Listening for Dinner Bell or Penalty Whistle?

October 31, 2010 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from my monthly newsletter (sign-up on the right of page)…

Investors are eagerly waiting on the sidelines wondering whether to listen for a dinner bell signaling the time to sink their teeth into traditional equity investments, or respond to a penalty whistle by nervously maintaining money in depleted, inflation-losing CDs. A large swath of investors are still scarred from the losses experienced from the 2008-2009 financial crisis and are trying to rationalize the recent +80% move in equity markets (S&P 500 index) over the last 18 months. Eating saltine crackers and drinking water in CDs and money market accounts yielding < 1% feels OK when the world is collapsing around you, but eventually people realize retirement goals are tough to achieve with the money stuffed under the mattress.

Here are some recent bells and whistles we are listening to:

Mid-Term Elections: Regardless of your politics, Republicans are forecasted to regain control of the House of Representatives, while expectations for a narrow Democrat Senate majority remains the consensus. Currently, Democrat Jerry Brown is a handful of points in the lead over Meg Whitman for the California governor’s race. Another issue voters are closely monitoring is the likelihood of Bush tax-cut extensions.

Printing Press Part II: The Federal Reserve has strongly hinted of another round at the printing press in an effort to stimulate the economy by keeping interest rates low (e.g., record low 30-year fixed mortgage rates around 4.2%). The Fed accomplishes this so-called Quantitative Easing (or QE2) by purchasing Treasuries and mortgage backed securities – pumping more dollars into the financial system to expand credit and loans. In addition, QE2 is structured to stimulate the meager 0.8% core inflation experienced over the last 12 months (Bloomberg) to a Goldilocks level – not too hot and not too cold. QE2 asset purchase estimates are all over the map, but estimates generally stand at the low end of the original $200 billion to $2 trillion range.

Growth Continues: Although companies are sitting on record piles of cash ($1.8 trillion for all non-financial companies), chief executive officers continue to have short arms with their deep pockets when it comes to spending on new hires. Persistent growth for five consecutive quarters (2% GDP expansion in Q2), coupled with tight cost controls, is resulting in 46% estimated growth in 2010 corporate profits as measured by the average of S&P 500 companies. For the time being, “double dip” worries have been put on hold for this jobless recovery.

Unemployment Hypochondria: As I wrote in an earlier Investing Caffeine article (READ HERE), there is an almost obsessive focus on the unemployment rate, which although moving in the right direction, remains at a stubbornly high 9.6% rate nationally. Fresh new employment data will be released this Friday.

Foreclosure-gate: As foreclosures have increased and the decline in the housing market has matured, investors have grown more impatient with collections from mortgage backed securities originators. Banks and other mortgage lenders could face more than $100 billion in losses (CNBC) in mortgage “putbacks” related to improper packaging and terms disclosed to investors. Lawyers are salivating at the opportunity of litigating the thousands of potential cases across the country.

Create Your Own Blueprint – Block Noise

In reality, there is no dinner bell or penalty whistle when it comes to investing. Sure, we hear dinner bells and whistles every day on TV from strategists and economists, but in this sordid, cacophony of daily noise, the long line-up of soothsayers are constantly switching back and forth between optimistic bells and pessimistic whistles. The consistent onslaught of this indiscernible noise serves no constructive purpose for the average investor. I strongly believe the correct plan of attack is to create a customized investment plan that meets your long-term objectives, constraints, and risk tolerance. By creating a diversified portfolio of low-cost tax-efficient products and strategies, I believe investors will be more securely positioned for a more comfortable and less stressful retirement.

I have my own opinions on the economic environment, which I detail in excruciating detail through my writings. These macro-economic opinions are stimulating but have little to no bearing on the construction of my investment portfolios. More important is focusing on the investment areas with the best fundamental prospects, while balancing risk and return for each client.

Despite what I just said, if you are still determined to know my opinions on the market direction, then follow me to the dinner table; I just heard the dinner bell ring.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in GE, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

Entry filed under: economy, Themes - Trends. Tags: , , , , , , .

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