14 Mar 2022

The High Cost of Hedging

When markets are falling, clients often ask about whether certain ‘risk mitigation’ strategies make sense. Mitigation isn’t a word you use every day unless you’re a lawyer or in the insurance industry, but the meaning is simple: it is an action that reduces the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. Usually, when someone talks about it from an investment standpoint, they usually mean some kind of complicated hedging strategy. Over… Read More

28 Feb 2022

The Market Response to Russian Invasion of Ukraine

It feels callous to discuss the market impact of the Russian invasion, amid the human tragedy of people fleeing their home country in the first land war in Europe since WWII. But this is a market newsletter, and the invasion, like previous geopolitical shocks, is having a material impact on markets. Perhaps the first thing to recognize about the Russian invasion is that it didn’t happen in isolation, meaning that… Read More

22 Feb 2022

Another Bond Market View of the Economy

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting and someone said, “why talk so much about the bond market? Who cares?” Of course, we care about the bond market because 30 percent of the money that we invest is in bonds, so we are bound to keep track of it. And, as former bond traders, it feels natural. I understood the question, though, because the stock market is where… Read More

7 Feb 2022

The S&P 500: An Increasingly Concentrated Bet

Over the weekend, I was looking at some research from JP Morgan that showed the percentage weight of the top ten stocks in the S&P 500 over time, and I admit that I was surprised. When we started Acropolis, 20-years ago in August, the top ten stocks made up about 24 percent of the index. I thought that was pretty high back then and was one of the reasons that… Read More

31 Jan 2022

Market Froth Turning Flat

Markets have been testing the Fed ever since Chair Powell indicated that rates are headed higher and their balance sheet will start shrinking. There’s nothing new about this. In the 1980s, then-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan responded to the stock market crash with monetary policy. Ever since then, markets have believed, with increasing strength, that the Fed would bail out the market. In fact, the phenomenon was given a name: the… Read More

24 Jan 2022

Big Bets Prove Costly

The stock market is suffering a setback, mostly due to the change in tone from the Federal Reserve. That isn’t the whole story, in my opinion, however, because I don’t think it fully explains why the worst returns have been in the hottest part of the market, as I outlined last week. Although I don’t have any particular evidence, I think that the selloff is related to deleveraging by hyper-aggressive… Read More

3 Jan 2022

The S&P 500 Doubled in Three Years. Now What?

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat again what Carly Simon sang in her 1971 hit Anticipation: “These are the good old days.” WE now have 96-years of high-quality market data, and a quick look at the numbers showed a few interesting things: The nominal change in the S&P 500 was in the 92nd percentile of all rolling three-year returns. Inflation annualized at 3.6 percent during that time,… Read More

20 Dec 2021

Alternatives are Tough

I wrote a lot about inflation in 2021 for pretty obvious reasons. I also wrote that bonds are difficult investments to own right now because the expected inflation rate over the coming decade is more than the current interest rates. After receiving a lot of inquiries about bond alternatives like REITs, utilities, and the like, I wrote an article shooting down those too. This article is a variant on that… Read More

29 Nov 2021

Omicron Variant Strikes Markets

Friday was yet another reminder of how quickly things can change in life and in markets. The Omicron news is concerning, so it’s natural for markets to react sharply as investors take in new information. Stock markets were down sharply on Friday with the Dow down 2.5% and the S&P 500 down 2.3%. The price of a barrel of oil also fell more than 10% on the day. It’s also… Read More

11 Oct 2021

Before You Invest in Alternatives

Over the past few years, one of the more popular categories of mutual funds has been so-called ‘alternative’ funds. Alternative investments, broadly defined, are strategies that seek returns that are uncorrelated from traditional investments like stocks and bonds. While alternative investments were once largely confined to private partnerships, they are now popular in mutual funds, or what the industry refers to as ’40 Act Funds. Following the 2008 financial crisis, alternative mutual funds… Read More