By: Thomas Steffanci, PhD, Senior Portfolio Manager
Let’s cut through the ongoing cross currents of Wall Street and other pundits’ chatter about supply chains, the pandemic, the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”), and market volatility to concentrate on the proven drivers of stock market investing.
History attests to the maxim that if you don’t expect a recession nearby, stay invested in stocks. That sounds like a haughty claim, but it turns out to be true. The catch is when do we know a recession is around the corner.
Stock investors have underestimated the role of the business cycle in driving corporate earnings. There is a close and consistent relationship between business cycle indicators and the path of earnings and revenues, and these in turn drive stock prices. The empirical relationships are often dismissed as unnecessary noise to stock pickers until the business cycle spoils their investment plans.
Stock prices usually peak about six to nine months before the onset of a recession; so, if you think the economy is going to stay out of recession for the next 12-18 months, stay invested. In fact, over the past half century, except for the 1987 market crash, there has never been a decline in the S&P 5001 of more than 20% outside of a recession.
Without recounting the economic and financial imbalances, and errant Fed policy, which led to previous recessions, suffice it to say this: Over-extended housing, capital spending, oil supply restrictions, along with strongly rising inflation expectations sow the seeds of recessions.
We do not believe that is the business cycle environment today. Much of today’s inflation is a function of unconventional supply-chain disruptions, which should ease as the pandemic fades, and the effects of prior fiscal stimulus will also diminish.
Monetary policy tightening cannot address those issues, which is why the Fed will likely take a far more measured approach in this environment, despite consensus handspringing about six or seven rounds of interest rate increases. Consumer survey-based three-year inflation expectations have only risen to 3.5% despite a year-to-year CPI at 7.5%.2 There is also no glut of housing or capital spending weighing down economic growth. In our opinion, the seeds of recession have not appeared.
What we do have is a surfeit of liquidity no longer needed to foster economic expansion, and large Federal deficits that risk tax hikes that transfer private wealth to an already bloated government. Rising interest rates are the result. But absent runaway inflation, real rates are likely to remain subdued.
Market timing easily plays on our emotions in a way that overrides even the most well thought out plans. But if you stay calm, you’ll find that the likelihood of a positive return grows higher the longer you stay invested. Having a long-term plan, one that can work through market volatility, is one of the best ways to pursue your long-term goals and bolster your financial situation for years to come. While staying invested is the preferred overall strategy, careful asset class and security selection is required.
Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy (including those undertaken or recommended by Company), will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Please see important disclosure information here.
By: Michael Allbee, CFP®, Senior Portfolio Manager
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”
– Captain (Strother Martin) from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”
Barron’s recently interviewed hedge fund giant Ray Dalio, who manages Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund with around $150 billion in assets. During the interview, he discussed how social division and polarization could lead to some form of domestic civil war and that we are at a critical juncture.
Is Mr. Dalio out of left field? Could we have a constitutional crisis in 2024 similar to the presidential election of 1876? The election of 1876 and the present day have many similarities, with the relentless anger and even hatred building up in our political system. The history of ancient Greece showed that, in a democracy, emotion dominates reason to a greater extent than in any other political system.1
Our democracy is fragile and can only survive if most citizens feel the system is fair and legitimate.2 “Good words and spirit aren’t enough,” Dalio said. “People will have to agree on both how to grow the pie and how to divide it well. That will require revolutionary change.” I don’t know about “revolutionary change”, but bipartisan government and legislation are absolutely essential for the health of our democracy. With an evenly divided Senate and a near-even split in the House, lawmakers have an unprecedented opportunity to truly come together with a plan to restore truth and respect in governance, putting the nation’s business ahead of partisan loyalties. “History bears the scars of our civil wars”, but history also justifies such moderate hopes. “I don’t need your civil war”!3
As we enter mid-year elections, there will be lots of headlines but that should not sway you from following the financial plan we created for you. Of course, elections hold great importance in upholding the U.S. tradition of democratic, representative government. However, their impact on market returns has historically proven to be negligible.4
How do we counter today’s political climate? We focus on the things that we can control. At least when it comes to investing, we focus on diversification, strive to position portfolios to generate stable returns after inflation and taxes, and disciplined rebalancing in times of market volatility to capitalize opportunistically on dislocations. Even though bonds and other “safe haven” assets (i.e., gold, reserve currencies, some alternatives) don’t provide much income today and may face near-term headwinds with rising interest rates, these assets remain a critical component of a diversified portfolio.
Disclosure: BFSG does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked to BFSG’s website or blog or incorporated herein and takes no responsibility for any such content. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. Please see important disclosure information here.