Ready for the next market correction? Today’s drop rekindles questions of whether this bull market is finally over. To be sure, stocks are up over 7% in the first 4 months, extending the 8-year run from the 2009 low.
But the bull market run has resulted in some expensive prices. Regardless of whether one uses multiples relative to sales, book value, trailing earnings, or normalized earnings, stocks aren’t cheap. The Shiller P/E ratio, which compares stock prices to normalized earnings over a 10-year cycle, is at its third highest dating back to 1887. The top two instances were 1929 (before the Great Depression) and 1997 (during the Tech Bubble).
Passive indexing has long been popular among the smaller investors. But wealthy investors often pursue more active strategies, either with active managers or on their own. After all, they didn’t accumulate their wealth by sitting back and doing what everyone else does, right?
But the evidence against active management is strong, with the most managers failing to beat the index over time. So why do wealthy investors tend to shun a passive approach to managing their money?
It’s a foregone conclusion in the markets that the Federal Reserve will raise short term interest rates on Wednesday. But more importantly, investors will be looking for hints for future rate increases.
Why is this so important? The consensus view is for 2-3 Fed increases this year, but anchoring into this expectation comes with risks. For example, in 1994 the Fed surprised investors by increasing rates 6 times, resulting in a 3% loss for bonds that year. Of course, bonds recovered in following years, thanks largely to the long-term trend of falling interest rates since 1981.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett released his annual letter to shareholders last Saturday, a publication that is examined and dissected by investors around the world. And this year’s edition underscores why.
Before its release, the S&P 500 closed at its all-time high (again), continuing its rally that began in November. In fact, in the first 38 trading days of 2016, the S&P 500 has posted a new high 11 times. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Russell 2000 Index have printed new highs 14 and 3 times in 2016, respectively.
Even the greenest of investors is likely aware that stocks move in both directions, and that periods of upswings have historically been followed by downturns. The Holy Grail, of course, is how to invest through all the ups and downs, and Buffett offers his view:
The financial markets are now closed for the year and with all of the theatrics the verdict is in. Those investors with the following five characteristics prevail over those who fall victim to a host of mistakes and unsuccessful approaches:
- Investing from a superior position of financial strength.
- Being well prepared for a range of possible outcomes.
- Having an investment philosophy and approach you can confidently stick with and win with through thick and thin.
- Tuning out the noise, taming the emotion and focusing on what you can control.
- Investing for long-term success and, in the process, avoiding anxiety-toxic predictions, moves, comparisons, concentrations and traps.
Nearly eight weeks after his election, emotions about President-elect Donald Trump continue to run high.
There’s no doubt that Trump was a divisive candidate, and he is already saying and doing things that have pleased some and discouraged others. But as investors contemplate the next four years under this president, they should pay attention to facts and numbers and be on guard against emotional decision-making.
It’s common for investors to overestimate the impact that Presidential election results have on investment markets. Prior to the election, many commentators predicted a market crash in the event of a Donald Trump victory. That didn’t happen, of course; to the contrary, the market has risen. That’s an example of the strength and adaptability of the markets: They have a long history of digesting jarring and unforeseen events, and then moving forward.
The challenge of performance measurement
Periodic reviews of an investor’s portfolio helps ascertain whether the investment process is working, but more importantly, whether it’s on the right course for the individual investor.
The Beardstown Ladies was a 12-woman investment club that gathered monthly and managed their own stock portfolio. They became celebrities in the mid-1990s when news of their track record went viral: since their 1983 inception, The Beardstown Ladies claimed their portfolio had returned 23.4% versus the S&P 500’s 14.9% return. But in 1998, an audited performance record was released showing the club’s actual returns were actually 9.1% per year.
There are few things that we Americans get worked up about as much as presidential elections.
One candidate, some of us feel, would be a disaster for the country, while the other would lead it in the right direction. That seems to hold true every four-year cycle, but this year emotions are pitched especially high. Spurring us along is the financial news media, which breathlessly advises us about how to invest for a Clinton presidency, or a Trump presidency.
What are tactical adjustments? In their 1986 asset allocation research, Brinson, Beebower, & Hood defined tactical asset allocation as:
“…strategically altering the investment mix weights away from normal in an attempt to capture excess returns from short-term fluctuations in asset class prices (market timing);”
The role of tax strategies in trading and managing investment portfolios
Certain tax strategies can add a meaningful boost to portfolio performance because taxes are an explicit cost to any portfolio and, therefore, a detractor from performance. Although tax situations are unique to each individual, any strategy that limits or delays the tax bill and retains more after-tax return for investors will face little argument.
“Avoidance of taxes is not a criminal offense. Any attempt to reduce, avoid, minimize, or alleviate taxes by legitimate means is permissible. The distinction between evasion and avoidance is fine yet definite. One who avoids tax does not conceal or misrepresent. He shapes events to reduce or eliminate tax liability and upon the happening of the events, makes a complete disclosure. Evasion, on the other hand, involves deceit, subterfuge, camouflage, concealment, some attempt to color or obscure events, or making things seem other than what they are.”— Internal Revenue Manual Code 220.127.116.11.2.1 (05-15-2008) 26 USC §7201 – Avoidance Distinguished from Evasion
Assuming all investors pay taxes either now or later, the chart below illustrates the benefit of delaying taxes. We assume a portfolio of 60% stocks, 40% bonds that is rebalanced every year. The solid line depicts the growth of the 100% taxable portfolio, while the dotted line shows portfolio growth in a 100% tax-deferred portfolio. Of course, the taxman arrives eventually, so we show the hit (a worst-case all-at-once tax consequence) to the tax-deferred line when withdrawing at ordinary income tax rates.