The Economy: The economy appears to be expanding quite nicely and business optimism continues to rise as it approaches new records. The Left Coast, with its gateway to Asian trade, technology and Pentagon spending continues to boom along. Construction cranes fill the skies. New homes are stuffed into every nook and cranny. Roadwork and infrastructure projects are everywhere. New cars abound. Recently launched multi-million dollar yachts overwhelm the docks. Planes are jammed. Restaurants are packed. Exotic vacations are booked years ahead. The stock market confirms this rock ‘n roll fantasy narrative with many indices at or near their highs. Understand that only 3 tech stocks account for 70% of index gains this year. So the question is, “Can you be a cockeyed optimist and a contrarian at the same time?” The answer is yes. Now we’re entering earnings season with projections for year-over-year increases of 20%, Is this the beginning, the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Only Elon Musk knows for sure. China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Turkey, UN, NATO, Trade Wars, Immigration Wars, SCOTUS Wars, Mid-Term Election Wars, Culture Wars, Religious Wars … and rising interest rates. Not to worry.
Food for Thought: Youth is wasted on the young and the wisdom of the ages is simply wasted. We will continue to emphasize the importance of interest rates and what the yield curve is telling us. While there will always be a bull market somewhere, most investors have a significant portion of their financial assets in fixed income. The old saw, “Stocks, bonds and cash.” The beginning point for most portfolio allocations is about 40% in fixed income; e.g. the bond market. So when I emphasize having an exit strategy, I’m particularly talking about having an exit strategy for fixed income. Contact me if you have questions on how to risk proof your portfolio.
The Economy: The economy continues to expand, the deficit continues to grow and the Fed continues to tighten. Sooner or later the tightening will bite … if Fed Chairman Powell can hold the line and not initiate QE-4 at the slightest hint of economic distress. What … worry? Every investor knows the Bull is long in the tooth. The question on everyone’s mind is, “When do I sell and what do I do next?” The bi-polar investment community continues to parse goat entrails, tarot cards, cloud formations and sentiment at the bottom of wine bottles in the age old quest to divine the future of the economy and financial markets. Glass half-full or half empty … when’s the next leg up or when does it implode? Do you care … or is catching that flight to Kauai more important than risk-proofing your assets? The 3 rules of Money are simple to understand: a) 1+1 will always = 2; b) If it sounds too good to be it is; c) Save it or spend it. The time of buy and hold may be nearing an end after almost 10-years. Passive investing as well. Every market crash has produced an altered investment landscape. ETFs may be the wild-card here. Do you have your next move or are you gonna ride this rocket back down and into the ground? If you’re doing it right, you should be sleeping soundly because you have a high probability of achieving your goals. Can you handle the truth?
Food for Thought: How to transfer investment or retirement accounts: Recently we’ve fielded questions from investors who want to transfer their investment or retirement accounts to a new advisor. Retirees in a 401k, people changing jobs and investors who just want a change have the same question, “How do I move my account?” The answer is a simple and easy 3-step process:
Step 1: Open an account with your new advisor; 30-minutes.
Step 2: Email your most recent account statement to your new advisor; 30-seconds.
Step 3: Have your new advisor initiate the transfer process; 0.
The transfer process is seamless, automated and does not require you to have contact with the advisor you are leaving. Most accounts transfer through an automated process called the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS). In most cases, the transfer is complete in three to six days. No muss no fuss; no tearful exit interviews; no broken hearts. No more cousin Billy, your advisor for decades, knowing too much about your personal affairs. Move on to the land of milk and honey. Just Do It!
The Economy: The U.S. economy appears to be powering ahead with unemployment at a 48-year low. There are more jobs available than there are job seekers to fill them. Average hours worked are up; construction spending is up; manufacturing is up; factory orders are up … the list goes on. Economic strength continues to give the Fed leeway to raise rates. Another 25 basis point (1/4%) hike in June is a given. The longer Powell is at the helm of the Fed, the more observers believe that he’s cut from different cloth than we saw with Greenspan, Bernanke or Yellen. Some observers liken Powell to former Fed Chair Paul Volcker. It was Volcker who trounced inflation in the early 1980’s with interest rates in excess of 20%. The economic pain of Volcker’s reign was enormous. But it ended an inflationary cycle that threatened to spiral out of control. It also laid the groundwork for the robust expansion of the 1980s and 90s. The stock market took off with Volcker and has never looked back. The rocket ride accelerated with Greenspan. … almost 40-years of stocks and real estate going up with only the occasional pause. No wonder my doctor friend blithely talks DOW 100,000 as if it’s already here. The trick for Powell will be to keep the good times rolling while simultaneously taking away the moonshine punchbowl of free money.
Food for Thought: The “China Card” is huge; whether you’re talking politics, military or socio-economic. Check out today’s “Video of The Week” below for a compelling take on why culture may limit China’s rise. Then look at how San Diego,riding the crest of a building boom, has about $3.5 billion in downtown projects underway. Papa Doug Manchester’s Pacific Gateway project represents $1.5 billion or 43% of this amount. The Gateway project is the redevelopment of the 12 acres near the Broadway Pier. That aside, housing units are driving much of the building boom as the urban lifestyle is attracting both working folks and retirees. Prices reflect the demand with higher prices the norm. Downtown is happening. While the Gaslamp draws tourists, San Diegans are flocking to Little Italy for its charm, restaurants and the weekly Saturday farmers market.
The Economy: The CPI and PPI prints were hotter than expected and have helped to juice the stock market indices to a 50% rebound. The feel good mood has been further enhanced by the Olympics. Winners all. Inflation indicators watched by the Fed are are heating up. … and bond vigilantes seem to be on the loose with interest rates accelerating higher. As has always been the case, the Fed will follow the markets. There are few consumers who remember interest rate hikes that crimp economic activity. Fewer still who remember being priced out of a home or auto loan because interest rates moved against them. … remember when an 8% home mortgage was to die for? How many real estate players could handle those metrics today. How about those halcyon days of 16% home mortgages? Fun!
Food for Thought: Annuities and life insurance have evolved in ways that work well with investors seeking income or the possibility of establishing an estate. In specific situations they may be a prudent investment for retirees. Contact us if you have questions about creating or supplementing your retirement income.
Music of The Week: Sade’s “Lovers Rock”
We Quarterback Money®
The Economy: Happy New Year! … and a happy new year it is for global economic numbers with Germany growing at a blistering pace with the best employment numbers in years. The U.S. economy is likewise continuing to expand with no end in sight. Stocks are up, bonds are up, real estate is up, oil is up, manufacturing is up, optimism is up. Chicken Little is running in circles screaming about high asset valuations. But investors are looking at the Trump income tax trump and singing Happy Days Are Here Again. After all, in addition to the endless self-praise from The Swamp, Central Bankers have proven that at the slightest hiccup, inventive new types of monetary stimulus will rain down like Helicopter Money. Manna!
Food for Thought: Year end and into tax season. Financial planning rewrites. Annual portfolio reviews, document updating. What is the status of your wills, trusts, POAs, medical directives? Get them updated now! We do Monte Carlo Simulations for retirement planning. If we can help, please give us a call.
Music of The Week: Luna Blanca’s “Guitar Island”
We Quarterback Money®
Bide your time.
There’s no time like the present
Forgive and forget.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.
You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
Talk is cheap.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.
Hitch your wagon to a star.
Don’t bite off more that you can chew.
Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the soup.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.
The Economy: At some point, news on the economy will focus on the fundamentals of data rather on the whims of Central Bankers. But we’re not there yet. So with the Fed meeting next week, life is on hold while we await more dissembling opacity. There is a growing sense that 7-years of monetary policy have failed and that continuing down the same path is a mistake. How this plays out is anyone’s guess. But one thing is certain, markets don’t like uncertainty. Talking heads and other blithering, blathering idiots are having a field day in front of the last Fed meeting prior to the election. Our call remains that the highly politicized Fed will do nothing to diminish the chances of a Clinton victory. So we say, “No Change; Lower for Longer” on interest rates. … continue to kick the can down the road and hope that somehow, the bubble of extreme asset inflation, can be pricked and deflated without an implosion. Tellingly, former Fed Chair Greenspan has said, that this, “… is the worst economic and political environment …” he’s ever seen.
Food for Thought: The equity markets have demonstrated how chaotic and fragile they truly are. Simply the whisper of a ¼ percent rate hike sent markets down over 2% on Friday. On Monday, the whisper that the ¼ percent hike was off the table sent markets up over 1%. On Tuesday, markets dropped again. We don’t think this is a healthy investing environment. We are focused on protecting assets. We continue to sell positions that are at a profit and put the proceeds into the money markets. You want to have funds available for investing when the opportunity presents itself. We’re not doom and gloomers. Rather we’re veterans of several market sell-offs, crashes and bear markets. At this type of inflection point, investments can often be reallocated to take advantage of opportunity or to make up significant losses.
Music of the Week: Big Mountain’s “Resistance”
The Economy: The economy continues on its path of slow expansion with regional pockets of weakness and strength. If you live in Detroit things are grim. Likewise for California’s Central Valley. If you live in San Diego, well, you’re living in Paradise and the Livin’ is Easy. San Diego’s economy rests on the 3-legs of military spending, tourism and hi-tech/med-tech. Add craft beer to that trifecta with Ballast Point Brewing having recently been sold in a billion dollar deal. Entrepreneurs and their young families are flocking to the county as the allure of sun, surf, schools and simoleons resonates across the rest of the country.
Food for Thought: Economic news has been brushed aside by the 3-Ring Circus known as the 2016 Presidential Election. Who woulda thunk it. The preeminent military and economic power in the history of the planet boogying like a banana republic on steroids. Plato’s Cave would tell us that this is the end of the world as savages leap and yelp around the bonfire. But as the rest of the world looks on in stunned disbelief, we Americans know that this is simply the best and most original entertainment that we’ve seen in decades. Thank the gods for the station-break provided by the Rio Olympics.
The Economy: Economic numbers have surprised to the downside this week. Oil is off 20% from its high of a few weeks ago. Home ownership is at its lowest since 1965. GDP came in 50% below expectations. Some are saying the U.S. economy is stalling. Central bank activity has likewise been muted. The Bank of England and the Bank of Japan were both supposed to initiate massive stimulus programs. It didn’t happen. The Fed met this week and did nothing. Ennui, exhaustion or summertime blues, no matter. Financial markets took the poor numbers as confirmation that slowing economies would keep interest rates lower for longer. Poor economic numbers should keep the monetary printing presses running full-out.
Food for Thought: Thank you Talking Heads, Supreme Court Justices, former Mayors and other professional blowhards. We get it. The Donald is dangerous and The Hillary is a criminal. The Donald is the most dangerous man in the history of the planet. Worse than Cain, worse than Attila, worse than Stalin. The Hillary is the worst criminal in the history of the planet. Worse than Jezebel, worse than Bloody Mary Queen of Scots, worse than Bonnie Parker. That’s why as Americans we’ve selected them to be our Champions. Because warts and all, they are Our Champions. Now, let’s get on with it.
Music of the Week: The Essential Etta James.
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!
The Economy: BREXIT!?! … or did it? Our poor Cousins across The Pond continue to spasm in the wake of last week’s vote. The end of the world scenario has been replaced by confusion, second guessing and dismissal by the Brits themselves. Talking heads are reveling in mindless chatter. The EU’s reaction has gone from “OMG No!!” to “Ok, if this is what you want, then get out now. We don’t want you hanging around.” Nature abhors a vacuum so the vacuous nonsense we’re hearing will eventually end. The consensus is that Brexit is an additional headwind for a global economy that’s already struggling with deflation. As with all things in life, there will be winners and losers. Because of this, we continue to emphasize that your personal experience is paramount. If Brexit is another headwind, then you must ask yourself which side of these headwinds am I on … With the Wind or Against the Wind?
Food for Thought: Preserving capital should now be your primary concern at this point in the economic cycle. Stock market indices are mixed as we end the first half of 2016; some up some down … and despite all the noise, multiple attempts to move to new highs have repeatedly failed. Investors should be leery of this repeated failure to move above year-old highs. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to achieve in a 7-year old, long-in-the-tooth, bull market. Clint Eastwood famously asked, “ … you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”
God Bless America. Land of the Free; Home of the Brave! We have the best and brightest future at the dawn of the American Century. Have a Great 4th of July!