Changes are coming to the investment world in the month of March. The U.S. stock market did not waste any time setting a record, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average traded above 21,000 within minutes of the opening bell this morning. The market was on Dow 21,000 Watch for only 35 calendar days (24 market days), proving that each new 1,000-point milestone is closer than the previous one, even if the milestones themselves are rather arbitrary.
Another milestone set to fall in March is ETF 2,000, the day the U.S. market has 2,000 exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and exchange-traded notes (“ETNs”) listed for trading. The ETF 1,000 threshold was crossed on May 7, 2010, with the listing of three new iShares ETFs. The doubling of the count to 2,000, should it occur this month, will have taken a little less than seven years to complete. The next doubling will likely take much longer, as the market is currently saturated with ETFs, including many that are unable to distinguish themselves from the crowd and unlikely to survive.
The 700 ETF closures milestone is a distinct possibility in March, although there probably will not be much of a celebration. As of the end of February, 692 U.S.-listed ETFs and ETNs have previously closed, and two PIMCO ETFs have already announced a March liquidation and closure. Another six will push us to the 700 mark. The 600 ETF closures milestone occurred last July, and its next doubling will likely occur long before another doubling in product quantity.
On the monetary policy front, the Federal Reserve will likely be raising interest rates in March. The next FOMC meeting will conclude two weeks from today, and the Fed has already signaled its intent to hike interest rates three times in calendar year 2017. Despite missing its own predictions of when previous rate hikes were to have taken place the past couple of years, there is little reason to doubt the Fed’s sincerity about raising rates in 2017.
Recent Fed speeches have telegraphed the impending hike with lines such as, “a rate increase is very much on the table for serious consideration,” the case for raising rates “has become a lot more compelling,” and a move might occur “at our upcoming meeting.” Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak in Chicago this Friday, which should either complete the telegraphing operation or put a halt to such speculation.
Late in the month of March, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will publish its GDP and corporate profit figures for the fourth quarter of 2016. It has already released its “second estimate” of fourth-quarter GDP, and that figure shows an annual growth rate of 1.9%. No one seems to be anticipating any large revisions, but the final figure will be important from the standpoint that it will mark the delineation of the Obama economy and the Trump economy.
Disclosure: Author has no positions in any of the securities mentioned and no positions in any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned. No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) is received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.