Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
After only the second losing week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) since June, fears of Federal Reserve "tapering" have the Dow starting this week down slightly. As of 1:25 p.m. EDT the Dow is down 0.17%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is down 0.23%.
There were no U.S. economic releases today, so U.S. markets are once again taking direction from fears that the Federal Reserve will soon begin to wind down its stimulative asset purchases. The Fed has been buying $85 billion worth of long-term assets each month in an effort to bring down Treasury bond and mortgage rates so that banks will invest in assets other than T-bills and mortgages.
At the beginning of the summer, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Federal Reserve would continue its current "quantitative easing" until unemployment falls to 6.5%, inflation reaches 2% to 2.5%, or long-term inflation expectations skyrocket. The market generally expected those levels to be reached in late 2014. However, Bernanke had a much rosier view of the economy than the market, saying that if the economy continues to improve, he could see the Federal Reserve beginning to pare back its purchases as soon as the end of this year. His comments caused a sell-off in the bond and mortgage markets that has continued throughout the summer as various members of the Federal Reserve have reiterated Bernanke's "tapering" comments.
This chart is current as of last Friday. Last week the yield on a 10-year Treasury rose 24 basis points, and today the Treasury bond market continued its fall, with the yield of a 10-year Treasury now at a two-year high of 2.86%.
On Wednesday the Federal Reserve releases the minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which will provide a more in-depth look at the various members' thinking. While the bond market is obviously spooked at the idea of Fed tapering, the stock market, though it has slipped lately, is still near all-time highs.
So what can an investor do in times like this? It's hard to stay sane with the market so high. My advice: Keep learning, focus on your goals, have an investing plan, stick to it, and ignore the crowds.