If you ignored the news and just looked at the performance of the S&P 500, it has been a great year for stocks, Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research said in a note to clients Thursday.
“Despite all the hand-wringing and unsettling political headlines, this has been a relatively spectacular year for the S&P 500,” he wrote, pointing to the index’s year-to-date gain of just under 20%.
And it’s not just the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 15%, and the Nasdaq Composite is up 23%. The S&P 500 is on pace for its best year since 2013.
Part of that solid performance, Yardeni conceded, is due to the dramatic slide in markets during the end of last year’s fourth quarter. But still, if you go back and look at two-year gains, the index is up more than 12%, and going back even further, it is up almost 34% over the last three years, he notes.
The past few months, however, have been less than stellar. Defensive sectors have done well as investor fears over a global economic slowdown have increased. Despite those fears, however, home-building shares are up a whopping 24% since July, while the beaten-down retail sector has actually done rather well—shares of general merchandise stores are up 22%.
Why? For home builders, the answer is fairly clear. “The drop in interest rates has helped some of the best performing industries,” Yardeni concluded. “The interest rate on fixed-rate home mortgages has fallen to 4.00% from a peak of 5.00% in November 2018.” That has helped fuel a run-up in housing stocks, although some analysts have pointed out that there aren’t any clear catalysts on the horizon to keep them rising.