Editor's note: Read the latest on how the coronavirus is rattling the markets and what investors can do to navigate it.
The first half of 2021 is officially in the books. The stock market notched double-digit gains, earnings growth was healthy, and inflation heated up. Thanks to rising coronavirus vaccination rates here in the United States, we seem to be on track for a return to something resembling normalcy. In fact, I'm writing this week's edition of Smart Investor from my desk at Morningstar's Chicago office--my first time sitting in this chair since March 2020.
What can we expect in the year's second half? I'm no crystal-ball gazer, but based on the commentary of Morningstar's analysts and strategists featured in our quarter-end coverage, here are a few of my thoughts for what the next six months may bring:
- The economic recovery will continue to move quickly because of soaring consumer demand. We're going to restaurants. We're flying. We're going to see movies. Our spending may shift away from goods and more toward services as the country continues to reopen, but we will nevertheless spend, spend, spend for the foreseeable future--and that will drive strong economic growth.
- Inflation will continue to rise, at least in the short term, given robust consumer activity and supply-chain challenges. Morningstar expects full-year inflation to clock in near 3% for 2021--the highest level since 2008.
- The oil markets will remain tight this year as global demand continues to outpace supply. Filling our tanks probably won't be getting cheaper anytime soon.
What does this outlook mean for our investments? Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz suggests that retirees make sure they have some inflation protection in their portfolios. She also recommends that investors nearing retirement still maintain a high-quality, short- to intermediate-term bond buffer, despite the constrained returns that the asset class offers today. And although wide-moat stocks have outperformed the market this year, Morningstar U.S. market strategist Dave Sekera thinks now is a good time to trade up to high-quality companies.
For more insights from Morningstar's specialists about the quarter in funds, stocks, and the market, check out our special report, "Morningstar's Take on the Second Quarter."
Morningstar's Take on the Second Quarter Our analysis of the second quarter in stocks and funds. 3 Investment Lessons From the First Half of 2021 For the most part, the markets behaved in line with expectations. Digging Into Vanguard Dividend Growth The fund stands out for its focus on companies with a strong competitive advantage that can sustain and grow their dividends over time. An Executor's Guide to Inherited Retirement Benefits: RMDs Here's a rundown of an estate's options and obligations related to required minimum distributions. Tesla Charges Ahead We boosted our valuation on an improved profit outlook, but the EV maker still isn't a buy. Why Bonds Still Matter Low yields and the potential for rising inflation notwithstanding, bonds are still valuable within a diversified portfolio.
Portfolio Planning and Personal Finance With Christine Benz
Don't Be Dogmatic About Retirement-Portfolio Withdrawals In high- (or low-) tax years, retirees may have reason to flout the rules of thumb on withdrawal sequencing.
Mutual Funds and Exchange-Traded Funds
The Second Quarter in Bond Funds A respite from rising rates. The Second Quarter in International Stock Funds Growth led the markets, while value and Asia took a breather. The Year in ETFs so Far Ben Johnson gives a midyear report on the exchange-traded fund landscape.
Q2 Top Stock Performers on Morningstar's Coverage List Energy and tech stocks lead as the U.S. market rally continued. Market Outlook: Stocks Looks Fairly Valued It's a good time to trade up to wide-moat companies. Economic Outlook: Recovery Moving Quickly Thanks to Soaring Consumer Demand We've increased our GDP forecast. Should These 11 Travel Stocks Be on Your Radar? These companies stand to benefit from pent-up demand--but they aren't all undervalued today. Drugmakers, Biotech Pressured by Policy Risk, but We Don't Expect Big Regulatory Changes We also expect a return to more elective procedures. Should I Invest in Airbnb? The market's optimistic valuation for Airbnb is tough to accommodate.
The State of Streaming Companies We maintain that Netflix is overvalued but see potential in ViacomCBS.
The Best Investment Politics Is Strong Performance The safest way to deliver that performance is through indexing.
Building a Virtual Practice There are many benefits to having a virtual advisory business, here's how to make it work. How Different Generations Define Retirement Individuals touched on the aging process, fun and freedom, and a little stress.
The Long View Podcast
Leif Dahleen: Finding Financial Independence The Physician on FIRE blogger discusses the financial and lifestyle choices that go into retiring early, passive sources of income, and why and how he and his family give back.
Speculating and Investing Are Not One and the Same Author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig talks trading trends and the future of the fiduciary standard.