Examining the cause and effect of the new tariffs between the U.S. and China

After months of relative quiet, the trade war between the U.S. and China has erupted again in a big way. The markets are the most immediate casualty, with the Dow plunging over 600 points on Monday alone.1

In all likelihood, you’re probably more focused on things like spring cleaning, your upcoming summer plans, and the end of Game of Thrones. My job in this letter is to briefly explain what’s going on, what matters, what doesn’t, and why you can go back to focusing on those other things

So, here’s what’s going on:
Failed deals lead to new tariffs
You may have noticed that headlines about the trade war had been rather muted in 2019. That’s because negotiators for both nations had been quietly working behind the scenes to come to an agreement on how to address the $375 billion trade deficit the U.S. has with China. The White House expressed optimism that a deal was close – until a sudden hardening of positions prompted both sides to retreat to their corners.

On Friday, May 10, President Trump raised the stakes by placing 25% tariffs on all Chinese imports that had previously been spared. Here’s how the U.S. trade representative put it:
“[The President has]…ordered us to begin the process of raising tariffs on essentially all remaining imports from China, which are valued at approximately $300 billion.”2

Throughout this trade war, it has seemed like both countries are waiting for the other to blink first. Both are still waiting. For on Monday, May 13, China announced it would raise tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods, some up to as much as 25%.3

Why all this matters to the markets
You’ve heard, of course, of the principle of cause and effect. If one thing happens, something else is affected. Fail to brush your teeth and you get cavities. Leave meat out of the refrigerator too long and it will spoil. You get the idea.
Investors, analysts, money managers, and traders who participate in the markets on a daily basis make decisions based on cause and effect. How tariffs impact certain companies is a perfect example of this. For instance, imagine a fictional American company called Widgets n’ Stuff, or WNS for short. In order to make its widgets, WNS buys thingamajigs from China. But thanks to tariffs, the price of importing thingamajigs goes up.

Investors know this, and thanks to the principle of cause and effect, predict it will have a negative impact on WNS’s finances. Maybe they’ll have to raise prices on their own widgets to make up the difference. Maybe they’ll have to produce fewer widgets. You get the idea. So, investors sell stock in Widgets n’ Stuff because it no longer looks like an attractive investment.

Like them or not, tariffs act as a double-edged sword that affect companies and consumers on both sides of the Pacific. On the American side, China’s tariffs can make it harder for U.S. companies to sell their goods to Chinese consumers. At the same time, American tariffs can make it harder for U.S. companies to import the goods they need for their own products. Either way, prices go up, corporate finances suffer, and consumers are often the ones left to foot the bill. That’s why the markets care about the trade war.

But here’s why all this doesn’t matter to us – yet
The principle of cause and effect is important, but it’s more important to short-term traders than long-term investors like us. That’s because we don’t actually know what the long-term effects are yet. We can guess, but guessing isn’t really a viable strategy in life, is it?

Think of it this way. Let’s say you come down with a fever. The short-term effect is that you probably don’t feel very good. But the long-term effect isn’t yet known. Perhaps it’s just a symptom of a mild cold that will pass in a few days – and that’s why we don’t immediately start chugging antibiotics the moment we feel sick.

While it’s never fun, the markets have fallen after almost every round of tariffs to date. Each time, the markets absorbed the blow, and then rebounded relatively quickly. Previous trade war battles faded into the background and investors turned their attention to other things. Will that happen again this time? We don’t know. And that’s the point: We don’t know what the long-term effects are. What’s more, with the markets having enjoyed a remarkable bull market in recent years, we can afford to be patient. What we can’t afford is to make important decisions by guessing at the long-term effects of these tariffs.

Hippocrates once wrote that, “To do nothing is sometimes the best remedy.” For that reason, it’s okay for you to go back to planning your summer vacation or betting which character will die next on Game of Thrones. In the meantime, my team and I will continue monitoring all the causes and effects in the markets. If, at some point, we have a better understanding of the long-term effects of this trade war, we’ll make decisions accordingly.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We are always happy to speak to you!

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1 “Dow plunges 700 points after China retaliates with higher tariffs,” CNN Business, May 13, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/13/investing/dow-stocks-today/index.html
2 “Trump Renews Trade War as China Talks End Without a Deal,” The NY Times, May 10, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/10/us/politics/trump-china-trade.html?module=inline
3 “After China Hits Back With Tariffs, Trump Says He’ll Meet With Xi,” The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-to-raise-tariffs-on-certain-u-s-imports-11557750380

Letter from Reagan

It was this month, 35 years ago, that a thirteen-year-old boy named Andy sent the following letter to President Reagan:

Dear Mr. President,
My name is Andy.
I am a seventh-grade student in South Carolina.
Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room. I am prepared to provide the initial funds if you will provide matching funds for this project.

I know you will be fair when you consider my request. I will be awaiting your reply.

Less than a month later, young Andy’s patience was rewarded when Reagan actually wrote back. Here is what he said:

Dear Andy:

I’m sorry to be so late in answering your letter but, as you know, I’ve been in China and found your letter here upon my return.

Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem: the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case, your mother.

May I make a suggestion? This Administration has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative Program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems. Your situation appears to be a natural. I’m sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3000 already underway in our nation. Congratulations.

Give my best regards to your mother.

Sincerely,
Ronald Reagan

While his letter was amusing, President Reagan made a point we could all do to remember. We all face challenges in life. Some are small, like a messy room. (Although, we all were once thirteen and most likely remember how insurmountable the task of cleaning our room seemed to be.) Some are large.

But in truth, most of the challenges we face are also opportunities. Opportunities to try, to volunteer, to organize, to lead, to change, to grow. And like Andy, we are in an excellent position to tackle these challenges. To launch our own initiatives.

To seize our opportunities.  Whenever we find ourselves in such a position, we remember President Reagan’s letter and say to ourselves, “Congratulations!”

Have a great month!

Source: “My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area,” Letters of Note, June 19, 2012. http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/mymother-declared-my-bedroom-disaster.html

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Market Commentary April 1, 2019

“Fascinatingly counterintuitive…”
That’s how Michael Arone, an investment strategist, described the U.S. market environment to Avi Salzman of Barron’s:  “‘Stocks are rallying, but bond yields are reflecting much lower growth.’ Stocks rose during the quarter because the Fed backed away from raising interest rates, and investors grew more confident that the U.S. and China would sign a trade deal, Arone said. The market was also rebounding from a very rough fourth quarter – ‘conditions at the end of the year were wildly oversold,’ he noted.”

Through the end of last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up more than 13 percent year-to-date, despite falling corporate earnings and modest consumer spending gains.

Consumer optimism may have played a role in U.S. stock market gains. The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers Economist Richard Curtin reported:  “…the last time a larger proportion of households reported income gains was in 1966. Rising incomes were accompanied by lower expected year-ahead inflation rates, resulting in more favorable real income expectations…Moreover, all income groups voiced more favorable growth prospects for the overall economy…Overall, the data do not indicate an emerging recession but point toward slightly lower unit sales of vehicles and homes during the year ahead.”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its report on economic growth in 2018 last week. Real gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of economic growth after inflation, was revised down to 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Growth was up 2.9 percent for the year, though, which was an improvement on 2017’s gain of 2.2 percent.

Slowing economic growth gives weight to bond investors’ expectations, while consumer optimism supports stock investors’ outlook. Divergent market performance and conflicting data make it hard to know what may be ahead. One way to protect capital is to hold a well-diversified portfolio.

how much does it cost to make money? You may not have given it much thought, but it costs money to make money. In fact, the costs of the metals required to make some U.S. coins is higher than the value of the coins! George Washington and Abraham Lincoln might not approve, if they knew. Take this quiz to see what you know about the cost and value of U.S. coins.

  1. How much did it cost the U.S. Mint to make a U.S. penny in 2018?
    1. 0.5 cents
    2. 1.25 cents
    3. 2.06 cents
    4. 3.0 cents
  2. How much did it cost the U.S. Mint to make a U.S. nickel in 2018?
    1. 1.25 cents
    2. 4.97 cents
    3. 6.03 cents
    4. 7.53 cents
  3. What makes a coin valuable to a collector?
    1. Metal
    2. Age
    3. Rarity
    4. All of the above
  4. Which of these coins is the most valuable to collectors?
    1. 1849 Coronet Head Gold $20 Double Eagle
    2. 1913 Liberty Nickel
    3. 1943-D Lincoln Wheat Cent Penny
    4. 1835 Classic Head Gold $5 Half Eagle

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It
According to the Federal Reserve, the estimated lifespan of a $10 bill is 4.5 years. The estimated lifespans of a $5 and $1 bill are 5.5 years and 5.8 years, respectively. A $100 bill may last 15.5 years because it circulates less frequently.

 

Answers:

  1. It cost 2.06 cents to make a one-cent coin that few people use. A group of citizens has been encouraging the government to retire the penny.
  2. It cost 7.53 cents to make a nickel in 2018.
  3. All of the above.
  4. The 1849 Coronet Head Gold $20 Double Eagle is worth more than $16,600,000. It is one of the rarest U.S. coins.

 

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.

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* 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.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* 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.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee 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.
* 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/the-s-p-500-is-off-to-its-best-start-since-1998-51553908143?mod=hp_DAY_1 (or go to https://www.barrons.com/market-data/market-lab
http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu (or go to http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-spending/u-s-consumer-spending-soft-inflation-benign-as-economy-slows-idUSKCN1RA1EK
https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/gross-domestic-product-4th-quarter-and-annual-2018-third-estimate-corporate-profits-4th
https://www.usmint.gov/about/reports (Click on 2018 Annual Report, go to page 10)
https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/how-long-is-the-life-span-of-us-paper-money.htm
http://www.retirethepenny.org
https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids/collectors-club/ten-facts-of-collecting#nine
https://www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/most-valuable-coins/
https://www.usacoinbook.com/coins/4291/gold-20-double-eagle/coronet-head/1849-P/unique-smithsonian-collection/

The 7 Rules of Investing

From someone who is considered one of the greatest investors of all time

During the past century, many of the world’s leading economists have studied the science – or art – of investing. A large number of investing systems, models, and theories have been created, most of them requiring a PhD to understand. But when it comes to learning how to invest, sometimes it’s best to turn to the people who actually do it for a living.

Case in point, take Peter Lynch.

From 1977 through 1990, Lynch ran one of the most successful mutual funds ever, posting an average annual return of 29%. Over his career, Lynch espoused many investing principles, but there are seven in particular that I think all investors should keep in mind.1 So without further ado, here are:

Peter Lynch’s 7 Rules of Investing
1. KNOW WHAT YOU OWN. Invest in companies, industries, and funds you understand well. What do they do? Who uses their goods or services? Is it a company you would want to do business with yourself?
2. PREDICTION IS FUTILE. No one can predict where the markets will go or what the economy will do, so don’t even try. Instead, focus on what you can control, like the types of companies or funds you invest in, how much you save, etc.
3. BEFORE YOU BUY, BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN. Before investing, can you explain to a family member what you’re buying and why? Can you describe how that company or fund works? If not, take your time and do more research.
4. AVOID LONG SHOTS. Investing isn’t gambling, either. While we have no control over the markets, we do have control over how much risk we take on. Your portfolio isn’t the place for speculation or bets. For that, head to Vegas.
5. BUY GOOD COMPANIES. Invest in companies that have proven management, a strong business model, and that sell things people actually use. Otherwise, you’re investing in companies you guess might prove popular…and that’s just another form of gambling.
6. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. Even the greatest investors sometimes get things wrong. When that happens, accept it humbly and try to determine how you can improve.
7. TAKE YOUR TIME. Investing isn’t a race. You have plenty of time to do your research and find outstanding companies to invest in. Follow the tortoise’s example, not the hare’s.

Ultimately, all investing comes with risk, and there is no strategy or rule that guarantees success. But there are solid “rules of thumb” you can follow to make smart, simple investment decisions. And best of all, you don’t need a PhD to understand them!

1 “The Greatest Investors: Peter Lynch” https://www.investopedia.com/university/greatest/peterlynch.asp

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Market Commentary – March 18, 2019

Stock and bond markets rallied.
Last week, major U.S. stock indices finished higher for the 10th time in 12 weeks. Bond markets moved higher, too, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries dropping just below 2.6 percent, reported Randall Forsyth of Barron’s. Yields on 10-year Treasuries haven’t been this low since January 2018.

The simultaneous rallies are curious because improving share prices are often an indication of a strong or strengthening economy. Improving bond prices tend to be a sign of weakening economic growth, reported Michael Santoli of CNBC.

Why are U.S. stock and bond markets telling different stories?
It may have something to do with investor uncertainty. A lot of important issues remain unsettled. The British government appears incapable of resolving Brexit issues, the United States and China have not yet reached a trade agreement, and recent economic reports have caused investors to take a hard look at the U.S. economy.

Barron’s pointed out investors appear to be hedging their bets by favoring in utilities and other stocks that have bond-like characteristics and participate in the stock market’s gains. An investment strategist cited by Barron’s explained:  “The strength in utilities reflects the attitude of investors who ‘don’t really buy the rally’…While they’re skittish, they still want to participate in the stock market rally but opt for its most conservative sector.”

We’ve seen this before with stocks and bonds, according to a financial strategist cited by Patti Domm of CNBC. “It’s a little bit of a funky correlation. We’ve had both things rallying, which is strange. This is what happened in 2017, when all asset classes did well. In 2018, nothing did well…I would suspect it goes away soon.”

Times like these illustrate the importance of having a well-diversified portfolio.

Gen Xers and millennials: what are your priorities? The 2018 Insights on Wealth and Worth survey provided some startling information about the priorities of high net worth (HNW) investors. More than one-half (54 percent) indicated long-term capital appreciation was a higher priority than income generation. The other 46 percent were looking for steady income.

Let’s look at the percentages by age group:

  • Millennials: 56 percent capital appreciation / 44 percent steady income
  • Gen X: 56 percent capital appreciation / 44 percent steady income
  • Baby Boomers: 56 percent capital appreciation / 44 percent steady income
  • Silent Generation: 46 percent capital appreciation / 54 percent steady income

Millennials (ages 21 to 37), Gen Xers (ages 38 to 53), and Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72) prioritize steady long-term income to the same extent.

Older investors, who are near or are in retirement, tend to emphasize steady long-term income because they need to maintain their standard of living in retirement. However, one of the advantages of youth is these investors have the time and flexibility to take on higher levels of risk and recover from any market downturns. In other words, younger investors prioritize capital appreciation (i.e., growth) while older investors prioritize income.

It’s important for younger investors to consider their life goals and how their finances may support the pursuit of those goals.

Weekly Focus – Think About It
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
–John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

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.

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* 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.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* 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.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee 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.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

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Sources:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/why-investors-are-rushing-into-stocks-that-act-like-bonds-51552700368?mod=hp_DAY_4
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/14/stock-investors-wonder-whether-the-bond-market-knows-something-they-dont.html
https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
https://www.barrons.com/articles/why-utility-stocks-are-worth-a-second-look-1531344310
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/06/bonds-and-stocks-going-up-together-could-be-signaling-market-at-an-inflection-point.html
https://ustrustaem.fs.ml.com/content/dam/ust/articles/pdf/insights-on-wealth-and-worth-2018/Detailed_Findings.pdf (Pages 3 and 39)
https://www.moneyunder30.com/asset-allocation-for-investors-under-thirty
https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_f_kennedy_109216?src=t_risks

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