Third Quarter 2019
Looking back, equity markets ended the quarter in positive territory despite continued concerns over the ongoing trade dispute and future economic growth given the deterioration of economic data. The U.S. market outperformed international equities and large caps fared far better than small caps. Investors continue to look for additional clues regarding the health of the economy given the longevity of the business cycle. The Federal Reserve cut rates twice during the quarter, marking the first time for such actions in over a decade. The market remains optimistic regarding additional future rate cuts in order to help bolster the economy. Interest rates fell sharply during the quarter, notably the yield on the 10-year U.S. treasury declined to 1.66%, falling 34 basis points over increasing demand for safe-haven assets amidst the uncertainty. The impact from macroeconomic uncertainty is clearly weighing on business confidence as company fundamentals have so far remained relatively resilient, while supporting the belief that earnings will be up year-over-year in 2019.
Looking forward to the end of the year and into 2020, earnings growth remains a key question for investors as earnings for the upcoming third quarter are once again slated to fall year-over-year. The prior two quarters saw positive surprises, relative to estimates, push growth back into positive territory but looking ahead, the market is still forecasting another year of strong growth into 2020. In contrast, the most recent GDP reading was for 2%, decelerating from the prior quarter, and other indicators such as the ISM’s PMI for manufacturing fell even farther into contractionary territory for the first time in nearly a decade. These, along with the trade disputes, continue to weigh on business confidence and have started to have some modest impact on consumer confidence as well. As the economic cycle continues to progress into its latter stages, the preference for high-quality, stable, and cash generative businesses are likely to increase even more so as markets become increasingly concerned for those companies with more challenged models. These differences, we believe, will cause further dispersion in returns between those companies best able to weather these uncertainties versus those who are not. We remain vigilant in assessing absolute risk in the securities we invest in and striving to protect client capital during these times for potential volatility from the uncertainty.
Timothy Plan Large/Mid Cap Value Fund Q3 2019 Commentary
Within the S&P 500 Index, Utilities and Real Estate posted the strongest returns during the third quarter while Energy and Health Care both posted declines.
Positive stock selection in Consumer Discretionary and Materials helped relative performance. KLA Corp. hosted a favorable analyst day, pointing to accelerating near-term results as semiconductor capital equipment trends improve while increasing their long-term operating model. Sherwin-Williams beat earnings with strong margin performance in their consumer brands segment as the integration of Valspar continued. Dollar General posted strong results as strong execution and cost containment helped bolster margins and management reiterated their mutli-year growth strategy. CMS Energy rallied as interest rates declined and investors looked towards their upcoming investment plan as a catalyst for future earnings growth. Everest Re Group shares moved higher as industry reports point to large pricing increases for mid-year reinsurance renewals.
Unfavorable selection in Health Care and Energy weighed on relative performance. Crude price fluctuations amidst concerns over excess supply as demand growth wanes impacted several stocks including EOG Resources. Arista Networks fell as decelerating spending on technology in the near-term pressured shares, despite the attractive long-term growth potential. Patterson Companies shares moved down as the company continues to work through headwinds in their dental business though sales and earnings both were up in their latest quarterly report. PerkinElmer declined after sales fell modestly below expectations due to weakness in their industrial sales into China. DENTSPLY SIRONA continued to face broader headwinds in the dental market that pressured shares, as management continued to execute on their plan for growth initiatives and cost containment.
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