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 “fat lady is singing”, the alarm bells are ringing, and you are literally the last dunce in the room who decided to get into the market at the all-time high. Now Mr. Market shows you what real pain looks like and sells off like nobody has ever imagined.
Let us preface this article by stating it’s worth bookmarking and revisiting for those times when you may be rethinking your investment time horizon or just how much risk you truly are able to take on.
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).
Do you remember what happened right before the peak of the dot com bust? Before rehashing any history let’s quickly revisit a quote that has been used and altered by several over the years:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana (former Harvard professor and philosopher)
Right before the needle slowly approached the overly inflated (tech/internet stock) balloon in late 2000…it was not uncommon for a financial advisor to field phone calls requesting to buy stocks like Cisco Systems (CSCO). OK…at least one could make a case for a company like that, albeit overvalued, as they actually earned money and had a viable business plan. It’s when those phone calls turned into “how about we also buy some of this stock I’ve heard called EToys?” Investors…(cough)…speculators poured money into so many internet startups with the hopes that these companies would one day turn profitable. We all know how this party ended and like many other past bubbles it won’t be the last. Continue reading →
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 →
How dare we put you on the spot like this?!? What an awful question! How will you (the stock market) react if Trump wins or if Hillary wins? By the way…as an aside….a great client of ours recently asked why everyone refers to Trump by his last name and Hillary by her first name. Why is that?
Depending on which side you’re on, this question may initially seem like simple semantics but it’s not. Are you “presidential” if you roll with a campaign based on your first name? Do you “feel the Bern” or did you “Trust in Ted”? Whether you’re a proponent of Hillary for President or Hillary for prison…it’s still Hillary. Where are we at America?
At My Portfolio Guide, the one thing we typically don’t shy away from is having a clear opinion. There are some great firms out there that simply can’t give you one! You’ll hear what you want to hear. They fear losing your “vote” or ruffling feathers. Yes…we understand that balance too, but as much as our job is about deciphering news versus noise…it does become important to take a stance. Continue reading →
You’ve certainly kicked 2016 off with a bang! Even investors that rarely, if ever, look at their portfolio are aware of the rough start to the New Year. Over $8 trillion in market valuations has seemingly disappeared in the blink of an eye. Many are pounding the table with a bear market narrative capturing your attention and emotions but is there anything truly different this time?
There are many different factors at play in this volatile market environment but in our opinion none of them are really all that new nor are they indicative of a bear market, a recession, or impending crash. We’ll briefly touch on each of them but at the end of this article you may be surprised to learn why we believe this market could bounce strongly when least expected.
Currently there are three factors that are dramatically impacting the markets: China, Oil and the Fed. It appears that when these are combined it creates a combustible combination that not even the most seasoned analysts know how to handle! The reality is that the stock market and all the ‘experts’, who analyze and report on it, seem to have short-term memories. For lack of a better description people have also been put to sleep and forget what it’s like to see a normal market correction. Let’s quickly break them down and attempt to put them in perspective: Continue reading →
How crazy has this market been? As always the stock market has been very volatile, right?
Not even close…. The stock market is essentially in a coma right now and you need to ignore whatever news source or preconceived notions that tell you otherwise. The irony is that some of the “smart money” could not have got the volatility prediction more wrong.
In January of this year Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute, predicted dramatic swings in many areas of the market. He summarized this sentiment by saying, “I don’t see this volatility going away anytime soon.” We’re not out to point fingers but it’s blanket statements and unaccountable predictions like this that paralyze people or simply clutter their investment strategies and overall mindsets.
We’re actually in an extremely low level of volatility. It’s been eight weeks since we’ve seen a move of at least 1% or more in the S&P 500 and that hasn’t happened in 21 years! We also just wrapped up the first half of 2015 and there wasn’t a gain or loss of 2% which marks the first time that has happened since 2005. (Click here to see 2015 volatility relative to recent years)
As an investor you actually should be doing what we would call a “volatility rain dance”. Bring it on! You want volatility. If your long-term belief is that the economy will improve and inflation seems to remain very much in check, you want a pullback in the market in order to put some money to work. Cash sitting in a bank earning “zero point zilch” needs to work harder and smarter but without a material pullback in the market it makes it somewhat uninviting to deploy cash.
Low volatility doesn’t necessarily equate to the “quiet before the storm”…although it’s certainly easy to think that way. The market is not a weather system but rather it needs a catalyst to move strongly up or down. Unless we slip into a recession you can expect the stock market to meander along for a while. If we do indeed continue to trade in a range bound fashion don’t feel the urge to make changes just for the sake of it. Lastly, turn off your television because every sensational interview with an analyst needs to grab eyeballs and predicting low volatility doesn’t fall into that category…
There you go again Mr. Market … You’ve trumpeted your tempting sirens and lured in people who were deathly scared of the stock market to now jump in. The S&P 500 is once again flirting with all-time highs but is the music about to stop? You make it easy to buy a stock but why is it so hard for you share the catalysts that tell investors to sell? Mr. Market is famous for encouraging you to sell with emotion but isn’t there a better way?
In our opinion, there are three main criteria that should be used in forming a disciplined and repeatable sell decision. In order to be a successful investor you need to master and take them all into account before you ever buy a stock.
So…what are the three main criteria?
Fundamental Analysis: There are a slew of fundamental issues that could warrant a sell decision. If you’re willing to buy a stock you’ll need to monitor fundamental metrics ranging from earnings, valuation, cash flow, and debt, among others. Lumped into this category should be a keen awareness of key changes in management and their effectiveness.
Technical Analysis: Whether you believe in following the charts and trading patterns of a stock or not…you still need to be aware of them. Like it or not, many decisions from the bulk of the investing world are made or triggered due to technical analysis so even if you think it’s hogwash don’t be short-sighted and ignore them.
Investor Sentiment: Ideally, you’ve kicked the tires and performed your due diligence (reasons #1 and #2 above) on what made you buy the stock in the first place. If the honeymoon phase is no longer there, it may be time to sell. Don’t get us wrong here…this is not about selling because everyone else is. The idea here is to analyze whether the trend is moving in a direction that is not going to help you as a shareholder. Of the three criteria this is perhaps the most challenging to master because it forces you to use your eyes and brain as opposed to your emotions.
Everyone wants to be associated with a winner. We are all familiar with the famous quote, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” from ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Imagine that you are at a sporting event, you glance at the scoreboard but it shows nothing … at the end of the game you have no clue if your team won or loss. Some people claim your team won while others are not so sure. Mr. Market does exactly this to investors with their investment portfolios on a consistent basis. As an investor how do you effectively gauge how your investment portfolio has performed and if you are victorious or humiliated in defeat?
The media would have us all believe that investors should use the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial (DJIA) as a benchmark against their portfolios. Turn on the nightly news or open a newspaper and you will quickly spot what each index closed at and what percentage they are up or down for the year. While everyone would agree that it’s important to have a sense of how the market is performing, is this the proper measuring stick investors should use to gauge how their own investments are performing?
A quick summary of the indices the media force-feed us on a daily basis: Continue reading →