Pssst….That was NOT the stock market correction we’ve all been waiting for!

Dear Mr. Market:

Yesterday seemed like the start of the Great Depression for some pundits and nervous nellies. Fear sells, and negative prognosis appears smarter than positive outlooks for whatever reason. The reality, and key reminder we wish to bring up again, is that the long awaited correction has yet to come. As of this writing, we are literally only -3.91% off of all-time S&P 500 highs in the market.

It should be noted that AAII Bearish Sentiment reading is as high as its been since the last most major S&P 500 sell-off.

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I got in at the top of the market…Now What?!?

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s over.

The “fat lady is singing”, the alarm bells are ringing, and you are literally the last dunce in the room who decided to get into the market at the all-time high. Now Mr. Market shows you what real pain looks like and sells off like nobody has ever imagined.

Let us preface this article by stating it’s worth bookmarking and revisiting for those times when you may be rethinking your investment time horizon or just how much risk you truly are able to take on.

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Good news = Bad news

Dear Mr. Market:

Last week was a microcosm of how stock market headlines can really lead you to hear one thing yet see another. For a while now we’ve been barking about how the FAANG stocks have artificially propped the market as there are some serious underlying health concerns. As a reminder for our newer readers, FAANG refers to the five major U.S. technology companies – Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), and Google (GOOGL). These household names have driven the markets and camouflaged some warning signs of risk on the horizon for quite some time. If you want a peek under the hood or a refresher on just what their impact, valuation, and market caps are relative to the broad market, please click here. (pay close attention to figure 18 which shows market cap with and without FAANG as well as Figures 13 & 14 for some relative earnings/revenue performance)

So…what happened last week? Why did the markets get hit so hard? It was indeed a rough week but then again not too many weeks feel all that bad when we take a quick look in the rear view mirror. (last year there were some mornings when the stock market was down literally -9% before you had your first sip of coffee) Albeit not a pleasant memory, don’t ever forget that (we’ll touch on why later in this article).

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Revisiting the Permanent Portfolio

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s been seven years since we last reviewed the Permanent Portfolio. Please click here to view the original article.

Why do we bring up this article now? Lots has changed but lots has not! More than anything we believe that our current environment has so many unknowns embedded in it after one of the wildest rides in stock market history. We won’t dig into the weeds too much but one could easily make the case that any of the following scenarios could take place over the next year:

  1. The Stock Market could absolutely continue to defy odds and climb higher.
  2. We could see another market crash like we saw in the spring this year as there are plenty of issues that have not gone away (Covid-19, political unrest, handcuffed economy, geopolitical concerns)
  3. A deteriorating dollar, inflation on the horizon, a ticking time bomb of debt, and more fear of a prolonged recession, negates any appeal for stocks for quite some time.
  4. We trade up, down, and basically sideways as this market consolidates and digests one of the most tumultuous years in history.

Without rehashing all that has transpired in 2020, we believe that being properly allocated and prepared for just about anything that comes our way seems like a wise way to go. The market is almost always unpredictable but there are times when reading the tea leaves and figuring out clear direction is even more difficult; we believe that’s exactly where we’re at right now.

If you didn’t read our old article from 2013, the basis for the Permanent Portfolio strategy is simple at face value: You divide your portfolio into four distinct and fairly uncorrelated asset classes (Cash, Bonds, Gold, and Stocks). Ideally at any point in most economic cycles one of these asset classes will stink it up but the others could compensate and outperform. During prosperous times Stocks should win. When there is inflation a case can be made for Gold. Should the opposite occur and we get deflation you would ideally see long-term Bonds do well. Lastly, during a severe recession Cash is perhaps your best friend. When coupled together you may never hit a home run but this approach can mitigate disaster and still produce modest long-term returns.

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Economic Outlook: The voice and face behind Dear Mr. Market

Dear Mr. Market:

We’ve written you hundreds of letters over the past decade and on occasion it’s nice to put a face with the name! Last week, Matt Pixa of My Portfolio Guide, LLC, was given the honor and opportunity to present an Economic Outlook to the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce.

We share it with you here and look forward to your feedback and questions!

PS- Click here to view the entire presentation but the “meat” of the show starts exactly at the 10 minute mark. Enjoy!

Panic is never a strategy…

Dear Mr. Market:5 years

Today marks the anniversary of the stock market bottom 11 years ago. How ironic is it that on March 9th 2009, when the market and everyone in finance was curled up in a fetal position, we now are witnessing a market drubbing like we haven’t seen in years on that same anniversary date? For those with short-term memory lapses, 11 years ago the Dow Jones went from 14,164 in October of 2007 down to 6,547 on March 9, 2009. The “Financial Crisis” of that period effectively saw a -53.77% decline in the stock market.  What has ensued since then happens to be the longest bull market run in history. Continue reading

Keep Calm and Invest On

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-4

We always chide you for having such a volatile temper. Your unpredictability is both alluring yet often makes the most intelligent person seem like an imbecile. What’s your next move? Who will you reward in 2020 and who will you punish?

As an investor, it’s always hard when the market is volatile. Do what you must to relax – deep breathing, a nice long walk, maybe yoga. Try to ignore the talking heads on the financial news channels. You’ll get through this. Now is not the time for rash action based on emotion.

What’s that you say? You’re not worried? Hasn’t the market been up nicely for the last year?

Of course it has, and that soothed a lot of the fears stock investors had coming off a rough end to 2018. But it actually has been volatile. It’s just that upside volatility naturally feels a lot better than downside! However, both can lead to bad decision making.

Think about how you feel as an investor today, as compared to a year ago. Odds are that last year you were questioning having too much stock exposure, and now you may be wishing you had more. Both extremes can be dangerous. Imagine you gave into your fear during the late 2018 correction, and lightened up on stocks “just to wait for more clarity,” or something along those lines. The S&P 500 zoomed out of the gates in early 2019 and was up over 20% by the end of July! Then it finished up better than 30% for the full year. Giving in to fear and waiting for clarity would have kept you from participating in that upside.

Now imagine you were a disciplined investor, following an asset allocation plan for the long-run. Say your target is 70% stocks / 30% bonds, and you (or your advisor) rebalance toward that allocation at set intervals or deviations. After December 2018, you (or your advisor) would have taken money from bonds and added to stocks, since the 70/30 balance would have been out of whack. Yes, you would have added to stocks during a period of high uncertainty! In hindsight it would have looked like a great timing move, but in reality it would have been simple discipline.

Unknown-6That brings us to today. The market has been up and worries seem low. Likely your stock allocation has gotten out of whack again, but this time to the upside. What is the prudent investor to do? Again, ignore emotion and follow your plan. If this means selling stocks to rebalance, so be it. Maybe your gut says, “let the winners keep running.” You could do that, but ask yourself how good your gut has been at timing the market in the past.

From an investor psychology standpoint, staying disciplined when things feel comfortable can be a good exercise for when the market inevitably goes a little haywire. Warren Buffett is credited with saying, “Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.” Good advice…but if you focus more on discipline than market timing, your decision-making will not be driven by either extreme.

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What is “long-term investing” anyway?

Dear Mr. Market:th-19

Why is the number 15 important for us to share with you today? In our opinion it’s because everyone seems to have a different idea of what “long-term” investing means. The notion that investors should think long-term is fine, and fairly generic advice, but that time frame has never been concretely defined; until now!
My Portfolio Guide defines long-term as being able to invest for at least a 15 year time horizon.
Using our definition even at retirement you could definitely be considered a “long-term investor”. Granted, you may be closer to needing to live on a fixed income or simply not have the stomach for the ups and downs of the stock market, but by our definition you are a long-term investor.
The average person is living longer so if you hung up the work boots at age 65, for example, going out 15 years puts you at age 80. Assuming you need investment funds to last at least to that age it would be wise to have a decent portion allocated towards growth investments. Putting your investments into bonds, CDs, or cash is a losing proposition once you factor in taxes and the silent and ever-growing killer of inflation.
 
168036_600Look…we get it…the stock market can make you lose your lunch. The roller coaster analogies are plentiful and with a 24/7 news cycle it seems like the slightest hiccup can create a bloodbath on Wall Street.  All that being said, the odds of the stock market being positive over time are overwhelmingly in your favor and it’s still the place to be if you want to grow your wealth. Over one-year periods, between 1926 and 1997, Ibbotson found that stock returns were positive in 52 out of 72 years, or roughly three-quarters of the time. Even so there is obvious risk and volatility with the best year having stocks return +54% and in the worst -43%.
 
But now let’s turn to longer periods. Ibbotson looked at five-year rolling cycles over the same era (1926-30, 1927-31, etc.). Out of 68 separate, overlapping periods, stock returns were positive 61 times which works out to be almost 90% of the time! Over 15-year rolling periods (there were 58 of them) stock returns were positive every time.
Since 1926, the stock market – as measured by the S&P 500 with dividends reinvested, has never had a 15-year rolling calendar period with a loss. If that fact doesn’t register…please read it again. Never once in history has the stock market lost money over a 15 year period. The longer your time horizon the more likely it is that you’ll make money in a diversified stock portfolio. 
One of the reasons financial advisors use other instruments in a portfolio outside of stocks is to diversify; that is also a nice way of saying it’s because they know you will likely be an emotional train wreck when volatility enters the arena. If there was a two horse race and we had to bank our entire livelihood on either the Bond horse or the Stock horse…it is without question which we would choose.
Furthermore, imagine if you could only open your investment account statements once every 15 years? Not only would you most likely be a less stressed and more successful investor, but the odds are substantial that you would have positive returns no matter what happened in the world.

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2018

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-2

What’s more exciting to watch: Duke versus North Carolina or Apple versus Amazon? If you’re reading this you know by now that it’s not a trick question but rather our annual opportunity to have some fun spinning the NCAA college basketball tournament into a platform to share our favorite investment themes.

My Portfolio Guide was the first investment firm to publish a March Madness investing tournament where we share our picks and match them up against each other. We break down and assign each of the four “regions” with an asset class and then pick teams (companies) that we think have the best chance at doing well relative to others.

This is the eighth year we’ve done this and it’s become one of the most popular articles on the entire internet!

Click the following link to see the entire bracket for 2018:

Final Four Investing Bracket Picks 2018 

 

Large Cap

Many people now have the rearview mirror or armchair quarterback mentality right now. If you’re to be honest with yourself there are very few folks we met at this point last year that said without question that the stock market would soar to record highs. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. Think back to the start of 2017 as most of us were still digesting the fact that Trump won the election. Most pundits felt that the “Trump bump” would be short lived and that the one thing the stock market doesn’t like is uncertainty …and we had plenty of it!

All that being said, we couldn’t have been more clear that if you kept your politics out of it you could have had a nice year! The easy trade was betting on America and the Large Cap asset class turned in a fine year. Guess what? We still think there is room to run here and the recent correction we experienced is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Key Match-up:

#2 US Steel (X) vs. #3 Reliance Steel (RS)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard that President Trump wants to reset the playing field on trade imbalances. Continue reading

Mr. Market Meets his Match! Introducing the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy

Dear Mr. Market:th-9

Guess what? You win. Yes…Mr. Market, you win! It won’t take another bear market or adding further gains to recent stock market highs for you to prove to us that no matter what the environment is you are going to make fools out of many brilliant people.

The beauty of your victory (at least for you) is that there will always be a market and a debate to engage in. The age old argument of “Active versus Passive” will rage on indefinitely.

Active Money Management (hands on approach with the goal of beating markets and taking advantage of short-term price fluctuations)

In one corner we have the ‘crystal ball crowd’ that thinks they can outsmart you and time the stock market. “Buy low and sell high”, right? If only it were that simple and if only someone could get it done successfully more than once. Mr. Market has us human beings in the palm of his hand because he knows we all have one thing in common; we’re emotional creatures! Some of you will read or hear news and act on it. Worse yet…you’ll rely on your gut instincts or a “hunch” because after all you were right once before. You are Mr. Market’s perfect candidate…Take another sip of false confidence and brace yourself for his eventual knockout punch which you won’t even see coming.

Passive Money Management (hands off approach with a goal of matching markets by using index funds/ETFs and not reacting to every market move)

On the other side of the room is the buy and hold crowd (or sometimes the ‘buy and forget’ group as we like to call them). Sure…on one hand a true investor should indeed be patient and allow an investment to pan out over time. Some clever sayings come to mind such as “It’s about ‘time in the market’ not ‘timing’ the market.” While we lean towards this overall investment philosophy there are times when it can go drastically wrong. If you have a lump sum or healthy chunk of cash right now and we’re at all-time stock market highs, do you just dump it all in right now?

So this leaves us to ask what the ultimate answer is to the question: Which is best…Active or Passive money management?

The foundation for any well performing portfolio is its asset allocation. We’ve written extensively about this before but over 90% of a portfolio’s performance is determined by how it’s allocated. Another way of looking at this is that you could pick poor individual investments (stocks or funds) but be in the right areas (asset classes) and do just fine. Like all things in life there needs to be a balance between discipline and the ability to adapt to changing environments in order to truly be successful. We believe we have found this with an Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy.

Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategyth-8

Over the past year My Portfolio Guide has been working with Dimensional Research and its development of the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy. We are proud to announce a formal engagement with them and in doing so will be exclusively offering the Columbus strategy to our clients as part of our investment platform.

The Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy is a quantitative methodology that is designed to adapt to the markets as they constantly change. While it’s suited for clients seeking equity like returns, one of the primary goals of this strategy is to minimize drawdowns during rough markets. It’s ideally positioned for portfolios over $100,000.

What’s under the hood of the Columbus Strategy? 

First and foremost, as big fans of ETFs we wanted a strategy that would be able to use widely recognized ETFs that were liquid and also in most cases commission free under our Institutional arrangement with TD Ameritrade. The strategy consists of a universe of 15 ETFs representing major asset classes. It rebalances once per month and can invest in up to eight ETFs depending on what the algorithm is positioning the strategy for relative to the market environment. Click this link  Columbus Strategy Overview to learn about which specific ETFs it uses as well as some unique aspects to how we have set maximum exposure limits on each asset class.

It is possible for the entire portfolio to take an extremely defensive posture and only be in one asset class (cash). The strategy dynamically adjusts and rates each ETF on volatility, momentum, and the overall correlation of returns to the portfolio. We’ve long said that it’s easy to buy investments but very few people are adept at selling them. The proprietary algorithm in this strategy is primarily designed to reduce the risk of huge drawdowns while still trying to capture market upside when appropriate. The main goal is to achieve the most optimal risk-adjusted return.

Behind the Numbers: (Performance and most recent Monthly Rebalance)

Speaking of returns…just how well has the Columbus Strategy performed? Not only is performance where the “rubber meets the road” but the summary below gives you a concise snapshot of how we’re positioned in September. (click link below to view)

Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy – September 2017

We plan to report performance each month but in order to be fair to our loyal clients in the strategy…regular readers will see the rebalance on a one month delay. (we can’t give away the “secret sauce”!) If you’re interested in receiving the reports when they’re first published or want us to manage one of your portfolios using the Columbus Strategy contact us via phone at (888) 474-8433 or email your inquiry to info@myportfolioguide.com.

Obviously the Columbus Strategy boasts some impressive returns. Back testing the strategy to May of 1998 you’ll note it returned +10.51% annualized returns versus the S&P 500 at +9.37%. Comparing it to a more diversified benchmark we have chosen to track it relative to the GMO Global Asset Allocation Fund (GMWAX) which over this same time period returned +3.92%. The main reason this strategy has grabbed our attention is not just for beating the markets long-term…but rather on how well it played defense during turbulent times. The Columbus Strategy had drawdowns under -10% relative to the Global benchmark at -31.87% and the S&P 500 at -51.49%!

What about during REALLY bad markets?! (Dot-Com Crash and the Financial Crisis)

Side stepping one or two rough stock market patches usually is at the core of hot marketing strategies. A real strategy is one that can exhibit repeatable characteristics in all sorts of different crises and especially so during ones that were brutal. Perhaps there are no two better examples than the Dot-Com Crash and the Great Recession/Financial Crisis of 2008. Columbus_Historical_Events_Analysis on how the Columbus Strategy did during those historical events. It’s remarkable how the portfolio shifted to less volatile asset classes such as cash/money markets and Fixed Income (bonds/treasuries etc). For a more detailed look and an overlay versus the S&P 500, specifically look at pages 3 and 4 in the above link. Lastly, we’ve also had this strategy back-tested* for other unique events such as the stock market crash of 1987. Contact us for details if you’re curious about a specific time period or market event.

*Keep in mind that for some older back tests the strategy had to use proxies for the ETFs since many did not exist at that time. For your reference click this link to see a list of those proxy funds Columbus Proxy Mutual Funds Universe .

In summation, we’re extremely proud and excited to offer this dynamic investment strategy! Our next report on the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy will be an update at the end of the month. You’ll see a report tracking how a $1 million portfolio is performing using this exact strategy. Again, seeing actual trades and real-time rebalancing will be reserved for our clients but feel free to inquire for more details or get set up to have your account managed professionally. Obviously not every investor is a match for this type of portfolio management but we would bet that it likely beats what you or your current financial advisor are offering you now!

Have a great remainder of the month and see you next time!