Trail Financial Planning, LLC is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm located in Bellingham, WA

4Q23 Investment Markets Review

4Q23 Investment Markets Review

This post is a review of investment markets for Q4 of 2023.  You will find our thoughts on the market, what we are doing in investment portfolios as a result, and a few deeper dive resources.

What has happened in the markets

The fourth quarter was like the crazy comeback story of a bedraggled sports team.  In September, they were dragging and lagging, limping towards tepid returns for 2023.  But, then, a fire was lit, and the markets went wild.  The end of the year saw a surge in values, with a strong quarter, and then a very strong year.

It is entertaining, and possibly even informative, to speculate why.  In general, markets are predicting machines.  Thus, when there are larger movements than normal, the reason is typically due to some sort of change in expectations for what is to come.  In the fourth quarter was it a changing expectation for interest rates?  The eroding fears of persistent inflation?  The fact that Taylor and Travis were still together?  I don’t know.  Market performance is a combination of many factors.

Finally, in the news there is lots of talk about the performance of the “the magnificent seven.”  Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, Apple, Alphabet (Google), Meta (Facebook), and Tesla.  Those seven stocks all beat the market averages in 2023 and accounted for a large portion of the overall US stock market returns as they make up around 25% of the value of the S&P 500. 

However, the story of a few big winners driving much of the overall stock market returns is not a new story.  See below for a one-page resource that dives into “top ten performance over time.”  While I can’t predict what the magnificent seven will do in the next few years, it is illustrative to look back at the performance of the top dogs in the past.  If today’s Magnificent 7 are anything like the magnificents of old, then future performance may be less-than-magnificent.

Bond markets, meanwhile, continue to be interesting.  We are seeing strong returns as higher interest rates are delivering nice dividends.  Plus, the painful losses from 2022 are actually contributing to better current overall returns.

What we are doing in investment portfolios

Within client portfolios with bond allocations, we are seeing cash accumulate from larger distributions.  We are re-investing that cash to align with targets for diversification around the world and across different types of investment.

If you are an investment management client of TrailFP, we will contact you with details about our review of your portfolio and any actions taken as a result.

The rest of this message includes links to a written review of market performance and John’s audio tour of the report.

Detailed Market Performance – a read

To view a detailed analysis of investment performance in the US and global stock and bond markets, click on the button below.

Bonus Resource.  Today’s headlines are about the investment performance of the “magnificent 7.”  I find their performance interesting, but at this point I am more focused on the question of whether we should expect the out-performance to continue.  Click on the following link for a look back at the historical stock performance of the “top ten performers” in the stock market over time.  Ss Mark Twain purportedly said, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

Detailed Market Performance – a watch

The following link is a 5-minute audio tour of some of our observations of what has happened recently in the markets.  Some people prefer a guided tour over a read.  But, the tour will be too fast to read!

The investment market performance report is prepared by Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), one of our partners in investment management and client support.  If you would like to find out more about DFA, you can visit their website directly at:

Disclosures and end notes

Information contained within is generalized information about investing and the investment markets.  It should not be considered investment advice, personalized or otherwise.  Past investment performance is not a guarantee of future investment performance.  Investing in markets comes with an inherent risk of losing money.

John Chesbrough

John is a financial planner and investment manager. He, along with his business partner Elizabeth Snyder, founded, a fee-only, independent financial advisory firm called Trail Financial Planning (Trail FP) in Bellingham, WA. John and Liz enjoy working with people who care for others and their community – parents, firefighters, therapists, doctors, nurses, and teachers. They work with people by appointment. To learn more, or to schedule some time with John or Liz directly, please visit