The strong performance of markets over the first half of the year continued through July. All three major indexes had a good month, with the NASDAQ up 4%, the S&P 500 up 3.2%, and the Dow up 3.44%. For much of the year, the increase in markets was driven by the “magnificent seven”—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla. That began to change in June, and price gains continued to broaden over July, particularly within small-caps and emerging market equities. The Fed resumed raising rates in July, but economic data has strengthened market participants’ view that a “soft landing” is in sight.
The market rally of the first half continued in July, and market breadth continued to widen.
Fixed-income markets were split between “soft-landing” optimism and likely further Fed rate hike pessimism.
July was a risk-on environment, and risk factors were up. Value and Size outperformed across all markets, with the addition of Momentum leading in emerging markets. 
After skipping a rate increase in June to assess the effects of its aggressive monetary tightening over the prior year, the Federal Reserve resumed lifting rates at its July meeting with a quarter of a percentage point hike and left the door open for additional increases.
However, a change in the wording of the Federal Open Market Committee post-meeting statement suggested that the Fed is now taking a more upbeat view of the economy, and for good reason.
In June, the annual U.S. inflation rate experienced its slowest growth in over two years. This favorable inflation trend was supported by additional data indicating minimal increases in labor costs during the second quarter as wage growth cooled. This aligns with reports of the economy transitioning into a disinflation phase, characterized by significant moderation in consumer prices and muted producer inflation.
Slowing inflationary pressures and the labor market’s resilience, which supports consumer spending, have fostered cautious optimism among market participants for a “soft landing” of the economy.
Markets are up. That’s great. This time last year, they were down. Significantly.
It’s natural to experience both good and bad years in investing. Market conditions, asset classes, styles, strategies, and geographical factors all contribute to variations in returns.
It’s crucial to maintain some perspective when considering the implications of returns, good or bad, over the short run.
If we take a look at the experience of a long-term investor by using rolling 30-year returns on the S&P 500 since 1950 (the blue line on the chart below) and compare that to the short-term ups and downs of the S&P 500 each year for the last 30 years (the orange bars), we can gain valuable insights.
One-year returns may evoke excitement or disappointment, but they have a limited impact on long-term results. While returns fluctuate significantly every year, long-term returns remain relatively stable.
There will always be some reason for concern on the near horizon. However, it’s important to recognize that long-term results are the most significant consideration for long-term investment success.
1 Morningstar Direct, as of July 31, 2023
2 Morningstar Direct, as of July 31, 2023
3 Morningstar Direct, as of July 31, 2023
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