18 Mar 2019

Risk & Volatility

Using the words ‘risk’ and ‘volatility’ interchangeably is one of the bad habits of many financial professionals, myself included.  When pressed, we know better, but we make this mistake all of the time nonetheless. Merriam-Webster has four definitions of risk as a noun, two of which are applicable here: ‘the possibility of loss or injury,’ and ‘the chance that an investment (such as a stock or commodity) will lose value.’ Volatility, according to Merriam-Webster,… Read More

11 Mar 2019

Calling Dr. Draghi, Dr. Mario Draghi

Investors have been hyper-focused on every word that comes out of every Federal Reserve official since October, but when the European Central Bank (ECB) made a major policy reversal last week, the markets yawned. Ten years ago, Warren Buffett described the 2008 financial crisis as akin to a heart attack.  The Fed, acting as a physician, prescribed zero interest rates and when that wasn’t enough, they tried an experimental strategy known as quantitative… Read More

4 Mar 2019

Stretching Your Dollars, Here and Abroad

Many years ago, I somehow discovered a newsletter called International Living that showed how you could retire overseas and live well without a ton of money. The basic idea was that your Social Security check would go a lot further in Prague than in Philadelphia. The magazine (and now website www.internationalliving.com) always featured beautiful photographs of unspoiled beaches in Costa Rica, wandering streets of old Italian villages and had the feeling of a travel brochure… Read More

25 Feb 2019

When Warren Buffett Speaks, I Listen

Every year, the investors and the financial media eagerly await Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, and this year was no exception. I didn’t start reading them until four or five years ago, although I once read book that reorganized his letters by topic rather than chronology.  Each year, I like to think that I’ll go back and read his letters, which can be found here, on Berkshire’s hilariously antiquated website – but I… Read More

11 Feb 2019

Why Bother with International Stocks?

According to data from Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), the value of the US stock market at year-end was worth $28.1 trillion – about 55 percent of the market value for all of the world’s stocks, which totals $51.2 trillion. Developed international stocks are worth $17.4 trillion in aggregate (34.0 percent), and emerging markets stocks are worth $5.7 trillion (11.0 percent). In theory, passive investors should allocate their portfolio accordingly. In… Read More

28 Jan 2019

Lessons From the Shutdown

The big news on Friday was an agreement between The White House and Congressional leaders to reopen the government until mid-February to allow border negotiations to continue. Whatever you feel about President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, the shut-down, ‘The Wall,’ or any other hot-button that’s sure to upset someone, there is a salient, non-partisan lesson that’s worth noting: the importance of either maintaining an emergency fund or sufficient liquidity. Although financial… Read More

14 Jan 2019

Is the Market Rigged?

When I was in college, I read Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis.  It’s the true story of Lewis’ job out of college on the trading floor at Soloman Brothers, the most powerful bond trading firm in the world at that time. Many of the characters like John Meriwether, Lewis Reneri, and John Thain are still staples of the financial media, but no one became more famous than Lewis himself. He’s… Read More

7 Jan 2019

Mr. Market Evaluates Macro Data

The market rebounded firmly from yesterday’s slide, with several macro developments in focus. The market was positive on comments from Fed Chair Powell that the Fed will be ‘patient’ as the economy evolves, and that it is listening to the market’s concerns (Powell put anyone?). Participating in a joint interview with former Fed chairs Yellen and Bernanke at the American Economic Association conference in New York, Fed Chair Powell said… Read More

24 Dec 2018

Ba Humbug!

Let’s talk about the week that was, as the S&P 500 fell -7.03 percent, on top of the losses of 5.71 percent over the previous two weeks.  All told, the loss for the S&P 500 is now -17.54 percent from the all-time high set on September 20th. Although I don’t follow the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closely, I know that many of you do, in part because that’s what’s… Read More

17 Dec 2018

What’s Driving the Market Lower?

Stocks are suffering for two basic reasons: slowing global growth and tightening central bank policy.  While both of these rationales are true, they’re also very generic. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to look at the big sectors driving the market performance and try to describe what’s happening in each one for a little more granularity. There are 11 sectors, and I won’t be discussing all of them, because… Read More