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Q1 Market Commentary

The following market commentary provides context for the investment performance of your charitable assets.

From Cambridge Associates, investment advisor

Risk assets continued to rebound in the first quarter, led by global equities, which have gained 15% since their recent trough last October. Developed markets stocks outpaced emerging markets equivalents for a third consecutive quarter. Equity gains were largely driven by falling interest rates from an increased belief that the Fed will cut its benchmark target rate much sooner than previously anticipated. This helped growth-oriented sectors—such as information technology, communication services, and consumer discretionary—lead the rally, and the broader growth index outperformed value by the widest margin since data began in the mid-1970s. Financials and energy companies declined the most amid increased scrutiny on the banking sector and declining energy prices, respectively. Bonds also advanced as yields declined across most maturities longer than one year.

Markets were briefly thrown into turmoil late in the first quarter, with bond volatility rising to its highest level since the Global Financial Crisis as stress among US regional banks sparked fears of global contagion. It began when Silicon Valley Bank (SVB)—a US regional bank that played a pivotal role in supporting the venture capital ecosystem—announced it needed to raise capital to meet deposit outflows from mostly corporate customers. This triggered a bank run, leading to its swift failure. A coalition of US regulators quickly announced emergency measures to protect all SVB depositors and to ensure liquidity. Shortly after, regulators also shut down Signature Bank on concerns that the mid-sized bank would collapse, adding to investors’ concerns of contagion. Meanwhile in Europe, Credit Suisse faced idiosyncratic risks, prompting the Swiss government to broker its sale to UBS at a steep discount. The Swiss National Bank also offered $100 billion in liquidity to UBS to support the deal and worked with other central banks to ensure liquidity in the global banking system by increasing the frequency of US dollar swap trading.

The Fed continued to tighten monetary policy in the first quarter, raising its benchmark target rate by 25 basis points twice—a slower pace than its previous hikes. It appeared steadfast in its commitment to bring down inflation, particularly after its second rate hike, which was announced during the height of the SVB bank failure tumult. The Fed also established a new Bank Term Funding Program, which allows institutions to secure loans using qualifying securities at face value—rather than depressed market values—as collateral. Despite the Fed’s base case expectation that no rate cuts are on the horizon, market participants are now pricing in multiple rate cuts before year end. Economic data were broadly supportive of a soft landing, as inflation rates continued to decline off their recent peaks, confidence and purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data held up stronger than expected, and labor market data remained strong.

Given the above, we continue to carefully monitor portfolio exposures and review portfolio positioning, rebalancing as needed to ensure the portfolio stays in line with its targeted risk profile. Thrivent Charitable’s portfolios are built to withstand, not avoid, volatility so that we stay invested and benefit from the long-term upward trend in equity markets. The portfolios continue to remain well-diversified with ample liquidity.