The Dow Jones, S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 each hit new all-time highs on Monday.
Investors are excited and clearly believe that large, blue-chip multinationals and smaller companies that do most of their business in the United States will continue to thrive.
So, is this Donald Trump’s rally? Or the Janet Yellen rally?
Some strategists believe Trump’s stimulus plans and talk of removing many burdensome regulations are why stocks are soaring.
Or maybe it’s more of a continuation of Barack Obama’s rally?
You could say that POTUS 44 dealt POTUS 45 a pretty good hand.
The strong job market and overall economy that Trump inherited could be why consumers and businesses are so confident.
But investors (and financial journalists) are often quick to give the president more credit – and blame – than he probably deserves for the stock market’s performance.
RBC strategist Jonathan Golub highlighted this Monday in a report aptly titled “Message to the Market: It’s Not Just About Donald.”
Related: Trump Isn’t Killing the Bull Market
Golub noted that the S&P 500 rose nearly 7% between late June and Election Day, a time when most polls predicted Hillary Clinton would be the next president.
But stocks have continued to rally since then, rising another 8% since Trump’s surprise victory (at least in the eyes of the mainstream media and Wall Street).
You can’t have both. It makes no logical sense to suggest that stocks rallied because investors thought Trump was going to lose and that they continued to rally because Trump didn’t lose.
Bond yields have also risen since Trump’s victory, a phenomenon that many investors have attributed to the likelihood of stimulus from the president and the Republican Congress.
Still, Golub points out that the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries also rose in late summer.
Of course, many investors also expected stimulus from Clinton.
Yet once again, many investors are claiming that Trump is the catalyst for something that was not only happening before his election, but happened because many thought he was going to lose.
Related: Stocks Avoided a 1% Fall for an Unusually Long Time
So it’s odd that Trump is cited as the main reason for a market rally that began months before anyone felt they could win.
What is really happening? The only constant in recent months has been the Federal Reserve.
Yes. markets react to Washington. But they care more about Janet Yellen than the White House.
The Fed made clear before the election that it would likely raise interest rates in December and would do so repeatedly in 2017, regardless of who wins the presidential race.
The good news for investors is that the U.S. economy appears to be growing steadily, but does not appear to be in danger of overheating.
Related: Here’s Why the World’s Largest Money Manager is Worried
The most recent jobs report showed that wages grew at a decent rate of 2.5% per year. But this figure is far from enough to raise fears of galloping inflation and lead the Fed to aggressively raise rates.
Even if Yellen and the Fed raise rates three times this year, they will likely do so by only a quarter point each time. This would push the Fed’s short-term policy rate into a range of 1.25% to 1.5%.
This is still extremely low. At these levels, stocks would remain more attractive than bonds. Corporate profits should be able to continue to increase at a sustained pace. And consumers would likely continue to spend.
So investors would do well to keep a close eye on Yellen and not just focus on the president.
It is with this in mind that Yellen is expected to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. And what it says about the timing and size of future rate hikes could end up keeping the recovery going full throttle – or stopping it dead in its tracks.
CNNMoney (New York) First published February 13, 2017: 12:30 p.m. ET
politics New Gb1