We don’t have a dour view of stocks. Rather than try and call the economic cycle, we continue to invest in companies with strong free cash flow, strong business models, and conservative balance sheets. While we think there may be an earnings lull, and we worry about trade wars and Washington missteps or non-steps, the historically low unemployment rate around 3.5% with modest wage growth, should provide a ballast for the overall domestic economy. Furthermore, the weakness in manufacturing is relatively small compared to the strong consumer segment of economy which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. In many economies, and in the U.S. in particular, households are enjoying low unemployment, rising wages, and savings from refinanced mortgages. With household wealth and incomes in relatively good shape, we believe the risks to the broader economy have fallen.
As a firm we have lowered our return expectations across stocks and bonds. Our dimmer capital market assumptions will result in clients’ target returns being slightly lower going forward. We are carefully reviewing how these changes affect clients’ financial plans, and we will be reviewing these results in detail with you in our meetings and calls over the next 6-12 months. We will continue to reflect—to be thoughtful and flexible as we deal with interest rates and political conditions we have not seen in our careers. As ever, we remain focused on navigating risks and identifying opportunities.