Ten years after the 2008 market meltdown, U.S. equities are up over 200% and posting fresh new all-time highs.
Higher interest rates during the quarter presented some headwind for bond investors, but bonds can still generate decent returns within a long-term trend of higher interest rates.
The underlying economy boasts plenty of strength, with economic growth during the rest of 2018 expected to remain above 3%.
MLPs May Increase Portfolio Performance
Owning oil and gas pipelines can add octane to a portfolio’s performance, particularly in today’s energy and economic backdrop.
It’s our job to help clients gain the proper exposure to safety, market and aspirational asset categories. It’s also our job to identify pockets of the market that, when available, have attractive fundamentals and/or characteristics worth considering. Oil & Gas MLPs in the midstream space (storing and transporting energy) has caught our interest for years and remain an asset class of interest. While we take care of researching and handling the details for our clients, it doesn’t hurt for you to pipe into the conversation. Here’s a quick primer on the space.
Long-term strategies may challenge investors to stay focused. The fight against short-term thinking is getting harder as we accomplish so many things with increasing ease and speed.
There is more computing power in an iPhone than what NASA had during the first landing on the moon. Remember when Netflix mailed DVDs to your home? Now we can stream just about anything to our smartphones. And what would you have said ten years ago if I had told you the President of the United States’ main communication tool in 2018 would be Twitter?
But speed doesn’t change everything.
I’m not sure Yogi Berra is big source of investment knowledge for most investors. But, that doesn’t mean his words of wisdom, “déjà vu all over again,” don’t apply.
Today’s Wall Street Journal included an article titled, “Value Investors Face Existential Crisis After Long Market Rally.” It discussed the “rut” that value investing has experienced since 2009. No arguments there. Value stocks are down about 1% year-to-date while growth stocks are up nearly 8%. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite Index, which holds many of the favorite tech names among growth investors, is at its all-time high.
A Familiar Scenario
But as I sipped my morning coffee and read further, I didn’t ask myself how we should change our current value approach (for the portion of our portfolios dedicated to value investing) to match the current environment. Instead, I found myself thinking about earlier in my career, the late 1990s. Tech ruled the day from 1995 through 1999, and value investors lagged back then too.
Is The Market Getting Ahead of Itself?
I recently attended an event at which General George W. Casey spoke to a crowd of emerging business, civic, and non-profit leaders. General Casey served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff and was Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq from 2004 through 2007. He described his experiences in the Middle East, and his words offered some key truths for us all.
In his remarks, he referenced the “vuca” world in which we live: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. He then stated how important relationships are to the success of any objective in such a world, in his case, peace in Iraq.
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.
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 18.104.22.168.2.1 (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.
“What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup.”
Thus far, 2016 has been an interesting year for money managers. We have seen the recent market rally mask some of the greatest market volatility experienced in five years. If you think back to the beginning of the year, you’ll remember the worst start to the calendar year ever for the S&P 500. As recession fears subsided, stocks rebounded and we closed at a new record high on the S&P 500 yesterday. We have also seen a reversal in commodity prices.
From a total return standpoint, the S&P GSCI, the commodity index, sits atop of its equity counterparts. The increase in commodity prices have helped subdue the concerns of a global recession, but also comes with drawbacks. The clear drawback is the price to fill your car. We have seen prices at the pump increase over the year as oil prices have risen and now hover around $50 per barrel. Another downside, one not as publicized as other commodity prices, is the price of coffee.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments last week suggested that interest rates may be headed higher as early as next week. This caught the market by surprise, given the subpar economic growth and low inflationary environment. But we see a few reasons why higher inflation and higher interest rates shouldn’t be such a surprise after all.
I’ve had a lot of clients and friends recently ask me if our comprehensive “bear watch” or “rally watch” investment models have triggered any sell or buy signals. The short answer is…
- the weight of our macro, fundamental and technical evidence remains bullish,
- albeit with signs of elevated risk across global markets.
With plenty of headlines and moving economic parts to consider, I do think it’s a good time for you to review our mid-year market outlook. Click the image below to download.
In the 5-page report, our Chief Investment Officer, James Callahan, CFA does a fine job filtering through all the noise, hype and data to zero into a quality evidence-based assessment of conditions, dangers and opportunities.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call me at 303-721-7000.