASDAQ surged 10.8%. The S&P 400 (mid-caps) finished November up 8.5%, and the small-cap Russell 2000 added 9.1%. Global indices joined the party as well with Emerging Markets posting an 8.0% gain in November and the MSCI EAFE returning 9.3%.
November was the best month for the S&P 500 since July of 2022 and the 18th biggest monthly gain for the index going back to 1950.
Energy was the month’s sole negative sector, declining 0.7%. The Technology, Real Estate, Consumer Discretionary, and Financial sectors all posted double-digit gains in November.
At the end of October, only three sectors were in positive territory for the year-to-date period, Technology, Communications Services, and Consumer Discretionary. With the broad gains in the market for the month of November, Real Estate, Financials, Industrials and Materials are now in positive territory for 2023. Energy, Consumer Staples, Health Care and Utilities remain underwater.
Treasury yields tumbled in November with yields on 5-year and 10-year treasuries falling by 51 basis points, the most out of any duration on the curve. The 1-month T-Bill ended November unchanged at 5.56%. The market has moved solidly into the camp that the Fed is done raising rates as the probability of a rate cut by the end of 2024 now stands at 100% according to the CME FedWatch Tool (CME FedWatch Tool – CME Group).
As interest rates decrease the prices of bonds react in an inverse fashion, which was on display over the past month. All the fixed income benchmarks we track below were up in November and all are on the plus-side for the year.
In Memorial to Charlie Munger
Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a close business partner and friend of Warren Buffet, passed away on November 28th at the age of 99. He was just 34 days shy of his 100th birthday, which would have been on New Year’s Day. While he held a less prominent public persona compared to Buffett, Munger was celebrated for his sharp intellect and profound insights. Renowned for his straightforward and candid communication style, Munger told it like he saw it.
Like the old EF Hutton slogan, when Munger talked, people listened. It is in that spirit and in his memory, we thought we’d share some of our favorite Munger quotes to conclude this month’s market update.
“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”
“The big money is not in the buying and selling, but in the waiting.”
“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up.”
“If you are not willing to react with equanimity to a market price decline of 50% two or three times a century, you’re not fit to be a common shareholder and you deserve the mediocre result you’re going to get.”
“Three things ruin people: drugs, liquor, and leverage.”
“I like people admitting they were complete stupid horses’ asses. I know I’ll perform better if I rub my nose in my mistakes. This is a wonderful trick to learn.”
“There is nothing more counterproductive than envy. Someone in the world will always be better than you. Of all the sins, envy is easily the worst because you can’t even have any fun with it. It’s a total net loss.”
“Never, ever think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.”
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none. Zero.”
“You don’t have to be brilliant, only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time.”
Charlie is credited with convincing Buffett to buy wonderful companies selling at fair prices instead of fair companies selling at wonderful prices. In effect, he saw the benefit of buying and owning quality companies that have the ability to compound capital for a prolonged period of time. We are grateful for his wisdom, and we will miss his wit.
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