Marijuana Stocks: Growing like a weed?!

Dear Mr. Market:th

Many of our “letters” to you are with a cautionary approach so that readers of this blog fully understand the risks and rewards of engaging with you. With your erratic personality perhaps the last thing you need is a drug to add to your volatile ways. That said, we also attempt to sprinkle in some humor and puns to get our point across…even if you’re at an all-time high (first pun in case you’re not paying attention!).

Whether you are a proponent of legalizing marijuana or not there is no denying that the cannabis industry is real and here to stay. Would it surprise you to learn that cannabis is the United States’ second largest cash crop? Believe it or not it is the second most valuable industry next to corn and is worth over $40 billion! Several reports earlier this year also estimate that legal cannabis sales could grow by at least 30% in 2018.

The marijuana industry is predicted to grow like a weed (second pun). All kidding aside, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects over 250,000 new jobs in this industry by 2020 which is far more than those expected from manufacturing! By 2024 the BLS actually forecasts manufacturing jobs to decline by 814,000. Ignoring the potential growth in this industry or that it has fast become a major economic driver and job-creation force in the U.S. economy is a mistake.

Public opinion is still divided (not a surprise nowadays…) but it’s rapidly changing. A poll conducted by CBS News in July of 1979 revealed that only 27% of those surveyed thought marijuana should be legal; that number by mid 2017 is now at 61%. Even with this momentum there still remains some obvious hurdles: (1) Marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level and (2) Congress has plenty to focus on right now with healthcare and tax reform so legalization is a lower priority for now.

So…how do you play this opportunity, or should you???th-11

If you’re a true investor as opposed to a speculator we’ll begin by letting you know there are major risks in this budding sector. (please tell us you caught that pun?!) Continue reading

Westcore Fixed Income & Bond Market Interview

Dear Mr. Market:

th-3We certainly spend a lot of time writing to you about the stock market and all the twists and turns it brings investors. Today, we have the pleasure of mixing things up a bit as we dive into something far larger and more intricate than the stock market; we’re going to talk about the bond market!

On a recent trip out to Denver, CO My Portfolio Guide had the opportunity to meet with Troy Johnson, CFA and Director of Fixed Income Research at Denver Investments. We were able to ask him and his team several questions about the bond market and how they’re navigating it in these interesting times.

My Portfolio Guide: First and foremost, thank you very much for making yourself and your team available. As you know, we own positions in the Westcore Plus Bond Fund as well as the Westcore Municipal Opportunities Fund. We understand your team was awarded a Lipper Award. Without necessarily giving us a pitch on your firm, could you briefly expand on the recent accolades?

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Westcore: The Westcore Fixed Income funds won the Lipper Fund Award for best fixed income small fund group for the three-year period ending November 30, 2016, placing first out of 74 eligible fund families. The award was granted based on Lipper’s measurement of risk- adjusted returns across our multiple fixed income fund offerings. We believe that winning the award affirms the soundness of our approach across multiple strategies as well as the hard work and talent within our fixed income team.

My Portfolio Guide: Excellent, and congratulations on the awards and success. Related to this, could you share your opinion on what makes your firm or approach different than some of the larger bond shops?

Westcore: We utilize an investment approach that emphasizes income and security selection rather than a focus on trading. This generally results in a heavier weighting towards credit oriented issues that offer enhanced income. We recognize rigorous fundamental research is a necessary component of such an emphasis and differentiate ourselves within that process in the following manner: Continue reading

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2017

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Dear Mr. Market:

Is your bracket already busted? This year’s March Madness tournament opened up with very few upsets until this past weekend. Much like the stock market, we see a similar trend happening right now. What follows is how we see things panning out but first, here’s a little background on how one of the most famous sporting events in the United States correlates to the investing landscape.

Seven years ago we became the first Registered Investment Advisor to use the NCAA basketball tournament as a way to show our readers a forward-looking view on the stock market! 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.

CLICK THE LINK TO VIEW OUR Final Four Investing Bracket Picks 2017

Large Cap

Last year started off much differently than 2017 and as we wrap up the first quarter …some trends are emerging while others continue. If you eyeball the overall theme of this years bracket it will become clear that we’re picking some stocks that should continue to do well under the Trump administration. Whether you love him or hate him, ever since Donald Trump assumed office, the stock market has risen. The proverbial “Trump bump” is real and while we personally believe he needs to stay away from Twitter, there is no question that the stock market and certain economic sectors are primed to perform. Continue reading

Brexit too shall pass…

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Dear Mr. Market:

You hate uncertainty; that fact has been established from the day you began trading. If the rest of the investing public hasn’t heard about “Brexit” vs “Bremain”…it’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is always something to worry about and now with a vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union the potential implications and chants of uncertainty will continue to create worry and panic.

Ironically enough, even amidst all the doom and gloom, the world is not that much different than before the vote. Although the U.K. surprised many with its vote to leave the EU, this decision and the potential fallout will take a couple of years to fully play itself out. Even though there will clearly be political uncertainty and initial volatility (which is natural)…the UK will have two years to negotiate the terms of its exit and establish a new relationship with the EU. Although there won’t be a shortage of opinions, this doesn’t imply an automatic death to the stock market!

It’s times like these that are EXACTLY why people overreact and make critical mistakes. Once people get over their initial reaction (shock, surprise, fear etc) the markets will see relief in knowing there is a result and a definitive decision. In other words…there will be some basic element of certainty and that allows markets to naturally correct and go back to moving based on actual fundamentals as opposed to speculative forces or fear.

What should one do in the near-term and will this lead to something worse? Continue reading

Q1 is in the books – how does the rest of 2016 look?

Dear Mr. Market:

2016 #3The first quarter is in the rear view mirror and what a wild ride it was! The stock market started the year with the worst first 10 days in history and we finally experienced a ‘textbook correction’ of over 10%. Perhaps the most shocking part is when it was all said and done, Mr. Market rallied in March to finish out Q1 just above break-even. Volatility like this is typically played out over a 12-month or longer cycle, not in one quarter.

The question that investors are currently asking is … how does the rest of 2016 play out? Turn on your television or open any printed material and you will quickly be overwhelmed with the various talking points. Just look at a few of the headlines that have popped up last week:

  • Housing starts declined -8.8% in March.
  • Auto sales fell at a -14.6% annual rate in Q1.
  • Business investments in equipment fell -8% the first three months of this year.
  • Large declines in military spending by the government in Q1 will add 0.1% percentage points to the real GDP.
  • Industrial production dropped -0.6% in March coming in below consensus of 0.1%.
  • Production of high-tech equipment increased +0.5% in March, up +2.1% versus a year ago.

These are real economic data points that have driven financial headlines over the last few weeks. In our opinion here’s what they mean (or don’t) and how we think the rest of 2016 will play out in plain English: Continue reading

Emerging Markets: Down but not out!

Emerging Mkts 2Dear Mr. Market:

We write letters to you during good times and bad. That’s the beauty of the stock market and all the drama you bring with it! Without a doubt there will always be something to worry or cheer about! Perhaps no asset class personifies this struggle better than Emerging Markets.

We’ve written before about the appeal (and risk) that Emerging Markets brings to investors. Right now, in our opinion, there is a potential “changing of the guard” and a shift in asset class leadership. Although our friend Warren Buffett often gets credit for the following famous quote, it was actually originally from the 18th century British Nobleman, Baron Rothschild:

“The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”

Emerging markets have been absolutely hammered the past few years. As you know, the big headlines that drove markets in 2015 was the plunge in oil prices, an incredibly strong U.S. dollar, and massive concerns about China (the world’s second largest economy, albeit an Emerging Market). It’s easy for investors to get scared out of their minds with an asset class that is historically more volatile than most; that’s probably why most investors are underexposed to Emerging Markets. Continue reading

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2016

March MadnessDear Mr. Market:

The entertainment and shock value you provide us with the stock market might meet its match over the next few weeks. Are you ready for some surprises and wild finishes? That’s what March Madness brings each and every year! It’s also an opportunity to take a high level view of the current investment environment with what lies ahead.

Six years ago we became the first Registered Investment Advisor to use the NCAA basketball tournament as a way to show our readers a forward-looking view on the stock market. 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 year we will dive right into our investing bracket looks and how we think the remainder of 2016 will play out.

Click here to see the entire bracket.

To set the table let’s take a quick moment to recall last year and the undefeated Kentucky team. They came into the Final Four 38-0 and were a virtual lock to win it all but as you may remember the Wisconsin Badgers shocked everyone and provided the surprise millions of fans tune in for every year! This type of “upset” is exactly how we think 2016 will pan out in the Large Cap asset class.

Large Cap

Five years from now people will look back at 2015 as a year that the stock market extended its bull market run for one more year. Investors will exhibit a short-term memory lapse and forget that it actually was a very rough year with heightened volatility, the first correction, and a market that actually turned in negative numbers if you looked “under the hood”. The problem is…most people will not remember this and only look to see the S&P 500 finished positive +1.38%.

Without the “FANG” stock phenomena, however, 2015 would have been very negative. In other words, Continue reading