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Dear Valued Clients and Friends,

As the vibrant colors of spring begin to unfold around us, I’m reminded of the fresh opportunities and growth that this season symbolizes. It’s a fitting backdrop as we look at the current landscape of the financial markets and consider what the future may hold for us for the rest of 2024.

A Promising Start to the Year

The first quarter of 2024 was quite remarkable, with the S&P 500 climbing an impressive 10.6%. This performance is notably driven by two powerful forces: accommodating policies from central banks and a burgeoning narrative around artificial intelligence (AI). March marked the fifth consecutive month of gains, culminating in a 28% return, a level of success seen only five times over the last three decades. Furthermore, the frequency of record highs during this period was the highest since the first quarter of 2013—a truly extraordinary start to the year.

Broadening of the Rally

2023’s market rally was largely propelled by the tech sector, specifically AI-related stocks often referred to as the “Magnificent Seven.” These stocks significantly outperformed other market segments. However, the tail end of 2023 saw a promising shift, with gains beginning to spread across various non-tech sectors. This trend of broadening market participation continued into 2024, enhancing the rally’s foundation and suggesting a more resilient upward trajectory as we move deeper into the year.

A Pause in the Bond Market’s Run

After experiencing the best two-month run in over 40 years during the last months of 2023, the bond market had a slower start to 2024. Despite the vigorous rally in risk assets, fixed income faced headwinds as interest rates drifted higher. This rise in rates was fueled by robust economic and inflation data, which dampened earlier market expectations of rate cuts in the first quarter. Initial hopes for multiple rate reductions in 2024 have been tempered, with the timeline for the first rate cut now potentially shifting to mid-year.

Looking Ahead: Growth and Caution

While the current market conditions are buoyant, our focus remains on sustainable growth. Inflation, hovering around 3%, poses no immediate threat in isolation. However, the Federal Reserve’s approach to managing this persistent inflation—potentially maintaining higher interest rates for an extended period—could slow economic momentum, which remains a concern.

Reflections on the Market and Economy

  1. Despite potential headwinds, it’s important to recognize the strength in current market and economic indicators:
  2. Stock market indices are nearing all-time highs.
  3. Home values have reached unprecedented levels.
  4. Bond prices have begun to recover from a historic two-year downturn.
  5. Net wealth across the economy is at peak levels.
  6. Debt levels relative to income are not near crisis thresholds seen in the past.

This paints a picture that is, perhaps, more optimistic than the general sentiment might suggest. It’s a reminder of the resilience and potential that we continue to see in our economic landscape.

A Final Word

As we navigate through the remainder of 2024, our commitment to you remains steadfast. We will continue to monitor these developments, always with an eye towards optimizing your financial strategies and securing your financial future. If you have any questions about the current market dynamics or wish to discuss your personal financial plan, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Here’s to a year of growth, opportunity, and continued success. Thank you for your continued trust and partnership.

Warm regards,

Todd M. Wike, CFP®
Managing Partner, Potomac Financial Group

*An affiliate of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the Investment Strategy Committee and are subject to change. There is no assurance the trends mentioned will continue or that the forecasts discussed will be realized. Investing involves risk, and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of the strategy selected, including diversification and asset allocation. Bond prices and yields are subject to change based upon market conditions and availability. If bonds are sold prior to maturity, you may receive more or less than your initial investment. Holding bonds to term allows redemption at par value. There is an inverse relationship between interest rate movements and bond prices. Generally, when interest rates rise, bond prices fall and when interest rates fall, bond prices generally rise. Investing in the energy sector involves special risks, including the potential adverse effects of state and federal regulation and may not be suitable for all investors.

The information contained in this material does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Todd Wike and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor’s results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Future investment performance cannot be guaranteed, investment yields will fluctuate with market conditions. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the services or opinions of the various podcasts or applications discussed in this material. Chairman’s Council Membership is based on prior fiscal year production. Re-qualification is required annually. The ranking may not be representative of any one client’s experience, is not an endorsement, and is not indicative of advisors future performance. No fee is paid in exchange for this award/rating. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®,CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.