Archive for December, 2013

2013 Investing Caffeine Greatest Hits

Source: Photobucket

Source: Photobucket

From the Boston bombings and Detroit’s bankruptcy to Pope Francis and Nelson Mandela, there were many attention grabbing headlines in 2013. Investing Caffeine made its own headlines after 4 1/2 years of blogging, including Sidoxia Capital Management’s media expansion (see Twitter & Media pages).

Thank you to all the readers who inspire me to spew out my random but impassioned thoughts on a somewhat regular basis. Investing Caffeine and Sidoxia Capital Management wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year in 2014!

Here are some of the most popular Investing Caffeine postings over the year:

10) Confessions of a Bond Hater

Source: stock.xchng

9) What’s Going On With This Crazy Market?

Man Scratching Head

8) Information Choking Your Money

Source: Photobucket

7) Beware: El-Erian & Gross Selling Buicks…Not Chevys

Car Salesman and a Customer

6) The Central Bank Dog Ate My Homework

Jack Russell Terrier Snarling

5) Confusing Fear Bubbles with Stock Bubbles

Bubbles 2 SXC

4) Vice Tightens for Those Who Missed the Pre-Party

Group of Young People at a Party Sitting on a Couch with Champagne

3) Sitting on the Sidelines: Fear & Selective Memory

Sidelines.sxc

2) The Most Hated Bull Market Ever

Hate

1) 2014: Here Comes the Dumb Money!

Funny Face

Happy New Year’s!

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in 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. Special editorial thanks to Lt. Andrew A. Pierce for his contributions on this article.

December 28, 2013 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

Bernanke: Santa Claus or Grinch?

Santa - Grinch

I’ve written plenty about my thoughts on the Fed (see Fed Fatigue) and all the blathering from the media talking heads. Debates about the timing and probability of a Fed “taper” decision came to a crescendo in the recent week. As is often the case, the exact opposite of what the pundits expected actually happened. It was not a huge surprise the Federal Reserve initiated a $10 billion tapering of its $85 billion monthly bond buying program, but going into this week’s announcement, the betting money was putting their dollars on the status quo.

With the holiday season upon us, investors must determine whether the tapered QE1/QE2/QE3 gifts delivered by Bernanke are a cause for concern. So the key question is, will this Santa Claus rally prance into 2014, or will the Grinch use the taper as an excuse to steal this multi-year bull market gift away?

Regardless of your viewpoint, what we did learn from this week’s Fed announcement is that this initial move by the Fed will be a baby step, reducing mortgage-backed and Treasury security purchases by a measly $5 billion each. I say that tongue in cheek because the total global bond market has been estimated at about $80,000,000,000,000 (that’s $80 trillion).

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the Fed gets way too much credit (blame) for their impact on interest rates (see Interest Rates: Perception vs Reality). Interest rates even before this announcement were as high/higher than when QE1 was instituted. What’s more, if the Fed has such artificial influence over interest rates, then why do Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland all have lower 10-year yields than the U.S.? Maybe their central banks are just more powerful than our Fed? Unlikely.

Dow 128,000 in 2053

Readers of Investing Caffeine know I have followed the lead of investing greats like Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch, who believe trying to time the markets is a waste of your time. In a recent Lynch interview, earlier this month, Charlie Rose asked for Lynch’s opinion regarding the stock market, given the current record high levels. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think the market is fairly priced on what is happening right now. You have to say to yourself, is five years from now, 10 years from now, corporate profits are growing about 7 or 8% a year. That means they double, including dividends, about every 10 years, quadruple every 20, go up 8-fold every 40. That’s the kind of numbers you are interested in. The 10-year bond today is a little over 2%. So I think the stock market is the best place to be for the next 10, 20, 30 years. The next two years? No idea. I’ve never known what the next two years are going to bring.”

READ MORE ABOUT PETER LYNCH HERE

Guessing is Fun but Fruitless

I freely admit it. I’m a stock-a-holic and member of S.A. (Stock-a-holic’s Anonymous). I enjoy debating the future direction of the economy and financial markets, not only because it is fun, but also because without these topics my blog would likely go extinct. The reality of the situation is that my hobby of thinking and writing about the financial markets has no direct impact on my investment decisions for me or my clients.

There is no question that stocks go down during recessions, and an average investor will likely live through at least another half-dozen recessions in their lifetime. Unfortunately, speculators have learned firsthand about the dangers of trading based on economic and/or political headlines during volatile cycles. That doesn’t mean everyone should buy and do nothing. If done properly, it can be quite advantageous to periodically rebalance your portfolio through the use of various valuation and macro metrics as a means to objectively protect/enhance your portfolio’s performance. For example, cutting exposure to cyclical and debt-laden companies going into an economic downturn is probably wise. Reducing long-term Treasury positions during a period of near-record low interest rates (see Confessions of a Bond Hater) as the economy strengthens is also likely a shrewd move.

As we have seen over the last five years, the net result of investor portfolio shuffling has been a lot of pain. The acts of panic-selling caused damaging losses for numerous reasons, including a combination of agonizing transactions costs; increased inflation-decaying cash positions; burdensome taxes; and a mass migration into low-yielding bonds. After major indexes have virtually tripled from the 2009 lows, many investors are now left with the gut-wrenching decision of whether to get back into stocks as the markets reach new highs.

As the bulls continue to point to the scores of gifts still lying under the Christmas tree, the bears are left hoping that new Fed Grinch Yellen will come and steal all the presents, trees, and food from the planned 2014 economic feast. There are still six trading days left in the year, so Santa Bernanke cannot finish wrapping up his +30% S&P 500 total return gift quite yet. Nevertheless, ever since the initial taper announcement, stocks have moved higher and Bernanke has equity investors singing “Joy to the World!

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in 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.

December 22, 2013 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

2014: Here Comes the Dumb Money!

Funny Face

Before this year’s gigantic rally, I wrote about the unexpected risk of a Double Rip. At that time, all the talk and concern was over the likelihood of a “Double Dip” recession due to the sequestration, tax increases, Obamacare, and an endless list of other politically charged worries.

Perma-bear Nouriel Roubini has already incorrectly forecasted a double-dip in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, and bond maven Bill Gross at PIMCO has fallen flat on his face with his “2013 Fearless Forecasts”: 1) Stocks & bonds return less than 5%. 2) Unemployment stays at 7.5% or higher 3) Gold goes up.

Bill Gross 2013 Prediction

Well at least Bill was correct on 1 of his 4 predictions that bonds would suck wind, although achieving a 25% success rate would have earned him an “F” at Duke. The bears’ worst nightmares have come to reality in 2013 with the S&P up +25% and the NASDAQ climbing +33%, but there still are 11 trading days left in the year and a Hail Mary taper-driven collapse is in bears’ dreams.

Source: Scott Grannis

Source: Scott Grannis

For bulls, the year has brought a double dosage of GDP and job expansion, topped with a cherry of multiple expansion on corporate profit growth. As we head into 2014, at historically reasonable price-earnings valuations (P/E of ~16x – see chart above), the new risk is no longer about Double-Dip/Rip, but rather the arrival of the “dumb money.” You know, the trillions of fear capital (see chart below) parked in low-yielding, inflation-losing accounts such as savings accounts, CDs, and Treasuries that has missed out on the more than doubling and tripling of the S&P and NASDAQ, respectively (from the 2009 lows).

Source: Scott Grannis

Source: Scott Grannis

The fear money was emboldened in 2009-2012 because fixed income performed admirably under the umbrella of declining interest rates, albeit less robustly than stocks. The panic trade wasn’t rewarded in 2013, and the dumb money trade may prove challenging for the bears in 2014 as well.

Despite the call for the “great rotation” out of bonds into stocks earlier this year, the reality is it never happened. I will however concede, a “great toe-dip” did occur, as investor panic turned to merely investor skepticism. If you consider the domestic fund flows data from ICI (see chart below), the modest +$28 billion inflow this year is a drop in the bucket vis-à-vis the hemorrhaging of -$613 billion out of equities from 2007-2012.

ICI Fund Flows 12-14-13

Will I be talking about the multi-year great rotation finally coming to an end in 2018? Perhaps, but despite an impressive stock rally over the previous five years in the face of a wall of worry, I wonder what  a half trillion dollar rotation out of bonds into stocks would mean for the major indexes? While a period of multi-year stock buying would likely be good for retirement portfolios, people always find it much easier to imagine potentially scary downside scenarios.

It’s true that once the taper begins, the economy gains more steam, and interest rates begin rising to a more sustainable level, the pace of this stock market recovery is likely to lose steam.  The multiple expansion we’ve enjoyed over the last few years will eventually peak, and future market returns will be more reliant on the lifeblood of stock-price appreciation…earnings growth (a metric near and dear to my heart).

The smart money has enjoyed another year of strong returns, but the party may not quite be over in 2014 (see Missing the Pre-Party). Taper is the talk of the day, but investors might pull out the hats and horns this New Year, especially if the dumb money comes to join the fun.

 

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in 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.

 

December 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm 4 comments

Can Good News be Good News?

Smiley Face

There has been a lot of hyper-taper sensitivity of late, ever since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke broached the subject of reducing the monthly $85 billion bond buying stimulus program during the spring. With a better than expected ADP jobs report on Wednesday and a weekly jobless claims figure on Thursday, everyone (myself) included was nervously bracing for hot November jobs number on Friday. Why fret about potentially good economic numbers? Firstly, as a money manager my primary job is to fret, and secondarily, stronger than forecasted job additions in November would likely feed the fear monster with inflation and taper alarm, thus resulting in a triple digit Dow decline and a 20 basis point spike in 10-year Treasury rates. Right?

Well, the triple digit Dow move indeed came to fruition…but in the wrong direction. Rather than cratering, the Dow exploded higher by +200 points above 16,000 once again. Any worry of a potential bond market thrashing fizzled out to a flattish whimper in the 10-year Treasury yield (to approximately 2.86%). You certainly should not extrapolate one data point or one day of trading as a guaranteed indicator of future price directions. But, in the coming weeks and months, if the economic recovery gains steam I will be paying attention to how the market reacts to an inevitable Fed tapering and likely rise in interest rates.

The Expectations Game

Interpreting the correlation between the tone of news and stock direction is a challenging endeavor for most (see Circular Conversations & Tweet), but stock prices going up on bad news has not a been a new phenomenon. Many will argue the economy has been limp and the news flow extremely weak since stock prices bottomed in early 2009 (i.e., Europe, Iran, Syria, deficits, debt downgrade, unemployment, government shutdown, sequestration, taxes, etc.), yet actual stock prices have chugged higher, nearly tripling in value. There is one word that reconciles the counterintuitive link between ugly news and handsome gains…EXPECTATIONS. When expectations in 2009 were rapidly shifting towards a Great Depression and/or Armageddon scenario, it didn’t take much to move stock prices higher. In fact, sluggish growth coupled with historically low interest rates were enough to catapult equity indices upwards – even after factoring in a dysfunctional, ineffectual political backdrop.

From a longer term economic cycle perspective, this recovery, as measured by job creation, has been the slowest since World War II (see Calculated Risk chart below). However, if you consider other major garden variety historical global banking crises, our crisis is not much different (see Oregon economic study). 

EmploymentCalcRiskRecAlignNov2013

While it’s true that stock prices can go up on bad news (and go down on good news), it is also possible for prices to go up on good news. Friday’s trading action after the jobs report is the proof of concept. As I’ve stated before, with the meteoric rise in stock prices, it’s my view the low hanging profitable fruit has been plucked, but there is still plenty of fruit on the trees (see Missing the Pre-Party).  I am not the only person who shares this view.

Recently, legendary investor Warren Buffett had this to say about stocks (Source: Louis Navellier):

“I don’t have concerns about this market.” Buffet said stocks are “in a zone of reasonableness. Five years ago,” Buffett said, “I wrote an article for The New York Times that said they were very cheap. And every now and then, you can see that that they’re very overpriced or very underpriced.” Today, “they’re definitely not way overpriced. They’re definitely not underpriced.” “If you live long enough,” Buffett said, “you’ll see a lot higher prices. I don’t know what stocks will do next week or next month or next year, but five or 10 years from now, they are very likely to be higher.”

 

However, up cycles eventually run their course. As stocks continue to go up on good news, ultimately they begin to go down on good news. Expectations in time tend to get too lofty, and the market begins to anticipate a downturn. Stock prices are continually incorporating information that reflects the direction of future earnings and cash flow prospects. Looking into the rearview mirror at historical results may have some value, but gazing through the windshield and anticipating what’s around the corner is more important.

Rather than getting caught up with the daily mental somersault exercises of interpreting what the tone of news headlines means to the stock market (see Sentiment Pendulum), it’s better to take a longer-term cyclical sentiment gauge. As you can see from the chart below, waiting for the bad news to end can mean missing half of the upward cycle. And the same principle applies to good news.

Good News Bad News1

Bad news can be good news for stock prices, and good news can be bad for stock prices. With the spate of recent positive results (i.e., accelerating purchasing manager data, robust auto sales, improving GDP, better job growth, and more new-home sales), perhaps good news will be good news for stock prices?

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in 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.

December 8, 2013 at 11:53 am 1 comment

Investors Feast While Bears Get Cooked

turkey wade 

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complementary newsletter (December 2, 2013). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text. 

As I ponder this year’s events with a notch-loosened belt after a belly-busting Thanksgiving gorging, I give thanks for my many blessings this year (see my last year’s Top 10). Investors in the stock market have had quite a feast in 2013 as well, while pessimistic bears have gotten cooked. Just this month, stock indexes reached all-time record highs (16,000 for the Dow Jones Industrial average and 1,800 for the S&P 500). Even the tech-heavy NASDAQ index surpassed 4,000 – a level not seen since 1999. How does this translate in percentage terms? Here’s what the stellar 2013 numbers looks like so far:

  • Dow Jones: +22.8%
  • S&P 500: +26.6%
  • NASDAQ: +34.5%

These results demolish the near 0.0% returns earned on the sidelines, sitting on cash. And worth noting, these gains become even more impressive once you add dividends to the mix. To put these numbers into better perspective, it would take you more than a few decades of your lifetime to achieve this year’s stock gains, if your cash was invested at today’s CD and savings account rates.

For the bears, the indigestion has become even more unbearable if you consider the 2013 bloodbath in gold. The endless mantra of unsustainable QE (Quantitative Easing) hasn’t played out quite as the cynics planned this year (see also QE – Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread):

  • CBOE Gold Index (GOX): -51.5%
  • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD): -25.5%

Bonds have been challenging too. Investors and Nervous Nellies have not been able to hide in longer-term Treasury bonds or broader bond indexes without some pain during 2013:

  • iShares 20-Year Treasury Bond (TLT): -13.8%
  • iShares Total U.S. Bond Market (AGG): -3.3%

As I’ve preached in the past, bonds have a place in most portfolios for income and diversification purposes, and many of my clients own them in their portfolios. But not all bonds are created equally. At Sidoxia (Sidoxia.com), we’ve smoothed out interest rate volatility and even recorded some gains by investing in specific classes of bonds such as short duration, floating rate, and convertible securities.

Why the Turkey High?

Since I invest professionally, inevitably the dinner table conversation switches from stuffing to stock market, or from pumpkin pie to politics. More often than not, the discussion reflects a tone such as, “This market is crazy! We’re due for a crash aren’t we?”

Without coming off as Pollyannaish, or offending anyone, I am quick to acknowledge I too am unhappy with Obamacare (my health insurance coverage was recently dropped due to the Affordable Care Act) and recognize that most politicians are bottom-feeders. Objectively, an argument can also be made by the doubters that a bubble is forming in a sub-segment of the market (see also Confusing Stock Bubbles). While the Yelps (YELP), Twitters (TWTR), and Teslas (TSLA) of the world may be dramatically inflated in price, there are plenty of attractively and reasonably priced areas of the market to opportunistically exploit.

Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize there are other factors besides politics and fad stocks that drive financial markets higher or lower. As the chart below shows (see also Conquering Politics & Hurricanes), the stock market has gone up and down regardless of party politics.

Source: Yardeni.com

Besides politics, there is an infinite number of other factors affecting financial markets. While Obamacare, Iran, Syria, 2014 elections, Federal Reserve QE tapering, etc. may account for many of the concerns du jour, there are other important factors driving stock prices higher.

Here are but a few:

  • Record corporate profits
  • Near record-low interest rates
  • Improving fiscal deficit / debt situation relative to our economy
  • Improving housing and jobs picture
  • Reasonable stock valuations
  • Low inflation / declining oil prices

The stock market feast has been exceptional, but even I acknowledge the pace of this year’s advance is not sustainable. Like an overloading of pie or an unnecessary, extra drumstick, we’re bound to experience another -10% correction, just like a common case of heartburn. For long-term investors however, fear of a temporary upset stomach is no reason to leave the investing dining table. Focusing only on the negatives and ignoring the positives may result in your investment portfolio getting cooked…just like the poor Thanksgiving turkey.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), Yelp (YELP), Twitter (TWTR), and Tesla (TSLA), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in 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.

December 2, 2013 at 10:46 am Leave a comment


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