Market Update: September 2023

Steven Neeley, CFP® |

True to form, stocks were down 4.8% in September, maintaining its title as the official “worst month” for stocks.

Bonds were also down, inflicting a double whammy on “diversified” investors.

How Did We Get Here?

So, what’s led to the most recent market slide? Several things, actually:

1. The Federal Reserve

I can’t tell you how sick I am of writing about the Federal Reserve. And yet…

The market moves associated with Fed guidance simply can’t be ignored. Presently, the Fed’s most recent hawkish stance on interest rates, led to a spike in longer term rates, which has impacted things like corporate borrowing costs, mortgage rates and share prices, especially for the tech sector.

2. Oil prices

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil surged from $70 at the beginning of July to more than $90 by the end of September. This has analysts worried about input costs and inflation.

3. A Possible Government Shutdown

I mean, I don’t know why this is a thing that is impacting financial markets since we’ve seen this movie many times before, but here we are again.

4. Weird Derivative Related Stuff

Bloomberg columnist Lu Wang has an interesting theory about how hedging put options in a JP Morgan mutual fund has caused some of the sell off. So, sure, why not?

Global Indices

  • As you can see, there was really nowhere to hide last month.
  • U.S. stocks continue to outperform their global peers year to date.
  • Even including coupon payments from interest rate yields, the total return to bonds is negative again this year. If the trend continues, that will be three calendar years in a row in which this “safe” investment has lost money for investors.

Moving forward

“The Economist Who’s Been Predicting a Recession for 18 Months Says Litmus Test is Finally Here.”

That’s the headline of a recent article at Thank heavens he warned us… 18 months ago.

Here’s the best quote in the article:

“Of course, Rosenberg was also ‘99% sure’ a recession would hit in 2012, and well, it didn’t.”

As you may be aware, the track record of economist calls is dismal 1 . Which is why we don’t invest based on them.

From an investment standpoint, it doesn’t matter if there is a recession. Our strategy is centered on avoiding major losses, and not all recessions result in major stock market losses.

So now that I’ve bashed someone else’s bad investment call, allow me to make a fool of myself by making my own: I expect a strong finish to the year.

September, the historically worst month, is out of the way. Would I be surprised to see September’s sell off extended into October? No.

Having said that, November and December are traditionally pretty good months. More importantly, years that begin as strongly as 2023 tend to have strong finishes.

So, there you have it. Feel free to make fun of me in January if the markets have crashed and we’re in the middle of a massive recession.

Right now, none of the market crash indicators with any sort of predictive power are flashing red. When that changes, we will be prepared to take defensive measures. In the meantime, ignore the investment gurus on CNBC (see the endnote).

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. And, if we don’t speak before year end, I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday season!


1 University of Pennsylvania professor Philip E. Tetlock wrote the ultimate book on the forecasting ability of experts: “Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How can We Know?”

Tetlock conducted a series of studies over two decades, involving hundreds of experts and thousands of predictions. The verdict? The predictive accuracy of experts was generally dismal, in fact, often not much better chance or simple trend extrapolation. Most damning was the fact that the more famous an expert, the less accurate their predictions tended to be!

Steven Neeley, CFP® is an investment advisor representative of and offers investment advisory services through Fortress Capital Advisors LLC, a registered investment advisor offering advisory services in the State of Indiana and other jurisdictions where registered or exempted.  Main office: 4841 Industrial Pkwy, #139, Indianapolis, IN, 46226. Tel: (317) 210-3727.


The return data for the indexes in the table comes from, an online software platform for portfolio and investment analytics.