Looking back, equity markets recovered quickly during the second quarter with strong gains, particularly in the small cap arena, as concerns over currency impacts and international exposure weighed on some parts of the market. Volatility, which had surfaced earlier in the year, moderated throughout the quarter though remained elevated relative to recent historically low levels. The market grappled with continued headlines regarding the potential for trade wars with our international partners on several different fronts. The Federal Reserve (Fed) raised rates again in June, fully expected by the market, as the economy remained strong. While the global growth narrative may have softened, the Fed and the European Central Bank (ECB) appear committed toward the normalization of monetary policy, so long as the data supports it. The ECB has laid out their plan to slowly reduce their purchases of bonds, before pausing, then beginning to hike rates starting later in 2019.
Looking forward, the upcoming earnings season will be an important barometer for the strength of the underlying business conditions. Concerns over inflationary pressures from rising wages and input costs will be very topical; at the same time, investors will be keen to hear if the various tariffs, retaliations and headlines on the topic of trade have impacted actual profits for companies as the market expectation remains for another quarter of strong growth. While the markets have largely looked through the potential disruptive trade policies so far, further volatility on that front could be a potential headwind. Additionally, the continued focus on capital allocation for their increased cashflow as a result of the tax cuts, particularly toward capital investment versus share repurchases, will be a key differentiator as higher quality companies are able to redeploy into higher returning areas. Through our focus on high-quality companies, we continue to remain vigilant in assessing absolute risk in our portfolios and striving to protect client capital during volatile periods like we saw to start the year.