What stock market volatility?!?


Dear Mr. Market:

How crazy has this market been? As always the stock market has been very volatile, right?

Not even close…. The stock market is essentially in a coma right now and you need to ignore whatever news source or preconceived notions that tell you otherwise. The irony is that some of the “smart money” could not have got the volatility prediction more wrong.

In January of this year Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, predicted dramatic swings in many areas of the market. He summarized this sentiment by saying, “I don’t see this volatility going away anytime soon.” We’re not out to point fingers but it’s blanket statements and unaccountable predictions like this that paralyze people or simply clutter their investment strategies and overall mindsets.

We’re actually in an extremely low level of volatility. It’s been eight weeks since we’ve seen a move of at least 1% or more in the S&P 500 and that hasn’t happened in 21 years! We also just wrapped up the first half of 2015 and there wasn’t a gain or loss of 2% which marks the first time that has happened since 2005. (Click here to see 2015 volatility relative to recent years)

As the stock market inches higher it all comes without a healthy and much needed correction. As of this writing we haven’t had a correction (-10%) for 1,359 days! You can look to our previous articles on how often corrections and pullbacks should be occurring to put this flat environment into perspective.

As an investor you actually should be doing what we would call a “volatility rain dance”. Bring it on! You want volatility. If your long-term belief is that the economy will improve and inflation seems to remain very much in check, you want a pullback in the market in order to put some money to work. Cash sitting in a bank earning “zero point zilch” needs to work harder and smarter but without a material pullback in the market it makes it somewhat uninviting to deploy cash.

Low volatility doesn’t necessarily equate to the “quiet before the storm”…although it’s certainly easy to think that way. The market is not a weather system but rather it needs a catalyst to move strongly up or down. Unless we slip into a recession you can expect the stock market to meander along for a while. If we do indeed continue to trade in a range bound fashion don’t feel the urge to make changes just for the sake of it. Lastly, turn off your television because every sensational interview with an analyst needs to grab eyeballs and predicting low volatility doesn’t fall into that category…

Even a broken clock is right twice a day

analyst 3Dear Mr. Market:

Wall Street is notorious for putting analysts (or any individual) on a pedestal when they make a prediction that happens to be correct. As quickly as their ‘celebrity status’ is awarded it is often just as quickly taken away! The recent downfall of Meredith Whitney offers a lesson that everyone can learn from.

Whitney was awarded her ‘star status’ the fall of 2007 when she made a bearish prediction on Citigroup (C) as an analyst at Oppenheimer. Shortly after she made her call the stock tumbled and the CEO, Charles Swift, resigned. She was credited with predicting the financial crisis that followed in 2008 and became a regular with the business media. With her ‘celebrity status’ she resigned from Oppenheimer in 2009 to form her own firm focused on research and hedge fund management.

It did not take long for her shining star to become tarnished as she missed on several predictions that Wall Street followed her on. She called for municipal bonds around the country to default in 2010 and then in 2013 for the central U.S. to flourish economically while both coasts would struggle. Neither came anywhere close to becoming a reality and Whitney found herself struggling to regain the notoriety that she once enjoyed. Most recently she launched a hedge fund in 2013 that she shut down just last month. Continue reading

Does Ann Wagner or any politician really have your back?

Fiduciary4Dear Mr. Market:

We don’t typically venture into topics that involve politics as they can be polarizing to say the least. Everyone can think of an individual they know that is always more than willing to share their political opinions whether you want to hear them or not! From time to time, however, there is a topic that needs to be addressed and political party affiliation has absolutely nothing to do with it … It’s a matter of doing what is right.

Recently the Department of Labor issued a new proposal addressing investment management fees associated with retirement accounts. According to a report issued by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, a difference of only one percentage point in fees equals $17 billion! This is money that will either remain in individual’s retirement accounts or find its way to brokers and financial firms’ pockets.

There have been other versions of this legislation proposed in the past. This most recent version requires any advisor that is compensated for providing advice with retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k), 403(b), Simple IRAs and SEP IRAs for example) to operate as a fiduciary, always putting the clients interests first. Why is this even a debate?! What it essentially comes down to is the mighty dollar. Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: May 2015 Performance Update


Dear Mr. Market:

If you’re new to this monthly series…remember what we’re doing. This exercise, as we like to call it, is not an attempt to pick the best stock or “time the market”. We leave that futile task to those who own time machines and If you’re new to this monthly series…remember what we’re doing. This exercise, as we like to call it, is not an attempt to pick the best stock or “time the market”. We leave that futile task to those who own time machines and accurate crystal balls. For a refresher, see our first article on the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio.

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (June 5, 2015).

Click here to compare the portfolio against the benchmark

What adjustments did we make?

We didn’t make any portfolio moves in May. Aside from collecting nice dividends through BND, LQD, and Conoco Philips (COP), the market environment did not warrant making any adjustments.

Why? Continue reading