Posts tagged ‘holidays’

Bargain Hunting for Doorbuster Discounts

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (December 1, 2015). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

It’s that time of year again when an estimated 135 million bargain shoppers set aside personal dignity and topple innocent children in the name of Black Friday holiday weekend, doorbuster discounts. Whether you are buying a new big screen television at Amazon for half-off or a new low-cost index fund, everyone appreciates a good value or bargain, which amplifies the importance of the price you pay. Even though consumers are estimated to have spent $83 billion over the post-turkey-coma, holiday weekend, this spending splurge only represents a fraction of the total 2015 holiday shopping season frenzy. When all is said and done, the average person is projected to dole out $805 for the full holiday shopping season (see chart below) – just slightly higher than the $802 spent over the same period last year.

While consumers have displayed guarded optimism in their spending plans, Americans have demonstrated the same cautiousness in their investing behavior, as evidenced by the muted 2015 stock market gains. More specifically, for the month of November, stock prices increased by +0.32% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (17,720) and +0.05% for the S&P 500 index (2,080). For the first 11 months of the year, the stock market results do not look much different. The Dow has barely slipped by -0.58% and the S&P 500 has inched up by +1.01%.

Given all the negative headlines and geopolitical concerns swirling around, how have stock prices managed to stay afloat? In the face of significant uncertainty, here are some of the calming factors that have supported the U.S. financial markets:

  • Jobs Piling Up: The slowly-but-surely expanding economy has created about 13 million new jobs since late 2009 and the unemployment rate has been chopped in half (from a peak of 10% to 5%).

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

  • Housing Recovery: New and existing home sales are recovering and home prices are approaching previous record levels, as the Case-Shiller price indices indicate below.

Source: Calculated Risk Blog

  • Strong Consumer: Cars are flying off the shelves at a record annualized pace of 18 million units – a level not seen since 2000. Lower oil and gasoline prices have freed up cash for consumers to pay down debt and load up on durable goods, like some fresh new wheels.

Source: Calculated Risk Blog

Despite a number of positive factors supporting stock prices near all-time record highs and providing plenty of attractive opportunities, there are plenty of risks to consider. If you watch the alarming nightly news stories on TV or read the scary newspaper headlines, you’re more likely to think it’s Halloween season rather than Christmas season.

At the center of the recent angst are the recent coordinated terrorist attacks that took place in Paris, killing some 130 people. With ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claiming responsibility for the horrific acts, political and military resources have been concentrated on the ISIS occupied territories of Syria and Iraq. Although I do not want to diminish the effects of the appalling and destructive attacks in Paris, the events should be placed in proper context. This is not the first or last large terrorist attack – terrorism is here to stay. As I show in the chart below, there have been more than 200 terrorist attacks that have killed more than 10 people since the 9/11 attacks. Much of the Western military power has turned a blind eye towards these post-9/11 attacks because many of them have taken place off of U.S. or Western country soil. With the recent downing of the Russian airliner (killing all 224 passengers), coupled with the Paris terror attacks, ISIS has gained the full military attention of the French, Americans, and Russians. As a result, political willpower is gaining momentum to heighten military involvement.

Source: Wikipedia

Investor anxiety isn’t solely focused outside our borders. The never ending saga of when the Federal Reserve will initiate its first Federal Funds interest rate target increase could finally be coming to an end. According to the CME futures market, there currently is a 78% probability of a 0.25% interest rate increase on December 16th. As I have said many times before, interest rates are currently near generational lows, and the widely communicated position of Federal Reserve Chairwoman Yellen (i.e., shallow slope of future interest rate hike trajectory) means much of the initial rate increase pain has likely been anticipated already by market participants. After all, a shift in your credit card interest rate from 19.00% to 19.25% or an adjustment to your mortgage rate from 3.90% to 4.15% is unlikely to have a major effect on consumer spending. In fact, the initial rate hike may be considered a vote of confidence by Yellen to the sustainability of the current economic expansion.

Shopping Without My Rose Colored Glasses

Regardless of the state of the economic environment, proper investing should be instituted through an unemotional decision-making process, just as going shopping should be an unemotional endeavor. Price and value should be the key criteria used when buying a specific investment or holiday gift. Unfortunately for many, emotions such as greed, fear, impatience, and instant gratification overwhelm objective measurements such as price and value.

As I have noted on many occasions, over the long-run, money unemotionally moves to where it is treated best. From a long-term perspective, that has meant more capital has migrated to democratic and capitalistic countries with a strong rule of law. Closed, autocratic societies operating under corrupt regimes have been the big economic losers.

With all of that set aside, the last six years have created tremendous investment opportunities due to the extreme investor risk aversion created by the financial crisis – hence the more than tripling in U.S. stock prices since March 2009.

When comparing the yield (i.e., profit earned on an investment) between stocks and bonds, as shown in the chart below, you can see that stock investors are being treated significantly better than bond investors (6.1% vs. 4.0%). Not only are bond investors receiving a lower yield than stock investors, but bond investors also have no hope of achieving higher payouts in the future. Stocks, on the other hand, earn the opportunity of a  double positive whammy. Not only are stocks currently receiving a higher yield, but stockholders could achieve a significantly higher yield in the future. For example, if S&P 500 earnings can grow at their historic rate of about 7%, then the current stock earnings yield of 6.1% would about double to 12.0% over the next decade at current prices. The inflated price and relative attractiveness of stocks looks that much better if you compare the 6.1% earnings yield to the paltry 2.2% 10-Year Treasury yield.

Source: Yardeni.com

This analysis doesn’t mean everyone should pile 100% of their portfolios into stocks, but it does show how expensively nervous investors are valuing bonds. Time horizon, risk tolerance, and diversification should always be pillars to a disciplined, systematic investment strategy, but as long as these disparities remain between the earnings yields on stocks and bonds, long-term investors should be able to shop for plenty of doorbuster discount bargain 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 in AMZN 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 1, 2015 at 1:06 pm 1 comment

Top 10 (or so) Things I’m Thankful For

With the holidays now upon us, this period provides me the opportunity to briefly escape the daily investment rat race, and reflect on the numerous aspects of my life for which I am grateful. There is so much to be thankful for, but it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, especially when time is flying by in the blink of an eye. As the old saying goes, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” The proliferation of gray hair, coupled with my sprouting kids, is a constant reminder that life is not slowing down for me, but actually speeding up.

As I lay here like a slug on the couch, which is slowly absorbing me, I take no shame in unbuttoning my top pant button to relieve the belly-busting pressure of excessive turkey and mash potato consumption. The cranberry sauce on my chin and pumpkin pie crust on my shirt does not distract me from the football game or prevent me from reflecting upon my life’s gifts.

In that vein, here is a list of my top 10 things for which I am grateful:   

10. Sugar: Without sweets, being relegated to a life of bread, water, and broccoli would be a boring challenge. Thankfully, once I became a grown adult earning a paycheck, I also earned the right to eat Cap’n Crunch (with Crunch Berries) for breakfast; peanut butter-Nutella & banana sandwich for lunch; apple fritter & milk for dinner; and some Double Stuf Oreos for dessert (yes, only one ‘f’ in Stuf!).

9. College Sports: Watching professional sports is fun, but when A-Rod earns $275 million for the NY Yankees and rides the pine during the playoffs, the business aspects take a little allure away from the sport. Although college athletes may sneak a few bucks under the table, they are nonetheless a lot less corrupted, and the electric atmosphere of a live college event cannot be replicated. The opportunities are fewer due to adult responsibilities, but nothing beats a crisp fall afternoon on the couch with a bowl of hot chili, a frosty beverage, and a remote control, while flipping through a series of college football games.

8. Gadgets: Seems like yesterday when I was introduced to my first computer, a 1983 Compaq Portable computer that weighed 28 pounds; had a 9 inch green screen; integrated two 320k drives;  and retailed originally for about $3,500….ouch! Today, my iPhone 5 is more than 99% lighter, stores 100,000 times more information, and costs a fraction of the price. If you add my iPad, Kindle, Roku video streaming box, my DVR set-top box, my GPS, and other electronic gadgets, it’s hard to imagine how I could have lived a life without these luxuries five years ago.

7. Cards: I analyze numbers, probabilities, and emotions in my day job every day, it’s no wonder that I somehow need to do the same thing in my leisure time. No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em is the name of the game, and I was introduced to it by world champion “poker brat” Phil Helmuth when he personally taught a group of us at an investment conference in 2003. I haven’t entered the $10,000 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas yet, but it’s on my bucket list.

6. Challenges: I’m a washed up basketball hack after an insignificant high school career and about 12 years of old-man basketball leagues, but my competitive juices keep flowing today. In hopes of not turning to a fully gelatinous blob, I have periodically pushed myself to some competitive athletic challenges, including a hike to the peak of Mt. Whitney; a couple half marathons; a sprint triathlon; a Colorado bike trip; and a few seasons of indoor co-ed soccer. Next up, I’m training for a “century” bike ride – a 100 mile race in early 2013 near Santa Barbara. I guess I better work off some of that stuffing, mash potatoes, and gravy.

5. Good Books: I pretty much read for a living on average 8-12 hours per day, but I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment. Given all my other interests and responsibilities, it’s tough to find the free time to curl up to a good book, but if I can squeeze in a book every quarter, I give myself a pat on the back. Nothing beats true, real-life experiences, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount through all the books I’ve read (for leisure and schooling). Regrettably diversity has gotten the short end of the stick, since about half the books I read are investment related, including a few that I’ve reviewed here on my blog like The Big ShortToo Big to Fail, The Greatest Trade Ever, and Winning the Loser’s Game (to name a few).  Currently, I’m reading a fascinating New York Times Bestseller on world religions, called Religious Literacy, which leads me to my next Top 10 item…

4. Spirituality: While I am probably a lot more apathetic and ignorant in the area of religion as compared to the average person, nevertheless I have learned to appreciate the importance and benefits of religion and spirituality through my life experiences. From Judaism to Islam, and Buddhism to Christianity, there is no denying the moral lessons and spiritual balance these religions provide billions of people around the globe. I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey, but I’m slowly learning and progressing. On days where the Dow plummets a few hundred points or when the share price of a top holding tanks, I’m quickly reminded of the importance of spiritual balance.

3. Travel: While many people have hardly ventured from their hometown during their lifetime, I have been blessed with the fortune of seeing many places around the world. Not only have I lived on the East Coast, West Coast, and in the Midwest, but I have also traveled to five different continents. Appreciating different cultures and viewpoints is what truly makes life more interesting for me.

2. Friends: The digital age has not only brought friends closer together through social networks like Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LNKD), but has also pushed us further apart because vicariously spying on someone online is much easier than calling someone or grabbing coffee with them. Thankfully, I have a core set of friends that I can share my life’s ups and downs.

1a. Investing: Enough said. I’ve been investing for close to 20 years, and this blog is evidence of the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve dedicated to this endeavor. Various investments will go in and out of favor, and economic cycles will go up and down, but one trend that I know will persist is that I will be investing for the rest of my life.

1b. Health: It goes without saying, but if I don’t have my own good health, then very little on my top 10 list is possible. I’ve outlived two close family members of mine, so needless to say, I am very thankful to be breathing and living.

1c. Family: Having all these great experiences, including al the highs and lows, means absolutely nothing, if you have nobody to share them with. My family means the world to me, and days like Thanksgiving remind me of how lucky I really am.

Although this list was originally scheduled for 10 items, it looks like it has unintentionally expanded to a few more. But how can you blame me? I’ve had some tough times like everyone, but it is virtually impossible to not be thankful for the life I get to live now. Not only do I get to do what I love, but I also get paid to do it.

Last but not least, a special thanks needs to also go out to you, my devoted blog reader. I know you’re devoted, because you have made it to the end of this lengthy article. Without you, I wouldn’t have the motivation to continually scribble down my random thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy holidays!

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold long positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), AMZN, and AAPL, and a short position in NFLX. At the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in LNKD, FB, HPQ or any 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 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment


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