Market Recap – October 2014
October lived up to its reputation for volatility as triple-digit intraday swings in the Dow became almost commonplace. Despite being spooked for much of the month--at one point the S&P 500 was down almost 8% from its most recent high--both the S&P and the Dow industrials rallied strongly to end the month at fresh all-time records. Generally encouraging corporate earnings from U.S. companies, a strong Q3 GDP, and increased central bank support overseas helped equities markets overcome fears about the end of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing and global concerns about slowing growth and the threat of Ebola.
Increased U.S. energy resources and reduced global demand meant that oil prices continued to drop, ending the month at roughly $80 a barrel. The dollar maintained its September gains against a basket of six foreign currencies; since oil is traded in dollars, a stronger dollar also helped keep oil prices in check. Meanwhile, after a bounce at mid-month, the price of gold plummeted to roughly $1,170 an ounce. Not surprisingly, the volatility in equities caused the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury to fall briefly to its lowest level since June 2013 as investors sought the relative safety of Treasury securities.
- The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.5% during the third quarter, according to the initial estimate by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was slightly less than Q2's 4.6%, but still much stronger than during 2014's first quarter.
- The 248,000 new jobs created in September helped cut the U.S. unemployment rate from 6.1% to 5.9%; it's the first time since July 2008 that joblessness has been below 6%. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said hiring during the prior two months was stronger than previously thought. However, at least some of the decline in the unemployment rate resulted from 97,000 people, such as retiring baby boomers, dropping out of the labor force. That brought the percentage of people in the workforce to 62.7%--the lowest participation rate since 1978.
- As expected, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee halted new bond purchases, which have helped support the economy for the last six years by making credit easier to get. The statement said that despite improvements in the labor market and the overall economy, the committee sees inflation being held in check by lower energy prices. Therefore, it still anticipates the Fed funds interest rate will remain at its current level for "a considerable time." However, that timetable could be accelerated by unanticipated upticks in inflation and/or employment (or pushed back if either declines).
- As Fed bond purchases came to an end, the Bank of Japan went in the opposite direction, announcing it will expand its securities purchases. The move is designed to prevent potential deflation (Japan's 1% annual inflation rate is far below the central bank's 2% target). The added buying could help make Japanese exports cheaper.
The Month Ahead
With the Fed's quantitative easing officially at an end and monetary policy meetings on hold until December, equities markets may begin to focus on what's left of earnings season as well as the jobs and inflation data that will affect future Fed actions. The ripple effects of the November mid-term elections could also weigh on markets.
Source: Forefield Financial Communications.
Notes: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. Market indexes listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.
The performance quoted represents past performance, which does not guarantee future results. This summary represents the views of the portfolio manager as of September 30, 2014. Those views may change, and the Funds disclaim any obligation to advise investors of such changes. The Azzad Funds are self-distributed and available by prospectus only. A free copy of the prospectus, which contains information about the Funds’ risks, fees, and objectives, and other important information, is available at www.azzadfunds.com or by calling 888.350.3369. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2000 U.S. small-cap common stocks measuring the performance of those Russell mid-cap companies with higher price-to-book ratios and higher forecasted growth values. The stocks are also members of the Russell 1000 Growth index. The Dow Jones Sukuk Index is designed to track the performance of global Islamic fixed-income securities, also known as Sukuk. The index includes U.S. dollar-denominated, investment-grade Sukuk that have been screened for Shari’ah compliance.