After a 4th quarter correction which bottomed out on Christmas Eve, U.S. equity markets have rallied for 8 consecutive weeks (through mid-February), with the S&P 500 index up 18% over that span (and 11% year-to-date). Small cap stocks rebounded even more swiftly, with the Russell 2000 index up nearly 24% from its December low (16% year-to-date). Investors shrugged off some negative macroeconomic news (December retail sales declined 1.2%, the largest drop since September 2009), seemingly giving more weight to a host of other positive developments.Read the rest of this entry »
Global equity markets suffered significant losses during the 4th quarter, which dragged down stock returns across the board for the full year. Our clients’ portfolios, most of which include an allocation to bonds, declined somewhat less. Still, 2018 was unusual in that almost every major investment category experienced a negative total return. The exceptions were cash, US Fixed Income, and TIPs (note: your portfolio’s allocation and results may differ—please refer to your Quarterly Portfolio Review Report).
We are experiencing our first broad-based drop in stock markets for many years. Just last week, the drop in the S&P 500 from its September high surpassed 10%. Moreover, US large company stocks are actually one of the better performing stock asset classes, with declines in foreign stocks and smaller company stocks nearing or even exceeding 20% now. Following on the heels of a calm 2017 (when the S&P 500 rose each and every month), this downturn feels like a genuine shock.Read the rest of this entry »
A spate of recent think-pieces, news segments, and even a forthcoming documentary film have popularized an internet subculture called the “FIRE” movement (which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”). In a nutshell, FIRE is about achieving financial independence earlier in life via extreme frugality and accelerated retirement savings. Its adherents (typically Millennials) report saving as much as 50-70% of their gross income each year, in a bid to accelerate the point at which their investment portfolio can support their modest annual income needs, freeing them from traditional work obligations.Read the rest of this entry »
This year is so different from last. In 2017, US stocks marched upward each and every month. International stocks delivered even higher returns, making up partially for some years of underperformance. While short-term interest rates were pushed upward by policy makers, longer-term rates were very steady, leading to good bond returns, too. Volatility reached long-term lows. All said, 2017 offered up one of the more benign market environments imaginable. Our typical balanced portfolio was up well into double digits.
This year, not so much. Volatility has returned (to more normal levels, we suggest) to such extent that these third quarter comments, in order to be more timely, also need to take into account the mini (so far) downturn suffered in October, which is undoing some the market’s good third-quarter performance.
Let’s start with the picture as of quarter-end (9/30).Read the rest of this entry »