stock market

  • Dances with Bulls… & Bears

    Late Cycle Opportunities and Risk

    As we enter the second half of the year global stock indexes have exceeded almost every strategist’s expectations. This powerful advance has just slightly erased the entire steep decline of 2018. It is unusual since it hasn’t been based on any strong underlying themes. In fact, stocks have rallied into declining economic growth and corporate earnings, a tariff war, and a Federal Reserve which has become concerned about the potential for a recession. So what gives? Is the stock market vulnerable? Is there more upside left? I would suggest a little of both.

    During the later stages of an economic expansion, stocks often stage a “super rally” before running into trouble. Investors who recall 1999’s astonishing advance just before the 2000-01 bear market (-50% for indexes) can attest to this phenomenon. Like today’s rally, ‘99 came after a significant warning decline in ‘98 (Russian debt crisis). That decline was quite similar to the mini bear market of last fall. Late-stage rallies like today or others in history can go on longer and higher than investors expect – usually on less than perfect economic and earnings growth – and can be tricky. Our human behavior doesn’t want to miss a stitch of any upside, but we also don’t want to be vulnerable to a significant decline. There are several ways to play this scenario.

    So far my strategy for this late stage rally has been to have less stock exposure. Sacrificing some upside to mitigate risk and adding to stocks only on market corrections and or when we find unique situations. At this point, your portfolio is 2/3rds invested as opposed to 100%, but given that the Federal Reserve may lower rates to “save the market”, what if the late-stage rally lasts another year?? Should we be more invested? Yes, but only during market pullbacks.

    As long as you add stock exposure during market corrections, as I suggested did in May, you are assured of taking less risk and getting your portfolio closer to index-like returns over time. Each time indexes trade down, your portfolio holds up better and your opportunity to add stock presents itself. It’s a “dance” of sorts and I know this process can test the patience of the most aggressive, growth-oriented investor, but historically it has worked. When I say it worked, I mean it gained return while managing risk.

    Over the next few weeks, I will be in the thick of earnings reports for the second quarter. I believe these earnings will be less than expected and coupled with continually weaker economic data and tariff pressure. Investors should expect a normal market pullback from current levels and use such a pullback as another opportunity to add stock exposure.

    You can continue to gain profitability in this late-stage bull market, but it is a riskier environment and one that requires you to be aware of downside risk. Keep in mind that should stock prices begin to fall more than normal, you should be willing to reverse your “dance” pattern, reduce stock and sector exposure, and continue to have stop-loss orders to fend off a catastrophic loss.

    I hope this short update is helpful as we head straight into the earnings reporting season and provides clarity on our opportunistic view of the markets.

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  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now”

    Is Recent Stock Market Strength a Sign of Safety…or Danger?

    Since early October there has been a “bear market” in stocks, both here and abroad. Though some indexes declined approximately 20% from their highest point, most stocks were down much more until just recently. In the past few weeks, stock indexes have rallied about 10% providing some relief for investors, but far from the peak reached in late September.

    This is a good time to explore if the recent strength in indexes is the beginning of a better stock market or just a short-term advance leading to further trouble ahead. As you know we have kept your portfolio defensive during this period, with less stock exposure and less volatile stocks. Though this is effective during market declines, it can be a bit trying in the face of the recent market strength.

    How can we determine if there is further downside ahead or if the recent rally is the beginning of a real recovery? Let’s review the data points that were the cause of the tough market. In my view, we need these data points to stop trending downward or to become more clarified, before we take a more “risk on” growth posture. 

    Economic Data
    The economy and stock market are co-dependent. The first sign of economic weakness at the end of the third quarter is what sent stock prices into the downward trajectory. Since that time most leading economic indicators continue to be in a downtrend. Investors need global economic growth to stabilize stock prices to stage a meaningful long-term recovery. If economic growth can stabilize – albeit at a lower rate – stocks could still do very well and better than most investment alternatives. However, we need to see clearer signs of stability on this front.

    Corporate Profit Growth
    Economic growth is directly tied to the profitability of companies both here and abroad. We are now at the beginning of earnings season and need to see companies meeting or exceeding the lowered expectations that analysts have adjusted downward since the fourth quarter. Some of the most recent warnings and reports have not been positive, including Apple, JP Morgan, Macy’s and Ford – all of which have been negative.

    However, the earnings season has just begun and we have some big bellwether companies reporting over the next few weeks including domestic heavyweights Boeing and Caterpillar. These upcoming reports should shed further light on the sustainability of the market’s recent advance.

    Lastly, when it comes to earnings reports, it is very important that investors realize that these reports are about what happened last quarter and are not a precursor to what may happen going forward. This is why we also want to consider the following three policy challenges. These policy issues need to be better clarified before markets can be on more sound footing. 

    Federal Reserve (Fed) Policy
    The Fed has raised rates nine times over the past two years in an effort to prevent the economy’s growth (inflation) from accelerating too quickly. As we have written before, this effort comes with the risk that the Fed can mistakenly “overshoot” their estimate of interest rate increases versus growth and turn an otherwise sound economy into a recession.

    This concern is real and is one of the reasons investors have been selling shares. Fortunately, the Fed has recently backed away from being so adamant about further rate hikes. In the short run, this has soothed investor’s fears. However, I would like to see further clarity in the Fed’s message and a willingness to reverse course if necessary. The next Fed meeting at the end of this month may provide this.

    Global Trade Policy
    Tariffs and other impediments to trade with China and other global trading partners are a negative for global and domestic growth. On this front “no news is bad news.” Economic data from China is slowing and they remain an important trading partner for the US and global economy. A trade deal that turns out to be better than earlier perceived would go a long way to alleviate investor fear and support both economic growth and global corporate profitability. We will be watching these negotiations carefully.

    Government Shut Down
    Though short-term government closures have been stock market nonevents in the past, we are now in uncharted waters. Previous government shutdowns have been measured in days while this one is now more than a month old. This has a negative effect on a number of sectors of the US economy and some of our country’s largest corporations. Investors would be wise to consider the shut down as a further risk to stock prices. As with the other policy challenges, any sign of improvement or positive outcome to this standoff would be supportive of a better stock market environment.

    Clearly, there is no shortage of bad news and challenges on the domestic and global front – for the sake of brevity, we left Brexit and US debt levels out of the discussion. At times the stock market “discounts” all of the bad news by lowering the price of shares. We are not sure that the stock market has fully priced in some of these current risks, particularly given the more recent elevated level of share prices. However, if it turns out that the recent strength is the beginning of the recovery – coupled with some clarity on the issues described above – a re-test or normal correction from these levels would be expected, allowing us an opportunity to invest at more attractive prices in the very near future.

    Keep in mind that bear markets often demonstrate periods of short term strength which are followed by declines back to the old lows or even lower. This was the case with the market rally in November that resulted in a further 10% decline in indexes. If this recent strength is just another temporary rally in the bear market – given that all major indexes still remain in long-term downtrends – I want to make sure your assets are safe. In that spirit, I continue with my recent, ongoing mantra of “better to be safe than sorry” when it comes to the bulk of your liquid net worth. Keep in mind that historically bear markets last just 6-8 months and this one is already entering its fourth month. Over the next few weeks and months I will be continuing to monitor the data points and view any pullback in stock prices as a possible re-entry point, but one that will need to be validated by better fundamentals. 

    I am excited about the prospect of re-investing in a significant global stock market recovery.


    I hope you find this update helpful.

  • Stranger Things: An Unprecedented Period of Low Volatility Will Run Its Course

    The rise of stock prices, coupled with the lack of market volatility, in the past 12 months has been wonderful. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have! However, it is unprecedented. Global equity indexes have not experienced a decline of more than 4% for more than 14 months in a row. Never in history has there been such a long period of low volatility. This is truly one of the “stranger things” that I have witnessed in my almost 25 years of managing financial assets and in my 35 years as a professional investor. Is this the new normal? Have we entered a new era? Sadly, I do not think it is possible.

    It’s not that months of low volatility and rising stock prices are uncommon, it’s just that this one is much longer than most. When I revisit similar periods of low volatility paired with advancing stock prices, there appears to be some common ingredients. Almost always low volatility and rising stocks come with an environment of better than expected economic and profit growth, underinvested institutional and individual investors (high cash balances) and some type of outside stimulus that make stocks the most sought after investment alternative. Historically, these phenomena have been most common during periods of economic and profit improvement – think 1985, 2003 and 2009. When I consider the financial circumstances of the past 14 months, this all fits neatly into place. We have certainly experienced a significant recovery in global economic and profit growth, which caught the over worried and underinvested public and private investor by surprise. Pile on the significant pro-growth fiscal policy, such as tax cuts, and you get the makings of a huge demand for stock exposure. The mere concept of trillions in currencies chasing a fixed number of publicly traded stocks makes for higher stock prices with low volatility – the Holy Grail!

    This cozy and profitable environment will eventually end – and we don’t dare predict when so as not to spoil its longevity. However, investors would be wise to prepare for a return to a more normal stock market. Still profitable – but not as cozy. There is enough economic and profit growth momentum for stocks to continue upward – and we believe for quite some time. Global stock prices based on earnings (Price/Earnings Ratios) are not excessive at 18.3 and the “E” continues to grow at a great clip, with the help of fiscal stimulus. This should keep the P/E reasonable as equity prices rise. What this market will be missing going forward are the over worried and underinvested public and private investors. They are no longer underinvested or as worried. Over the past 14 months every dip in stock prices was met with piles of cash itching to get more fully invested, preventing normal stock market corrections. Now that those cash levels have been depleted, we can expect business as usual. As global stock markets grind higher, we will likely see very normal 8-10% corrections along the way.

    Whenever we get our first real correction in stock prices we should be prepared. The numbers can be a bit unsettling when the Dow Jones Industrial Average is above 26,000 (it was 700 when I started in the business!). A simple and normal market correction of 8-10% would be the equivalent of 2000-2600 points! Don’t let the absolute numbers mess with your brain or emotions – try to keep your wits and look at your portfolio and the market in terms of percentages.

    For the fixed income investor, the higher interest rates that have come with the stronger economy and profit cycle are a blessing. I expect the Federal Reserve to continue raising rates this year which will make purchases of bonds even more attractive. This is not a time to own bond funds or bond exchange traded funds. These products perform very poorly as rates rise, which investors are just starting to experience. I only invest in individual bonds, which will benefit me well as rates continue higher.

    I am optimistic in regard to outlook, however circumstances could change or get “stranger”.

    *****

    New review on Amazon for The Journey To Wealth!

    5 Stars

    “Before I delve into the content of this book I want to take a moment to gush about the formatting and aesthetic of this book. The book is incredibly well organized and the layout is both pleasing and makes the information very accessible. Each page is laid out with a variety of different images. This includes beautiful black and white photos, sketches that illustrate ideas, and a lot of informative graphs. All this put together made me excited to read the material. The book itself is chalk full of material. This book covers a wide variety of information, from the history of the Global Market to how to select individual stocks to grow wealth. The information is portrayed through excerpts, facts, terminology, graphs, and an accessible voice. I found this book to be very helpful in my own understanding and I loved reading the book. James E. Demmert proves himself to be incredibly knowledgeable about the subject matter. I would highly recommend this book to those looking to learn about investing.”

    Thank you Emerson!

    *****

    If you want to learn more about investing and take command of your wealth, my book can help.

    Purchase the Paperback for only $14.95 Today on Amazon.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future.

  • Happy New Year and Hello 2018!

    In terms of investment performance it is almost sad to say goodbye to 2017.  Global politics, tragedies and dramas aside, it was an unusually great year for stock market investors. The global economy had just the right ingredients to make for stellar stock market returns – a global economic and profit cycle recovery, coupled with historically low interest rates, and a large crowd of underinvested institutional and individual investors. Historically, this rare combination delivers above average stock price performance and 2017 did not disappoint! It was a particularly good year for global investors as foreign markets outperformed US indexes.  However, can we expect more of the same for 2018?

    Though we would welcome a repeat of ‘17 in ’18, we find it highly doubtful based on my research and historical precedent. As we discussed one year ago, the first year of a global economic recovery and profit cycle can produce tremendous stock price performance and we would suggest most of that is now behind us. Many of the data points that sent stock prices soaring over the past 18 months – namely better economic and corporate profit growth – were a surprise to most investors.  This coupled with a large crowd of underinvested institutions and individuals caused a huge appetite for stock purchases and this tremendous demand for stock itself is the primary reason for the “way better than average” return of stocks.  At this point the element of significant positive surprises on the economic and profit fronts are quite slim and most of the underinvested have put their funds to work.  Does that mean that the party is over for stock market returns?  No way.  The party is just likely to be more subdued, and much better than the bond market could muster in terms of return.

    I have suggested that we have been at the beginning stages of a new business cycle and bull market for over a year now, and that the bull market of 2009-15 died with the 20 percent decline in equities during ‘15-‘16.  This was not and is still not conventional wisdom.  As I follow my theory, I see no reason why the current economic, profit cycle and bull market cannot continue for a number of years.  Unlike the media and many other investors today, I believe that the stock market is reasonably priced and that economic growth and corporate profits will continue to expand, supporting even higher stock prices as we move forward.  However, the stock price trajectory of 2017 will most likely shift down a few notches in 2018 to a level more in tune with profit growth in the 8-12% range, still far superior to just about any other liquid investment!  In terms of volatility 2017 exhibited one of the least volatile years in history with no corrections of 3% or more!  Investors would be wise to expect normal volatility (8-10% corrections) to return in 2018 as both foreign and domestic stocks churn higher. It should be a good and more normal year for stock investors.

    As you may be aware Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chair, raised interest rates four times in the past 12 months and she and her replacement Jerome Powell will likely continue this policy to normalize interest rates.  Expect two to three rate hikes in 2018 assuming the economy and profit growth stay on course.  These rate hikes pose risks to bond mutual fund and bond Exchange Traded Funds – areas that I always avoid.  A significant rise in rates could cause these bond funds to fall in value and create massive selling and significant volatility in these instruments.  That risk (which we are not subject to) aside, a higher interest rate environment is welcome to those of us that buy individual bonds and can lock in these higher yields.  Hopefully, a healthy economy will bring attractive bond yields to your portfolio in the coming year.

    Here’s to a Happy New Year! Time to take command of your wealth. My book can help.

    Purchase the Paperback for only $14.95 Today on Amazon.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future.

     

  • Investing Just Got A Little Easier

    Today I am pleased to announce the launch of a paperback version of my award-winning book, The Journey To Wealth, which is now available on Amazon and priced at 63% less than the hardcover edition.

    The old rules of investing simply no longer work. In today’s uncertain times it’s no wonder that nearly 80% of Americans do not invest. Yet people at all income levels can transform their lives with a basic understanding of financial markets and a solid, stress-free investment strategy. 

    The Journey To Wealth distills the jargon of financial markets and equips readers with the tools they need to achieve financial independence. It is my hope that this new edition will be more accessible to the millions of Americans who are not currently investing but would like to start. It is far better to have a prosperous society than a struggling one, which is why I am passionate about this opportunity to share my tried and tested strategies with a wider audience.

    Success as an investor in today’s financial markets often requires going against much of Wall Street’s so-called “wisdom.” My book helps readers develop a personalized wealth plan tailored to their particular lifestyle, goals, and family circumstances. Too many investors fall prey to the same catastrophic mistakes. Such pitfalls can easily be avoided with my SMART investing philosophy, which includes:

    • Knowing about different types of investment instruments and understanding their pros and cons
    • Understanding the history of financial markets
    • Recognizing and taking advantage of market patterns and cycles
    • Learning how to maximize returns while managing risks

    In short, my book demystifies the process of investing and empowers readers to make wise investment decisions. Anyone can discover that investing the right way will help you achieve financial freedom. Here’s to your financial future!

    The Journey to Wealth strikes a winning combination: authoritative information written by a polished professional presented in a highly digestible, extremely attractive, high-quality package. — Barry Silverstein, Foreword Reviews

    Winner of The 2017 Indie Excellence Book Award. Winner of the 2017 Beverly Hills Book Award.

    Finalist in the 2017 Best Book Awards. Honorable Mention in the 2017 New York Festival of Books.

     

    Purchase Your Copy for only $14.95 Today on Amazon.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future.

     

     

  • Radio Interview on “People of Distinction” with Al Cole

    I was recently interviewed about my book, The Journey To Wealth, with nationally syndicated talk show host Al Cole.  His show, People of Distinction, is  featured nationally w/CBS RADIO, BBC & NPR on the #1 iTunes radio network.

    Al and I had a great discussion on investing in the world today, the fact that many people aren’t taking part in the stock market and why they should start.  Here is the replay:

    To learn more about SMART investing, check out my book:

    Purchase Your Copy Today on Amazon.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future.

     

  • The Reviews Are In…

    The Journey To Wealth has been blessed in that last month with wonderful reviews that I’ve listed below. I hope they will inspire you to pick up a copy and start your own journey to financial freedom. The Black & White version is available for only $14.95 on Amazon.

    *****

    There are many books that flood the investing category annually; simply differentiating a title is a major challenge. The Journey to Wealth strikes a winning combination: authoritative information written by a polished professional presented in a highly digestible, extremely attractive, high-quality package. This in itself makes The Journey to Wealth worthy of consideration as a guide to wise investing. –Barry Silverstein, Foreword Reviews

    *****

    From preferred stocks and the value and limitations of bonds to diversification processes, there is no better book on the market suitable not just for explaining investment processes, but for understanding the psychology of creating and sticking to a flexible strategy that works not by formula, but by concrete knowledge and market analytics. Sound complex? Not under James E. Demmert’s hand: he makes The Journey to Wealth accessible to a wide audience, from savvy investors to novices alike, and gives it a straightforward, jargon-free treatment that makes it an informative pleasure to read. — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

    *****

    [A] methodical and well-organized narrative… Throughout this detailed and instructive book, Demmert crystallizes his advice into 18 principles, clearly set off in boxes for easy reference…. the narrative is generally remarkably compelling… perfect for those seeking a more in-depth understanding of global financial forces and practical investment choices and strategies. — Kirkus Review

    *****

    In an investment world loaded with so many intervening variables, The Journey to Wealth is a breath of clean, fresh air. It helps the individual investor develop a long term plan for building a nest egg. Just as important, it shows you how to protect that investment during the inevitable short term troughs that occur while riding the rising wave of wealth called the Stock Market. It is a must read for every investor! — Amazon Reviewer

    *****

    An easy read, this book is perfect for people, like me, with no finance background. I now understand how money works and what’s required to reach our goals. It’s so good, I even recommended it to both of our young-adult sons. — Amazon Reviewer

    Thank you for reading the reviews. Visit me on Facebook or LinkedIn if you would like to follow along with my posts.

    Purchase Your Copy Today on Amazon.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future.

     

  • Markets Don’t Go Up Forever

    I hope you are enjoying the profitability that stock ownership can provide as global stock indexes continue to reach new highs. Year-to-date most indexes have reached double digit returns, with global indexes providing the most upside.

    I believe that the last bear market occurred in 2015-16 when global indexes fell 20% and corporate profits experienced a very mild recession. Over the past year we have been witness to a significant global corporate profit and business cycle recovery. Though many have called this a “Trump Bump,” it should be obvious at this point that the improving global economy and corporate profits cycle has little to do with the US President and more to do with how the business cycle works. The best part of our message today is that we believe that this new bull market has a brighter and longer future than most investors believe.

    Corporate profit cycles last years – not months – and this one is in its infancy. Though many investors are in awe that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is over 22,000, they should try to remember that it is simply a number – it was 800 when I started my career! What is more important is the price of the market related to its underlying profitability or “price-to-earnings ratio.” In statistical terms the market is nowhere near overvalued. In fact, there are sectors of the market that still trade at ridiculously inexpensive multiples to earnings – not at all a symptom of a market that is overvalued.

    There are many investors who question the future longevity of this market strength – which is another indication that we are far from a market top. However, there is a much larger crowd who seem immune to the old adage, “what goes up must (at some point) come down.” Though we believe that the recent market strength is well justified and has “legs,” we would not advise investing without some tools to manage the risk of this thesis being wrong and to protect your portfolio from catastrophic loss. As you know, we employ our Active Risk Management process specifically for this reason – this includes actively managing your asset allocation, your sector exposure and the careful placement of stop loss orders – the combination of which we call our “plan B.”

    I find it hard to believe that today’s investors would invest aggressively without some sort of “plan B” should it all come to a crashing halt. Surely investors must recall the recessions and corresponding stock market declines of 35-55% that have occurred several times in the past two decades?  Or the time it took for stocks to recoup those losses – on average six to seven years?  I find the short term memory of the average investor just plain astonishing. However, with the media’s attention on passive/robo/index investing, perhaps we can’t blame these naïve investors for getting sucked in! Let’s face it – while markets are going up the tide lifts all ships and your average index fund will participate in market returns. However this view is extremely shortsighted, particularly when it comes to the bulk of an investor’s wealth as they approach important timelines, such as retirement. They say that stock market history is riddled with investors repeating the same mistakes. The lack of some sort of “plan B” risk management appears to be the most obvious.

    The increasing popularity of passive/robo/index investing should be a warning to all investors to employ risk management tools and a plan for avoiding catastrophic loss, for the next inevitable and eventual market decline may just be much bigger than expected. In the meantime, continue to invest with an eye towards growth and be well prepared should things go awry. My book can help.

    No matter your level of experience, The Journey to Wealth teaches you to invest using a clear, easy-to-follow sequence of concepts. In a four-step process, you will learn how to identify your lifestyle goals for building immediate and long-term wealth, as well as how to invest according to your risk tolerance and needs. Straight-forward detailed explanations, charts and graphs, inspiring citations about wealth creation, and artwork will keep you reading, learning, and creating a SMART investment plan for your future

    Purchase Your Copy Today on Amazon.