Currency Markets: Not the Roller-coaster you think it is!

dollar3Dear Mr. Market:

You’ve taken equity investors on a roller coaster ride this year with the Dow Jones now delivering negative returns year to date. Investors have been scrambling to find where to invest their money as they move out of equities. The fixed income markets remain an area of doubt as interest rates are near rock bottom levels and fear of rate hikes from the Fed continue to run rampant. With all these variables and negativity in the market where should investors consider looking to invest their cash?

We’ve discussed ‘Alternatives’ before and how they warrant a place in a diversified portfolio. Often investors become a bit skeptical when they hear the term Alternative Investment as thoughts of hedge funds and ‘ponzi schemes’ come to mind.   With new regulations and monitoring in place investors can feel confident when they consider adding these types of investments to their portfolios. The investments that typically come to mind when looking at this asset class are: real estate, commodities, futures and hedge funds. Today will take a look at one component of alternative investments that is often overlooked but investors interact with everyday– the dollar or currency markets in general.

If you turn on the nightly news or read any articles about the economy it is hard not to see headlines discussing the strength and/or weakness of the dollar. What does this really mean and how can an investor take advantage of these moves? Analysts and economists tend to use terms to make themselves sound like an authority while at the same time losing 90% of their audience. Below we will discuss some of the basics:  Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: September 2014 Performance Update

MW-BB798_sm6040_20130422180557_MD

Dear Mr. Market:

October is historically one of your stormier months and it looks like you began to rumble a month or so early this year. We’re headed into the last quarter of the year but in case you’ve missed why we’re running a series of articles around the topic of a “60/40 benchmark”, here’s a refresher:

Click here to revisit the first edition of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 Portfolio.

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (October 6, 2014).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

It’s finally happening. Yes…it appears the stock market is correcting. As a matter of fact for the second time this year alone the Small Cap asset class has endured a correction of -10% or more. What’s puzzling (and actually quite worrisome) is the divergence between what Large Caps and what Small Caps are doing. In a healthy and rising stock market, “as the tide rises so do all the boats”. We’ve had warnings before but the alarm bells are ringing louder since not all asset classes are moving in tandem as they once were. What we’re seeing now are perhaps the final signs of the rally peaking out.

What adjustments did we make?

The following moves were made during the month of September: Continue reading

Is Financial Engines right for you?

financial enginesDear Mr. Market:

If you were asked to list two or three of the largest Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firms in the country which ones would come to mind first? You’d definitely hear many of the names associated with Wall Street and the investment industry. Names like: Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Wells Fargo – while these are certainly large firms none of them are RIA’s. We’ve written on several occasions what an RIA is and how they are driven by their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. A simple online search of RIA’s will show that the largest firm is nearly 40% larger than any its closest competitor. It specializes in assisting individuals in managing their company retirement accounts and has become a behemoth in the investment industry. Financial Engines, Inc. has risen out of relative obscurity and is quickly becoming a household name.

Financial Engines is based out of Sunnyvale, CA, is publicly traded under the ticker symbol FNGN, and currently manages over $90 billion in assets! To put this in perspective the second largest RIA firm is Fisher Investments with assets under management of just over $50 billion. Fisher Investments is a marketing machine and if you have a portfolio over $500,000 in value, you’ve most likely received one of their post card mailings or solicitation emails.

Financial Engines, on the other hand, is a relatively young company and is the creation of some of the brightest minds in the industry that made their mark in the late 1990’s. The founders of the firm are Nobel Prize winning economist William Sharpe, Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest, Attorney Craig Johnson and Jeff Maggioncalda. While the firm went through some minor growing pains, they have certainly found their target market – working with individuals and managing the investments in their company retirement plans. 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

Top 3 Economic Sectors to Invest in Now

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s clear that nobody has a crystal ball but there are a few simple tools and “rules of the road” which can help manage your unpredictable and volatile behavior. For those of us who are visual learners this simple graphic is quite helpful in knowing where you may want to allocate your stock positions relative to where we are in the economic cycle.

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There are two curves laid over each other on this graph. Simply explained, the red curve shows you where the stock market is and the green curve shows you what stage we’re at in the current economic/business cycle. Aside from some possible ability to optimally allocate stocks within the most opportune sectors in the economy, the real impact this visual shows you is that the stock market is essentially a leading indicator. In general, the stock market is a forward-looking gauge of what investor expectations are of the economy and interest rates. Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: July 2014 Performance Update

MW-BB798_sm6040_20130422180557_MDDear Mr. Market:

Have you ever woken up long before your alarm clock was set to go off? Put yourself in that state of mind for a minute. You see the alarm clock, take a pleasant mental check that you still have some time to sleep and you pleasantly roll over and shut your eyes; it’s almost like you just were rewarded free time which is the one thing we can never get back!

CLANK, BANG, SCREECH, HONK!?!?! What on earth?? Something that is NOT your alarm clock rattles you awake and spoils this momentary feeling of pure relaxation.

That’s basically what Mr. Market did to everyone in July. The last day of July brought people a wicked reminder of what the market can do if you let it put you to sleep. We haven’t seen a sharp drop like this in a few years and it certainly got your attention, didn’t it?

We actually saw a rather sharp selloff in some of the technology and momentum stocks in April of this year but this time it is broad based and appears to be signaling something more. Before we talk further about the markets and how they may have finally awoken some of you, let’s refresh our often short-term memories on why we run this monthly series of articles.

Click here to revisit the first edition of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 Portfolio.

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (August 4, 2014).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

What adjustments did we make?

One thing we try to avoid when it comes to managing money is to “pat yourself on the back without breaking your arm”. We did very little this month aside from clearly communicate that we thought not only was the stock market ready to correct but we also laid out what we planned to do about it. Read and click here to see exactly what we said. The moves we made in advance of the worst down day of the year were as follows: 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

3 Common Diversification Mistakes

Dear Mr. Market:Diversification 2

Whether you handle your portfolio or hire a professional to manage it, there is no way you have not heard of the importance of diversifying your investments. The reality is, however, most investors fall prey to one of three major diversification mistakes; which of the three is your issue?

First and foremost, let’s briefly review what diversification is:

Investopedia defines Diversification as: ‘A risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio. The rationale behind this technique contends that a portfolio of different kinds of investments will, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than any individual investment found within the portfolio.

At first glance this makes sense and doesn’t appear to be complex, right? We find that investors typically appear to be in one of three different camps when it comes to diversification:

  1. Under Diversification
  2. Improper Diversification
  3. Over Diversification

Let’s take a moment to look at each and how investors can get their portfolios back on track. Continue reading

InvenSense (INVN) : Motley Fool’s Secret Wearable Technology Stock!?

 

INVN #2Dear Mr. Market:

Technology is a bit like true love. You have to believe in it but it can also bite you in the ass.
Read through this article and you’ll see how this relates to a particular investment!

The technology Industry can be a challenging sector for investors. Perhaps the best way to describe it is with a popular saying … “the one constant is change itself.” Plenty of analysts and investment firms scour through stock ticker symbols looking for the next Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) or Google (GOOG).

We couldn’t help but notice the Motley Fool’s recent …shall we say, “stock pitch” about a company that could be your next homerun! If you’re a die-hard Apple fan, wouldn’t you like to know who their next HUGE inside supplier is? Rewind the clock and take for example the desktop computer or the cell phone you have within inches of your hand right now…

Put Apple, Sony or IBM on the shelf for a minute and think about investing in the next company that has a stake in every sale regardless of the brand you choose? In other words, buy the “chip” or technology that’s inside of each device instead of trying to figure out which phone or computer manufacturer is going to win the battle. Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: April 2014 Performance Update

MW-BB798_sm6040_20130422180557_MDDear Mr. Market:

Unless you’ve never picked up a financial magazine or read the business section of any newspaper, you have undoubtedly heard of the old investment adage “Sell in May and go away”. Many financial “experts” and journalists do their best to paint the summer months as those that are primed to underperform. Does history always repeat itself in exactly the same way? Nope. It’s not hard to find investors who sold last spring (or even the one prior) in anticipation of a nasty summer and they are still in cash or underweight equities. If you’re in that boat and don’t trust the stock market, you may sleep better at night for now but in the interim you’ve lost opportunity cost and missed another bull market.

The flip side to this is that bearish investors will eventually be right! The S&P 500 has not had a correction of -10% or more since October 3, 2011. Like many investors out there we firmly believe a correction of -10% to -20% is coming this year but we don’t think it will be the start of a bear market. The challenge behind all of this, however, is that the longer we go without a healthy correction the deeper and more severe the inevitable sell-off will be. Continue reading