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.

Continue reading

December to Remember

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-4

Periodically we write you “letters” about a whole host of topics. Last December we wrote one about Santa delivering us a massive lump of coal instead of what historically can be a friendly month with regards to stock market returns.

When you hear a “December to remember” what do you think of? For many it may be a cheesy commercial from Lexus; for us it’s a reminder that we’re still breathing after the worst December the stock market we’ve seen in over 80 years! As we’ve stated many times, however, people tend to have awfully short memories. It’s amazing how a strong January and a very decent year (at least in Large Cap stocks) has basically erased any notion that there could be trouble on the horizon. Seeing the market recover as sharply as it did last year was the worst thing that could happen for people.

Why? Continue reading

Black Monday Revisited?

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown

When we reminisce and think of some of your worst days it would be natural to assume it was sometime during the Great Depression. Believe it or not the worst drop in stock market history (at least percentage wise) was not in 1929 but rather on October 19, 1987.

Click here to see what happened on that day, which is now known as Black Monday.

There were a number of issues underneath the surface that led to that bloodbath of a day but what amplified things was the early practice of program trading. Computers were programmed to execute trades after being triggered by certain conditions and this literally made human traders almost worthless as automation took over!

Two years ago, on the 30th anniversary of Black Monday, we wrote an article and calculated what a drop would be in today’s stock market. Click here to check it out. On that day it would have been equivalent to about a -5,094 points drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If it happened this coming Monday…we would see the Dow Jones go from about 26,965 to 21,033 for a drop of -5,932 points.

Are you ready and what would you do? How is your current portfolio positioned in the event of something even half of that type of drop? We’re not trying to be “doom and gloom” financial advisors but we’re also not so oblivious or positive that we’re “running East in search of a sunset”.

All this being said, get your plan in place now and prepare yourself for such an event. Even if you just let your mind get in front of it and don’t make any portfolio changes, your emotions will at least be more in check. History and reality tells us, however, that most people will read this and not prepare any differently.

PS- Don’t be “most people”!

 

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

Is the Death Cross accurate?

Dear Mr. Market:Death-cross-2

In all of our letters to you it’s been well documented how volatile and irrational you can be. You clearly have a temper and even when there is an abundance of good economic news you can still make us squirm and sweat with how you may react. What compounds your behavior is how traders and investors label certain charts and patterns. Most recently we’ve been alerted that you have signaled another mess on the horizon with an ominous reading of the “Death Cross”.

Could you (and that description) be any more dramatic?!? 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

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