U.S. stocks continued to show strong gains this year with the S&P touching new highs at the end of June on strong company earnings and increased consumer spending. Bond yields have also come down in the second quarter after the large increase to start the year. This helped bonds reduce the losses they suffered during the first quarter on rising yields and inflation fears. Inflation fears have been dominating headlines and worrying investors due to the large increases in demand in multiple parts of the economy leading to higher than expected inflation readings. Supply issues have continued to constrain companies from getting back to full capacity due to a lack of workers, supply chain issues, and pricing pressures. The economic recovery remains intact with GDP continuing to show a very robust rebound from the COVID induced shutdown last year. The U.S. is on track to post the strongest GDP figures in decades this year as long as the recovery continues as expected in the second half of the year. COVID-19 infections have come down meaningfully in the U.S.; however, the new Delta variant is of particular concern for its highly infectious characteristics especially for the pockets of the U.S. with the lowest vaccinations rates. This will be something important to track as the year progresses.
Consumer demand has been robust this year after last year’s lockdown measures with many consumers eager to resume spending on dining out, travel, home and auto purchases, and many other retail sectors as the economy reopens. This put a lot of pressure on companies to increase capacity quickly, but many were caught flat-footed and were unable to ramp-up production, obtain the supplies they needed, or hire back enough workers to meet the robust demand. These constraints have caused spikes in inflation along with surging prices in many different areas of the economy. However, there are signs that supply can catch-up with demand eventually noting that the prices of lumber came down over 40% in June as production increased after an extraordinary run-up in lumber prices over the last year. The Fed still views inflation as transitory expecting that the recent sharp increases should eventually subside and average inflation coming back down to more acceptable levels into 2022. We will monitor this area closely in the months ahead as new inflation indicators become available.
Congress is continuing discussion on trying to get a new infrastructure package approved. The Biden administration along with a bipartisan group of senators agreed to a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, made up of almost $600 billion of new spending and the rest from dollars earmarked for previous unused coronavirus relief funds. The package proposal aims to spend the funds on infrastructure projects over a period of eight years; however, it faces a tough path forward to win approval from Congress. The proposal includes billions of additional spending to improve our nation’s infrastructure with a focus on traditional infrastructure projects benefitting roads, bridges and rail, water systems, and broadband internet access.
We maintain our view to be mindful of risks facing the market in 2021 as COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, and stocks and bonds still trade expensive compared to their historical averages. However, central banks and governments continue to provide massive amounts of stimulus that are driving up asset prices. We continue to recommend staying the course with your investment objective and to rebalance your portfolio by selling strengths and buying into weaknesses to adjust to movements in the market over time. We also recommend determining any short-term cash needs that you may need over the next six months. Creating this cash can help protect against an increase in volatility and short-term moves in the market. We recommend maintaining a more long-term focus on investment goals and objectives, and not reacting to short term up or down movements in the market.