In a year where the stock market has provided zero safe places to hide…you may have changed, the markets certainly have, but one thing has not; the Permanent Portfolio.
We’ve reviewed the Permanent Portfolio before but believe it’s time to check in and provide an update on how it’s doing relative to the broad markets now as well as chime in on whether the strategy still has merit going forward. For some quick background, our first original review was written in June of 2013 (click here to see that). Most recently we revisited the topic with an update in November of 2020 (click here) as we climbed out of one of the wildest years in world history amidst a global pandemic.
If you didn’t hit the embedded article links above, the Permanent Portfolio is pretty simple at face value. The Permanent Portfolio is a seemingly basic portfolio allocation strategy created by investment advisor Harry Browne in the 1980’s and outlined in his book Fail-Safe Investing back in 2001. Here’s the secret (simple) sauce and how each asset class should do during repeatable economic cycles:
Everyone following the markets is aware that we’re dealing with global economic stresses, a bottle necked supply chain, geopolitical tensions, 40 year highs with inflation, rising rates, and literally the worst start to a stock market year since 1970. It’s got the entire crowd nodding their heads in agreement that these are some brutal times. We’re also clearly in an environment with much groupthink and division…but more on that later.
Journalists write about you daily. Investors constantly think and talk about you. Analysts and economists spend their entire careers trying to figure you out. You’re a complex yet simple character, Mr. Market! All that said, today we want to share with our readers a substantial part of you that doesn’t get enough appreciation (pun intended). Let’s talk dividends!
Does the old stock market adage of “sell in May and go away” make sense? We’ve actually written about this one spring about nine years ago where we actually advocated taking some chips off the table, however it had less to do with a cute stock market rhyme and more due to profit taking. Where are we at now going into May and is this allegedly poor seasonal time of year appropriate to sell or perhaps not?
The investment world has not given us much of a break lately. Everything is down….everything…..except gold and emerging markets, but you saw that coming, right?!? Before we dive in, let’s just post some quick year to date numbers and then get to the football banter. Large Caps are down -5.4%, Mid Caps -4.2%, Small caps -5.9%, International -8.1%, and Bonds (which are supposed to shelter us from some of this near-term pain) are down -3.2%. Again, the only thing that is up YTD is Gold at +0.10% and Emerging Markets at +2.5%. Switching gears, allow us to lighten the mood and focus on something mildly entertaining (yet related to the stock market). Why should you be rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday during Super Bowl XVI?
All kidding aside, and at the risk of upsetting any Los Angeles Rams fans, the AFC teams winning lately have been good for the bulls. What we’re talking about here is the Super Bowl Indicator. At a minimum this is a helpful article for you if you don’t have a “dog in the hunt” and your team lost weeks ago, never made the playoffs, or you could care less about football yet might be around people who do on Sunday.
In 1978, Leonard Koppett, a sportswriter for the New York Times, came up with the Super Bowl Indicator and for many years it was never wrong! Up until that point the results pointed towards NFC teams winning being the one that seemed to help the stock market the most.
It’s that time of year. Everyone has some stinkers in their portfolio and in a taxable account it’s a great time to evaluate whether one should offset that loss by taking some gains on your winners. If you followed any of Jim Cramer’s advice this past year you have some serious evaluating to do! The aim of this article is not a hit piece of Mr. Cramer but simply a word of caution and a reminder that (1) stock picking is often a futile endeavor and (2) If you are indeed going to follow someone’s picks it’s important to track them prior to blindly buying the next set of recommendations.
The stock market has provided many sayings and memorable catchphrases that people tend to regurgitate ; some have merit and some are just garbage.
If you’re a regular reader of Dear Mr. Market, or a client of My Portfolio Guide, LLC, you’ll know that our all-time favorite is “The four most dangerous words in investing are …This time it’s different” -Sir John Templeton. Here are some other all-time adages that you’ve undoubtedly heard:
“Buy low sell high” Uh…yeah, but easier said than done.
“The trend is your friend” Sure….until it’s not!
“If you have trouble imagining a 20% loss in the stock market, you shouldn’t be in stocks” -John Bogle
“Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent” -John Maynard Keynes
So…what does “buy the rumor and sell the news” mean? You probably know that the stock market is full of speculation, great stories, and chock-full of hidden nuggets as well as potential land mines. Even if you’re not an experienced investor or trader, at some point you’ll figure out that by the time your neighbor (you know the guy who never loses and is always up) tells you about a stock tip…the ink on the newspaper is already dry and that idea is likely stale.
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).
It’s been a while since we’ve had to talk about you. The world has been focused on many changes which sometimes leaves you to quietly do your thing while we catch our breath. We’ve ushered in a new year, the United States has a new President and administration, and we’re finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the most surreal pandemic one could imagine.
How have you been… Mr. Market?
Up, down, sideways, and all over the place…That’s how.
Today we write you a quick note to share our all-time favorite chart as well as a reminder to all those investors who may fall prey to short-term memory lapses. The recent stock market sell-off is a great wake up call to the fact that markets obviously don’t just go up in a straight line. It’s a bit more than that though…
Below is our all-time favorite stock chart and we’re going to share why it’s important to look at this every so often.
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:
The Stock Market could absolutely continue to defy odds and climb higher.
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)
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.
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.