Weekly Market Commentary – October 15, 2018

Like an unexpected gust of wind that blows the hat off your head or flips your umbrella inside out, last week’s stock market performance startled investors. Looking back, it’s easy to identify some of the factors that may have contributed to investors’ unease and shaken confidence in the markets. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s offered a brief rundown that included:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries rising to a seven-year high. As interest rates move higher, bonds become more attractive to investors who prefer to take less risk. They move money from stocks into bonds and that can push stock prices lower.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggesting the Fed funds target rate could move higher. Investors worry the Federal Reserve is too hawkish and will raise rates too high, too quickly, causing economic growth to stumble.
  • A speech by Vice President Mike Pence indicating tensions with China may persist. Companies that export to China or manufacture goods in China are at risk if relations between China and the United States don’t improve. Poor relations could affect profits, share values, and economic growth.
  • Earnings reports showing tariffs negatively affecting some companies’ profit margins. FactSet reported, “the term ‘tariff’ has been mentioned during the earnings calls of 12 S&P 500 companies to date, with six of these 12 companies citing a negative impact linked to tariffs.”
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowering its economic growth projections. Concern about the impact of trade tensions on companies around the world led the IMF to lower some of its economic growth estimates for 2018, especially in Asia and emerging markets.

Some analysts believe a desire to take profits also helped fuel the downturn, according to Barron’s Randall W. Forsyth.

Whatever combination of events was responsible, the result was markets losing value on Wednesday and Thursday of last week before regaining some lost ground on Friday. Forsyth wrote, “What turned the U.S. markets around Friday – when the Dow and the S&P 500 managed to pop more than 1 percent and the NASDAQ Composite bounced over 2 percent – wasn’t much clearer than what set off the slide. Market Semiotics’ Woody Dorsey says that his proprietary sentiment polling found a bullish reading of absolute zero on Thursday, a contrarian indication that “panic” would be short-lived.”

While sharp drops in share values are never comfortable, it’s important to consider the bigger picture. A contributor to Bloomberg Opinion wrote, “This decline follows a market that has tripled since 2009, had zero volatility in 2017…This was the 20th time since the bear market ended in 2009 that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had a one-day loss of 3 percent. The NASDAQ-100 Index had its eighth 4 percent down day (although it was the biggest one-day fall since August 2011).”

In other words, selloffs are normal and we have experienced them before. So, what should you take away from last week?

  1. First, it was a reminder that stocks are volatile investments. They have the potential to deliver higher returns than other asset classes because they require investors to take higher levels of risk.
  2. Second, stock market volatility is one reason we allocate assets and build well-diversified portfolios. Holding different asset classes and diverse investments within a portfolio can help reduce the sting of unwelcome surprises like a sharp drop in the value of stocks.
  3. Worries about what the future may hold are likely to ruffle investors and we may see additional bouts of market volatility. The current bull market has been running for a long time. Some analysts anticipate recession and a bear market are ahead. As Barron’s reported, neither appears to be here yet: “Other leading indicators, including jobless claims and credit spreads, also held up. ‘I don’t see this all leading to recession,’ says Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. ‘And, without a recession, I don’t think we get a bear market.’”

No matter how intellectually rational these points seem, downturns tend to leave everyone feeling jittery and uncertain. So, take a moment. Think about your portfolio and how it was built to help you achieve your financial goals. Now, ask yourself:

  • Have my goals changed?
  • Has my risk tolerance changed?

If the answer to either of these questions is, ‘Yes,’ call us. We’ll sit down, review your goals and risk tolerance, and make sure your portfolio is structured appropriately.
We’re hoping for calmer markets ahead, but we may be in for a bumpy ride.

On a lighter note…
It’s important to recognize when daily challenges affect our ability to cope and take steps to lower stress when they do. The Mayo Clinic recommends laughter, “Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.”  In the hope of offsetting some of last week’s stress, here is humor from F In Exams:
The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers
by Richard Benson:
Question: What is a vibration?
Answer: There are good vibrations and bad vibrations. Good vibrations were discovered in the 1960s.

Question: What happens when your body starts to age?
Answer: When you get old your organs work less effectively and you can become intercontinental.

Question: What is a fibula?
Answer: A little lie.

Question: Give three ways to reduce heat loss in your home.
Answer: 1) Thermal underwear; 2) Move to Hawaii; 3) Close the door.

Question: You are at a friend’s party. Six cupcakes are distributed among nine plates, and there is no more than one cake per plate. What is the probability of receiving a plate with a cake on it?
Answer: None, if my sister is invited too.

Question: Explain the dispersal of various farming types in the Midwest.
Answer: The cows and pigs are distributed in different fields so they don’t eat each other.

Question: Name six animals that live specifically in the Arctic.
Answer: Two polar bears Three Four seals

Sometimes, laughter is truly the best medicine.


Weekly Focus – Think About It
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
–Warren Buffett, American businessman, speaker, and philanthropist

Best Regards,
John F. Reutemann, Jr., CLU, CFP®

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this email with their email address and we will ask for their permission to be added.

Investment advice offered through Research Financial Strategies, a registered investment advisor.

 

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

 

 

* This newsletter and commentary expressed should not be construed as investment advice.
* There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk. Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
* To unsubscribe from the Weekly Market Commentary please reply to this e-mail with “Unsubscribe” in the subject.

 

Sources:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/heres-why-more-scares-are-ahead-for-the-stock-market-1539390914?mod=hp_LEAD_1 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/10-15-18_Barrons-Heres_Why_More_Scares_are_Ahead_for_the_Stock_Market-Footnote_1.pdf)
https://www.wsj.com/articles/surging-yields-raise-threat-of-tipping-point-for-stocks-1538913600 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/10-15-18_WSJ-Surging_Yields_Raise_Threat_of_Tipping_Point_for_Stocks-Footnote_2.pdf)
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-08-21/central-banks-are-too-hawkish
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china/factbox-impact-of-u-s-china-trade-tariffs-on-u-s-companies-idUSKBN1KK23Ehttps://insight.factset.com/more-sp-500-companies-see-negative-impact-from-fx-than-tariffs-in-q3
https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2018/07/02/world-economic-outlook-update-july-2018
https://www.barrons.com/articles/why-the-stock-market-went-loco-1539361320?mod=hp_LEAD_3 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/10-15-18_Barrons-Why_the_Stock_Market_Went_Loco-Footnote_7.pdf)
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-10-11/the-stock-market-meltdown-that-everyone-saw-coming
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
https://books.google.com/books/about/F_in_Exams.html?id=hei-i5QP_7UC (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/10-15-18_Book-F_in_Exams-Footnote_10.pdf)https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/warren_buffett_385064

 

The Longest Bull Market In History

Human beings are obsessed with setting records.
The fastest. The strongest. The first. The longest. It’s exciting whenever a new record gets set. It makes us feel like we’re witnesses to something important, something historic. Something we can tell our grandchildren about. And now, we can add a new record to the list:

The Longest Bull Market in History

You’ve probably have recently seen the news. On Wednesday, August 22, many media outlets reported the U.S. stock market had set a new bull market record of 3,453 days.1 This incredible stretch, which by most estimates began on March 9, 2009, surpassed the previous record set in the 1990s. But here’s the thing about records. Sometimes they matter. Sometimes they don’t. And the stories they tell can be very subjective. So, in this letter, let’s break down what this bull market really means – and what it doesn’t.

Is it really the longest bull market ever?

It depends on who you ask. For every article sounding the trumpets, you can find another pumping the brakes. Fact is, the definition of a “bull market” is rather nebulous – and whether or not this one is truly a record depends on which data you’re using. The Wall Street Journal provided a good example in a recent article. “The widely accepted definition of a bear market is a drop of 20% from the last peak in this cycle, while bull markets are usually measured from the lowest point reached until the peak before the next bear market.”2
But if this is the definition you’re using, our current bull market may only have started in October of 2011. That was the month the S&P 500 fell 21.6% from its previous high. Any growth from that point would be part of a new bull market, not the old one. To which other pundits might respond, “Not so fast! That number is only accurate if you’re using intraday prices instead of closing prices. If you use closing prices, the S&P 500 only fell 19.4%2 , which is less than the 20% needed for it to be a true bear market.”
Confused yet? Don’t worry – most people would be. And anyway, if you really wanted to get technical about the definition of a bull market, you’d have to debate about whether to only use price returns (the price of a stock) or total returns (to which dividends are added). And then there’s the question of which market indices to use. The S&P 500? The Wilshire 500? The Dow? Do we use intraday prices or closing prices?
I could go on, but I won’t – I don’t want this letter to give you a headache. The point is, the deeper you dig into the numbers, the less certain a record like this becomes. Which means the real question we should ask ourselves isn’t, “Is this the longest bull market ever?”

The real question is whether it even matters in the first place

To which the answer is, “No!”
Here’s what we know: The stock market has been going up for a long time now. Sometimes slightly, sometimes sharply, but always up. Let’s say all the experts got together and decided we aren’t in the longest bull market in history. Would that change the fact that stocks have been going up for years? Would it change the performance of your own portfolio?
No, it wouldn’t.
So what matters is not whether this is the longest bull market ever. What matters is how we react to a long bull market like this one.

What goes up must come down

On March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 hit a low of 666.1 (Yes, 666.) Since then, the S&P has soared. That’s over nine years of growth. Nine years of an improving economy. Nine years of soaring corporate profits. Nine years of mostly happy times for investors.
It will end eventually.
Read that last line aloud: IT WILL END EVENTUALLY.
When that will happen, I can’t say. Indeed, many economists foresee the current bull market continuing for some time, albeit at a slower rate. Taxes are low, unemployment is low, and the economy is humming along nicely.
I can’t tell you this bull market will end next month or next year. All I can tell you is that it will end. The reason I emphasize this so much is because now is the time to prepare for that inevitable day. Now is the time to accept that however well your portfolio has done, nothing can escape gravity’s pull. At some point, you will see stock tickers showing a big, fat minus sign next to each of the major indices.
When a bull makes way for a bear, it’s not uncommon for investors to be taken by surprise. Suddenly, it’s raining – and they’ve been caught outside without an umbrella. When that happens, it’s easy to panic. To think the sky is falling. Too many investors did that when the dot com bubble popped in the early 2000s. Too many investors did that during the worst of the Great Recession. And the reason they did is because they hadn’t prepared themselves when times were good. Maybe they thought the good times would last forever.

On the other hand…

Just as it’s easy for investors to get complacent, it’s also easy for investors to get skittish. That’s why an equally bad mistake would be to think, “Oh, this bull market has gone on for too long. It’s probably going to crash any week now – time to get out!”
Nope. The markets don’t work that way. Here’s what will happen. The longer the bull lives, the more you’ll see the media speculate about what will kill it. One week it might be the threat of rising interest rates. The next, it might be corporate profits, or whatever’s happening in far-off lands across the sea. And sure, any of those things could well impact the markets. But even if the markets were to drop, that doesn’t mean a crash is imminent.
No one should abandon ship the moment they get a little wet.

The point is to not overreact

Some records matter. Some don’t. And the stories they tell can be very subjective. That’s why we don’t overreact to them. Here’s what we do instead:
1. We prepare ourselves, mentally and emotionally, for when the other shoe drops. That way, when it does drop, it will be much easier to handle.
2. We don’t allow ourselves to flinch at every market wobble.
3. We remember that we have an investment strategy, and it’s not based off headlines, storylines, records, or milestones. In the meantime, if you’re worried about what will happen when this bull market ends, that’s okay. Just focus on what you can control. Focus on paying off your house, setting up an emergency fund, or helping your children or grandchildren pay for college. Take care of the things that matter now.
Or maybe your goals have changed, and you want to take advantage of this bull market while it lasts. That’s a discussion we can have, too. Just remember that our first responsibility should always be to prioritize the long term over the short.

Human beings tend to be obsessed with setting records. But here at Research Financial Strategies, our job is to help you set goals – and then work toward achieving them. Whether we’re in the longest bull market or not, that’s what we intend to do. As always, if you have any questions about the markets, or about your portfolio, please let us know! We love to hear from you. Have a wonderful rest of the summer!

1 Michael Wursthorn & Akane Otani, “U.S. Stocks Poised to Enter Longest-Ever Bull Market,” Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-stocks-poised-to-enter-longest-ever-bull-market-1534843800?mod=article_inline
2 James Mackintosh, “Calling Bull on the Longest Bull Market,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/calling-bull-on-the-longest-bull-market-1534940689

8 Things to Know About the USA-China Trade Dispute

The headlines are filled with rumors of a trade war between the United States and China. You’ve probably heard by now that both nations have announced tariffs on many of each other’s goods.  This has many economists concerned about a trade war.  A trade war, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is “an economic conflict in which countries impose import restrictions on each other in order to harm each other’s trade.”
In response, the markets are doing their best impression of a see-saw – falling and then rising again.  Because this story probably won’t go away any time soon, let’s break it down.

Eight Things to Know about the USA-China Trade Dispute

ONE: The U.S. has announced tariffs on almost $50 billion in Chinese exports.1
The list, which stretches to over 1300 items, includes goods like medical equipment, chemicals, televisions, and automobile parts.1  This is on top of an earlier spate of tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.  However, many of the most commonly-used goods Americans use, like shoes, clothing, and phones, are not included.

TWO: China has retaliated with tariffs of their own.
On April 4, China announced plans to levy a 25% tariff on roughly $50 billion worth of American goods.1  This includes airplanes, cars, soybeans, and other vegetables.  Earlier, China had already declared tariffs on $3 billion worth of agricultural exports, like fruit, nuts, and pork.

THREE: The two countries aren’t actually in a trade war – yet.
Notice how often I’ve used the word “announced”?  As of this writing, none of these tariffs have gone into effect yet.  The U.S. intends to hold public hearings sometime in May, and has 180 days after that to decide whether to go through with the tariffs.2  China, meanwhile, has avoided mentioning any specific dates.  It’s possible both sides are hoping to engage in talks before the tariffs are in place.  If successful, there’s a chance the tariffs never will.
In other words, a trade war has been declared, but the “fighting” hasn’t started yet.

FOUR: Both sides see the situation very differently.
It’s safe to say neither country wants a trade war – hence the delay.  But that doesn’t mean negotiations will be simple or easy.

The issue, at least from the U.S. administration’s standpoint, is a $375 billion trade deficit2 with China, which many see as being due to unfair or even illegal trade practices.  China has a long history of forcing American companies to share their technology in order to do business there, making these companies less competitive than they might otherwise be.  In some cases, Chinese companies are alleged to have outright stolen American intellectual property.  The administration believes that tariffs will stop these practices and reduce the deficit.  China, of course, doesn’t see it the same way.  The Brookings Institution, a well-known think tank, describes it like this: “From Beijing’s perspective, the U.S.-China trade imbalance is a result of many factors—automation, evolving global supply chains, increased competitiveness of Chinese firms, the Federal Reserve’s normalization of interest rates, and the Congress’s deficit-increasing tax cuts. Because the trade balance is the difference between savings and investment, Beijing also views U.S. fiscal and monetary decisions as contributing to America’s overall trade deficit—including with China.”3

Overcoming this basic difference in opinion will probably need to happen before the two countries can strike a new deal.

FIVE: Trade wars can impact markets…
Again, we’re not yet in a trade war.  But should these tariffs go through, history suggests it will have an impact on the markets.

Tariffs are a tax on imported goods and services.  They essentially make it costlier and more difficult to import certain things, like metals, foodstuffs, consumer products, and so on.  That can be a major boon to industries that produce those same things, because it forces consumers to buy domestically.  On the other hand, China’s tariffs could make it harder for U.S. companies to sell their own goods.  For those companies that do a lot of business in China, this can have a major effect on their bottom line.  As a result, some companies’ stock price could suffer.

SIX: But that doesn’t necessarily mean the markets are going to plummet.
To give you an example, take this past Wednesday, April 4th.  When the markets opened, the news out of China caused the Dow to drop 510 points.  But the Dow rallied later in the day, ending up 300 points.4

While a trade war can be unsettling for investors, it’s important to remember that the day-to-day movement of the markets is based on many factors.  Trade is only one of these.  The overall economy is still doing well, unemployment remains low, corporate earnings continue to be solid – you get the idea.

The point is, the U.S.-China trade dispute is important, but not the be-all and end-all.  It’s something to keep an eye on, but not something to overreact to.  And again, we’re not yet in an actual trade war!  If history is any judge, there will be a lot more twists and turns to this story.  A lot can change over the next few weeks and months.

SEVEN: This is an opportunity to practice discipline.
The markets are in the habit of jumping at the slightest sound – but we’re not.  We rely on the news to stay informed and up-to-date, but not to dictate our every decision.

As a financial advisor, I can’t tell you what President Trump will do, or what China will do, or whether a trade war will happen.  I can say that we’ll keep seeing a lot of headlines on this.  Remember the see-saw metaphor?  As the situation develops, it’s not unlikely the markets will continue to rise and fall as investors digest the news coming out of Washington.  For that reason, it’s wise to expect more volatility – but let’s bear in mind that volatility doesn’t equal catastrophe. 

All this means we have a wonderful opportunity to practice discipline.  To avoid getting caught up in the day-to-day.  To not let headlines – and the emotions they evoke – control us.  The more we do this, the more we’ll keep moving toward our goals.

EIGHT: We here at Research Financial Strategies are monitoring your portfolio.
This is our job: to monitor your portfolio.  If at any point we feel the trade situation could harm your holdings and impede your progress towards your goals, we’ll let you know immediately.

In the meantime, remember: My team and I love hearing from you!  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.  Our door is always open.  Have a great month!

1 “All the Goods Targeted in the Trade Spat,” The Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2018.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-look-at-which-goods-are-under-fire-in-trade-spat-1522939292

2 “U.S. Announces Tariffs on $50 Billion of China Imports,” The Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2018.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-announces-tariffs-on-50-billion-of-china-imports-1522792030

3 “How to avert a trade war with China,” The Brookings Institution, February 27, 2018.  https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/02/27/how-to-avert-a-trade-war-with-china/

4 “Trade war? Not so fast. Why stocks are rallying again,” CNN Money, April 5, 2018.  http://money.cnn.com/2018/04/05/investing/stocks-rebound-trade-war-us-china/index.html