The U.S. economy continues to gradually expand, building on the 5+ year recovery from the Great Recession. Employment levels are improving, though progress has been slower than expected. Inflation, for now, remains subdued. As signaled and on cue, the Fed has been weaning the economy (and investors) off of the extraordinary ‘quantitative easing’ stimulus. Investors have generally shrugged off world events that might otherwise cause high anxiety (ISIS and the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine, etc.). As attention now turns to when the Fed will raise short-term interest rates, it seems plausible that volatility may intensify as the stimulus security blanket is removed.
In the meantime, companies are taking advantage of the artificially low interest rate environment and sanguine investor sentiment. Merger activity remains robust, fueled by cheap and readily available credit. The IPO market has been very active, headlined by the successful Alibaba offering in September. Corporate treasurers continue to issue loads of debt on attractive terms, locking in generationally low interest rates for long terms. While these conditions will not last forever, they have helped opportunistic managers accelerate equity value growth at many companies.
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