Reflecting on Recent Progress of Economy

As a general rule progress comes in very small increments. Whether we’re talking about the economy or learning to play a piano, often the day-to-day gains are barely measurable. We are primed to want “more…better…now” and as time passes we reassess our long-term investments, asking “what have you done for me… lately?” Frequently the best way to appreciate a financial position is to stop and reflect on economic progress over a longer period of time. With that in mind, let’s compress time and evaluate our economic progress since the low point of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Before we start, we want to be up-front with an important disclosure: we’ve ‘cherry picked’ a bit (not a lot) and rounded off the numbers to give you a Big Picture that’s easy to follow.  Not all measurements are positive but certainly the majority are trending the right direction.

  1. Gross Domestic Product (the measurement of the expansion of our overall economy annualized); Q3 2008- negative 8%…Q2 2013-positive 1.7%.
  2. Retail auto sales (annualized); Q1-2009-nine million…Q2-2013 fifteen million.
  3. New orders for durable goods; Q1 2009-$150 billion…Q2 2013-$225 billion.
  4. Monthly retail sales; Q1 2009-$300 billion…Q2 2013-$380 billion
  5. Total housing starts (annual rate); Q1 2009-500 million…Q2 2013-800 million
  6. Industrial production (2007 = 100); Q1 2009-85…Q2 2013-100
  7. Non Agriculture employment; Q2 2009-130 million…Q2 2013-136 million
  8. Consumer confidence (100 = 1985); Q2 2009-25… Q2 2013-80

Yes, the economic recovery has been tepid; but we see the current trend continuing and a silver lining in the slow growth. There’s a possibility that the current expansion will last longer than most, and that inflation and borrowing costs (i.e. interest rates) will remain low.

Oh I almost forgot…one more statistic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average; Q2 2009-6500…Q2 2013 15,500.

Thanks for your business and trust,

Craig

Past performance does not assure future results. Investors cannot invest directly in the stock market indexes such as the S&P 500. Invest return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate. Investor value, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. The material in this presentation is for illustrative purposes and does not reflect any particular investment.

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Comments contained above are meant to be generic in nature and are not meant for specific action.

By |2018-12-05T11:57:38+00:00August 8th, 2013|Craig's Commentary 2013, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Diversification – June 2013

Asset Class Allocation

In March 2009 the market hit a low point (I’ll bet you still remember). Since then it has risen about 100% so we’re all feeling much better except for those ‘nagging memories’. During the last few months, as some markets have reached new all-time highs, we’ve had a lot of questions about valuations. “Is the market to high?” “How’s the economy?”. “Should I sell and wait for a correction or change my allocation?”

Let me start with the markets making new all-time highs. When I started in this business…1973…the Dow Jones was about 600-700. Today it’s about 15,000. We’re used to the markets making new highs.

Now let’s turn to the economy. At this time we see the economy continuing to chug at a modest pace for some time before encountering another normal recession. Remember that recessions are periodically needed and expected. We also do considerable on-going research and analysis on the securities in your portfolio(s) and continue to find plenty of stocks selling at what we feel are bargain prices.

Change your allocation? Sell and wait for a correction (AKA market timing)? We don’t think so.

Whenever the market has a significant move up…or down…It’s easy to wonder if it’s time to be more conservative or aggressive but recalling what you have and why can help. Equity portfolios managed by Sycamore are broadly diversified with individual holdings in Large, Mid and Small Capitalization stocks and International holdings. Additionally portfolios are invested across our economy with holdings in 11 sectors (Basic Materials, Utilities, Medical services etc.)that we’ve identified. We feel the equity portion of your portfolio(s) are adequately diversified. This leaves the selection of your portfolio’s “class” (Stocks – Bonds) as the important question for consideration. Most of you have been clients for 20,30 or (yes it’s true) almost 40 years so you’re aware that we encourage clients to hold equities as long as their time horizon and tolerance to pain (or in some cases “shock and horror”) J are adequate. Our philosophy on this has not changed over the years and remains unchanged today. Why? Results! As we look at our long term client’s portfolios we find hundreds that have had far better results with stocks than with Bonds.

Consider this (yes we’re aware that we’ve written about this before but it’s important). Rounded off for purposes of this illustration, we find historic returns of about 10% for Stocks, 5% for Bonds. At first it appears that stocks earn about twice as much as bonds. However, we feel that the only ‘return’ to our clients that counts is the net return after adjusting for taxes and inflation. When we apply this formula we get an altogether different picture. First let’s look at the simple net (after adjusting for taxes and inflation) return for each class. Stocks start at 10% less about 2% for taxes and 3% for inflation leaving a net real return of about 5%. Bonds start at about 5% less 1% for taxes and 3% for inflation leaving a net real return of 1%. 1%?…1%? Not much huh? So after adjusting for taxes and inflation we find that Stocks earn about 5 times as much as Bonds. Now let’s just assume that you’re investing $100,000 for 20 years. What would your ‘net real’ (after taxes and inflation and allowing for compounding) earnings be on each investment? Well bonds/fixed investments come in at a blistering $122,130. Stocks/equities manage $271,264. Since each investment started with $100,000 the ‘net real’ gain on bonds/fixed was $22,130 vs. $171,264 for stocks. That’s about 1200% more. OK now to even the score a bit. Bonds and other fixed/guaranteed investments can play an important role in your portfolio. They offer a safety net and a pool of money that is assessable while other investment classes like stocks or real estate are experiencing their normal fluctuations (Bear markets). They can also bring comfort to the investor during recessions etc.

So… back to the question at hand. Should you consider making any changes based on our current market and economic conditions? We aren’t finding any reasons to do so at this time but we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Thanks for your business and trust,

Craig

Past performance does not assure future results. Investors cannot invest directly in the stock market indexes such as the S&P 500. Invest return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate. Investor value, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. The material in this presentation is for illustrative purposes and does not reflect any particular investment.

_____________
Comments contained above are meant to be generic in nature and are not meant for specific action.

By |2018-12-05T11:58:03+00:00June 7th, 2013|Craig's Commentary 2013|0 Comments