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The Markets (as of market close July 31, 2018)

Favorable economic indicators and encouraging corporate earnings reports helped propel stocks forward in July. Market growth has come despite trade wars between the United States and other trade partners, particularly China. Earlier in the month, the world's two largest economies imposed tariffs of $34 billion on each other's goods. Toward the end of July, there was hope of reopening negotiations between the United States and China in an attempt to diffuse the ongoing trade war. Domestically, the U.S. economy appears to be thriving. Over 210,000 new jobs were added in June, although wages have grown by only 2.7% over the last 12 months. Nevertheless, consumers are making more and spending more, while inflationary pressures on prices for goods and services remain in check.

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The Markets (as of market close May 31, 2018)

Despite a sell-off on the last day of the month, equities held enough of their gains to post mostly positive month-over-month returns. The Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. And, just before scheduled trade talks with China were to resume, President Trump announced that he would proceed with tariffs on Chinese imports and limit Chinese investment in U.S. tech companies. Investors feared retaliation from impacted countries could lead to an all-out trade war. Early in the month, signs of rising inflation sent large caps down, while small caps and tech stocks climbed. However, stocks recovered following the Fed's decision to maintain the current interest rate range. Throughout the month, stocks rallied, then slipped back, amid trade war fears, a few mediocre corporate earnings reports, and fear of rising price inflation.

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The Markets (as of market close April 30, 2018)

April was marked by impending tariff war between the United States and China. Tensions between the world's two largest economies certainly affected stocks both home and abroad. Escalating strife in Syria posed an additional reason for investors to be concerned. However, surging energy stocks lifted the market as crude oil prices approached $70 per barrel for the first time in almost three years. Talks between North and South Korea also helped ease investor tensions. By the close of April, the dollar reached its highest level since January, while yields on 10-year Treasuries approached 3.0% for the first time since 2014 - signs that the world views U.S. economic growth as on the rise. 

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The Markets (as of market close February 28, 2018)

Despite some positive economic signs, rising consumer confidence, and favorable corporate earnings reports, February marked the end of the 10-month winning streak for the benchmark indexes listed here. Concerns over rising inflation and interest rates triggered a notable sell-off early in the month and pushed volatility to the forefront. Although the indexes listed here recovered much of their early February losses to close the month ahead of their 2017 closing values (with the exception of the Russell 2000), stocks did not maintain the pace set last year into January. New Fed chair Jerome Powell's bullish assessment of the economy last week pushed the yields on 10-year Treasuries to their highest rates in several years (bond yields rise as prices fall), giving investors more reason to believe multiple interest rate hikes are in the offing for 2018. 

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The Markets (as of market close January 31, 2018)

Equities pulled back off of their record-setting gains at the end of January, but not enough to forestall a month of significant gains. January provided several noteworthy storylines for investors to consider. Unemployment remained low as the number of available job openings continues to recede, possibly signaling a push for higher wages, Fourth-quarter corporate earnings were relatively strong. The president's first State of the Union address preached optimism and called for bipartisan cooperation on major economic and international issues. The government shut down for a few days before approving a stopgap budget resolution through early February. Some American workers saw a modest bump in pay, courtesy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legislation passed in December. And Janet Yellen's final meeting as chair of the Federal Reserve saw the Committee maintain interest rates at their year-end level. 

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