All posts tagged: blog

STAGFLATIONARY TIMES AHEAD?

2024 Q1 Market Commentary…

For some portfolio managers and investors, the desire for Fed interest rate cuts is akin to that of a sugar addict’s desire for his or her next candy fix. Both are signs that there are greater problems afoot. I’ll stick with the interest rate discussion since I’ve been known to enjoy one too many desserts, and I don’t qualify as a pillar of optimal health.

An interest rate cut is done for one of two reasons (or both): 1) to stimulate a weak economy; or 2) to dig an economy out of recession. Money is less expensive to borrow when rates go lower, which allows consumers to consider more and bigger purchases. In terms of credit, lower rates increase purchasing power, which can have a ripple effect as it stirs up more economic activity. Nevertheless, a rate cut is still an admission that the economy is not in good health. The reality is just because we have more credit capacity to work with doesn’t mean we should use it. See www.usdebtclock.org for reference.

Future BrightSTAGFLATIONARY TIMES AHEAD?
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Feeling Weary?… Then Zoom Out!

2023 Q4 Market Commentary…

Rising interest rates lower the present value of future earnings for companies, which can cause stock prices to decline. Furthermore, the attraction to own fixed interest rate investments like CD’s and money market funds vs. stock market investments increases as interest rates move higher. Fixed interest rate investments tend to move in tandem up and down with inflation rates while stocks often act inversely.

The S&P 500 reversed lower this past quarter due to rising interest rates in addition to several other factors including consumer and commercial credit tightening, reduced personal savings rates, weakening housing data, geopolitical uncertainty, commercial real estate default risk, higher gas prices, to name a few. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of panic in markets, but there are signs of exhaustion. Many of the mega cap growth stocks that buoyed the stock market performance in the first quarter of the year started to wane, as the NASDAQ was the weakest performing sector in Q3, albeit still up significantly for the year. Here are the numbers:

Future BrightFeeling Weary?… Then Zoom Out!
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What’s In Store for 2023?

2023 Q1 Market Commentary…

The $1.7 Trillion bipartisan spending bill pushed through by Congress at the end of the year was a kick to the gut for investors who were hoping we’d see inflation abate more quickly. A leading research company, Hedgeye, describes it best saying, “We remain in a new, higher inflation volatility regime brought on by deglobalization, confounding energy policies, war, and a wholesale disregard for fiscal prudence at a time of record government indebtedness.”1

2022 was a slog of gradual, but continual stock and bond values erosion. With the lone exception being the energy sector, every other U.S. stock sector finished 2022 in the red.2 Unfortunately, bonds didn’t provide any shelter either, as yields spiked in the middle of the year, causing bond values to drop significantly. Let’s call it what it was – a “woodshed year”.

1st Quarter Picture of Net Returns

Future BrightWhat’s In Store for 2023?
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What is the U.S. Debt Ceiling?

Q4 2021 Market Commentary…

What is the U.S. debt ceiling? It’s simply a dollar cap limit that the US Government places on its own authority to raise money by issuing government bonds to continue to meet its obligations like social security payments, tax refunds, interest payments on existing debt, government employee salaries, military salaries, just to name a few. Since 1917, Congress has raised the debt limit 78 times (See Citation 1).

The U.S. government hit the debt limit of $28.4 Trillion (yes, with a T) in July 2 (See Citation 2). In fact, the debt load is a few billion over that as I write this newsletter, and the U.S. Treasury is pushing to get it raised by October 18. Since the U.S. Treasury debt is over the limit, something needs to get done, lest they are forced to default on the payments. Of course, members of congress rarely let that happen. They typical play hard ball with each other and then usually get it done in the 11th hour.

Raising the debt ceiling is not a healthy thing. It’s a necessary evil. With each dollar the government borrows, it steals purchasing power from future generations, and it makes all of us poorer for it. Unfortunately, the alternative is that the government defaults on their obligations. We each know hundreds of people who count on government payments, and no one wants those recipients to be adversely affected by a problem they didn’t create. Beyond the debt, we have other concerns…

Future BrightWhat is the U.S. Debt Ceiling?
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What happens when interest rates rise?

2021 Q2 Commentary…
Can stocks and interest rates go up at the same time? Yes, they can, and they often do. Right now, we are in a period of recovery from economic shutdowns across the globe. As companies are forced to raise prices in 2021 and meet a return in consumer demand, we are watching inflation like a hawk. Specifically, we pay very close attention to the 10-year treasury note yield as our sentiment barometer.

First, a quick education on why the 10-year treasury yield matters…
▪ Treasury securities are loans to the federal government. Maturities range from weeks to as many as 30 years.
▪ Because they are backed by the U.S. government, Treasury securities are seen as a safer investment relative to stocks.
▪ Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions—falling prices boost yields, while rising prices lower yields.
▪ The 10-year yield is used as a proxy for mortgage rates. It’s also seen as a sign of investor sentiment about the economy.

How high can the 10-year treasury yield go before we do see it adversely affect the performance of the stock market? Some economists predict it’s 3%. Others say it’s 2.5%. The truth is that their predictions don’t really matter. What matters to us is the rate of change in inflation data that typically drives the change in interest rates. If the rate of change of inflation is increasing quarter over quarter, it signals a robust recovery is afoot, assuming job growth and GDP are accelerating, as well.

Future BrightWhat happens when interest rates rise?
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Individual Stocks – Are they for you?

2020 Q1 COMMENTARY:
Contrary to what logic might suggest, the most difficult time to be an investor is when the financial markets are in the late stages of a multi-year upward trend. As we witness market levels hit record highs, the appetite for adding new money to investments can start to wane for fear that the most opportune time to buy has already passed us by. It’s an innate thought process. Since we were little, we’ve all been taught that too much of a good thing is not always a good thing, and it’s a legitimate lesson that I’m sure we’ve all learned multiple times in our lives.

Ross AlmlieIndividual Stocks – Are they for you?
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