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

15 Oct 2018

Interest Rates and Equities: A Selloff Explained

Somewhat like Hurricane Michael, the stock market selloff last week seemed to come out of nowhere quickly, and it hit hard. The question on everyone’s mind is what caused the sharp move?  In truth, nobody really knows the answer, but that also means that my guess can’t be wrong. There are several broad themes that could explain the selloff, including further weakening of US relations with China expressed in the… Read More

27 Aug 2018

Just How Rich Are You?

According to a Gallup poll last year, almost two-thirds of Americans identify themselves as middle class.  Despite identifying as such, most Americans can’t define ‘middle class,’ which isn’t too surprising because the definition varies so broadly. I found a nice calculator on The Washington Post’s website that allows you to type in your income and your location to find out where you stand. Before going any further, I should note that I… Read More

20 Aug 2018

Performance Like You’ve Never Seen

When I graduated from college and started working for Mark Twain Bank’s brokerage unit, there was an older gentleman who occupied one of the offices in the branch.  I’m not sure he was actually employed by the bank at that point, but I was told that he had been an important executive at one time. He came in around nine, read the newspaper (we all did in those days), made… Read More

13 Aug 2018

Turkey: Contained or Contagion?

Market risks often come from the most unexpected places. Last week, a possible economic meltdown in Turkey rattled global markets. I wouldn’t have guessed that as recently as a week ago, and while I still think that Turkey won’t affect US markets too much more than they did Friday, I also wouldn’t have thought that problems in Greece would have created an existential crisis for the euro. I am not… Read More

16 Jul 2018

What’s Your China Exposure Amid the Trade Skirmish?

One of the interesting things about the current trade skirmish (I’m not willing to call it a war yet), is that we are fighting on multiple fronts. Even though we have tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, we all know that the primary combatant in this altercation is China. Even more interesting, perhaps, is that we have more exposure to China than ever before,… Read More

9 Jul 2018

Bond Yields: Still Crazy After All These Years

To my surprise, it’s been more than three years since I wrote about negative yields on bonds throughout the world.  In my article, which can be found here, I wrote that bond yields could go a lot lower than I ever thought since I thought that they were ‘zero-bound.’ A year later, I returned to the topic when the yield on 50-year Swiss bonds had a negative yield.  The article… Read More

21 May 2018

Why Aren’t Stocks Higher?

At this point, 93 percent of S&P 500 stocks have announced their first quarter results, which means that earnings season is almost over.  The expectations for earnings were relatively high at the beginning of the season, as Wall Street analysts expected that earning would grow by 11.3 percent. In fact, it was a blow out earnings season, with FactSet reporting that the blended average earnings grown at 24.5 percent –… Read More

7 May 2018

Unemployment at 20-Year Lows; Time to Buy?

Market participants and the news media alike are focused on round numbers, whether it’s the hopefully forthcoming Dow 25,000 or the 10-year Treasury crossing three percent last week. Amidst all of the news last week, one round number caught my eye: the unemployment rate crossing below four percent for the first time in nearly 20 years. The chart above shows the unemployment rate, or, more officially U3, for the past… Read More

9 Apr 2018

Tariffs, Profits and Global Growth

Concerns about a trade war flared back up again last week.  The US released a list of proposed tariffs on some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.  The 25 percent levies reach broadly, including medicine, aviation, semiconductors and consumer goods like dishwashers, snow plows and motorcycles. Beijing was quick to respond with reciprocal tariffs, announcing $50 billion on 106 products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft.  Some analysts pointed out… Read More