More on Related Themes
2013-12-06 Like a Shakespearean Script by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Shakespearean plays follow a pattern. The underlying plots and storylines change from play to play, but the five-act construction is a common overlap. Market cycles tend to follow a similar pattern cycle after cycle. Like the different plots in various Shakespearean plays, the catalysts that begin and end each cycle, and the events during the cycle are always different. However, market cycles seem to follow a script and, so far, this cycle seems to be following the script almost perfectly.
2013-12-05 10 for \'14 by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Each December we publish a list of investment themes that we feel are critical for the coming year. We continue to believe the US stock market will continue its run through one of the largest bull markets of our careers. Our positive outlook extends to the following areas: US Equities, Japanese Equities, European small cap stocks, high yield municipals.
2013-12-05 Another Step Forward for US DC Plans: Managing Volatility by Daniel Loewy of AllianceBernstein
We’re seeing more US defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors looking at a variety of ways to help their participants manage volatility-and the accompanying anxiety and doubts that can often push participants to abandon their long-term investing goals.
2013-12-04 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
For the 7th year in a row, the US Postal Service lost money. After setting a record loss last year of $15.9 billion, it pared the losses to $5 billion in the current year. The USPS showed its first growth in revenue since 2008, rising 1.2% to $66 billion. In no surprise, the USPS asked Congress for help. Wonder how that is going to work out for them?
2013-12-03 What Matters More When Investing: A Good Company or Good Price? by John Alberg and Michael Seckler (Article)
Which approach will serve you best in the uncertain periods ahead - investing in the best companies, or finding the lowest priced opportunities? How did value-oriented investment approaches, such as Joel Greenblatt’s "magic formula," perform when price-to-earnings multiples compressed in the past? A recent study we completed yields some perspective on those two questions.
2013-12-03 On the Wings of an Eagle by William Gross of PIMCO
I’ve always liked Jack Bogle, although I’ve never met him. He’s got heart, but as he’s probably joked a thousand times by now, it’s someone else’s; a 1996 transplant being the LOL explanation. He’s also got a lot of investment common sense, recognizing decades ago that investment managers in composite couldn’t outperform the market; in fact, their alpha would be negative after fees and transaction costs were factored in.
2013-11-26 How to Develop a Fee Schedule by Teresa Riccobuono (Article)
Too many advisors share a reluctance to charge what they are worth. That fear is both a philosophical and a business issue. To overcome it, here are several factors to consider when designing your fee schedule.
2013-11-22 Dividend Season Scorecard by Don Taylor of Franklin Templeton
As consumers gear up for the upcoming holiday shopping season, many investors in individual equities are eagerly anticipating another season that, instead of draining their wallets, might actually fatten them-dividend season. Don Taylor, portfolio manager of Franklin Rising Dividends Fund, is on the lookout for companies which not only have a track record of paying regular dividends, but increasing them. Here are some of Taylor’s thoughts on the early dividend season scorecard.
2013-11-20 Valuing Quality by Bhavik Kothari of Diamond Hill Investments
As industry specialists, our analysts make key assumptions when we value a company, which are based on our in-depth research of a company’s future prospects. One of the most important assumptions we make is the multiple applied to future earnings to derive the terminal value of a company at the end of our explicit forecast period. The terminal multiple is a critical assumption because it typically accounts for a significant portion of our overall value and it captures a host of assumptions about the quality of the firm such as return on capital and future growth prospects.
2013-11-19 Asset Class Allocation and Portfolios: Critique and Complication by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
In Part 1 of this essay, I explained that for asset class allocation to become an investment practice, it required a foundation of theory. And Modern Portfolio Theory was that foundation. But today, most financial journalists and investment advisors who proffer advice centered on asset class allocation are—if I may judge from their writings—oblivious of this. And why shouldn’t they be? Theory is abstract and difficult to apprehend.
2013-11-19 Ignoble Prizes and Appointments by Jeremy Grantham of GMO
Chief investment strategist Jeremy Grantham comments on this year’s Nobel Prize in economics and "the most laughable of all assumption-based theories, the Efficient Market Hypothesis"; candidates to succeed Chairman Bernanke at the Fed; the impact of commodity price rises and the housing bubble in the crash of 2008; and prospects for the U.S. equity market.
2013-11-19 October 2013 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
The Fed’s decision in September to maintain it’s policy of asset purchases, better known as Quantitative Easing (QE), caught the broader market by surprise. Fed “tapering” of QE was broadly expected to begin in September. The Fed’s decision to delay the reduction of QE pushed back the date upon which anticipated tapering would begin. This resulted in a meaningful rally in Treasury bond prices in September. To the surprise of many media pundits calling for ever higher interest rates, US Treasury yields ended October at 2.55%, virtually unc
2013-11-18 Are You Managing Volatility or Is It Managing You? by Timothy Atwill, Richard Bernstein, Eric Stein, Bradford Godfrey, Chris Sunderland of Eaton Vance
Market volatility has caused investors to make emotional decisions, resulting in performance that may have hindered their ability to reach investment goals. Eaton Vance believes that sound investment strategy should provide investors with tools for managing volatility, so the market’s inevitable fluctuations may work on their behalf. We discuss four approaches to managing volatility: reducing, navigating, harnessing and monetizing.
2013-11-15 DC Plan Design for the Bumpy Road Ahead by Mohamed El Erian of PIMCO
In late October, PIMCO’s CEO and Co-CIO Mohamed A. El-Erian presented the keynote speech at Pensions & Investments’ West Coast Defined Contribution Conference. He also spoke with P&I about top-of-mind concerns for retirement plan providers and sponsors. The Q&A below is based on that conversation.
2013-11-13 Twenty Five by Doug MacKay, Bill Hoover, Mike Czekaj of Broadleaf Partners
I am not a particularly good salesman. From the time I first meet a prospect to when they become a full-fledged client, it can often take two years even when they initiate the first meeting. Fortunately, growing the firm isn’t one of my primary roles, a responsibility that does fall to Bill Hoover, my business partner. The beauty of our relationship is that while Bill devotes his time to our firm’s “outside” efforts, I am able to spend almost all of my attention tending to the portfolios of those who have already hired us. (View a printable version of this Economic
2013-11-12 What Twitter’s New Millionaires Can Learn From Google by Dougal Williams (Article)
In what was one of the biggest launches this year for a technology company, social media giant Twitter had its IPO last week. The deal raised approximately $2.1 billion for Twitter, minting the biggest wave of Bay Area millionaires since 2012, when Facebook went public. Those whose bank accounts swelled as a result of Twitter’s IPO should heed the lessons learned by Google’s millionaires.
2013-11-09 TIPS Post Modest Returns in Third Quarter by Steve Percoco of Lark Research, Inc.
After a very rough second quarter, TIPS posted modest returns in the 2013 third quarter. By our calculations, TIPS gained 0.97% in the quarter, better than the 0.19% gain on comparable maturity straight Treasury securities. After the sharp second quarter sell-off, bargain hunters found value in the intermediate maturities for both TIPS and straight Treasurys.
2013-11-08 Manager Q&A: Tocqueville Gold Fund by John Hathaway, Doug Groh of Tocqueville Asset Management
In a new Q&A, John Hathaway and Doug Groh, the co-portfolio managers of the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX), answer questions about the price of gold, the relationship between the price of the commodity and gold miner stock prices, and industry consolidation amongst gold miners.
2013-11-08 Weekly Economic Commentary by Team of Northern Trust
The ECB’s rate cut signals concerns about deflation. The U.S. job numbers provide an upside surprise. How reliable are the U.S. employment data?
2013-11-07 EM: The Growth Story That Isn't by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
We remain very concerned about emerging market stocks and bonds. The recent outperformance of EM stocks is again luring investors to once again touch the hot stove. Emerging markets seem to have some significant structural and cyclical issues about which investors seem unaware or seem to be ignoring.
2013-11-07 Putting Macro Trends in Context: What do They Mean to a Bottom-Up Investor? by Will Nasgovitz of Heartland Advisors
For some time now, we’ve had a generally positive economic outlook. The occasional setback is assured, but on the whole we believe that the U.S. economy is still in the early stages of a multi-year recovery.
2013-11-06 The Underperformance Culprit by Tony Scherrer of Smead Capital Management
Each year we are reminded of the fact that active management systemically underperforms the benchmark. The scorecards come in, and the tally is drilled back into our consciousness. But has the now long-tenured debate of active versus passive offered us much in the way of new perspective over the last several decades?
2013-11-05 The Key Issues in Today’s Muni Bond Market by Hildy Richelson and Stan Richelson (Article)
Investing in high quality municipal bonds paying a predictable cash flow and returning your principal at the end of the investment is a well-trodden system for lifetime economic success. In this article we discuss some key issues in purchasing municipal bonds to help you make wise choices for your investing system.
2013-11-05 Three Trends That Will Change the Game for Advisors by Steve Lockshin (Article)
This article is excerpted from Steve Lockshin’s new book, Get Wise to Your Advisor. This book makes an impassioned argument as to why clients should choose independent advisors who adhere to a fiduciary standard.
2013-11-01 Where Do Profits Go from Here? Up. Here's Why. by Joseph Tanious, Anthony Wile of J.P. Morgan Funds
After record-setting earnings in the first two quarters of 2013, the S&P 500 is on track to hit another historic high in profits for 3Q13. If this occurs, the first three quarters of this year will have been the most profitable ever in the 56-year history of the S&P 500. Future earnings growth through margin expansion seems unlikely, as an improving labor market and higher interest rates will most likely squeeze margins. However, stable revenue growth, share buybacks and the additional use of debt financing should support modest earnings gains in the year ahead.
2013-10-31 Third Quarter Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital
Despite the recent shenanigans in Washington concerning funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, as well as the constant news coverage of the quantitative easing “taper” that the Federal Reserve may or may not begin, we are going to spare (at least for this quarter) both you and us another long discussion of these very real issues.
2013-10-31 Scrooge McDucks by William Gross of PIMCO
With the budget and debt ceiling crises temporarily averted, perhaps a future economic priority will be to promote economic growth; one way to do that may be via tax reform. How to proceed depends as always on the view of the observer and whether the glasses are worn by capital, labor or government interests.
2013-10-31 The Pillars of Commodities Investing - Part Two by Miguel Perez-Santalla of BullionVault
The world has become a smaller place and in no small part because of the internet. The internet has improved access to information and services to the individual as never before. But of course it I like a two-edged sword, while it has produced many benefits for society, at the same time it has increased some risks.
2013-10-29 Why Deficits Don’t Matter by Bob Veres (Article)
Stephanie Kelton, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri/Kansas City, believes that the root of our deficit problems can be found in a fundamental misunderstanding – shared by Democrats, Republicans and mainstream voters alike – about the government’s balance sheet. She argues, plausibly, that the whole idea that we should control the deficit at all is costing our nation trillions of dollars in lost output. The result is lost income, savings, wealth and prosperity.
2013-10-24 The Pillars of Commodities Investing by Miguel Perez-Santalla of BullionVault
As an advisor your job is to know the most secure places to invest one’s money. This difficult task only becomes more difficult when confronted with demands for an alternative investment.
2013-10-24 Trying to Stop a Bull Market Has Risks by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
U.S. stocks have been on a tear. The S&P 500 Index has climbed a surprising 20 percent so far this year, as a global synchronized recovery takes shape and funds flow back to equities. As I often say, investors take risks when they try to stop a bull run, and plenty of data suggest you might regret taking that action this year.
2013-10-24 Glory Days: Could They Come Back for US Equities? by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
A "great rotation" may not be underway by individual investors; even amid record-breaking outflows from bond funds this summer. But fund flow data do show some shift in preferences and highlight the sensitivity of investors to any rise in longer-term interest rates. A more interesting place to look is at the fiduciary community; that has decidedly shifted its attention away from traditional equities (and fixed income) over the past decade.
2013-10-23 Can Kicked Down the Road Once Again... by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
Donkeys 1, Elephants 0, Congress -535. The can was kicked down the road once again. We would all like to think that Congress will avoid another last minute battle in early 2014, but unfortunately we can’t put it past the current list of non-negotiators. The only thing that is certain in the future is that it will be many election cycles before a member of Congress makes it into the World Series of U.S. Presidential ballots.
2013-10-22 Is Your Website Sending the Wrong Message? by Dan Richards (Article)
Presenting yourself in a credible and professional manner is always critical, but never more than in the early stages of interacting with prospects, when they are forming their initial impressions. That’s why your website is so important – after all, it’s the first contact many prospects will have with you.
2013-10-22 How Many Monkeys Does it Take to Find a Successful Strategy? by Michael Edesess and Kwok L. Tsui (Article)
Give a monkey enough darts and she will eventually hit the bulls-eye on a dartboard. We wouldn’t dare consider that monkey an expert dart thrower, but investment professionals have been using essentially that same logic to assert that their strategies – often called “smart betas” – will outperform the market. New research exposes the faulty mathematics upon which such claims are based.
2013-10-22 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Last month, a Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of non-retired investors showed just how lingering the hangover is from the financial crisis five years ago. Much like the Great Depression financially scared their great grandparents and grandparents, the Great Recession is impacting investors’ expectations about the future.
2013-10-18 Just Like Yesterday by Francois Sicart of Tocqueville Asset Management
In his latest essay, Francois Sicart, Founder and Chairman of Tocqueville Asset Management, with help from Chetan Parikh, of India’s Capital Ideas Online, provides excerpts from and commentary on a 1971 speech by iconic investor David L. Babson. He begins by noting: "It is eerie how timely this speech, delivered 42 years ago, remains today."
2013-10-18 Trying To Beat The Market Is A Fool's Errand by Chuck Carnevale of F.A.S.T. Graphs
Proponents of indexing as the best investment strategy seemed to take great delight in reporting how the vast majority of professionally managed portfolios (mutual funds, separately managed accounts, hedge funds, ETFs, etc.) fail to outperform the S&P 500. Therefore, they argue, it is best not to even try. Investors should simply invest in index funds and forget about it.
2013-10-17 Scare Tactics by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
I thought that we still had two and a half weeks until Halloween. You’d never know it from the frightening tales from Washington, D.C. Just as the government shutdown was to have been a near world-ending event, the impending debt ceiling should be named Armageddon II.
2013-10-17 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Last month, a Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of non-retired investors showed just how lingering the hangover is from the financial crisis five years ago. Much like the Great Depression financially scared their great grandparents and grandparents, the Great Recession is impacting investors’ expectations about the future. 41% indicated they were concerned about another global crisis during their retirement years, and 28% were convinced they would have a lower standard of living during retirement.
2013-10-16 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Since the end of September, total AUM in all active ETFs increased by almost $443 million. Assets in the two largest categories “Short Term Bond” and “Global Bond” fell by $61 million and $12.77 respectively. The “Foreign Bond” category also fell, by $19.38 million. The largest gain was in “Currency” active ETFs, which added an impressive $499.5 million in value due to flows into one fund.
2013-10-15 Five Ways Robo-advisors Will Change the Way Advisors Work by Raef Lee (Article)
Even the name robo-advisor is derisive. It evokes an image that is uncaring, lacks humanity and is inflexible. But it is the term being used by advisors to describe a new breed of startups that directly connect tech-savvy investors with suites of analytic tools to create financial plans or investment portfolios. A name this disparaging makes us ask why advisors fear this new model of financial advice.
2013-10-14 Equity Market Review & Outlook by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
Equities generally performed well across the board in the third quarter. The S&P 500 Index’s solid 5.24% return built on strong gains from earlier in the year. The Index has returned more than 19% through September, surpassing expectations at the start of the year. Slow but steady economic growth in the US, support from the Federal Reserve (the Fed), and more recently, signs of potentially better growth in Europe and Asia have been important positive catalysts.
2013-10-08 The Futility of the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In the past two decades, the so-called endowment model has been adopted by hundreds of endowments, foundations and advisors – particularly those serving ultra-high-net-worth clients. By aggressively allocating to illiquid alternative asset classes, those investors hoped to duplicate the results of Yale and other top-tier institutions. New research exposes the futility of those efforts.
2013-10-08 Is Your Website Like a Toothbrush? by Wendy Cook (Article)
Like your website, a toothbrush is essential and comes in a range of sizes and options. Just as you should regularly replace your toothbrush well before its bristles have frayed, you should treat your website to a regular refresh to keep it relevant in the face of ever-advancing technology.
2013-10-08 Government Shutdown Masks Pending Debt Ceiling and Third Quarter Earnings by Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management
Equities were mixed last week as the markets were focused on the budget impasse in Washington, D.C., that forced the federal government into a partial shutdown. As with the 17 prior shutdowns, we do not anticipate a lasting impact on the economy or markets. While the shutdown makes headlines, the issues that will likely have the most impact are the debt ceiling debate and third quarter corporate earnings announcements, which could mean a bumpy ride for investors.
2013-10-07 Ted Williams, Ford F-150\'s, and Market Valuations by Robert Mark of Castle Investment Management
In late 2008 Lehman Brothers had just collapsed, AIG needed help from the US government and markets around the world were in a tailspin. Today, five short years later, we find it strange how the strength of the stock market defies a climate of declining earnings. With another quarter of corporate results behind us, equities continue to rally despite corporate earnings offering no material support, with many companies actually talking down their future growth prospects.
2013-10-03 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs fell by almost $40.9 million. Assets in the two largest categories “Short Term Bond” and “Global Bond” fell by $7.74 million and $10.156 respectively. In addition, the “Foreign Bond” category decreased by $36.33 million, while AUM in “Currency” active ETFs fell by almost $5.2 million.
2013-10-02 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Effective October 1st, the health exchanges are open for business and enrollment can occur over the next 90 days. It will be interesting to see just how many people feel compelled to sign up under the individual mandate. While the premiums are not inexpensive for most of the eligible people, many will receive tax credits to help offset the cost. Nonetheless, others will find it a significant burden to the budget, and there is great debate over just how this will affect the economy long-term.
2013-10-01 The Looming Threat to China’s Economy by Marianne Brunet (Article)
The debate over China’s economic prospects centers on its real-estate bubble, excessive leverage and rising labor costs. But regardless of its short-term fate, China’s economic growth will ultimately be limited by the availability of a key resource. China ranks second lowest in the world for water availability per capita. Water-scarcity poses a threat to its future growth. The challenge is determining how severe this will be.
2013-10-01 The Key Succession Issues for an Advisory Practice by Bob Veres (Article)
Succession planning has moved to the top of the practice management priority list for tens of thousands of advisory firms. As the average age of founder/advisors creeps ever closer to traditional retirement age, the profession is asking itself a lot of hard questions about how to keep these businesses alive – and take care of clients – after the founder retires.
2013-09-30 The Global Sea Change Continues by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Most investors will readily admit the global credit bubble is deflating, yet continue to favor credit-based asset classes within their portfolios. Whereas many investors still believe that the emerging markets are a growth story, the data tell us that U.S. investors can find growth in their own backyard.
2013-09-30 Investing In Corporate Bonds: The Compelling Case For Active Management by Ed Devlin, Michael Kim of PIMCO
Passive investment returns in the Canadian corporate bond market have been unimpressive because of the way corporate bond indices are constructed and factors unique to the Canadian market. Unconstrained by these limitations, active managers with global reach may provide superior returns. The current environment presents an attractive opportunity for Canadian investors to implement a wide discretion, active approach to managing corporate bonds.
2013-09-30 Congress Holds Equities Hostage by Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management
U.S. equity advances ended last week and the S&P 500 declined -1.0%.1 Markets appeared concerned about overbought conditions from a strong run up over the past three weeks and uneasy about Federal Reserve (Fed) monetary policy normalization as well as the credibility of its communication strategy. Other widespread reasons for the downturn included increased focus on the fiscal battles in Washington, D.C., heightened worries about a possible near-term government shutdown and the contentious debt ceiling debate.
2013-09-27 Bridging the Gap: Global Listed Infrastructure by Wilson Magee of Franklin Templeton
Simply spreading your investments across a smattering of asset classes with the idea that diversification should automatically produce a positive result is an approach that’s maybe a little too similar to a roll of the dice. For investors hunting for classes to diversify into, Wilson Magee, Director of Global Real Estate and Infrastructure Securities, Franklin Templeton Real Asset Advisors, and co-manager of Franklin Global Listed Infrastructure Fund, has one word: infrastructure.
2013-09-27 Illinois and California: Similar Challenges, Different Approaches by Joseph Rosenblum, Neene Jenkins, John Ceffalio of AllianceBernstein
Every state faces challenges when it comes to balancing the books, but not every state is equally effective at tackling them. The responses of California and Illinois to post-2008 difficulties show how different the approaches can beand how much is at stake.
2013-09-25 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs increased by almost $80.2 million. Assets in the two largest categories “Short Term Bond” and “Global Bond” fell by $20.65 million and $38.585 respectively. As the dollar weakened on the Federal Reserve’s decision to delay tapering, the “Foreign Bond” category increased by $65.725 million and “Currency” active ETFs added $7.43 in value. Just like the previous week, the second largest increase in AUM came in the “High Yield” ETF category, which this time rose by over $44.35 million, main
2013-09-23 Enhanced Dividend for Income by Jim O'Shaugnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
It is axiomatic in the financial planning canon that investors searching for a steady source of income should rely heavily on bonds. Stocks are for capital appreciation and bonds for income. The practice is so ingrained, that I have not heard of many investors who would make the case for using an equity portfolio to generate income. Bonds also appeal to advisors because of their inherent principal protection advantage. As a bond owner, you are a creditor, not an owner.
2013-09-21 Rich City, Poor City by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we will conclude our look at pension plans for the nonce with a 30,000-foot overview of the states and then take a deeper dive into one city: mine. This will give you at least one version of how to do your own homework about your own hometown. But fair warning, depending on your locale, you may need medical help or significant quantities of an adult beverage after you finish your research.
2013-09-21 This Will Not End Well by Robert Mark of Castle Investment Management
How do you justify higher equity valuations if profit margins are more likely to contract than expand and revenue growth is stalling? Why naturally you discount those future cash flows by a lower cost of capital! But to my eye, the Federal Reserve appears to be slowly losing control of the bond market interest rates are separating from the raw pressure of central bank interventions. We know why this will end badly, we just don’t know when.
2013-09-18 Smart Beta and the Pendulum of Mispricing by Vitali Kalesnik of Research Affiliates
The Research Affiliates approach to equity investment management is based upon the insight that stock prices are “noisy” and “mean-reverting.”
2013-09-18 Is the Commodity Supercycle Dead? by Nicholas Johnson, Greg Sharenow of PIMCO
While commodity price appreciation won’t likely mirror the supercycle, this shouldn’t necessarily imply a negative view on commodity returns going forward. We believe commodity prices are at reasonable levels from a long-term valuation perspective. In addition, the roll yield from investing in commodities is the highest it’s been since 2005. The outlook for commodity returns today seems broadly consistent with historical returns, and commodities remain an important tool for hedging inflation risk.
2013-09-18 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs increased by over $68.76 million. Assets in “Short Term Bond” active ETFs increased by nearly $140 million. The second largest increase in AUM came in the “High Yield” ETF category, which rose by about $20.366 million, largely due to creation units. “US Equity” active ETFs also saw a significant increase in AUM of over $8.68 million. The biggest decreases in AUM came in the “Global Bond” and “Foreign Bond” categories, which fell by $58.85 million and $44.3 million respectively.
2013-09-17 Investing for Real People by Sponsored content by Oppenheimer Funds (Article)
Investor goals are the same, but solutions have changed. Today, aiming to meet basic needs requires new solutions. Laser focus on investor goals will help uncover appropriate investment opportunities. Expanding the opportunity set beyond the usual suspects will be critical to long-term success.
2013-09-17 The Debate on DFA’s Research by Various (Article)
We received many responses to Michael Edesess’ article, Why DFA’s New Research is Flawed, which appeared last week. We provide the responses from individuals who disagreed with Edesess’ findings, followed by Edesess’ response and then by responses in agreement with his findings.
2013-09-17 “Risk-On” Resumes as Uncertainty Subsides by Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management
Equity markets rallied last week with the hope of a diplomatic solution to the crisis between Syria and the United States. The S&P 500 advanced 2.03% for the week.1 Broadly, the S&P 500 is in a churning phase after witnessing an all-time high of 1709 on August 2 and then stalling.1 We believe the market has been on hold while waiting for lower oil prices, progress on Syria, further global growth and successful Federal Reserve tapering.
2013-09-14 Nothing But Bad Choices by John Mauldin of Mauldin Economics
Crises in government funding don’t simply arrive on the doorstep unannounced. Their progress toward the eventual Bang! moment is there for all the world to see. The root cause is almost always the same: debt. And whether that debt is actually borrowed or is merely promised to the populace, when the market becomes worried that the ability of the government to fund its promises is suspect, then the end is near. Last week we began a series on what I think is an impending crisis in the unfunded pension liabilities of state and local governments in the United States.
2013-09-13 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs increased by around $38.2 million.As in previous weeks, assets in “Short Term Bond” active ETFs increased, this time by almost $61.7 million, while AUM in the “Global Bond” category fell by about $39 million.The “Global Bond” category had another bad week, ending over $18.3 million below where it began.The “Alternative Income” category increased again but by less than in previous weeks; AUM increased by nearly $4.26 million. The “Alternative” active ETF category’s AUM rose by approximately
2013-09-05 Dividends Matter by Mark Mobius of Franklin Templeton Investments
Many people think of emerging market stocks as pure growth plays, and may not realize that there is a separate potential benefitdividendsthat can also be available to investors in these markets. A prolonged period of easy monetary policies in many developed nations (particularly the US) has left income-seeking investors searching for alternatives to traditional fixed income, including dividend-paying stocks. Many investors may not realize dividends aren’t just a developed-market phenomenon.
2013-09-03 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
For those in college during the 60s the time of “sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll” it’s hard to believe that marijuana has become legal. It is currently legal in some form in about 20 states and more are considering it, at least for medical purposes. Even Florida has strong proponents for the medical use of marijuana. There are always people who are trying to take advantage of the situation and this is no exception.
2013-08-30 The Unfriendly Skies by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
As if the federal government were not already doing enough to kill the U.S. airline industry with restrictive workplace rules, over-regulation, and a monetary policy that supports higher fuel prices, earlier this month anti-trust authorities at the Justice Department blocked the merger between American Airlines and US Air.
2013-08-29 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs increased by over $69 million. As in previous weeks, assets in “Short Term Bond” active ETFs increased, this time by almost $64.6 million. AUM in the “Foreign Bond” category fell by nearly $58 million both because of falling values for ETFs in the category and because redemption units in certain ETFs. The “Global Bond” category had another bad week, ending over $18.3 million below where it began.
2013-08-26 Could Clarity Confuse? The Industry Strikes Back by Jon Vogler of Invesco Blog
The intention of the Department of Labor (DOL) proposal to illustrate lifetime income streams on 401(k) statements is to clarify retirement income status for participants. But according to industry and trade groups, the requirement may have the opposite effect, creating more confusion than clarity.
2013-08-22 Active ETF Market Share Update & Weekly Market Review by AdvisorShares Research of AdvisorShares
Last week, total AUM in all active ETFs fell by over $60.5 million. AUM in the “Global Bond” category fell by nearly $89 million both because of falling values for ETFs in the category and redemptions in certain ETFs. The “Foreign Bond” category had another bad week, ending almost $36 million below where it began. As in previous weeks, assets in “Short Term Bond” active ETFs increased, this time by almost $36.5 million.
2013-08-21 Asia Brief: On Economic Evolution in Cambodia by Edmund Harriss, James Weir of Guinness Atkinson Asset Management
Cambodia’s recent national Assembly elections offer hope that the country may be able to achieve a peaceful political transition in the coming years. The country’s political turmoil has held it back behind its neighbors, but tourism and gar- ment assembly are driving an acceleration in economic output growth. However, Cambodia is at risk from inflation through imported petroleum, and its youthful population will want to see improving GDP per capita feeding through into higher living standards, rather than a higher hydrocarbon bill.
2013-08-16 The Case for Global Dividends: Valuations and the Impact of Rising Rates by Ehren Stanhope of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
The S&P 500 Index has risen over 150 percent since March 9, 2009 in what could arguably be deemed the most hated equity rally of all time. The MSCI All Country World Index, one of the broadest global indices, has risen “just” 110 percent since its March 2009 nadir. Evidence indicates that United States (U.S.) investors have not participated in this rallya truly sad state of affairs. It is worthy of noting that over the last several years a number of well known market pundits have viscerally rejected the equity rally due to macroeconomic concerns.
2013-08-16 Investing Rationally if Markets Get Erratic by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
It can be hard to invest rationally when markets are volatile, but Russ is expecting markets to be just that come September. Knowing that market volatility can lead to bad investing behaviors, Russ highlights three behaviors to avoid during the potentially rocky road ahead.
2013-08-13 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Wade Pfau’s article, Unlocking the Two Mysteries behind SPIAs, which appeared last week, and readers respond to the commentary, What’s Wrong With Indexes?, by Brian Evans of AdvisorShares, which was published on July 29.
2013-08-13 Dog Days of Summer Are Upon Us by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
Hopefully you are reading this from the beach, because there is so little news happening in the markets that those of us in the office are about to start making news up to justify stock price movements. But while news and volumes are at August lows, here are some thoughts that might ring a bell to help you to either make some money or to set down your smartphone and get back to the water.
2013-08-12 Share Repurchases Reward Everyone But Shareholders by Jeff Middleswart of Ranger International
In summarizing year-end results, company managements often boast about the cash they returned to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. Certainly hiking the dividend by, say, 10% is something to crow about. But we fail to see why shareholders should applaud share repurchases. After all, they didn’t see any of that money. The beneficiaries of buybacks are sellers of the stock. These aren’t shareholders, they are former shareholders.
2013-08-12 Lower Your Expectations for Future Return by Cory Fulton of Mesirow Financial Wealth Management
While equities are not priced particularly well and the current environment does not bode well for future long-term expected real returns, they are currently a better choice for investors relative to the alternative. Right now, any meaningful shifts in one direction or the other could be setting the investor up for additional disappointment. At this stage in the game, equities look to offer better prospects in the long-term. However, the time is not right to abandon your long-term investment plan in the face of the positive market headlines and lofty predictions emanating from Wall Street.
2013-08-09 Charts for the Beach by Richards Bernstein of Richards Bernstein Advisors
Our basic positions are now famous (or infamous). We continue to favor US assets and to shield our portfolios from the on-going and broad problems in the emerging markets. In the spirit of August, we forego significant text this month to present a series of charts that outline a few of the opportunities and risks we see in the global markets.
2013-08-09 A Generational Selling Opportunity for the U.S. Long Bond by Jim O'Shaughnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
Because investors tend to extrapolate what their general experience in markets has been recently well into the future, it’s easy to see why investors are having a long-term love affair with bonds. Yet the data in this paper suggests that a crisis in long bonds is coming and, given this information, individual and institutional investors alike should reconsider the bond portion of their portfolios.
2013-08-08 Quarterly Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
To begin, let us state that we are tired of writing about macroeconomic issues. We suspect you are tired of reading about them. We would like nothing more than to send out a quarterly letter full of updates on the companies we own and the rationale for individual buy and sell decisions. Nevertheless, we must address the market action following Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s May 22nd testimony before Congress, where he merely floated the idea of “tapering” the Fed’s quantitative easing efforts.
2013-08-07 Japan The Land of the Rising Stock Market by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
We have been ardent bulls on the Japanese stock market since last Fall. Our thesis has been a simple one: For the first time in the history of our data, Japan began running consecutive monthly current account deficits.
2013-08-01 July 2013 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
Fixed income investors have enjoyed a steady move higher in bond prices over the past five years. Given the consistency with which bond values have increased, it is understandable if bond investors were surprised by the just over 0.60%, or 60 basis point rise in ten year Treasury yields and corresponding movement down in bond prices during the second quarter.
2013-07-31 New GDP Revisions to Boost US Economy by 3% by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
At the end of April, I pointed out that the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced it would be making some significant revisions to the way it calculates Gross Domestic Product on July 31. It will revise economic growth for all years going back to 1929. This change is somewhat controversial in that it is expected to add up to 3% to total GDP in one fell swoop tomorrow morning. That’s about $1,500 worth of extra goods and services for every person in the US!
2013-07-30 Conflicting Crosscurrents Move Equities Sideways by Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management
U.S. equities finished last week narrowly mixed, with the S&P 500 falling -0.02%.1 While the second quarter earnings per share growth continues to move higher, revenue growth remains below trend. The economic calendar is focused on this week’s release of the July employment report. Global macro headlines generated more uncertainty than direction for the markets.
2013-07-30 Who Let the Ferrari Out of the Garage? by Blaine Rollins of 361 Capital
With just three trading days left in the month, July is in the running for the title of least volatile month of the year, with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index averaging moves of just 0.39% this month through Thursday’s close. That is lower than the 0.41% and 0.42% averages of January and March, respectively, when stocks were grinding slowly, but steadily higher.
2013-07-25 Perspective by Jim McDonald of Northern Trust
Investors have faced a torrent of central bank actions and communications during the last month, and markets continue to differentiate among economies and companies a welcome maturation from the markets’ prior regime of “risk on/risk off.” We believe the Federal Reserve has moved from an easing bias to one of tightening but at an elongated pace that will remain data dependent. Joining in this parsimony are some key emerging-market central banks, including the People’s Bank of China, which is working to control credit risk in the Chinese economy.
2013-07-24 Bursting of the Bond Bubble by Clyde Kendzierski of Financial Solutions Group
Our April newsletter focused on the extreme overvaluation in the bond market. I argued that money market funds (or cash) were likely to outperform bonds and bond funds over the next decade. In May I applied the same logic to US stock prices and the inherent fallacy in the prevailing TINA (“there is no alternative” to stocks) hypothesis. Although stocks are likely to outperform bonds over the next decade, both asset classes remain seriously overvalued. In a world of overvalued assets, zero return looks much better than large potential losses even when that means foregoing transitory
2013-07-19 European Equities: Beyond the Headlines by Philippe Brugere-Trelat of Franklin Templeton Investments
It’s fairly easy for investors to find reasons to shun European equities. While struggles in some Eurozone “periphery” countries continue to make eye-catching headlines, the broader story of Europe is far less fatalistic, according to Mutual Series Executive Vice President Philippe Brugere-Trelat, who manages the Mutual European Fund, Mutual Global Discovery Fund and Mutual International Fund. When it comes to Europe, he says one shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.
2013-07-16 Letters to the Editor by Advisor Perspectives (Article)
A reader responds to the ongoing exchange of letters regarding socially responsible investing, and a reader responds to Joe Tomlinson’s article, Retirement Portfolios: Fears over Rising Rates are Overblown, which appeared last week.
2013-07-16 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
The big news during the past two weeks has to be the employment numbers that came out about 10 days ago. Most economists were looking for about 165,000 jobs being added to the workforce, but the June number came in at 195,000 jobs. This was higher than even the highest estimates.
2013-07-12 Making Sense of the Bond Market by Phelps McIlvaine of Saturna Capital
The great challenge for investors and advisers today is to forecast where interest rates and bond prices will be once the influence of radical central bank intervention dissipates. Measures of inflation expectations are declining, and deflation remains the dominant influence on interest rates. In assessing whether to trim bond allocations, it is important to revisit the reasons for selecting a particular asset allocation before modifying or abandoning it.
2013-07-10 Are You Financially Literate? Take the Test! by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
For over a decade, numerous studies have found that most Americans are lacking in their basic knowledge regarding finance and investments. I first reported on this back in 2003 and have done so every few years since then. Unfortunately, things have not gotten better over the years, despite the fact that we went through a major financial crisis in 2008-2009.
2013-07-02 The Practical Application of Behavioral Finance by Mitchell D. Eichen and John M. Longo (Article)
From the Dot-Com bubble onward, traditional investment models have repeatedly disappointed those who relied on them. When compared to mathematically based models, behavioral finance provides a superior foundation. Here is an alternative investment paradigm, grounded in behavioral finance, that is practical and effective over time periods that are relevant for a significant portion of investors.
2013-06-28 Labor Force Myth Sends the Wrong Signal on U.S. Growth Prospects by Brandon Odenath of J.P. Morgan Funds
We’ve seen the pundits on TV and read their op edsthe drop in the labor force participation rate is proof that unemployment is falling because many of the unemployed have simply given up the search for work. The inference of course, suggests that the economy is in much worse shape than falling unemployment rates would indicate.
2013-06-25 Strategies for the Retirement Red Zone by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
The retirement red zone is the critical years immediately before and after retirement, when financial plans are highly vulnerable to adverse market movements. In many previous articles, I have examined strategies to reduce risk after retirement, but here I will focus on the decade before retirement. I’ll compare strategies that rely on traditional stock-bond portfolios with those using various types of annuity products.
2013-06-21 Asia Brief: China's Energy Demand by Edmund Harriss, James Weir of Guinness Atkinson Asset Management
China has the world’s largest unconventional gas reserves, but these so far remain untapped despite its growing demand for energy. China is now trying to follow the example of the US, and the government has set aggressive targets for unconventional gas production. As the demand for transportation fuels grow over the next decade, this gas could be a major contributor to meeting that need.
2013-06-21 Weekly Economic Commentary by Team of Northern Trust
Today, the relative health of banks around the world goes a long way toward explaining differences in economic fortunes. As policy-makers seek ways to improve growth, addressing structural issues in their financial systems may be more effective than monetary or fiscal stimulus.
2013-06-21 Austerity is a Four-Letter French Word by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The France that I see as I look out from the bullet train today is far different from the France I see when I survey the economic data. Going from Marseilles to Paris, the countryside is magnificent. The farms are laid out as if by a landscape artist this is not the hurly-burly no-nonsense look of the Texas landscape. The mountains and forests that we glide through are glorious. It is a weekend of special music all over France, and last night in Marseilles the stages were alive and the crowds out in force.
2013-06-20 Why Wellness Matters: The Real Cost to Employers of Unhealthy Employee Behaviors by Team of Manning & Napier
It is no secret that health care costs have ranked among the top concerns of employers for much of the last decade. There is good reason for this concern, as health care costs have outpaced inflation for years, and employers often bear the brunt of these costs for their employees and dependents. Employers looking for ways to stem the tide of runaway health plan expenses should investigate wellness programs designed to impact the source of the costs unhealthy behaviors.
2013-06-19 Efficient Pension Investing by Jared Gross of PIMCO
Adapting the Sharpe ratio to pension portfolios can help plan sponsors choose among a multitude of investment options designed to achieve the same goal. In our experience, the most significant efficiency gains have come from shifting from intermediate bonds to long-term bonds and introducing lower-volatility substitutes to equities.
2013-06-18 Retirement Income Designations – Which Should You Choose? by Wade Pfau (Article)
With more than 50 certification programs based on the withdrawal phase of the planning lifecycle, advisors are faced with a paralyzing choice about which designation provides the most valuable curriculum. Here’s some guidance on choosing the right program for advisors.
2013-06-18 Cash, Profits and Misplaced Priorities by Steven Grey (Article)
It’s a not-so-veiled threat that is all too familiar to most investment fund managers: “We’re not paying you to be in cash.” But why is it that so many investors fear cash more than losses?
2013-06-18 Newsletter June 2013 by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
Do you remember hiding under the sheets listening to radio when your parents thought you were asleep? If so, I have an unbelievable collection of all the old-time radio shows we listened to when we were kids, if you have about six months’ spare time. Find your favorite, click on it, and it lists literally hundreds of episodes you can re-live.
2013-06-18 Fed Zombification by Cliff Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
The enthusiasm of our culture for Zombies is estimated to contribute a tidy $5 billion dollar a year to GDP, and that doesn’t even include the too-big-to-die zombie banks. In my opinion, the acute interest in zombies and horror (and escapism in general) says something about our country’s mental health.
2013-06-14 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Six years ago, in 2007, the trustees of Social Security projected that Social Security would run out of money, i.e., have a negative balance, in the year 2041. At the end of last month the trustees updated this projection and indicated that the trust fund backing the payment of Social Security would be zero by 2033. A zero trust fund does not mean the payment of Social Security benefits would also go to zero, but would drop to 77% of their originally promised levels through 2087. Is any of this getting Congress’s attention? (Source: Social Security Trustees)
2013-06-11 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
A number of readers responded to Adam Kanzer’s article, Exposing False Claims about Socially Responsible Investing, which appeared last week. Kanzer’s article was in response to Adam Apt’s article, Measuring the Cost of Socially Responsible Investing, which appeared the week before. Several readers responded to other articles as well.
2013-06-11 How Asia's Growth Transitions and Policy Experiments Are Shaping the Global Outlook by Ramin Toloui, Tomoya Masanao, Robert Mead of PIMCO
Our view is that Chinese GDP growth will downshift, averaging 6%-7.5% for the next five years as net exports and investment are reaching their limits. In Asia, Japan is perhaps the economy closest to the “T-junction” described in PIMCO’s global secular outlook: The destination of Japan’s journey looks increasingly uncertain, with multiple potential outcomes that could stabilize or destabilize the global economy and markets.
2013-06-10 Emerging Market Opportunities by Patrick OShaughnessy, Ashvin Viswanathan of OShaughnessy Asset Management
Emerging market equities present both unique opportunities and also unique risks. Unlike more mature economies, emerging markets’ economies have the potential for impressive growth rates. But emerging markets also have the potential for damaging socio-economic and political instability. Equity returns in these countries are often impressive, but to earn these returns investors must deal with considerably higher volatility than in the developed equity markets.
2013-06-07 Affordable Care Act Roll-Out: Are “Train Wreck” Fears Justified? by Harlan Sonderling of Columbia Management
Expect to see a large U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advertising and public relations program this summer ahead of the October 1 federal and state health insurance exchanges open enrollment, one of the key features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Administration, Congress and the nation have much riding on successful implementation of the law and the participation of newly-insured individuals.
2013-06-07 Liquidity Markets Likely to Evolve Under Proposed Money Market Reforms by Jerome Schneider of PIMCO
We view the SEC’s proposed regulations on money market funds as a pivot point for cash and liquidity management. If the first proposal is adopted, prime institutional money market funds would convert to a floating net asset value share price. That conversion would likely cause some volatility in pricing. As we do not expect yields to increase in the near-to-medium term, in our view the risk-reward tradeoff would not be as attractive for investors.
2013-06-07 Why It Pays to Invest in Emerging Market Dividend-Payers by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
An unexpected change of heart happened in May that you might not have heard about. After years of resisting any path other than its rigorous course, Germany announced it is backing off from pure austerity and is now planning to spend billions of euros to stimulate the economies of Europe.
2013-06-06 Omissions of the Omen: \"Hindenburg Omen\" and the Selloff Last Week by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
Rising US Treasury bond yields and Fed "taper talk" not to mention a "Hindenburg Omen" sighting hit stocks last week. A look inside the Omen should calm fears of impending doom. The market is likely not out of the woods, but we don’t expect an overly sinister correction.
2013-06-04 Wounded Heart by Bill Gross of PIMCO
Joseph Schumpeter, the originator of the phrase “creative destruction,” authored a less well-known corollary at some point in the 1930s. “Profit,” he wrote, “is temporary by nature: It will vanish in the subsequent process of competition and adaptation.” And so it has, certainly at the micro level for which his remark was obviously intended. Once proud, seemingly indestructible capitalistic giants have seen their profits fall short of “everlasting” and exhibited a far more ephemeral character.
2013-05-29 April 2013 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
Interest rates rose modestly during the first quarter as ten year Treasury yields increased by approximately 0.10% or 10 basis points. Seasonal tax-time municipal bond liquidations, together with a heavier primary calendar, weighed heavily on the market causing municipal bond yields to underperform on a relative basis. In our recent market opinion we thoroughly discussed our view that the relative cheapening of municipal bonds presented investors with and attractive entry point as we expect technical conditions to improve as we move into the summer months.
2013-05-28 Six Reasons You’re Charging the Wrong Fees by Bob Veres (Article)
My research has explored the spectrum of advisory fees in considerable detail, and has allowed advisors to compare their fee structures with professional norms, evolving trends and the input of advisors around the country. Here are the six biggest oddities I discovered – each of which is a clear sign that advisors are not charging as much as they should.
2013-05-23 The Labor Force Participation Puzzle by David Kelly of J.P. Morgan Funds
Slow growth and mediocre job creation have been common themes used to describe the U.S. economy in recent years, as both the labor market and broader economy failed to produce the snap-back rebound many expected following the deep recession seen in 2008 & 2009. Despite that lackluster growth, the unemployment rate has now fallen to 7.5% after peaking at 10% in October of 2009, a much faster decline than expected, given average employment growth of less than 125,000 per month.
2013-05-22 Asia Brief: China's Car Fleet The Largest in the World? by Edmund Harriss, James Weir of Guinness Atkinson Asset Management
Car sales in China have grown rapidly since 2009 and it is on course to outstrip the US in terms of the size of its car fleet by the end of this decade. This presents a major challenge to the Chinese government, which must balance its people’s happiness and political stability with economic development in an environment which has already been compromised. The momentum of demand for new passenger vehicles is likely to make air quality worse and Beijing has introduced emissions and efficiency standards to address the problem.
2013-05-22 Malaysia's Post-Election Investment Outlook by Scott Klimo of Saturna Capital
Earlier this year we identified ASEAN as the most attractive region within the emerging markets universe. That prediction has proved accurate. Market indices (USD returns) year-to-date through April in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia are 23%, 22%, and 16%, respectively. Singapore (which we do not consider an emerging market) gained 6%, while Malaysia rose only 3.9%. So what’s the outlook for Malaysia?
2013-05-22 A Whiff of Confidence by David Kelly of J.P. Morgan Funds
The single biggest on-going survey of consumer confidence in the United States is conducted by Rasmussen, who survey 500 consumers every night on their views of the U.S. economy and their personal finances. Since October 2007, there has not been a single month in which the index produced by this survey has exceeded 100. However, since the start of May it has averaged well above this level.
2013-05-21 Federal Spending, the Deficit and Debt Ceiling by Gregg Bienstock of Lumesis
As our regular readers know, we have a level of concern with regard to the budget deficit, the debt ceiling and all things related thereto. And, while many of us have concerns regarding maintenance of the tax-exemption for muni debt and the tax-deductibility of muni fixed income interest, this week we are approaching the world from a slightly different angle. The focus: how reliant are States and counties on the Federal Government and who is most reliant.
2013-05-20 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
When the President put forth his proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year which begins October 1st, he went out of his way to offer an olive branch to the Republicans on entitlement programs - especially Social Security and Medicare. The President proposed changing the cost of living adjustments in such a way that, over time, there would be significant savings to the government, but of course, take the money away from the recipients.
2013-05-17 Making the Most of Equity Allocations by Andrew Pyne, Sabrina Callin of PIMCO
We believe slowing global growth and deleveraging are likely to result in lower long-term returns for equities. Traditional approaches to building equity portfolios may not be enough for investors to meet their return goals. We have found three complementary ways investors can enhance equity return potential: fundamental indexes, index-plus strategies and high active share stock selection approaches.
2013-05-16 Where Are the Bears? Evidence vs. Anecdotes in Assessing Market Sentiment Over a Full Market Cycle by JJ Abodeely of Sitka Pacific Capital Management
Imagine the stock market as a national park with just three kinds of animals: bulls, bears, and pigs. The saying “bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered” conveys the idea that one can be bullish or bearish and be successful depending on the market environment, whereas greedy pigs are almost always set up for catastrophe.
2013-05-10 The Importance of Being Different by Francois Sicart of Tocqueville Asset Management
In his latest essay, Francois Sicart, Founder and Chairman of Tocqueville Asset Management, writes about how superior investment managers outperform their market benchmarks -- by taking advantage of volatility, among other things -- as well as how to properly evaluate investment performance.
2013-05-10 2013 US Financial Markets: Part 2 - The TINA Hypothesis by Clyde Kendzierski of Financial Solutions Group
Contrary to the “Bernanke Illusion” (money market funds are a zero return investment), history indicates that money market funds are likely to provide investors with returns approximating inflation over the next decade. As I pointed out in our last letter, the markets are pricing in inflation levels significantly higher than the prospective total returns of 10 year TBonds. The small additional return achieved by corporate bonds or US stocks (at current prices) is unlikely to compensate a buy and hold investor with sufficient gains to justify the interim risks.
2013-05-10 Symptoms Don\'t Lie by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
A good doctor will not simply make a diagnosis based on measurements. The symptoms and complaints expressed by the patient are at least as important in making a determination as the data provided by diagnostic tools. When the data says one thing and the symptoms continuously say another, it makes sense to question the reliability of the instruments. This would be particularly true if the instruments are furnished by a party with a stake in a favorable diagnosis, say an insurance company on the hook for treatment costs. The same holds true for the U.S. economy.
2013-05-09 The Effect of Negative Interest Rates in Europe by Zach Pandl of Columbia Management
In his press conference last week, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi signaled that policymakers may be more open to a cut in the central bank’s deposit rate. Although Mr. Draghi acknowledged this move could have negative side effects, he added “we will be able to deal with the negative consequences we will look at this with an open mind.” Several major central banks considered negative deposit facility rates during and after the financial crisis, but so far, all have determined that the idea did not pass the cost/benefit test.
2013-05-07 Breakaway Brokers: What the Data Really Say by Bob Veres (Article)
For the past 15 years, and especially since 2008, few assumptions have been accepted as widely or confidently in the financial services world as the idea that brokers are leaving the wirehouse environment in increasing numbers – and taking their clients with them. Underlying that assumption is another: that the trend is accelerating, and will continue to do so until the brokerage industry’s retail footprint has been severely diminished. The more extreme projections see the entire brokerage asset gatherer/sales model following Lehman, E. F. Hutton and Bear Stearns into extinction.
2013-05-07 Weekly Market Commentary by Scotty George of du Pasquier Asset Management
The agonizing process of building momentum from a bear market economy has initiated a number of trends that remind us that time can be either an ally or foe. Inconsistent in its nature, a market’s response from dire lows is not always a pleasure to watch.
2013-05-07 Attractive Dividends? Earnings Growth? A Way to Get Both by Team of Lord Abbett
International equities provide broader opportunities for combining appealing divided yields and earnings growth.
2013-05-01 US Economy to Get a Hollywood Makeover by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
You may have heard that the government is going to make some major changes in how our Gross Domestic Product is calculated later this year. Your first thought might be that this is no big deal. However, I will argue today that it is a very big deal, the biggest in a decade, and you need to know why. So I hope you read what follows with more than a passing interest.
2013-05-01 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
he mixed economic numbers we have been seeing lately----higher than expected consumer confidence and home prices vs. lower than expected Chicago PMI---might be confusing to some. One number shows the economy improving while another shows the economy contracting. However, for investors this is actually good news as the data continues to confirm that we are in a Goldilocks economy, not too hot, not too cold.
2013-05-01 There Will Be Haircuts by Bill Gross of PIMCO
It has been the objective of the Fed over the past few years to make even more innovative forms of money by supporting stock and bond prices at cost on an ever ascending scale, thereby assuring holders via a “Bernanke put” that they might just as well own stocks as the cash in their purses. Gosh, a decade or so ago a house almost became a money substitute. MEW or mortgage equity withdrawal could be liquefied instantaneously based on a “never go down” housing market. You could equitize your home and go sailing off into the sunset on a new 28-foot skiff on any day but S
2013-04-30 The Most Underappreciated Threat to the Advisory Business by Bob Veres (Article)
Financial advisors have often heard the warning that their investment management services are going to become commoditized – so often, in fact, that you can forgive them for ceasing to pay attention. But if you don’t believe that an online algorithm can replace the sophisticated advice offered by a flesh-and-blood advisor, then check out the Wealthfront USA website.
2013-04-30 The Best Solution for Protecting Retirement Portfolios: Put and Call Options versus GLWBs by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Retirees cannot be exposed to severe – or even modest – market losses. They need to protect their savings in a cost-effective manner. I will compare the projected outcomes for two types of strategies: options, which can reduce volatility, and products that guarantee lifetime income, such as variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits.
2013-04-30 Implementing Behavioral Portfolio Management by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)
Behavioral portfolio management is based on the notion that if the advisor can redirect his or her emotions and mitigate the impact of client emotions, it is possible to build superior portfolios by harnessing market emotions. This article describes how this can be done and presents evidence of the superiority of focusing on investor behavior when constructing and managing portfolios.
2013-04-30 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, a lot of people felt that things were set as it related to estate taxes. Apparently everyone believed that except the President, who has proposed several changes to estate tax law in his fiscal 2014 budget.
2013-04-26 The Return of the Asian Tigers: Guinness Atkinson Asset Management Asia Brief by Edmund Harriss, James Weir of Guinness Atkinson Asset Management
Often overlooked by international investors, South East Asia encompasses some of the world’s best performing equity markets in recent years, putting the more established emerging markets in the shade. This performance is backed by good economic results and the favourable demographics of some of these countries, with youthful populations ready to improve productivity and increase consumption. One catalyst for future growth is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade area, which will bring down trade barriers between the South East Asian nations.
2013-04-24 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
Bulls and Bears continue to fight it out around the S&P 500 record high. There is a lot to worry about at this point----earnings and economic numbers have been somewhat disappointing, terrorism fears are back (Boston Marathon, Canada, fake Twitter posts, etc), and we continue to see a divergence between riskier areas of the market and less risky areas. On the plus side there is still nowhere else to go except for stocks. As we have said before, volatility around an all time high is normal and to be expected.
2013-04-23 Dividend Growth and Stock Returns by Peter Nielsen of Saturna Capital
The compounding impacts of dividends have historically been significant in terms of market returns for long-term investors. The importance of these cash flows to investor returns can be seen across countries and industries.
2013-04-22 Strategy for a Second Gear Economy by David Kelly of J.P. Morgan Funds
American investors could be forgiven for feeling just a little confused. One week after the stock market posted its strongest first-quarter gains since 1998, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the weakest monthly job growth in nine months. Real GDP growth was just 0.4% in the fourth quarter but appears to have been much stronger in the first. So is the economy getting stronger or weaker, how is the Federal Reserve likely to react to it and what, if anything, should investors do about it?
2013-04-22 “Covenant-Lite” Loans: Credit Quality Is Still the Dominant Factor by John Bell, Kevin Perry of Loomis Sayles
As portfolio managers for bank loan products at Loomis Sayles, we are often asked about “covenant-lite” bank loans, and in particular whether they represent a dangerous trend that suggests loans are overheated and should be avoided. This paper describes our views on what covenant-lite loans are and are not; it is based more on reasoning and experience than proof, because covenant-lite loans have not been offered over a long enough period to establish a meaningful fact pattern.
2013-04-19 Fed to End QE, Obama's Tax & Spend Budget by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
Today I tackle several topics, each of which could take up an entire E-Letter. But these topics are very important, and I want to address them today. The first is the minutes from the March 19-20 Fed Open Market Committee meeting that were released last Wednesday. Those minutes definitively confirm that the Fed is ready to chart an end to quantitative easing.
2013-04-19 Gold Buyers Get Physical As Coin and Jewelry Sales Surge by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Even with the gold price dropping, why are gold coins selling at a premium? It’s Economics 101: The coin supply is limited and the demand is high. This buying trend isn’t only occurring in the U.S. In Bangkok, Thailand, for example, crowds of buyers were filling stores, eagerly waiting in multiple lines to purchase gold jewelry and coins.
2013-04-17 Hyperactive Monetary Policy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Lupin Rahman, Mohit Mittal, Josh Thimons of PIMCO
Hyperactive monetary policy (HMP) is in full force as fiscal policy retreats. The benefits of HMP outweigh the costs for now. Despite cyclical growth, we will likely not achieve escape velocity and eventually the costs will likely overtake the benefits.
2013-04-16 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Robert Huebscher’s article, The Downside to Socially Responsible Investing, which appeared on November 13, 2012.
2013-04-16 2013 US Financial Markets by Clyde Kendzierski of Financial Solutions Group
In the fall of 2012 the S&P 500 came close to our forecast high (S&P- 1500) Last year we suggested that not only was the S&P likely to reach 1500, but also speculated that renewed bullish sentiment could take us back to the old highs of 1565. When the S&P touched 1563 a couple weeks ago, I started getting client calls complimenting my prescient forecast.
2013-04-15 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
There may still be people rushing to the Post Office this afternoon or evening to get tax returns in the mailbox. Of course, many others will file for an extension. The first extension is for six months and is automatic. However, when you file your extension, you have to send in the money you think you will owe and file form 4868. If you don’t file an extension, there is a 5% per month late filing fee. An underpayment could also be charged interest, and if the amount is significantly under what is owed there could be penalties as well.
2013-04-10 Financial Markets Review and Outlook First Quarter 2013 by Team of Managers Investment Group
Risk-based assets rallied sharply during the first quarter on the heels of a fiscal tax-cliff compromise that overhung the market in the latter half of 2012. U.S. equities posted their best quarterly returns since 1998, with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index reaching all-time highs. While the equity market rally extended abroad, returns overseas were muted by a strengthening U.S. Dollar. Bond markets, with the exception of high-yield investments, failed togenerate anything beyond middling returns, as investors’ risk appetites started the year strong.
2013-04-10 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
The market continues to experience volatility around the new record high. Again, this is to be expected as this is a very psychologically important level so we shouldn’t expect the market to blow through this and never look back. There is still a lot of background "noise" in the markets. Last week’s jobs numbers were disappointing, we have had some weaker economic numbers, Cyprus, etc. None of this looks like it can change the fact that money has nowhere else to go but stocks at this point, but the economic numbers bear watching.
2013-04-09 Four Bold Innovations that will Revolutionize Financial Planning by Bob Veres (Article)
What it would be like for an advisor in the 1980s to be magically transported to our 21st century? The changes would be dazzling: the Internet and social media, exchange-traded funds and Morningstar data, Skype conferences and the virtual cloud, plus a few million mobile device apps that do everything but vacuum your house.
2013-04-09 Tips for Building a Compelling Web Site by Wendy Cook (Article)
Is your current website still living in the “online brochure” days or even non-existent? Don’t dwell on what’s been holding you up. Let’s move your site – and you along with it – into the 21st century.
2013-04-08 A Continuing Case for Dividends by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
The investment case for dividend-paying stocks is as strong as ever. Many dividend-paying stocks continue to boast yields comparable to or higher than US Treasurys, and the case for dividend growth in the years ahead remains favorable. Dividends have a long history as a significant component of total return, and investors will likely continue to press for rising payouts since corporate balance sheets are flush with cash. What should investors consider as they survey the universe of dividend-paying companies?
2013-04-08 Repealing Tax Exemption and Illinois Settlement Guest Commentaries by Gregg Bienstock, Ron Bernardi of Lumesis
This week we are pleased to present two guest commentaries both from Ron Bernardi, President and CEO of Bernardi Securities, Inc. The first is an excellent white paper entitled “Repealing Tax Exemption Impact on Small and Medium Sized Communities” and highlights the impact of a repeal of tax exemption. The second covers three topics, Ron’s home turf, Illinois, a bit about Stockton and a bit on the Ways and Means hearing regarding tax-exemption.
2013-04-04 Short-Duration High-Yield Bonds: An Attractive Solution for a Low-Yield, Rising-Rate Environment by Eric Scholl, Tom Saake of Allianz Global Investors
With Treasury yields at historically low yields, investors need to look elsewhere for the income they need. Eric Scholl and Tom Saake, portfolio managers at Allianz Global Investors, discuss why high-quality short-duration high-yield bonds may be a good solution for today’s low yield environment and can provide protection against rising rates in the future.
2013-04-03 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
After hitting a record close last week the market is showing some warning signs, which is to be expected. You don’t typically break through an important resistance point without testing it and re-testing it so some volatility around a record high is normal. We are also slightly concerned that small and mid cap stocks have drastically underperformed the S&P 500 over the past two days.
2013-04-03 A Man in the Mirror by Bill Gross of PIMCO
Am I a great investor? No, not yet. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s “Jake” in The Sun Also Rises, “wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?” But the thinking so and the reality are often miles apart. When looking in the mirror, the average human sees a six-plus or a seven reflection on a scale of one to ten. The big nose or weak chin is masked by brighter eyes or near picture perfect teeth. And when the public is consulted, the vocal compliments as opposed to the near silent/ whispered critiques are taken as a supermajority vote for good looks.
2013-04-02 Choosing an Actively Managed Fund: What Works and What Doesn’t by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Few topics have been studied as closely as selecting actively managed funds that will outperform the market. Advisors who use such funds need to be confident in their choices – and justify their methodology to clients. Here’s what the latest academic research says on this highly contentious issue.
2013-04-02 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
As we began 2013 America was looking ahead to President Obama’s second term, the passage of a tax bill that raised government revenue significantly, discovering that fourth quarter growth was virtually flat, corporate earnings that had only a few mild surprises to the upside and several to the downside, and finally, an increase in Social Security taxes of 2%. Then the sequester kicked in in early March, a band aid was used to patch the government together until the end of September, and we saw the nervousness the European markets, highlighted by Cyprus.
2013-03-27 Call Him Ishmael by Jeffrey Bronchick of Cove Street Capital
One of the hardest things to conquer as a value investor is the concept of "price." The industry remains mired in fascination with abstract prices like 100, 1,000, 14,000, previous highs, new lows, etc. The stock is up x% from x dollar price; it is down x% from x price. There is also much in print and general fretting in regard to "price action," with lots of attention paid to where the stock has "been" and how this move relates to other "moves," as in "the largest move since last December 12th."
2013-03-27 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
The continuing mess in Cyprus and the S&P 500 nearing a record close dominated the news this week. As I said last week, Cyprus is insignificant, the only important aspects of what is going on is timing. If the crisis hit the news during a time when the market was oversold and due for a rally then it would have little, if any, impact. The fact that that market has rallied this year without much of a selloff gives traders an excuse to use something like this to take profits.
2013-03-27 Does Blame Predict Performance? by Jason Hsu of Research Affiliates
As an econometrician and a fund-of-funds portfolio manager, I spend much time researching quantifiable metrics to help me identify managers who can outperform consistently. There is, in fact, a rich body of literature exploring different manager selection criteria. Academic papers have considered portfolio manager attributes, such as tenure, the CFA designation, advanced degrees, and even SAT scores; they have also examined fund characteristics, such as portfolio turnover, expense ratios, and assets under management.
2013-03-26 How to Invest Like Buffett by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Listen to Jim Cramer or his cohorts on CNBC and you’ll hear statements like, “Don’t settle for the mediocre returns of a market index!” and “It’s not that hard for investors to pick stocks that will beat the market!” Unless you possess the skills of Warren Buffett, that’s not true. But in the book Think, Act and Invest Like Warren Buffett, Larry Swedroe says you indeed can invest like Buffett – just not by stock-picking.
2013-03-26 How to Communicate Your Account Minimum by Dan Richards (Article)
Over the past decade, there’s been increasing pressure on advisors to establish a minimum account size for new clients. The challenge is how to communicate that – should you be direct and upfront, or subtle and indirect?
2013-03-22 Happy Clients; Terrified Prospects by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Four years ago, on March 9th, 2009, US stocks collapsed to a 12 year low. A financial crisis rooted in overleveraged purchases of junk (or even fraudulent) securities claimed, in quick succession, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brother, Merrill Lynch (forced into a shotgun marriage with Bank of America) and AIG. Investors panicked, selling good securities at deep discounts to fair value.
2013-03-22 Power of Positive Screening: Pursuing Strength of Social and Financial Returns by Chat Reynders, Patrick McVeigh of Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management
Market volatility and sweeping changes to mainstream views of investing are catalyzing acceptance of tactics that combine fundamentals with a progressive outlook on social issues. Positive screening brings balanced companies to the fore of the investment landscape: this practice isolates sound equities that demonstrate strength of balance sheet, dependability of management, and a commitment to act as part of a global community focused on positive change.
2013-03-20 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
The banking crisis in Cyprus dominated the news this week as the market sold off 3 days in a row after being up 10 days in a row. The selloff was blamed on what was going on in Cyprus but that was not the real story. Globally Cyprus is pretty insignificant, most people probably don’t even know where it is. The real story is that markets just don’t go up for 10 straight days without needing a breather from time to time, Cyprus was just an excuse to take some profits.
2013-03-19 Five Steps to Demonstrate Your Value Today by Dan Richards (Article)
Of the broad trends facing the financial service industry, the most powerful will be greater transparency. It will force everyone – and advisors in particular – to clearly demonstrate the value they provide. How advisors respond to this shift to a value-driven world will determine whether they succeed or fail.
2013-03-19 Understanding the Role of SPIAs in a Retirement Portfolio by David B. Loeper (Article)
Wade Pfau’s recent article, Breaking Free from the Safe Withdrawal Paradigm, was well researched. Its goal was to accurately calculate the benefits of using SPIAs based on certain assumptions. I fear, however, that many readers may have not fully grasped the impact of a few key assumptions that drive his results.
2013-03-19 A Tired Equity Market Crawls Higher by Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management
U.S. equities rose again last week as the S&P 500 increased 0.66%, with an overall gain for the year of 9.96%.1 The remarkable resilience of the U.S. economy against fiscal cliff headwinds has boosted equity investor sentiment. The U.S. macroeconomic outperformance has also helped U.S. equities outperform global counterparts. Investor preference toward the U.S. has largely been confirmed by rising flows into U.S. equities.
2013-03-19 Keeping Up With Changes In Emerging Market ETFs by Jun Zhu of Leuthold Weeden Capital Management
In this report, we highlight benchmark changes in a major player, a potential substitute (with cheaper fees) for another major player, a new player with an innovative weighting scheme and provide an overview of the Emerging Market ETF space available to investors.
2013-03-18 5 Reasons to Still Like (but not Love) Stocks by David Kelly of JP Morgan Funds
While investors have been justifiably worried that the combination of the big tax hikes of January and the Sequester in March could lead to an economic slump, so far the numbers are reassuring.
2013-03-13 Who Cares if There's a High-Yield Bond Bubble? by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
High-yield bonds, or "junk bonds" as they are widely known, have received a lot of attention in recent months. Is there a high-yield bond bubble? Certainly a ton of new money has gone into high-yield bond funds over the last few years. Millions of Americans who would have never considered high-yield bonds have bought in due to near zero returns on traditional savings vehicles.
2013-03-13 Yield Opportunity in a Low Yield Environment by Troy Johnson of Westcore Funds Denver Investments
The Fed’s aggressive monetary policy teamed with its inability to jump-start the anemic economic growth pattern has challenged investors’ quest for yield entering 2013. We offer investors the following for consideration as they seek yield in this environment.
2013-03-12 Gundlach: Investors are asking the Wrong Question by Robert Huebscher (Article)
If you're trying to assess the Federal Reserve's so-called exit strategy from quantitative easing, then you're asking the wrong question, according to Doubleline's Jeffrey Gundlach. Quantitative easing is a permanent policy tool, he said, and investors should be asking what that means for their investment strategy.
2013-03-12 America’s Criminal Crony Capitalism by Michael Edesess (Article)
Charles Ferguson believes that every prosecutorial tool at our disposal should be used to indict, fine severely, and imprison those whose transgressions contributed to the recent financial crisis – not just their companies, but the executives as individuals.
2013-03-11 Two Myths and a Legend by John Hussman of Hussman Funds
The present market euphoria appears to be driven by two myths and a legend. Make no mistake. When investors cannot possibly think of any reason why stocks could decline, and are convinced that universally recognized factors are sufficient to drive prices perpetually higher, euphoria is the proper term.
2013-03-07 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
Yesterday saw a new record close on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a renewal of the panic buying we saw earlier in the year. While it is great to see that the Dow has retraced all of the losses from the 2008 decline I am concerned about what message will be directed towards individual investors. The asset allocation/buy and hold crowd will use this milestone to "prove" that markets always come back so that their approach is still valid. This is true, but it ignores the fact that it took the market almost 6 years to come back and the lost opportunity cost associated with that.
2013-03-06 Combining the Best of Passive and Active Investing by Patrick O'Shaughnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
Should investors pay higher fees to active managers in an attempt to beat the market? Or should they instead buy cheap passive index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) thereby surrendering to the compelling long-term evidence that successful money managers are few and far between and very difficult to identify. It is an important and ongoing debate because the choice between the passive or active approach to investing can have a huge impact on long-term results.
2013-03-06 An Infinite Amount of Money by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The three major blocs of the developed world are careening toward a debt-fueled denouement that will play out over years rather than in a single moment. And contrary to some opinion, there is no certain ending. There are multiple paths still available to Europe and especially the US, though admittedly none of them are bright and carefree.
2013-03-05 Selecting Truly Active Equity Funds by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)
In a recent Advisor Perspectives article, Joe Tomlinson reported evidence showing that 401(k) plan sponsors add value in selecting funds, but their risk-adjusted alpha is not enough to beat a comparable index portfolio. Tomlinson then pointed out the need for additional research to help advisors improve upon the fund selection process. As a step in this direction, I will report on research conducted by my firm and other academics.
2013-03-05 Understanding the Risk in Bonds by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Treasury bond prices rallied this past week, as sequestration promised to act as a drag on growth, while a very messy election result in Italy also pushed safe haven investors into Treasuries. Both factors are likely to be short lived insofar as they support bond prices. Interest rates are likely to head higher even with Fed policy likely to remain highly accommodative. Initially, longer maturity bond prices will decline and the yield curve will steepen.
2013-03-05 Absolute Return Letter: Expect the Unexpected by Niels Jensen, Nick Rees,Tricia Ward of Absolute Return Partners
With real interest rates being negative in many countries we expect low returns on both equities and bonds going forward. Many investors have responded to that by allocating more and more of their assets to passive strategies such as ETFs. We believe it is the wrong approach for this type of environment.
2013-03-04 Health Care Reform: A Q&A With Our Municipal Bond Experts by Shari Sikes, Art Schloss of Invesco
Health care reform took center stage in the last year as the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), affirming the constitutionality of portions of the law. The decision made it possible for major health care reform to proceed. This January, health care spending again was at the forefront during the fiscal cliff debate as a means to reduce government spending. Health care is poised to remain at the center of this discussion until a federal budget deal is reached.
2013-03-01 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
With the battle over sequestration going on in Washington, the President has made it clear he wants to raise more revenue. Just what does he have in mind? First, he would like to limit itemized deductions beginning at the 28% tax bracket. This means that taxpayers in the top three brackets would lose some of the benefit of their itemized deductions. Of course, these deductions have a phase out, so the effect may not be as great as is perceived.
2013-02-27 Understanding the Sequester by David Kelly, David Lebovitz of J.P. Morgan Funds
A recent survey conducted by The Hill found that only 36% of likely voters even knew what the term "sequester" meant. For the record, sequester in our current fiscal lexicon, refers to the $1.2 trillion of spending cuts spread out over the next 10 years that are set to commence on March 1, 2013. These cuts have the potential to impact both the markets and the economy. Although time still remains for a deal to be reached, it seems increasingly unlikely that this will actually occur, making it more likely that the effect of these spending cuts will be felt, at least temporarily.
2013-02-27 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
For a while it was obvious that the market had become overbought and was due for a selloff, all traders needed was an excuse, this past week they got two of them. First, the Fed hinted that QE might end and then Italian elections sparked uncertainty in Europe. Add those things in with the looming sequester and you have all the ingredients for a profit taking selloff. At this point this is all part of normal market machinations. The market doesn't go up in a straight line and it doesn't go down in a straight line.
2013-02-27 Ignore the Noise. Equities Offer Income Potential. by Joe Kringdon of Pioneer Investments
Common prospectus disclosure reads, "past performance is no guarantee of future results." Yet, this crowd of naysayers seems to be projecting the paranoia associated with the "lost decade(s)" onto the current environment and beyond. They are preparing for the future by fighting the last few wars all over again. Their sentiments and actions (or inactions) are emblematic of an American looking the wrong way for traffic on a London street. Given wrongfully configured context, these people are looking in the wrong direction for the wrong things. I continue to be positive on the equity markets.
2013-02-26 Can Advisors Add Value Through Fund Selection? by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Low-cost index funds will beat the average actively managed fund after expenses. But can advisors identify superior active funds to overcome this disadvantage? Advisors who believe they can choose those funds will be challenged by the results of two studies from the defined-contribution industry.
2013-02-26 What a 29-Year Old Can Teach You about Referrals by Dan Richards (Article)
It all started with a simple request that, as it turned out, was not so simple. The resulting encounter with a 29-year old account manager at a leading bank provided important lessons for advisors.
2013-02-22 January 2013 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
The municipal bond market continues to perform well in the face of significant political, financial and economic uncertainty, once again, demonstrating the importance of consistent, competitive tax-free cash flow. Municipal bonds proved to be one of the best performing asset classes during 2012.
2013-02-22 Understanding the Sequester by David Kelly, David Lebovitz of J.P. Morgan Funds
A recent survey conducted by The Hill found that only 36% of likely voters even knew what the term sequester meant1. For the record, sequester in our current fiscal lexicon, refers to the $1.2 trillion of spending cuts spread out over the next 10 years that are set to commence on March 1, 2013. These cuts have the potential to impact both the markets and the economy. Although time still remains for a deal to be reached, it seems increasingly unlikely that this will actually occur, making it more likely that the effect of these spending cuts will be felt, at least temporarily.
2013-02-20 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
Markets continued to move up this week in spite of looming Fiscal Cliff budget cuts. Everyone still expects a selloff but money continues to flow into the market as it has nowhere else to go.
2013-02-19 The Three Minutes that Cost a Million-Dollar Prospect by Dan Richards (Article)
Small investments of time often pay big dividends. That message was agonizingly clear to an advisor who wasted several minutes having a coffee at a Starbucks, when he should have been preparing for the prospect he was about to meet.
2013-02-19 Expanding the Toolkit for Monitoring Your Equity Managers by Markus Aakko, Andrew Pyne of PIMCO
Investors may want to consider active share when assessing whether and how their active equity managers add value beyond a passive benchmark. The methods for monitoring investment managers are well established. But given the importance of getting portfolio allocation right in a low-growth, low-return world, it's worth examining new ways to assess risk and value added. While tracking error has been held as a key measure for active risk, it may include elements that reflect market conditions rather than managers' actual decisions on risk.
2013-02-15 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
So, what is the top tax bracket next year? For couples with earnings over $450,000, it is 39.6%. Oh, no. We're sorry. It's potentially another 1.19% which is the amount that is added to the marginal rate due to the cut-backs in itemized deductions. Therefore, the top tax rate is 40.79%. Oh, no. We're sorry. You could also lose your personal exemptions, which will add as much as another 1.05%, so the top tax bracket is 41.84%. Oh, no. We're sorry. We forgot the Medicare surtax on high wage earners of 0.9%, making the top tax bracket 42.74%. Oh, no. We're sorry.
2013-02-14 Is Inflation Around the Next Corner? Then What? by Pete Sorrentino of Huntington Funds
As the Federal Reserve Board reiterates its intention to keep interest rates near zero into 2015, it appears that the markets and many investors are growing complacent about inflation. Ever since the Financial Crisis of 2007-08, "headline inflation," as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has stayed low so far. Although it has threatened to break out at times, economic weakness has restrained the price growth that underlies inflation.
2013-02-14 Pressure Points: Where Tax Reform Can Be Most Effective by Team of Knowledge @ Wharton
The deficit deal that averted the fiscal cliff crisis at the start of the year raised taxes on the wealthiest and postponed -- for two months -- government spending cuts that threatened to derail the economic recovery. But the problem remains: Spending far exceeds revenue. So what's to be done? Five Wharton faculty members offer their views.
2013-02-13 Weekly Market Review Notes by Team of Tuttle Tactical Management
After a decent selloff earlier in the month the market has continued to move up, but in very small increments. Most people seem convinced that we are due for another selloff, which seems to be tempering upside enthusiasm. On the other hand, there also doesn't seem to be any enthusiasm to sell.
2013-02-13 The Next Step to Increasing DC Plan Participation by Seth Masters of AllianceBernstein
Defined contribution (DC) plans can deliver benefits only if workers choose to participate. Unfortunately, about one in every five eligible US employees chooses not to, according to research from Aon Hewitt. So it's encouraging that 77% of DC plan sponsors stress the importance of increasing participation in their plans, according to a recent survey we conducted. Automatic enrollment has helped lift participation in many DC plans. But how can plans take the next step toward 100% participation?
2013-02-11 Brazil: Infrastructure Push Creating New Opportunities Across Sectors by Team of Thomas White International
Both corporates and the federal government have started investing heavily on overhauling Brazil's infrastructure.
2013-02-08 The Year in Review: 2012 by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Politicians crave the spotlight, but it is unfortunate that investors watch the show. 2012, like 2011, was another year in which Washington theatrics scared investors. As a result, investors largely missed out on above average equity returns. Corporate profits and valuations, and not Washington, continue to be the primary drivers of equity returns. We think there are several important points to consider when reviewing 2012 performance, and when structuring portfolios for 2013.
2013-02-06 Too Active, Too Passive: Too Little Understanding by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
The wealth management and institutional consulting communities have allowed indexing to be called "passive" investing and stock-picking disciplines to be called active management. This implies a mindless approach to indexing and a great deal of busyness to stock picking. We at Smead Capital Management believe these labels are at the heart of a great deal of confusion about what works and what doesn't work in both equity mutual funds and separately managed accounts.
2013-02-05 How Much Should the US Spend on Healthcare? by Michael Edesess (Article)
How much of GDP should be devoted to healthcare? And how high should the government-provided safety net be? Only after those questions are answered can the issue of how to change government policy be addressed – if indeed it needs to be changed at all.
2013-02-05 When Is a Small-Cap Fund Too Big? by Bruce Aronow of AllianceBernstein
Asset managers of all types frequently grapple with capacity issues. These questions are even more acute for a small-cap growth manager. Since small-cap stocks are seldom widely held and are thinly traded, it can be tricky to trade quickly when you need to. And growth managers tend to be bigger "consumers" of liquidity, because they're often competing with others to buy companies that are in favor by virtue of their strong fundamental momentum.
2013-02-04 Retirement Landscape: Cliff, Clamor, Clarity and (Dis)closure by Jon Vogler of Invesco
With the November election in the rearview mirror, it's a good time to scan the retirement landscape. What can plan sponsors and plan participants expect on the regulatory and legislative fronts in the coming year? While I don't claim to have a crystal ball, there are some likely developments on the near-term retirement horizon.
2013-02-01 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part III by Brian Singer of William Blair
The December 31 fiscal cliff was averted, but by the narrowest of conceivable margins. The resolution is consistent with our November analysis, but the narrowness leaves much to be resolved and prolongs uncertainty through March.
2013-01-31 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part II by Brian Singer of William Blair
Having set a framework using strategic decision theory to interpret the choices of US politicians in response to their incentives around the "ﬁscal cliff," we now similarly turn our attention to the incentives (or disincentives) around the choices facing investors. While the general rise of uncertainty around changes to the rules of a game slow down the decision making process of investors, we consider the implications of a shifting tax burden on longer run equity valuations.
2013-01-31 Q4 2012 Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
During the second half of 2012, central banks turned their massive and coordinated monetary intervention "up to eleven." This is the overwhelmingly dominant economic and market force today. Despite the long-term consequences (which are very real), we believe the central bankers commitment is steadfast. It has and will likely continue to mute both real economic and financial market volatility (at the expense of long-term growth). A deeper analysis of what has changed, our assessment of the impact, and our portfolio response follows.
2013-01-30 Fiscal Cliff: Making Decisions in Crisis Part I by Brian Singer of William Blair
Having lost touch with mainstream America, neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party enjoys much governing ability. Second, politicians struggle to function as leaders, regardless of competence, as a result of party disengagement. Third, left to their own devices, politicians will respond to their individual incentives. Bringing these observations together, neither party platform nor leadership vision will provide as much guiding force as the incentives of each politician, sometimes individually and other times in coalition.
2013-01-30 Weekly Market Commentary by Matthew Tuttle of Tuttle Tactical Management
The market continued to "melt up" this week. Everybody is expecting some sort of correction, but just like every time there is a consensus on something it never tends to happen. It is hard to envision the market having a massive continuation of this rally without some pullback, but we could easily continue to inch up for a while.
2013-01-29 Are Planners Worth the Fees they Charge? by Wade Pfau (Article)
Could financial advisors who offer comprehensive services be doing a better job? Two recent studies shed a positive light on the potential of the financial planning profession to do right by their clients.
2013-01-29 Letter to the Investment Committee by Emilio Vargas (Article)
The following is a thousand words on investing that will irritate most every investment professional. Most forms of active portfolio management incur fees, transaction costs and taxes. Whole industries exist due to these costs, and their proponents will argue that they are adding value. In aggregate they cannot; they are all costs. That I am proposing an investment that could take food from the mouths of the children of an army of accountants, brokers and investment professionals will, no doubt, cause them to find flaws in what follows.
2013-01-25 Cliff Dwellers by Stephen Taddie of Stellar Capital Management
In the ensuing days and weeks there will be plenty of opinions about what passed and what will continue to be negotiated in the drama known as the fiscal cliff. The spectacle of across-aisle dealings makes for a well rated "Reality" show (Fiscal Riff?), but poor ratings for both effectiveness and efficiency in governance. With US-centric issues in the forefront, the focus has been taken off the ongoing Euro Zone talks, which continue to plod along.
2013-01-23 Gun Control & How To Play Upcoming Debt Battles by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
Ever since the tragedy on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut occurred when Adam Lanza senselessly murdered 26 people (20 children and six staff) and then himself there has been a growing cry from millions of Americans for some kind of new gun controls. And the current occupant of the White House is all too happy to oblige. Last week, the president unveiled the most sweeping new gun control laws since the so-called Brady Bill was passed in 1993, requiring background checks on firearm purchasers in the US. Obama's proposals go much further as I will discuss.
2013-01-22 Keep Your Eye On The Ball - 2012 Year End Letter by Team of Sloan Wealth Management
The members of the Portfolio Management Team at Sloan Wealth Management (SWM) coach two baseball teams, two soccer teams, one T-ball team and one basketball team for our collective young children. Thus, we find ourselves stressing the basics. Learning the fundamentals of how to catch a pop-up will eliminate some of the fear of getting hit in the face. In 2012, we found many parallels to the capital markets as our portfolios posted high double digit returns in the face of fear.
2013-01-18 Quarterly Review and Outlook by Van Hoisington, Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management
The American Taxpayer Relief Act has lifted the immediate uncertainty of the fiscal cliff. Nevertheless, tax increases that are already in effect from this act, as well as the Affordable Care Act, impose a major obstacle to growth for the U.S. economy in the first half of 2013. The result of these taxes is considerable, especially in light of the poor trend in household income. In addition, these tax increases will continue to act as a drag on economic growth until late in 2015 and are unlikely to produce the revenue gains advertised.
2013-01-16 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
By now you may have read more than you care to about the changes to income taxes. We avoided rushing to get you something as so many others did, so that we could provide you with some comprehensive and practical information. It is a long read, but we hope you find it to be worth your time.
2013-01-16 Tax-Deferral Becomes More Urgent As Congress Seeks Fiscal Solutions by Mitchell Caplan of Jefferson National
Many Americans began the New Year relieved that the "fiscal cliff" had been averted, if only temporarily. But there is no escaping their biggest fearthat an increase in their federal tax bill is inevitable. Congress continues to hammer out the final details, but one thing is certain: anyone drawing a salary or receiving other income will be hit with more taxes. And the higher their income, the bigger the bite.
2013-01-15 Forecast 2013: Unsustainability and Transition by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
As we begin a new year, we again indulge ourselves in the annual rite of forecasting the year ahead. This year I want to look out a little further than just one year in order to think about the changes that are soon going to be forced on the developed world. We are all going to have to make a very agile adaptation to a new economic environment (and it is one that I will welcome). The transition will offer both crisis and loss for those mired in the current system, which must evolve or perish, and opportunity for those who can see the necessity for change and take advantage of the evolution.
2013-01-14 Equity Market Review & Outlook by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
While the S&P 500 Index posted a slightly negative fourth-quarter return, the Index's 16.0% return for all of 2012 was notable in the face of a long list of global fundamental concerns. Midcap and small cap stocks performed better during the ﬁnal three months of the year, posting gains of roughly 2.0%-3.0%. The fourth quarter outperformance of smaller stocks was enough to overtake the S&P 500 for the year, but just fractionally.
2013-01-11 Winter Quarterly Commentary by John Prichard of Knightsbridge Asset Management
While a last minute compromise may have been reached on taxes, it represents only a brief rest stop on a required road of repair. On the positive side, we should see less annual wrangling with tax rates having been made permanent, meaning they will not automatically change at some future date (but rather only when Congress feels like changing them), with many areas also sensibly indexed for inflation.
2013-01-10 Market Perspectives Q4 2012: Politics vs. Economics by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors
The major news of the quarter was that a fiscal cliff deal passed in the final hours of the 112th Congress and was signed by President Obama. The deal averts tax increases on most Americans and prevents large indiscriminate cuts in spending in many government programs. It also averted, by nearly universal consensus among macroeconomists, tipping the American economy into recession with attendant global implications.
2013-01-09 Financial Markets Review and Outlook: Fourth Quarter 2012 by Team of Managers Investment Group
As expected the fourth quarter economic landscape was dominated by the U.S. Presidential and Congressional elections and their collective impact on the fiscal cliff. After the elections were completed, markets nervously awaited the outcome of the fiscal cliff negotiations as economists generally predicted dire consequences for the U.S. economy in 2013 if a timely resolution was not reached by the end of the year.
2013-01-03 Beyond the Fiscal Cliff by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Politicians love the spotlight, but it is very unfortunate that investors watch the show. The drama of the so-called "fiscal cliff" has scared investors, and led them to miss a very good year in the equity market (the S&P 500's total return was 16.0% during 2012 versus the long-term annual average of 11.8%). It appears as though Washington wants to continue to dominate the headlines, which means that it may be more important than ever for investors to downplay Washington's theatrics.
2013-01-03 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!We don't know what you did on Monday night to ring in 2013, but the U.S. Senate was in session as they were attempting to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff".At 2:07 a.m. on New Year's Day the Senate passed a bill, 89 to 8, which does a number of different things.Then late that same morning, the House also passed the bill.We are going to touch on a few of the highlights in this opening Bullet and promise to give a more detailed analysis in our mid-month Bullets.
2013-01-03 Taking Care of Business, DC-Style, to Avert the Fiscal Cliff by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
No "grand bargain," but Congress got a deal done at the 13th hour to avert the fiscal cliff. The next two months will bring more DC wrangling and likely market angst, but we believe the outlook has brightened for the economy and market in 2013. The "wall of worry" is alive and well.
2012-12-28 Capitol "Cliffhanger": Thriller or Chiller? by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Whatever the outcome of the last-minute jockeying in Washington, meaningful fiscal reform remains unlikely.
2012-12-26 The Ten Key Benefits of Investment Committees by Bob Veres (Article)
In this first part of a two-part report, I'll identify ten core purposes that investment committees serve in different types of firms, ranking them in order of the number of responses I received. If your investment committee is serving all ten purposes, based on the survey, you're among a select minority - which means that many advisors may find new ways to use this versatile new tool in their RIA practices.
2012-12-26 Lessons from the Downfall of Lance Armstrong by Charlotte Beyer (Article)
The private wealth industry - where teams of elite advisors are trusted to safeguard the wealth of individuals and families and hold themselves to a fiduciary standard - can take several lessons from what happened at the Tour de France.
2012-12-18 Central Bank Insurance by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Possibly, the question I am asked the most is, "What do you think about gold?" While I have written brief bits about the yellow metal, I cannot remember the last time I devoted a full e-letter to the subject of gold. Longtime readers know that I am a steady buyer of gold, but to my mind that is different from being bullish on gold. In this week's letter we will look at some recent research on gold and try to separate some of the myths surrounding gold from the rationale as to why you might want to own some of the "barbarous relic," as Keynes called it.
2012-12-11 Shared Sacrifice by David Rosenberg (Article)
Now that everyone is focused like a laser beam on Fiscal Armageddon, it may be more appropriate to look at what is happening on Main Street rather than Washington. Looking ahead, it is going to be more about the economy, and taking it a step further, at times like these, it is important to understand where the real economic power resides, and this is with the people.
2012-12-11 The Next Generation of Income Guarantee Riders: Part 3 (The Income Phase) by Wade Pfau (Article)
In this third and final installment in my series on guarantee riders, I'll focus on the post-retirement income supported by income guarantee riders for variable annuities (VA/GLWBs), stand-alone living benefit riders (SALBs), and an unguaranteed portfolio of mutual funds. I'll highlight how differences among these products affect their end results, while also investigating what roles guarantees can most appropriately play in a retirement portfolio.
2012-12-10 Dwelling on a "Cliff" Deal by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
After the brinksmanship runs its course, Congress will jury-rig a fiscal compromise.
2012-12-07 3 Implications of a Fiscal Cliff Tax Hike by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
From the outside, its hard to find much evidence that Washington is getting closer to a fiscal cliff deal. Perhaps there is more going on behind the scenes than the headlines suggest, but as of today it is hard to find much evidence that the odds of a deal have risen. As the potential for fiscal drag rises, it is worth reiterating why this is so dangerous. From my perspective, the biggest risk to the economy, and to financial markets, comes from the tax side of the equation.
2012-12-04 Nate Silver's Message for Financial Advisors by Ben Huebscher and Michael Edesess (Article)
By now you are likely aware that Nate Silver of the New York Times correctly predicted the results for all 50 states (plus DC) in this year's presidential election and all but two Senate races. Silver's predictive capabilities across a range of disciplines have made him a near-deity among those whose livelihood depends on accurate forecasting - from poker players to counter-terrorism units. It's clear why: His methods work - at least in some cases. And their strengths and limitations carry important lessons for financial advisors.
2012-11-30 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Last year the post office lost almost $15 billion. You would think that postal rates would be going up, and they are. Effective January 27, 2013, the price of a first class stamp will increase to 46 while a postcard will increase to 33. Both are a one penny increase. Does the post office really think this will make a difference? We hope you have a lot of those "forever" stamps.
2012-11-29 Small-Caps Pack Big Punch in Emerging Markets by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
In October, the International Monetary Fund painted a gloomier picture for global investors, as it projected slower growth due to slumping world trade and uncertainty in the West. Despite the forecast, big gains can still be unlocked in the faster-growing emerging markets. We believe the smaller stocks are holding the key.
2012-11-28 Idiosyncratic Risk...and the Other Kind by Jeffrey Bronchick of Cove Street Capital
If the recent election demonstrated anything of relevance to an investor, it should have been the beginning of the end of the tyranny of the "catalyst." The day before the election, an investor could have legitimately been worried about any number of micro, macro, domestic or global issues. And yet the sun rose, work was attended to by those who have jobs, markets opened, fell, and closed and the collective attention moved to the next "perceived" catalyst-the so-called fiscal cliff. Calling Roseanne Roseannadanna.
2012-11-21 Patriotic Millionaires Unmasked by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
Despite the breathless post-election "think pieces" that have drawn sweeping and deeply considered conclusions about the political drift of the country, at its core President Obama's re-election is easy to understand. He essentially promised millions of middle and working class voters that if he were to be re-elected, they would receive benefits paid for by the rich.While most people would assume that the wealthy would chafe at such a heavy burden, some affluent individuals have apparently organized spontaneously to express their willingness to help the country.
2012-11-20 Are Inflation-Adjusted Annuities Right for Clients? The Product and Its Prospects by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Many economists and retirement experts favor inflation-adjusted SPIAs, but advisors and the investing public have never shared their enthusiasm. Detractors contend that the product is fundamentally flawed and will never gain broad acceptance. My own view is more optimistic, but significant obstacles will, nonetheless, continue to impede wider adoption.
2012-11-20 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Readers respond to our articles, The Downside to Socially Responsible Investing, which appeared last week, and, Lacy Hunt on Our Economic Future, which appeared on November 6.
2012-11-20 Favoring France: The Newest Bright Spot in Europe by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Europe may be stabilizing, but it's not out of the woods yet. One bright spot on the continent? France. Russ explains why he would now overweight the country's equities.
2012-11-20 When is the Turkey Supposed to Arrive? by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
This Thanksgiving week historically has not been a turkey in the markets. Since 1950, stocks have advanced the day before and after the holiday 76% of the time. Yet, this year the turkey in the financial markets seems to have arrived early. Stocks as measured by the S&P 500 Index have fallen 5.1% since the Tuesday Election Day close.
2012-11-19 Will the "Cliff" Steal Christmas? by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Probably not. Here's how a last-minute deal on spending cuts and tax hikes could work.
2012-11-16 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
With the elections behind us, we must now look ahead to the next six weeks of a Lame Duck Congress. Given the fact that the President was re-elected, the Republicans maintained control of the House, and the Democrats gained in the Senate, we know there will either be collaboration or chaos in Washington. The positioning has already started. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
2012-11-16 Obstacles to a Lasting Recovery: The Liquidity, Hesitancy & Solvency Traps by Thomas Fahey of Loomis Sayles
Those familiar symptoms are back again to start the summer: risk aversion; falling equity prices; rising volatility; record-low German and US government bond yields; wider credit spreads; a European country getting picked on; and a stronger US dollar. We have seen this bad movie twice before, during the summers of 2010 and 2011.
2012-11-15 November 2012 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
In light of the approaching fiscal cliff and likely changes to the US tax code, we continue to believe that municipal bonds offer some of the most attractive risk- adjusted return potential available in the market today.
2012-11-14 Helplessly Hoping...That a Market Riot Isn't Needed for Fiscal Cliff Fix by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
A status-quo election puts the "fiscal cliff" front and center. The stock market's knee-jerk reaction was to sell; could further weakness light a fire under politicians? Good news has come from recent economic numbers, but sentiment will remain under pressure until the fiscal cliff is resolved.
2012-11-13 How Well Does the Next Generation of Guarantee Riders Protect Your Income? Part 2 - Starting the Inc by Wade Pfau (Article)
Unlike traditional VA/GLWBs, the future payments from stand-alone income riders are tied to 10-year Treasury rates. That's bad news for retirees, who may find their future benefits compromised if interest rates remain at historically low levels - regardless of how the stock market performs.
2012-11-13 The Downside to Socially Responsible Investing by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Who wouldn't want a cleaner environment or a more just society? We can all agree these are worthy goals. But it's an established fact that pursuing them through one's investing is costly; environmental-, social- and governance-based investing (ESG) does fine on a gross basis, but loses money net of fees. Now, a recently published paper argues that that ESG is basically a waste of time.
2012-11-13 Harvard's #1 Strategy Guru on the Key Decision for Your Business by Dan Richards (Article)
Competition has brought many once-dominant names to the brink of survival - General Motors, Kodak, Sears and Xerox. Michael Porter, Harvard's top expert on strategy, explains why advisors ignoring the important lesson here do so at their peril.
2012-11-13 Quarterly Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
The multiple hurricanes of fiscal deficits and monetary malfeasance are headed our way. Unfortunately, financial market models that seek to assess the magnitude, direction, and timing of economic tempests are far less precise than those of our scientific brethren. So, we prepare for the worst, but we dont immediately evacuate. There are still plenty of opportunities for solid investment returns and we will describe two new investments in the pages that follow. Yet, the risks are real, as we have discussed frequently in these letters, so our overall portfolio structure remains conservative.
2012-11-13 Sequestration - What It Means for the Municipal Bond Market by Michael Taylor of Columbia Management
If Congress fails to quickly reach an agreement on deficit reductions, automatic cuts to federal discretionary spending (sequestration) are scheduled to take effect January 2, 2013. On September 14, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its report detailing how it would implement sequestration, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Act). Designed to impact defense and non-defense (domestic) program budgets equally, most agencies are subject to cuts between 7% and 11% over the next decade. The exception is Medicare which is subject to a 2% cut.
2012-11-13 Seeking Shelter from the Storm? Consider Mega Caps by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Russ Koesterich discusses how mega cap stocks are attractively valued and may be more resilient to the impact of the potential fiscal cliff.
2012-11-05 Three Men Make a Tiger by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In a few hours we will know the outcome of the US elections (hopefully without a repeat of 2000!). So, given that eventuality, why should we bother to explore the rather significant disparity in the models being used to create the polls to predict the outcome of the elections? Because doing so will help us understand why the models we use to predict the effects on our investments of market behavior and macroeconomics so often fail us, and why we should approach the use of such models with a full measure of wariness and skepticism.
2012-10-31 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Hurricane Sandy rocked the East Coast on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, causing the stock exchange to be closed on Monday and Tuesday. It has re-opened today, October 31st. More importantly, however, given the strength and size of the storm, the loss of life was not nearly as great as it could have been. To all of our clients, colleagues, friends, family, and others in the region, we had you in our thoughts and prayers and we hope everyone is safe and that any inconveniences caused by the storm are not significant in nature.
2012-10-30 The Next Generation of Income Guarantee Riders: Part 1 - The Deferral Phase by Wade Pfau (Article)
Clients no longer need to move their assets to a variable annuity with a rider to guarantee lifetime withdrawal benefits, thanks to the RetireOne stand-alone living benefit (SALB) rider from Aria Retirement Solutions, which can be applied to a portfolio of mutual funds and ETFs. Despite this enticing promise, however, the SALB may not offer as much downside protection as advisors and clients expect.
2012-10-25 October 2012 Newsletter by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz Wealth Management
Oh the joys of driving to a baseball game; sitting in endless traffic four miles from the stadium, inching past full lot after full lot, or not finding your car when it's time to go home (was it D-4 or 404 Green?). Now you can streamline your parking experience with ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based company that's recently gone national. This and other missives from Harold Evensky.
2012-10-23 How to Change the Regulatory Debate - Before it's Too Late by Bob Veres (Article)
After almost a decade of lobbying, arguing, and posturing, the long fight on Capitol Hill over who will regulate RIAs and how to define 'fiduciary' is approaching a close. Within the next six months, there will no longer be any real excuse to put off a decision, and new players, both in Congress and at the SEC, will be eager to start fresh.
2012-10-23 October Surprises by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
Ever since President Lyndon Johnson announced on October 30, 1968 that he was halting the bombing of North Vietnam and intensifying talks with the Viet Cong, there has been fear or hope for an October Surprise in Presidential election years. Back then, it was believed the intention was to help Johnson's Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, win the Presidency. And it almost did, as Humphrey quickly moved up in the polls, although losing six days later by a narrow 0.7% of the popular vote.
2012-10-23 Weekly Market Commentary by Scotty George of du Pasquier Asset Management
Instinct tells us that a heightened focus upon negative influences yields a self-fulfilling prophecy, a result which is either negative or perceived to be negative. Conversely, an inordinate predisposition with "good news" yields a new normal, a world where everything piggy-backs upon unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately, markets fall victim, too, to this kind of either/or thinking and sometimes rupture the performance of investment portfolios built upon an "all-in" methodology
2012-10-22 The "Fiscal Cliff" and the Election by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
The fiscal cliff looms large. It should. Unless Washington does something, the 2013 budget will face a sudden and automatic fiscal restraint. The shock would almost certainly drive this economy's already enfeebled recovery into recession. It is an alarming prospect, to be sure, but still, likelihoods suggest that even this partisan Congress will steer clear of such a "cliff."
2012-10-19 Fall Quarterly Commentary by John Prichard of Knightsbridge Asset Management
It was a busy quarter for central bankers. A surprise statement during July by European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, moved markets: "Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the Euro... and believe me, it will be enough." These words sparked an immediate and sharp turnaround in European bond yields (down) and world equities. Not to be outdone, Fed Chairman Bernanke announced QE3 on September 13th, promising to continue purchasing bonds, thereby increasing the money supply, until employment conditions improve.
2012-10-17 Banks Punished For Central Bank and Political Errors by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
In recent decades politicians have increasingly followed the Keynesian prescription of economic growth through continued government borrowing and the creation of undreamt of amounts of fiat money by central banks. To facilitate this process, the larger commercial banks have acted as the central banks' de facto distribution system, and as a result have grown ever larger while accepting progressively greater risks.
2012-10-15 Equity Market Review & Outlook by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
Global equity markets performed well in the third quarter after posting modest losses in the second quarter. The soft second quarter, which followed back-to-back double-digit quarterly gains, proved to be a pause rather than a signal that the equity bull market was ending. Though defensive sectors garnered favor in the second quarter, economically sensitive sectors have generally led performance this year, with technology, financials and consumer discretionary topping the list year to date.
2012-10-15 Bond Market Review & Outlook by Thomas Fahey of Loomis Sayles
Aggressive policy responses from major central banks were dominant forces in the third quarter. The European Central Bank (ECB), Federal Reserve (Fed), Bank of Japan (BoJ) and other central banks took decisive action, prompted by the escalating European sovereign debt crisis, slowing global growth, ﬁnancial market volatility, and the impending US "ﬁscal cliff."
2012-10-15 Economic Singularity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is considerable disagreement throughout the world on what policies to pursue in the face of rising deficits and economies that are barely growing or at stall speed. Both sides look at the same set of realities and yet draw drastically different conclusions. Both sides marshal arguments based on rigorous mathematical models "proving" the correctness of their favorite solution, and both sides can point to counterfactuals that show the other side to be insincere or just plain wrong.
2012-10-15 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Some recent research by InvesTech Research shows that the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average can indicate who will win the White House. James Stack, President of InvesTech recently released a study that showed in elections since 1900 90% of the time the Dow has correctly predicted the outcome of the election based on its returns from Labor Day until Election Day. If the Dow posts a positive return during this time period, the party in power keeps the White House and if the return is negative, they do not
2012-10-12 The Fiscal Cliff and Your Portfolio by Travis Fairchild, Patrick O'Shaughnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
Whether or not we find ourselves staring over the fiscal cliff come January 1 is still very much in question, but investors are understandably concerned with what the resultant tax increases may mean for their portfolio values and dividend income. If Congress is unable to reach a compromise between now and January 2013, President Bush's 2003 tax cuts will expire and tax rates on income, dividends, and capital gains will increase by significant margins.
2012-10-12 Teetering on the Edge? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Concerns about a possible US recession remain elevated in light of the pending "fiscal cliff," resulting in some lackluster stock market action. The fiscal cliff and uncertainty around tax and regulatory policy appear to be influencing business decisions to the detriment of economic growth. While worst-case scenarios for Europe may have been taken off the table by the ECB, Spain's reluctance to ask for aid is causing consternation. And although we see continued weak growth in China, signs indicate the global slowdown may be turning around.
2012-10-09 We Need a Bold Solution to Fix the Retirement System by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Our retirement system is broken. The average American isn't saving enough to comfortably retire, and the fault lies in our reliance on defined-contribution (DC) plans, such as 401(k)s. Tinkering with DC plans won't solve the problem, and the other extreme - a federally mandated guarantee - isn't likely to gain support. But a number of compromises that lie between those approaches offer a better way forward for future generations.
2012-10-09 The Yin and Yang of 2012 Stock Markets Through September by Ron Surz (Article)
Despite investor concerns about the economy, stock markets delivered substantial returns in the year-to-date, with the S&P 500 returning more than 16% and Europe, Australasia, Far East (the EAFE index) delivering more than 10%. This growth has been in the face of investor withdrawals from equity mutual funds. So if mutual fund investors are selling, who is buying?
2012-10-09 A Case Study of a Fiduciary Breakdown by Robert Rafter, Matt Sommer of Janus Capital Group
A recent case offers several lessons for Plan Sponsors and Service Providers. One of the most critical issues in the case was the failure of the company to follow its own Investment Policy Statement. This case illustrates the need for plans to create a proper process for Fiduciary Risk Management - emphasizing the Investment Policy Statement as the foundation for a prudent process.
2012-10-09 Riding Into The Sunset or a Brick Wall? by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Precious Metals
A month ago, I presented the case for why Fed Chairman Bernanke would have strong motivation to launch another round of quantitative easing (QE) before the election. In short, it would save him his job. Now, I didn't predict with certainty that he would do so - only the few men at the FOMC knew that for sure - but it seemed likely. Shortly thereafter, Bernanke not only announced more stimulus, but promised to keep it flowing to the tune of an additional $40 billion a month until conditions improve.
2012-10-08 The Great Debate by John Petrides (Article)
The first of three presidential debates kicked off last week with each candidate portraying the core fundamentals of their respective party, neither of which backed down from their beliefs. As the candidates continue to jockey for sound bites, a debate among investors continues to rage: What will happen to the market after the election?
2012-10-05 Market Respite by Richard Michaud of New Frontier Advisors
In a period of looming macroeconomic risks and great investor uncertainty the quarter resulted in solid gains in most global equity markets. The Dow was up 4.3%, the S&P 500 5.8% and the NASDAQ 6.2% for the quarter. Year-to-date the Dow was up 10%, the S&P 14.5% and the NASDAQ 19.6%. The news internationally was encouraging though mixed with European indices up 8% for the quarter and 11.8% for the year while Pacific indices were up 2% for the quarter and 7.4% for the year.
2012-10-04 Thrown in Over Their Heads: Understanding 401(k) Participant Risk Tolerance vs. Risk Capacity by Stacy Schaus, Ying Gao of PIMCO
Our analysis suggests as investors in target-date strategies near retirement they become more attuned to market swings. We believe 401(k) plans cannot succeed if participants jump out of markets at the bottom and possibly miss a rebound. Plans need to have tolerable downside risk, so participants can ride the market waves. The way to manage target-date assets, in our view, is to focus first on the risk capacity of participants relative to meeting an income goal. We ask, how much of one's final income will need to be replaced in retirement?
2012-10-04 Nothing's Perfect by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
On September 21, the Apple iPhone 5 made its debut simultaneously on four continents. Its first weekend saw over five million in sales! And the current inventory was sold out within a week a perfect product introduction. Wellnot quite. Soon articles like iPhone 5′s Biggest Problems started showing up, talking about scratching, chipped exteriors, lens flares and others. Then there were complaints about its faulty Maps application that even drew a rare corporate apology last week. It just proves the point of this weeks Hotline: Nothings Perfect.
2012-10-02 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Two readers respond to Rob Arnott's commentary, The Glidepath Illusion, which was published on September 25. A reader responds to Adam Apt's article, How to Build a Portfolio, which appeared last week.
2012-10-02 The Risk in Safety by Greg Nejmeh of HS Management Partners
The "risk on/risk off" sound bite is routinely applied by financial commentators when attempting to explain inexplicable market fluctuations. As the pendulum oscillates between greed (risk on) and fear (risk off), the fulcrum the pivot point where the scale rests in perfect balance can best be characterized as safety. It is from that state of equilibrium that the market begins each trading day...
2012-09-29 Uncertainty and Risk in the Suicide Pool by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
Investors in the stock market, especially professionals, are obsessed with risk, your humble analyst included. We try to measure risk in any number of ways, looking for an edge to improve our returns. Not only do we try to determine probable outcomes, we also look for the 'fat tail' events, those things that can happen which are low in probability but will have a large impact on our returns.
2012-09-28 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
The median household income adjusted for inflation is now around $50,000 for a "typical" American family. This is 8% below the all-time high, which was set in 2007. Driving these results, as reported by the Census Bureau, was the fact that 80% of Americans saw their household incomes decline, or at a minimum, remain the same, while the top 20% saw their incomes increase by 1.6%. Depending upon which side of the political spectrum you are on, an argument could be made for the policies of either President Obama or Governor Romney.
2012-09-28 Schwab Market Perspective: Disrespected RallyCan It Continue? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
US equities are trading near five-year highs but numerous measures show investors remain skeptical. The enthusiasm following the Fed's announcement of more quantitative easing was short-lived, although the summer rally in stocks could be at least partially attributed to anticipation of more stimulus. The enthusiasm following the Fed's announcement of more quantitative easing was short-lived, although the summer rally in stocks could be at least partially attributed to anticipation of more stimulus.
2012-09-27 Gold Stocks or Apple: Which Holds a Place in Your Portfolio? by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
In a battle between the largest gold exchange traded fund and the biggest tech stock, which investment would get your vote? Would you choose gold because of the macroeconomic factors supporting the rise of the precious metal? Or do you put your money on Apple because of its overwhelming popularity?
2012-09-27 Dividend Yield vs. Dividend Growth by Ashvin Viswanathan of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
Investor demand for high-yielding companies has grown even stronger because of the perception that these companies are more defensive and recent news that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has extended its forecast of low rates until 2015. We believe buying a portfolio of high-quality, global, market-leading companies with superior valuations and high dividend yields provides investors with an excellent opportunity to consistently beat the market, while providing high income relative to fixed income securities in the current environment.
2012-09-25 Value Investing in a Macro-Driven Environment by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The GoodHaven Fund (GOODX) is managed by Larry Pitkowsky and Keith Trauner. For most of the previous decade, Larry and Keith held research, portfolio management, and executive positions with the Fairholme Fund. I spoke with them last week.
2012-09-25 How to Build a Portfolio by Adams Jared Apt (Article)
This is the first of a set of three articles intended for the educated layman, in which I will combine the core ideas presented in my preceding articles into a comprehensive description of how to put together a portfolio. In this one, I'll explain what is often called Modern Portfolio Theory.
2012-09-25 The Beginning of Fall Blues by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
I only have time for a short note today. It's probably a reflection of the shorter days that fall ushers in or maybe the increased pace of business that the end of summer vacations seems to ignite. Speaking of seasons, the market weakness we saw last week is just what our Political Seasonality Index has been suggesting that the stock market might have in store for us in this period.
2012-09-21 Short-term Gratification and Long-term Return by Francois Sicart of Tocqueville Asset Management
Over time, I have tried to learn from my investment experiences. As a result, my style has become influenced less by greed and fear and more by patience and realism. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned and passed along.
2012-09-21 The Volatility Risk Premium by Graham Rennison, Niels Pedersen of PIMCO
Amid elevated global macroeconomic uncertainty and market turbulence, investors are searching for ways to diversify portfolios with non-traditional asset classes. Volatility risk premium strategies aim to capture a return premium over time as compensation for the risk of losses during sudden increases in market volatility. We believe investors seeking to diversify their equity risk exposures should consider adding volatility risk premium strategies to their portfolios, albeit with appropriate diversification across major option markets, active risk management and prudent scaling.
2012-09-19 Global Investment Bulletin by Team of Bedlam Asset Management
If America's Federal Reserve Bank were a battleship, it is losing off every available piece of ordnance. The portfolio has been positioned for such an event. The USS Fed does not know who or where the enemy is, or whether its attack will hit anything for several quarters.
2012-09-19 Bank Loans: Looking Beyond Interest Rate Expectations by John Bell, Kevin Perry of Loomis Sayles
Fixed income investors may be stymied by the current mix of interest rate projections and global macroeconomic news. Interest rates remain near historical lows, and investors continue to move between risky assets and relative safe havens like Treasurys based on the latest market headlines. We believe that bank loans can be a compelling addition to fixed income portfolios in this environment and, more importantly, over the long term.
2012-09-19 Farmland: The New Gold? by Randy Bateman of Huntington National Bank
Yes, it's just 'dirt', but life on this planet wouldn't exist as it does today unless it didn't comprise a third of the world's surface. Unfortunately much of that 'dirt' is in areas too wet, dry, rocky, salty, devoid of nutrients, or covered by snow for agricultural production. With only 14 percent of the world's landmass considered fertile, and that shrinking at a significant pace, there's a realization that increased farm production is essential to satisfy the increasing demand for food products.
2012-09-18 The Trend is Your Friend by Keith C. Goddard, CFA (Article)
John Hussman's recent market commentary, The Trend is Your Fickle Friend, highlighted the limitations of trend-following investment strategies that rely on moving-average crossover rules as a primary filter. But an extensive study conducted by our firm demonstrated that a simple moving-average crossover system outperforms buy-and-hold, while reducing drawdown risk and volatility.
2012-09-18 Your Clients' Toughest Retirement Decision by Wade Pfau (Article)
Want to trigger an impassioned debate? Ask a group of advisors about the choice between systematic withdrawal plans and single-premium immediate annuities. Fee-only advisors are loath to cede control of client assets to an insurance company that might someday default, while annuity advocates fire back that only their strategies provide a lifetime income guarantee.
2012-09-18 Recognize the Relative Advantages of Natural Resource Equities vs. Commodities by RS Investments (Article)
This RS Investments research brief examines how shifts in commodity fundamentals presents the case for employing natural resource equities as a means to benefit from favorable long-term secular trends, while achieving superior risk-adjusted returns, similar diversification benefits, and more reliable inflation protection relative to commodities.
2012-09-14 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
It is a heads I wintails you lose - scenario for American farmers. Everyone has heard about the drought throughout the U.S. being the worst since the 50s. However, dont feel too badly for the farmers as their net income will hit a record $122 billion this year. How can that possibly be, given all of the crops drying up? Easy. Since the supply is down and demand remains the same, the price has jumped dramatically and has offset the loss of yield per acre.
2012-09-13 Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is: Polls versus Prediction Markets in Predicting Election Results by Kane Cotton of Bellatore Financial, Inc.
Did you hear? There's an election coming. Just kidding. I'm sure that, by now, most readers feel as if theyve been in a pinball machine, being bombarded from side to side with rhetoric from both political aisles as well as their PACs and the media. Today, we look at the current odds as they stand in two markets.
2012-09-11 Can Our Retirement System be Fixed? by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Google 'Teresa Ghilarducci' and you'll find countless references to her as the most dangerous woman in America. That dubious distinction stems from her 2008 book, When I'm Sixty-Four, in which she advocated replacing voluntary 401(k) plans with government-mandated savings accounts. Ghilarducci was attempting to address a problem that thus far has eluded solution, so it's important to consider her arguments, which have drawn praise from some quarters, too.
2012-09-11 A Lesson in Damage Control (Ron Rhoades, This One's for You) by Wendy J. Cook (Article)
Mistakes. Bigger or smaller, sooner or later, we all make them. With meteoric speed, one goof-up can leave a gaping crater in a firm's otherwise stellar reputation. Ron Rhoades provided a case in point when he recently withdrew from becoming the next NAPFA chairperson after becoming entangled in a minor regulatory problem. Ron's actions provide a lesson for dealing with a situation where your judgment lapsed and the damage is done.
2012-09-11 Dividend Focused ETFs Don't Offer a Free Lunch, but They Let You Snack along the Way by Kane Cotton of Bellatore Financial, Inc.
There is no free lunch in investing! These words ring true, on average, over time for most investors. After all, investing is a trade off between growth and price as well as risk and return. The higher the expected future growth of a stock, the more likely it will be that investors have to pay a higher price (P/E) to get a piece of that future growth.
2012-09-10 When Bad Is Good by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Faith in the Fed is growing more devout. Despite another disappointing jobs report, stocks drifted higher Friday to close out a strong week for the major averages as investors pinned their hopes to an imminent policy move from central bankers. It is becoming more apparent every day that the U.S. economy is sputtering. While housing appears to have stabilized, jobs and manufacturing are areas of concern.
2012-09-08 Debt Be Not Proud by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
The unemployment numbers came out yesterday, and the drums for more quantitative easing are beating ever louder. The numbers were not all that good, but certainly not disastrous. But any reason will do, if what you want is more stimulus to boost the markets ever higher. Today we will look first at the employment numbers, because deeper within the data is a real story. Then we look at how effective any monetary stimulus is likely to be.
2012-09-06 Laboring a Point by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
Right before Labor Day each year we are treated to a major policy speech at the Federal Reserve Board's meeting of the Fed's Open Market Committee. In 2010, we were treated to suggestions from Chairman Bernanke that a new period of Quantitative Easing was near. And sure enough, the Federal Reserve announced QE2 on October 22nd of that year.
2012-09-06 August 2012 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
On a year-to-date basis the municipal bond market has, once again, delivered meaningful returns both on an absolute and risk adjusted basis. While the market yield and or cash flow of a bond is typically very important to investors, it is equally important to remember that the income a bond produces is only one component of a bonds return. Investors must consider several other essential elements of a security to properly quantify a bonds relative value.
2012-09-05 The Lending Lindy by Bill Gross of PIMCO
Our entire finance-based monetary system led by banks but typified by insurance companies, investment management firms and hedge funds as well is based on an acceptable level of carry and the expectation of earning it. In a New Normal economy where lenders dance to the Blue Danube instead of the Lindy, how should we move our own feet? Carefully, I suppose, and with recognition that historic returns are just that historic.
2012-09-04 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
At one time during the dotcom craze, the NASDAQ closed over 5000, but, as it tumbled downward, it last crossed the 3000 mark on December 11, 2000; that is until it crossed that mark on March 13, 2012, or 11.25 years later. My, how the times have changed! The income tax was introduced in the U.S. in 1913. This means that when we file our taxes on April 15, 2013 for the year 2012, it will be the 100th year that income taxes have been paid.
2012-09-01 The Case for Emerging Europe by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
If history had turned out differently, the USSR wouldve taken home the most Olympic medals this year, as the total awarded to athletes from the area was 163, according to a blog on Foreign Policys website. As we all know, the Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed, and now Russia has to be content with its third-place position of 82 medals. Athletes from the United States were awarded the most medals (104), followed by participants from China, who took home 88.
2012-08-30 The Calm Before the Storm? by Jerry Wagner of Flexible Plan Investments
I know these are the dog days of summer, a time that Jack London captured perfectly in the quote here. Nothing much is happening in the financial world as summer draws to a close. There was little news from Europe. The last of earnings reporting season is behind us, and while the results were the worst since the rally began in March of 2009, they were not terrible.
2012-08-29 A Two-Pronged Case for Holding Gold by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Gold continues to benefit from today's low interest rate monetary climate, and Russ says its diversifying effects mean the metal can be a valuable risk management tool for investors.
2012-08-28 Who Benefits from High-Speed Trading? by Michael Edesess (Article)
Speed is a virtue in most competitive pursuits; the combination of speed and accuracy is almost always the ultimate advantage. No one knows this better than the purveyors of high-speed trading technology, who have profited mightily -not only by executing rapid-fire algorithmic trades, but also by exploiting the arcane rules that govern the stock exchanges. But at whose expense are they profiting, and how long is their advantage likely to persist?
2012-08-28 Tomatoes and the Low Vol Effect by Ryan Larson of Research Affiliates
For the past 40 years, investors have focused on how much their returns varied from both a benchmark and their peers. Given the volatility of recent years, some investors are thinking about returning to a different approach to riskthe risk of losing money. This shift in thinking requires a very different approach to equity investing.
2012-08-28 Permanent Portfolio Shakedown Part 2 by Adam Butler and Mike Philbrick of Butler|Philbrick|Gordillo & Associates
In our Permanent Portfolio Shakedown Part 1 we investigated the history of the approach, tracing it back to Harry Browne in 1982. The company he helped to found, The Permanent Portfolio Family of Funds, has been running their version of the strategy in a mutual fund for almost 30 years, with fairly impressive results. Harry's thoughts about the portfolio are worth repeating in this second installment.
2012-08-27 Homeownership Plunges to Lowest Rate in Almost 50 Years by Sean Fergus of John Burns Real Estate Consulting
The "real" homeownership rate, which we define to be the percentage of households who own a home and are not 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgage, has fallen to 62.1%, which is the lowest level in almost 50 years.
2012-08-27 FPA Crescent: Steve Romick's Semi-Annual Report by Steven Romick of FPA Fund
FPA Crescent Fund has released its Semi-Annual report on the state of the fund and its investments. The piece also delves into portfolio manager Steve Romick's market outlook and thoughts regarding the fund's positioning moving forward.
2012-08-25 Boomers are Breaking the Deal by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
We look at the trends in employment as well as take note of a signpost we passed on the way to finding out that we cant pay for all the future entitlements we have been promised.
2012-08-17 How Change Happens by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
This is an encore appearance of the letter that is clearly the most popular one I have ever written, updated with a few thoughts from recent times (it was also part of a chapter in Endgame). Numerous reviewers have stated that this one letter should be read every year. As you read, or reread, Ill be enjoying a week off.
2012-08-16 The ECB Is Too Tight Absolutely and Relatively by Scott Mather, Dirk Jeschke of PIMCO
Looking at measures of the quantity of money and its transmission into the real economy reveals that ECB policy is quite tight. Growth hardly stands a chance under this scenario. Relatively tight monetary policy would perhaps be understandable if the eurozone were threatened by inflation. However, inflation is low and falling in the Eurozone. The ECB may be playing a game of chicken with European policymakers. If true, this is a dangerous strategy.
2012-08-14 Blind Faith by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Central banks are facing political and practical obstacles that will render it very difficult for them to deliver anything more than anodyne words and actions as summer moves into the always dangerous August holiday season. IPhones should be kept on alert at the beach through Labor Day.
2012-08-14 Advisor Website Calls to Action: Going the Extra Mile by Wendy J. Cook (Article)
To quote Ricky Minor's clever book title, "There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile." One way you can go that extra mile is by using your website as more than just a calling card, incorporating creative calls to action to more proactively invite site visitors to be in touch with you.
2012-08-14 Letters to the Editor - Bob Veres on AUM-based Fees by Various (Article)
Several readers respond to Bob Veres' article, The Alternative to AUM-Based Fees: The Total Profitability Retainer Formula, which appeared on July 31.
2012-08-14 This Is What Bull Markets Are All About by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Investors have the impression that bull markets are days of wines and roses. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Bull markets are periods of fear. This becomes quite obvious when one examines the valuation and sentiment data associated with the 1982, 1990, 1995, and 2003 bull markets.
2012-08-11 And Then There Is Disaster C by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
I have contended for some time that Europe is faced with two choices: Disaster A, which is the break-up of the eurozone, or Disaster B, which is the creation of a fiscal union, which keeps the euro more or less intact. Over the last few months I have come to realize that there is indeed a third option, which now looks increasingly possible. European leaders might do nothing more than deal with the problem immediately in front of them, moving from crisis to crisis in a slow-motion drift toward fiscal union.
2012-08-10 Schwab Sector Views: Cautiously Cautious by Brad Sorensen of Charles Schwab
We remain slightly defensive with our sector recommendations but admit that we're a bit concerned over doing so. While we certainly believe this is the appropriate positioning given the continued elevated uncertainty in the market, combined with sluggish economic data, we also acknowledge that some defensive areas appear extended and the possibility of a near-term cyclically-based rally exists.
2012-08-07 Why Hedge Funds Destroy Investor Wealth by Michael Edesess (Article)
If all the money that's ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in Treasury bills instead, the results would have been twice as good. So claims Simon Lack - a former JPMorgan executive whose job was once to help steer billions into hedge funds - in his recent book, The Hedge Fund Mirage: The Illusion of Big Money and Why It's Too Good to Be True. You'd think hedge fund advocates would immediately pounce on this and refute it; but it's irrefutable.
2012-08-07 Robert Shiller on the Social Benefits of Finance by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)
It's a bad sign for the finance industry that one of its leading minds - the distinguished Yale economist Robert Shiller - has felt compelled to write a book in order to defend the idea that finance itself is a constructive pursuit, worthwhile to modern society. Have things really gotten that bad?
2012-08-07 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Bob Veres' article, The Alternative to AUM-Based Fees: The Total Profitability Retainer Formula , which was published last week.
2012-08-03 Is Buy-and-Hold Dead? by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
If one searches in Google for Does buy-and-hold work?, more than 191 million results will appear.If one searches for Is buy-and-hold dead?, more than 81 million results will appear.However, if one searches for Successful buy-and-hold strategies, only about 9 million results will appear.Its pretty clear that the investing world believes that buy-and-hold strategies are basically dead and gone.
2012-08-03 How to Avoid the Bursting of the Bond Market Bubble by Gary Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
This letter is the first in a series that I hope you will take very seriously. U.S. interest rates are at record lows. Meanwhile, Obama and Congress are sky-rocketing the national debt. We all know this cant go on much longer.
2012-07-31 The Alternative to AUM-Based Fees: The Total Profitability Retainer Formula by Bob Veres (Article)
Many - perhaps most - advisors are overcharging a few of their clients and undercharging the rest. In other words, a small number of investment advisor clients are subsidizing the services that the others are receiving. Here's a way to address that.
2012-07-31 Beyond the Ultimate Death Cross by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)
Last week, I showed why the 'ultimate death cross' is not a bearish signal. But the methodology behind that signal - what's known as a 'golden-cross trigger' - can indeed offer a reliable guide to investors. And one can do even better with a simple improvement to the trigger that I have devised.
2012-07-31 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Bob Veres' article, Why Are Advisory Fees Lower Than They Have To Be?, which was published on July 10.
2012-07-28 Gambling in the House? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
The problem that gave rise to the LIBOR scandal is the lack of transparency. Why would banks want to reveal how much profit they are making? The last thing banks want is transparency. This week I offer a different take on LIBOR, one which may annoy a few readers, but which I hope provokes some thinking about how we should organize our financial world.
2012-07-27 Who is Muhammad Lee? by John Scott of Saturna Capital
Who is this Muhammad Lee? (So named, as these are the most common first and last names in the world.)1,2 Where is he from? How many brothers and sisters will Muhammad Lee have in the future? What are the implications of his arrival for U.S. investors?
2012-07-27 Treading Water by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Stocks seem to be biding time until the action heats back up as summer winds down, but market-moving events can happen at any time. The US economy continues to slow and Bernanke had a relatively dour outlook before Congress. But it appears things would have to get worse before another round of easing is initiated; the effectiveness of which we continue to question. Yields in Spain and Italy indicate action may be needed sooner rather than later, but we did get positive remarks by the ECB, which led to market rallies and a big drop in yields, providing a measure of hope.
2012-07-26 Days of Reckoning - The Potential Impact of the 2012 Elections on the Markets by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Elections can, and often do, matter for markets, but not necessarily for the reasons investors tend to emphasize. For example, there is little historical evidence that markets perform better or worse depending on which party occupies the White House. There is also no concrete evidence that markets do better under divided government, a myth that seems to have taken hold thanks to the bull market of the 1990s.
2012-07-25 After the Downgrade: German Stocks or Bonds? by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Amid rising uncertainty surrounding Europe, Moody's earlier this week lowered its outlook for Germany. Now, given the likelihood that Europe will continue to be a source of economic risk and investor angst, many investors are wondering whether they should stick with German assets. Should investors stick with German assets? Russ says the answer is yes on German stocks but no on the country's bonds.
2012-07-24 High Yield and Low Risk: Finding the Best Closed-End Funds by Geoff Considine (Article)
Yield-starved investors have ventured into exotic - and often risky - assets, including hedge funds, non-traded REITs and private placements. But an asset class that has been around since 1893 offers a compelling combination of low risk and high income. A carefully selected portfolio of closed-end funds (CEFs) will yield 8% with less volatility than the S&P 500.
2012-07-24 How to Tell If You're Not Charging Enough by Dan Richards (Article)
Delivering strong value is only half the equation when it comes to optimizing the profitability in the business you run - the other half relates to charging a fair price for that value. Here's a simple test to determine if you're not charging enough.
2012-07-24 The Upside of Low Interest Rates for Pension Plans: Issuing Debt to Fund Pension Liabilities by Jared Gross, Seth Ruthen of PIMCO
Issuing debt allows a sponsor to de-risk without waiting for market events or cash contributions to reach the level of funding that triggers a shift in asset allocation. There are a number of ways in which a sponsor may benefit from replacing inefficient debt (in the form of a pension deficit) with the tax and accounting advantages of marketable debt.
2012-07-24 A Growing Water Crisis Creates Investment Opportunities in Agriculture by Jon Brorson, Geoffrey Lutz of Mesirow Financial
Water is ubiquitous, the ultimate source for life and the most important commodity for human existence. No less importantly, water is a critical input for food. Yet only a small fraction of total global water less than 1% is usable for food production, due to salinity and glaciers. As a result, water represents one of the single most important determinants of the value of today's investment opportunities in food production and farmland.
2012-07-21 The Lion in the Grass by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave
Today we'll explore a few things we can see and then try to foresee a few things that are not so obvious. This is a condensation of a speech I gave earlier this afternoon in Singapore for OCBC Bank, called "The Lion in the Grass." The simple premise is that it is not the lions we can see that are the problem; but rather, in trying to avoid them, it is often the lions hidden in the grass that we stumble upon that become the unwelcome surprise.
2012-07-20 July 2012 Newsletter by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
FRANK SINATRA FAN? Mena chided me for starting my last NewsLetter on a negative note so I thought Id repent this time and start with something more positive. Even if youre not a Sinatra fan, this lovely and moving piece of music by Andre Rieu," a renowned Dutch violinist, conductor and composer, and his orchestra is a tribute to Frank Sinatra with My Way on his Stradivarius violin at Radio City Music Hall New York.
2012-07-18 How to Look Past Negativity to See Opportunity by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Among investors these days, a fellow commodity bull is about as rare as finding a positive story in the media, especially when you look at the results of metals and natural resources during the first half of 2012. Only four commodities on our periodic table pulled off a positive return. Wheat grew the most, rising 13 percent, followed by single-digit rises from corn, gold and copper.
2012-07-17 Can you Beat SPIAs with Long-Term Bonds? by Michael Edesess (Article)
While single-premium income annuities (SPIAs) guarantee a specific income as long as the purchaser lives, their rates of return generally compare unfavorably with long-term bonds over normal life expectancies. This makes SPIAs look like the inferior investment, notwithstanding their value as longevity insurance. But considering the low level of interest rates and the potential for future volatility, SPIAs are still a good choice for many retirees.
2012-07-17 Breaking Bad by Michael Lewitt (Article)
With our largest business and government institutions committing every conceivable act of legal or moral anomie, we have every right to ask who is going to protect the rest of us from those who have been entrusted with so much power and influence. The institutions that were supposed to be the lifeblood of our economy are the same institutions that inflicted the greatest harm on society. When the family has to be protected from the man who is supposed to protect the family, the family is in serious trouble.
2012-07-17 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Two readers respond to Bob Veres' article, Why Are Advisory Fees Lower Than They Have To Be?, which appeared last week, and a reader responds to Larry Siegel's article, Benchmarking Your Retirement Portfolio With a Risk-Free Strategy, which also appeared last week.
2012-07-17 Obstacles to a Lasting Recovery: The Liquidity, Hesitancy & Solvency Traps by Thomas Fahey of Loomis Sayles
Those familiar symptoms are back again to start the summer: risk aversion; falling equity prices; rising volatility; record-low German and US government bond yields; wider credit spreads; a European country getting picked on; and a stronger US dollar. We have seen this bad movie twice before. If this is indeed another rerun, we should expect central bank and other policy responses to help limit the fallout. As we see it, hesitancy and solvency traps are the main obstacles to recovery.
2012-07-14 The Beginning of the Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
For the last year I have been writing that it is not clear that Europe (with the probable exception of Greece) will in fact break up. The forces that would see a strong fiscal union are quite powerful. In today's letter, I will try to bring you up to date on some insights I have had in the 18 months since Jonathan Tepper and I did the final edits on our book, The Endgame.
2012-07-13 Worried about Higher Taxes? Take Action by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
About 1.25 million Americans would pay more in taxes next year if President Barack Obamas latest plan is approved. The White House wants to allow taxes to rise for households making more than $250,000 by boosting the top marginal tax rates to 36 and 39.6 percent (currently, its 33 and 35 percent). In an environment where government policy favors higher taxes, investments that lower a tax bill can look attractive.
2012-07-13 Bond Investing - Its the Short Side, Stupid by Gary D. Halbert of Halbert Wealth Management
As you are probably aware, I am an avowed political junkie but this article isnt about politics. Instead, I want to borrow a phrase from the 1992 presidential election as an analogy to highlight what I believe bond investors should be concentrating on right now - the short side.
2012-07-12 Equity Market Review & Outlook by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
Following back-to-back double-digit quarterly gains, US stocks took a breather in the second quarter, with the S&P 500 Index declining 2.8%. It could have been worse. At the quarters low point in early June, the Index had declined 10.0% from the first-quarter close. June was a strong month for stock performance, leading to a welcome recovery from the early quarter decline. However, positive returns from the first quarter prevented the Index from becoming negative on a year-to-date basis.
2012-07-12 Bond Market Review & Outlook by James Balfour of Loomis Sayles
The liquidity-driven rush into riskier assets that dominated the first quarter faded during the second quarter. The European sovereign debt and banking crisis was once again the primary catalyst, but softer economic data in the US and China also fed negative investor sentiment. Global liquidity suffered following the end of the European Central Banks (ECBs) long-term refinancing operation (LTRO).
2012-07-10 Why Are Advisory Fees Lower Than They Have To Be? by Bob Veres (Article)
How much should you charge for your services? Is there any way to objectively calculate a fair price? Doctors, lawyers and accountants all charge relatively similar prices for their services. Why does the financial planning profession have fees that are all over the map?
2012-07-10 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Several readers respond to Bob Veres' article, The Profession's Faulty Assumptions: A Top Ten List, which appeared last week. Also, a reader responds to Joe Tomlinson's article, How Safe are Annuities?, which appeared on August 14, and a reader responds to Beverly Flaxington's column, Dealing with Gossip in a Small Firm, which appeared last week.
2012-07-09 Disclosure? Not Good Enough. by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
Several studies have shown that when professionals disclose their conflicts of interest, this only makes the problem worse. This is because two things happen after disclosure: first, those hearing the disclosure dont entirely know what to make of it were not good at weighing the various factors that influence complex situations and second, the discloser feels morally liberated and free to act even more in his self-interest.
2012-07-07 Into the Matrix by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What does the current environment of earnings and valuations tell us about the prospects for the US stock markets in general over the next 3-5-7-10 years? This week we have part two of "Bull's Eye Investing Ten Years Later," which we started last week. These two letters have been co-authored with Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research. We take a look at research we did almost ten years ago as part of my book Bull's Eye Investing, updating the data and asking,"Are we there yet? When will we get to the end of the secular bear market?"
2012-07-03 Bond Funds: You Get What You Don't Pay For by Michael Edesess (Article)
Innumerable studies have shown that it's well-nigh impossible to beat the averages consistently investing in equity funds. But what about bonds? Bonds, after all, have more structure - perhaps there are ways an expert fund manager could exploit that structure and gain an edge over other investors. Is it possible to predict how well a bond fund will perform relative to other funds?
2012-07-03 The Value of Planning by Bob Veres (Article)
How much do you charge for your services? When you look hard at the value you provide, the answer may be: 'not enough.'
2012-07-03 Supreme Errors by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
In the wake of my last commentary on the horrendous Supreme Court decision upholding Obama's health care plan, several people have pointed out that I erred in saying that the income tax is a "direct tax." While it is technically correct that the Court ultimately declared it to be an excise, not a direct tax, it is important to understand how it arrived at that opinion and why the decision has no practical relevance to the way the tax has been enforced.
2012-06-30 Bull's Eye Investing (Almost) Ten Years Later by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The current valuation of the stock market is relatively high, but it is not overvalued, considering today's conditions. Low inflation-rate conditions should be accompanied by relatively high P/Es. But if deflation or high inflation (or both) are likely upcoming, the market is very expensive. On the other hand, if the inflation rate happens to remain near price stability, then this secular bear could remain active a while longer but how likely is that?
2012-06-29 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Much has been said and written about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of 2012. The assumption is that capital gain rates will go back to 20% and that dividends will rise to 39.6% without consideration of the Obama Care surtaxes. Since tax law would revert to what it was before the Bush tax cuts, we would revert to a special provision in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 that established a preferential 18% capital gains rate.
2012-06-29 To IPO or Not to IPO? by Mike Boyle of Advisors Asset Management
With the recent initial public offering (IPO) of Facebook stock, the IPO process is once again making headlines and this raises many questions such as, Is the process fair? Is the process flawed? Should retail investors look to get involved? Pretty simple questions but the answers, if there are any, are not.
2012-06-26 Ensuring That Clients Feel Valued by Dan Richards (Article)
Ask advisors whether they value their clients - especially top clients - and care about their future success, and you'll get a funny look wondering what you've been smoking. The answer is so obvious that the question isn't worth asking. But ask clients the corresponding question and the response is often quite different.
2012-06-23 Daddy's Home by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we will look at the recent action of the Fed and use that as a springboard to think about how effective Fed policy can be in an age of deleveraging. And we simply must look at Europe.
2012-06-22 Its All a Big Mistake by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
Mistakes are a frequent topic of discussion in our world. Its not unusual to see investors criticized for errors that resulted in poor performance. But rarely do we hear about mistakes as an indispensable component of the investment process. Im writing now to point out that mistakes are all that superior investing is about. In short, in order for one side of a transaction to turn out to be a major success, the other side has to have been a big mistake.
2012-06-21 Selling Hope by Jason Hsu of Research Affiliates
Many of us in the investment management business are fond of telling our clients that "hope is not a strategy." Ironically, selling hope has worked out to be a fantastic strategy for investment managers. In our new newsletter, "Simply Stated," I suggest that investors may want to think twice about how much they are willing to pay for hope.
2012-06-20 Growth Versus Austerity: A U.S. Dollar Perspective by Axel Merk of Merk Funds
Austerity versus Growth? Which economic model is sustainable? If it werent for those pesky bond vigilantes, it may be only politics. Lets not get too excited that either path will work. Lets look at the implications for investors with a focus on the U.S. dollar.
2012-06-16 The Bang! Moment is Here by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We know that money is simply flying out of Greek banks. A number of them are clearly insolvent, yet they are meeting demands for withdrawals. Where is the cash coming from? The answer is in the form of yet another acronym from Europe, called the ELA.
2012-06-15 Obstacles to a Lasting Recovery: The Liquidity, Hesitancy & Solvency Traps by Thomas Fahey of Loomis Sayles
Those familiar symptoms are back again to start the summer: risk aversion; falling equity prices; rising volatility; record-low German and US government bond yields; wider credit spreads; a European country getting picked on; and a stronger US dollar. We have seen this bad movie twice before, during the summers of 2010 and 2011. If this is indeed another rerun, we should expect central bank and other official policy responses to help limit the fallout. As we see it, hesitancy and solvency trapsnot a liquidity trapare the main obstacles to a lasting economic recovery.
2012-06-13 Saving the Euro by Axel Merk of Merk Funds
The management of the Eurozone debt crisis is dysfunctional. In our assessment, to save the Euro, policy makers must focus on competitiveness, common sense and communication. If policy makers strived to achieve just one of these principles, the Euro might outshine the U.S. dollar.
2012-06-13 The Tip of the Iceberg For Dividend Stocks by Team of Columbia Management
Post-crisis equity investors seek to lower portfolio volatility. Dividend stocks have provided higher returns with less risk compared with non-dividend payers. Baby boomers are retiring now with much smaller nest eggs than they had anticipated. They need reliable sources of income and growth. Cash-rich companies are in a position to pay and potentially grow dividends, while dividend payout ratios are historically low. Active managers leverage in-depth research to uncover promising opportunities among companies likely to initiate or raise dividends.
2012-06-11 Atlas Shrugged?! by Jeffrey Saut of Raymond James Equity Research
The call for this week: Over the weekend the eurozone agreed to lend Spain up to 100 ($126 billion) to shore up its teetering banks. That decision prompted this from my friend David Kotok, captain of Cumberland Advisors: The fact is the absence of banking collapses is good news. That is correct. Good news! We establish that good news by what we DO NOT see on TV. We do not see banks collapsing and failing to pay depositors. This means we may not witness the euro system collapsing and failing. Bank runs and deposit failures are symptoms of liquidity constraints.
2012-06-11 The Economy Cannot Live on the Fed Alone by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The road to economic recovery cannot be paved by monetary policy alone. It must be accompanied by greater access to credit. Rates can be kept low for years, but without looser credit standards they cannot be truly potent and stimulative. In other words, banks will need to do their part. Offering capital to a larger number of small businesses and enabling more homeowners to refinance their mortgages, or even purchase new homes, is a key ingredient that will help keep us out of a liquidity trap.
2012-06-09 A Dysfunctional Nation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
European leaders launched the euro project in the last century as an experiment to see whether political hope could become economic reality. What they have done is create one of the most dysfunctional economic systems in history. And the distortions inherent in that system are now playing out in an increasingly dysfunctional social order. Today we look at some rather disturbing recent events and wonder about the actual costs of that experiment. What type of "therapy" will be needed to treat the dysfunctional family that Europe has become?
2012-06-06 Our House: Is the United States the Best House in a Bad Neighborhood? by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
I won't try to put lipstick on the pig that was last Friday's May jobs report, but I will try a little lip gloss. Somewhat lost in the mire of the dire reaction to the report were several other more-positive readings on the economy. That's testament to the likelihood that there are many more drivers to today's malaise than just jobs growth, or lack thereof. It seems clear we're in the midst of the third consecutive mid-year economic slowdown, driven by similar forces, most dominantly the eurozone debt crisis.
2012-06-06 Liquidity Lessons: The Critical Importance of Budgeting for Overlay Strategies by Markus Aakko, Jared Gross of PIMCO
One approach is to tier liquidity into current and contingent tiers, where some assets are kept in more liquid form and others are kept in higher-yielding investments. Quantifying how much of the immediate category is needed is a relatively straightforward risk-management exercise involving estimating the potential mark-to-market change in value of the overlay. Our view is that locating the liquidity pool internally has a number of potential advantages over an external model.
2012-06-05 Finding the Best Dividend Fund by Geoff Considine (Article)
Assets are flowing into dividend-stock funds. But many experts are warning that those investors are setting themselves up for significant losses. Using an objective methodology that assesses tradeoff between yield and risk, we can determine those funds that investors should prefer - and a few they should avoid.
2012-06-05 The Father of Efficient Markets: Is Warren Buffett Smart or Lucky? by Dan Richards (Article)
Eugene Fama is generally regarded the father of modern finance. His research has expanded upon the capital asset pricing model to identify the value and small-capitalization contributions to risk. Dan Richards spoke with him on May 1, the day before his guest talk at the CFA Institute annual meeting. This is the transcript of the interview.
2012-06-04 After Disappointing Jobs Data, Now What? by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Stocks tumbled Friday after particularly disappointing May jobs data. Russ provides his take on what the report means for the US economy and stocks going forward. First, the implications for the economy: As jobs numbers tend to lag broader economic activity, the report doesnt in itself suggest that the United States is slipping back into recession. In addition, its worth calling out that according to the new data, the United States created only 69,000 net new jobs in May, less than half of what economists were expecting and the slowest rate of net new job creation in a year.
2012-06-04 Alternative Mutual Funds See Continued Growth by Chris Maxey and Ryan Davis of Fortigent
During an especially difficult week, global equity markets were deep in the red, as the S&P 500 Index lost 3.2% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.3%. There was no shortage of disappointing data during the course of the past week, ranging from weakness in the ISM manufacturing survey to an underwhelming May labor market report. It was such a bad week, in fact, that Bespoke Investment Group found that 18 of the 21 economic indicators released in the U.S. fell short of expectations.
2012-06-04 Job Drought, Greece Wipe Out 2012 Gains by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The U.S. employment report dominated headlines and put investors on watch for further threats to the recovery. In Europe, Ireland's adoption of the fiscal pact was not enough to counter worries about the escalating banking problems in Spain. But as long as the U.S. savings rate, which currently stands at 3.4%, continues to decline, the downside risk to U.S. economic growth is limited. In addition, the substantial drop in the price of oil should also help boost the economy. We maintain the view that the United States will achieve 2% economic growth this year.
2012-06-02 First Deflation, Then Inflation. But the Timing? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
One of the more frequent questions I am asked in meetings or after a speech is whether I think we will have inflation or deflation. My ready answer is, Yes. Then I stop, which I must admit is rather fun, as the person who asked tries to digest the answer. And while my answer is flippant, its also the truth, as I do expect both outcomes. So the follow-up question (after the obligatory chuckle from the rest of the group) is for a few more specifics. And the answer is that I expect we will first see deflation and then inflation, but the key is the timing.
2012-05-29 A Way to Save for College by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Funding your child's education is perhaps the most important investment you will make, but unfortunately, the investment industry offers few helpful options. Conventional 529 plans are saddled with high fees and force participants to take on an inappropriate degree of risk, as I've written in the past. But a good alternative is now available for funding a private college education.
2012-05-29 Why We Lie by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
We like to believe that a few bad apples spoil the virtuous bunch. But research shows that everyone cheats a littleright up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity. Not too long ago, one of my students, Peter, locked himself out of his house. After a spell, the locksmith pulled up in his truck and picked the lock in about a minute. The purpose of locks, the locksmith said, is to protect you from the 98% of mostly honest people who might be tempted to try your door if it had no lock.
2012-05-29 Hopes, Dreams and College Savings Solutions by Roger Michaud of Franklin Templeton
Its one of those universal truths that from the day their babies are born parents are filled with hopes, dreams and fears for their children. Those hopes and dreams typically include a successful career which often starts with a college education. The thought of a college education can lead to one of parents biggest fearsnot being able to foot the bill. Given the rising cost of college, financing a four-year degree for one or more children can be a daunting prospect for parents juggling day-to-day living expenses while trying to save for other investment goals like their own retirement too.
2012-05-26 Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We need to tear our gaze away from Europe and look around at what is happening in the rest of the world. There is about to be an eerily near-simultaneous ending to the quantitative easing by the four major central banks while global growth is slowing down. And so, while the future of Europe is up for grabs, the true danger to global markets and growth may be elsewhere.
2012-05-25 Loss Capacity Drives 401(k) Investment Default Evaluation by Stacy Schaus and Ying Gao of PIMCO
Based on our research, we believe retirement plan participants capacity for loss may be much lower than many investment default options accept as tolerable. Regardless of asset allocation structure, an investment default option should maximize the likelihood that each plan participant will meet his or her retirement income needs. One of the keys to meeting a set income replacement goal is to understand how much plan participants can afford to lose at every age as they approach retirement.
2012-05-24 Pocket of Strength: Turkey Retail Stocks Rally by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
To add alpha, we believe investors need to continually seek pockets of strength amidst todays mire of pessimism. One bright spot weve seen lies just east of Greece: Turkey. Many investors believe banks are the only investment play in Turkey. The sole question for those investors is to hold or not to hold banks. Heres what we think is a better strategy: Invest in undervalued, diverse, smaller companies that will benefit from a resilient consumer, low unemployment rate and sound government policies.
2012-05-24 Measuring Active Management: The Basics of Active Share and Tracking Error by Team of American Century Investments
Every investor needs to understand the basics of portfolio management. In a broad sense, portfolio management can be divided into actively managed and passively managed categories. Although we describe both approaches at the outset, we fasten our attention on active portfolio management in this piece. Specifically, we focus on the Active Share and Tracking Error approaches to measuring active management in equities. The goal is to further develop an appreciation for the multi-faceted complexion of active portfolio management.
2012-05-22 Finding Alpha with Active Managers by Jay Feeney of Robeco Investment Management
Many investors are convinced that alpha has disappeared from U.S. equity markets and prefer to use passive investment tools such as exchange traded funds (ETFs) to broadly gain exposure to these markets. The problem with this approach is that it gives up any chance of outperformance and forces an investor to settle for benchmark returns minus fees. It also ignores the fact that alpha potential does exist. Although many active managers have not done a good job in capturing alpha, there are many who have outperformed over time, producing very sizeable excess returns.
2012-05-21 Europe's Woes Flood Wall Street - But Not the Economy by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The rising tide of contagion has reached our shores. After months of buildup, Europes debt crisis has finally wreaked havoc on U.S. stocks, as a wave of anxiety prompted a major selloff on Wall Street. Investors fears are coming to fruition and we are once again experiencing a spring swoon. But the turmoil overseas has yet to impact the U.S. economy. In fact, the FOMC highlighted a bright spot that may have been overlooked: banks are loosening credit standards. While volatility will continue in the near-term, dividend-paying stocks may help steer portfolios until we see calmer seas.
2012-05-19 On Corruption by Bill Mann of Motley Fool
Several large countries have little or no presence in our portfolios that have international mandates. A major reason for this is our fear of corruption in those markets. Our heightened concerns about the treatment of foreign capital in Argentina, for example, convinced us that we should greatly reduce our exposure to companies generating large amounts of revenue there.
2012-05-19 Dr. Frankensteins Europe by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We explore the options that the eurozone faces in order to stay together, and what it all means for some of the countries involved. While I have written for a very long time about the probability of Greece exiting the eurozone, the actuality is fraught with risk, not just for Europe but for the world economy. What happens in the next few months will impact us all for a very long time. Indeed, this is one of those years, as Lenin noted, when decades happen.
2012-05-18 Gold: The World's Friend for 5,000 Years by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
Investors have defriended gold recently in favor of the dollar, as Greek and French voters rejected austerity measures. Greeks have been responding to their escalating debt issues for a while by steadily pulling money from overnight deposits. I often say, money goes where it is best treated, and these deposits will need to find a safe haven.
2012-05-17 Avoiding a Cold Shower in the Cash Markets by Jerome M. Schneider of PIMCO
A concern for investors would be to vigilantly monitor the global marketplace for any changes in the liquidity markets, reviewing aspects and conditions in both the unsecured and secured markets. The second source is the capital market participants themselves. Reduced or reallocated dealer balance sheets have led to wider bid-offer spreads in the marketplace. The final evolutionary condition to monitor is the regulatory environment in the U.S. The SEC and the Fed have recently become critics of the current structure of 2a-7 money market funds.
2012-05-17 You should worry about EM inflation. Not US inflation. by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Investors seem overly concerned about US inflation. Both market-derived expectations and actual rates of US inflation remain very subdued, yet we are consistently asked about inflation and whether our investment strategies are adequately structured for high US inflation. Across the board, these data do not support structuring investment strategies for the US inflation that investors, oddly enough, feel is inevitable. The data do, however, suggest that investors recent rush into emerging market debt is much riskier than they anticipate.
2012-05-17 Restoring Trust by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
Conflicts always exist between clients and managers. Requiring full disclosure is a step in the right direction towards minimizing these conflicts. Rules alone will not be enough to restore trust between you and those of us who considered themselves professional advisers. My suggestion is that all advisers live their life, both professional and personal under an older rule than the current body of laws. That rule is Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2012-05-16 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
If you listened carefully to the CEOs during their earnings announcements, they were tepidly upbeat but upbeat nonetheless, as they looked forward into the remainder of the year. On a day-to-day basis the markets will be driven by the headlines and emotions. We encourage you to refrain from getting caught up in that fray. At the end of the day it will be about an economy that moves forward creating jobs and not one built on the back of debt.
2012-05-16 The Facebook IPO: A Note to Mark Zuckerberg; or, With Friends Like Morgan Stanley, Who Needs Enemi by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
I just received this letter from a friend in the banking industry. Dear Mark, Theres been a lot of ballyhoo recently about your IPO and your choice of investment bankers. Indeed, a war was fought by the banks to win your deal of the decade. As reported in the press, the competition was so intense banks slashed their fees in order to win your business. Facebook is only paying a 1% commission for its IPO rather than the 3% typically charged by the banks. Congratulations, Mr. Zuckerberg! On the surface it appears your pals in investment banking have given you a quite a deal!Or have they?
2012-05-15 Dividends: A Timeless Component of Equity Return by Loomis Sayles & Company, L.P. (Article)
With interest rates at historic lows and many dividend-paying stocks boasting yields comparable to or higher than US Treasurys, it is no wonder that dividends have recently been at the forefront of many investors' minds. But dividends have a long history as a significant component of total return, and today's buzz is just the most recent chapter.
2012-05-15 James Montier on the Failures of Modern Finance by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The seeds of the next crisis have already been sown, according to James Montier - and they are fundamental flaws buried deep within the current theory and practice of finance. Bad models were the root of the financial crisis, Montier said, and a slew of behavioral biases are reinforcing financial instability.
2012-05-15 The world is not ending. Nor is it by Christian Thwaites of Sentinel Investments
Last week saw more dire talk on the end of the euro, the lowest ever GT10 auction, a 2.2% swing in SPX and an overly dramatic reaction to hedging losses at JPM. But these are not big enough to push aside the broad positives: i) Europe will cobble together some compromise...there's already broad agreement that pure austerity needs dilution and the Bundesbank even made soothing noises on inflation ii) US economic data was broadly helpful iii) market metrics remain solid and iv) the federal government is in budget surplus. Yes, no lies. Read on.
2012-05-15 Equity Investing: From Style Box to Global Unconstrained by Andrew Pyne of PIMCO
PIMCO sees greater potential benefit to global portfolios in strategies that are unconstrained by a benchmark, and with managers who think about absolute return at least as much as they think about relative return. We believe the style box approach resulted in too great a focus on returns relative to a very narrow index and led investors to have too short of an investment time horizon in which to evaluate their managers, and that the cycles of style performance and the narrow benchmarks in the style box world encourages manager turnover and undermines long-term portfolio return potential.
2012-05-14 A Taste of Reality by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
There was nothing fun loving about the spoonful of bad news overseas last week that left investors with a bad taste in their mouths. New wrinkles to Europes debt crisis and slower growth in key emerging markets have shaken the stock market and put the U.S. recovery in doubt. The recovery may be weakening and there is a good chance we will see more negative surprises in the near term. This challenging environment calls for investors to be selective in choosing risk assets. Still, shunning stocks altogether could undermine long-term financial goals and, ultimately, is a recipe for disaster.
2012-05-12 Waving the White Flag by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Europe has embarked on a program that will require multiple trillions of euros of freshly minted money in order to maintain the eurozone. But the alternative, European leaders agree, is even worse. Today we will look at the recent German shift in policy, why it was so predictable, and what it means. This is a Ponzi scheme that makes Madoff look like a small-time street hustler.
2012-05-08 Annuities versus Systematic Withdrawals: Understanding Tax Effects by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Given the complexity of most annuities, analysis of them typically only considers pre-tax results. But taxes matter. As we will see, tax impacts vary by the specific type of annuity you're considering, and will make the difference between annuities being cost effective or a drain on cash flow.
2012-05-08 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Bob Veres' article, How to Respond to the Bachus-McCarthy Bill, which appeared last week.
2012-05-08 Eurozone Election Hangover by Axel Merk of Merk Funds
The euro is recovering after a dire Monday morning; keep in mind, though, that much of Asia had a holiday and missed digesting the disappointing U.S. unemployment report; liquidity is low, as London is closed for a holiday. Medium term, however, our bigger concern is that big money, such as the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, is taking a step back from the Eurozone. As such, the odds of more liquidity provisions from the ECB have increased. We believe the euro will underperform other European currencies; note, though, that the world, including the U.S., will remain awash in money.
2012-05-07 Q1 2012 Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
The overall equity markets strong first quarter rally was narrowly focused and, from our perspective, fragile. Cutting to the chase, we think both stocks and bonds are expensive. During the quarter, we used opportunities presented by Mr. Market to trim some of our lower quality positions and to add starter positions in a few high quality businesses. We also added to our short-term, high-yield fixed income holdings, sources of return that we expect to show less volatility but results equal to or better than the broad equity market indices.
2012-05-05 A Graphic Presentation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The job market is still in a deep hole. At April's rate of job gains, it would take well over three years to return to December 2007's employment level, without adjusting for population growth; at the average rate of the last six months, it would take about two years. Earnings are weak, and the strongest sectors aren't those of which economic miracles are spun. QE3 looks like more of a possibility than it did a few days ago.
2012-05-01 How to Respond to the Bachus-McCarthy Bill by Bob Veres (Article)
I recommend that everybody contact your elected representatives and tell them that the proposed Bachus-McCarthy legislation would be detrimental to the small businesses in their district or state. Below is a sample letter for you to send to your elected representatives, and a press release for you to send to your local paper and press contacts.
2012-04-30 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
What part of leadership are our elected officials in Washington not getting? Last month the Supreme Court heard the case regarding the Affordable Care Act and a ruling is likely to happen sometime in late June. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, healthcare reform is a topic which is here to stay. First of all it is estimated that by 2020 healthcare will account for one in every nine jobs in the U.S., adding 4.2 million jobs during this decade. As the Baby Boomers move into retirement there will be a need for an ever-increasing number of physicians, nurses, home health aides, etc.
2012-04-28 A Gold Standard? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Here is a speech by Jim Grant to the New York Federal Reserve. The always erudite Grant takes us back in time to the very beginnings of the Federal Reserve, to show us how far we have strayed from the original intent. Grant argued for a return to the gold standard in the very halls of fiat money! It seems the New York Fed is asking some of its critics to come and speak.
2012-04-27 Bond Market Reflections Spring 2012 by Bruce A. Weininger of Kovitz Investment Group
Faced with the prospect of loaning money out for eight years knowing that our best case return over that time was 2%, we decided that, for a while anyway, wed rather hold onto to cash in hopes that pricing will become more rational over the coming weeks or months.
2012-04-26 Dividends: A Timeless Component of Equity Return by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
With interest rates at historic lows and many dividend-paying stocks boasting yields comparable to or higher than US Treasurys, it is no wonder that dividends have recently been at the forefront of many investors minds. But dividends have a long history as a significant component of total return, and todays buzz is just the most recent chapter. Stripping away the noise, what should investors consider as they survey the universe of dividend paying companies? We believe dividend payments are poised to grow in 2012, likely faster than earningsper-share growth.
2012-04-24 65+5+Dividends: The case for quality dividend stocks in the first five years of retirement by Legg Mason ClearBridge Advisors (Article)
Retirees are living longer than ever before, and for many, outliving their money is a real concern. A good reason to consider quality large-cap dividend stocks in the early years of retirement - which have historically offered higher returns than fixed income with lower volatility than equities overall.
2012-04-24 SteelPath MLP Alpha Fund Quarterly Commentary by Gabriel Hammond and Stuart Cartner of SteelPath MLP Mutual Funds
Though the MLP sector provided positive returns this quarter, the sectors performance lagged that of the broader markets. The MLP sector, as measured by the Alerian MLP Index, produced a total return of 1.97% for the quarter versus the 12.59% total return of the S&P 500 Index. The broader market rally appeared to have been sparked by some encouraging domestic economic data and seeming improvement in the Eurozone. Given that the industries represented by the S&P 500 Index often have greater exposure to general economic trends than MLPs, this broader market outperformance is not surprising.
2012-04-24 SteelPath MLP Income Fund Quarterly Commentary by Gabriel Hammond and Stuart Cartner of SteelPath MLP Mutual Funds
Looking forward, we expect to see varied performance across MLP sub-sectors. We believe headwinds remain for propane, natural gas storage and coal, and growth opportunities are likely limited for interstate natural gas pipelines. However, growth opportunities related to growing domestic natural gas liquids and crude oil production are varied and substantial in our opinion. We continue to expect robust acquisition activity within the sector as traditional owners of midstream assets continue to rationalize their asset portfolios.
2012-04-24 SteelPath MLP Select 40 Fund Quarterly Commentary by Gabriel Hammond and Stuart Cartner of SteelPath MLP Mutual Funds
Sector performance for the quarter was characterized by a continued appreciation for partnerships exposed to oil and NGL rich shale plays and the corresponding growth opportunities. Additionally, both sectors and names that were neglected last year received attention during the quarter while investors took profits in investments that had outperformed over the past several months.
2012-04-24 Fixed Income Commentary First Quarter 2012 by John E. Villela, David W. Seeley and Barbara J. McKenna of Longfellow Investment Management
The ever‐changing regulatory environment must be watched closely. The new, onerous capital requirements directed at the broker‐dealer community will make it more costly for broker‐dealers to hold inventory on their balance sheets. This will affect the cost of liquidity by making transactions more expensive in the marketplace. In addition, potential changes to money market regulations, which could include allowing the net asset value to float, could force a number of market participants to seek alternative fixed income solutions such as cash or short duration strategies.
2012-04-23 Spring 2012 Quarterly Commentary by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
Theres an old adage about a six-foot tall man who drowned crossing a stream that was five feet deep on average. We believe the lesson here is well worth heeding. In investing, its not enough to survive on average. Investment survival depends not on how well one performs during periods of market euphoria, but how well you navigate through the rocky episodes. One of the byproducts and, indeed, one of the most important aspects of investing scared is that it obliges us to make sure the downside risk of our portfolios is limited in bad times.
2012-04-23 A Seesaw of Surprises by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
It was a week full of surprisesboth good and bad. Corporate profits in the United States have come in stronger than expected. U.S. consumers are spending more money than anticipated. But continued housing weakness, higher-than-expected jobless claims and deeper disruptions in Europes debt crisis have raised some eyebrows. Adding to uncertainty are the events in the Netherlandsone of only a few AAA-rated lenders in Europeas its government rejected a fiscal austerity plan and now is in jeopardy of collapsing. Here is how to put such a mixed bag in perspective.
2012-04-18 Stock Picking in a World of Profit Margin Mean Reversion by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
We feel investors should avoid capital intensive companies which are tied to commodities or emerging markets. As interest rates rise and capital becomes dear, those who eat capital lose and those with strong balance sheets and who generate high and consistent free cash flow, should win. As Buffet, Grantham, Hutchinson and Stein pointed out, someone loses in the reversion to the mean of profit margins when compared to GDP. Lastly, dont be fooled by those who are bearish on the stock market because of their belief in profit margin reversion.
2012-04-18 Ride the Wave of Crude? by Brad Sorensen of Charles Schwab
Crude-oil prices have moved steadily higher over the past several months, but the move may not be sustainable. Geopolitical tensions are unpredictable, but the response in demand to rising prices has become more rapid, and we see other downside risks. Investing directly in the energy sector may not be the best way to try to benefit from rising oil prices, given new investing options, along with companies' various costs and sources of revenue.
2012-04-17 Rethinking Safe Withdrawal Rates: The Meaning of Failure by Wade Pfau (Article)
Merely knowing the probability that an investor's wealth will be depleted at some point is not enough to build a retirement strategy. That is the traditional measure of failure in safe withdrawal studies, and it's time to move beyond it.
2012-04-17 Muppet Capers by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Investors enjoyed strong stock market and credit market gains during the first quarter of the year, but storm clouds may be forming on the horizon. Corporate profits have likely peaked. Stocks may be the best house in a bad neighborhood, but houses in that neighborhood appear to be fully priced for now. There are also some troubling signs in the bond markets, particularly the long end.
2012-04-14 The War for Spain by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The inflection point that I thought the ECB had pushed down the road for at least a year with their recent 1 trillion LTRO is now rushing toward us much faster than Draghi had in mind when he launched his massive funding operation. So, we must pay attention to what Spain has done this week which, to my surprise, seems to have escaped the attention of the major media. It may be considered a tipping point when the crisis is analyzed by some future historian. And then we'll get back to some additional details on the US employment situation, starting with a few rather shocking data points.
2012-04-13 The Active Management Pretend Game by Eugene Robin of Cove Street Capital
Let us start by saying that this is not an essay on whether or not a large pool of institutional asset allocators should consider an indexing strategy or not. What follows is an analysis of the question: If you are going to charge active management fees with the goal of outperforming relevant benchmarks over the longer run within reasonable risk parameters, what sort of preconditions are suggestive of a higher probability of success?
2012-04-10 Flexible Strategies for Longevity Protection: Comparing Two Products by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
Products that guarantee income for life can be useful for retirement planning, but many clients also want flexibility and control over their investments. Two products that can meet these objectives are variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits (VA/GLWBs) and deferred income annuities (DIAs).
2012-04-07 It's All About Jobs by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Friday's employment numbers were decidedly soft, but the unemployment rate went down anyway, and that is about the best you can say. And this being a holiday weekend, it provides us an opportunity to look deep into the employment numbers, while we put off thinking about Spain for at least a week. And who knew that being an unmarried Asian-American in the US was a risk for unemployment? Plus a few other interesting items will make for an interesting letter.
2012-04-05 NewsLetter - April 2012 by Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz
Although we continue to believe in the tenets of Modern Portfolio Theory, the concept is Buy-and-Manage not Buy-and-Forget. As a consequence, we made numerous adjustments to our strategic allocations over the years. And, consistent with our buy-and-manage philosophy, for the last few years weve been studying investment markets and have come to believe that long-term future returns are likely to be even lower then we estimated in 2002, market risk will be higher and the benefits from diversification less (i.e., correlations will be higher).
2012-04-03 Time to Pay the Piper by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
One way investors can offset higher tax rates is through municipal bonds. In general, interest generated from municipal bonds is exempt from all federal income taxes and some state and local taxes (depending on your state). While municipal bonds carry a greater amount of risk than Treasury bonds, tax advantages and higher yields make them extremely attractive to Treasuries on a relative basis. The yield on government debt is currently in the doldrums just above 3 percent while the yield on the Bond Buyer 40 Index of munis is above 4 percent.
2012-04-03 The Value of Sentiment Polls by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
In our opinion, those who are very bearish about the US stock market need a substantial price increase to trigger historically extreme newsletter writer sentiment. Those who are optimistic should prefer a temporary correction or sideways movement to reinforce fear on the part of the crowd. This would cause the bullish and bearish readings to gravitate to toward each other and remove the risk of having some temporary hell to pay for those of us who seek to practice long-duration common stock investing.
2012-04-02 The Manufacturing Renaissance by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
While unemployment remains elevated, the U.S. manufacturing sector has quietly staged a dramatic turnaround, one that could be a pillar of support for the economic recovery. Jobs shipped overseas decades ago are now returning home. Productivity has grown significantly thanks to advances in technology and favorable exchange rates with Americas trading partners. The cost of labor per output in the United States has decreased. Manufacturing in this country may never return to its golden years, but it is certainly experiencing a rebirth of sorts.
2012-03-31 All Spain All the Time by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The events of the last 24 hours compel me to once again look "across the pond" at the problems that not only plague Europe but will be a drag on world growth as well, as Europe goes through its continued painful adjustment as a consequence of trying to adopt a single currency. Since Spain is going to be on the front page for some time, it will be useful to look at some of the problems it is facing, to put it all into context. And what I heard while in Europe in private meetings is troubling.
2012-03-30 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
It seems all investors have dividends on their brains these days. Apparently this is also true of corporate boards. Even Apple, which during the second Steve Jobs era did not pay a dividend, decided to use some of its $97 billion of cash for a stock buy-back and for a dividend. Based on a $600 share price, the yield would be approximately 1.8% when it begins paying its $2.65 quarterly per share dividend. The first payment will begin July 1st. The dividend amounts to about $9 billion per year, which is the second largest dividend payment, behind AT&Ts $14 billion.
2012-03-30 Shifting Winds-Turbulence Ahead? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Treasury yields have moved somewhat higher, while stocks have largely continued to rise. Recent correlations appear to be breaking down, which could lead to increased volatility but we remain relatively confident in equities. Perception as to the next moves by the Fed appeared to be shifting, but Bernanke reiterated their easy monetary stance. Uncertainty is rising and the Feds goal of increased clarity through more transparent communication is under scrutiny. Liquidity concerns in Europe have eased but economic risks remain, while Spain and Italy face deal with their ongoing debt crises.
2012-03-27 Jack Bogle: The Triumph of the Index Fund by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Jack Bogle has spent his career selling investors on virtues of index funds. In a talk last week, he spoke triumphantly, as if the battle is all but over.
2012-03-27 Caviar for the General by Jeffrey Bronchick of Cove Street Capital
The stock market as measured by the S&P 500 is up almost 30% over the last 6 months, and has doubled from the March 2009 lows and yet most investors remain underinvested. Despite this temporary risk aversion, we remain convinced that stocks remain a unique species: the higher the price and less compelling the value, the more they seem to be desired by investors. In addition to the number of reasonably valued assets that can be found in financial markets, this represents an anecdotally strong underpinning for a reasonable intermediate future in our opinion.
2012-03-26 A Tale of Two Tech Sectors by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
March is a fitting time to talk about tech because it is the month when investors witnessed the infamous noise heard round the world: the bursting of the dot-com bubble 12 years ago. And while their ears might still be ringing from the blast, when it comes to tech stocks, a little perspective goes a long way. In 1999, irrationally bullish sentiment drove tech valuations to lofty heights with little regard for actual profits. Today, the tech sector is among the most attractive and fundamentally sound areas of the economy.
2012-03-20 Hot Buttons that Motivate Prospects by Dan Richards (Article)
If you spend $12,000 to promote an event for prospects, you should expect results. That didn't happen for an advisor whose recent prospecting events failed. Here's how he could have created a successful event - by focusing on the hot buttons that motivate prospects.
2012-03-20 The Wages of Denial by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Europe is insolvent, and hopelessly so. Her procurer - the European Central Bank (ECB) - can front her some money for a while, but in the end she is either going to have to repay him or suffer a very rough consequence. In the meantime, however, she can continue to entertain her customers, in this case those willing to extend her credit in one form or another. Sooner rather than later, however, these creditors are going to grow tired of her tricks and turn their attention otherwise. At that point, she will be left to deal with the ECB because nobody else will have her.
2012-03-20 An Actively Passive Debate by Chris Maxey of Fortigent
The debate surrounding active versus passive investment management continues to attract a growing share of investor interest. After several years of underperformance, active managers are finally outperforming their benchmarks YTD, but it may be too late. Investors, frustrated with the underperformance and higher fees, are piling en masse into exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and other low cost solutions. The time for an all-passive solution may not be right now, but active managers are undoubtedly concerned about what the future may hold.
2012-03-19 The Search for Yield in a Low-Rate Environment by Team of Franklin Templeton
There are always opportunities to capture yieldif you are willing to shoulder the price of the associated risk. In their words: We look at the return profile for a company historically, and we project that out three to five years. A low-interest rate environment generally benefits heavy borrowers, whose cost of borrowing will be kept low. We believe investors tired of little return may move out on the risk spectrum in search of more potential return. Dividends can indicate a company cares about its shareholders. Dividends look like theyre here to stay.
2012-03-17 Where Will the Jobs Come From? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We will look at why employment is so critical. How are jobs created and what policies can be adopted to help foster more jobs? Should the US try and keep jobs that are going overseas, or develop whole new industries? Who exactly is the competition globally for jobs?
2012-03-16 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
Lets take a few moments to talk about GDP, the economy in general, and investor psychology. the GDP figures for the fourth quarter were revised from 2.8% to 3%. This marks the tenth consecutive quarter of growth, and given everything we know at this point its likely that the first quarter of 2012 will also reflect growth. In other words, we will have 11 consecutive quarters of growth. Fortunately the concept of a double dip recession has faded. Make no mistakethere will be another recession at some time in the future, but it will clearly not be a double dip recession.
2012-03-15 Where to Look for Dividends? Try Outside the US by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
With the dividend corner of the US equity market now crowded and expensive, Russ gives three reasons why investors might want to consider looking abroad for dividend income. More Reasonable Valuations: Outside of the US, dividend paying stocks still appear cheap and are trading at a significant discount to the broader equity market. More Attractive Yields: Non-US dividend companies are offering more enticing yields. Outperformance in a Slow Growth Environment: high dividend paying stocks tend to outperform during periods of slow growth like the one were experiencing this year.
2012-03-14 Why U.S. Investors Should Look Beyond Dividend Yield by Patrick O'Shaughnessey of O'Shaughnessey Asset management
Many investors are fed up with yields on fixed income securities and are in search of higher yield. As a result, U.S. stocks with high yields have become very popular with individual and professional investorsbut we believe that investors are looking at the wrong kind of yield. Though dividend yield works very well internationally, investors in U.S. stocks should instead focus on shareholder yield, a factor we have long advocated that has provided considerably stronger returns for U.S. stocks for more than 80 years.
2012-03-13 Concentrated Equity Triple Play Higher Returns, Lower Risk, Lower Correlations by C. Thomas Howard, Ph.D. (Article)
Concentrating a portfolio on a few choice assets dramatically increases an investor's chance of superior performance. Nonetheless, most advisors and investors shun portfolio concentration as unacceptably risky. To a great extent, this is driven by the myth that adequate diversification is impossible unless one holds many stocks - a myth I will debunk.
2012-03-08 And Thats The Week That Was by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
New week; same old story. EU ministers continue debating the Greek bailout package which should (hopefully) come to resolution next week. Unemployment highlights a busy economic calendar as investors look to see how the solid weekly jobless claims releases translate into the key labor rate and nonfarm payroll data. Bring on Super Tuesday, right Mitt?
2012-03-06 Why Invest? - Part 2 by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
Risk tolerance is a quality inherent in an individual or an institution. Whether quantified or not, risk tolerance is the amount of return the investor requires as compensation for the extra risk that comes with investing. It's a concept that is essential for making investment decisions, yet it is elusive and maddeningly difficult to specify. Even so, many investment advisors like to give the public the impression that they're proficient at determining it.
2012-03-06 Fed Takes 'Goldilocks' Approach to Tepid Economy by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Ben Bernanke's not-too-hot, but not-too-cold outlook spells low rates through 2014, but there's no QE3 in sight. He cautioned that while the unemployment rate has decreased faster than the Fed anticipated over the last year, the job market remains far from normal. Despite a more optimistic consumer outlook, investors have largely stayed on the sidelines. This is where the Fed's Goldilocks approach to monetary policy should prove beneficial.This level of certainty highlights certain truths that will help investors make better decisions. Investors will be punished for being savers.
2012-03-05 Choosing the Right REIT Can Benefit Diversification by Team of American Century Investments
The quest for consistently high risk-adjusted return is an arduous, never-ending journey. This outline introduces the basics of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). That REITs can serve as a useful portfolio diversifier can easily be made apparent. The next issue becomes which type of REIT? The emphasis of this write-up is on identifying the different types of REITs. Outfitted with this information, investors can make better REIT choices, aiding portfolio diversification now and into the future.
2012-03-05 Is Popularity Ruining Indexing? by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Scarcity creates value in economics. In our view, what is scarce today is an equity manager doing long-term/long duration equity analysis and institutions/individual investors willing to employ them. Since 33% of the stock market is indexed and most of the other 67% works in very short analytic time frames, we believe the market must be as inefficient as it has ever been. Time is the ally of the long-duration common stock investor and we believe more so now, because indexing is getting too popular and investing in short durations is at epidemic levels.
2012-03-03 Unintended Consequence by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we wonder about the consequences of the European Central Bank (ECB) issuing over 1 trillion in short-term loans to try and postpone a banking credit crisis and lower sovereign debt costs for certain peripheral countries in Europe. What if, instead of holding the European Monetary Union (EMU or Eurozone) together, that actually makes a breakup more likely? That would certainly fall under the rubric of unintended consequences, and be worth our time to contemplate in this week's letter.
2012-03-01 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
When helping people with retirement and cash flow planning, we often have some detailed conversations concerning the costs of health care. Some retirees have a misconception that somehow, because of Medicare, things are free. Anyone who is a part of Medicare knows that is simply not the case. Not only do you pay premiums for Parts B and D, but there are some significant co-payments and deductibles attributable to Medicare, as well. Health care costs are estimated to be over $325,000 over the course of retirement for a 65 year old couple.
2012-03-01 Cures for the Apathetic Investor by Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors
A lack of faith and trust has driven investors to the sidelines and halted the flow of capital in the U.S. According to the Investment Company Institute, investors pulled more than $130 billion from equity mutual funds during 2011. This is a common reaction in the cycle of market emotions where investors generally move from a fear of losing money, to becoming apathetic about the markets, to feeling confident about investments, and finally, to irrational exuberance. Right now, many investors appear to be stuck in an apathy sandpit.
2012-03-01 ETF Deathwatch List Revisited by Ryan Issakainen of First Trust Advisors
On a fairly regular basis, we hear grumbling about the rapid growth of the ETF industry. One of the concerns thats often raised is that there are simply too many ETFs. This is generally followed by a dire prediction of massive industry consolidation and ETF liquidations, referencing a handful of recent ETF closures, and citing the ETF Deathwatch list which is published by Ron Rowland. Together, these fears are often presented as evidence that investors should avoid smaller ETFs, and stick with funds that meet a certain threshold for Assets Under Management (AUM) or trading volume.
2012-02-28 The Problem with Target-Date Fund Glide Paths by James A. Colon, CFA (Article)
The attack on target-date funds (TDFs) continues to gain steam, and for good reason. Virtually all TDFs offer a mechanical approach to glide-path management, unnecessarily exposing investors to risk - most noticeably when they are on the verge of retirement. A superior approach would keep the long- and short-term volatility of an investor's portfolio within appropriate ranges by actively managing the glide path.
2012-02-28 The Big Picture Through a Small-Cap Lens by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Things are looking up for investors as a recovery in the job market and a rosier consumer outlook have helped fuel optimism. But spiking oil prices could spoil the party in the short run. A look at small-cap stocks may offer perspective. The rally, Oct. 4 - Feb. 23, has seen the Russell 2000 jump 37%, well ahead of both the Russell Mid-Cap and the Russell 1000 indices. The small-cap rally may be headed for a hiccup, however, one foreshadowed by last weeks slight decline in the Russell 2000. Still many portfolios can benefit from a long-term allocation to small-cap and even micro-cap stocks.
2012-02-25 Tax That Other Guy by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Last week's letter on taxes drew more response than any letter I have written in years. Questions that were raised simply beg for an answer, and some of the replies were very thoughtful, well-written suggestions for alternatives. This week I am going to do something I can't ever remember doing, and that is to use the entire letter to involve and respond to my readers.
2012-02-22 Media Headlines Will Lead You To Ruin by Lance Roberts of Streettalk Live
Two weeks ago Barron's ran the cover page of "Dow 15,000". Over the weekend Alan Abelson ran a column titled "Everyone In The Pool". Today, CNBC leads with "Dow 13,000 May Finally Lure Investors Back Into Stocks". Unfortunately, for most investors, the CNBC headline is probably right. Investors, on the whole, have a tendency to do exactly the opposite of what they should do when it comes to investing: "Buy High and Sell Low." The reality is that the emotions of greed and fear do more to cause investors to lose money in the market than being robbed at the point of a gun.
2012-02-21 Good News Cant Keep a Lid on Investor Fear by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The outlook for the stock market keeps getting brighter, but investors are still letting fear cloud their judgment. In the United States, the jobs picture a rather bleak scenario less than a year ago has improved substantially. The euro-zone debt crisis has also improved. We havent seen any real contagion from Greece, as evidenced by sovereign debt yields. And despite prominent investors such as Warren Buffett and Jeremy Grantham favoring stocks over bonds, a lot more money flowed into bond funds in January. This disconnect reveals a continued tug-of-war between fear and fundamentals.
2012-02-18 The Cancer of Debt and Deficits by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We will explore some options to actually resolve the deficit and debt crisis. Cutting spending or raising taxes have consequences, but not all cuts and not all taxes are the same. For those who have been wanting more specific solutions from me, I am going to address the issues surrounding taxation and offer my thoughts as to what we should do.
2012-02-11 The Answer We Dont Want to Know by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This election is ultimately about dealing (or not dealing) with the deficit, and putting the country on a path to a sustainable budget deficit, one that is less than the growth rate of the country. As I have argued elsewhere, and will argue in future letters, that is the paramount issue. Not dealing with the deficit runs the very real risk of the bond market treating us just as it is treating Italy and any other country that gets to the point where its debt is unsustainable.
2012-02-09 Our Budget Deficit and the Coming Elections by Team of American Century Investments
One week ago, the CBO released its latest federal budget and economic outlook for the U.S. In the associated report, they explain that their ten year baseline budget projection is not a forecast of future events. Instead, it is provided as a policy benchmark that reflects what will occur to the federal budget and deficits if the existing taxation and spending laws are kept intact without additional legislative actions. Of course, we are now within nine months of a major election where a key issue will be what changes are needed to address our present fiscal woes.
2012-02-09 Private Equity: Fact, Fiction and What Lies in Between by Team of Knowledge @ Wharton
What good is private equity, anyway? Critics say these investment pools make money the wrong way -- buying "target companies," slashing jobs, piling on debt and selling the remnants, which by then are doomed to fail. Defenders say PE is a strong creator of jobs and value, and a vital source of outsized returns for pension funds, university endowments and other investment pools that serve ordinary people. Who's right?
2012-02-07 Inflection Point: The Start of a New Cycle in Real Estate? by Joel Beam, Ian Goltra, and Michael McGowan of Forward Management
Commercial real estate markets appear to be entering an extended cycle of recovery. The recovery is expected to play out unevenly across U.S. and international markets, with the first wave focused on knowledge-based, gateway cities and technology corridors. Commercial real estate is currently inexpensive by historical standards. Unlike residential markets, commercial real estate markets appear healthy, with rising liquidity and transaction levels. Institutional and private-equity funds are ratcheting up their real estate commitments, seeking 6.5%-8% returns in line with historical averages.
2012-02-06 Time to Get in the Game by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Recent data on job growth, unemployment and manufacturing activity offer compelling reasons for investors to get off the sidelines. Private job growth continued with a gain of 257,000 jobs, signaling a very constructive trend weve seen for a number of months. Public sector job shrinkage also continued and should be a welcome sign given the need to reduce government debt. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3% in January. Arguably, investors should be willing to take on more risk when they feel their employment is more secure. And the feeling of greater job security might soon be on the horizon.
2012-02-04 Who Took My Easy Button? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is no way enough money can be found to fund our entitlement programs, given the current system, even under the best of assumptions. Things must change. Either we will make the difficult choices or those changes will be forced by the market. The longer we put off the difficult choices, the more painful the consequences. This week we begin a series on the choices facing the US. We need to understand the consequences of the choices we make. Cut spending, say some. Tax the rich, say others. Cut out waste and corruption is always a popular choice. Do all of the above, intone others.
2012-02-02 Knowledge is the Antidote to Fear by Team of Sloan Wealth Management
We feel investors should focus on the high probability that this could be a rewarding decade. The volatility of the market can often mask the improving fundamentals. Now two years into the decade, we are pleased that the SWM Moderate Risk Composite is up 14%. This election year will create endless entertainment, needed discussion on the future of our great nation and finally clarity for corporations and individuals. This clarity should allow corporations to loosen their purse strings and continue to fuel growth.
2012-02-02 2011: The US Year by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
The market generally proves the consensus wrong, and 2011 certainly adhered to that historical precedent because the consensus "must owns" at the beginning of 2011 generally underperformed during the year. What is somewhat startling to us, however, is that conviction has yet to be shaken. The consensus continues to favor commodities, emerging markets, and "any-bond-but-treasuries".
2012-02-01 A Slippery Year for Excess Returns by John West of Research Affiliates
Last year, securities prices moved like a school of sardines. That environment made life difficult for both active managers and the Fundamental Index approach. This month's Fundamentals examines what happened in 2011 and the opportunities for breaking loose this year.
2012-02-01 Investment Management in the Age of Austerity by Douglas Hodge of PIMCO
The broader financial industry is in a state of contraction, and the primary drivers of investment management revenue have become less reliable. Higher volatility and lower returns have fundamentally changed the relationship between investors and the managers to whom they entrust their wealth. We are all being held to a higher standard. We believe those investment management firms that can adapt and absorb these profound changes will come out ahead and will be best prepared to deliver value to their clients.
2012-01-31 Why Target-Date Funds Fail by Robert Huebscher (Article)
New research explains why target-date funds have failed to meet investors' objectives. While most of the criticism has been directed to overly aggressive glide paths, that is merely a symptom of the underlying problem - the misalignment of incentives between investors and fund companies.
2012-01-30 Fed Rings Dinner Bell for Equities by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The Fed's decision to keep short-term rates at historical lows and to provide greater visibility on monetary policy is likely to beckon stock investors to take on more risk. Plus, what you may have missed in the GDP report. Investors hungry for yield may have gotten the sign they needed to increase stock portions of their portfolios. On Jan. 25, after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke surprised the capital markets by announcing that the central bank planned to keep short-term interest rates historically low into late 2014 and possibly beyond.
2012-01-27 What the Bond Market Knows That You Dont by Matt Tucker of iShares Blog
On the back of improving US economic data, equities have rallied off of autumn lows, and yet US Treasury yields have continued to surf bottom with the 10-year note trading below 2% for the first time on record. Why havent interest rates recovered in support of improving data? Do US Treasury investors know something that equity investors dont? The answer may lie across the pond in Europe. The European crisis intensified significantly in the fall, causing equity markets (and most risky assets for that matter) to sell off and US Treasury rates to fall, despite the August downgrade.
2012-01-26 The Price of a Good Nights Sleep by Russ Koesterich of iShares Blog
Even with the recent market rally, investors are still placing a significant premium on those assets perceived as safe. Case in point: the US Treasury market. By one measure-real yields measured against core inflation long-dated Treasuries are offering the worst returns in over 30 years. The flip side of this trade is a persistent aversion to assets perceived to be the most risky, particularly Europe. Even in the more stable, northern parts many markets are trading at 8 times earnings, with dividend yields at 4% to 5%. In a low yield world, this strikes us as a long-term opportunity.
2012-01-24 Beyond Reinhart and Rogoff by Robert Huebscher (Article)
My article two weeks ago, The Misreading of Reinhart and Rogoff, elicited a number of challenges, both from those who argued that excessive debt imperils our economic growth and from those who claimed that my proposed solution was unworkable. Among those challengers was Lacy Hunt, who raised several valid concerns. I will explain why I disagree with Hunt and others, and why the dollar's position as the reserve currency increases our borrowing capacity. But our ability to borrow cannot be a license to spend unwisely, and I will conclude by expanding on the policy choices the US must pursue.
2012-01-23 Focus Shifts from Fear to Fundamentals by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Kristina Hooper, head of portfolio strategies, highlights last week's rally in stocks as a launching point for investors to overcome anxiety and regain focus on valuations, corporate earnings and improving macroeconomic conditions.
2012-01-21 Staring into the Abyss by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Europe's leaders are committed to keeping both the euro and the eurozone as it is. But for it to do so, everything must change, as the wonderful quote from the 1958 Italian novel suggests. This is no easy task, as no one wants a change that will impact them negatively; and there is no change that will allow things to stay the same that does not impact all severely, as we will see. In the third part of a continuing series, we look at the actual options that are available on the menu of choices, or as one group called it, the menu of pain.
2012-01-18 Resist a Kneejerk Reaction to Credit Downgrades by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
S&Ps downgrade of nine euro zone countries, including France, is likely to dial up investor anxiety, but its important not to let a short-term bout of pessimism KO your long-term financial goals, writes Kristina Hooper, head of portfolio strategies at Allianz Global Investors.
2012-01-17 Income Annuities versus GLWBs: A Product Comparison by Joe Tomlinson (Article)
The variable annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (VA/GLWB) has become the most popular form of annuity, as retirees seek income protection and equity-market participation. But VA/GLWBs are often costly, and the typical purchaser has few tools with which to assess the costs. Investors need a straightforward way to gauge the fees for VA/GLWBs versus other retirement income alternatives.
2012-01-17 GMO: Something's Fishy in China by Robert Huebscher (Article)
A wide gulf separates the two most prominent views regarding China's future. Faced with slowing economic growth, one side says its leaders will deftly navigate a soft landing, while the other claims it will face an implosion similar to those that befell Japan 20 years ago and the US in 2008. Count GMO, a firm that has built its reputation on its ability to identify a bubble about to pop, in the latter camp.
2012-01-17 Letter to the Editor - GLWBs by Various (Article)
A reader responds to Wade Pfau's article, GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion?, which appeared on December 13, 2011.
2012-01-17 The Impact of the Falling Dollar by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
Regarding the progress of the businesses we own, a useful metric we track is the Price-to-Value ratio. Conceptually, this statistic measures the current price of a portfolio company to its intrinsic value, conservatively estimated through our multiple valuation techniques. For example, Wal*Marts current P-to-V Ratio is 80%, determined by taking its roughly $60 stock price divided by our current fair business value estimate of $75. This implies, based on what we know today, Wal*Mart is roughly 20% undervalued, providing approximately 25% upside from current levels (not including dividends).
2012-01-14 The End of Europe? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The peripheral countries have no choices that allow them to grow and prosper without first suffering (for perhaps a long time) some very real economic pain. Leaving the eurozone has severe consequences; but the economic pain of leaving would go away sooner and allow for quicker adjustments, than if they stayed. However, the initial pain would be worse than the slow pain they'd suffer by staying in the euro. Their choice is, simply, which pain do they want or maybe, which pain do they think they want? Because whatever they choose, they are not going to like it.
2012-01-13 Time to Climb? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
The US economy continues to expand and has recently picked up momentum. Investors have been focused on European and US debt problems, but that may set up an environment for stocks to move higher. Many challenges await Congress. We're not optimistic that much progress will be made, but the rhetoric will almost certainly heat up as late-year elections loom. Recent policy decisions in Europe provide some hope but the region's banks continue to struggle and are pulling back on lending, which likely impedes growth. In China, policymakers attempt to keep growth from dipping below healthy levels.
2012-01-10 2011: The Famine That Followed the Feast That Followed the Fiasco by Ron Surz (Article)
Ron Surz provides his award-winning commentary on the US and global markets.
2012-01-07 2012: A Year of Choices by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
2012 will the year that the consequences of the choices made by the developed world will begin to manifest themselves in the economic realm. We are in the closing chapters of the current Debt Supercycle, with different countries strewn out along the path, and all headed for a destination that will force major decisions if politically painful actions are not taken. Some countries (e.g., Greece) have a choice between the dire and the disastrous. The option for merely difficult choices was long ago, and there is no going back to where you started without a different but equally painful outcome.
2012-01-06 And Thats The Year/Quarter That Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Global geopolitical events continue to impact all investments markets. Just when Europe seemed to be taking positive steps to move passed crisis mode, along come Spain, Italy, and Hungary to remind investors that the road to recovery will be paved with many bumps along the way. A nuclear Iran presents huge concerns and additional sanctions could cause new crude supply challenges that may prompt inflation to resurface. The recent favorable labor releases woke the consumer from hibernation in time for the holidays, but will the enthusiasm last once the season ends?
2012-01-06 All The Emperors Are Naked by Brian S. Wesbury of First Trust Advisors
Governments seem unwilling to deal with issues that are relatively straight-forward. Its not hard to understand. Spending needs to be paid for by taxes, but taxes undermine the incentives to produce and invest and push business to other countries. Eventually government spends so much that the economy cannot support it (no matter how much tax rates rise) and bond buyers go on strike. Many European countries have reached that point.
2012-01-04 Defending Our Optimism by John Burns of John Burns Real Estate
Since our client webinar last January, we have been defending our realism, which was viewed as optimism by most of our clients, whether they are builders, developers, product manufacturers, private equity investors or public markets investors. We called for home prices to fall slightly, a tough three years selling homes, and a construction recovery that is exactly the time for patient money (5-10 year money) to invest wisely. Most money is not that patient, so the challenge for each of our clients continues to be when to increase their investments.
2012-01-03 How Top Execs Game Retirement Plans by Michael Edesess (Article)
Corporate executives and employee-benefits consultants have engineered a cascade of arcane methods to deprive ordinary retirees of benefits they thought they were promised, in order to fatten corporate profits and the benefit packages of top executives. That is the harsh message of Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen E. Schultz's meticulously-researched book, Retirement Heist.
2012-01-03 Ghosts of Christmas Past by Michael Lewitt (Article)
While Europe desperately needs the liquidity that the latest bailout scheme provides, nobody should mistake liquidity for solvency and think for a moment that the crisis is over. Much more work is needed to heal the wounds that European policy makers and business leaders have inflicted on their societies since the European Union was formed.
2012-01-03 Good Defense, Slow Progress a Win for 2011 by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The stock market finished flat for the year, but an absence of loss in the face of a wave of negative news coupled with improving economic conditions are cause for optimism in 2012. While the stock market took us on a wild ride to nowhere, investors are better off than they were a year ago.
2011-12-31 Collateral Damage by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economic travails of much of the West are reaching a decisive stage as the year ends. In 2008, we predicted sluggish recovery and a long period of low growth for the West in a two-speed world. This picture does not now properly reflect the downside risks. The policy of "kicking the can down the road" is failing, as the intensifying crisis in the euro zone and the failure of the G20 summit in late October clearly demonstrate. As to December's European summit, we describe its impact later in this paper.
2011-12-24 Your Three Investing Opponents by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Recently I have been having a running conversation with Barry Ritholtz on the psychology of investing (something we both enjoy discussing and writing about). Since I am busily researching my annual forecast issue (and taking the day off), I asked Barry to share a few of his thoughts on why we do the things we do. He gives us even more, exploring the three main opponents we face when we enter the arena of investing.
2011-12-23 Rebalancing Resurrected, Part 3 by Adam Butler and Mike Philbrick of Butler Philbrick & Associates
This is a 'Canadian-ized' version of anarticlewe published on Monday, December 19, 2011, which featured a study of US equity and fixed-income markets. As we are located in Canada, we were motivated to see how well the same techniques work in our home market using the S&P/TSX Composite. As expected, it turns out that they work quite well.
2011-12-21 Time for the Fed's Public Service Announcement by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Jitters over Europe's debt crisis once again sent investors fleeing despite mounting evidence of economic expansion in the U.S. While the Fed has prudently kept interest rates at historical lows, an explicit call to action for investors is needed.
2011-12-21 Seeking Absolute Return: Finding Opportunity in Overly Hyped Alternatives by Team of Litman Gregory
This commentary references and updates views originally shared in our 2003 whitepaper on hedge-fund strategies. Today, we have similar concerns about a low-return environment for stocks in the years ahead. As we concluded eight years ago, hedge-fund strategies do have the potential to add value to a portfolio. However, finding funds that are skillfully managed and offered at a reasonable cost remains a difficult challenge.
2011-12-21 Rebalancing Resurrected, Part 2 by Adam Butler and Mike Philbrick of Butler Philbrick & Associates
This is a 'Japan-amized' version of an article we published on 12/19, which featured a study of US equity and fixed-income markets. The Japanese experience since 1993 was dramatically different than the U.S. Japanese investors endured a seemingly endless series of intermediate term extremes of hope and despair as markets oscillated wildly above and below their long-term negative trend. Japans multi-decade crash and stagnation is unique among modern market economies (so far), so we wanted to see how well our volatility adjusted rebalancing framework worked in this difficult environment.
2011-12-20 Do-It-Yourself Equity-Indexed Annuities by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)
Equity indexed annuities offer retirees a compelling combination of guaranteed income and participation in the market’s upside. But EIAs are exceedingly complex and have been the subject of numerous regulatory challenges. For those who seek a simpler alternative with a comparable return profile, a combination of fixed-income securities and options is viable choice.
2011-12-20 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
Readers respond to several articles: GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion?, Did Congress Cash In on Insider Stock Trading?, and Can this be Serious?, all which appeared last week, and to John Mauldin's commentary, The Center Cannot Hold, which appeared on Saturday.
2011-12-19 Rebalancing Resurrected by Adam Butler and Mike Philbrick of Advisor Perspectives (dshort.com)
This is part 1 of a 3 part series that explores optimal methods of dynamic rebalancing between stocks and bonds. This study examines these methods in the context of a US equity / Treasury basket. The next 2 posts will explore the impact of our proposed techniques on Japanese and Canadian equity / bond baskets. The investment community is in the midst of an identity crisis, though admittedly many in the industry don't know it yet. At the heart of the matter is the following misconception: Investors perceive that investment professionals add value via security selection and market timing.
2011-12-19 I Dont Know What to Say, Except its Christmas and Were All in Misery" by Liam Molloy and Bethany Carlson of Galway Investment Strategy
The back half of the year has seen a dramatic rise in volatility that has shaken investor confidence in the market itself. Markets have routinely seen wild swings in the futures market prior to the open in New York, before the European close, and in the last hour of trading in the US. This pattern has been an almost daily occurrence and at times seems to have no connection to actual fundamental information. The mystery of this market behavior leaves investors wishing cousin Eddie emptying his chemical toilet was the biggest source of irritation this Christmas.
2011-12-17 The Center Cannot Hold by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We'll leave aside the politics of the payroll tax extension and look at the economic implications, and then go on to examine the deficit in the US. That will give rise to some thoughts about Europe and what would have to happen for a country to leave the euro. We'll finally close with some thoughts and graphs about the more controversial part of the tax cut extension, the Keystone XL Pipeline. Just how radical is it to build such a pipeline in the US? And what are the implications for the deficit?
2011-12-15 A Confederacy of Dunces? by Eric Schaefer of American Independence Financial Services of Advisor Perspectives (dshort.com)
On January 9th, 1790, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton issued his Report on Public Credit in response to a request by the House of Representatives. The report, though overlooked, belongs in the canon of American historical documents along with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers among others. In it Hamilton argued the newly formed Federal government should assume the war debts incurred by the thirteen colonies during the Revolutionary War.
2011-12-14 Idaho Municipal Bonds: The Gem State Shines by Phelps McIlvaine and Shannon Skinner of Saturna Capital
Here we examine the health of Idaho and its municipal bonds in the context of the U.S. market as a whole, in order to separate the facts from the hype. What we find is that Idahos staunch fiscal conservatism is serving its economy well in trying times, and that for Idaho resident investors, the tax-exempt returns from high-quality Idaho bond issues offer a relatively low-volatility way to take advantage of a bright spot in the muni market.
2011-12-14 Clinton Investment Management 3Q2011 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
As we look toward year-end, we endeavor to seek out the best means for adding meaningful value to our client portfolios. We expect municipal bond new issue supply to dissipate as we approach the New Year. As it does, we expect technical conditions to improve materially. We also believe that the roughly $20 billion in anticipated January reinvestment will pull demand for municipal bonds forward into December. We have extended our client durations modestly in an effort to capitalize on what we believe could be a period of solid outperformance for the municipal bond market.
2011-12-13 GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion? by Wade Pfau (Article)
One of the most popular variable annuity riders is the guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB), which offers downside protection through lifetime income, upside potential with step-ups based on market performance, and minimal surrender penalties. But, examining historical data, I have found that those riders carry a cost that will not be readily apparent to retirees: their cash flows rapidly decrease on an inflation-adjusted basis.
2011-12-13 Did Congress Cash In on Insider Stock Trading? by Michael Edesess (Article)
Are members of Congress profiting from insider information on companies their legislation affects, or is something more complicated - and less nefarious - going on? Those who watched the November 13 segment on 60 Minutes that accused members of Congress of insider trading are outraged at these public servants' behavior. But that outrage should be aimed at 60 Minutes itself, along with Peter Schweizer, whose new book, Throw Them All Out, provided the misleading data that was the basis for the broadcast.
2011-12-12 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
Markets continue to be whipsawed by headlines out of Europe which much of the time are confusing and contradictory. Overall, however, the stock market here in the United States continues to outperform other global markets, and as evidenced by the charts below showed gains for the week. Last week saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average gain 1.4% while the NASDAQ Composite moved higher by three quarters of a percent.
2011-12-10 A Player to Be Named Later by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There are two main points to be taken away from this week's European summit. First, the Germans really took control. This has been coming for a long time, and it's not like we haven't discussed it in these letters. Second, Britain either opted out or was shown the door, depending on your point of view. That is the real game-changer, long-term, for more than the obvious reasons.
2011-12-09 2012: Politics Versus Fundamentals by Richard Bernstein of Richard Bernstein Advisors
Assessing the prospects for a coming twelve-month period is always a challenge. We rely on our broad arsenal of fundamental barometers for profits, sentiment, momentum, and our cyclical indicators to help us identify whether markets are correctly aligned relative to their economic and profits cycles.
2011-12-08 Myth vs Reality in the Hunt for Fixed Income Alpha by Matt Tucker of iShares Blog
Many investors rely on active managers to oversee their fixed income holdings. The belief is that in opaque markets, information asymmetry exists among investors and a skilled manager can use this asymmetry to outperform the market. Thats the theory. Now, what's the reality? Matt Tucker is here to explain.
2011-12-06 The Unspoken Truth about Hedge Funds by Michael Edesess (Article)
The popularity of the endowment model among advisors has been driven by the belief that hedge funds have produced positive risk-adjusted returns. But the basis for that notion has been statistics gleaned from hedge fund databases, and new research shows returns from those databases are even more upwardly biased than previously thought; the supposed alpha never really existed.
2011-12-06 Two Simple Questions to Motivate Your Assistant by Dan Richards (Article)
High on the list of holiday wishes for many advisors would be a cheerful, motivated, efficient team, united in the common goal of moving your business forward. And while you have no control over many things, you have a great deal of influence over how well your team operates.
2011-12-05 Year of the Living Dead Stock Market by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Stocks have been acting like a pack of zombies this year: wandering around aimlessly, frightening off everyone, but not really getting anywhere. However, recent data suggest an awakening.
2011-12-03 Time to Bring Out the Howitzers by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
It is now common to use the term bazooka when referring the actions of governments and central banks as they try to avert a credit crisis. And this week we saw a coordinated effort by central banks to use their bazookas to head off another 2008-style credit disaster. The market reacted as if the crisis is now over and we can get on to the next bull run. Yet, we will see that it wasn't enough. Something more along the lines of a howitzer is needed (keeping with our WW2-era military arsenal theme). And of course I need to briefly comment on today's employment numbers.
2011-12-02 The Paradox of Active Fixed Income Management by Matt Tucker of iShares Blog
Amid this years volatile markets, many investors expected their fixed income holdings to be a source of stability in their portfolios. But some are finding the opposite has been true. In this blog, Matt Tucker explains how the Paradox of Active Management could be partly to blame.
2011-11-28 The Upshot: In Thanksgiving by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Despite a turkey performance from the stock market last week, U.S. investors still have a lot to be thankful for, namely a doubling of corporate profits in the last three years, improved labor market conditions and surprisingly strong consumer spending.
2011-11-22 Liquidity of the Banking System Remains in Focus by Team of ChinaScope
With year end approaching, the release of financial deposits will have a magnified impact on the monetary base. Central financial deposits released are expected to exceed 1 trillion yuan in Nov-Dec this year. Loan-to-deposit ratio (LTD) and capital assessment were tightened by the end of October. A holistic approach to analyzing bank data is required is provide a complete picture of bank liquidity and its impact on SME financing.
2011-11-21 The Upshot: Anxiety, Not Hard Evidence, Occupy Wall Street by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Stocks retreated despite positive economic news, suggesting even tangible proof of recovery may prove too little to overcome investor fear. With higher volatility over political handwringing expected, investors can exploit likely buying opportunities. Indeed, anxiety occupied Wall Street last week and trading was decidedly risk off: The S&P 500 gave up almost 4% and the Dow Jones Europe Index lost 5%, while the 10-year Treasury was driven down to 2.01%. But stock market performance belies an improving economic picture, a condition best illustrated by the latest government data.
2011-11-19 Print or Perish by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I do not think the euro will survive with the current mix of countries, nor do I think that Germany thinks so either. Greece is likely to go, as is Portugal. Can Spain really get its deficit under control in time? Do we see a two-euro world, one in the northern states and one in the southern? And to which one does France go? Looking at the politics, one might think the answer is obvious, but if you just look at the numbers, it is clearly not. France is in many respects a Mediterranean country. So many choices and none of them good.
2011-11-15 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
2012 may be the year that banks get back into the business of actually lending money. While some of the banks that avoided the real estate fiascos have been in a position to lend money to the most highly qualified borrowers, we should see a significant increase in lending by all banks during 2012. Like consumers, big banks spent the last few years repairing their balance sheets. They now need to find ways to deploy their capital other than using it for a write-off. Interest rates are about as low as they can go, especially for high quality borrowers.
2011-11-14 The Upshot: Fear vs. Fundamentals by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
There is continued disparity between investor moods and a healthy corporate America. A vicious tug-of-war between positive economic data and negative news formed the backdrop for another tumultuous week in the financial markets. The tiebreaker was a more optimistic take on Europes ability to solve its debt problems, which enabled stocks to finish the week on a positive note with the S&P 500 gaining less than 1%. Looking at the stock market's progress so far in 2011, it has been a similar tale: volatility with little to show for it. The S&P 500 is up a modest 0.5% year to date.
2011-11-12 Where is the ECB Printing Press? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
There is too much debt in many southern countries; France is not far from having its own crisis if they do not get back into balance. And if they lose their AAA rating, then any EFSF solution is just so much bad paper. The path of least resistance, and I use that term guardedly, is for the ECB to find its printing press. Perhaps they can borrow one from Bernanke.
2011-11-09 Is Now the Right Time to Hedge Tail Risk? by Vineer Bhansali, Tina Adatia and Jeroen van Bezooijen of PIMCO
Not all hedges have equally increased in value, giving investors the option to reduce the cost of their hedges by considering both direct and indirect hedges. Tail risk hedging may allow certain investors to maintain an allocation to risk assets where they might otherwise deem the position to be too risky and it can also help stabilize portfolios on a mark-to-market basis. Investors may decide to either start implementing hedges now, phase the tail risk strategy in over a period of time, or put the infrastructure in place now and defer implementation until market conditions change.
2011-11-08 An International Perspective on Safe Withdrawal Rates by Wade Pfau (Article)
Prospective retirees must consider whether they are comfortable basing retirement decisions on the impressive but perhaps anomalous numbers found in historical US data. What has been safe for US retirees in the past has been far less secure for their foreign counterparts.
2011-11-08 A Unique Way to Help Clients Close the Retirement Gap by Dan Richards (Article)
Clients facing a shortfall in retirement savings can bridge that gap in many ways. But one technique is often neglected: spending reductions - even small ones - in their everyday lives. A new web site gives clients the tools to quantify and manage those reductions.
2011-11-07 Euro Drama Offsets Winning Earnings Season by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Stocks gave back gains last week with help from Europe, but there are ample reasons to stay upbeat on equities: 7 out of 10 U.S. companies are beating earnings estimates so far in the third quarter, and the private sector continues to add jobs. Stocks finished the week downbut definitely not outas a strong earnings season is cause for optimism in the face of a pervasive European debt crisis.
2011-11-05 Where Will the Jobs Come From? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What is the role of government in creating jobs? To answer that, let's look at the data that shows us where jobs come from. And we find that net new jobs for the last 15 years came from new business start-ups. Big business is a net drag on job creation, and small businesses are a wash. Governments have seen job growth, but where does the money come to pay government employees?
2011-11-03 Third Quarter Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
We fully expect markets to remain manic and co-dependent. The market cant live without Ben, so a few weeks of weak data and no intervention and well have a selloff. Likewise, as soon as rumors of the next hundred billion dollar intervention surface, traders wont be able to buy equities quickly enough. The situation in Europe is a mirror image. Thankfully, in a world of 20,000+ individual securities there are always pockets of opportunity. We must be prepared for our individual ideas to trade with the market for periods of time, but over the long-haul good things happen to cheap stocks.
2011-11-01 The Small Cap Falsehood by Michael Edesess (Article)
The supposed outperformance of small cap stocks is a foundational precept on which many respected asset managers have staked their expertise over the years – foremost among them, Dimensional Fund Advisors. A growing body of research, however, shows no such advantage for the last 30 years and, now, a new study seems to have proven that the supposed small-cap advantage may have never existed in the first place.
2011-11-01 A Better Way to do Financial Planning by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Simplicity is dangerous when it comes to financial planning. Easy-to-use tools that project your retirement savings based on minimal inputs such as your income and savings rate amount to a “bait-and-switch,” according to Larry Kotlikoff, a Boston University professor of economics. To properly prepare for retirement, one should focus on maintaining a constant standard of living throughout their life – what economists call consumption smoothing.
2011-11-01 The Questions to Ask about Non-Traded REITs by Robert P. Seawright (Article)
The attraction of high yields comes at the expense of higher risk, a time-worn lesson that should be an ongoing focus for investors in non-traded REITs.
2011-11-01 Regulatory Armageddon by Bob Veres (Article)
Suppose you were somehow able to convince 40 advisors, who are all well-known thought leaders in the profession, to gather in the same room for a six-hour brainstorming session. The goal: to identify the single most important thing that the financial planning profession should be thinking about now. What do you think they'd come up with? Fasten your seat belts, because this may be the most important report you'll read all year.
2011-11-01 Why Invest? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)
Investing has its rational justifications, but like any human activity, it's contingent upon history. American society has come to regard investing in stocks and bonds as a matter of personal responsibility and even an obligation, which in part explains why we invest.
2011-10-29 Missing the Forest for the Trees? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Earnings season was good and economic data in the US has improved. Robust growth is unlikely in the near future, but the economy is improving. Investors appear to be unconvinced that the picture may be brightening. Inflation continues to run higher than we'd like to see but sustainable price gains are unlikely. The Fed continues to be extremely accommodating. Italy has the potential to be a much bigger problem than Greece. A tentative agreement has been reached for Europe, but hopes for a true long-term solution remain thin. China is likely to suffer no worse than a soft landing.
2011-10-29 European Summit: A Plan with No Details by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The market reacted like yesterdays announcement was the Second Coming of the Solution to End All Solutions. But if you look deeply there is more to the market "melt-up" than simple euphoria and relief. What you find is a very disturbing unintended consequence that will come back to haunt us. The finger points to derivatives and credit default swaps. This week, we look at gamma and delta and other odd entities that may be behind the real reason for the market response, as we march inexorably toward the final chapters of the Endgame.
2011-10-24 And Thats The Week That Was by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Earnings season rolls along as Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America hope to send some positive messages from banking (that JP Morgan was unable to dodont hold your breath). IBM and Intel give investors a glimpse into the world of tech. A hectic week on the economic calendar leaves investor hoping to see a continuation of the rebound in manufacturing (from the post-Japan earthquake doldrums) and good news on the inflation front. The Fed Beige book grants another look into the data debated by the policymakers as investors speculate about future stimuli.
2011-10-24 And Thats The Week That Was by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
Big oil takes center stage in earnings as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron make a run at record profits. Amazon.com gives an early glimpse into the holiday season. Euro-zone leaders try to make progress on the rescue plan and France and Germany have sworn that the matter will be rectified by mid-week (or at least a course of action will have been set). The initial release of third quarter GDP highlights the economic releases. Somehow 9.1% growth rate (like Chinas) is not likely to be in the cards.
2011-10-24 Beige Book Should Leave Investors Less Blue by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
The Feds Beige Book, which provides a more holistic view of the economy than any individual data point, confirmed what weve seen in recent economic reports: the U.S. economy grew slightly in September and the first week of October. Also positive were the latest industrial production numbers: U.S. industrial production increased for the third straight month helped by rising demand for autos, planes and electronics. This offers further evidence of a disconnect between sentiment and dataone that could spell opportunity.
2011-10-21 How to Succeed at Auctions by Herbert Abramson and Randall Abramson of Trapeze Asset Management
We believe weve suffered more from the illiquidity and greater volatility of many of our smaller cap holdings, but thats where we are finding the best values with the greatest potential. When the markets recover, that same illiquidity should boost performance on the way up. Maybe sooner than is believed.
2011-10-17 Weakening Ties Between Data and Sentiment by Kristina Hooper of Allianz Global Investors
Surprisingly strong economic data shows a weakening link between investor attitudes and economic realities, suggesting fears of a recession may be overstated, writes Kristina Hooper, CFA, CIMA, head of portfolio strategies at Allianz Global Investors.
2011-10-14 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
Low interest rates have certainly hurt savers, even more so those who live on a fixed income. The current bubble in bonds will eventually pop, and many people will be surprised. But this ProVise Bullet is not about the risk in bonds today. Its more about the fact there is some good news as it relates to interest rates. First, mortgage rates are near an all-time low. A 30 year mortgage loan is available at an interest rate slightly above 4% and 15 year mortgage loans have been quoted at just a little under 3.57%. Even the IRS is getting into the act.
2011-10-14 Fall 2011 Quarterly Commentary by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
The world is a mess. There, we said it. Yet we continue to hold stocks and even look to purchase more of them. Why would we do this if we just admitted what we admitted? The answer lies in the critical distinction between having an investment philosophy and having a market outlook.
2011-10-12 Quarterly Review and Outlook by Team of Hoisington Investment Management
Negative economic growth will probably be registered in the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2011, and in subsequent quarters in 2012. Though partially caused by monetary and fiscal actions and excessive indebtedness, this contraction has been further aggravated by three current cyclical developments: a) declining productivity, b) elevated inventory investment, and c) contracting real wage income.
2011-10-08 An Irish Haircut by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
But here is the issue for Europe. The amount of money needed for Ireland is going to be a lot more than they now think, or at least are willing to admit. When Eurozone politicians worry about 'contagion,' or one country wanting the debt relief that another country gets, it is a very real worry. And rightfully so, as voters in Portugal or Spain or (gasp) Italy who are burdened by debt that is seemingly intractable will also want relief. It is not just an Irish condition, it is a human trait.
2011-10-07 The Hunt for (Sustainable) Yield by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
In any low-rate environment, it is easy to be seduced by any investment that can deliver high yields. But to achieve a consistent total return, you need to carefully weigh the risks and focus on investments that can deliver attractive yields that are sustainable, while also providing the potential for higher income in the future. Our answer thus far has been a combination of sources. Given the current miniscule yield environment, we expect these higher-quality asset classes to move the income-generation meter at least a little for client portfolios without exposing them to inordinate risk.
2011-10-07 Nowhere to Hide in the Third Quarter by Richard Skaggs of Loomis Sayles
The S&P 500 has traded within a range of about 1,100 on the low end to 1,230 on the high end since the sharp decline of July and August. Complicating the outlook, however, is the fact that many stocks and indices have made new lows since their early August lows, suggesting the S&P 500 could do the same. Fundamental conditions make the 2012 earnings outlook far cloudier than it was one or two quarters ago.
2011-10-04 Moneyball Investing by F. Sean Bonner (Article)
In capital markets, emotions often rule the day, to the benefit of those who best remain well grounded in theory and math. The same holds true in baseball, as the new movie Moneyball reminds us.
2011-10-04 Fixed Income ETFs and Yield: A Game of Catch Up by Matt Tucker of iShares Blog
Whats amazing to me is how many different types of yield existfor a bond or bond fund you could quote the yield a half dozen ways and each would be different. Understanding which yield to use can be confusing. Its easy to be enticed by what looks like the highest, especially in this low rate environment where investors are searching for ways to extract extra income from their bond holdings. I want to highlight three of the most common yields investors see for fixed income ETFs, explain how they are connected and show how they have a tendency to catch up with one another over time.
2011-09-30 The Fed's 'Twist' Turns into a Problem for Pensions, Insurers and Households by James Moore of PIMCO
In its attempt to stimulate borrowing by making long-term money cheap, the Fed has harmed large swaths of savers. A look at three groups in particular proves instructive: pension plans, life insurance companies, and households saving both inside and out of 401(k)s.
2011-09-30 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
As the Congressional Committee of 12 meets to figure out what to do about spending and taxes, we thought you might find the following of interest: Again, some people think it would be a good idea to distribute purchasing power by taking more millions of citizens off the federal income tax rolls entirely. While everybody wants relief from high taxes, there are at least two things wrong with this proposal.
2011-09-27 Do Low Correlations Favor Active Managers? by FundQuest Investment Management & Research Group (Article)
There has been much debate regarding the challenges for active managers in market environments with persistently high correlations. Some argue that high correlations hinder active managers seeking to generate alpha through security selection. Indeed, in a recent study, we found that active managers were more likely to succeed in low-correlation environments.
2011-09-21 Liquidity Crisis? A Currency Perspective by Axel Merk of Merk Funds
In 2008, the global financial system faced a potential meltdown when funding seized up for investment banks, ultimately leading to the failure of Lehmann Brothers. Three years on, we have got plenty of problems, but as we shall argue - investors may want to differentiate between a financial meltdown and insolvency. While complaining about policy makers and bankers may generate animated water cooler discussions, lets take their human (and fallible) nature as a given, and discuss implications for investors. In this context, we assess the U.S. dollar, currencies and equities.
2011-09-17 Twist and Shout? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
What in the wide, wild world of monetary policy is the Fed doing, giving essentially unlimited funds to European banks? What are they seeing that we do not? And is this a precursor to even more monetary easing at this next weeks extraordinary FOMC meeting, expanded to a two-day session by Bernanke? Can we say 'Operation Twist?' Or maybe 'Twist and Shout?'
2011-09-16 Dividend Growth Investing: Understanding style and stock selection risks by Kevin Feldman of iShares Blog
In my last post on the resurgent popularity of dividend investing, I talked about why the strategy of buying dividend aristocrats has surged in popularity over the past decade. This time Id like to explore the challenges of picking individual stocks and the risk in shunning growth for value. First, remember that not all dividend stocks are created equal. Second, do you really want to be in the stock-picking business?
2011-09-15 Chinese Banks are Imitating Washington Mutual by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
Washington Mutual is only in existence in the world of litigation. For those of you out there who like to avoid these kinds of risks, we at Smead Capital Management recommend you avoid China, avoid the commodities which are used most heavily in construction, avoid the makers of construction and mining equipment, avoid the countries which have benefitted the most from Chinas uninterrupted growth, and avoid the vehicles used for financing all of this growth. The inevitable economic recession in China which we expect to follow will turn the asset allocation world upside down.
2011-09-13 The Handicap of Experienced Investors by J.J. Abodeely, CFA, CAIA (Article)
In the investment business, assets under management are concentrated with the largest and most established firms. Understandably, investors tend to allocate capital to managers after they've established a good track record. Unfortunately, for many, the analysis stops there. By failing to separate good results from identification of what makes a great investment manager, investors are primed for disappointment.
2011-09-13 An Uncritical Glorification of Hedge Funds by Michael Edesess (Article)
Sebastian Mallaby's book, More Money than God, sheds some light on interesting events in hedge fund history and is strewn with a few valuable insights. Mostly, though, it is a work of serial hagiography. It seems designed to attract worshipers like those who drive by celebrity homes in Beverly Hills.
2011-09-13 An Increased Cost to Mutual Fund Investors that is Worth Every Penny! by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
Today mutual funds, including ETFs, control over $13 Trillion for more than 40% of all U.S. households who own their shares. With that much money and so many investors I find it amazing that today, as it was when I first entered this business over thirty years ago, almost no mutual fund investor can tell me how much they are paying in commissions and fees, nor can they name any of the investments their fund has invested in on their behalf, let alone if the fund uses derivatives.
2011-09-10 Market Comment by Keith Goddard of Capital Advisors
Whether measured objectively through indicators for valuation, trend and risk; or subjectively by pondering all that might go wrong in the euro zone, we come to the same conclusion about the current market climate proceed with caution.
2011-09-09 Should We Cheer The FHFA Lawsuit? by John Downs of Euro Pacific Capital
Last Friday the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) lawsuits were filed against seventeen banks and financial institutions for $200 billion in subprime loan losses. The victims of the alleged fraud? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and therefore the taxpayers. The suits claim that Fannie and Freddie, then two of the largest investment bodies in the world, had been ruthlessly hoodwinked by bankers into buying low-quality, and potentially fraudulent, mortgage-backed securities. In exchange for fees and commissions, big banks and loan companies stuck the taxpayers with a mountain of bad debt.
2011-09-08 Teaching to the Test by Neel Kashkari of PIMCO
Many managers are focused on beating benchmarks, rather than helping clients achieve their investment objectives. Clients save and invest their money for specific reasons, such as for retirement or childrens education and managers should focus on helping them meet those goals. Many managers are really closet indexers masquerading as active managers while charging premium fees for benchmark returns. Many equity managers deviate very little from their benchmark because they are terrified of potentially underperforming it.
2011-09-08 Bleak Outlook? MLPs May Help Cushion Against Market Volatility by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
Professional investors spend a lot of time studying probabilities. That is because, just as the direction of the recent Hurricane Irene featured a "cone of uncertainty," the financial markets often change course without warning and can wreak havoc on investor portfolios. Alternative investments, including Master Limited Partnerships, may help limit damage from the inevitable financial storms that investors may face. In today's uncertain economy and volatile markets, MLPs - while not immune - can provide attractive yields and relatively low correlation to the stock and bond markets.
2011-09-06 An Imminent Downturn: Whom Will Our Leaders Defend? by John P. Hussman of Hussman Funds
The global economy is at a crossroad that demands a decision-whom will our leaders defend? One choice is to defend bondholders-existing owners of mismanaged banks unserviceable peripheral European debt, and lenders who misallocated capital by reaching for yield and fees by making mortgage loans to anyone with a pulse. Defending bondholders will require forced austerity in spending of already depressed economies, continued monetary distortions, and the use of public funds to recapitalize poor stewards of capital. It will do nothing for job creation, foreclosure reduction, or economic recovery.
2011-09-04 Its All About the Jobs and Gold by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
If somehow a Republican appeared in the White House tomorrow, there is no magic he (or she!) could bring with him/her to fix the unemployment problem. There are just some things the private sector will have to do for itself, and the sooner the government stops getting in the way, the sooner will get things fixed. But it will take a long time, no mater what. For the record, I think you should own about 5% of your net worth in gold, as insurance, not as an investment.
2011-09-02 If Carlsberg Did Mortgages by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
The old world is drowning in debt. Governments are responding with austerity programmes and near zero interest rates but neither will work. Economic growth will be required to get the escalating debt under control, but policy makers need to dig deep into the tool box for different ideas as to how to create this growth. In this month's Absolute Return Letter we focus on one particular idea which will greatly benefit economic growth at no cost to the tax payer - reform the mortgage finance system across the world, using the model developed by the Danes over the past 200 years.
2011-08-30 Errata and Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
We correct a couple of errors which appeared in our article last week, The Simplest, Safest Withdrawal Strategy. A reader also responds to that article, and two readers respond to other recent articles.
2011-08-29 A Reprieve from Misguided Recklessness by John P. Hussman of Hussman Funds
Over the past three years, Wall Street and the banking system have enjoyed enormous fiscal and monetary concessions on the self-serving assertion that the global financial system will "implode" if anyone who made a bad loan might actually experience a loss. Because reversing this mantra is so difficult, policy makers are likely to continue fitful efforts to "rescue" this debt for the sake of bondholders. The justification for those policies will therefore have to be coupled with rhetoric that institutions holding these securities are too "systemically important" to suffer losses.
2011-08-29 Instant Pudding by Tim Gramatovich, Ron Heller and Heather Rupp of AdvisorShares/Peritus Asset Management
We are in the midst of a prolonged stagnant economy and Europe is facing mounting issueshowever we believe the end result is a resetting of expectations and re-pricing of global equity markets rather than anything economically devastating. Credit bubbles, and the resulting deleveraging, take a great deal of time to heal and this time is no different. There is no instant fix. But with the transfer of debt to public balance sheets from private ones (thanks to QEs 1 and 2), we see corporate credit as more desirable than Government paper.
2011-08-27 The End of the World, Part 1 by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
It is only a matter of time until Europe has a true crisis, which will happen faster BANG! than any of us can now imagine. Think Lehman on steroids. The US gave Europe our subprime woes. Europe gets to repay the favor with an even more severe banking crisis that, given that the US is at best at stall speed, will tip us into a long and serious recession. Stay tuned.
2011-08-23 The Simplest, Safest Withdrawal Strategy by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Few financial planning topics have garnered as much attention as safe withdrawal rates, but a key question remains unanswered: Can retirees sustain a 4% withdrawal rate with minimal risk? With the recent introduction of 30-year TIPS, the answer is now yes.
2011-08-20 The Recession of 2011? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
If we are headed into recession, and I think we are, then the stock market has a long way to go to reach its next bottom, as do many risk assets. Income is going to be king, as well as cash. Well know several things. Recessions are by definition deflationary. Yields on bonds will go down, much further than the market thinks today. And while the Fed may decide to invoke QE3 to fight a deflation scare, the problem is not one of liquidity; it is a debt problem.
2011-08-15 Panic Is Not a Strategy - Nor Is Greed by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
Originally published in 2008, it's time for a refresher about the perils of panic. Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancing are as close to a "free lunch" as you can get as an investor. ThIn world where time horizons have shrunk precipitously, think longer-term.
2011-08-13 The Beginning of the Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In short, there are no easy solutions. We have just about used up all our rabbits in the hat as far as fiscal and monetary policy are concerned. We now need to focus on what we can do to get out of the way of the private sector, so it can find ways to create new businesses and jobs. And that means figuring out how to get money to new businesses, because that is where net new jobs come from. But that takes time...
2011-08-11 Ron Muhlenkamps Market Commentary by Ron Muhlenkamp of Muhlenkamp & Co.
Sovereign debt problems and the possibility of a European-led banking crisis are the focus of the markets, because effective action isnt being taken. You see this in the velocity of money, which has fallen dramatically, and the move into U.S. Treasury bills, bidding their prices up and creating the negative yield mentioned earlier. Banks are having difficulty making money on depositors funds so they are passing those costs along to their depositors. Yesterdays decline was accelerated by some margin calls on leveraged hedge funds, but the market is primarily concerned about Europe.
2011-08-03 Why Muni ETFs Now? by Matt Tucker of iShares Blog
Now that the fear of widespread muni defaults has started to subside, were fielding more inquiries about the case for munis in todays environment. Munis have been trading at yields above their historical average. What makes munis interesting to many investors is the tax benefit they can provide. An investor who buys a US Treasury in a taxable account will have to pay federal income tax (28-35%.) on the investment. A municipal bond, on the other hand, is exempt from Federal income tax, and can be exempt from state tax if the investor lives in the state in which the muni was issued.
2011-08-02 Is the US a "BBB" credit? David Woolley on the MERS land title chain fiasco by Team of Institutional Risk Analyst
In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we feature a summary of a paper by David E. Woolley, a California Licensed Land Surveyor and Certified Fraud Examiner, who is a principal of Harbinger Analytics Group in Tustin, CA. Thanks to David and Lisa Herzog, who edited the study and performed research, for summarizing the paper. But first a rant on the furious inaction of the past week.
2011-07-30 An Economy at Stall Speed by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy is at stall speed, it is quite possible well see further downward revisions to the already anemic growth numbers, and Congress and the President are dithering over the debt ceiling. It will not take much to push us into an outright recession. We can go a few days, I think, with the latter problem, but not too long or the markets will throw up.
2011-07-30 Shifting Focus by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Some economic indicators are starting to perk up while corporate earnings have been strong as we wind down reporting season. Stocks will move higher in the coming months once confidence is restored. Whatever the near-term outcome of the debt debate, the US still has deficit issues to deal with and hard choices must be made to ensure economic stability for years to come. Europe finally arrived at their debt deal, but it likely falls short of what will eventually be needed. Meanwhile, China is key to emerging market performance and continues to deal with inflationary concerns.
2011-07-28 Akre Focus Fund Quarterly Letter by Chuck Akre of Akre Capital Management
We believe that businesses and consumers in the United States are gradually healing, but it is clear the economy remains hobbled by the housing hangover and excessive debts public and private. Perhaps even greater troubles are brewing abroad. Serious fragilities in the European and Chinese banking and monetary systems are coming to light. Every major economy of the world including our own is facing down the uncomfortable prospect of austerity. Nearly everywhere, the ability of monetary authorities to maintain a stable value of paper currency is in question.
2011-07-28 Rough Waters? Trim the Sail by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
These are interesting times, to say the least, for politicians, businessmen and investors alike. Given the systemic challenges and political standoffs in the U.S. and Europe, we believe it's wise to keep a little extra powder dry. While we generally prefer to be fully invested, we believe our more conservative stance may help dampen the impact of what could be some extreme market volatility in the time ahead. The situation is fluid and we intend to redeploy the cash and short exposure into the markets as some of these risks dissipate, but for the time being, we're trimming the sail.
2011-07-27 From Asset Allocation Nirvana to Asset Allocation Nightmare by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
We believe the next 10 years will be about money moving back into non-cyclical US large cap stocks and domestic companies which enjoy lower commodity prices and the repatriation of money from highly risky asset classes with poor odds. Being widely asset allocated today prepares folks for an under-performance nightmare In our opinion, bonds are expensive, commodities are outlandish, small caps trade at a huge premium and as Chinas economic contraction occurs, the crowd will flee emerging markets.
2011-07-26 Equity Allocations: Thinking outside of the Box by Ryan Larson of Research Affiliates
In this issue we will look at a different way of constructing the equity portfolio. We will use the concept of active sharea measure of how much active equity portfolios actually deviate from their benchmark indexesas well as what active share tells us about the standard equity structure alternatives. The success of an investors overall portfolio is highly dependent on how well the equity component performs; stocks are the largest allocation in most portfolios, on average half of assets or more. Therefore, paying special attention to the equity strategy decision is very important.
2011-07-25 Export Power by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Amid signs of economic weakness elsewhere, Americas export sector seems to go from strength to strength. After decades during which observers consistently bemoaned the countrys global failings, it is hard for many to accept this turn. But the numbers do not lie. Exports have helped propel growth for some time now. Of course, at only about 13.5% of the overall economy, even robust exports growth can push up the economys overall pace only so much, but it can offset the huge drags elsewhere in the economy, such as in state and local spending, which constitutes about 12% of the nations GDP.
2011-07-25 Quarterly Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
We remain concerned about the global economy and suspect of broad asset class valuations.However, in a world of tens of thousands of securities there are always opportunities.Absent a significant market correction, we are likely to continue to hold cash or dry powder.We also continue to look to hold assets that can perform well in an inflationary environment, as dollar debasement seems to be the political path of least resistance out of our current problems.The politicians appear happy to solve the problems maana. We on the other hand are happy to make hay when the sun shines.
2011-07-23 Kicking the Can Down the Road One More Time by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I hope Europe pulls it off. I really do. They have done the US a huge favor by adopting this latest plan, as it keeps their banking system from imploding; because their banks are essentially insolvent with all the sovereign debt on their books. Such a banking crisis, which would be worse than 2008, in my opinion, would no doubt plunge a world already slowing down back into recession and pull our own slow-growth economy down into recession with them. How long can they kick the can down the road? My guess is that it will be longer than we suspect.
2011-07-21 Kovitz Investment Group, LLC Summer 2011 Quarterly Commentary by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
People tend to suffer greater pain from losing a given amount of money than they experience pleasure from gaining the same amount. The typical investor is therefore a pain avoider who shuns certain stocks when there is any hint of trouble. This tendency results in consistent overreaction to bad news that we believe creates opportunity. Inefficient pricing results from the excessive focus on short-term that we believe sets up a unique time arbitrage. By capitalizing on situations where uncertainty is high, but risk is low, we can put ourselves in a position to earn above-average returns.
2011-07-19 Sorting Out the Annuity Puzzle by Joseph A. Tomlinson (Article)
Why do so few people buy annuities? Economic theory would predict robust demand for this financial product, especially as the workforce ages, but the reality is quite the reverse. Most efforts to explain this have focused on buyer behavior. But to better understand the annuity puzzle, we need to study the sellers.
2011-07-19 A New Approach for Forecasting Market Returns by C. Thomas Howard (Article)
I propose a method for predicting future market movements, which I call the strategy market barometer (SMB). The SMB is calculated by measuring the extent to which investors are rewarding specific investment strategies being pursued by active equity managers. My research reveals that equity strategy performance ranking is a useful predictor of future market returns, and tests confirm that market returns vary in line with SMB measurements.
2011-07-19 Are There Any Rungs Left on the Housing Ladder? by Rod S. Dubitsky of PIMCO
Headwinds to housing demand, and thus the overall market, could last for years. It appears that limited mortgage availability and vulnerable consumer health are restraining demand. Also weighing on the market is regulatory uncertainty over the future structure of mortgage finance and the resolution of foreclosure overhang. We believe the housing market, considered to be a key driver of the economic recovery, will generally remain weak for the foreseeable future.
2011-07-19 A Palinized Nation - No Direction, No Leadership, No Clue by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
America is being palinized by total lack of leadership and responsibility from both political parties on Capitol Hill. The discussion of whether the US should default on our government debt if Congress is unable to pass a budget compromise and raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd, 2011 is absurd. The result of the impasse is a gradual erosion of trust by individuals, corporations, and foreign debt holders. How did we arrive at this point of lunacy, where our leaders are actually talking about the USA defaulting on our debts? Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
2011-07-18 Weekly Market Commentary by Scotty George of du Pasquier Asset Management
Technology has indelibly changed our lives. One sees this evolution in the way we process information and the multitude and complexity of decisions we are called upon to make but the overriding issue to me is not whether we have the technology to execute complex decisions but whether or not there is an imperative to do so. In other words, simply because we have it does not necessarily mean we have to use it. This is particularly relevant to the financial industry because the complexity of market derivates, multiplied by infinite factors has created a system that cannot support its own weight.
2011-07-16 Back to the Basics by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we are going to revisit some themes concerning the problems of the debt and the deficit. I am getting a number of questions, so while long-time readers may have read most of this in one letter or another, it is clearly time for a review, especially given the deficit/debt-ceiling debate. I will probably offend some cherished beliefs of most readers, but that is the nature of the times we live in. It is the time of the Endgame, where things are not as black and white as they have been in the past.
2011-07-14 Ben Bernanke channels Genworth Financial; Chris Laursen on bank trading under the Volcker rule by Team of Institutional Risk Analyst
This week we republish an important article by Christopher Laursen, NERA Vice President, on bank trading under the Volcker rule. And we ask whether Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke knew he was saying about the conforming loan limit yesterday before the House Financial Services Committee.
2011-07-12 Profiting from the Steep Yield Curve by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)
The yield curve, as measured by the spreads between the yields of the 10-year note and the 2-year note, has now steepened to levels seen only twice before since 1965. This is only the third time in the last 45 years that investors can take advantage of a flattening of the yield curve this extreme, an opportunity that should not be missed.
2011-07-11 Perspective on the 2nd Quarter by Sean Hanlon of Hanlon Investment Management
At the start of the second quarter Hanlon Investment Management portfolios were positioned somewhat conservatively as our research anticipated that there was some volatility ahead. Our expectation was right-on as volatility and whipsawing markets were on display during this past quarter. We further increased our cautious stance and in June raised additional cash in client accounts as the risks warranted. The upcoming "summertime" third quarter is typically a sluggish trading quarter and we remain prepared for the prospect of continued volatility.
2011-07-09 What Happened to the Jobs? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy will be slowing down. A recession in 2012 is a real possibility if there is any type of shock coming from Europe. Most European leaders are basing their thinking more on hope than on reality. When Greece defaults there will be a domino effect. And you could actually see a banking crisis before we get actual sovereign defaults. The market does not get it. Neither in Europe nor in the US. When someone says the market has already priced in a default, go back and ask them how well the market priced in a crisis in the spring of 2008. The market doesn’t know jack.
2011-07-08 Golub Group Quarterly Commentary by Michael Golub of The Golub Group
What does it take to achieve a secure retirement? We all have many goals, financial and otherwise, but securing a comfortable retirement is one we all share. It doesn’t matter if we are in our twenties and just beginning our professional lives or if we have already been enjoying retirement for 20 years. What does matter is, have you defined what is important to you, what you will need, what you want it to look like? Have you done a thorough assessment of your current situation and what you’re doing to improve it? The time to start thinking, planning, and acting on this is NOW.
2011-07-07 Lessons from Investor Behavior Studies: Better to Have Patience and a Plan by Team of American Century Investments
Recent studies raise important questions about investor behavior and the likelihood that investors will successfully reach their financial targets. It seems that the best way to increase the odds of investing success is to take a balanced approach, providing exposure to the broad asset classes without leaving investors overexposed to any single area. Risk and financial reward exist in relation to one another. But diversification works on the principle that the relationship is not linear—you have the potential to get more return for each unit of risk you take by spreading out your investments.
2011-07-06 IRA Ins and Outs by Kevin Feldman of iShares Blog
Which investments should you keep inside an IRA and which outside? Consider these guidelines. In general, I try to put tax inefficient investments in my IRA. It’s probably easier to describe tax efficient investments than it is to do the opposite. Two good examples of tax efficient investments are municipal bonds and most index ETFs. In the case of municipal bonds, you generally avoid paying federal income tax on the income and in some cases avoid paying state tax as well. In the case of most USequity index ETFs, they have had a good track record of paying minimal capital gains distributions.
2011-07-06 What Sort Of Rebound In 2H11? by Scott Brown of Raymond James Equity Research
The recent data have been mixed, consistent with a slower rate of economic growth in the near term. The economy faced a number of headwinds in the first half of the year. Some of those headwinds are likely to be temporary. Others will linger. Growth should pick up in the second half of the year, but the pace seems unlikely to be especially strong. The markets showed little reaction to the May figures on personal income and spending. Real consumer spending appears to be on track for an annual rate of growth of 1% or less in 2Q11.
2011-07-05 Momentum Investing Can Achieve Market-Beating Returns by Matthew Tuttle, CFP (Article)
In 2002 and 2008 the investment tide went out. And as Warren Buffett famously predicted, we learned who was swimming naked. Both times, it was the practitioners of Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT).
2011-07-05 Oh what fun the Behavioral Economist Will Have by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
Dr. Meir Statman, a Finance professor at Santa Clara University, delivered a presentation in may at the 64th CFA Institute Annual Conference held in Edinburgh, Scotland. His presentation was based on his book What Investors Really Want. I have been a fan of Dr. Statmen from the first time I heard him tell a story about investors making the same mistakes over and over again. Here is what Dr. Statman says are the four desires that investors to make major mistakes: to get high returns, to play and win the beat-the-market game, to banish fear, savor hope, and avoid regret and to pay no taxes.
2011-07-02 My View on the Last Half of the Year by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy should be in Muddle Through range (around 2% growth), absent any shocks. For instance, today we had the June ISM number, which was stronger than most analysts expected, at 55.3. There was a lot of whispering that it could dip below 50. Some of the internal components were a little soft, though. New Orders were barely above 50. And Backlogs fell below 50. Exports fell to the lowest level in two years (more on that below). Of the 18 industries surveyed, only 12 reported growth. But Muddle Through is not going to allow us to really cut into the unemployment problem.
2011-07-01 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
There are a little over 30 days left before the U.S. will technically default on its debt. Congress is still playing Russian roulette with the economy and the stock markets. We have seen what this type of Russian roulette has done to the stock market over the past eight weeks. The Republicans have talked about tax cuts and spending cuts, while the Democrats have pushed for increased taxes and smaller spending cuts. Although this would have been a perfect time for a serious debate on tax reform at both the individual and the corporate level, both of these seem to have been pushed to the side.
2011-07-01 Schwab Market Perspective: Dealing with Debt by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Global governments are dealing with rolling debt crises equaling shaky investor confidence. We are concerned that many of the solutions weigh on growth prospects, but are hopeful about short-term resolutions that restore business confidence and lead to more investment and hiring. The Fed continues to hold steady, keeping short rates near zero and likely reinvesting maturing Treasury securities after QE2 ends. Greece passed the austerity package required to get short-term funding but much more is needed. And while the focus has been on Europe, it may be time to focus on the Asian region.
2011-06-28 The Diversified Portfolio Index by Charles Fahy, Sr. (Article)
Investment rates of return that are average but consistent are the products of exceptional performance. Over longer time horizons, these returns become increasingly difficult to outperform. One such example is the Diversified Portfolio Index - a buy-and-hold strategy deployed across all major asset classes.
2011-06-28 Passing Fad or Enduring Legacy? The Case for Owning Gold in Good Times and Bad by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
Gold has been one of the few shining stars during a challenging 10+ years for most investors. In May, gold breached $1,500 an ounce, a new record. In fact, since bottoming out at $252 an ounce in 1999, gold has been enjoying a steady long-term bull run. This has prompted some prognosticators to warn that the "gold bubble" is ready to burst. On the other side of the coin, the more bullish "gold bugs" view the rally as confirmation of their long-held belief in the value of owning gold. Today, gold is still viewed by many as a somewhat exotic investment with little value.
2011-06-27 Whack! Today's Misaligned Manager Selection Process by Robert Arnott of Research Affiliates
An old golfing adage proclaims: Drive for show and putt for dough. Hiring winning active managers is fun and sparks interesting cocktail chatter. But this is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming skill to learn. We prefer alternative beta strategies, which often display the benefits of the best active managers, are far easier to research, and generally are available at a far lower cost. By no means are these strategies gimmes, but, they should help investors avoid the double bogeys of active management and traditional passive management, giving them a better chance of beating par.
2011-06-25 The Contagion Risk of Europe by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Europe would be better off just taking the money they are giving to Greece and using it to recapitalize their banks. Let Greece go. Give it up. Let them enter a 12-step program or whatever it is that insolvent nations do. That is harsh, but it is also the truth.
2011-06-21 The Toughest Question from Clients And How to Answer It by Dan Richards (Article)
Many existing and prospective clients wonder whether they're getting their money's worth on the fees they pay. They may not say it out loud - but it's often there, casting a cloud of doubt about the advisor they work with.
2011-06-17 Time to Float? The Investment Case for Floating Rate Notes by Matt Tucker of BlackRock Investment Management
With QE2 winding down at the end of June, many analysts and investors are speculating that the end of the purchases may signal the beginning of a tightening cycle, creating concerns about rising interest rates. Since fixed rate bond prices decline when interest rates rise, this has prompted many investors to buy shorter duration securities to help protect their fixed income portfolios from rate increases. Another solution that investors may consider are floating rate notes (FRNs), which can help investors reduce their exposure to interest rate increases.
2011-06-15 The End of Retirement by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
Americans are broke, the real estate market is still in secular decline, stock prices are in a decade’s long morass, real incomes are falling, public pension plans are insolvent and our entitlement programs are structurally unsound. If the pillars that seniors have relied on in the past fail to miraculously regenerate (and there is certainly no reason to believe they will), all that most retirees will have will be freshly printed greenbacks that come from a never ending policy of federal deficits and an obliging Federal Reserve.
2011-06-14 Bruce Berkowitz - Ignoring the Crowd on Financials by Sam Parl (Article)
Bruce Berkowitz has said that his deep value and contrarian investing style will not guarantee short-term results, but he promises his shareholders will be rewarded for their patience over the long term. Last week, he explained why some of his positions - especially those in the financial services sector - are among the best opportunities in the market.
2011-06-14 Letter to the Editor - Equity-Indexed Annuities, et al. by Various (Article)
A reader responds to our article about equity-indexed annuities. Guy Cumbie provides the latest installment in his exchange with Michael Edesess, which concerned Edesess' article three weeks ago, On the Wikileaks of the Economics Profession.
2011-06-10 Time to Get Outraged by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week we look at data from the Bank of International Settlements, by which (if someone does a lot of work) you can figure out how much US banks have written in credit default swaps to banks in Europe on Greek, Irish, and Portuguese debt. The details should not make you happy. I meditate on whether one should buy a house now, and then discuss “the way out” of all this mess and why we will Muddle Through.
2011-06-07 New Challenges for the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The multi-billion dollar endowments of elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are supposed to never be strapped for cash, but that's not how things played out during the financial crisis, when all those schools and many others were forced to raise liquidity under adverse market conditions. The endowment model, despite those failures, is still basically sound, according to Luis Viceira, but it needs several key improvements before institutions and individuals can rely on it.
2011-06-07 Low Volatility Equity Solutions – Is Now The Time? by K.Sean Clark of Clark Capital Management Group
Correlations converging amid the market declines of 2008 called attention to the limits of relying on diversification between assets for portfolio protection. The desire for non-correlated returns among assets had led to a significant reduction in U.S. equity exposures and accelerated flows into non-U.S. equities and alternative strategies. But the correlations of these uncorrelated assets spiked under the extreme market stress of 2007 and 2008. This shows that for downside protection, buying assets with many different risk profiles is not a substitute for buying volatility to manage risk.
2011-06-07 Modern Portfolio Theory IS Harming Your Portfolio by JJ Abodeely of Sitka Pacific Capital Management
In a recent paper, Scott Vincent argues that the flawed foundation of MPT has allowed its advocates to control the language of the debate and set the stage for the obvious conclusion that passive index-based investing is inherently superior. And don’t think for a second that this debate is simply theoretical, academic, or unimportant– the basic tenets of MPT shape the decisions of nearly all investors in profound and often disturbing ways. YOUR money is almost certainly being managed with these ideas at the core. The traditional approach to asset allocation is built on false axioms.
2011-06-03 Can Less Deliver More? The Case for Concentrated Equity Strategies by Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is such a widely held notion within the financial services industry that it's almost blasphemous to suggest an investment strategy that questions this premise. But what if researching multiple baskets of stocks was too distracting and too much to manage? Could focusing your attention on a single, smaller basket of investment ideas produce better results? Some investment professionals-Warren Buffett among them-believe concentrated equity portfolios offer the opportunity for better risk-adjusted returns.
2011-06-03 On China's Provincial Finances, and the Prospect of Their Reform by Andrew Foster of Seafarer Capital
Interesting and potentially important news has emerged from China over the past few days. Reuters has reported on two different stories: first, it announced that the Chinese government plans to shift 3 trillion yuan ($463 billion) in bank borrowings away from provincial governments that are struggling to repay their debts. It appears that the central government will assume some of those debts, and pay some off; and it may force commercial banks to write off the remainder. Second, after a long delay, the government will finally lift a ban on the issuance of municipal bonds.
2011-06-03 Economic Whiplash by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The political winds in Europe are shifting. The crowd that runs the various member countries today will not long survive the changes. There will be new politicians with different mandates as it becomes clear that the costs of the bailout are going to fall on the backs of the solvent countries and that austerity is going to mean hellishly bad deflation, high and rising employment, and depression in the indebted countries. And with the US economy slowing down, it might not take much to push us over the edge.
2011-06-02 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
As the first of the Baby Boomers begin to turn 65, they are being greeted with some bad news concerning Medicare and Social Security, especially since they hope to enjoy a longer time in retirement. Social Security is now scheduled to be exhausted by 2036, a year earlier than was projected last year. In addition to longer life spans, the 2% reduction in Social Security tax this year was a major factor in this updated information. As bad as things are for Social Security, things are worse for Medicare, which is projected to be bankrupt by 2024, five years sooner than was projected last year.
2011-06-01 What’s Gold Really Worth? by Kevin Feldman of BlackRock Investment Management
Determining an exact value for gold isn’t easy—but the pressure to do so is diminished by the fact that gold shouldn’t be a short-term investment. The drop in silver’s price earlier this month suggested that some major market players had decided that silver had risen far above a reasonable valuation. In the aftermath, some writers argued that the price drop of about 27% for the week of May 2nd was a reasonable correction. Since some investors still link gold and silver some market observers and gold investors wondered if gold, down about 4 percent last week, was also due to plummet.
2011-05-31 Fantasy-world Returns for Equity Indexed Annuities by Robert Huebscher (Article)
When research fails to meet the basic standards of academic rigor, its conclusions should be questioned. One such case is a recent paper, Real-World Index Annuity Returns, whose conclusions you should trust at your own risk.
2011-05-31 So you have no frame of reference, Donny by Liam Molloy and Bethany Carlson of Galway Investment Strategy
Using Mr. O’Neill’s own metric, the market’s shrug on April 18th indicates that the ongoing value of S&P’s business has dropped rather dramatically. Continued investor confidence in the credibility and reliability of its ratings is in question, at best. On April 18th, 2011, S& P did something that no credit rating agency had ever done: it released a negative outlook on US debt. The reaction of the market to this historic news was anything but historic. Insurance on Treasuries barely budged up to less than half of its all time high at the trough of the credit crisis.
2011-05-28 A Random Walk Through the Minefield by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
In the last 48 hours, so much news has come out of Europe that has me frankly shaking my head. It is a strange game of brinksmanship they are playing, and it is one we should be paying attention to (as if the brinkmanship played by US politicians over the debt ceiling is not enough). This week we look at what seems to be European leaders taking random walks through the minefield at the very heart of the European Experiment. As Paul Simon wrote, “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.”
2011-05-23 Is Deflation in the US Housing Sector Accelerating? by Team of Institutional Risk Analyst
This week in The Institutional Risk Analyst, we offer our view on the housing sector as we travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to participate in the 29th Annual Monetary and Trade Conference sponsored by the Global Interdependence Center and Drexel University. John Burns walked the participants through the current situation in the US housing sector and the outlook for a recovery in prices. The bottom line: Even though affordability has returned, new home sales are likely to remain depressed for years due to massive inventories of unsold homes, dwindling finance and weak employment markets.
2011-05-14 Kicking the Can to the End of the Road by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A crisis is brewing in the US and one is coming to a slow boil in Europe. We visit Greece and Ireland and ponder how this will end. It is all well and good to kick the can down the road, but what happens when you come to the end of the road? The European answer seems to be to haul in the heavy equipment and extend the road. In short, we are watching the biggest bubble of all time, the bubble of government debt, try to keep from popping. My bet is that it can’t. And while the ride will be bumpy, the world our kids get will be better off at the end of the process.
2011-05-13 Congress, The Fed Reserve, and Markets by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
I never did particularly care for Alice in Wonderland, watching her go down rabbit holes and discover the characters of the White King and Queen, Humpty Dumpty, Cheshire Cat, and the Mad Hatter. But when watching the ongoing budget debates I feel as if the American people are Alice and we are being subjected to a world of budgetary nonsense, spoken in a language that is incomprehensible. The American people know they are being held hostage in a strange place where our Congress orchestrates a Mad Hatter tea party for which the entertainment is kicking the can of debt down the road.
2011-05-13 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
The following topics are addressed: Social Security goes paperless; the Forbes list of largest companies; overdraft fees paid by depositors; taxes paid by top earners; valuations of Treasury bonds; and others.
2011-05-13 Market Turbulence Increasing by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
We are entering a traditionally tough period for the market and economic data has been raising questions about the sustainability of the recovery. While still optimistic on the longer-term outlook, there could be more choppiness in the near term as markets adjust to a changing environment. The Fed continues to buck the global trend by maintaining loose monetary policy, which contributed to a weaker dollar. But lately the dollar has gotten a lift as QE2 comes to an end, contributing to a rout in commodity prices.
2011-05-12 Inflation is Not a Panacea by Peter Nielsen and Ben Bortner of Saturna Capital
It was only last August when economists and investors alike were afraid that the country was about to enter a deflationary spiral that would cripple the economic recovery. The solution in the Fed's eyes was to "print" $600 billion and pump them into the economy over the next ten months. Now, it appears we should be careful what we ask for. The threat of deflation has been all but incinerated in the afterburn of soaring raw materials prices. While strong raw material prices may be beneficial to some in the short-run, over the longer-term there is a cost paid by all.
2011-05-07 Muddle Through, or Crisis? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week I finish the two-part letter on the Endgame and give you my thoughts on the economy over the next five years. This is the second part of a speech I gave last week at the Strategic Investment Conference in La Jolla. It is a rather bold forecast, and fraught with peril and likely errors, but that is my job here. I must offer one large caveat! If the facts change so will my forecast, but this is the view into my very cloudy crystal ball as I see it today. As always, remember that those of us in the forecasting world are often wrong but seldom in doubt. Read accordingly.
2011-05-05 A Roadmap For The Coming Changes In Fed Policy by Will Denyer of GaveKal
Last week’s FOMC statement, and Bernanke’s first press conference, were predictably anticlimactic. But they did confirm what the FOMC plans to do this summer, and what they currently think should be the next steps thereafter. Based on this apparent plan, market participants would be right to assume that Fed policy will continue, well after QE2 ends in June, to weigh on the Dollar and support the already elevated Euro, commodity prices, commodity currencies, etc… In other words, the Fed’s telegraphed trajectory would continue to contribute to the world’s biggest macro risks today.
2011-04-29 Quarter 1 Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
QEII is set to end no later than June 30th. Prominent money managers disagree on the impact. PIMCO’s Bill Gross thinks yields are bound to rise as the largest net buyer of Treasuries moves to the sidelines. Gross has sold all of the US Treasury holdings in the flagship Total Return Fund. Jeff Gundlach, formerly of Trust Company of the West and now with DoubleLine Capital, believes the opposite. According to him, yields will fall in the short term because quantitative easing is inflationary. When QEII stops, bond buyers will require lower yields as future inflation expectations recede.
2011-04-29 The Endgame Headwinds by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
By Endgame I mean the period of time in which many of the developed economies of the world will either willingly deleverage or be forced to do so. This age of deleveraging will produce a fundamentally different economic environment lasting anywhere from 4-6 years. Now, whether this deleveraging is orderly, as now appears to be the case in Britain, or more resembles what I have long predicted will be a violent default in Greece, it will create a profoundly different economic world from the one we have lived in for 60 years.
2011-04-26 Ethics Among Thieves by Michael Edesess (Article)
'Inside Job' is a thoroughgoing indictment of the financial industry that has its virtues but relies on some unsavory vices. On the one hand, through interviews, congressional testimony, and other video, the film exposes cronyism, corrupt ethics, and excessive power at the core of the financial industry. On the other, the movie at times unfortunately feels more like a polemic than a hard-hitting, fact-finding investigative reporting piece.
2011-04-26 How to Take Advantage of the CFP Awareness Campaign by Kristen Luke (Article)
If you are a CFP, you will be directly affected by the Let's Make a Plan campaign, even if you take a passive role. Those who take a more active role can use the toolkit provided by the CFP Board to promote themselves in local markets. Here's what's entailed and what you can personally do to take advantage of the campaign.
2011-04-26 Beware the 3-Minute Trader by Bill Barker of Motley Fool
It is widely reported that 70% of all trades on the New York Stock Exchange are owned for less than three minutes. As in 180 seconds. Max. There are many reasons to take affront at such trading strategies, not least of which is that rapid-fire trading incurs significant tax consequences. As you read this, many of you will have just gone through the always enlightening and delightful gift from our government -the process of filing your own taxes. While that isnt something we'd normally remind you about, we do hope youve taken notice that trading stocks isnt given a free ride by Uncle Sam.
2011-04-23 The 'Miracle' of Compound Inflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Investors will face the “zero bound” in interest rates for a while longer. They can sit on their cash and earn nothing. They can fret and wring their hands about a ramp-up in inflation, but the evidence so far does not support it. They can stay in the US dollar, in which case they can watch their dollars weaken relative to the rest of the world. Travelling in Sicily or Rome validates how strong the euro is relative to the dollar. All you have to do is buy a dinner or hotel room.
2011-04-19 Inflation, the Education Bubble, and the Odds of a Disastrous Retirement by Doug Short of Doug Short
Mish Shedlock featured an article with a title that summarizes a huge financial problem: The Education Bubble; Student Loan Debt Passes Credit Card Debt, Expected to Hit $1 Trillion. Mish's article especially resonates with my own research on the astonishing inflation in college tuition and fees, an imminent disaster that's been in the making for decades. This chart shows the relative growth of education costs as compared to the consumer price index. College tuition and fees is a mere 1.5% of the overall CPI. But for households that pay these expenses with student loans, the burden is high.
2011-04-16 The Cure for High Prices by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Today we once again think about the inflation/deflation debate, turn our eyes to Europe and the very interesting election happening there this Sunday, and speculate a little about what could derail the US economy. The old line is that the cure for high prices is high prices. When prices rise, businesses tend to respond by producing more. If the price of something gets too high, then people buy less, which then leads to too much supply, which lowers prices. Rinse and repeat. Last week I wrote about what I think is the potential for inflation in the US to rise to uncomfortable levels (4-5%)
2011-04-15 Concerned About Inflation? by Brad Sorensen of Charles Schwab
Inflation has become a bigger topic of discussion among investors and in the media as of late. While we have noted in numerous publications that we don’t believe inflation is a near-term concern due to a number of factors, investors are wondering how to position themselves should inflation start to take hold. First, despite common perception, gold has not historically been a very good hedge against inflation. Due to the possibility of gold prices being a bit extended after the recent run, we don't recommend gold as an investment for those concerned about inflation.
2011-04-15 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
Herb Meyer said during tough economic times family size tends to shrink because people tend not to get married, and if they do they try to avoid having children because they can’t afford them. It was only a few days after this talk that we read that the birth rate in the U.S. from 2007 through 2009 fell 4%, which was the single largest drop in any two year period since the mid 1970s. The stock market declined by 50% in the mid ‘70s and interest rates climbed to over 20%. That’s right – 20%! In short, a thriving economy creates a growing population which in turn creates a thriving economy.
2011-04-12 Ten Trends that will Reshape the Fund Industry by Robert Huebscher (Article)
For advisors scouring among thousands of mutual funds, bargains and inefficiencies will be harder to find in coming years. Intense competition among funds for shelf space will not translate to lower fees, and the new class of broad asset allocation funds is unlikely to live up to its marketing promises. Those were among the surprising forecasts from Geoff Bobroff, with whom I met last week.
2011-04-12 A Top Value Manager Looks Outside the US by Robert Huebscher (Article)
David Winters, manager of the Wintergreen Fund, began his career working for Max Heine, where Seth Klarman and Michael Price also worked. In this interview, Winter discusses the why he believes many of today's best opportunities are outside the US and how he is hedging against the threat of inflation.
2011-04-07 Inflation and the U.S. Bond and Stock Markets by Jim O'Shaughnessy of O'Shaughnessy Asset Management
With the Federal Reserve well into QE2 in its response to the recent economic crisis and recession, we thought it would be an ideal time to review the effects of inflation and deflation on the returns of US bonds and stocks. The adjusted monetary base for the United States has exploded over the last several years. As a result many economists and investors expect inflation to increase in the coming years. Let’s review the history of US inflation and the returns for U.S. stocks and bonds and see what it can teach us about the returns of stocks and bonds during a variety of inflationary periods.
2011-04-05 A Close Look at the PIMCO-Met Life Retirement Strategy A Marriage Made in Investment Heaven? by Michael Edesess (Article)
If you embrace their recently announced co-marketing strategy, when you're relatively young you use PIMCO's Real Income Funds for stable income in the near term. When you're older Met Life's Longevity Income Guarantee kicks in and takes it from there. You're set with secure income for life. We examine these products more closely and analyze whether they are good deals, either separately or together.
2011-04-05 Fiduciary Focus: The New 408(b)(2) Fee Disclosure Rule Under ERISA by RidgeWorth Investments (Article)
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has now published the long-awaited rule on ERISA Section 408(b)(2). Read the article below from RidgeWorth Investments so that you can be equipped to answer questions and recommend solutions.
2011-04-05 The Future of Investment Manager Due Diligence (and a Look Back at Q1 Performance) by Ron Surz (Article)
Despite the continuing global financial crisis, the uprisings in the Middle East and the Japanese disaster, global stock markets delivered positive results in the first quarter of 2011, as described in this capital market review. In the second part of the article, you'll discover what due diligence procedures need to change and why.
2011-04-05 Letters to the Editor: GMWBs and the Permanent Portfolio by Various (Article)
A reader responds to our article, Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs, which appeared on March 1 and another reader responds to Geoff Considine's article, What Investors Should Fear in the Permanent Portfolio, which appeared on March 22.
2011-04-02 The Plight of the Working Class by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Although the headline unemployment number went down to 8.8%, the only way you can get to that number is by not counting the millions who have dropped out of the employment pool, too discouraged to look, but who will take a job if they can get one. If you go back and take the number of people in the labor force just two years ago, the unemployment picture is back over 10% (back-of-my-napkin math).
2011-04-01 ProVise Bullets by Team of ProVise Management Group
Here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2011 and we watched the markets move basically upward for the first six weeks of the year, advancing as much as 8% in some cases. Then, uncertainty escalated around the world beginning in mid February. First, there was the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments, along with unrest in other Arab countries. Then in mid March, Japan suffered its earthquake. Meanwhile, the U.S. government kept itself running by passing a series of continuing resolutions, while the politicians still could not come to grips with an approved budget and deficit.
2011-03-29 Fiduciary Focus: What You Know About the New Fee Disclosure Rule Under ERISA by RidgeWorth Investments (Article)
RidgeWorth Investments discusses what the new rule about Fee Disclosures encompasses and how it affects advisors. Their complimentary white paper is available for download through the link above.
2011-03-28 Monday Market Calls by Russ Koesterich of BlackRock Investment Management
As Europe continues to muddle along, much of the bad news has been discounted in with the exception of the banks, which are likely to continue to remain under pressure. S&P cut Portugal’s rating two notches as its parliament rejected the government’s new austerity measures, prompting Prime Minister Jose Socrates to resign. Meanwhile Moody’s downgraded 30 small Spanish banks with mostly negative outlook following the earlier sovereign debt rating downgrade. However, despite the banking issues, Spain has been able to continue financing its debts.
2011-03-27 Wanted: Private Investors Seeking First Loss Exposure on RMBS by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
In a market where volatility is this high, even with the Fed removing trillions of dollars in duration from the markets via QE, just how are private obligors going to price trillions of dollars in first loss RMBS exposure in this imaginary private market that pro-reform elements in Congress have in mind? Fact is, when the Fed ends QE. market dependence upon the GSEs for liquidity support will grow. Like we said, raise the G fees and the conforming loan limit in the name of market forces, Congress needs to find some ways to increase the volume of mortgage loan refinancing and modifications.
2011-03-23 A Crime Called Private Mortgage Insurance; Alex Pollock on the Political Finance of Covered Bonds by Team of Institutional Risk Analyst
This week in The IRA Advisory Service, we review the Fed's latest stress test exercise and discuss what it means for the banking industry and the US economy. While the US central bank did not provide results for specific institutions, the assumptions in the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) are more instructive than the Big Media seems to notice. Indeed, a close reading of the CCAR document provides a compelling argument for why the Fed should not be supervising financial institutions.
2011-03-22 Emerging from Developed Profit Pools by Gregory A. Nejmeh of HS Management Partners
Much has been debated about the anticipated growth of the emerging markets and the tectonic shifts in political, economic and military force that such changes may yield. While the implications are significant, we are also mindful that economic activity in developed markets not only make them worthy of investor attention, but provide the stability of cash flows that will facilitate multinationals ability to invest in developing markets. We take a holistic perspective and appreciate the size and scope of developed market profit pools as a means of self funding developing economic participation
2011-03-19 The End of QE2? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The Fed committed to buying $600 billion of Treasuries between the beginning of QE2 in November and the end of June. June is 3 months away. What will happen when that buying goes away? The hope when QE2 kicked off was that it would be enough to get the economy rolling, so that further stimulus would not be deemed necessary. We’ll survey how that is working out, with a quick look at some recent data, and then we go back and see what happened the last time the Fed stopped quantitative easing.
2011-03-18 What Inflation Means to You: Inside the Consumer Price Index by Doug Short of Doug Short
The Fed justified the current round of quantitative easing "to promote a stronger pace of economic recovery" The Fed is trying to increase inflation, operating at the macro level. But what does an increase in inflation mean at the micro level, specifically to your household? Let's do some analysis of the Consumer Price Index, the best known measure of inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics divides all expenditures into eight categories and assigns a relative size to each. The pie chart below illustrates the components of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers.
2011-03-17 Madoff Was Right About One Thing by Bill Mann of Motley Fool
This past week, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel ordered broker Morgan Keegan to repay $250,000 to a client whose entire investment account had been invested in Madoff's fund. That's nice. I expect there will be several more judgments and restitutions paid in the future, none of which will actually cause a change in behavior on Wall Street. Regulators failed to catch Madoff even when the evidence was dangled in front of them, and they've since failed to enact meaningful reform for how Wall Street operates.
2011-03-15 How to Get the Best Photo for Your Web Site by Wendy J. Cook (Article)
If your photo is missing or misused on your website, social media profiles, brochures, and other introductory materials, then consider this your call to action. A few simple suggestions can help you literally put your best face forward in your corporate communications.
2011-03-14 Covered Bonds and Zombie Banks by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
"Toryism, Socialism and Housing Reform" a topic inspired by the good works of the members of both major parties in Congress. Rep. Scott Garrett, is a conservative Republican, but has become the latest agent of statism and zombie banks. Why this harsh appraisal? Because he comes from NJ, a state that is at least nominally pro-business but has always carried the water for Wall Street. NJ, has always produced protectors for the political interests of the big banks. And the covered bond proposal being so constantly advanced by Garrett and others is the latest triumph for financial innovation.
2011-03-14 Monday Market Calls by Russ Koesterich of BlackRock Investment Management
Call #1: Underweight European equity market (with emphasis on banks) Call #2: Overweight developed (with preference for large/mega cap) vs. emerging markets. Year-to-date, emerging markets are down roughly 1.5% while developed market mega caps are up roughly 5%. Our view is reinforced by the recent market volatility and growing unrest in the Middle East. In this type of environment, large, quality companies are likely to prove more resilient.
2011-03-10 Turmoil in the Middle East: Should It Have Been Predicted? by Team of American Century Investments
The turmoil began, when a young Tunisian college graduate immolated himself on December 17 after being harassed by police as he attempted to sell fruit on the street. Some claim the vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, did not have the money needed to bribe police officials to continue peddling and earn a living. He died on January 4, sparking deadly demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia (now called the Jasmine Revolution) in protest of social and political issues in the country. And just 10 days later, on January 14, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to step down after 23 years.
2011-03-09 Household Income Growth Versus Two Major Expenses by Doug Short of Doug Short
In a previous post I illustrated the growth of household incomes since 1967 based on Census Bureau data. Let's trim the timeline and compare the growth of two major household expenses — medical costs and college tuition and fees.
2011-03-08 Letters to the Editor and a Final Thought on VAs with GMWBs by Various (Article)
We received a record number of letters in response to Robert Huebscher’s article, Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs, and to Peng Chen’s response, The Real Flaws – A response to 'Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs,' which were published last week. We also provide a final thought on this subject.
2011-03-07 Toryism, Socialism and Housing Reform: Real and Imagined by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This commentary is background for the presentation entitled "GSEs: The Future Role of Government Sponsored Enterprises in the US," at the Global Association of Risk Professionals event on Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in New York. The Obama Administration recently advanced some proposals to reform several government agencies that control the market for housing. Treasury/HUD plan is really a menu of possible options, eliminating what would not work and making it clear that change will happen slowly, if at all.
2011-03-04 On Regulation by Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
You can tell businesspeople precisely what to do, but you can’t make the economy or companies comply with policies and social aims. Regulations are limited in their scope and effect, and like a balloon, when you push in one place, self-interested behavior pops out in another. Those who enact regulation are rarely able to anticipate and control the response of those being regulated or the second-order consequences of the rules. Bubbles will lead to crashes, and the willingness to dispense with regulation and rely on free markets will never be complete, regardless of regulation’s limitations.
2011-03-03 Driving Without Restrictor Plates by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
Since mid-January we have found ourselves in a quandary over “jumping in” or “diving in” to the strongly flowing bullish current of the developed markets. The warning signs have been the Mideast riots, unemployment, commodity inflation, and the US percentage of debt relative to GDP. The positives are corporate earnings, an accommodative Fed, cash-rich balance sheets, and no new taxes for now. Therefore we wanted to share with you a number of charts and statistics that are part of our process.
2011-03-03 The Debate Over Spending and Taxes Kicks into High Gear by Team of American Century Investments
What impact might President Obama’s recently submitted 2012 federal budget have on future federal budgets? Using historical data as our guide, we’ve forecast how it could play out through 2021.
2011-03-01 Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs by Robert Huebscher (Article)
It's very tempting: a variable annuity with minimum lifetime payout that can increase - but never decrease - based on market performance. That temptation comes in the form of an increasingly popular variable annuity rider known as a guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit. We explain the flaws in a widely publicized study by Morningstar/Ibbotson, and provide our own analysis of the product.
2011-03-01 The Real Flaws – A response to 'Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs' by Peng Chen (Article)
Peng Chen challenges our analysis of variable annuities with guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits.
2011-02-26 When Irish Eyes Are Voting by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin reviews the Irish economy, citing a recent Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis. Ireland's housing bubble caused prices to rise approximately 500%. More than 20% of the Irish workforce was employed in construction. Irish banks financed this, using selling bonds to other European banks. The Irish government made good on those debts, burdening its taxpayers. The end results is excessive debt for the EU, which appears to be unsupportable. On the crisis in the Middle East, Bahrain is the key country to watch out for.
2011-02-23 2011 Outlook: Private Equity by NB Alternatives private equity team of Neuberger Berman
As a result of the financial crisis, for the latter part of 2008 and all of 2009, very few new private equity transactions were completed and portfolio company monetization was minimal. However, the operating performance of existing private-equity portfolio companies was better than generally expected and investment returns were superior to public equity benchmarks. Although some of this outperformance can be attributed to the resistance of some private equity firms, we believe the majority of the outperformance was the result of effective cost cutting, cash conservation and debt reduction.
2011-02-22 Bruce Berkowitz on the Exceptional Value in the Financial Sector by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Fairholme's Bruce Berkowtiz, US stock-fund manager of the decade, discusses his large position in the financial sector and why he believes the big bets he is making do not amount to Russian roulette. He also comments on his recent nomination of former Florida Governor Charlie Crist to the board of St. Joes.
2011-02-17 Geithner's Failed Makeover by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
To counter the increasing demands that government reduce its micromanagement of the economy, the Obama Administration offered a fig leaf in the form of a white paper entitled "Reforming America's Housing Finance Market." In addition to marking the official end of the Bush era "ownership society," where increasing the level of home ownership was a national priority, the document contains a recommended regulatory overhaul of the FHA as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that intends to bring the share of government owned home loans from the current 95% to 40% over the next 5-7 years.
2011-02-16 Washington Prepares for a New Egypt by Michael Moran of Roubini Global Economics
The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will resonate across the Middle East but also in the capital of his most stalwart ally, the U.S., where policy makers are reassessing the “certainty” that Egypt will continue to act as a “moderating force” in the region. Having left the Soviet Union’s orbit in 1977 and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt came to form the foundation of U.S. diplomacy in the region—a role that seemed so secure that its significance was widely overlooked.
2011-02-15 When Clients Make You Livid by Dan Richards (Article)
A client complained to his advisor about his account performance. The advisor said he didn't like to have his professionalism questioned and they began yelling at each other over the phone. Ultimately they fired each other. Over the years, I've found that several principles are key to breaking the tension before situations like this become catastrophes.
2011-02-15 The Stuxnet Paradigm by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Michael Lewitt discusses the situation in Egypt, the economy, rising risk appetites in the market, sovereign debt and municipal bonds. 'It might be very easy,' he writes, 'to be impressed by the 'two years and thousands of man hours' that Ms. Whitney spent researching the fiscal condition of the 15 largest states. What in the world required so much time and effort? It shouldn't have taken nearly so long to determine that these states are in severe financial trouble and that their options for dealing with it are limited.
2011-02-15 David Laibson on the Hidden Challenges of Aging Clients by Dan Richards (Article)
In this interview, Harvard economist David Laibson discusses his research into the challenges of helping elderly clients with their financial planning. He also discusses how to overcome the procrastination and laziness that often result in inferior investment decisions. This is a transcript of the interview.
2011-02-15 What Is In the Market and What Isn’t by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
Inflation is priced into the market. This is not where the surprise will be and it is surprises that move markets. This is very good news for the bond market from a contrarian stand point. What isn’t being discounted is the degree of fiscal austerity that is coming down the pike, and likely sooner rather than later.
2011-02-15 Local Municipal Credit Quality Dissected by Chad Farrington of Columbia Management
While we believe there will likely be more credit pressure and some defaults at the local level, including counties, cities, towns and school districts, we don’t believe there are systemic risks in the market that will cause widespread defaults. Most municipalities are making the tough choices to either raise taxes and fees and/or cut expenses to ensure debt service obligations are paid on time and in full. Moreover, ultimate recovery of full principal in the event of default is viewed as very likely.
2011-02-14 Bernanke on the Hot Seat by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Why is the Fed taking so much flak? Is this a subtle way to criticize the Administration indirectly? If so, the critics will get their due, since the Fed's policies appear to be helping the economy gather some momentum. The inflation outlook remains benign, while growth is picking up. The critics will be the ones with some explaining to do, while Bernanke is working to earn a reputation for the history books for dealing with the credit crisis and promoting recovery.
2011-02-12 The Future of Public Debt by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin looks at an important paper from the Bank of International Settlements on “The Future of Public Debt.” While the debt supercycle is still growing on the back of increasing government debt, there is an end to that process, and we are fast approaching it. Drastic measures are necessary to check the rapid growth of current and future liabilities of governments and reduce their adverse consequences for long-term growth and monetary stability. This leads the BIS to conclude that the question is when markets will start putting pressure on governments, not if.
2011-02-11 Reiterating Our Investment Thesis for 2011 by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
For 2011, not only do I still favor credit, especially the spread compression left in the high-yield space, but relative value portfolios, hybrids with a decent running yield and exposure to Canadian dollars. The resource sector is also attractive, especially oil, with a long-term view towards buying these companies on dips and not just for the commodity price uptrend. Corporate bonds, especially BB-rated product. Hedge funds, with low correlations with the direction of the market or the economy. And precious metals as a hedge against periodic bouts of currency and monetary instability.
2011-02-11 Yelling Fire in a Crowded ‘Muni’ Theatre by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management
Municipalities have the unique power to raise taxes and service fees, while cutting non-essential services, in order to create revenues sufficient to pay debt holders. There are over 50,000 individual municipalities across the country. Over the course of decades, there have been very few instances of default. The economy's improvement should bolster state and local finances now and in the future. I firmly believe investors seeking safety of principle and attractive tax-free cash flow should look to capitalize on the current market uncertainty as they are being well compensated to do so.
2011-02-10 Outlook 2011 by Bill Smead of Smead Capital Management
The year 2010 took us on quite a ride and ultimately delivered acceptable returns in both the US stock and bond markets. Our returns were commensurate with the index, but did so without exposing our clients to what we consider the primary long term risks that exist today. Those two primary risks we see in 2011 involve bonds and China.
2011-02-08 Conflict of Visions: Housing Market Reform and Recovery by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
With last week’s release of Q4 Housing Vacancy Survey by the Census Bureau and prior week’s release of the November S&P Case Shiller Index data, two things are clear: (i) the housing market is in the midst of what will be at least a several quarters’ long, double-dip in home prices as the final act in the five-year tragedy of residential real estate price re-rationalization and (ii) it is time to look beyond this final stage, to the future of housing demand as excess inventories are slowly absorbed.
2011-02-07 Inflation Noise by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Investors are being distracted by the rise in commodity prices, which is being taken as an indication that inflation pressures are building. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Some rise in inflation would be welcomed by the Fed, but it remains somewhere off beyond the visible horizon, even as economic growth prospects continue to brighten.
2011-02-04 An Excerpt from Endgame by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Growth does not look that great, and people don’t feel the recovery. This is unlikely to change. The U.S. and most developed economies are currently facing many major headwinds that will mean that going forward, we’ll have slower economic growth, more recessions, and higher unemployment. Three large structural changes have happened slowly over time that we expect to continue going forward. The U.S. economy will have higher volatility,lower trend growth, and higher structural levels of unemployment (The United States here is a proxy for many developed countries with similar problems.)
2011-02-02 Random Thoughts from the Lone Star State by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
I still consider this to be a bear market rally. With respect to the economy, the illusion of sustainable prosperity has done wonders for consumer spending in the U.S. The consumer has been an upside surprise and the ISM was a whopper too as these manufacturing indices have been in general around the globe. There are so many other headwinds out there. Dramatic cutbacks and tax hikes at the state and local government levels are in motion. Federal government austerity is next. The housing market has not yet stabilized.
2011-02-01 Fourth Quarter Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
In spite of Bernanke’s objective to put a floor on asset prices, including equities, we remain conservatively positioned. Equity and credit markets appear overvalued. In addition, with the U.S. and most developed-market economies significantly more leveraged than in the last 50 years, economic growth will likely be more volatile. Further, many potential exogenous forces could negatively influence public markets: over-leveraged municipalities, the PIIGS, and continued issues in the US housing market to name a few. Finally, there is no evidence that monetary policy can create real growth.
2011-01-31 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Depending upon which survey and data you examine, the municipal bond market is arguably a $3 trillion investment opportunity and only $8 billion of those bonds defaulted during the past year. So, even if the defaults doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or were 10 times greater, it is still a very small percentage of all of the muni bonds out there.
2011-01-29 A Bubble in Complacency by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The just released Q4 GDP of 3.2% may be overstated by 0.5% to 1.0% as a result of statistical adjustments. Consumer spending advanced, but that must be tempered by the support from fiscal and monetary policies. The growth in the deficit poses imminent danger of another recession, and the political landscape makes it unlikely a solution will emerge. Mauldin would like to see 'thought leadership' in the upcoming presidential election cycle, in order to build support for viable policies to revive the economy.
2011-01-28 Growth Investing with a Distinct Perspective by Aziz Hamzaogullari of Loomis Sayles
In this paper we outline the distinct elements of our process and philosophy to show how our Large Cap Growth discipline takes the traditional definition of a growth strategy and seeks to infuse it with a quality and valuation focus. These preferences play out in our focus on finding companies with sustainable cash-flow growth and profitability as well as intrinsic value. We believe this helps us exploit opportunities offered by growth companies while tempering the return volatility often associated with growth investing. Our consistent long-term approach has generated a high-growth portfolio.
2011-01-25 Ten Resolutions for Greater Prosperity in 'The Year of the Fiduciary' by Jeffrey Briskin (Article)
If you think selling and servicing 401(k) plans isn't easy today, ERISA is about to make it even harder. The good news is that firms that adjust to these challenges can use them to their competitive advantage Here are ten steps your firm can take to prepare for The Year of the Fiduciary.
2011-01-22 The Unsustainable Meets the Irresistible by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
States are the largest component of US GDP, and states' revenues have declined 10% from their peak. On top of that, federal stimulus support for states is running out. Congress should allow states to declare bankruptcy and force unions to come to the bargaining table. The US is on an unsustainable path. Absent very serious fiscal remedies, long before we get to 2019 the bond markets will have taken away our ability to finance our debt at low rates.
2011-01-19 Market and Performance Summary by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
The broad market, as represented by the Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500), rose 10.8% for the quarter and 15.1% for the full year. We remain optimistic regarding forward returns, not because the market has been strong, but because we believe we still hold a basket full of undervalued securities even after these robust gains.
2011-01-18 Is Chinese Real Estate the Next Great Fall? by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
There is little question China is suffering a real estate bubble. Property prices have risen rapidly, encouraging more speculation in development, which in turn has propelled prices up farther. The boom has already brought land prices to 60% above their pre-2008 peaks. Prices have so far outstripped the population’s ability to buy. The price of a home is 10 times the median household income. In Beijing, housing prices on average are 22 times the average annual income of city residents. In contrast, in the US, home prices at the peak of its bubble stood at 6.4 times median household income.
2011-01-15 Further Fuel? by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Stocks may be vulnerable to a near-term pullback thanks to elevated sentiment, and earnings season could provide an impetus for some profit taking. The economy appears to be strengthening and we remain optimistic. Despite signs of growth, the Fed seems insistent on letting QE2 play out, pointing to continued high unemployment and housing. The new congress also has to deal with these issues, while attempting to pare deficit spending. International exposure is important, but we recommend taking some profits and rebalancing if your emerging-market exposure gets above your target allocation.
2011-01-11 The Key to Scaling Your Practice by Bob Oros (Article)
Independent advisors who are ill-equipped to handle a large influx of business from retiring baby boomers will struggle to harness the swelling demand. To capitalize on this new wave of assets, advisors need an edge. Many forward-thinking advisors have already discovered such an advantage in model portfolios.
2011-01-11 2010: A Truth Odyssey by Ron Surz (Article)
I review some of the lessons learned in the last two years. I review the last year, discuss 2008's lessons, and conclude with my traditional review of the longer-term history of U.S. markets over the past 85 years.
2011-01-05 A Rare and Dying Breed by Team of Beacon Pointe
Despite the rapid ascent of index funds and ETF investing during the past decade, we contend that carefully researched and selected active strategies offer the best opportunities for our clients to achieve their investment objectives while taking the least amount of risk possible. Our conviction is based on past experience, and our analysis of manager performance in the context of "active share", an objective new measure introduced by Yale School of Management's Cremers and Petajisto in a 2006 academic paper discussed below.
2011-01-04 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
A reader responds to our article, Debunking Ken Fisher, which appeared two weeks ago. Another reader responds to the article, Return Distributions and the Shiller P/E Ratio, by Keith C. Goddard, which originally appeared on February 2, 2010.
2011-01-04 Getting a Grip by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
We can expect a showdown between the House Republicans and the Administration over the debt ceiling in Q2. At stake could be a good dose of spending restraint as ‘pay-go’ rules make a sudden reappearance after being neglected by the lame-duckers last year. There is always the reality of the payroll tax cut coming to an end in December and how that will crimp personal income in 2011. Of course, there is always the prospect of a Q4 corporate spending binge as the bonus depreciation allowance expires. The last 3 quarters of 2011 are going to be very interesting
2011-01-02 Rethinking Money for the New Year by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
If we assume that our past decisions have always been sensible and reasonable then we should not scrutinize our long-term habits. After all, if we’ve done something for five years, it must be a great decision. But if we understand that long-term, repeated behaviors might reflect our habitual decision- making in the face of complex financial decisions more than they reflect what is truly best for us, we might first examine our old habits and carefully consider whether they indeed make sense or not.
2010-12-31 Forever Stamps Tell Us Much by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
Sure, without a federal bailout there is a chance the Post Office will go under, and forever stamps will end up lining bird cages. However, given the track record of government bailouts and the clout of unionized postal workers, chances are very high that the Post Office will always get the bailouts it needs. As a result, forever stamps are a better bet than Treasury debt. They also have prettier pictures.
2010-12-31 The Enigma Decoder by Ronald W. Roge of R.W. Roge
Our outlook for 2011 remains cautious, as we were last year. We will continue with most of our 2010 strategies for 2011, with the exception of bonds and municipal bonds which may present problems. We have already lowered our allocation to bonds in the third quarter, lowered our bond duration, and may lower it further, especially in the municipal bond area. We are still formulating our strategy as we gather more information.
2010-12-23 No, Krugman, You're Eating America Alive by Neeraj Chaudhary of Euro Pacific Capital
Here we go again. This week, Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in economics and the go-to guy for progressives who need a morale boost, launched another misguided attack on Austrian School economists. From his New York Times soapbox, he referred to the free-market Austrian “hard money” philosophy as a “zombie idea” that is inexplicably eating the brains of the voting public.
2010-12-23 Some Thoughts on Market Timing by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
I have real doubts that there will be “hundreds of billions” of losses in the municipal bond market. It would take a default by almost every major municipal issuer, and a lot of small ones, to create a hundred billion in defaults, something not likely to happen. States will be forced to make spending cuts. Mauldin also cites three sources who he "highly respects" who advise to hedge US equity portfolios going into 2011.
2010-12-22 The Waves of 2011 by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
2011 likely will open with a deepening recession, increasing austerity, and falling asset prices. If this is met by a new round of inflation creation and yuan revaluation, then investors should weigh whether to redeploy assets in anticipation of potential rising commodity prices. I expect these developments not to happen gradually, but to come in great waves. Smart investors will tie their fate to an investment vessel with a solid hull, because in these seas, even a hint of rot could tear a ship asunder.
2010-12-21 Debunking Ken Fisher by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In his latest book, Debunkery, Ken Fisher achieves his goal of dispelling many common investment myths and, in doing so, offers his philosophy on how individuals should manage their money. While most of the advice he offers is unequivocally correct, he also makes egregious errors on some serious matters.
2010-12-17 The Dollar Threads a Needle by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Forecasting the dollar’s short-term relative value is an extremely difficult exercise. Sadly, logic holds little sway in the current marketplace. However, over the longer term, I believe dollar weakness will undermine the market – just as we saw with the dot-coms and real estate. At some point, fundamentals will be felt.
2010-12-17 Kicking the Can Down the Road by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A collapse of a major European bank could trigger counterparty mayhem in the US banking system, at least among our major investment banks. The ECB is now earnestly continuing to kick the can down the road, buying ever more debt off the books of banks, buying time for the banks to acquire enough capital. If the ECB were to keep this up, even in a deflationary, deleveraging world it would eventually bring about inflation and the lowering of the value of the euro against other currencies. One country after another in Europe is coming under pressure. This week the debt of Belgium was downgraded.
2010-12-08 Two Flawed Currencies by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Despite America’s economic problems, the US dollar has maintained its respected status the world over – and has even managed to maintain value in comparison to other currencies. The dollar’s charmed life stands in strong contrast to the euro, which is currently suffering from its internal flaws and the Europeans' unfortunate recognition of reality.
2010-12-07 Apple, Google, NewsCorp and the Future of Content: Interview with Michael Whalen by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we speak to Michael Whalen, award winning composer and new media observer about the outlook for the business of creating and delivering content. Since graduating from Berklee College of Music, Michael has taught a business for music class than has saved thousands of young atists from making terrible mistakes with content and other contractual rights. Think Frank Zappa and Warner Brothers. And yes, Michael is IRA co-founder Chris Whalen's younger brother.
2010-12-06 What Inflation Means to You: Inside the Consumer Price Index by Doug Short of Doug Short
The universal response is to moan over price increases and take delight when prices are cheaper. But in reality, households vary dramatically in the impact that inflation has upon them. The one thing we can be certain about is this: An increase in inflation will have a painful effect on lower income households, those on fixed incomes, and any household whose discretionary spending is more dream than reality.
2010-12-03 Texas, Ireland and Ten Little Indians by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin contrasts the plights of Iceland and Ireland in dealing with excessive leverage. Iceland devalued its currency, while Ireland must accept a bailout package. Iceland's economy is recovering; Ireland's may take years. Mauldin compares the situation in Spain and Portugal to those two countries. The stronger EU countries must rescue the weak, just as Texas is being asked to rescue fiscally troubled states like California.
2010-11-30 QE2: Beware the Perils of its Success by Vitaliy Katsenelson (Article)
QE2 is like a drug prescription that comes with a list of side effects that are often worse than the disease it was supposed to cure. It is difficult to know the unintended consequences of QE2, but it may result in a substantial decline in the dollar, stagflation, lower economic growth and much higher interest rates.
2010-11-28 Recessions are on the Margin by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We had a slate of good news over the past few weeks, including data on business confidence, housing, and unemployment. GDP growth is slowing, but it is still north of 2%. The economy may be able to handle only taking away the tax cuts for those with over $250,000 in income. It will slow things down, but probably not enough to cause a recession. Given that government spending is going to go down (at least I hope so), unemployment is going to take time to get under control; and with the whole developed world in a mess, it is hard to see an environment where we can average 3.5% for this decade.
2010-11-23 The Kings of Cash Flow: Investing in Tomorrow\'s Potential Winners Today by David Vincent and Kevin Collins (Article)
Companies generating a lot of free cash flow generally represent attractive investment opportunities over time. The 'Kings' - companies with the highest free cash flow yields - have historically outperformed companies with lower free cash flow yields and are currently experiencing what may be one of their longest and most drastic periods of underperformance in the last 50 years.
2010-11-23 7 Things to Watch for as 2010 Ends by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
The cyclical (1-4 year) picture is getting better for U.S. stocks, and even better in the Emerging and Frontier markets. Put us in the camp of people who believe the Fed is too focused on fighting deflation, and at some point in the next half a decade, we will pay for it dearly. Perhaps the most remarkable trend will be the rise of the "Emerging Nations," particularly those in Asia.
2010-11-20 O Deflation, Where is Thy Sting? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The economy growing between one and two percent. That is better than recession but not good enough to really bite into the unemployment rate, which means trouble. Mauldin examines the construction of the BLI's CPI index and specifically the role of housing: inflation, when you take out housing costs, is a jaunty 1.9%. Right in the Fed target range of 1.5-2%. The Fed's QE program may create inflation where we can least afford it - in energy and food.
2010-11-16 Touch of Grey: Market Takes a Breather by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
My best guess as to the scenario that is unfolding is that the economy is gaining traction, which could cause the Federal Reserve to pull QE2 into the dock sooner than expected. It could also lead to a lift in the dollar, a related pullback in commodity prices, and rising bond yields. Given the high correlation recently between bond yields and stock prices, if yields were to continue to rise, they could take stock prices up with them; especially if the reasons are a better economy and lessened deflation fears.
2010-11-15 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The stock market succumbed to profit taking last week. The reasons are many, but revolved around a poor earnings report from Cisco Systems, a growing skepticism of the Fed’s announced plan to goose the money supply, and finally what the mainstream media is reporting as a rather disappointing trip to Asia by President Obama even as he tried to put his electoral defeat here at home behind him.
2010-11-13 First, Let's Lower the Bar by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin responds to criticisms of a recent email he sent regarding healthcare reform. Next, he notes that for the last 18 months the trade-weighted yuan has dropped well over 10%, which he calls extraordinary. On the recently announced unemployment results, he says government "fiddling" with seasonal adjustments distorted the numbers. Last, he comments on the Irish sovereign debt issue.
2010-11-12 Down the Home Stretch by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Economic data has shown signs of strengthening. We believe we could be emerging from the soft patch and that stronger-than-expected growth could be in the offing. The elections are done and the Federal Reserve made its move, but the question remains as to whether much-needed confidence returns to businesses. Additionally, housing remains a problem that may not be helped substantially by either event. Competitive currency devaluations are dominating the international conversation, while investors are flocking to emerging markets, making us a bit skittish in the near term.
2010-11-10 Corporate Bonds March to Their Own Drummer by Chris Shayne of BondDesk Group
During the first week of the month traders bet big on QE2, purchasing Treasuries with abandon and dropping long term yields. On October 8th, 10-year yields hit a new low for the year, falling all the way down to 2.38%. But for reasons that arent completely clear, things changed in mid-October.
2010-11-09 New Strategies in Alternative Investments by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Alternative investments, broadly speaking, and hedge funds, more specifically, have performed as intended over the last 20 years, modestly increasing returns and significantly reducing risk when added to a traditional stock-bond portfolio. Selecting the appropriate vehicle is the challenge, and that task has been made easier by the introduction of new exchange-traded strategies.
2010-11-07 Fall 2010 Quarterly Commentary by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
As for the next decade, we are optimistic. This view is based primarily on two factors. The first is the entry level. We believe that current valuations of our portfolio holdings are very attractive, both on an absolute level and relative to history. While it doesn’t guarantee any outcome, starting at these levels certainly stacks the probabilities firmly in our favor.
2010-11-05 Beware the Fed Tide by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
This week desperation became palpable at the Fed. In both the formulaic statement that accompanied its Federal Open Marked Committee policy decision and Chairman Ben Bernanke's unusual (and clumsy) Washington Post op-ed follow up, the guardians of our currency expressed grave disappointment at the slow pace of U.S. economic recovery and emphasized the continued threat of deflation. The Fed is now pledging to defeat this recession using any monetary means necessary. Unfortunately, their embrace threatens to smother our economy.
2010-11-03 Five Bitter Pills or One Sweet but Deadly? by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
The current Chairman of the Federal Reserve believes that diluting the dollar is the cure for everything from a recession to male pattern baldness. And like other snake-oil salesmen before him, Mr. Bernanke is heavy on promises and light on results. Michael Pento presents five prescriptions that money printing can't fulfill.
2010-11-02 The SEC’s 12b-1 Proposal is Based on Misguided History, Flawed Economics by John H. Robinson (Article)
The SEC's stated aims of its proposed Rule 12b-1 reform are laudable: increasing transparency, reducing investor fees, and increasing competition among mutual funds. However, John Robinson's review of its 278-page proposal found major flaws, including a misinformed historical pretext and naïve economic analysis.
2010-11-02 Grey Owl Q3 Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
Uncertainty abounds and all broad asset classes are beginning to look expensive again. Unemployment shows few signs of improvement and business confidence is low, yet the stock market continues to climb the 'wall of worry.' Frankly, we have little confidence in the economy or in the broad stock market. However, we continue to find pockets of value in out-of-favor names across industries and market capitalizations. Macro uncertainty may continue to drive the market for some time, but eventually the weighing machine will win out.
2010-11-01 Big Happenings by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Interest rates are at historically low levels because households are still pouring cash into bond funds, while stock market valuations are low because retail investors can't handle the volatility and they keep pulling cash out of equities. So despite all the uncertainty, much of which is normal anyway, stocks offer value, while bonds have very limited investment potential. While uncertainty remains, the bet seems highly asymmetric in favor of equities.
2010-10-29 The One-Sided Compromise by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Last weekend at the meeting of G-20 finance ministers China agreed to 'look into' a revaluation of the yuan and the management of trade surpluses in return for accepting America's continued dollar debasement. They also agreed to an international self-policing regime to curb currency manipulation. Secretary Geithner’s 'victory' at the G-20, however, was a Pyrrhic one. China will now become the third-largest shareholder in the IMF, and developing economies will get a six percent larger voting share.
2010-10-29 Keep Your Head Above Dollar by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
The intent of QE2 is to lower interest rates to promote job growth and avoid the growing threat of deflation. The very idea that the economy is weak because interest rates are too high, however, is laughable. Deflation is the market's cure for asset bubbles that have recently burst, and any attempt to avert it will only weaken the economy further. What we need now is to make hard choices, not engage in more easing - to deleverage, not borrow more.
2010-10-29 Be Careful What You Wish For by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Q3 GDP numbers were unimpressive, and it would not surprise Mauldin to see GDP growth be closer to 1% in the 4th quarter, unless we start to see evidence of more inventory building. That is not good for jobs, personal income, tax collections needed to cover deficits at all levels, or consumer confidence. A further threat is posed by large numbers of people whose 99 weeks of unemployment will soon expire. Republicans face big challenges once they gain power, and Mauldin says a VAT is the only way to reduce budget deficits.
2010-10-25 Strategies for Low Interest Rates by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Investors continue to buy bonds, today's hot product, while companies continue to satisfy this frenzy by selling new issues at every opportunity. One side of this trade must be wrong. Since such borrowing is so extraordinarily attractive for companies, investors must be accepting far more risk than they appreciate. Despite the litany of issues that anyone can provide on the economy's travails, corporate earnings continue to beat estimates and the equity market's valuation remains cheap.
2010-10-25 It's All About Earnings by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
The equity market has now managed to climb three weeks in a row despite the fact that the U.S. dollar has done likewise in a classic countertrend rally from oversold conditions. Almost one-third of the S&P 500 universe has reported, and the year-over-year earnings growth rate is now running at plus-28 percent from plus-24 percent last week. Fully 83 percent of the companies have beaten their bottom-line estimate, which is far above the historical norm of 62 percent; although barely over 60 percent are bettering their revenue estimates, which is below average.
2010-10-24 The Subprime Debacle: Act 2, Part 2 by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Buyers of mortgage-backed securities may be able to join together and force issuers to buy back those securities, if the loans they contain are defective. This is further complicated by the fact that some of those buyers were non-US entities. Bank of America is badly exposed through its acquisition of Countrywide, as are "dozens" of other banks.
2010-10-22 Fed Forces Interest Rates Lower by Jim Ulland of Ulland Investment Advisors
Demand for fixed income securities is so great that companies with strong credit ratings, like IBM and Microsoft, can issue debt at record low interest rates. It is therefore remarkable that trust preferred securities issued by the largest U.S. and European banks continue to yield upwards of 7 percent. Because of these historically wide spreads, a defensive growth strategy using trust preferred securities earn vastly superior returns than any combination of CDs, cash, money markets, muni-bonds, corporate or government securities.
2010-10-21 Decoupling: Alive and Well by Neeraj Chaudhary of Euro Pacific Capital
When the global economic crisis began in 2008, many forecasters doubted that the world economy could return to growth without the U.S. consumer. Whether you are looking at ASEAN, OPEC or the EU, however, it is clear that decoupling is the order of the day; the world economy is rebuilding itself with China as its engine and hub. In the old days, it was said that when the United States sneezed, the rest of the world caught a cold. This time, they might just excuse themselves and move to the next car.
2010-10-21 Latest Global Market Commentary by Monty Guild and Tony Danaher of Guild Investment Management
Investors should continue to hold U.S. stocks for a further rally. U.S. liquidity formation through QE will create demand for many assets, including U.S. stocks. Long-term Treasury bonds have also become less bearish. Another round of QE, as well as fear of another depression will create strong demand for bonds; it is thus too early to sell them short. Meanwhile, investors should short the Japanese yen. The Japanese have neither the resources nor the political willpower to fight protect their currency's value.
2010-10-18 The Metastasis of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities: Interview with Joe Mason by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
This week the Institutional Risk Analyst talks to Louisiana State University finance professor Joseph Mason. While the media is printing stories about foreclosures, Mason says, the more fundamental problem facing the U.S. economy is the approaching currency crisis.
2010-10-18 Thoughts About Bernanke and the Fed by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Conditions for stock market gains remain intact, even if the pace of recovery remains below preferred levels. Growth at a moderate pace will be sufficient for corporate profits to remain on a solid upward trajectory. Interest rates and inflation remain very low and are likely to remain so for an 'extended period of time,' so the pricing of bonds implies a meaningfully higher equilibrium valuation for equities. And if policy proves successful in increasing growth, fears of a double-dip would be vanquished and forecasts of rising profits would become more believable.
2010-10-16 The Subprime Debacle: Act 2 by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The housing market has not yet begun to recover, and it is not only going to take longer but the decline in prices may be greater than many have forecast. But the real problem is the foreclosure crisis, where banks have foreclosed in situations where they had no right to do so. Several options exist for resolution, including sorting out the details of each case in a legal forum. A more ominous outcome would be to force investment banks to buy back securities with faulty titles.
2010-10-15 Global Currency Meltdown by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
The Fed is being pressured to erode the value of the U.S. dollar in order making foreign sales more lucrative in nominal terms. But this form of stealth protectionism will fail just as surely as more overt trade barriers. Only when currencies are allowed to float freely will trade imbalances be corrected. Washington's attempt to force the issue is only doing harm to the world economy by introducing uncertainty and punishing the prudent. The Fed has gone radioactive, setting off a global currency meltdown. Perhaps only gold can truly shield investors from the fallout.
2010-10-13 Gold Vs. U.S. Bonds - Which Do You Believe? by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
Any psychoanalyst looking at the behavior of investors today would see clear strains of schizophrenia in a comparison between the markets for gold and U.S. Treasury bonds. Low bond yields warn of deflation, while high gold prices and a declining dollar presage hyperinflation. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will not stop the presses until inflation has a firm and undeniable grip on the American economy. Since the chairman has shown no will to hit the brakes, you would have to be mad to ride the yield curve alongside him.
2010-10-12 The Perfect Storm: Threat or Opportunity by Dinesh Sharma and Michelle Goldstein (Article)
Our primary client base, baby-boomers, is quickly sliding into retirement, leaving us to question where our growth will come from. And now we have the uncertainty surrounding the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the anxiety that comes with it. Financial advisors can choose to see the convergence of these factors as a threat to their well-being or as an opportunity to prosper.
2010-10-11 Don't Fight the Fed, II by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The economic expansion remains disappointing, but stocks continue to rally. Why? Corporate profits remain on a strong upward trajectory, while financial conditions remain extraordinarily supportive, courtesy of a Fed committed to insuring a stronger economy. Both factors should contribute to continued gains over the coming months.
2010-10-05 The Misguided Promise of 529 Plans by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Along with the overall market, 529 plans suffered disastrous returns in 2008, leaving many families with insufficient funds to pay their tuition costs. The real problem, though, is not with the past performance of 529s. A misguided promise underlies the vast majority of 529 plans - that their heavy allocation to equities will provide acceptable risk-adjusted returns for the time horizons over which most parents invest.
2010-10-04 Stocks Get No Respect by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The ink is hardly dry on September and discussions are already turning to the poor historical performance of October. As billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper notes, however, forces are strongly aligned to move stock prices higher. Valuations remain low, policy remains focused on ensuring a solid recovery, corporate balance sheets have been repaired and are now flush with cash that continues to expand at a rapid pace, and key sectors are still operating below replacement rates.
2010-10-02 The Morality of Chinese Growth by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin provides highlights from a recent conference. John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil. He paints a very stark (even bleak) picture of the future of energy production in the US unless we change our current policies. David Rosenberg argues that GDP growth has been helped largely by inventory rebuilding, which is not sustainable. The analysts at GaveKal discuss the tension between Chinese policies toward economic growth and the social welfare it provides for its citizens.
2010-10-01 Race to the Bottom by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
At one time, a strong currency was viewed as a reward for the reliability, competitiveness and growth of a national economy. Now governments look to take market share from competitors by lowering the cost of their exports through a beggar-thyself policy of habitual currency debasement. Although such a policy may benefit those who buy the products, it is a burden to the country's own workers, who have to get by on subsistence wages. More successful economies will compete on quality and innovation, rather than price alone.
2010-10-01 Insolvency Too by Niels C. Jensen, Nick Rees and Patricia Ward of Absolute Return Partners
On 1st January 2013, Solvency II, a new directive governing capital adequacy rules in the European insurance and life insurance industry, will come into effect. Going forward, European insurers will have to be able to pass a 1-in-200 years' event stress test, which has been designed to give the industry enough of a cushion to withstand even the most severe of bear markets without being forced to sell. Risky asset classes such as equities, commodities and other alternative investments will be assigned much higher reserve requirements than less risky asset classes such as bonds.
2010-09-30 Why David Tepper Is Only Half Right by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
Once domestic bond investors regain consciousness -and they will most likely do so in concert with foreign holders of U.S. debt and currency - a debt and dollar crisis will emerge. Then the only buyer of U.S. Treasury debt will be the Federal Reserve. An economy can't persist for very long by buying its own debt with printed money. The result will be a crumbling currency and soaring interest rates, especially on the long end of the yield curve. When rates rise despite the Fed's efforts to keep them down, that's game over for the 'recovery.'
2010-09-28 Lessons in Ethics: The Incredible Story of Patrick Kuhse by Charlie Curnow (Article)
Patrick Kuhse is the last person you'd expect to give a lecture on business ethics. As a deputy bond trader for Oklahoma's $9 billion general fund during the early 1990s, Kuhse arranged kickbacks for his superiors in the state Treasurer's office. In return, he received an increase in his commissions which, over time, netted him $3.89 million more than he would normally earn, according to court estimates. But today, business ethics are his specialty.
2010-09-28 Unraveling the 12b-1 Debate by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The SEC has proposed sweeping changes to the way commission-based advisors will be compensated for the services they provide. Those changes will rename and modify the 12b-1 fees that many mutual funds now charge. To understand their impact, we spoke with Avi Nachmany of NY-based Strategic Insight, whose clients include the largest mutual funds.
2010-09-28 A Candid Appraisal of the Recovery by John Browne of Euro Pacific Capital
Over the last two weeks, seemingly good economic news offered some shreds of optimism to a stock market that was desperate for a pick-me-up. Although it hard to begrudge the punch drunk for grasping at a little hope, however, investing is a dispassionate endeavor that calls for close and realistic analysis. Any structural changes to the economy will come slowly – and perhaps too late. Meanwhile, whatever actions the Fed takes in the name of further stimulus will sacrifice long-term sustainability in favor of a short-term boom.
2010-09-28 Stan Druckenmiller is Leaving by Bill Gross of PIMCO
The economic drivers that once pumped up asset prices and favored the production of paper over commodities are now retrograde. The reality during Stan Druckenmiller's 'old normal' was that prosperity and overconsumption were driven by asset inflation that in turn was correlated with leverage and interest rates. Investors are now faced with bonds yielding 2.5 percent and stocks staring straight into new normal real growth rates of 2 percent or less. There is no 8 percent there for pension funds. There are no stocks for the long run at 12 percent returns.
2010-09-27 The Bubble in Bonds by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Bonds can play an important role in diversifying a portfolio. The current bubble in bond values, however, places excessive stress on that benefit. Today's yields don't make sense to investors. While the Fed needs to keep interest rates at low levels to strengthen the pace of recovery, investors who flee stocks for the 'safety' of bonds will get hammered. Those who are not distracted by the equity market's volatility and focus on its exceptional current value relative to its long-term prospects will be handsomely rewarded.
2010-09-21 The 'Deleveraging' Deception by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
There is wide agreement among economists and the financial media that our lackluster economic performance stems from continued 'deleveraging' among consumers and businesses. U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP continues to climb, however, which should put to bed any talk of a deleveraging or deflating economy. Consumers are clearly only part of the equation – and, for now, the smaller part. The U.S. government, in fighting the claimed deleveraging, is sending the total debt level into the stratosphere. As we watch it soar upward, the dollar steadily drifts downward.
2010-09-20 Stay in the Pocket by John Petrides (Article)
Those with a long-term investment time horizon should be considering stocks right now, due to the market's long-term capital appreciation potential. With regard to fixed income, investors should first consider active management versus passive (bond funds), and should consider income sources from other areas, such as REITs and MLPs, rather than just bonds for income, as well as diversifying their holdings among corporate, high yield, convertible and floating rate bonds.
2010-09-17 Japan Invervenes to Bail Out America.com by Team of Euro Pacific Capital
This week the Japanese government decided to intervene in the foreign exchange market, initiating a vigorous campaign to buy U.S. dollars, thereby stemming the rise of the yen and pulling up the greenback. The effects were immediate, with the yen falling an astonishing 3 percent on the day of the announcement. The media spin doctors cast the Japanese decision as an attempt by the island state to prop up its own fragile economy. The intervention was actually done to help American consumers buy more cars and electronics from Japan.
2010-09-15 Using Convertibles for Prudent Stock Market Exposure by Douglas G. Forsyth of Allianz Global Investors
For investors still wary of stepping fully back into U.S. stocks, convertible securities - which possess both equity and bond features - may be a prudent way to participate in potential stock upside while also defending against market volatility. With economic growth and corporate profitability slowly but steadily picking up steam, the prospects for convertibles may be particularly attractive now. At the same time, their diversification and total return benefits make them an appropriate allocation in a long-term portfolio as well.
2010-09-14 Identifying Opportunities in the Municipal Bond Market by RidgeWorth Investments (Article)
Ridgeworth Investments shares its perspective on the muni bond market in a recent white paper entitled "Identifying Opportunities in the Municipal Bond Market" which outlines the historical benefits of municipal bonds, the changing market dynamics in 2009 as well as RidgeWorth's outlook for municipal bonds in 2010 and potentially beyond. RidgeWorth concludes that despite a challenging market environment, munis still offer attractive investment opportunities. We thank them for their sponsorship.
2010-09-14 The Centre Cannot Hold by Michael Lewitt (Article)
"A refusal to shed discredited monetary and fiscal policies and embrace creative and politically bold solutions is keeping our economy mired in high levels of structural unemployment and below-trend growth," writes Michael Lewitt in the latest edition of the HCM Market Letter. He also believes that "misguided faith in Keynesian solutions to debt crises, a near-religious belief that mild deflation must be avoided... and uninformed media hype about the alleged benefits of mergers and acquisitions" should be added to the list of bad ideas that lead economic policy and markets astray.
2010-09-14 Does the Fed Ultimately Control Interest Rates? by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
In forecasting the consequences of current economic policy, many pundits are downplaying the risks associated with the surging national debt and the rapid expansion of marketable Treasury securities. In the end, central banks can only temporarily distort the savings and demand equation. The more the Fed prints, the higher the eventual rate of inflation will be. If mainstream pundits truly believe the Fed can supplant the entire public and private market for debt indefinitely, then we won't want to be around when that fantasy inevitably becomes a nightmare.
2010-09-13 It's Time for Tax Cuts, Not Tax Hikes by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The Obama Administration is considering extending the Bush tax cuts except for families with income above $250,000, as well as offering some tax cuts for business to spur investment spending. The Administration's proposed extensions of the Bush tax cuts, especially if augmented by more favorable depreciation allowances to encourage capital spending, are pro-growth. It is therefore surprising that the Administration would undermine the benefits of such proposals by failing to extend the Bush tax cuts for all households.
2010-09-11 The Last Half by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin provides another excerpt from his forthcoming book. He argues that growth in government spending comes at the expense of private sector growth. Fiscal stimulus will not work in the current environment, because we are now at the end of an unprecedented debt cycle. The preferred solution is for a country to grow its way out of debt, but that requires running a trade surplus, which cannot be accomplished by all countries simultaneously.
2010-09-10 Don't Doubt the Double-Dip by Neeraj Chaudhary of Euro Pacific Capital
A few weeks ago Nouriel Roubini, widely regarded as one of the more pessimistic figures on Wall Street, made headlines by raising his forecasted likelihood of a 'double-dip recession' to a terrifying 40 percent. The vast majority of 'mainstream' economists described these predictions as far too gloomy. Roubini, however, may be right. As the high from last year's monetary and fiscal stimulus wears off, there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that the U.S. economy is weak and deteriorating, and that a renewed contraction in GDP is a near certainty.
2010-09-07 A Modest Proposal to the SEC by Michael Edesess (Article)
The SEC is now considering reforming how 12b-1 fees are currently charged, how they would be set in the future, and how they will be disclosed to fund purchasers. In this guest contribution, Michael Edesess offers an alternative, radical proposal, should the SEC's reforms not be adopted.
2010-09-07 It's the Economy, Stupid by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Stocks are so totally out of favor, any excuse will suffice to justify investing elsewhere. Such rationalizations can overcome depressed equity valuations and record low bond yields, at least until the market rallies and investors suddenly confront that new reality. But the key is the economy. If growth is sustained, stocks have enormous upside.
2010-09-07 It's a Depression and Other Thoughts by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
This is what a depression is all about - an economy that 33 months after a recession begins, with zero policy rates, a stuffed central bank sheet, and a 10 percent deficit-to-GDP ratio, is still in need of government help for its sustenance. We had this nutty debate on Friday on Bloomberg Radio in which another economist claimed that there was no evidence of any indicator pointing to renewed economic contraction. And yet, that very day, the ECRI leading economic index came in at a recessionary -10.1 percent print for last week.
2010-09-04 The Last Chapter by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin presents content from his forthcoming book. He reviews some fundamental precepts of economics, focusing on the Keynesian approach the US is taking to revive the economy. He presents data from Woody Brock showing that the US debt may rise by as much as $1.5 trillion per year. Ultimately, he says, the bond market will revolt and interest rates will rise and the results will be very unpleasant. Using taxes or savings to handle a large fiscal deficit reduces the amount of money available to private investment.
2010-09-02 Bernanke Out of Bullets, But Not Bombs by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
For good or ill (mostly ill), the Fed can never run out of ammunition. Their bullets cost nothing to produce. Unfortunately, unconventional monetary tools can cause far more damage to the economy than regular policy. We must understand that the Fed can shower liquidity directly on the consumer in any amount it wants. The political pressure to do so will only increase as unemployment rises and economic growth falters. Therefore, rather than fearing phantom deflation, investors should prepare their portfolios for the real upcoming battle with intractable inflation.
2010-08-31 The Alternative to Big Bonuses by Charlie Curnow (Article)
Do bankers deserve big bonuses? Economists will tell you that bonuses improve employee productivity by rewarding good work. But did the large performance-based payments given to Wall Street securities traders, for example, really steer them to better choices during the run-up to the recent financial crisis? What about financial advisors who base their fees on a percentage of the assets they manage? We take a critical look at Dan Ariely's latest research and the insights it provides.
2010-08-30 In Need of Reassurance by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Fed Chairman Bernanke's statement at the FRB Kansas City Jackson Hole conference didn't reveal anything new, or suggest any change in monetary policy, but it was nonetheless reassuring to a market fearful of a double-dip recession. Most importantly, Bernanke stated quite clearly that he remains committed to insuring an economic recovery, which should hardly be a surprise. And yet, this was taken as good news. Investors anticipate economic problems, despite the fundamentally stronger state of business and financial market conditions.
2010-08-30 Hussman Funds 2010 Annual Report by John P. Hussman of Hussman Funds
At present valuations, exposure to market and credit risk is not likely to be well-compensated over the long-term, and may be associated with substantial losses in the intermediate term. Recent advances may simply be the product of a fragile post-crisis bounce, similar to those following other historical credit crises in the U.S. and abroad. The quarters immediately ahead present the greatest risk of fresh credit strains and concentrated economic risk.
2010-08-28 The Dark Side of Deficits by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
At the start of each bull cycle, the markets had single-digit P/E ratios, with no exception. No secular bull market ever began with high P/E ratios, even though significant rallies often started from high P/E ratios. The lesson of history is that all periods of high valuations come to an unhappy end. The most significant driver of stock market returns is the valuation embedded in the P/E ratio. We are still in a secular bear market. Valuations, while lower, are still not at what could be called historical cyclical bottoms. Patience is the order of the day. We will get there.
2010-08-27 Perception Versus Reality by Liz Ann Sonders, Brad Sorensen, and Michelle Gibley of Charles Schwab
Market volume continues its traditional August swoon, making it difficult to gauge much from stock market action. Economic data continues to tell a mixed story, as growth slows and risks rise. Confidence is key to consumer spending, business investment and stock market performance. The Federal Reserve and the government are attempting to instill that confidence in the American public, but so far have had little success. Emerging markets continue to show signs of growth and China's market has been performing well. Germany also has posted some nice numbers lately, but Japan remains a concern.
2010-08-25 The Fed's Biggest Bubble by Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
Even top-flight Wall Street analysts seem to believe that the Fed's doubling of the monetary base after the credit crunch has not had an inflationary impact on our economy. Their logic can be summed up like this: "The money the Fed created and dropped from helicopters has all been caught in the trees." In other words, the Fed is creating money, but it is just being held as excess reserves by the banking system instead of being loaned to the public.
2010-08-24 This is No Way to Run a Railroad by Michael Lewitt (Article)
In the latest edition of the HCM Market Letter, This is No Way to Run a Railroad, Michael Lewitt says the railroad known as the United States economy is chasing its own tail these days. Driven by misbegotten fiscal and monetary policies that ignore the lessons of history in favor of discredited financial and economic theories, the economy is trapped in a cycle of boom and bust. Lewitt also comments on the bond market, the European stress tests, GM, and the private equity industry.
2010-08-24 Mr. Gross Goes to Washington by Bill Gross of PIMCO
Americans now know that housing prices don't always go up, and that they can in fact go down by 30-50 percent in a few short years. Having grown accustomed to a housing market aided and abetted by Uncle Sam, the habit cannot be broken by going cold turkey into the camp of private lending. Private mortgage lenders will demand extraordinary down payments, impeccable credit histories and significantly higher yields than what markets grew used to over the past several decades.
2010-08-23 Tax Growth by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of this year. If the president and Congress just sit on their hands, income taxes will rise across the board, from the lowest to the highest brackets, as will estate, capital gains and dividend taxes. Much debate swirls around the economic effects of these imminent tax increases. Most agree that the heightened tax burdens will detract from the flow of spending and the general dynamism of the economy.
2010-08-21 How We Get Through This Mess by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Don't expect a v-shaped recovery, but GDP may still grow in Q3. Unemployment and deficits will remain high. It is going to be a tough environment for the next 6-8 years. Growth opportunities will be in entrepreneurial ventures that can adapt to this environment and to future unforeseen hurdles.
2010-08-20 Happy Birthday Social Security? by Neeraj Chaudhary of Euro Pacific Capital
In his weekly radio address this past Saturday, President Obama happily commemorated the 75th anniversary of Social Security. This milestone, however, is nothing to celebrate. For although the president spoke earnestly about the 'obligation to keep the promise' of Social Security, in reality, the program will wreck the government's finances within 10 years.
2010-08-18 Ten Ways to Improve The Returns on Your Portfolios by Kendall J. Anderson of Anderson Griggs
On May 25, 2010, Dr. Paul Woolley, former head of the International Monetary Fund's investment and borrowing activities and founder of the UK arm of Grantham, Mayo, van Otterloo, laid out 10 policies that if adopted, could increase annual returns after inflation by 25 percent and long-term returns by at least 50 percent. He addressed his comments to the world's biggest public pension and charitable funds. His 10-point manifesto, however, will work just as well for individuals, offering the same, if not greater, potential return benefits to their portfolios.
2010-08-18 Dr. Keynes Killed the President by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
Modern-day Keynesians seek to significantly increase debt levels in an effort to boost aggregate demand. In their view, only once recovery takes hold due to government spending, money printing, and borrowing does a discussion of deficits become appropriate. The U.S. has persisted under this theory for close to a century. As a consequence, Washington is now entirely dependent on the reserve currency status of the dollar and the continued hibernation of bond vigilantes. It's almost as if the federal government is daring its foreign creditors to pull the plug.
2010-08-17 A Proven Path to Gaining Client Assets by Dan Richards (Article)
When Dan Richards talks to successful advisors about their business objectives, for most increasing assets is at the top of their list. Some advisors mistakenly believe, though, that winning a greater share of assets from existing clients is driven by performance.
2010-08-14 The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The ecological destruction from the oil spill that was first feared is not going to be as bad as once thought, for a variety of reasons. It is not good, but it is not the unmitigated disaster it could have been. The government should have allowed certain ships to assist in the cleanup. The ban on offshore drilling should be lifted.
2010-08-10 When Active Management Matters by Kenneth R. Solow, CFP and Michael E. Kitces, MSFS, MTAX, CFP (Article)
Financial planners have eagerly awaited any research that could finally, definitively prove - or disprove - the pesky notion that active management is effective. Though no one has yet risen to that challenge, past academic studies have been improperly interpreted to show that portfolio policy, or asset allocation affects portfolio returns far more than active management. As Ken Solow and Michael Kitces write in this guest contribution, the most recent study to tackle the active management debate, by Yale professor Roger Ibbotson, shares two weaknesses with previous research.
2010-08-09 Systemic Regulator Risk: Does the Fed of New York Need a Haircut? by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
Given its second lease on regulatory life, one might expect that the Fed's bank supervision function would be gearing-up to take a fresh, smart, and tough line with respect to financial company oversight. However, the appointment of Sarah Dahlgren as head of supervision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates this may not be the case. Ms. Dahlgren has been at the center of many of the Federal Reserve's most embarrassing failures in the area of bank supervision, including the fiasco surrounding American International Group.
2010-08-07 The Problem With Pensions by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
A report just out from the Center for Policy Analysis indicates that state and local pension funds are drastically underfunded. By the authors' calculations, state and local pensions are underfunded by $3 trillion. Pension funding in some states will be required by law to consume 25-30 percent or more of tax revenues. That is going to mean much higher taxes or reduced services. John Mauldin also discusses a possible surprise from President Obama concerning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and provides an economic update on China.
2010-08-03 'Fiduciary': Much Ado about Nothing! by John Lohr (Article)
The most overused, misused and misunderstood word in the investment industry is 'fiduciary.' Independent advisors, trade organizations and self-styled 'expert' groups have called for stockbrokers to adopt the 'fiduciary' standard to achieve a grand leveling of the playing field for those who provide investment advice. This is nothing more than unnecessary marketing hype, says securities lawyer John Lohr in this guest contribution.
2010-08-03 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)
In a letter to the editor, a reader responds to Dave Loeper's article, Fake Diversification Exposed: Does Asset Allocation Work?, which appeared on July 13.
2010-08-03 Insights from the U.S. International Balance of Trade by Team of American Century Investments
The U.S. trade deficit increased to -$42.3 billion in May. Large and increasing trade deficits are sustainable as long as the rest of the world is willing to lend money to finance them. Growing trade deficits, however, are unhealthy in the long term. Trade imbalances also cause imbalances in capital flows. There was a time when it was argued that, as the U.S. entered a post-industrial society and economy, its growing trade deficit in goods would be offset by a growing trade surplus in services. Nearly three decades of experience, however, have demonstrated that this isn't the case.
2010-08-03 Agency Mortgage Valuations: Government Action and Unintended Consequences by Mitchell A. Flack of TCW Asset Management
In its attempt to bolster housing and stem the tide of foreclosures, the government has enacted several new policies and mandates over the past year to provide underwater borrowers with poor credit histories with subsidized mortgage rates. These policies, however, will likely end the participation of many private mortgage investors. They will cost taxpayers, new home buyers, pensioners and private investors, while giving overseas investors the cold shoulder. Ultimately there is a limit to the assistance the government can provide private markets without doing more damage than good.
2010-07-31 Are We There Yet? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The reported Q2 GDP growth was unimpressive. If we take away housing and project slower inventory growth and less government spending, we could see the GDP number for this quarter fall to the 1% range and stay there for the rest of the year. Deflation is a real fear, analogous to driving our economy "without a spare."
2010-07-30 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
The two most important aspects of the financial reform bill: (1) Congress told the SEC to come up with rules for a common version for a standard of care when providing personalized investment advice to individuals; making everyone (financial planners, stockbrokers, insurance agents, etc.) who provide these types of services do so with a fiduciary standard of care; (2) a mandate from Congress to the GAO to do a six month study about the regulation of financial planning as a distinct business. Recent data on retirement readiness is summarized and several other topics are covered.
2010-07-28 Grey Owl Capital Management's Q2 Letter by Team of Grey Owl Capital Management
The equity and fixed income markets are still modestly overvalued. In addition, the economic recovery may only have been a mirage that the slow dwindling of the government stimulus will reveal. The majority of Grey Owl's equity portfolio is made up of 'high quality' companies – those with consistent earnings growth and low financial leverage. Japanese-style deflation and 1970s-style stagflation are both possible given the slow private sector growth, increasing government regulations, growing government debt loads, and expansive monetary policy.
2010-07-27 Why Immediate Annuities Make Sense by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)
As they approach retirement, baby boomers are increasingly concerned about how best to manage their portfolios during the decumulation phase of their lives. One of the challenges for advisors and investors is understanding what role annuities should play, if any. Geoff Considine shows that immediate annuities should be an important part of a decumulation strategy.
2010-07-27 Active Managers Add More Value in Bull than Bear Markets by Jane Li, CFA, CAIA (Article)
In this guest contribution, Jane Li of FundQuest argues that both active and passive investing have their strengths and weaknesses; it depends on the market segment in question and on the economic climate. Active managers tend to add value in bull markets, but their value is shakier in bear markets.
2010-07-26 Back to Even and Still Bullish by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The equity market has recovered to being even for the year to date, overcoming a possible credit crisis in Greece and Europe, as well as fears of a double-dip recession at home. While the economic outlook is 'unusually uncertain,' it is the pace of the recovery that is most subject to question, more than its sustainability. Notwithstanding these concerns, corporate profits continue to increase at a solid pace, cash is accumulating, and stocks have become cheap. This offers an excellent entry point for investors, who are able to hang in despite the market's volatility.
2010-07-24 Some Thoughts on Deflation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
We face the deflation of the Depression era, and central bankers of the world are united in opposition. This is due to excess capacity, high unemployment and massive wealth destruction. Deflationary pressures are the norm in the developed world (except for Britain, where inflation is the issue). The US has mild (1 percent) inflation now, but if it trends to deflation, the Fed will react by monetizing the debt.
2010-07-20 Martin Leibowitz’ Failed Defense of the Endowment Model by Michael Edesess (Article)
The latest book from Martin Leibowitz, one of the most respected thinkers in the investment industry, attempts to justify the endowment model of investing. As Michael Edesess writes in this review, Leibowitz's defense is highly problematic, and that should concern any advisor utilizing a Yale-like strategy.
2010-07-20 Beyond The Stars: Improving Active Fund Selection Based On Manager Skill by Michael Ervolini (Article)
After a brief review of known shortcomings of common fund evaluation methodologies, Mike Ervolini introduces a new approach based upon analytics that his firm has developed. Rather than relying on non-predictive metrics such as past performance, his approach looks at investment processes in relation to deeper skills that managers possess regarding buying, selling, and position-sizing.
2010-07-20 Why Not Another World War? by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
There is overwhelming agreement among economists that the Second World War was responsible for decisively ending the Great Depression. The truth is, however, that America cannot spend its way out of the current crisis, no matter how great a spectacle it creates. Even if the government spent on infrastructure rather than war, it would still have no means to fund it, and there would still be no guarantee that the economy would grow as a result. Instead, what the country needs is more savings, more free enterprise, more production and a return of American competitiveness in the global economy.
2010-07-19 Sovereign Risks by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Fitch upgraded Argentina's bonds to B (stable) from Default last week, a rather questionable decision. Argentina and a few others belong in a special class, recidivist sovereign borrowers who default on a regular basis after they've lured new lenders to provide them with fresh money. It makes little sense to upgrade Argentina and downgrade Greece because the latter country's budget cutbacks are not politically popular. It is doubtful Argentina will act responsibly any time soon.
2010-07-17 And That's the Week That Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
So much information; so little time to digest. While earnings season kicked off to some mixed results, investors also eyed critical news from BP, Goldman, Apple, the Fed, and even Playboy as they attempted to determine the next direction for the markets. The early weak euphoria was replaced by newfound late-week concerns and stocks did another about-face as the game of streaks continued. Aren’t the summers supposed to be slow and boring?
2010-07-17 The Debt Supercycle by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The Debt Supercycle, as posited by the Bank Credit Analyst, is the decades-long growth of debt from small and easily-dealt-with levels, to a point where bond markets rebel and the debt has to be restructured or reduced or a program of austerity must be undertaken to bring the debt back to manageable proportions. The consequences for each country will be different, and the U.S. is a long way off from "the end." A key point will be the 2014 elections, when critical budget decisions must be made.
2010-07-16 Global Government Spending Hits the Tipping Point... by Jason R. Graybill and Neil D. Klein of Carret Asset Management
A combination of spending cuts and tax increases could weigh on economic growth. This is important to bond investors over the short term, as global deleveraging will create slower global GDP growth and provide lower levels of inflation. In the longer term, governments will probably use their printing presses to inflate their way to lower debt levels while investors will demand greater returns relative to the interest rate and credit risks they assume. Thus, with an outlook towards higher rates in the years to come, Carret remains focused on short-duration, high quality portfolios.
2010-07-13 Nouriel Roubini on Crisis Economics by Michael Edesess (Article)
There's good reason why Nouriel Roubini has been dubbed Dr. Doom. After reading his book co-authored with Stephen Mihm, Crisis Economics, one might despair for our economic system. Roubini makes the recent crisis seem inevitable, hard to stop, and very hard to keep from happening again.
2010-07-13 Fake Diversification Exposed: Does Asset Allocation Work? by David B. Loeper, CIMA, CIMC (Article)
Domestic equities are down roughly 14.5% from their April 23rd high. Many advisors tout sophisticated (and very expensive) asset diversification strategies, supposedly to protect their clients against precisely these circumstances. So, with this recent decline, Dave Loeper asks whether all of those supposed diversifiers protected portfolios?
2010-07-13 Deficits Monetary and Moral by Michael Lewitt (Article)
"The word 'deficit' has come to epitomize not only our economic dilemmas but also our moral and intellectual failures to address them in an era that should be boasting of new breakthroughs in the social and physical sciences," writes Michael Lewitt in the latest installment of his HCM Market Letter, Deficits Monetary and Moral. "Instead, our ability to solve complex problems is weighed down by flawed and corrupted government processes and the lack of courage to forthrightly change them."
2010-07-13 A Marketing Guide for RIAs: Part 3 – Build a Website by Kristen Luke (Article)
Kristen Luke discusses the steps to take to build your website.
2010-07-13 Cage Match by Jeffrey Bronchick of Reed, Conner & Birdwell
Contrary to public opinion, there is enormous opportunity for an investor today to focus on the business and valuation details of a particular investment while everyone else is running around trying to tie the world together into some neatly gift-wrapped strategy that can be easily quantified and traded by a computer algorithm. Yes, it can be frustrating when everything seems to go down on a day when the market goes down, but no one said this is easy. And when it gets that easy, you should be selling into it.
2010-07-12 It's a Slow Grind by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Economic growth in the U.S. is only moderate, which is inadequate to bring down unemployment at a satisfactory pace, even as a double-dip recession remains highly unlikely. It's easy to recognize the problems with the economy, while overlooking the positives. But there's a critical distinction often lost between the unsatisfactory current state of economic affairs and the improving direction. Given time, economic growth should accelerate and lift the economy to a solid state of health.
2010-07-12 Keeping a Level Head by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
A downward bias toward stocks was evident throughout the quarter. This was a marked, but not unexpected, change from the seemingly straight up rise stock prices made from the year earlier (March 2009) lows. The potential for global fallout from Europe's fiscal crisis and its impact on the worldwide economic recovery served as the largest drag on the equities markets during the quarter. Other negatives included inconsistent readings in the U.S. on job growth, consumer-related sales and housing.
2010-07-12 In Search of Your Sleeping Point by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
Asset allocation is an art involving quantitative analysis of financial markets combined with common sense. A buy-and-hold strategy is a dead decision during markets such as these. We have had the worst May in stocks since 1940. No credit still equals no jobs, China is destined for turmoil as its real estate market unwinds, and the Consumer Confidence Index is down to 52.9 in June from 62.7 in May. Fair value on the S&P is 950, which would indicate another 7 percent decline in stock prices from here.
2010-07-10 It's More Than Just Birth-Death by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examines the methodology used by the BLS when it calculates unemployment. He reviews claims by Jeff Miller of New Arc (which we published on Thursday) that distortions caused by unreported data are greater than those of the birth/death model. Mauldin also discusses a conversation he had with Mohammed El-Erian, who said that unemployment may now be a leading (instead of lagging) indicator of economic growth.
2010-07-07 Lebron James and Earnings Season by Charles Lieberman (Article)
It appears that everyone is reducing their expectations for the economy. The stock market, a discounting mechanism, is responding accordingly and suggesting that analyst's 2011 earnings expectations are too high. However, the market is now trading at a price-to-earnings multiple near that of March 2009 market lows, when the structure of the global economy was in question, the credit markets were still frozen, and corporate balance sheets had not yet begun being repaired, a far cry from where we are today. This does not seem appropriate.
2010-07-02 The Art of Outperformance by Niels C. Jensen of Absolute Return Partners
This month's letter is different. Our usual ramblings about the dire outlook for the global economy have been put aside for a while. Instead we focus on a couple of ideas for equity investors who have grown frustrated trying to beat the market - which is very difficult indeed. We do make some rather unflattering comments about active managers, but please note that these are specific to the equity space. In other, less efficient, asset classes, active managers often do much better than is the case in the equity world.
2010-07-02 Employment Report: Just Fair by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Job growth continued in June, but not enough to support the idea that the economy is still gathering speed, but also not weak enough to indicate a double dip recession. One month’s data is insufficient to suggest the trend of accelerating growth is truly broken, but the economy ought to be getting stronger and this payroll employment doesn't show that.
2010-07-01 Summer Forecast (and Beyond) by The Emerald Team of Emerald Asset Advisors
With Spain and its PIIG friends continuing to cause anxiety in global investment circles, it's a good time to focus on the potential risks and rewards facing investors right now. In reviewing our commentary released on February 1st of this year, we find that little has changed in the reward/risk tradeoffs we see. Themes identified earlier this year are now starting to play out and come into focus, as often happens simply with the passage of time. So, here is a brief update on those themes and more importantly, how they are influencing the management of the portfolios we run.
2010-06-30 ECRI Data, Our Themes in the Morning Press, and Radically Restructuring Entitlements by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
David Rosenberg sets the ECRI’s record straight, arguing that the Lex column should ask about the recent equity market drop rather than the unpredictable rally. Rosenberg comments on the themes of inflation and deflation in the press and how society is becoming familiar with Bob Farrell’s rule, “Exponentially rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways.”
2010-06-28 Are We Greece or Are We Japan? by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Does the US economy have more in common with Japan, whose longstanding economic troubles have had disastrous results, or with Greece, whose lack of fiscal responsibility is causing the country to face an economic Judgment Day? Dr. Charles Lieberman argues that our situation is not as dire as either of these nations, as long as we continue to rein in the budget and see increasing job growth.
2010-06-26 The Risk of Recession by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The risk of recession is 50/50, but several things could make it less likely: if the expiration of the Bush tax cuts are not as harmful as expected, if those tax cuts are extended, or if there is a pickup in bank lending. The ECRI leading indicators and the M3 money supply numbers are indicating a recession is likely. If there is a recession, it will be deflationary and the Fed will react with another dose of quantitative easing.
2010-06-22 Improving on Morningstar's Ratings: Moving Beyond Past Performance by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)
Past returns provide little or no help in choosing the best fund going forward, and Morningstar's stars are the best known example of this failure. In this guest contribution, Tom Howard presents new evidence of the failure of past performance to predict future returns, and shows how his strategy-based rating methodology offers measurably better predictive power.
2010-06-21 Why Own Gold? by John Petrides (Article)
Buyers of gold assume that a buyer will materialize who is willing to pay more for their shiny rock than they did. For this reason, buying gold is the epitome of a speculative investment. How does one value gold, from a fundamental standpoint? The conceptual answer is to match supply with demand and an equilibrium price is created, but how does one measure supply? Well, gold is mined, so that is one part of the equation, but what about holders such as central banks and investors, who keep the shiny rock in their vaults? How is that level of supply factored into the equation?
2010-06-18 Be Careful What You Wish For by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Governments can fight deficits by cutting spending, but that has the effect of reducing growth, which reduces taxes and income, essentially forcing a recession. This is the situation facing the US. The probability for a recession in the US in 2011 is 50%.
2010-06-15 Asset Allocation Matters, But Not as Much as You Think by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The market downturn has caused a rethinking of many core principles underpinning investment advice, chief among them the role of asset allocation. We talk with Yale's Roger Ibbotson about the impact of market returns and active management in explaining return variance and the role of asset allocation going forward.
2010-06-15 Strategy Advice from Apple and Google by Dan Richards (Article)
Last week Dan Richards conducted a webinar focused on the key decision that will drive advisors' long term success. Richards talks about what advisors can learn from the success of Apple, Google, Coke and Walmart.
2010-06-14 Weekly Commentary & Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
The Economic Cycle Research Institute's year-over-year growth rate has turned negative. Their interpretation is that the growth rate will slow soon, but it is too soon to conclude whether or not a new recession is in the cards for 2011. The market is pleased with the stability in the currency exchange rates, while the lower interest rate outlook is helping many sectors of the economy along with lower gasoline prices for the summer driving season. So the news is mixed, but it looks like the next move for the stock market will be up.
2010-06-14 The Wisdom of Peter Lynch by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Peter Lynch once recounted how he was forced to stop reading the papers over the weekend because the doom and gloom depressed him so much that he was unable to make any investments on Monday. Charles Lieberman of Advisors Capital Management knows how he felt. If we believe the news, Greece will default and the euro is at risk of falling apart, while the housing market is about to weaken once again. Fortunately, none of these popular views holds up to scrutiny. Our recovery may be weak relative to prior recoveries following deep recessions, but it is still gathering momentum.
2010-06-11 Schwab Sector Views: Why Sectors? by Brad Sorensen of Charles Schwab
Views on the S&P 500 sectors.
2010-06-11 The Frog in the Frying Pan by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception, a research firm in London, writes this column as a guest contribution. He says that Mauldin's Muddle Through Economy is the product of several major structural breaks in the economy, which have important implications for growth, jobs, and the timing of a future recession: lower GDP growth will lead to more frequent recessions and higher economic volatility; high unemployment rates will be the norm, especially for less educated workers.
2010-06-10 Changing Channels: Asia's Shifting Media Mix by Elizabeth Dong of Matthews Asia
A combination of rising consumer demand, emerging technology, market forces and gradual regulatory reform is transforming Asia’s media landscape. Research analyst Elizabeth Dong explores the ways in which China’s publishers and local governments are pushing for reform, and India’s traditional media marketplace has been transformed by private entrepreneurs and foreign players.
2010-06-08 Why Wall Street Won't be Reformed by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Michael Lewitt, author of the highly respected HCM Market Letter, has just released a new book, The Death of Capital. In this interview, he identifies the challenges facing those who seek to regulate Wall Street, and why most of the proposed reforms are likely to fail.
2010-06-08 The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Quants by Michael Lewitt (Article)
In the latest issue of the HCM Market Letter, Michael Lewitt draws the parallels between the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and financial reform - both, he says, demonstrate our inability to learn from our mistakes. Lewitt also comments on quantitative trading strategies, economic recovery and the capital markets.
2010-06-07 Disclosure? It's Not Good Enough by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
Pfizer disclosed that it paid $20 million in consulting and speaking fees to 4,500 doctors in the second half of 2009. The company also shelled out $15.3 million to U.S. academic medical centers for their clinical trials. This marks the first time a company has disclosed its payments for clinical trials. As such, some may see this as a good deed on Pfizer's part, a noble step towards eliminating or reducing some of the conflicts of interest in medicine. Several studies have shown, however, that when professionals disclose their conflicts of interest, this only makes the problem worse.
2010-06-07 Decoupling by John Petrides (Article)
The investment community is fixated on the tangled fiscal and monetary web within the European Union and losing sight of the recovery underway in the U.S. economy. One might say the U.S. and Asian economies are decoupling from European markets. In 2007 and 2008, decoupling allowed the global economy, led by Brazil, Russia, India, and China, to grow without the U.S. Now it appears that the European economy has decoupled and is mired in its own recession apart from the rest of the world.
2010-06-05 There's a Slow Train Coming by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The question before the jury is a simple one, but the answer is complex. Is the US in a "V"-shaped recovery? Are we returning to the old normal? Mauldin concludes that the fundamentals are too weak to support robust growth, as typically follows a recession. He cites data from the Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index, which suggests there will be a 2% GDP contraction in the third quarter, which he doubts will happen, but says the consensus 3% seems quite possible. He warns that if we go back into recession, the market on average drops 40%.
2010-06-04 The Parable of the Lifeboat by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Many investors are hesitant to add to their stock allocations due to negative returns over the past decade. The problem is that alternative investments have performed just as badly, if not worse. Ten thousand appears to be a hard floor for the Dow, despite investors' fears. Markets are thinner and more easily manipulated during the summer time, but July earnings reports should paint a rosy picture. NASDAQ is implementing expanded 'circuit breakers' to sideline stocks with unusually large moves - anything to reduce volatility and get investors interested in stocks again.
2010-06-03 A Bear Market or Just a Correction? by David A. Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff
So far the S&P 500 is down nearly 10 percent from the highs, so this is indeed a correction thus far. More often than not, however, declines like these morph into something more severe. Right now we are looking at a 50 percent retracement of the March 2009-April 2010 run-up, which means 943 on the S&P 500. Lows in the market tend to occur with the index 20 percent below the 200-day moving average, which at this stage would be 879. So at least we have a defined range of when to begin to put money to work.
2010-06-01 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Even though Social Security has built up a $2.5 trillion surplus over the past 25 years, it is projected that over the next 75 years the program will rack up a $5.3 trillion deficit. A new report from a special bipartisan Congressional committee recommends that we raise the Social Security tax, reduce benefits and increase the age of eligibility in order to make up the difference. ProVise also comments on Congressional salaries, a new scam targeting investors, taxes on IRA accounts, education and salary, primary elections, rising stamp costs and trust management.
2010-05-28 The Real Deal by Michael Nairne of Tacita Capital
Investors will face turbulent markets over the next several years as the world's credit implosion, now mutated into a sovereign debt crisis, plays out. Broad global asset class diversification is essential to riding out this storm. However, in the long run, it is the real economy that matters to equity returns. In today's climate of uncertainty, long-term investors should take heart that the drivers of world GDP growth - labor force growth and productivity increases - remain intact.
2010-05-28 Six Impossible Things by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
You can run a trade deficit, reduce government debt and reduce private debt but not all three at the same time. Choose two. Choose carefully. The UK will likely allow the pound to devalue to reduce its deficit, but will face higher costs of imported goods. Greece, in contrast, has no good options, and ultimately will default on its debt.
2010-05-28 Senate Passes Major Financial Reform Bill by Michael T. Townsend of Charles Schwab
The US Senate approved legislation overhauling the regulatory structure of the financial industry—the most sweeping reform of the sector since the Depression. House and Senate negotiators must now reconcile differences between the newly passed Senate bill and the one that passed the House late last year, but lawmakers are shooting to send a final bill to President Obama for his signature by July 4. Key features of the bill are outlined, from a new consumer financial protection agency to significant reform of the credit-rating agencies.
2010-05-25 Seth Klarman is More Worried than at Any Time in his Career by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The concern that the dollars he earns for his clients will lose their purchasing power is always on hedge fund manager Seth Klarman's mind. The possibility that the government will continue to print money to solve our economic problems has left him more worried than at any time in his career. We report on Klarman's remarks at last week's CFA conference.
2010-05-22 The Case for a Fed Rate Hike by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Everywhere there are arguments that we are in a "V"-shaped recovery. And there are signs that in fact that is the case. Today we will look at some of those, and then take up the topic of when the Fed will raise rates. We open the case and look at the evidence. Is there enough to come to a real conviction? Mauldin thinks there is, but concludes that the Fed is "on hold" until 2011.
2010-05-17 Why Be Bullish? by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Investors are nervous that Greece and Europe's need to restrain fiscal policy could spill over and cause a double dip recession in the United States. While that isn't impossible, it is highly unlikely. The U.S. economy is building momentum and derailing the expansion is quickly becoming difficult. Fundamentals also strongly suggest an improving economy. Thus, rather than weakness in Europe undermining domestic growth, it is far more likely that a healthier economy in the U.S. and in Asia will spill over to help the Europeans.
2010-05-15 Europe Throws a Hail Mary Pass by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
This week's $1 trillion EU bailout is analogous to the US TARP program, and represents a "Hail Mary" last-ditch attempt to save the eurozone. The problems in the EU run deeper than government debt; when private debt is included, overindebtedness is even more striking. Mauldin says the prospects for growth in the EU are dim, the euro will go to parity with the dollar, and the EU will dissolve in the next 5-7 years.
2010-05-14 Schwab Sector Views: Sea Change? by Brad Sorensen of Charles Schwab
Market volatility has heated up during the past couple of weeks as more eyes have turned toward the debt problems plaguing Europe. After a nice run in equities, it's certainly not surprising to see some sort of pullback, especially in areas of the market that may have outperformed to start the year. The United States is entering a time of more-steady growth, with flattening leading economic indicators, which typically represents a shift in sector leadership. The information technology sector, for example, should outperform the market, while materials should underperform.
2010-05-11 God Is Dead: The Implications of the Goldman Sachs Case by Michael Lewitt (Article)
Michael Lewitt provides us with the most recent issue of the HCM Market Letter, where his discusses the implications of the Goldman Sachs case. Lewitt says Goldman faces a terrible dilemma, and should heed the lessons of the downfall of Drexel Burnham two decades ago. Lewitt also comments on the private equity industry, public pension funds, and bank capital requirements and the ratings agencies.
2010-05-11 Inspire Client Trust by Delivering Clear, Insightful Investment Communications by Ani Yessaillian (Article)
One of the best ways to build trust with your clients is to consistently deliver clear, insightful investment communications. In this guest contribution, consultant Ani Yessaillian tells you how to make the most of your quarterly performance report and your off-cycle investment communications.
2010-05-10 Europe Fires the Bazooka by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Greece's risk of default has the potential to disrupt markets globally, depressing stock and most commodity markets, while pushing the safest bonds, Treasuries, to artificially high values. With Greece as a possible disruptive force to global capital markets, the Fed will be hesitant to raise rates. Moreover, restrictive fiscal policies in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the U.K. will weaken U.S. exports to Europe. While a less expansion oriented monetary policy will still be needed in the U.S., it will come later given the disruptive forces from Europe that will restrain global growth.
2010-05-07 Greece and Possible Contagion by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The equity market melted down yesterday, partly due to a trading error, but also out of fear of contagion from Greece to Spain and Portugal. Europeans will need to draw a line in the sand to prevent the possibility of contagion, or risk a broad loss of liquidity across Europe. A strong policy response, possibly including a European Union guarantee on the sovereign debt of all its members, as well as support for the European credit markets from the European Central Bank, should calm the markets. Markets will remain quite volatile until these key players take strong policy action.
2010-05-04 The Quants by Michael Edesess (Article)
In his review of the new book, The Quants, Michael Edesess says its author, Scott Patterson, mistakenly glorifies the accomplishments of the supposed quantitative "geniuses" on Wall Street. Those quantitative analysts are not disciplined for their lack of rigor and, as a result, produce results that are not justified by the underlying mathematics or by common sense.
2010-05-04 The Future of Consumer Financial Protection by Charlie Curnow (Article)
Among the items that headline the proposed financial reform legislation is a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) that would consolidate regulatory responsibilities for consumer financial products, currently handled by four separate agencies, in one central office. Charlie Curnow looks that the goals of the CFPA and its implications for consumers.
2010-05-04 2010 Q1 Quarterly Report by Jason Nelson of Roumell Asset Management
The national economic debate today seems to be centered on our government’s response to the chal¬lenges of the past two years. In the United States, Europe, and China, the answer to plunging private demand has been strik¬ingly similar - government spending. Critics rightly highlight the liabilities associated with the practice but rarely note that a given nation acquires assets as well that will also be passed on to future generations. The government’s response has been, by and large, necessary, prudent and effective.
2010-05-03 Is the Economic Recovery for Real? by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Friday's employment report will help shed light on whether the economic recovery is sustainable. The pickup in consumer spending and business investment so far is very good news, but unless that spending translates into job growth, the gains in GDP will not last. Without job growth, households will lack the income to increase spending and business will soon find that sales are weakening again. The early signs are excellent. But until we see a number of months of job gains, it is inappropriate to think the expansion is well-established.
2010-05-01 The Bond Roller Coaster by Michael Nairne of Tacita Capital
The bond market has been characterized by long-term secular cycles. From 1946-1981 yields steadily rose; since 1981 they have steadily declined. The good times for bonds couldn’t last forever. Although some longer-term bond exposure is needed today as a hedge against a deflationary scenario, investors should recognize that in the next year or so the bond roller coaster is about to get underway.
2010-05-01 Resilience Resonates by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab
The stock market has absorbed numerous body blows recently, but continues to chug along—waiting for a big price correction to buy could be detrimental. Economic data remains solid, confounding some recovery skeptics and providing the Fed ample reason to slowly return to normalcy. European debt problems are growing and concerns over contagion are rising; there's no quick fix, and some politically unpopular decisions are going to have to be made.
2010-05-01 The Future of Public Debt by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin defends Goldman Sachs, arguing that buyers of the synthetic CDO it created should have been aware of the risks. He then comments on a paper by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) which analyzes the level of sovereign debt across a number of countries. The BIS says the overall debt levels for these countries, which include many of the G20, are unsustainable, and the US is among those with the worst long-term outlook.
2010-04-28 Fiduciary Responsibility vs. Fiduciary Duty by Michael J. Schussele of Michael J. Schussele, CPA
While the campaign to establish a fiduciary standard is commendable in that it could establish fiduciary responsibility for advisors, the fiduciary standard is not the same as professional fiduciary duty. Fiduciary responsibility assumes unavoidable conflicts of interest, while professional fiduciary duty does not tolerate any conflicts of interest at all. It is time to clearly delineate who is who, to have salesmen and advisory salesmen regulated by the SEC and FINRA, and to have true fee-only professional advisors regulated by an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
2010-04-27 Paul McCulley’s Design for Financial Regulation by Robert Huebscher (Article)
PIMCO's Paul McCulley parents his 20-year-old son with an overarching principle: If you want access to the "Bank of Dad," then you must comply with the regulations of the "Bank of Dad." Wall Street abandoned similar tenets with in the run-up to the credit crisis, and now McCulley says that core principle - to play the game, you must accept regulation - needs to be restored before another crisis unfolds.
2010-04-27 Gary Shilling: America’s Lost Decade by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The US faces 10 years of slow growth and deflation that could rival Japan's "lost decade" - two words which Gary Shilling did not utter but which unmistakably characterize his forecast. Shilling is founder and President of the New Jersey-based economic consulting firm A. Gary Shilling & Co.
2010-04-26 Stocks Still Have Limited Downside by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Stock valuations are still reasonable and they are getting cheaper, despite the market rally. Profits are rebounding strongly and economic growth is still in the early stages of an expansion. With unemployment still at 9.7 percent, the economy and corporate profits have considerable upside and it will take some years for the economy to revert to a normal level. Any slide in stock prices would provide an opportunity for investors who have missed the rally a chance to get in, which implies only limited downside for stocks at this time.
2010-04-26 Quarterly Letter by Jeffrey Erber and Eric Brugel of Grey Owl Capital Management
While the stock market paused briefly to catch its breath in January, risk taking was broadly rewarded beginning in mid-February. As we entered March and passed the one-year anniversary of the 2009 market lows, the market took off again. As if it was scripted, the most highly indebted and economically sensitive companies have performed the best during this rally. Financials, in particular banks, have roared. The market has been fueled by consistent marginal improvements in the economy, which have led to expectations of much bigger improvements in coming quarters.
2010-04-21 Chocolate and the Mathematics of Loss by Doug Mackay and Bill Hoover of Broadleaf Partners
During the depths of the downturn a little over one year ago, many investors were quick to provide a lesson on the mathematics of loss. A 50 percent decline would require a subsequent 100 percent gain - not a 50 percent gain - to get back to even. Such truths, it seemed, were a justification for remaining bearish and a comfort perhaps to some, in making the painful decision to sell. Unfortunately, while the mathematics of loss is indeed an investing truth, it may also be an author of lies by suggesting that the only investor goal worth its salt is 'getting back to even.
2010-04-19 playing in the street by tom brakke of the research puzzle
At one time there was a quaint notion that if your clients did well over time, you'd do well over time, especially if they thought you helped quite a bit along the way. Instead of maximizing the long-term value of their businesses, the goal of Goldman Sachs and other firms has become the production of short-term profits (and the accompanying compensation) at any cost. The firms act as if there is an inexhaustible supply of gullible clients, and for too long investors (and citizens, given that 'too big to fail' is still the way of the world) have proven them right.
2010-04-19 Goldman, as Scapegoat by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Goldman's crime, which appears to be more of a technicality than the kind of truly nasty crimes that were being committed by some financial market players, seems to be targeting the name, not the crime. This suggests it is more of a show event, perhaps in anticipation of the elections, than a real effort to punish miscreants, such as lenders at Countrywide or New Century. This show may fill the media over the coming months and quarters, but fortunately, it will not derail the economic recovery.
2010-04-17 First, Let’s Kill the Angels by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Provisions in the Dodd financial reform bill will impede angel investing in new ventures. Those provisions are the 120-day waiting period following SEC filing and the increase in minimum wealth requirements for accredited investors. Separately, the problems that Goldman now faces are "the tip of the iceberg," and at least eight other banks will face similar problems.
2010-04-16 Our Quarterly Review by Jonathan A. Shapiro of Kovitz Investment Group
With only a few temporary setbacks, the stock market has continued its move higher since touching its most recent low in early March 2009. Much hand wringing has been done over the S&P 500's approximately 75 percent move since that time, but lost in translation is the fact that prices last March implied a pending financial and social breakdown. These panic-driven prices bore little resemblance to actual or going concern business values, and measuring from that point clearly overstates and exaggerates the return. The worries facing the U.S. and many other regions are still prevalent.
2010-04-09 Reform We Can Believe In by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Appointments to positions of power in the Federal Reserve system should be independent of the political process and party politics. Credit default swaps should be regulated by requiring that they be traded on an exchange. Commercial and investment banking should be separated, so that commercial banks cannot engage in speculative activity such as running hedge funds. Leverage use by large banks should be restricted. "Fix the big things. Credit default swaps. Too big to fail. Leverage. Then worry about the details. And leave the Fed alone."
2010-04-07 The Municipal Market by Rick Bookstaber of Rick Bookstaber
The municipal bond market displays many of the problems that plagued the mortgage market leading up to the recent financial crisis. Just as homeowners took their income and locked it up via secondary loans, much of the tax base for municipalities is already mortgaged through the sale of tax-related revenue streams such as tolls and parking fees. And once a few municipalities default, there is risk of a widespread cascade in defaults because the taboo against bankruptcy will diminish, especially if there is a taxpayer revolt.
2010-04-07 Deep in the Heart of Taxes by Michael Dana of Dana Investment Advisors
In the investment business we deal with both reality and perception. In the case of taxes we are dealing with reality. As tax laws change, the investment landscape is also changing, and we are spending many hours analyzing these changes to determine which investment areas will benefit from tax changes and which will be hurt. Investors should start to review their investment objectives for the coming year or even decade. Dana also comments on good news from the job front.
2010-04-06 Health Care RX by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
It will take months to sort out all the implications of the immense health care bill, with all its arcane provisions and so-called 'fixes.' For all the uncertainty, however, it seems definite that the government will play a new role in student lending, that taxes will rise, that insurers will receive millions of new customers, that generic pharmaceuticals will benefit and that federal budget deficits will grow despite Congressional Budget Office projections. Finally, if the November elections bring a backlash, there could be new rounds of negotiations and reforms.
2010-04-06 A Review of "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis by Michael Edesess (Article)
"The Big Short" tackles the financial meltdown as seen by four relatively minor, but colorful players. (Minor means running only hundreds of millions, not billions.) All of them were voices in the wilderness, writes Michael Edesess, our reviewer. All of them bet heavily against the subprime real estate bubble that, for a while, fueled huge gains.
2010-04-06 Follow-up to the Folly of Peer Group Analysis by Various (Article)
In response to a recent commentary by Research Affiliates, The Folly of Peer Group Analysis, a reader offers his own research on the performance of indices against peer groups, once impurities have been eliminated from those peer groups. John West and Ryan Larson of Research Affiliates provide additional analysis.
2010-04-05 Disclosure? It's Not Good Enough by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
In compliance with a federal integrity agreement, pharmaceutical maker Pfizer released details of its financial involvement with the medical community. Several studies have shown, however, that when professionals disclose their conflicts of interest, this only makes the problem worse. This is because two things happen after disclosure: first, those hearing the disclosure don't entirely know what to make of it, and second, the discloser feels even more liberated to act in his own interest and to disregard the public good.
2010-04-05 Houston, We Have Ignition by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The final and most important missing link in the economic recovery is now falling into place. Job growth has resumed. While we should not jump to strong conclusions based on a single economic report, the underlying trends and supporting data all reinforce the same inference that the economy is back on a growth track. The economic recovery trajectory is likely to further improve in the coming months as job growth feeds into household income and confidence in order to support more spending. This month we have ignition. Next month, we may have liftoff.
2010-04-03 Is This a Recovery? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"We will likely see a reduction in government spending (from all levels) over the next few years, a really nasty set of tax increases, which will hit small businessmen the hardest, and continued high unemployment, and all of it coming in a weakening economy by the end of the year," says John Mauldin. "I put the odds of a double-dip recession in 2011 at better than 50-50." Mauldin also offers asset allocation advice over a 10-year time frame.
2010-03-31 The Price of Emotion by Michael Nairne of Tacita Capital
Emotionally driven investment decisions often lead investors to buy high and sell low, and can exact a huge price on a portfolio over time. The antidote to emotional investing is threefold. First, investors must clarify their ability to tolerate risk in financial and psychological terms, and use this profile as the primary determinant of portfolio design. Second, investors should back-test the asset class performance of recommended portfolios. Finally, investors must document their investment strategies in writing.
2010-03-31 ProVise Management Group by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
While many investors feared that health care reform would hurt the market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 44 points just after the bill passed, and is now approaching 11,000. Some Wall Street experts predict the bill will boost demand for prescription drugs and medical care, offsetting the tens of billions that health care firms will pay to subsidize the plan. Provise also comments on the impact of the census, corporate budgeting for 2011, the weakness of the Tampa Bay economy, the rising savings rate, increasing Treasury bond yields, IRS audits and college basketball betting.
2010-03-30 Seven Tips for a Successful Family Foundation by Nancy Opiela (Article)
Managing a foundation's assetswins you the cachet of being seen as helping your clients fulfill their philanthropic goals, and it is extremely lucrative work that can create a practice-building bridge to the next generation.The administrative aspects, as Nancy Opiela writes, can be daunting and she offers seven tips for a successful family foundation.
2010-03-30 Not a Lost Decade for Diversified, Balanced Portfolios by Joni L. Clark, CFA, CFP (Article)
Did the last ten years really demolish the foundations of Modern Portfolio Theory and classic investing principles? How did portfolios that stuck to the principles of effective diversification and buy-and-hold investing actually perform during the so-called "Lost Decade?" The answers to both questions is an unqualified "no," writes Joni Clark of Loring Ward in this guest contribution, based on her analysis of a DFA-based strategy.
2010-03-29 I'm Entitled by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Greece's budget problems reflect the willingness of the government to pay workers wages and benefits that exceed the willingness of citizens to pay taxes. The simple lesson is that governments cannot promise benefits without considering their cost. It is therefore disappointing that the U.S. government chose to create a new healthcare entitlement program at a time when it is already running high budget deficits. Markets are not ready to stop financing U.S. budget deficits right now, but this may become a problem down the road.
2010-03-27 What Does Greece Mean to You? by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
The potential consequences of the Greece debt crisis can be explained by chaos theory, where a small perturbation in one place (the Greek economy) can cause bigger ripples in the global economy. Greek debt is held by European banks, and a Greek default would weaken the European economy. The real crisis, though, is the impending end of a "60-year debt supercycle," which implies many years of deleveraging and a weak global economy.
2010-03-22 The Greatest Hopes and Worst Fears Are Seldom Realized by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
The main lessons for investors from the past 18-24 months are that emotion is the enemy of good investing, and that time-honored investment principles, even if they frustrate, still provide the best likelihood for success. The S&P 500 Index rose more than 65 percent in the first quarter of this year from their March 2009 lows. The ultimate losers in this situation were those who succumbed to the ugly mood of a year ago and, despairing over the efficacy of and long term investment principles, sold out. By contrast, those who held onto their investments benefited from the recent rally.
2010-03-22 Sex Sells... And So Does Fear by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Household confidence remains low, despite evidence that the economy has been growing for three quarters. Negative interpretations of data are given too much credibility and attention, and investors continue to pour money into bonds while avoiding stocks. Markets, however, tend to move ahead of perceptions. Just as the stock market began to recover in March 2009 before the economic recovery was evident, the market will now continue to recover in anticipation of the resumption of job growth and a self-sustaining expansion. Confidence surveys will follow suit.
2010-03-22 Weekly Commentary and Outlook by Tom McIntyre of McIntyre, Freedman & Flynn
Last week was quiet as concern over the Obamacare vote caused investors to head to the sidelines. The economic news remains mixed, but profits are doing fine. As a result, the market held up overall. Unfortunately, the federal health care plan will present investors with a number of long-term issues by increasing taxes on investments, increasing regulation, and raising the cost of labor. This could make a negative impact on employment. McIntyre also examines recent hopeful signals from Boeing and Pioneer Drilling.
2010-03-22 Health Care Fallout by Brian S. Wesbury and Robert Stein of First Trust Advisors
The health care bill is no reason to run for the hills. In the short term, there are no policy changes that will derail or noticeably slow the V-shaped economic recovery slowly underway. There are harmful policy shifts, including extra fees on health insurers and the makers of medical devices, but these are sector and not macroeconomic issues, at least in the short term. The biggest macroeconomic effects will stem from tax hikes scheduled to go into effect in 2013. In the meantime, however, Wesbury and Stein retain their bullish stance.
2010-03-20 The Threat to Muddle Through by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin criticizes Krugman's call for a 25% tariff on Chinese imports, and instead predicts that China will allow its currency to appreciate 5-7% per year for the next several years. Protectionism, he says, is the biggest threat to global recovery. In defense of his argument, Mauldin says similar tariffs could be imposed if the euro, Yen and the Canadian dollar continue their current trends. The larger problem is the growing US deficit, which must be dealt with in the medium term, or there will be no long term.
2010-03-19 Another Year Older... And Deeper in Debt? by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
Consumers continue to deleverage around the globe, as they have since 2008, and that deleveraging process is the underlying force behind financial markets. Despite the obvious short-term problems for markets everywhere, however, 2010 will be viewed in retrospect as a time for investors with long time horizons to start angling their portfolios toward a more positive long-term return than in the past decade. Continued low interest rates are starting to spark economic growth, and are making 'risk' assets more attractive.
2010-03-19 The Folly of Peer Group Analysis by Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates
The global financial crisis has led to a significant remake of the active manager opportunity set, but don’t let the ever-shifting sands of survivorship and backfill biased peer group returns fool you. Indexing is a smart bet. Importantly, if you want to be a “survivor,” remember the biases of peer groups because what may look like a smart active manager “alliance” could turn out to be a vote off the island of investment success…caveat emptor!
2010-03-18 You Want China to Float the Yuan? by Eric Brugel of Grey Owl Capital Management
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the Treasury and Commerce departments urging them to use all available resources to end what they view as damaging currency manipulation in China. These congressmen are pandering to concerned workers, while ignoring the fact that their constituents benefit from current exchange rates whenever they buy cheap goods from China. While a higher RMB/U.S. dollar exchange rate may be politically popular, it would lead to higher real costs, higher inflation and higher interest rates in the U.S.
2010-03-15 On OTC Derivaties: Interview with Bill King by Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analyst
The Institutional Risk Analyst interviews Bill King, founder of Chicago-based derivatives firm M. Ramsey King Securities. Their conversation centers on a new report by the bankruptcy court examiner in the Lehman Brothers liquidation that provides another piece of evidence linking over-the-counter derivative structures and accounting fraud in the style of Enron and WorldCom. The IRA also examines the FDIC's recent bank securitization reform efforts, as well as the recent rally of CitiGroup, Barclay's and other large-cap financials.
2010-03-15 Getting Healthy by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Investors expect a slow recovery, partly because they believe that households and firms must rebuild finances and improve their financial health before they can spend once again. Main Street is getting healthier, as household wealth recovers and people pay down debt. Corporate America is far ahead and has already greatly improved its condition. And soon, companies will start hiring, which will enable households to reinforce the economic recovery.
2010-03-13 The Implications of Velocity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examines the relationship between the velocity of money, economic growth and inflation. After reviewing the economic theory, he shows that the velocity of money in the US has decreased since the onset of the financial crisis, and attributes this to deleveraging and the pullback from the financial innovations that accelerated the velocity of money, particularly in the 1990s. The Fed has compensated for the slowdown in velocity by increasing the money supply, and Mauldin questions whether the Fed can effectively reduce the money supply once velocity increases.
2010-03-12 Bubbling over in China? by Bill McBride of Calculated Risk
As long as the Chinese government taps the brakes on the housing market whenever necessary, a steep drop in home prices is unlikely. This assumes the government learned from its mistakes in late 2007, when it adjusted too hard. Given the sentiment and concern out of Beijing about keeping a balanced economy as the world recovers, strong movements to dampen the Chinese housing market are unlikely. It is more likely that the government will continue to use the banks, as well as rules on second mortgages, to cool specific locations through 2010 while letting the overall market grow.
2010-03-12 Changing Seasons by Doug Mackay and Bill Hoover of Broadleaf Partners
The economy is shifting from its early recovery phase of rapid growth into a late expansion phase of moderate growth. While low interest rates were critical to market success in 2009 during the early stages of the expansion, economic growth patterns tend to have greater influence in later stages. As economic seasons change, it will be necessary for investors to weed out bad stocks, prune healthy ones and transplant names in order to maintain the vitality of their overall portfolios.
2010-03-11 going active by Tom Brakke of the research puzzle
A study by Martijn Cremers and Antii Petajitso makes a persuasive case for using active share as a benchmark for determining how active a fund manager is. It concludes that the most active managers, as measured by active share, deliver the best performance. In a way, this comes as no surprise. The popularity of hedge funds derives from their tendency to hold positions regardless of their presence in an index, and a less scientific view of mutual funds holds that good performance over time tends to come from managers who stand apart from what the rest of the market is doing.
2010-03-08 What a Difference a Year Makes by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Many investors are dismayed they missed out on the dramatic market rebound off the lows of March 9, 2009. Many investors are now looking to sell their stocks, if they hadn't already bailed out a year ago. Equity valuations seem quite reasonable, however, despite the sharp rise in stock prices over the past 12 months. Lieberman predicts GDP growth of 3.5 to 4 percent in 2010, implying profits of more than $80 for the S&P, and possibly as high as $85, compared to the consensus estimates of 2.5 percent growth and $75 in earnings.
2010-03-06 Welcome to the Future by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin reflects on an executive program held by the Singularity University that he recently attended. He discusses the potential for new advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, water purification, biotechnology, and several other areas.
2010-03-02 The Elusiveness of Persistence by Michael Nairne (Article)
In this guest contribution, Michael Nairne examines a manager's track record, and highlights the critical question of persistence in performance - whether a manager's past performance is predictive of future performance. Certainly, he says, considering the avalanche of media articles on top winning funds and the endless sales pitches to investors trumpeting "best in class" managers, one would assume that there is some reasonable level of persistence in performance...
2010-03-02 It’s No Shell Game by Roger Schreiner (Article)
Last week, Wealthcare Capital Management's David Loeper accused Roger Schreiner, of Schreiner Capital Management, of "playing a shell game" and "stacking the deck," in regard to Schreiner's $100,000 challenge to passive managers. Schreiner responds, and says that passive advocates miss the point that relying only on diversification is insufficient to protect against downside risk.
2010-03-02 Robert Pozen on the Financial Crisis, Social Security, and the Mutual Fund Industry by Dan Richards (Article)
Robert Pozen is the chairman of MFS Investment Management and a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School. In this interview with Dan Richards, he discusses the financial crisis, Social Security, and the mutual fund Industry. We provide a transcript and a video replay of the interview.
2010-03-01 M&A is Back by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Mergers and acquisitions are back, but unlike the wave of deals in 2005 and 2006, these new M&As are strategic rather than financial. They are initiated by companies within the same industry that seek complementary businesses or overlapping activity where cost-cutting can significantly increase competitiveness. Implicit in these new deals is that stocks are cheap and firms have enough confidence in their outlooks to proceed with acquisitions.
2010-02-25 The Global Bond Market: Opportunity or Opportunity Cost by David W. Rolley of Loomis Sayles
The U.S. bond market is unlikely to offer investors enough yield or capital appreciation opportunities in 2010. Investors should instead expand their investments to include global bonds. High-quality governments and supranationals could offer capital preservation, while emerging market debt and corporate debt may present performance prospects. Non-dollar securities could offer both capital preservation and performance.
2010-02-24 Fine Tuning Your Asset Allocation - 2010 Update by Paul Merriman of Merriman
Never ignore your emotions or better judgment in order to chase higher returns. Investors should settle for lower returns in order to reduce their risks. It is better to work longer or save more each year than to retire with too little money. It is also better to have less money to spend in retirement than to suffer losses that put you in danger of running out of money.
2010-02-23 Where Do We Go From Here? by Team of Fred Alger Management
Investors are showing signs of uncertainty amidst uneven economic growth. The S&P 500 is down 5.64 percent from its peak on January 19. Alger thinks the market pause could go on until well into the second half of 2010, but predicts a significant rally in U.S. equities and a continuation of the bull market in 2011.
2010-02-23 An Analysis of the Risk and Return of Small/Mid-Cap Growth by David Vincent (Article)
In this guest contribution, David Vincent of Fred Alger says investors interested in gaining exposure to the small-capitalization growth equity style should consider the small/mid ("SMid") capitalization style as a way to capture the benefits of small-cap growth.
2010-02-23 Rethinking the Fundamentals of Client Communication by Dan Richards (Article)
Dan Richards says advisors need to fundamentally rethink both the information they communicate and - just as importantly - how they communicate. Changing these two key dimensions of your communication strategy - what you send clients and how you send it - will be critical to future success.
2010-02-22 Getting Back to Normal by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The Federal Reserve's hike of the discount rate was a message that economic and financial conditions are returning to normal, and that interest rates must follow suit. Real rate hikes will not occur for another few quarters, and policy should remain accommodative for a long time. Economic growth should continue to build, and the outlook for stocks remains very positive. Bond yields should also rise gradually over time.
2010-02-20 The Pain in Spain by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin examine the Greek crisis the the potential direction of the euro. Spain, he says, is a more threatening crisis because its debt is much greater than Greece's. "Pay attention to Greece and Spain and especially Japan over the next few years," he says. "Unless the US gets its fiscal house in order, we will be next."
2010-02-18 The Ultimate Buy-and-Hold Strategy: 2010 update by Paul Merriman of Merriman
An investor's choice of assets if far more important than the times he decides to buy or sell those assets. In a nutshell, the ultimate buy-and-hold strategy is this: Use no-load funds to create a sophisticated asset allocation model with worldwide equity di-versification by adding value stocks, small company stocks and real estate funds to a traditional large-cap growth stock portfolio.
2010-02-17 Eleven Lessons from Iceland by Thorvaldur Gylfason of VoxEU
Iceland’s banking crisis destroyed wealth equivalent to seven times the country's GDP. The government's strong executive branch put banks in the hands of owners who recklessly expanded their balance sheets under no supervision. This process occurred with very little input from the legislature or the judiciary. Politicians who privatize banks by hand-delivering them to their friends cannot be expected to provide adequate oversight.
2010-02-17 Grecian Formula by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
The market rally in the last 10 months of 2009 should have taken two or three years to unfold. The pace of advance thus has to slow, and this slowdown may manifest itself with temporarily lower stock prices. Furthermore, slowly increasing interest rates may suggest fears of inflation.
2010-02-16 ProVise Bullets by Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group
Ray Ferrara of ProVise Management Group says state and local governments could face revenue shortfalls of $175 to $200 billion this year, and notes that tax increases to fill budget gaps may be counterproductive in the current economic climate. He also examines a number of other issues in policy and finance.
2010-02-16 It's the Budget, Not the European Union at Risk by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The Greek government will likely use continued membership in the European monetary union as an excuse to raise taxes or cut spending, while the rest of Europe will help Greece stay in the common currency. Restrictive fiscal policies in Greece, as well as Ireland, Portugal and Spain will lead Europe to lag behind the global economic recovery.
2010-02-16 Emerging Economies Continue to Show Promise by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Despite recent financial turmoil in response to policy initiatives in Washington and fears surrounding the finances of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, markets are up since the beginning of 2009, and are likely to grow this year. Emerging markets have the best prospects for growth, but their success depends on the precarious recoveries in the United States, Europe and Japan.
2010-02-16 Emerging Economies Continue to Show Promise by Milton Ezrati of Lord Abbett
Despite recent financial turmoil in response to policy initiatives in Washington and fears surrounding the finances of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, markets are up since the beginning of 2009, and are likely to grow this year. Emerging markets have the best prospects for growth, but their success depends on the precarious recoveries in the United States, Europe and Japan.
2010-02-09 Trust, Illusion, Values and the Death of 'Common Sense' by David Edwards of Heron Financial Group
Heron Financial Group president David Edwards says the 6.9 percent decline in the S&P 500 since January 19 was a normal market correction, and he expects positive returns in the S&P by the end of the year. He proposes several regulatory reforms to discourage "negative sum" products and restore investor trust.
2010-02-09 Overconfidence and Excessive Trading Harm Investor Returns by Dan Richards (Article)
The question Terrance Odean asks is if someone sells a stock and then buys another stock, on average does the stock they bought outperform the one they sold by enough to cover their trading costs? Odean, a professor at Berkeley, has researched this question and the role of excessive trading and overconfidence in investor decisions.
2010-02-08 Another (Half) Step Forward by Charles Lieberman (Article)
The economy continues to gain momentum as GDP grows and inflation stays low, says Charles Lieberman of Advisors Capital. Households will resume spending as real incomes rise and businesses will hire to meet rising demand, but turmoil in Greek markets could signal trouble ahead in Europe.
2010-02-08 Tweedy Browne: Cautious in the Short Term, Optimistic in the Long Term by Team of Tweedy Browne
Robert Huebscher recaps a recent webinar by investment firm Tweedy Browne. The company's four managing partners explained their focus on downside risk, expressed a preference for high-quality dividend-payer stocks and noted their emphasis on developed markets rather than emerging markets. The partners said they were optimistic about recovery in the long term, but cautious about the short term.
2010-02-06 A Bubble in Search of a Pin by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin covers three topics. He digs into the employment numbers and concludes that it is a "mixed bag" - the numbers of unemployed rose but the unemployment rate declined. Looking at the Reinhart-Rogoff book, he argues that Fed policy makers were at fault for failing to recognize the housing bubble. Last, he discusses Greece's fiscal problems in a historical context.
2010-02-05 The Internet and Self-Control: An App to the Rescue by Dan Ariely of Predictably Irrational
We are victims of temptation - that's why our resolutions to start dieting or saving or to stop procrastinating often fail. One source of temptation that detracts from productive work is random web surfing. Ariely discusses a new web application that controls the desire to browse "non-productive" sites.
2010-02-03 Investment Commentary by Bruce A. Weininger of Kovitz Investment Group
Kovitz is a $1 billion Chicago-based asset manager. This commentary reviews their investment philosophy (value-driven without attempting to “time” the market), and includes a discussion of certain types of leverage that can be beneficial to the investor (e.g., operating leverage) and others that can be harmful (e.g., revaluation and multiple expansion risk). In this context, they comment that “the bond market might be a bit frothy and perhaps in some form of a bubble.”
2010-02-02 Stiglitz: U.S. Economy Will Falter without More Stimulus by Susan B. Weiner, CFA (Article)
The U.S. government has botched its handling of the economy over the last eight years, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. He explained how the U.S. created the global recession - and how we can get out of it - in a public presentation on his new book, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.
2010-02-01 Well, Better Late than Never by John Petrides (Article)
The author supports the reconfirmation of Bernanke as Fed Chairman, but warns that investor unease about policy decisions is justified.
2010-01-30 This Time is Different by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Mauldin begins with an analysis of the reported Q4 GDP numbers, saying that it is not indicative of underlying growth in the economy. He then comments on the Reinhart-Rogoff book "This Time is Different," focusing on the point that governments can survive debt-fueled growth until confidence in them evaporates. He is discusses Greece's fiscal problems.
2010-01-29 Quarterly Letter by Jeffrey Erber of Grey Owl Capital Management
Jeff Erber says the S&P is now 20-30% overvalued, but “with a no-end-in-sight loose monetary policy this rally could continue for quite some time. “ He discusses his firm’s investment process and add
2010-01-28 Making Sense of Obama's Bank Reform Plans by Acharya & Richardson of VoxEU
Obama's sweeping proposal for financial regulation took the world by surprise. Here two of the world's leading professors of finance explain why it is step in the right direction from the standpoint
2010-01-25 Keep Focus on the Recovery by Charles Lieberman (Article)
“... we must keep close tabs on the machinations in Washington to see if the political turmoil undermines the economic recovery or investor confidence in the market. It is distressing that we must do
2010-01-22 Policy Incompetence by Charles Lieberman (Article)
While the objective [of President Obama's proposed bank regulatory policy] is laudable and the financial system is in need of new regulations to protect it more effectively, the proposed approach i
2010-01-22 Give Bernanke a Break by Michael Nairne of Tacita Capital
In a recent speech, Bernanke pointed out that it was low real long-term rates (i.e. nominal rates less inflation) determined in the bond market that were a major contributor to the housing bubble, not
2010-01-22 Thoughts on the End Game by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"As for financial markets, we have come full circle to the concept of financial fragility in economies with massive indebtedness. All too often, periods of heavy borrowing can take place in a bubbl
2010-01-20 Geithner's Debt Nightmare by Chris Maxey of Fortigent
The problem for the Treasury moving forward is twofold. For one, interest rates have nowhere to go but up. At the end of 2009, the average interest rate on all outstanding US debt stood at 3.3%, a f
2010-01-16 When the Fed Stops the Music by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
Some time in the coming few years the bond markets of the world will be tested. Normally a deleveraging cycle would be deflationary and lower interest rates would be the outcome. But in the face of su
2010-01-16 And That's the Week that Was... by Ron Brounes of Brounes & Associates
2010-01-14 Domestic REITs by Team of Litman Gregory
At current valuations, we believe REITs are overvalued. We think REIT investors are anticipating a quick and meaningful rebound in cash flows/dividends. Our dividend growth assumption over the next ye
2010-01-13 Rebuilding the three-legged retirement stool by Tom Brakke of TJB Advisors
Once upon a time, financial security in retirement was envisioned using the image of a "three-legged stool." It was thought that Social Security, personal savings, and employer pension plans wou
2010-01-11 Economic Freebasaing by Cliff W. Draughn of Excelsia Investment Advisors
"Although the US stock markets received a tremendous boost in 2009 after a debilitating 2008, the performance of the Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite indices was not enough to overcome a decade of
2010-01-11 Low Expectations Are Made to be Exceeded by Charles Lieberman (Article)
Is the equity market overpriced and vulnerable after its sharp rally off the March 2009 lows, as suggested by the bears? While the economy has many problems to overcome, equity valuations are actually
2010-01-09 2010 Forecast: The Year of Uncertainty by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
"This will be my tenth annual forecast issue. Time has flown by, and I enter a new decade of writing Thoughts from the Frontline. And even as I write about the high level of uncertainty of the curr
2010-01-08 2009 Is History ... Here\'s What We Learned by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
2010-01-08 4th Quarter Commentary - Investing Proactively Without Predictions by Team of Partnervest Advisory Services
\"\'If you’re going to predict,\' an anonymous economist famously quipped, \'predict often.\' 2009 by all accounts was a good year. The S&P500 gained 23.4%. Emerging ma
2010-01-07 Fourth Quarter 2009 Review by MacKay of Broadleaf Partners
2009-12-28 I'll Get Back in When the Market Corrects by John Petrides (Article)
2009-12-21 Looking Backwards to Move Forward by Charles Lieberman (Article)
2009-12-19 The Age of Deleveraging by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors
2009-12-18 Exchange-Traded Fun ? Not so Fast by Isbitts of Emerald Asset Advisors
2009-12-17 Good Things Come in Small Packages by Michael Nairne of Tacita Capital
2009-12-15 The Next Black Swan? Underfunded Public Pensions by Robert Huebscher (Article)
The plights of California and other states reveal an ominous threat our economy faces: underfunded public pension liabilities. We examine the size and scope of this problem, focusing on whether the underlying assumptions used to calculate liabilities are realistic.
2009-12-08 The 529 Dilemma by Mary Ann Lambert (Article)
The recent market decline coupled with, tax, custodial, management fees and estate planning issues make the decision to use a 529 plan less than straightforward. In this guest contribution, advisor Mary Ann Lambert briefly reviews the history of college savings plans and shows how the current landscape favors 529s for some clients but not for others.
2009-12-01 Hidden Cost of Active Management by Mark Kritzman (Article)
There is a hidden cost associated with most active funds, writes Mark Kritzman of Windham Capital Management in this guest contribution. The typical active fund is more than 90% correlated with the market. Yet their relatively high active management fee is applied not just to the fund's active component but to its market component as well.
2009-11-24 Gary Shilling's Version of the New Normal by Robert Huebscher (Article)
A dramatic reduction in consumer spending has doomed the US economy to slow growth and deflation, according to Gary Shilling. America's 25-year spree of profligate spending is over, and it will be supplanted by a decade-long retrenchment that will ultimately bring the consumer savings rate from 4% to double-digits, where it has not been since the mid-1980s, he said.
2009-11-24 Get Personal with your Clients and Prospects by Kristen Luke (Article)
Financial advisors are, or at least should be, in the relationship business. So what better way to build a relationship than to interact with your clients and prospects outside the sphere of your business? Kristen Luke offers her suggestions.
2009-11-24 Buy Bonds and Not Bond Funds by Hildy and Stan Richelson (Article)
Record inflows into longer-term bond funds in the last six months have provided investors purported relief from the near-zero returns in money market funds. Do not mistake those inflows or rising prices for an endorsement of bond funds, write Stan and Hildy Richelson in this guest contribution. Bond funds are inferior to individual bonds, as those who are now buying bond funds may soon discover.
2009-11-17 Bruce Greenwald on Positioning First Eagle’s Funds by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Bruce Greenwald is a professor of finance at Columbia, the Director of Research at First Eagle Funds, and a leading expert on value investing. Last week we published part one of our interview, where he discussed the structural problems in the economy and his forecast for higher unemployment. This week he discusses the positioning of First Eagle's investments, and why Warren Buffett's purchase of Burlington Northern was a mistake.
2009-11-17 Our Steroidally Challenged Economy by Vitaliy Katsenelson (Article)
Vitaliy Katsenelson writes that the US economy is like a marathon runner who, after suffering an injury, takes steroids in order to return to racing. His performance is fine, but what don't see are the risks, just as our economy is now "steroidally challenged."
2009-11-17 Client Gifts that Stand Out by Dan Richards (Article)
Having trouble with ideas for holiday gifts for your clients? Dan Richards offers four strategies for selecting a gift with a meaningful impact.
2009-11-17 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
We have two letters to the Editor - one responds to last week's interview with Bruce Greenwald and the other responds to two recent articles which argued that advisors should avoid active management.
2009-11-03 Absolutely … Maybe by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Since Putnam introduced its absolute return funds earlier this year, over 4,200 advisors and $650 million in assets have flocked to the new financial products. Putnam's four funds seek to beat inflation by 100, 300, 500 and 700 basis points, and their performance over their first nine months (3.1%, 6.4%, 8.4% and 12.2%, respectively) was encouraging for their investors. Impressive as those results may be, the question is whether they are sustainable.
2009-11-03 I am a Fiduciary Financial Advisor by Ron A. Rhoades, J.D., CFP (Article)
The fiduciary standard of conduct is necessary to properly align investors' interests with those of the advisors who serve them, says Ron Rhoades in this guest contribution. Moreover, the fiduciary standard of conduct is not onerous and should not be feared. Advisors who embrace a fiduciary standard of conduct must simply follow the guidelines he sets forth.
2009-11-03 The Expense Paradox by John F. Doyle (Article)
A convenient reason to eliminate a fund from consideration is high expenses. While that criterion alone is often a good guideline, blindly relying on it can cause you to overlook otherwise attractive funds, says consultant Jack Doyle in this guest contribution.
2009-10-27 Leveraged Index Mutual Funds Evolve to Meet Market Needs by Direxion Funds (Article)
Until recently, leveraged index funds had daily objectives, rebalancing their leverage at the end of each trading day in order to match their stated exposure rate. This characteristic made it necessary for investors to monitor them daily in order to both track and manage the exposure rates applied to their investments in the funds. Direxion Funds has released the first monthly-rebalanced leveraged funds, and they explain how they operate. We thank them for their sponsorship.
2009-10-27 Letters to the Editor – Fama-French and the Active-Passive Debate Redux by Various (Article)
Last week, two active management proponents responded to our article, Luck vs. Skill in Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates, on the latest research from Ken French and Gene Fama. This week, a reader takes on one of those responses and Michael Edesess, author of our article, says the debate between active and passive management is really a sidelight to the real issue - which is excessive fees.
2009-10-20 Letters to the Editor - Fama-French and the Active-Passive Debate by Various (Article)
Last week's article, Luck vs. Skill in Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates, on the latest research from Ken French and Gene Fama drew plenty of responses. We publish two of them, both in support of active management.
2009-10-20 Life in and after the NBA Financial Planning for Professional Athletes by Robert Huebscher (Article)
During a 13-year career that began in 1987, Chris Dudley was called on to defend some of the greatest centers in NBA history - among them Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Parish, and David Robinson. While developing a reputation as an exceptional shot-blocker and rebounder, Dudley also devoted time to preparing for his post-basketball career - as a financial advisor - and he shares with us his thoughts about financial planning for the professional athlete.
2009-10-20 Finance After Auschwitz by Michael Lewitt (Article)
We are again privileged to provide an excerpt from Michael Lewitt's HCM Market Letter. In this installment, Finance After Auschwitz, Lewitt examines the dangers posed by Iran, whether the market is overvalued, the future of securitization, and what should be done about the private equity industry.
2009-10-13 Luck vs. Skill in Mutual Fund Alpha Estimates by Michael Edesess (Article)
A long-standing research thread has shown that professionally-managed portfolio returns strongly resemble a random walk about the market average. This is interpreted to mean that professional money managers cannot predictably beat the market. A new study by Eugene Fama and Kenneth French uses a novel statistical approach to add evidence to that record- but with an important caveat.
2009-10-13 In Defense of Leveraged and Inverse ETFs by Tom Lydon (Article)
Leveraged and inverse exchange traded funds (ETFs) have been a lightning rod for controversy. Reasonable concerns underpin criticism of them, but these funds are largely misunderstood. Tom Lydon sets the record straight and identifies those investors for whom leveraged and inverse funds are appropriate.
2009-10-06 Ten Tips from Advisors Down Under by Terry Bell (Article)
The question for advisors is what's going to happen to their role and how they can best adapt to a changing world. Irrespective of the details, change will continue. Perhaps the Australian experience can provide a few pointers for US advisors.
2009-09-29 A Tale of Two Investors by Brian Murphy (Article)
Just as Dickens contrasted the fortunes and misfortunes in England and France in his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, today the divergence is painfully apparent in those who plan to accumulate wealth for their retirement and those who seek excess returns in their portfolios. In this guest contribution, advisor Brian Murphy tells the tale of two clients - one who aggressively sought alpha and the other who passively built retirement wealth.
2009-09-15 Five Reasons to Avoid the Gold Rush (Updated) by Vitaliy Katsenelson (Article)
The reasons why one should sell the cat, pawn the mother-in-law, and use the proceeds to buy gold are well known. However, in this guest contribution, Vitaliy Katsenelson offers arguments why one should think twice before jumping in bed with the gold bugs, or at least remain sober while determining gold's weight in the portfolio.
2009-09-08 Infrastructure Investing by Michael D. Underhill (Article)
With global markets improving, liquidity returning to the credit markets, and valuations improving, the infrastructure market looks promising. In this guest contribution, Michael Underhill argues that infrastructure assets,when chosen correctly, can diversify an investor's portfolio because of their low correlation with other asset groups, their consistent returns coupled with lowered levels of risk, and their potential for inflation-linked returns.
2009-09-01 Dougal Williams Responds: The Failure of Asset Allocation Funds by Dougal Williams, CFA (Article)
Dougal Williams' article two weeks, A Crash Course in Investing: Six Lessons from the Market Meltdown, also drew comments from a reader, who challenged the methodology Williams used when he argued that asset allocation funds have failed to deliver out-performance. Williams responds to those criticisms and offers new evidence of the failure in that fund category.
2009-09-01 Actively Managed TIPS – A Correction by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Our August 18 article, Actively Managed TIPS?, contained a glaring factual error that we need to correct. In addition, a reader has challenged some of the assertions in that article, and we respond to those challenges.
2009-08-25 Building a Practice in America’s Fastest Dying City by Robert Huebscher (Article)
While many - perhaps most - advisors use client appreciation programs as part of their marketing efforts, Mo Young has embraced this idea and made it his sole marketing focus. Young's practice is based in Youngstown, Ohio - which has the distinction of losing population more rapidly than any other city in the US - yet Young has added several hundred new clients over the last four years with his strategy.
2009-08-25 The New Normal and Asset Allocation Merriman’s Response by Larry Katz, CFA (Article)
Larry Katz, Director of Research at Merriman, Inc., responds to Geoff Considine's article two weeks ago, What the New Normal Means for Asset Allocation. He has multiple objections concerning much of Considine's logic, and would not recommend his alternative portfolio to their clients.
2009-08-25 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)
In our letters to the Editor, a reader responds to Dougal Williams' article last week, A Crash Course in Investing: Six Lessons from the Market Meltdown, and other readers respond to our article on Actively Managed TIPS and to an Advisor Market Commentary on healthcare policy.
2009-08-18 Actively Managed TIPS? by Robert Huebscher (Article)
When PIMCO talks, the market listens. But we mustn't forget that the bulk of PIMCO's revenue comes from actively managing bond portfolios so, when they claim that alpha can be earned by actively managing TIPS, a healthy dose of scrutiny is warranted. Our article shows why that scrutiny is justified.
2009-08-11 The Business You Don’t Want: 401(k) Plans by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Wealth managers who are considering managing 401(k) plans need to re-think those plans, according to Brian Murphy. Murphy, who runs Pathways Financial Partners, a Tucson, AZ-based investment advisory firm, says the 401(k) business has become a highly commoditized industry that makes it easy for clients to switch to an alternative, lower-cost provider.
2009-08-04 A Wakeup Call for Advisors: Turmoil at the Top of the Market by Dan Richards (Article)
Recent articles in Business Week, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal describe turmoil among high-net worth investors and have profound implications for financial advisors. Dan Richards offers a five-point response for advisors to counteract investor disillusionment with their current relationship.
2009-07-28 Letter to the Editor - Beyond Grantham: Politics and Investment Strategy by Various (Article)
In a letter to the Editor, a reader challenges the thesis of Jerry Minton's article two weeks ago, Beyond Grantham: Politics and Investment Strategy.
2009-07-21 SIFMA’s Proposed by Ron Rhoades (Article)
On July 17, 2009, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association ("SIFMA") announced that its Private Client Group Steering Committee unanimously supports a new federal fiduciary standard for broker-dealers and investment advisors, embracing a proposal advanced by the Obama administration a week earlier in a draft of the "Investor Protection Act of 2009." Ron Rhoades looks at whether this shift in direction by SIFMA poses a radical change in business models, or whether the "new federal fiduciary standard" is something else in disguise.
2009-06-23 Compelling Evidence That Active Management Really Works by Ken Solow (Article)
The majority of academic studies conclude that active management does not add value for investors. However, a closer look at how many studies were conducted reveals several flaws in their methodology that are not as well-known as the accepted conclusion about active versus passive management. Guest contributor Ken Solow revisits work by two Yale researchers showing the value added through active management.
2009-06-23 New Rules for Growing Your Book of Business: Reach Clients and Prospects Through Their In-Boxes by Dan Sommer (Article)
E-mail marketing is no longer a new marketing channel, but if used effectively it can become a powerful marketing and relationship building tool for financial advisors. In this guest contribution, Dan Sommer explains the benefits of e-mail-based marketing and provides tips to get started down this path.
2009-06-16 Seth Klarman: Why Most Investment Managers Have It Backwards by Robert Huebscher (Article)
In his keynote speech last week to the Boston Security Analysts Society, Seth Klarman discussed how he repositioned his portfolio last fall to capture opportunities created in the wake of the financial crisis. Klarman is the lead editor of the sixth edition of Graham and Dodd's Securities Analysis, and his fund, The Baupost Group, is among the top performing hedge funds over its 27 year history.
2009-06-16 Moving Average: Holy Grail or Fairy Tale - Part 1 by Theodore Wang (Article)
Buying and holding a diversified portfolio works well during good times, but falls short when supposedly uncorrelated asset classes drop in unison in bear markets. Are there alternative investment strategies that work for all seasons? Ted Wong evaluates strategies using moving averages to determine their effectiveness.
2009-06-16 Tackling Today’s Number One Client Challenge by Dan Richards (Article)
Talk to advisors about the challenges they face today and you'll get a lengthy list - often headed by unhappy clients, reduced income and a struggle to stay positive and productive. While these are all serious issues, says Dan Richards, for most advisors they are dwarfed by the number one obstacle to getting business back on track - rebuilding investor confidence in our trust and integrity.
2009-06-09 Bill Gross and the New Normal by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Nearly a half-century of global economic prosperity has ended, and investors must gird themselves for muted returns from the capital markets, according to Bill Gross, a Managing Director at PIMCO. Gross shared his outlook at the Morningstar Investor Conference.
2009-06-02 Helping Advisors Grow by Susan Weiner (Article)
George Tamer, Director of Institutional Sales at TD AMERITRADE Institutional, discusses the innovative strategies advisors are using to add clients and improve profitability. Tamer is also seeing an upturn in merger activities, and describes how advisors looking to buy or sell a firm can best position themselves. We thank them for their sponsorship.
2009-05-26 The Importance of Being Active by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)
New research from Tom Howard of Athenainvest shows buying and holding the typical active US equity fund is a recipe for underperformance. On the other hand, Howard shows that funds actively placing stock selection bets and enjoying recent return success earn increasingly superior returns and experience an improved likelihood of beating the market as the fund ages. Howard argues for the importance of being truly active as a fund manager.
2009-05-26 The Big Issues Facing the Hedge Fund Industry by Robert Huebscher (Article)
Last week, the Argyle Executive Forum hosted its 2009 Hedge Fund Leadership Forum in New York. This event attracted more than 200 leaders from the hedge fund industry, with a series of panel discussions centered on the key issues managers now face. Although the sessions were "off the record," we have summarized the key themes from the discussions.
0000-00-00 Facing Reality by Questioning Some Common Beliefs by Ron Surz (Article)
I've decided to do something different in this quarterly commentary. I begin as usual with a review of first quarter market performance. Then I turn my attention to some commonly held beliefs that I regard as mistaken, as shown in the figure below.