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.

Continue reading

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!

Has the Stock Market reached Capitulation?

Dear Mr. Market:Worst Days Ever for S&P 500

We are living in scary times, as investors and as human beings in general. With stock markets cratering and the uncertainty surrounding Coronavirus, it’s hard to remember when things were this bad or uncertain. How and when will things get better?

Regarding the market, there are no absolute rules, but it’s generally agreed investors have to fully capitulate before a bear market downturn can find its low point and eventually turn back the other way. The idea is that all the bad news, expectations and fear have to hit their worst point, so there is finally nothing else to drive the market lower. After that, anything remotely positive or even just “not bad” starts the base for the ensuing bull, and the market can begin climbing again.

The dilemma is that no one sounds an “all-clear” signal to let you know when that point has been reached. Think about the low point of the last bear, March of 2009. President Obama was freshly inaugurated (cause for optimism or pessimism, depending on your political leaning). Chrysler, GM, and Ford were near bankruptcy. Unemployment was climbing. A massive stimulus package had just been signed, but no on knew how effective it might be. Investors wondered if their portfolios would ever recover to where they had been. Those were troubling times, but we all know the market turned sharply upward that month and the bull continued for 11 years. It’s all much more clear looking back in the rearview mirror but at the time it was certainly not so.

Returns 1,3,5,& 10 years after Worst Days

Stock Market returns 1,3,5, and 10 years after Worst 1 Days Ever

There is no saying what will bring about capitulation with the current market. In our last column we noted how drawn out the 2000-2002 bear was. Things could get worse before they hit their inflection point. But it will come…if it hasn’t already. Yesterday was the third worst day in the history of the stock market and many threw in the towel. We’ve also advised that panic is never a strategy, and keeping your head as an investor right now is absolutely the right thing to do. One cannot change the past or the fact that this event took on disastrous proportions that nobody could have imagined. This is different than a standard bear market in that it’s more like an unforeseen natural disaster but in this case one that is not specific to some other part of the world; it’s truly global and caught the entire globe flat footed.

Human instinct is to seek shelter when danger is imminent, and that gives us the urge to abandon our better instincts. Sell all your stocks! Go to cash! End the pain! This might provide short-term comfort or relief, but assuming you need some amount of growth to reach your goals, you now have the dilemma of when and how to get back in.

We would advise staying the course, while being prudent. Strategic rebalancing can make sense, but not drastic changes to your allocation. If you have a plan in place that you felt good about during the market highs a month ago, stick to it, and revisit it if needed. Heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” The market is definitely throwing some serious punches right now. How will you answer the bell?

Lastly, we’re seeing two sets of behaviors right now; one group of people is scrambling to buy toilet paper while another is doing whatever they can to buy stocks. Mark our words in that this will be an inflection point and one where your decisions/behavior today will truly impact where you sit 10 years from now.

Where is the Recession?

Dear Mr. Market:Recession

Chalk it up to the “dog days of summer” but we haven’t written a letter to you in a while. Perhaps this is in part to the wild ride you’ve sent investors on since the whipsaw action and insane volatility we saw this past December. For those of us with short-term memory issues, the year ended in brutal fashion with the worst December in 80 years. If you sold out of your investments, threw in the towel and fell prey to your emotions, you then missed the best January the stock market has seen in 80 years. 

If you still haven’t paid much attention then perhaps the opening of this past week also hasn’t phased you…or should it?! Continue reading

Stock Market: You have 6 months before you can panic…

Dear Mr. Market:th-22

Let’s get this part out of the way…You’ve made a lot of people ill the past few days. As a matter of fact you’re following through on staying true to form by making October another historically miserable month.

After a two day blood bath we’re seeing a little bounce leading into the weekend but the stock market basically negated what was a surprisingly pleasant summer stretch. We’re now sitting around July levels and the previous correction in February of this year is suddenly somewhat deja vu. What’s not much different is the fact that most financial advice remains the same : “Stay the course. Don’t panic” Diversify.”

What happens in September often follows through and even intensifies in October. That being said just because “X happened last time” doesn’t mean “Y will happen this time”. We believe there will be more anxiety than normal this time around. The stock market and it’s bull run are not only long in the tooth but we also have mid-term elections coming up which regardless of real substance…they will stir up emotions and uncertainty.  If we get a “red wave” you’ll likely see the market advance even higher for a few months and if we get a “blue wave” it’s our opinion there will be a sell-off. This is not a political opinion on which party is “better” so please remain calm; it’s simply a fact that if we have a meaningful shift in power there will be political gridlock for a couple of years. Long story short…one result will cause increased volatility and in our opinion the other will lead to that long grinding slow down where we actually could see the stock market finally roll over and enter a new cycle.

So…”don’t panic”? Well….sort of.

We’re going to share some of that same counsel but with hopefully a bit more actionable advice; do something! Continue reading

May Gray turns into June Gloom

 

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-3

We have discussed many times how emotionally driven you are. On some days you tempt us with your record setting high wire acts and on others we have our lips virtually wrapped around the barrel of a gun in desperation; the stock market is a wicked playground.

We don’t believe that computers or sophisticated investment algorithms can completely mitigate the perils of the stock market or protect everyone from getting out of their own way, but it can at least be used as a starting point. My Portfolio Guide relies on some very unique tools that assess the stock market each month with a fresh set of eyes. While our method of “reading the tea leaves” is not necessarily a crystal ball, it’s definitely not what most investment advisors use….which is the rear view mirror. Sadly enough, many investment advisors are just like you…they’re human and they chase recent returns and mistakenly look back in history as to what has done well. While this method of analysis is the easiest to sell clients (and themselves) it’s not as effective as taking a completely fresh look at what is happening right now and how that is statistically likely to play out in the near-term. 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

REITs: How to Potentially Increase Portfolio Returns without more Risk

Dear Mr. Market

th-1Raise your hand if you would like the opportunity to increase the returns in your
portfolio without taking on more risk? There is indeed a way to help accomplish this and it’s not just by balancing between the two major asset classes of stocks and bonds; take a look at the third largest asset class there is: REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)

Most investors have little to zero exposure to REITs and they may be surprised to learn how important they can be to a healthy portfolio. This article will give you a better understanding of why adding REITs into your portfolio could improve your diversification, dividends, and ultimately your portfolio performance.

What are REITs and why use them? 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