Posts filed under ‘Education’

Recovering from the Coma

cpr

The patient, the U.S. economy, is sick and remains in a coma. Although the patient was never healthier six weeks ago, now the economy has fallen victim to a worldwide pandemic that has knocked the global economy on its back. On the surface, the physical impact of coronavirus on the health of the 330 million Americans seems relatively modest statistically (4,394 deaths vs. 45,000 estimated common flu deaths this season). However, in order to kill this insidious novel coronavirus, which has spread like wildfire across 200 countries, governments have been forced to induce the economy into a coma, by closing schools, halting sporting events, creating social distancing guidelines, instituting quarantines/lockdowns, and by shutting down large non-essential swaths of the economy (e.g., restaurants, retail, airlines, cruises, hotels, etc.). We have faced and survived other epidemics like SARS (2003-04), H1N1 (2009-10), MERS (2012), and Ebola (2014-16), but the pace of COVID-19 spreading has been extraordinarily rapid and has created dramatic resource drains on healthcare systems around the world (including New York with approximately 75,000 cases alone). The need for test kits, personal protective equipment, and ventilators, among other demands has hit the U.S. caregiving system especially hard.

Given the unique characteristics of this sweeping virus, U.S. investors were not immune from the economic impact. The swift unprecedented downdraft from all-time record highs has not been seen since the October 1987 crash. And although the major indexes experienced an illness this month (Dow Jones Industrial Average -13.7%; S&P 500 -12.5%; NASDAQ -10.1%), the nausea was limited in large part thanks to trillions of dollars in unparalleled government intervention announced in the form of monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Healing the Patient

While the proliferation of the viral outbreak has been painful in many ways from a human and financial perspective, the beneficial impact of the medicine provided to the economic patient by the Federal Reserve and federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act cannot be overstated. The measures taken will provide a temporary safety net for not only millions of businesses, but also millions of workers and investors. Although last month many investors felt like vomiting when they looked at their investment account balances, gratefully the period ended on an upbeat note with the Dow bouncing +20% from last week’s lows.

Fed Financial Fixes

Here is a partial summary of the extensive multi-trillion dollar emergency measures taken by the Federal Reserve to keep the financial markets and economy afloat:

  • Cut interest rates on the benchmark Federal Funds target to 0% – 0.25% from 1% – 1.25%.
  • Make $1 trillion available in 14-day loans it is offering every week.
  • Make $1 trillion of overnight loans a day available.
  • Purchase an unlimited amount of Treasury securities after initially committing to $500 billion.
  • Purchase an unlimited amount of mortgage-backed securities after initially committing to at least $200 billion.
  • Provide $300 billion of financing to employers, consumers, and businesses. The Department of the Treasury will provide $30 billion in equity to this financing via the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF).
  • Establish two lending facilities to support credit to large employers – the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF) for new bond and loan issuance and the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) to provide liquidity for outstanding corporate bonds.
  • Create the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), to support the flow of credit to consumers and businesses, including student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
  • Expand the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) and the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to include a wider range of securities.

Corona CARE to Country

Here is a limited summary of the sprawling $2.1 trillion bipartisan stimulus legislation that was recently passed by Congress (see summary and table below):

  • Direct Payments: Americans who pay taxes will receive a one-time direct deposit of up to $1,200, and married couples will receive $2,400, plus an additional $500 per child. The payments will be available for incomes up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples, and phase out completely at $99,000 and $198,000, respectively.
  • Unemployment: The program provides $250 billion for an extended unemployment insurance program and expands eligibility and offers workers an additional $600 per week for four months, on top of what state programs pay. It also extends UI benefits through Dec. 31 for eligible workers. The deal also applies to the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers.
  • Payroll Taxes: The measure allows employers to delay the payment of their portion of 2020 payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022.
  • Use of Retirement Funds: The bill waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 for coronavirus-related purposes, retroactive to Jan. 1. Withdrawals are still taxed, but taxes are spread over three years, or the taxpayer has the three-year period to roll it back in.
  • Small Business Relief: $350 billion is being earmarked to preventing layoffs and business closures while workers need to stay home during the outbreak. Companies with 500 employees or fewer that maintain their payroll during coronavirus can receive up to 8 weeks of financial assistance. If employers maintain payroll, the portion of the loans used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven.
  • Large Corporations: $500 billion will be allotted to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments, these will be overseen by a Treasury Department inspector general. These loans will not exceed five years and cannot be forgiven. Airlines will receive $50 billion (of the $500 billion) for passenger air carriers, and $8 billion for cargo air carriers.
  • Hospitals and Health Care: The deal provides over $140 billion in appropriations to support the U.S. health system, $100 billion of which will be injected directly into hospitals. The rest will be dedicated to providing personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, accelerated Medicare payments, and supporting the CDC, among other health investments.
  • Coronavirus Testing: All testing and potential vaccines for COVID-19 will be covered at no cost to patients.
  • States and Local Governments: State, local and tribal governments will receive $150 billion. $30 billion is set aside for states, and educational institutions. $45 billion is for disaster relief, and $25 billion for transit programs.
  • Agriculture: The deal would increase the amount the Agriculture Department can spend on its bailout program from $30 billion to $50 billion.

cares act

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Patient Requires Patience

As we enter the new 30-day extension of social distancing guidelines until April 30th, there is good news and bad news for the patient as the economy recovers from its self-induced coma. On the good news front, their appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel with respect to the spread of the virus. Enough data has been collected from countries like China, S. Korea, Italy, and our own, such that statisticians appear to have a better handle on the trajectory of the virus.

More specifically, here are some positive developments:

  • Peak Seen on April 14th: According to the IMHE model that the White House is closely following, the number of COVID-19 deaths is projected to peak in two weeks.

curve project cases

Source: IHME

  • Testing Ramping: The United States definitely got off to a slow start in the virus testing department, but as you can see from the chart below, COVID-19 tests are ramping significantly. Nevertheless, the number of tests still needs to increase dramatically until the percent of “positive” test results declines to a level of 5% or lower, based on data collected from South Korea. In another promising development, Abbott Laboratories (ABT) received emergency approval from the FDA for a rapid point-of-care test that produces results in just five minutes.

tests per day

Source: Calculated Risk

  • Closer to a COVID Cure: There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapies or vaccines yet, but the FDA has granted emergency use authorization to anti-malarial drugs chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate to treat coronavirus patients. Patients are currently using these drugs in conjunction with the antibiotic azithromycin in hopes of achieving even better results. Remdesivir is a promising anti-viral treatment (also used in treating the Ebola virus) manufactured by Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), which is in Phase 3 clinical trial testing of the drug. If proven effective, broad distribution of remdesivir could be administered to COVID-19 patients in the not-too-distant future. Another company, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN), is working on clinical trials of its rheumatoid arthritis antibody drug Kevzara as a hopeful treatment. In addition, there are multiple companies, including Moderna Inc. (MRNA) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) that are making progress on coronavirus vaccines, that could have limited availability as soon as early-2021.

Darkest Before the Dawn

It is always darkest before the dawn, and the same principle applies to this coronavirus epidemic. Despite providing the patient’s medicine in the form of monetary and fiscal stimulus, time and patience is necessary for the prescription to take effect. As you can see from the chart below, the median total deaths projected is expected to rise to over 80,000 deaths by June 1st from roughly 4,000 today.

deaths curve project 2

Source: IHME

The physical toll will exceedingly become difficult over the next month, and the same can be said economically, especially for the hardest hit industries such as leisure, hospitality, and transportation. Just take a look at the -93% decline in airport travel versus a year ago (see chart below).

travel numbers

Source: Calculated Risk

The closure of restaurants, retail stores, and hotels, coupled with a cratering of travel has resulted in a more than a 1,000% increase in Americans filing for unemployment payments (see chart below – gray shaded regions correspond to recessions), and the unemployment rate is expected to increase from a near record-low 3.5% unemployment to a staggering 10% – 30% unemployment rate.

unemploymen claims

Source: Macrotrends

The spread of the incredibly debilitating COVID-19 virus has placed the economic patient into a self-induced coma. The financial and physical pain felt by the epidemic will worsen in the coming weeks, but fortunately the monetary stimulus, fiscal emergency relief, and social distancing guidelines are pointing to a predictable recovery in the not-too-distant future. Financial markets have survived wars, assassinations, recessions, impeachments, banking crises, currency crises, housing collapses, and yes, even pandemics. Each and every time, we have emerged stronger than ever…and I’m confident we will achieve the same result once COVID-19 is defeated.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (April 1, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

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

April 1, 2020 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Movie Deja Vu – Coronavirus

movie

I have seen this movie before. I love the stock market, but I do actually have other outside interests, including seeing movies. What better indoor winter activity than watching movies?! The Hollywood excitement continues this Sunday for the 92nd Academy Awards. My popcorn consumption has been generous this year as I have seen seven of the nine Best Picture nominated films with the exception of Jojo Rabbit and Little Women.

With a lifetime of movie watching under my belt, there is no shortage of redundant movie themes, whether it’s happy endings in romantic comedies, triumphant patriotism in war flicks, or gory blood spatters in horror films. Just as repetitive as these story lines have been in films, the redundant theme of pandemic health panics continues to plague investors every time a new contagious disease is announced. The newest debut is coronavirus. While coronavirus is playing on the big screen, the presidential impeachment trial, and January 31st Brexit deadline have been sideshows. Stay tuned for that breaking news!

Doctor Wade’s Diagnosis

Although I have not added M.D. to my list of professional credentials (CFA, CFP), Dr. Wade has enough medical experience to identify historical patterns. Most recently, the media covering the Wuhan coronavirus originating in the central Chinese province of Hubei (see map below) has unnecessarily terrorized the global masses with F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). While we likely know the ending of this health scare movie (i.e., humanity survives and life goes on), the timing, and scope remain uncertain.

wuhan

2020: Sickness After Healthy Start

After an healthy start to the 2020 stock market show (S&P 500 index zoomed +3.3% higher), investors viewing the coronavirus plot unfold subsequently were sickened with an S&P decline of -3.4% to finish the month slightly down from year-end (-0.2% from December 31st to January 31st). The Dow Jones Industrial Average was hit slightly worse, down 282 points for the month to 28,256, or -1.0%.

How do we know this infectious coronavirus disease scare shall too pass? Well, over the last few decades, there have been many more lethal diseases that have been put to bed. Here’s a list of some of these high profile, safely-controlled infectious diseases:

  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
  • Ebola
  • Zika Virus
  • Bird Flu
  • Swine Flu
  • H1N1 Virus
  • Mad Cow
  • Hoof-and-Mouth

A chart comparing the severity and timing of some of the major viruses can be seen below.

corona compare

While the human impact has been tragic, coronavirus has also struck a blow to the global economy. The pandemic prequel that mostly closely matches coronavirus is SARS, which also originated in China during 2003 in the province of Guandong. Most notable to me is the fatality rate for coronavirus of just 2.2% versus 9.6% for SARS. While coronavirus is less deadly than SARS, coronavirus is objectively more contagious than SARS and could have an incubation period of 14 days (significantly longer than SARS, which could increase the rate of infections). In fact, there were more confirmed cases of coronavirus in one month than all the reported cases of SARS identified over a span of nine months. Even so, as the chart shows, coronavirus deaths remain the lowest.

Economic Impact

The damaging economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate rapidly on a daily basis as governments, global health agencies, corporations, and individuals respond. Even though coronavirus appears to be much less lethal than SARS, we can scale current economic estimates based on the relative costs incurred during SARS. Some reports show the 2003 SARS situation costing the global economy $40 – $60 billion and 2.8 milllion Chinese jobs, while the potential hit in lost global growth from coronavirus could total $160 billion, according to Warwick McKibbin, a Australian National University economics professor.

The Chinese government fully realizes the amount of financial destruction caused by the SARS outbreak, and therefore is not sitting idly as it relates to the coronavirus. Back during SARS, the government did not institute quarantine measures nor publish the SARS’ genome (necessary to test and track virus) until four months had passed. After the first coronavirus patient was diagnosed around December 1st (two months ago) and the spread of the virus accelerated, the Chinese local governments expanded mandatory factory shutdowns for the Lunar New Year from January 31st to February 9th. What’s more, Wuhan, a city of 11 million residents at the epicenter of the illness, recently closed the area’s outgoing airport and railway stations and suspended all public transport. Chinese government officials have since extended the travel ban to 16 neighboring cities with a combined population of more than 50 million people, including Huanggang, a city next to Wuhan with 7.5 million people, essentially placing those cities on lock down.

Private companies are taking action as well. Companies such as Disney, Tesla, Amazon, Google, Apple, McDonalds, Starbucks, and more than a dozen airlines, cruise lines, casinos, and other global companies with significant footprints in China are suspending operations, temporarily shutting factories and instituting travel restrictions.

No Need to Panic Yet

Before you quarantine yourself in your basement, and take full-body showers in hand sanitizer, let’s take a look at some of those annoying things called facts:

  • There have been zero (0) coronavirus deaths in the United States, and eight diagnosed cases (at time of press).
  • There have been approximately 10,000 Americans killed by the flu since October 2019.

Apparently casual American observers are unable to filter out the true signals being lost in the avalanche of blood-curdling, panicked virus headlines. Tufts Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr. Shira Doron highlighted this message when she stated the following, “The likelihood of an American being killed by the flu compared to being killed by the coronavirus is probably approaching infinity.” Of the limited number of coronavirus deaths thus far, one study of 41 Wuhan coronavirus death cases showed the median age is around 75 years old. For most people (i.e., those who are not elderly or young children), I guess the moral of this story is to turn the TV off, go get your flu shot, and fall asleep with few worries.

There may be some more coronavirus pain and suffering ahead until this tragic human and economic pandemic comes under control. During the SARS outbreak (November 2002 – July 2003), peak-to-trough stock prices temporarily fell by -16% before marching upwards to new record highs. However, if this movie finishes like so many other similar infectious diseases, the coronavirus fever should break soon enough, and investors will be satisfied with new opportunities and another happy ending to the story.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (February 3, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFS) and DIS, TSLA, AMZN, GOOGL, AAPL, and MCD, but at the time of publishing had no direct position in SBUX 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.

February 3, 2020 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

Investors Give Thanks and Feast on New Record

turkey wade

There were many things to be grateful over the Thanksgiving holiday, including personal finances for many. Stock market investors were especially thankful for the new record highs achieved in the S&P 500 index, which rose a heaping +3.4% last month, bringing 2019 stock market gains to a whopping +25.3%. Any concerns over politics, China trade, global monetary policy, Brexit negotiations, slowing economic growth, and other fears have been overshadowed by record corporate profits, generationally low interest rates, historically low unemployment rates, rising wages, strong consumer confidence, and hopes of an economic recovery abroad.

Despite the strong advances, concerns remain over a bubble or a stratospheric stock market. These worries of inflated gains seem overblown, if you consider stocks were down -6.2% in 2018. In other words, if you combine 2018-2019, so far, the two-year period averages an +8.4% annualized return – a more reasonable advance. One thing is for sure, this bull market, which started in early-2009, has been no turkey. Since the S&P 500 bottomed at 666 in March of 2009, the index finished the month at over 3,140 – almost a quintuple in value over a 10-year period (not too shabby).

I get the question a lot, “Wade, don’t you think the stock market is crazy now and it is going to crash soon? It’s gone up so much and is at a record high.” Just because the stock market hits a record level doesn’t mean it will stop going up. In fact, since 2013, the S&P 500 has hit 38 new, monthly record highs (see chart below). For each of these new records, I have listened to anxious investors brace themselves for another crash resembling the 2008 financial collapse. The only problem is the 100-year flood normally doesn’t come every 10 years, and as history often proves, record highs often beget future new record highs.

0719

Be Careful to Whom You Listen

There are always varying opinions about the level and direction of future stock prices, but I always warn investors to be careful about following the judgments of television talking heads, especially when it comes to economists, strategists, and analysts, all of whom typically have very little experience in actually investing. These prognosticators typically are very articulate and persuasive but have little-to-no experience of really managing money. Traders generally fall into the useless camp as well because their opinions are moving at the speed of light based on the everchanging headlines du jour, thereby making this fickle advice worthless and ineffective. Instead, investors should pay attention to successful long-term investors who have proven the ability to make and preserve wealth through years of up-and-down markets. You don’t have to believe me, but when the most successful investor of all-time, Warren Buffett, says the stock market is ridiculously cheap,” it probably makes sense to pay more attention to his words of wisdom versus the latest political headline or dangerous and speculative day trader advice to buy-buy-buy or sell-sell-sell!

Although Warren Buffett freely provides his opinions, he openly admits he has no idea what direction stock prices will do in the short-run. So, if the greatest investor of all-time cannot predict short-term direction of stocks, then maybe you shouldn’t try to predict either? Case in point, corporate profits were up over 20% in 2018 (see chart below) and stock prices went down, while this year corporate profits have been essentially flat and stock prices have catapulted approximately +25%. This goes to show you that short-term stock movements can be incredibly difficult to predict. You will be much better off by focusing on making sound investments and following a suitable strategy based on your unique objectives and constraints.

op ear

Source: Dr. Ed’s Blog

You may have gotten some heartburn by feasting on too much turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, however investors are feasting on new record stock market highs despite investor anxiety. When the anxiety eventually turns to euphoria and gluttony, from fear and skepticism, then that will be the time to reach for the Tums antacid.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (December 2, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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, 2019 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Investors Scared Silly While Stocks Enjoy Sugar High

jacko

China trade war, impeachment hearings, Brexit negotiations, changing Federal Reserve monetary policy, Turkish-Kurd battles in Syria, global slowdown fears, and worries over an inverted yield curve. Do these headlines feel like a conducive environment for stock market values to break out to new all-time, record highs? If you answered “no”, then you are not alone – investors have been scared silly despite stocks experiencing a sugar high.

For the month, the S&P 500 index climbed another +2.0% and set a new monthly-high record. The same can be said for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which also set a new monthly record at 27,046, up +0.5% from the previous month. For the S&P 500, these monthly gains contributed to what’s become an impressive 2019 total appreciation of +21%. Normally, such heady gains would invoke broad-based optimism, however, the aforementioned spooky headlines have scared investors into a coffin as evidenced by the hundreds of billions of dollars that have poured out of stocks into risk-averse bonds. More specifically, ICI (Investment Company Institute) releases weekly asset flow figures, which show -$215 billion fleeing stock funds in 2018-2019 through the end of October, while over +$452 billion have flocked into the perceived safe haven of bonds. I emphasize the word “perceived” safe haven because many long duration (extended maturity) bonds can be extremely risky, if (when) interest rates rise materially and prices fall significantly.

Besides the data showing investors fleeing stocks and flocking to bonds, we have also witnessed the risk-averse saving behavior of individuals. When uncertainty rose in 2008 during the financial crisis, you can see how savings spiked (see chart below), even as the economy picked up steam. With the recent spate of negative headlines, you can see that savings have once again climbed and reached a record $1.3 trillion! All those consumer savings translate into dry powder spending dollars that can be circulated through the economy to extend the duration of this decade-long financial expansion.

personal saving

Source: Dr. Ed’s Blog

If you look at the same phenomenon through a slightly different lens, you can see that the net worth of consumer households has increased by 60% to $113 trillion from the 2007 peak of about $70 trillion (see chart below). This net worth explosion compares to only a 10% increase in household debt over the same timeframe. In other words, consumer balance sheets have gotten much stronger, which will likely extend the current expansion or minimize the blow from the next eventual recession.

us balance sheets

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

If hard numbers are not good enough to convince you of investor skepticism, try taking a poll of your friends, family and/or co-workers at the office watercooler, cocktail party, or family gathering. Chances are a majority of the respondents will validate the current actions of investors, which scream nervousness and anxiety.

How does one reconcile the Armageddon headlines and ebullient stock prices? Long-time clients and followers of my blog know I sound like a broken record, but the factors underpinning the decade-long bull market bears repeating. What the stock market ultimately does care about are the level and direction of 1) corporate profits; 2) interest rates; 3) valuations; and 4) investor sentiment (see the Fool-Stool article). Sure, on any one day, stock prices may move up or down on any one prominent headline, but over the long run, the market cares very little about headlines. Our country and financial markets have survived handsomely through wars (military and trade), recessions, banking crises, currency crises, housing crises, geopolitical tensions, impeachments, assassinations, and even elections.

Case in point on a shorter period of time, Dr. Ed Yardeni, author of Dr. Ed’s Blog  created list of 65 U.S. Stock Market Panic Attacks from 2009 – 2019 (see below). What have stock prices done over this period? From a low of 666 in 2009, the S&P 500 stock index has more than quadrupled to 3,030!

panic attacks

For the majority of this decade-long, rising bull market, the previously mentioned stool factors have created a tailwind for stock price appreciation (i.e., interest rates have moved lower, profits have moved higher, valuations have remained reasonable, and investors have stayed persistently nervous…a contrarian positive indicator). Investors may remain scared silly for a while, but as long as the four stock factors on balance remain largely constructive stock prices should continue experiencing a sugar high.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (November 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

November 1, 2019 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

Missing the Financial Forest for the Political Trees

forest

In the never-ending, 24/7, polarizing political news cycle, headlines of Ukraine phone calls, China trade negotiations, impeachment hearings, presidential elections, Federal Reserve monetary policy, and other Washington based stories have traders and news junkies glued to their phones, Twitter feeds, news accounts, blog subscriptions, and Facebook stories. However, through the incessant, deafening noise, many investors are missing the overall financial forest as they get lost in the irrelevant D.C. details.

Meanwhile, as many investors fall prey to the mesmerizing, but inconsequential headlines, financial markets have not fallen asleep or gotten distracted. The S&P 500 stock market index rose another +1.7% last month, and for the year, the index has registered a +18.7% return. As we enter the volatile fourth quarter, many stock market participants remain shell-shocked from last year’s roughly -20% temporary collapse, even though the S&P 500 subsequently rallied +29% from the 2018 trough to the 2019 peak.

Why are many people missing the financial forest? A big key to the significant rally in 2019 stock prices can be attributed to two words…interest rates. Unlike last year’s fourth quarter, when the Federal Reserve was increasing interest rates (i.e., tapping the economic brakes), this year the Fed is cutting rates (i.e., hitting the economic accelerator). Interest rates are a key leg to Sidoxia’s financial four-legged stool (see Don’t Be a Fool, Follow the Stool). Interest rates are at or near generational lows, depending where on the geographic map you reside. For example, interest rates on 10-year German government bonds are -0.55%. Yes, it’s true. If you were to invest $10,000 in a negative yielding -0.55% German bond for 10-years starting in 2019, if you held the bond until maturity (2029), the investor would get back less than the original $10,000 invested. In other words, many bond investors are choosing to pay bond issuers for the privilege of giving the issuers money for the unpalatable right of receiving less money in the future.

The unprecedented negative-yielding bond market is reaching epic proportions, having eclipsed $17 trillion globally (see chart below). This gargantuan and growing dollar figure of negative-yielding bonds defies common sense and feels very reminiscent of the panic buying of technology stocks in the late 1990s.

negative yield crop

Source: Bloomberg

At Sidoxia Capital Management, we are implementing proprietary fixed income strategies to navigate this negative interest rate environment. However, the plummeting interest rates and skyrocketing bond prices only make our bond investing job tougher. On the other hand, declining rates, all else equal, also make my stock-picking job easier. Nevertheless, many market participants have gotten lost in the financial trees. More specifically, investors are losing sight of the key tenet that money goes where it is treated best (go where yields are highest and valuations lowest). With many bonds yielding low or negative interest rates, bond investors are being treated like criminals forced to serve jail time and pay large fines because future returns will become much tougher to accrue. In my Investing Caffeine blog, I have been writing about how the stock market’s earnings yield (current approximating +5.5%) and the S&P dividend yield of about +1.9% are handily outstripping the +1.7% yield on the 10-Year Treasury Note (see Going Shopping: Chicken vs. Beef ).

Unless our economy falls into a prolonged recession, interest rates spike substantially higher, or stock prices catapult appreciably, then any decline in stock prices will likely be temporary. Fortunately, the economy appears to be chugging along, albeit at a slower rate. For instance, 3rd quarter GDP (Gross Domestic Product) estimates are hovering around +2.0%.

Low Rates Aid Housing Market

Thanks to low interest rates, the housing markets remain strong. As you can see from the chart below, new home sales continue to ratchet higher over the last eight years, and lower mortgage rates are only helping this cause.

new home sales

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

The same tailwind of lower interest rates can be seen below with rising home prices.

house prices

Source: Calculated Risk

Consumer Flexes Muscles

At 3.7%, the unemployment rate remains low and the number of workers collecting unemployment is near multi-decade lows (see chart below).

weekly unemploy

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

It should come as no surprise that the more employed workers there are collecting paychecks, the more consumer confidence will rise (see chart below). As you can see, consumer confidence is near multi-decade record highs.

con con

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Although politics continue to dominate headlines and grab attention, many investors are missing the financial forest because the political noise is distracting the irrefutable, positive effect that low interest rates is contributing to the positive direction of the stock market and the economy. Do your best to not miss the forest – you don’t want your portfolio to suffer by you getting lost in the trees.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (October 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

 

 

October 1, 2019 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Chinese Checkers or Chess?

chess

There’s been a high stakes economic game of trade going on between the United States and China, but it’s unclear what actual game is being played or what the rules are? Is it Chinese checkers, chess, or some other game?

Currently, the rules of the U.S.-China trade war game are continually changing. Most recently, the U.S. has implemented 15% in added tariffs (on approximately $125 billion in Chinese consumer imports) on September 1st. The president and his administration appreciate the significance of trade negotiations, especially as it relates to his second term reelection campaign, which is beginning to swing into full gear. However, game enthusiasts also understand you can’t win or truly play a game, if you don’t know the rules? In that same vein, investors have been confused about the U.S.-China trade game as the president’s Twitter account has been blowing up with tariff threats and trade discussion updates. As a negotiating tactic, the current unpredictable trade talks spearheaded by the Trump administration have been keeping investors guessing whether there will be a successful deal payoff. Until then, market participants have been sitting on the sidelines watching the stock market volatility unfold, one tweet at a time.

Here’s what the president has planned for other tariffs:

  • October 1: Tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods rise to 30%.
  • November 17: Europe auto tariff deadline.
  • December 15: 15% tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods.

This uncertain game translated into all the major stock market averages vacillating to an eventual decline last month, with a price chart resembling a cardiogram. More specifically, after bouncing around wildly, the S&P 500 decreased -1.8% last month (see chart below), the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped -1.7%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell -2.6%.

sp aug

Politically, there is bipartisan support to establish new trade rules and there is acknowledgement that China has been cheating and breaking trade rules for decades. The consensus among most constituencies is especially clear as it relates to Chinese theft of our intellectual property, forced technology transfer, and barriers for U.S. companies to invest in China.

Beyond trade talks, China has been stirring the geopolitical pot through its involvement in the political instability occurring in Hong Kong, which is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. For over five months Hong Kong has had to deal with mass demonstration and clashes with police primarily over a proposed extradition bill that Hong Kong people fear would give mainland China control and jurisdiction over the region. Time will tell whether the protests will allow Hong Kong to remain relatively independent, or the Chinese Communist party will eventually lose patience and use an authoritarian response to the protesters.

Inverted Yield Curve: Fed No Longer Slamming Breaks in Front of Feared Recession

Another issue contributing to recent financial market volatility has been the so-called “inverted yield curve.” Typically, an economic recession has been caused by the Federal Reserve slamming the breaks on an overheated economy by raising short-term interest rates (Federal Funds target rate). Historically, as short-term rates rise and increase borrowing costs (i.e., slow down economic activity), long-term interest rates eventually fall amid expected weak economic activity. When declining long-term interest rates fall below short-term interest rates…voila, you have an inverted yield curve. Why is this scary? Ever since World War II, history has informed us that whenever this phenomenon has occurred, this dynamic has been a great predictor for a looming recession.

What’s different this time? Unlike the past, is it possible the next recession can be averted or delayed? One major difference is the explosion in negative interest rate yielding bonds now reaching $17 trillion.

neg bonds

Yes, you read that correctly, investors are lining up in droves for guaranteed losses – if these bonds are held until maturity. This widespread perception as a move to perceived safety has not protected the U.S. from the global rate anchor sinking our long-term interest rates. United States interest rates have not turned negative (yet?), but rates have fallen by more than half over the last 10 months from +3.24% to +1.51% on the 10-Year Treasury Note. Will this stimulate businesses to borrow and consumers to buy homes (i.e., through lower cost mortgages), or are these negative rates a sign of a massive global slowdown? The debate continues, but in the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of a 0%-interest rate loan to buy me an 85″ big screen television for my new home!

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (September 3, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

September 4, 2019 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

Central Bank Fires Insurance Bullet

firearm

Another month and another record high in the stock market. Why are stock prices climbing to new highs? One major contributing factor is the accommodative monetary policy implemented by our government’s central bank. For the first time in 12 years since the last financial crisis began (2007), the Federal Reserve recently cut interest rates by -0.25% to a new target range of 2.00% to 2.25% (see chart below).

fedfunds target

Source: New York Times

At the end of this period, with economic activity having expanded and millions of new jobs created, the Federal Reserve realized they needed to begin creating some ammunition to protect the economy for the next, eventual recession (even if the timing of the next recession remained unknown). A gun needs bullets, therefore beginning in late 2015, former Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, began manufacturing economic bullets with the first of nine interest rate hikes in December 2015.

If you fast forward to today, the economy objectively remains fairly strong and there are no clear signs of an impending recession. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear that he has decided to fire one of those stimulative bullets yesterday as a precautionary insurance measure against a potential U.S. recessionary slowdown (click here to read the rationale behind the Fed’s rate cut). Fed officials also added to investor enthusiasm when they declared they would end the runoff of their $3.8 trillion asset portfolio (i.e., “halt quantitative tightening”) two months earlier than previously planned.

Thanks in part to Powell’s protective rate cut measure and halt to quantitative tightening, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a new all-time monthly high of 26,864, up +1.0% for the month. Records were also set by the S&P 500 index, which increased by +1.3% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq market achieved a monthly advance of +2.1%.

Despite global slowdown fears and evidence of flattening corporate profits, the 2019 year-to-date stock returns realized thus far have been quite impressive:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average YTD%: +15.2%
  • S&P 500 YTD%: +18.9%
  • Nasdaq YTD%: +23.2%

In addition to the recent interest rate cut, investors have appreciated other positive fundamental factors enduring in the economy. For example, the job market remains incredibly strong and resilient with the current unemployment rate of 3.7% hovering near 50-year record lows.  This week’s recently released data from payroll processor ADP payroll also showed a healthy addition of 156,000 new private-sector jobs.

adp job growth

Source: MarketWatch

Another confirming source of data highlighting the strength of our economy has been Consumer Confidence (see chart below). Consumer activity accounts for roughly 70% of our country’s economy, therefore with confidence approaching 20-year highs, most investors can confidently sleep at night knowing we are likely not at the edge of a steep recession.

con con

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Rainbows and Unicorns

Although the economy appears to be on firm footing, and the Fed has been accommodative with its monetary policy, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. In fact, recently released data from a Chicago-based manufacturing purchasing manager’s survey showed a reading of 44.4, a level indicating a contraction in economic activity (the lowest level seen since December 2015).

business baro

Source: MNI Market News

The ongoing U.S. – China trade spat has also contributed to slowing global activity, even here in our country. U.S. trade representatives (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and top trade negotiator Robert E. Lighthizer) once again recently returned empty handed from China after another round of discussions. But there have been some positive developments. In return for tariff reductions, China has shown indications it’s willing to purchase large amounts of U.S. agricultural products (e.g., soybeans and other products) and seriously address concerns about the protection of U.S. intellectual property. Discussions are expected to resume on our soil in early September.

Despite all investors’ concerns and fears, the U.S. stock market has continued to climb to new record territories. Economic data may continue to unfold in a “mixed” fashion in coming weeks and months, but investors may gain some comfort knowing that Fed Chair Jerome Powell has a gun with protective interest rate cut bullets that can be fired at potential recessionary threats attacking our economy.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (August 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

August 1, 2019 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

Gravity Felt After Strong Surge

fruit

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (June 3, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

Legend has it that the esteemed mathematician and physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, was hit on the head by an apple in 1667 while relaxing under an orchard tree in England. The story goes onto claim this led to an epiphany that prompted Newton to suddenly come up with his law of gravity. Well, the stock market experienced a similar “aha moment” last month. After a steep rise of +17.5% during the first four months of the year, gravity took effect and caused the S&P 500 stock index to pull back -6.6% in May. The Dow Jones Industrial Average didn’t fare any better…the index fell 1,777 points or -6.7% for the month to 24,815. The bond market, as measured by the iShares Core Aggregate ETF (ticker: AGG), bucked the negative short-term stock trend by rising +1.7% for the month, thereby bringing 2019 gains to approximately +3.7%.

What caused this painful stock bump on the noggin? Deterioration in trade negotiations with China and a new set of trade tariffs proposed against Mexico in hopes of mitigating illegal immigration problems on our country’s southern border are two main culprits of the downdraft. Fears of a global economic slowdown have also filtered into the bond market causing an ominous phenomenon called an “inverted yield curve,” which historically been a fairly reliable leading indicator of recessions (I wrote about this a decade ago).

All the nervousness relating to stock markets has spilled over into “nutty” bond market buying. If you were worried about a potential bubble forming in stock prices, those concerns would probably be better served by focusing on the more than $10 trillion dollars (with a “T”) in bonds offering a negative interest rate (see chart below).

negative yield

Source: Bloomberg

That’s right. Bond prices are so high currently, investors are paying financial institutions to babysit their money. In other words, not only are investors not receiving any income, they are paying the financial institutions for the money they are giving/lending. An example of this insanity can be found in the largest European powerhouse country. The yield on the 10-year German bund is now at a record low of negative -0.205%, meaning after 10 years an initial $1,000 investment would be worth less than $980. You would be better off preserving the value of your initial investment by stuffing it under your mattress and then waiting 10 years.

Not All Doom and Gloom

If you turned on the television, you might think Armageddon is upon us. However, that is not the case. Despite the recent setback, the S&P 500 index remains up +9.8% for 2019, excluding a current dividend yield of about +1.9%. What’s more, the economy posted better-than-expected economic activity in the first quarter (+3.1% Gross Domestic Product growth). Even though second quarter growth is currently expected to moderate to +1.3% to +1.8%, as you can see from the charts below, the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low (3.6%) and Consumer Confidence is hovering near 20-year highs.

unemp

Source: CNBC

consumer con

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit
The employment picture looks even more compelling once you consider the unprecedented two decade dynamic that has resulted in the existence of more job openings than the number of persons looking for work (see chart below).

job openings

Although the upward trajectory of stock returns for the first four months of the year may have defied the laws of physics, last month investors witnessed Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity take hold. There are no guarantees in the short-run more apples will stop flying around the stock market, but over the last 10 years, long-term investors have been handsomely rewarded by viewing these types of corrections as great purchase opportunities.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

June 13, 2019 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

Glass Half Empty Becomes Record Glass Half Full

Oh my! What a difference a few months makes. Originally, what looked like an economic glass half empty in December has turned into a new record glass half full. What looked like Armageddon in December has turned into a v-shaped bed of roses to new all-time record stock market highs for the S&P 500 index (see chart below). For the recent month, the S&P 500 climbed another +3.9% to 2,945, bringing total 2019 gains to an impressive +17.5% advance. Before you get too excited, it’s worth noting stocks were down in value during 2018. When you combine 2018-2019, appreciation over the last 16 months equates to a more modest +10.2% expansion. Worth noting, since the end of 2017, profits have climbed by more than +20%, which means stocks are cheaper today as measured by Price-Earnings ratios (P/E) than two years ago (despite the historic, record levels). For any confused investors, we can revisit this topic for discussion in a future writing.

Source: Trading Economics

From Famine to Feast

As I noted in my “December to Remember” article, there were no shortage of concerns ranging from impeachment to Brexit. How do those concerns look now? Let’s take a look:

Government Shutdown: The longest government shutdown in history (35 days) ended on January 25, 2019 with minimal broad-based economic damage.

Global Trade (China): Rhetoric coming from President Trump and his administration regarding a trade deal resolution with China has been rather optimistic. In fact, a CNBC survey shows 77% of respondents believe that the U.S. and China will complete a trade deal.

Federal Reserve Interest Rate Policy: After consistently increasing interest rates nine times since the end of 2015 until late 2018, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled he was effectively taking monetary policy off rate-hiking “autopilot” and would in turn become “patient” as it relates to increasing future interest rates. Interestingly, traders are now forecasting a 70% chance of a rate cut before January 29, 2020.

Mueller Investigation: Special counsel Robert Mueller released his widely anticipated report that investigated Russian collusion and obstruction allegations by the president and his administration. In Mueller’s 22-month report he could “not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” As it relates to obstruction, Mueller effectively stated the president attempted to obstruct justice but was not successful in achieving that goal. Regardless of your political views, uncertainty surrounding this issue has been mitigated.

New Balance of Power in Congress: Democrats took Congressional control of the House of Representatives and reintroduced gridlock. But followers of mine understand gridlock is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brexit Deal Uncertainty: After years of negotiations for Britain to exit the European Union (EU), the impending Brexit deadline of March 29th came and went. EU an UK leaders have now agreed to  extend the deadline to October 31st, thereby delaying any potential negative impact from a hard UK exit from the EU.

Recession Fears: Fears of a fourth quarter global slowdown that would bleed to a recession on U.S. soil appear to have been laid to bed. The recently reported first quarter economic growth (Gross Domestic Product – GDP) figures came in at a healthy+3.2% annualized growth rate, up from fourth quarter growth of +2.2%, and above consensus forecasts of 2.0%.

Curve Concern

The other debate swirling around the investment community this month was the terrifying but wonky “inverted yield curve.” What is an inverted yield curve? This is a financial phenomenon, when interest rate yields on long-term bonds are lower than interest rate yields on short-term bonds. Essentially when these dynamics are in place, bond investors are predicting slower economic activity in the future (i.e., recession). The lower future rates effectively act as a way to stimulate prospective growth amid expected weak economic activity. Furthermore, lower future rates are a symptom of stronger demand for longer-term bonds. It’s counterintuitive for some, but higher long-term bond prices result in lower long-term bond interest rate yields. If this doesn’t make sense,  please read this. Why is all this inverted yield curve stuff important? From World War II, history has informed us that whenever this phenomenon has occurred, it has been a great predictor for a looming recession.

As you can see from the chart below, whenever the yield curve (red line) inverts (goes below zero), you can see that a recession (gray vertical bar) occurs shortly thereafter. In other words, an inverted yield curve historically has been a great way to predict recessions, which normally is almost an impossible endeavor – even for economists, strategists, and investment professionals.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Although the curve inverted recently (red line below 0), you can see from the chart, historically recessions (gray vertical bars) have occurred only when inflation-adjusted interest rates (blue line) have climbed above 2%. Well, the data clearly shows inflation-adjusted interest rates are still well below 1%, therefore an impending recession may not occur too soon. Time will tell if these historical relationships will hold, but rest assured this is a dynamic I will be following closely.

It has been a crazy 6-9 months in the stock market with price swings moving 20% in both directions (+/-), but it has become increasingly clear that a multitude of 2018 fears causing the glass to appear half empty have now abated. So long as economic growth continues at a healthy clip, corporate profits expand to (remain at) record levels, and the previously mentioned concerns don’t spiral out of control, then investors can credibly justify these record levels…as they peer into a glass half full.

Investment Questions Border

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (May 1, 2019). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing 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.

May 2, 2019 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

Are Stocks Cheap or Expensive? Weekly Rant and the Week in Review 4-7-19

The Weekly Grind podcast is designed to wake up your investment brain with a weekly overview of financial markets and other economic-related topics.

Episode 7

Weekly Market Review and This Week’s Rant: Are Stocks Cheap or Expensive?

Don’t miss out! Follow us on iTunesSpotify, SoundCloud or PodBean to get a new episode each week. Or follow our InvestingCaffeine.com blog and watch for new podcast updates each week.

SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/sidoxia

 

PodBean: sidoxia.podbean.com

 

Spotify: open.spotify.com

April 8, 2019 at 1:22 am Leave a comment

Older Posts


Receive Investing Caffeine blog posts by email.

Join 1,807 other followers

Meet Wade Slome, CFA, CFP®

More on Sidoxia Services

Recognition

Top Financial Advisor Blogs And Bloggers – Rankings From Nerd’s Eye View | Kitces.com

Wade on Twitter…

Share this blog

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to Blog RSS

Monthly Archives