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Blended First Quarter Earnings Growth Rate for the S&P 500 Doubled

Market Data as of Week Ending: 5/7/2021 unless noted otherwise

 Equities

U.S. stock prices experienced a volatile week as inflationary concerns continued to weigh on investors. Markets staged a Friday rally, erasing early week losses and were able to end the week in the positive. Earnings season continued to wind down over the week, as 88% of the companies have reported results. As of today, the blended first quarter earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 49.4%, which is more than double the estimated 23.8% at the end of the first quarter. Size continued to not have a material factor during the week, but value stocks significantly outperformed their growth counterparts. Energy, materials, and financials were the best performing sectors, while consumer discretionary and information technology lagged. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia outperformed U.S stocks while Emerging Market stocks lagged both developed foreign and U.S. markets.

Bonds

U.S. Treasury yields had a choppy week as the market digested the latest jobs data and the Federal Reserve’s dovish remarks. The 10-year Treasury yield briefly fell below 1.50% – the lowest level in nearly two months – before bouncing back to end the week at 1.58%. Investment grade corporate bonds were the best performing asset class and recorded gains across short, intermediate, and long-term maturities. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding nearly 2.2% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding over 4.7%.

Macroeconomic Data

Economic data was headlined by April’s job’s report that showed the labor market’s recovery may take longer to resolve than expected. Manufacturing data also disappointed as the ISM manufacturing index fell to 60.7% in April, citing soaring prices and widespread shortages. The ISM services data was a bit more positive as the index slipped to 62.7% last month but remains near record levels. First quarter U.S. productivity rebounded at a 5.4% annual rate after a sharp decline the prior three months. Economic data in the Eurozone points to broad-based activity beginning to rebound as retail sales climbed 2.7% while German manufacturing orders rose 3.0% in March.

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High Yield Corporate Bonds were the Best Performing Asset Class

Market Data as of Week Ending 4/30/2021 unless noted otherwise

Equities
U.S. stock prices were mixed as most of the major indexes reached new highs before retreating on Friday. Several of the largest companies reported better than expected earnings as 86% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported a positive EPS surprise. The quarterly blended earnings growth is more than 45% and is on track for the highest reported measure since 2010. Size was not a material factor during the week, but value stocks clearly outperformed their growth counterparts. Energy, financials, and communication services were the best performing sectors, while information technology and healthcare lagged. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia underperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks lagged developed foreign markets.

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields rose as favorable economic data and Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated no change to policy rates nor the Fed’s asset purchase program. Most government bonds were in negative territory as the 10-year Treasury ended the week at 1.63%. High yield corporate bonds were the best performing asset class and recorded small gains across short, intermediate, and long-term maturities. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding 2.2% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding nearly 4.3%.

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data was headlined by first quarter real GDP that showed the U.S. economy grew by more than 6%. Another positive was that U.S. weekly unemployment claims continued to fall as new claims dropped to 553,000, their lowest level since March 2020. In other positive news, the Conference Board’s index of U.S. consumer confidence reached 121.7 in April, which is the highest level since February 2020. Europe reported a 0.6% decline in first-quarter GDP following a 0.7% decline for the fourth quarter. If the early estimate holds, it will be considered a “double-dip” recession for the region that continues to struggle with vaccine distribution and lockdowns from the coronavirus.

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401(k) investors add to their returns in Q1, bringing 1-year return up to nearly 42%

For the first quarter of 2021, the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Benchmark produced a positive return of 3.69%. This is the fourth consecutive quarter with positive returns for the Benchmark, bringing the total 12-month return up to 41.97% and the hypothetical participant* balance up to $152,891.

Looking back one year ago to the end of the first quarter for 2020, the hypothetical 401(k) investor that the Benchmark tracks saw a negative return of -16.12% as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the United States. Since that time, the benchmark has rebounded, producing quarterly returns of 15.48% in 2Q20, 6.05% in 3Q20, 11.80% in 4Q20 and now an additional 3.69% in 1Q21. This brought the balance for the hypothetical 401(k) investor over the $150,000 level during the quarter, marking a doubling of the balance over the past 5 years. This serves as a reminder as to why experts recommend 401(k) participants “stay the course” even during the most turbulent markets.

In comparison to the major market indices, the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Benchmark was outpaced in the first quarter by the Dow Jones (7.76%) and the S&P 500 (6.17%). The Nasdaq Composite, which delivered a blistering 43.6% return for 2020 and over 72% over the past twelve months, cooled off in the first quarter with a 2.78% return as many tech stocks that comprise the index were under pressure for much of the quarter.

First Quarter 2021 Comparison with Major Indices 2Q20 3Q20 4Q20 1Q21 12-Mo. Return
Dow Jones Industrial Average 15.48 7.63 10.20 7.76 53.78
S&P 500 20.54 8.93 11.70 6.17 56.35
Mid Atlantic Trust Co. 401(k) Benchmark 15.48 6.05 11.80 3.69 41.97
Nasdaq Composite (Principal Return) 30.63 11.02 15.70 2.78 72.04
Effective Fed Funds Rate 0.05 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.07
S&P U.S. Treasury Bond Current 10-Year Index -6.96 -8.2%

In terms of asset allocation, US Stocks continued to take up a greater share of the pie, increasing from 57% of 401(k) holdings at the end of 2020 to 60% at the end of March 2021. That shift came at the expense of bonds — both US bonds, which dropped from 19% to 17% of assets and Non-US Bonds which dropped from 3% to 2%. Cash holdings increased from 4% to 5%.

 

 

ABOUT THE MID ATLANTIC 401(k) BENCHMARK

Mid Atlantic Capital Group is a leading financial services organization that provides a wide array of brokerage, advisory, and trust services to a diverse national client base of financial advisors and institutions, asset managers, and benefits administrators through its various subsidiary companies.  Because we provide these services, Mid Atlantic Trust Company has plan investment data on approximately 95,000 401(k) plans representing approximately $100 billion in assets.  In response to requests from our institutional clients, we have created the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Composite Benchmark which is designed to reflect the portfolio performance across 401(k) plans serviced, in any capacity, by Mid Atlantic. See the “Methodology” section of this report for details on how the composite benchmark is calculated.

For a copy of the full report of the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Composite Benchmark, click here.

Contact Mr. Scott Hervoyavich of Mid Atlantic Trust Company at 800-693-7800 or by emailing him at shervoyavich@macg.com

 

 

* For the hypothetical participant balances, we used a starting balance based on the average 401(k) participant balance provided by the Investment Company Institute for the year of the starting balance. In our calculation, we assumed a starting annual salary of $50,000, a combined employee/employer 9% annual contribution rate, and a 3% annual salary increase and applied the monthly rate of return of the benchmark.

Health Care and Real Estate Sectors Netted Solid Gains

Market Data as of Week Ending: 4/23/2021 unless noted otherwise

 Equities

U.S. stock markets retreated slightly from their record highs in an up-and-down week after news of a potential tax hike was released. The proposal would nearly double the long-term capital gains tax rate and raise taxes on higher incomes. First quarter earnings season continues to be off to an outstanding start as 25% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported results, of those, 84% have reported a positive EPS surprise. Medium and small sized companies outperformed their large company peers while growth stocks mostly outperformed value. Health Care and Real Estate were bright spots as both sectors netted solid gains. Energy continued its pullback as oil prices declined on the news of increasing global COVID-19 cases. Emerging Market stocks outperformed both the developed foreign stock market and U.S stock market as the index booked a positive gain.

Bonds

U.S. Treasury yields continued their decline last week as concerns around the global uptick in COVID-19 cases may have stoked demand for safe haven assets. The 10-year Treasury ended the week at 1.56%. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding 2.2% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding just above 4.8%.

Macroeconomic Data

It was a relatively light economic data week, but what was released was generally positive. U.S. weekly unemployment claims continued to fall as new claims dipped to 574,000, their lowest level since March 2020. The index of U.S. leading economic indicators rose 1.3% in March, suggesting the economy is gathering momentum. The flash reading of the IHS Markit data showed positive results as both the manufacturing PMI and services PMI reached record levels. New home sales surged past expectations as sales occurred at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.021 million in March, its fastest pace since 2006. As expected, the ECB announced it’s keeping borrowing costs low, saying it would maintain its pace of bond purchases until the eurozone’s economy is firmly on the path to recovery.

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Major Indices Surged to Record Highs for a Third Straight Week

Market Data as of Week Ending 4/16/2021 unless noted otherwise

Equities
U.S. stock markets continued their rally last week, notching gains for a third-straight week as most of the major indices surged to record highs. Earnings season kicked off last week on positive note as corporate profits for several mega and regional banks comfortably exceeded estimates. S&P 500 earnings are expected to grow almost 25% in the first quarter, the strongest growth rate since 2018. Medium and large sized companies outperformed their small company peers while growth stocks outperformed value. Gains in Materials and Health Care were met with some softness in Information Technology and Industrials. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia outperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks, as the index traded near record highs.

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields declined last week as the 10-year Treasury finished 9bps lower at 1.57%, its lowest level in nearly a month. Long duration government bonds were the best performing asset class while short-term government bonds were the worst performing asset class but still managed to deliver a small gain. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding just over 2.2% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding just below 4.8%.

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data released during the week was generally positive. The NFIB small-business index rose to a pandemic-high of 98.2 in March, reflecting growing optimism among small-business owners. U.S. consumer prices surged in March as the CPI jumped 0.6%, pushing inflation to 2.6% over the past year. U.S. unemployment claims sank by 193,000 to a pandemic low of 576,000 in early April. Retail sales rose nearly 10% in March, the second largest gain on record, as the new round of stimulus checks helped boost spending. Economic data from China continues to be positive as the country announced an 18.3% rise in first-quarter GDP on a year-over-year basis – its largest quarterly growth rate on record.

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U.S. Stock Markets Surged to Record Highs Last Week

Market Data as of Week Ending: 4/9/2021 unless noted otherwise

Equities
U.S. stock markets surged to record highs last week as the bullish theme of robust economic and earnings growth in 2021 remains intact. Investors rotated into quality consumer and tech companies from reopening themes as Treasury yields came under some pressure making growth companies more attractive. Small and medium sized companies lagged their large company peers while value stocks underperformed growth. Sectors that tend to be more cyclical and sensitive such as consumer discretionary and information technology outperformed with gains in each sector. Energy lagged the broader market as oil prices fell after OPEC+ announced it would start to gradually increase supplies later this spring. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia underperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks lagged developed foreign markets.

 

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields declined slightly and ended the week at 1.66% as COVID-19 uncertainties persist and the Fed reaffirmed their accommodative stance. Long duration high yield bonds were the best performing asset class while short-term government bonds were the worst performing asset class but still managed to deliver a small gain. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding nearly 2.3% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding just over 4.8%.

 

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data released during the week was mixed but was overall more positive as several key reports surprised to the upside. The U.S. service economy surged in March with the ISM survey jumping to 63.7%, as Americans gained more confidence to go out. U.S payrolls increased the most since August as the Labor Department reported that employers added 916,000 jobs in March, well above the estimated 650,000. Jobless claims, however, increased for the second consecutive week as the total filed through the states was 744,000 last week. The producer price index rose 1% in March, the largest annual increase since 2011. Economic data from China’s Qingming holiday weekend resembled pre-pandemic levels as box office and cinema admissions set new records.

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Mid Atlantic Capital Group Announces Deal with PensionPro

Mid Atlantic Capital Group Announces Deal with PensionPro
April 7th, 2021

Mid Atlantic is pleased to announce it has finalized a deal with PensionPro, the leader in TPA workflow automation software, to become part of its trust and retirement services division

PITTSBURGH–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Mid Atlantic Capital Group (Mid Atlantic), a leading provider of best-in-class technology-enabled solutions for financial intermediaries and their clients, announced today the acquisition of Harrisburg, PA-based PensionPro, a provider of workflow automation software for third-party administrators (TPA). This acquisition expands Mid Atlantic’s trust and retirement services division and the combined company will be able to establish meaningful integrations, automations, and innovations that will benefit the entire retirement plan ecosystem. Mid Atlantic is a subsidiary of EdgeCo Holdings.

Founded in 2010 by CEO Renée Conner, who has over three decades of experience in the TPA industry, PensionPro supports over 400 TPAs across the U.S. through its workflow automation and plan sponsor portal software. These solutions allow TPAs to manage projects and analyze profitability while also providing tools and solutions that enhance the advisor-client relationship. In addition to PensionPro’s software solutions, the company supports Benefit Insights, a marketing solution for TPAs with customizable websites and newsletters. Mrs. Conner and the entire PensionPro team will stay on as full-time employees.

“We are passionate about providing best-in-class software solutions to the TPA industry,” said Mrs. Conner, PensionPro’s CEO. “The strategic vision Mid Atlantic has for the future for the retirement industry is highly aligned with ours and we are excited to leverage its technological and operating expertise to further propel PensionPro’s growth. We are excited to be joining the organization and continuing to invest in innovation and customer service.”

“Our mission is to provide our customers with technology, resources, and tools that empower them to grow while also helping them do their jobs better and more efficiently. PensionPro, as part of Mid Atlantic, helps us advance this objective,” said John Moody, Chief Executive Officer of EdgeCo Holdings. “The team at PensionPro brings valuable experience to the table and we are excited to leverage their collective expertise as we move forward together. I am delighted to welcome aboard Renee and the entire PensionPro team.”

About Mid Atlantic Capital Group
Mid Atlantic, is a leading provider of best-in-class technology-enabled solutions for financial intermediaries and their clients in the retirement services and wealth management industries. For over four decades, Mid Atlantic provides a suite of technology and support services to a diverse national client base of financial intermediaries. This client base includes registered representatives, investment advisors, retirement plan recordkeepers, TPAs, bank trust departments, broker dealers, and insurance companies. The company currently services approximately $150 billion in client assets under custody or administration and more than 15,000 financial advisors and 500 financial institutions.

About PensionPro
PensionPro was formed in 2010 as a solution for TPAs in the increasingly complex world of pension management and business management technology. PensionPro develops TPA specific software to track and manage Clients, Plans, Contacts and Projects. The software suite focuses on providing tools for managing projects and analyzing profitability by reviewing employee time and client fees. Plan sponsor website integration further enhances a TPA firm’s ability to easily and securely gather information and deliver documents to their clients and referral sources. PensionPro’s cloud service model also removes the burden of handling an enterprise level IT infrastructure required to run the applications.

Media Contact
Marissa Comerford
Gregory FCA for EdgeCO
610-228-2104

U.S. Treasury Yields Rose, and the 10-year Finished the Week at 1.72%

Market Data as of Week Ending 4/2/2021 unless noted otherwise.

Equities
U.S. stock prices rose over the holiday shortened week as President Biden’s announcement of the infrastructure plan helped buoy financial markets and the focus shifted from rising rates to economic and earnings optimism. Once passed, the bill should help keep U.S. economic growth above trend for longer than previously expected. Small and medium sized companies generally outperformed their large company peers and growth stocks outperformed value. The communication services, consumer discretionary, and information technology sectors were the best performing sectors. Consumer staples, health care, energy, and materials lagged the broader market and ended the week with small losses. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia underperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks outperformed developed foreign markets.

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields rose, and the 10-year finished the week at 1.72%. Longer duration bond yields declined, and investment grade corporate bonds were the best performing asset class. Intermediate-term government bonds were the worst performing asset class. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding nearly 2.3% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding more than 4.3%.

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data released during the week were mixed. Consumer confidence rose to 109.7 in March, surging to a one-year high as more Americans got vaccinated and the most recent round of stimulus checks hit bank accounts. New unemployment claims rose to 719,000 in late March but is expected to being falling again when the economy continues to reopen. The ISM manufacturing index reach a 38-year high of 64.7 in March as U.S. manufacturers continue to gain momentum. The U.S. added 916,000 jobs in March, bringing the unemployment rate down to 6.0%. Despite continued vaccine rollout challenges and widened lockdown measures in some EU countries, core eurozone government bond yields increased over the week.

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High Yield Bonds were the Best Performing Asset Class

Market Data as of Week Ending 3/26/2021 unless noted otherwise.

Equities
U.S. stock prices were mixed as investors weigh near-term uncertainty with improving prospects for economic growth. Corporate profitability continues to improve as earnings growth estimates for the first quarter rose again during the week. According to FactSet, the current estimated earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 23.3%. Small and medium sized companies lagged their large company peers for the second consecutive week and value stocks outperformed growth. Sectors that tend to be more defensive such as consumer staples and real estate outperformed with gains in each sector. Communication services and consumer discretionary lagged the broader market. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia underperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks lagged developed foreign markets.

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields declined and finished the week at 1.68%. High yield bonds were the best performing asset class and longer-term bonds outperformed short duration bonds. Short-term government bonds were the worst performing asset class but still managed to deliver a small gain. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding nearly 2.3% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding more than 4.4%.

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data released during the week were mixed as the severe winter weather in February was a headwind for home sales and business investment. Weekly initial unemployment claims declined to 684,000, the lowest level of the pandemic, and 4.1 million Americans continue to claim ongoing unemployment benefits. Inflation remains low as the U.S. reported a 1.6% increase in the headline figure while the core measure (excluding food and energy) personal consumption expenditures index increased by 1.4% year over year in February. Core inflation was down from 1.5% in January and still well below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. Despite rolling coronavirus lockdowns for much of Europe, business activity unexpectedly grew in March to 52, which is the highest level since late 2018.

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Corporate Profitability Continues to Improve

Market Data as of Week Ending 3/19/2021 unless noted otherwise.

Equities
U.S. stock prices declined after major benchmarks rose early in the week and then reversed course as bond yields increased to their highest levels in more than a year. Corporate profitability continues to improve as earnings growth estimates for the first quarter rose during the week. According to FactSet, the current estimated earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 22.6%. Small and medium sized companies lagged their large company peers and style factors such as value and growth were mostly irrelevant. Sectors that tend to be more defensive such as consumer staples, communication services, and healthcare outperformed with gains in each sector. Energy and financials lagged the broader market as they were pressured by declining oil prices and new policy from the Federal Reserve. Developed foreign stocks in Europe and Asia outperformed U.S stocks and Emerging Market stocks lagged developed foreign markets.

Bonds
U.S. Treasury yields rose again this past week to 1.75% before settling in to finish the week at 1.72%. Despite statements from the Federal Reserve that they anticipated no rate hikes until 2023, along with their confidence that any increase in inflation will prove short-lived, the bond market response demonstrates that market participants are not convinced. Longer-term bonds lagged for the week while short duration investment grade corporate bonds were the best performing asset class. Investment grade corporate bonds ended the week yielding nearly 2.3% and high yield corporate bonds are yielding more than 4.5%.

Macroeconomic Data
Economic data released during the week were mixed and mostly overshadowed by the Fed and how they would respond to massive fiscal stimulus. One reason why the Fed believes inflation is not a near-term concern is that we still have 4.1 million Americans who continue to claim ongoing unemployment benefits. Weekly initial unemployment claims increased to 770,000 and other measures of economic growth such as retail sales, industrial production and homebuilder sentiment declined. However, the Fed remains committed to the current pace of asset purchases at $120 billion per month and upgraded its economic growth projection from 4.2% to 6.5%. Japan ended the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo (and surrounding areas) and their central bank reaffirmed their commitment to large-scale asset purchases during times of heightened market instability.

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