28 Apr 2020

Financial Conditions Easing

A few weeks ago, I wrote that even though stock prices were still volatile, the stress in the market was settling down; I called it ‘stabilizing, but turbulent.’ Financial journalists often write about the ‘market plumbing,’ and it occurred to me that plumbing is a good analogy for the difference between stress and turbulence.  Volatility is like being in a nice hot shower and it turns ice cold. Obviously, something’s… Read More

24 Apr 2020

Chance of Recession: 100 Percent

Last year, the researchers at Bloomberg developed an index that assigned the probability of a recession to the US economy (and others around the world) based on a variety of economic data. I find the index interesting because, unlike a lot of other signals that attempt to do the same thing, this one seems to predict the recession before the recession actually hits. That’s the good news.  The bad news,… Read More

22 Apr 2020

Dodging Commodities

One of the best decisions that our Investment Committee made was back in 2008 when we decided not to add commodities to the portfolio. It’s hard to believe now, but there was a lot of pressure back then to add it because stocks were down and commodities were doing well. If you look at the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2008 just before the worst part of the storm,… Read More

13 Apr 2020

Coronavirus & Earnings Season

Earnings season kicks off this week, and although we’ve seen a few economic data releases, earnings announcements will offer a lot of information about how the coronavirus is impacting companies. Right now, according to FactSet, earnings are expected to be lower by 10 percent compared to the first quarter last year.  If that’s the case, it will be the largest year-over-year decline since the third quarter of 2009, when the… Read More

6 Apr 2020

Markets Stabilizing, but Still Turbulent

There is no question that we haven’t even started to see the economic impact of the coronavirus, since all of the data that we get is in arrears. For example, last week we got two important pieces of data about unemployment that told different stories.  The good news is that the unemployment rate in march was 4.4 percent, which is an increase from the previous month, but not bad. However,… Read More

30 Mar 2020

A Breath of Fresh Air

Stocks rallied in response to the fiscal and monetary policy response from the government. On the monetary side, the Federal Reserve announced that they would provide ‘unlimited’ quantitative easing (QE), and announced new facilities to support credit markets. The Fed had recently committed to buying $500 billion in Treasury bonds and $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities, and said that it would continue in the amounts needed to support smooth market… Read More

9 Mar 2020

Markets Testing Your Mettle

As I noted here last week, despite the market turmoil, it is important to remember that we planned for this.  We have prolonged periods of market stress built into our financial plans. It’s also moments like this when we can see whether we’ve accurately assessed your risk tolerance.  Every client has an Investment Policy Statement (IPS) that estimates how much an allocation could lose over certain periods. Importantly, we don’t include… Read More

2 Mar 2020

We Planned for This

The selloff was mostly driven by concerns about the spread of the coronavirus outside of China.  Although the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it was not yet a pandemic, it increased its risk assessment from ‘high’ to ‘very high.’ Although the bond market received less media attention, the results were equally dramatic.  For reference, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury on January 31st was 1.51 percent.  On Friday,… Read More

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

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