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

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: July 2015 Performance Update

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Dear Mr. Market:

Yes…the stock market is down. Your portfolio is down. There is no way it is not down. We just said the word “down” three times in a row. Get it? Everything is down.

If you have a decently designed and intelligently constructed portfolio you are actually DOWN more than than the overall stock market! What does that mean? Most people look at the Dow Jones as their benchmark. That’s what the media tells you every night as to what’s happened. The media reports on the Dow Jones as though it’s an accurate index to let you know how the stock market is doing. Nope….As you become a more savvy investor you will learn that that the Dow Jones is just an antiquated index that means nothing. Yep….we said that! The Dow Jones means zilch!

Make no mistake about it. This is one of the strangest and least predictable markets ever…

If, however, we were to tell you the Dow Jones was about to get blasted and go down to 6,000 (currently at 17,500) it would be easy to lead you down that road. There are plenty of reasons why the market will get hurt more. Ironically enough…we could paint just as equally convincing a story of how the Dow will go to 20,000! That’s where we’re at right now. When you can find two opinions so extreme regarding the end results, yet each has its merits, you’re in a very precarious market environment.

Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: June 2015 Performance Update

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Dear Mr. Market:

Like clockwork you set us up for another stretch of pretending that you wanted to inch up higher and then sold off the last week of the month. How you behaved in May is similar to what you did in June except this time your volatile temper began to show more of a resolve and rattled investors. You began the month with some semi-positive economic news along with dovish Fed commentary all to have it dampened by the Greek debt fiasco.

The S&P 500 lost -2.17% for the month of June. The poor performance turned in by our domestic markets pales in comparison to what has transpired in China. If you’re waiting for another proverbial “bubble” to burst…perhaps it’s here. In about three weeks Chinese stocks sold off sharply losing -30%. We’ll talk more about this later in this article but for those “experts” claiming that this is a good time to buy Chinese stocks, consider the reality that they are still quite expensive. If you think our markets are frothy after a six-year bull market run and a current P/E ratio of 20.5, the median P/E ratio for Chinese companies is still at 55 (down from 108!).

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (July 2, 2015).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

What adjustments did we make? Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: March 2015 Performance Update

 MW-BB798_sm6040_20130422180557_MDDear Mr. Market:

You don’t have to be a professional money manager to be aware that the swift decline in oil prices has been one of the most impactful financial headlines in years. As a matter of fact if you didn’t own a computer, read a newspaper, or have basic access to media, you would still know that oil has dropped like a rock. All you had to do was go to the gas station and see that it costs far less to fill up your tank today than it did last year.

What you may not have noticed, however, is the huge appreciation in the U.S. dollar. The U.S. dollar index compares the dollar with a basket of other currencies and it spiked up 50% in the first couple weeks of March. It has already risen almost 8% year to date and this has impacted the stock market in ways that many are unprepared for. With any situation like this there are silver linings and opportunities that we’ll discuss later in this article.

First let’s review where we’re currently at and what we did last month:

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (April 1, 2015).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark

What adjustments did we make?

The following moves were made during the month of March:

3/13/15:  Bought 200 more shares of VO (Vanguard Mid Cap Index) @ $126.19 ~$2 worth

3/25/15:  Bought 75,000 final shares of MONIF (Monitise) @ $0.191 ~$14k worth Continue reading

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2015

basketball on cashWelcome to the fifth year of our March Madness Investing Bracket! This series of articles is always one of the most popular investing articles on the internet! We’re proud to admit that we were one of the first investing nerds to combine our love for the markets with the passion that college basketball brings!

It’s common knowledge that people love excitement and surprises. It’s also human nature to root for the underdog and many times those two themes can certainly play out on the basketball court as well as on the stock market floor. Much like two college basketball teams that never play each other our imaginations are swept up in wondering who will “win” between a relatively unknown investment or a popular stock that has the media in a frenzy.

You may be asking what does a basketball tournament have to do with managing your portfolio or the investment world in general? At first glance there might not be much but we thought we would have a little fun and couple it with some asset allocation parallels. After all, there are many folks who have simply thrown their hands in the air at one time or simply succumbed to the notion that investing is like educated gambling. There could be some truth to that depending on your approach…

For those of you that are not familiar with the NCAA and its annual basketball tournament there are 68 teams selected and each is seeded according to their results throughout the regular season and their relative rankings. Every March the NCAA holds a single elimination tournament to crown an undisputed champion. Part of the appeal of such a tournament is that theoretically any team that makes the “big dance” has a shot at winning it all. Each and every year there is a proverbial “Cinderella” team that surprises everyone including all the ‘so-called’ experts. Prior to the tournament there is always plenty of banter and opinion on who wasn’t invited or further arguments around the seeding of the teams that did make it. That’s where we see a parallel of sorts to investing and having to make decisions among the multitudes of investment choices. With so many investment choices available, there are also as many differing opinions.

In the “real” March Madness tournament this year there appears to be a hands down favorite with the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Hardly any office pool or basketball analyst is betting against such a heavily favored team. If they win it all it will be the first time in over 30 years that a team stays unbeaten the whole season. Our own version of this (using investment themes and choices) shares the premise that we have four very decent #1 seeds but there is no slam-dunk pick that everyone agrees on. For this reason, our 2015 bracket is perhaps as important as ever to understand that a dark horse could win it all…

Before we begin digging into each “region” of our bracket, let’s revisit something everyone claims they know but so very few actually follow with consistent discipline. (Asset Allocation)

If you have ever looked at a chart of all the different asset classes and how they perform year to year…there is rarely a pattern or consistent way to determine next years “winner”.

For the purposes our annual investing bracket we have “seeded” or ranked four major asset classes (like the regions) and chosen several individual picks within each. There is some basic science applied to this process. We consider how the “pick” did over the past 12 months and also how it has trended over the past three months. In some cases we gave a lower performing investment a higher seed if it was trending well with recent strength or was more consistent over a longer period of time.

Each asset class (Large Cap, Small Cap & Mid Cap, Bonds/Alternatives, and International) was ranked and seeded, then corresponding seeds were assigned to “picks” that we are either adding to the portfolio or establishing new positions in. Note that we’re not highlighting 68 new investments and will only discuss some investments that we are either actively involved in or looking to add to most portfolios.

OK…Let’s dig into some of the key match-ups and explain why our Final Four going into Q2 2015 looks the way it does (CLICK HERE to view our 2015 Bracket):

Large Cap

This is typically viewed as the ‘efficient’ asset class. Continue reading

Alibaba – The next hot stock?

Alibaba with chineseDear Mr. Market:

Every investor is looking for the next opportunity that looks like a ‘sure thing’. Throughout 2014 we’ve seen a plethora of IPO’s hit the market with the majority of them being well received. Currently there is a giant lurking out there and the markets have been licking their chops waiting to get a piece of it.   The stock is a behemoth based in China…Alibaba (anticipated to be listed as BABA).

Wall Street is expecting the IPO to hit the market sometime after the Labor Day holiday and this could certainly be an early Christmas present for the markets if it lives up to the anticipation. We have not seen hype like this surrounding a potential IPO since the dot-com era of the late 1990’s. Before you rush out in an attempt to participate in the IPO or buy through the open market, lets take a look at Alibaba to see if it warrants a position in your portfolio….

Summary:

It is challenging for the average U.S. investor to understand how large and diversified Alibaba is. Essentially Alibaba is: Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Cloud Services and much more wrapped up in one company. It has the fastest growing online commerce market in the world, last year it had transactions that totaled just under $250 billion! That is more than eBay (EBAY) and Amazon (AMZN) combined. To truly put the size of Alibaba in perspective let’s break down its largest components: Continue reading

Here comes the stock market correction…What should you do?

Unknown-61Dear Mr. Market:

You’ve been messing and toying with the brightest minds since 1792, when the New York Stock Exchange was created under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street. Your latest bull market run has as many investors as puzzled as it does nervous. The longer we go on without a stock market correction the potentially worse it will be when it eventually hits. At this point, it’s clearly not a matter of “if” but “when” it is coming. Continue reading