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Word on the Street – A Conversation with Marcia Clark, CFA, MBA

Word on the Street – A Conversation with Marcia Clark, CFA, MBA

A sit down with our Senior Research Analyst to discuss the US market, international markets, and how we are approaching both for investors.

For this Word on the Street, I sat down with Marcia Clark to discuss a recent report that stated leading economic indicators in the US are positive. Marcia and I discussed what this report means for investors and how it relates to our stance at Warren Street.

Enjoy.

Yesterday (October 18th), Blake shared a report that talked about long-term economic indicators looking good in the US. However, we have heard a lot from Blake on investing overseas in international and emerging markets. If the US looks so good, then why are we doing this?

M.C.: Even though indicators [in the US] are strong right now, we are still in an established economy, and it’s not possible for a huge economy like ours to grow as quickly as a smaller and more dynamic one. Smaller economies tend to grow faster than developed economies because they have to build out infrastructure to support new businesses. This infrastructure improves productivity which in turn drives economic growth. Since 2000, emerging economies have grown about twice as fast as developed economies.

How long will this period of US strength continue, and how long will we have to wait for emerging markets to have another boom?

M.C.: The US is currently experiencing one of the longest expansions in our history. While we’re grateful for the stable growth, we know this can’t go on forever. It’s extremely difficult to know when the end is coming or how bad it’s going to be, so what do we do? We hope for the best but prepare for the worst. To make an analogy – most of us don’t expect a house fire, but we still carry insurance. In the investment business, it’s wise to look over all markets to find the best opportunities and spread out the economic risk. 

When we spoke about the report that Blake shared, you said, “when the US gets sick, the world sneezes.” If the US is not sick at the moment, why does the rest of the world seem to be dragging this year?

M.C.: When we say the US isn’t sick, how are we measuring that? Most people look at the S&P 500 and say the US is doing great compared to global averages, but if we take out the huge technology companies such as Google, Amazon, and Netflix, the US market isn’t that much further ahead. Many other countries experienced a “Great Recession” fallout in 2008-2009 far worse than the US, leaving them behind the US on the economic recovery timeline, particularly in regards to unemployment. Add to that the continuing struggle of European countries to integrate thousands of refugees from wars and conflicts in the Middle East and you can see why Europe and its neighbors are having a tougher time than the US.

Some people say that emerging markets are not a great value right now. If that is true, then why are we continuing to add to our position with them?

M.C.  The US is largely insulated from many global challenges, but at the same time, the US is so well developed that there aren’t a ton of market-changing innovation opportunities here either. So, we look overseas. The first thing to understand about emerging market economies is that they are not a homogenous group. For example, you wouldn’t compare emerging economies in peripheral Europe to those in Africa or South America. When we look to add exposure in a diverse sector like EM, we investigate active asset managers with a track record of identifying the best risk-reward trade-off in that broad landscape.

So what you are saying is, when we talk about adding emerging market exposure, we are not getting all of the emerging market economies. What does Warren Street look at for their emerging market exposure?

M.C.: We aren’t investing directly in these countries, so we don’t have a country-by-country economic forecast. However, the fund managers we use do this full-time. Some even send members of their investment teams to these emerging countries to understand the political landscape, the sentiment of the population, and the vibrancy of the economy. Our job is to vet these managers thoroughly, check their track record across different economic cycles, and review their current country allocation against our thoughts on world conditions. From there, we then choose the best manager for the job.

Taking a step back to a previous question, what happens when the US does finally get sick? What happens to world economies in that landscape? Similar to your quote, I have heard “when the US gets sick, the world gets the flu.”

M.C.: It is true that the US impact on other countries is stronger than their impact on us, but the US economy is fairly insulated because we buy and sell so much within our own borders. In times when the US is struggling, other nations step up their trading with each other and muddle through until the US economy bounces back. As we talked about earlier, there are plenty of differences between the economic environment in the US and elsewhere – developed countries have done better than us plenty of times in the past. Remember that less developed countries are even less correlated with the US than developed nations. So when the US is sick, oftentimes the best place to look is smaller nations that are building their own economies in their own regions.

Taking a look back at the US economy, if the outlook is good, then why don’t we add more to the US stock market?

M.C.: Our job at Warren Street Wealth is to keep you safe and help you grow your assets. Even the most successful investors don’t have a crystal ball. They don’t get it right every time, so diversification is the only “free lunch” – we would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

The US is only about 40% of the world market. If we only invested in the US, we are closing ourselves off to an additional 60% of opportunities available to us. That just seems silly. Good stuff is happening all around the world, so let’s reach out and find it.

What do you say to the investor that only believes in the US stock market?

M.C.: For investors with a very long time horizon without the need to draw on their funds unexpectedly, the US stock market might be your only investment. But most of us don’t have the luxury of leaving our money in the market for 40 years and weathering all the storms that come our way. As fiduciaries of your assets, we have an obligation to protect your assets and help you achieve your long-term financial goals. We may not capture 100% of the upside, but we are confident that we are going to keep you from experiencing 100% of the bad times.

Anything else you would like to share?

M.C.: The world is a very big place, and sometimes we don’t know what exciting things are happening on the opposite side of the planet. Being open-minded about where you send your capital could unlock amazing things in other places.

Lastly, there is a fantastic set of information on the global economy that can be found at the IMF’s website: Real GDP by Country


Cary Warren Facer
Founding Partner
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. 

 

Word on the Street – October 1st-5th

Word on the Street – October 1st – 5th

A brief conversation with our CIO, Blake Street, CFA, CFP®, on what’s going on in the world today.

We constantly want to deliver more content to our clients and followers on current events, and how we are viewing them from an investment or planning angle.

“Word on the Street” will be a series where I sit down with our Chief Investment Officer, Blake Street, CFA, CFP® to pick his brain on what’s going on in the news and what that means for you.

Here is the conversation I had with him on Friday, October 5th discussing the last couple weeks. Enjoy.

Alright, Blake. Let’s start with the new US trade deal that people are calling NAFTA 2.0. What’s your take and how will this new deal impact investors?

B.S.: NAFTA 2.0 or more accurately titled the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) in my opinion is largely underwhelming. At its core, it should bring some manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. from Mexico, but I also expect this to result in increased cost to the end consumer. Considering the United States spends $500 billion a year on autos, cost increases will be noticed.

The reason I’m underwhelmed is the negotiation process wasn’t without collateral damage in trade relations and the ultimate outcomes are incremental at best. Essentially, Canada and Mexico agreed that 75% of parts for cars built for export would be made in North America. This is up from the original agreement of 62.5% under NAFTA. They also agreed that 45% of cars would be built by workers making more than $16 an hour by 2023, this was ultimately targeted at Mexico and should result in rising costs for domestic and imported production. Mexico also agreed to improve labor conditions but enforcement remains vague.

Canada agreed to increase import quotas for U.S. dairy into their market. I’ve seen estimates that this could result in $50-$100 million in activity for American dairy farmers. Not sure this moves the needle, especially in the face of what appears to be a $100-$400 million decline in Chinese imports of American dairy in the coming years.

Additionally, USMCA hasn’t officially been ratified yet. It has only been approved for a vote. If the midterm elections put more Democrats in Congress, then they have the opportunity to deny President Trump the victory of its passing.

We are entering the last quarter of the first year operating under tax reform. Do you think that it has been good or bad for investors?

B.S.: It’s hard to argue that is has been anything but great for investors. Three straight quarters of near-record earnings and US markets are oscillating around record highs. Taxpayers have yet to officially file under the new tax reform, so they have yet to even feel the full benefits.

It will be interesting to see how equity markets react as we get into 2019. The initial thrust of the tax cuts on earnings will wane over time, and it will be interesting to compare year-over-year numbers to post-tax cut figures.

Is there anything people might be surprised about as they go to file?

B.S.: The biggest surprise to most will be the balance between an enhanced and expanded standard deduction, lower marginal rates, and aggressively capped state and local tax deductions. In addition, I expect the 20% pass-through deduction to surprise a lot of folks who don’t know how it works, in both a good and bad way.

How do you feel about Elon Musk and the SEC?

B.S.: He got off way too easy. He should have been stripped of his role as director and CEO in addition to losing his chairman position. His $20 million personal and $20 million corporate fines are a drop in the bucket compared to the market cap of Tesla and the potential money that was lost or made based on his manipulative behavior.

Leaking a takeover bid or the idea of taking a company private should force a stock price to the assumed target price. Any rational CEO would know this ahead of time. He coerced unknowing investors to buy into Tesla based on this information and blew out short positions which seemed to be his intention.

The amount of talk around marijuana stock is at a high again. How should investors approach it, if at all?

B.S.: Personally, it is not a sector I am interested in investing in for myself or for clients as it is still illegal at the federal level. Recent buzz escalated when Tilray, a Canadian pot producer, got approval for a clinical trial to use marijuana in pill form to treat seizures. They had about 10 million in sales last year, and the market cap soared to 15 billion, which is, frankly, absurd. A good piece of that market cap has been given back.

Should it ever become legal at the federal level, I expect a massive influx from titans of industry in alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals. Production will drive down cost quickly. If we were to invest, we would focus more on the picks and shovels, distribution, and manufacturing perspective. A diversified approach will likely pay as picking the winners of such a rapidly developing space may prove to be very difficult.

What do you find most interesting in the market right now?

B.S.: Emerging Markets.

Interesting response…why?

B.S.: They started the year at low relative valuations even after a monster 2017. As of the end of September, they were at a 20% drawdown from the year’s high. I continue to believe they will be the best place to be over the next 5-10 years for fundamental and demographic reasons. Dollar strength has caused a lot of pain in emerging market currency denominated holdings and the sell-off in emerging market stocks has reached seemingly oversold levels. The pain might not be fully over yet, so a disciplined approach to buying into recent weakness is needed.

The 10 year Treasury closed Friday at 3.23. What are some of your thoughts as rates rise?

B.S.: I believe we’re now 8 Fed Rate hikes in. The consensus seems to be that we are due for 3-4 more. It seems that the market is not fighting back and pushing yields down. It will continue to pay to be nimble, keep durations short, and invest in fixed income asset classes with lower rate sensitivity and look for opportunities abroad.

Do you see any opportunities or concerns with rates increasing?

B.S.: Rising rates have resulted in a strong dollar which puts pressure on emerging market debt causing yield spreads to widen. This has created possible valuation pockets within emerging market debt, and this opportunity should not be entered into lightly.

Concerns: If inflation and yields continue to rise, investors who are accustomed to long-term, stable outcomes will be surprised to find out how volatile bonds can be in a rising rate environment. Going back to 1976, bonds on average have only had 3 negative years. Count 2018 as the fourth. Would a fifth materially change investors perspectives on what bonds mean to portfolios? Or will investors continue to understand bonds importance in a well-diversified portfolio? This creates opportunity and concern.

Any closing remarks?

B.S.: Loss aversion is one of the most basic human tendencies I can think of. In a year where virtually every asset class other than US stocks is in the red, I can see a lot of potentially bad behavior starting to fester. It is important now more than ever that you don’t chase the hot dot. Stick to your plan, stick to your process, even if that means deferring to your advisor.


WSWA Team Compressed-19-squareJoe Occhipinti
Marketing Manager
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. 

 

Periodic Table of Investing

Periodic Table of Investing

Dust off your memories of high school chemistry and think of your investment returns and your investment risks as two separate and distinct members of the periodic table. Certain elements (in this case, securities) are prone to interact when mixed, while others may remain neutral. Each element (security) will always have its own separate and unique profile and characteristics.

Starting with carbon, one of the world’s most important elements, I’d equate carbon to U.S. stocks. Regardless of age, every investor we work with has likely benefited from or utilized this element and will continue to do so in some capacity going forward.

Argon, the world’s least reactive element, tends to be more akin to Treasury Bonds or cash, not responding negatively to volatility much, if at all.

I’m far from the first person to think of investments in this way, in-fact there is deep history in what many refer to as the “Callan Chart” or “Periodic Table of Returns”. Below you’ll see a large majority of the world’s major asset classes and their returns relative to zero:

Callan from Zero

https://www.callan.com/periodic-table/

The most striking thing from this chart is that after a disastrous 2008 for everything except U.S. Bonds (argon), the only asset class that is yet to have a negative year is Large Cap ($10B+) U.S. Stocks (starred).

Winners and Losers

SPY vs ACWI vs EEM

Charlie Bilello via Twitter

This freedom from negative returns and the compounding of large year-to-year gains has led to outsized outperformance from Large U.S. stocks. Over the last 10 years, Large U.S. stocks have produced cumulative total returns of 158%. Developed Foreign Country stocks have produced 19% and Emerging Markets only 16%.

Two takeaways from this are: the power of compounding positive returns but even more important is the force of losses and the time it takes to make them up. In addition, one recurring theme of study and practice in investing is that asset prices move in cycles. While U.S. outperformance seems like an unbreakable cycle, it’s just a matter of time.

Trading Places

Take a look below at how U.S. and international stock market leadership has traded off over time. Most recently international stocks outperformed from 2003-2009, and the U.S. finds itself on its longest stretch of outperformance since 1979.
Performance Leadership

We have been incrementally positioning our clients’ portfolios for this eventual inflection since 2015. Last year we looked right, this year thus far we look wrong. Personally, I just consider myself patient as I wait for a multi-year trend to unfold.

Whether it’s high prices and valuation concerns or much of the low hanging fruit in our U.S. economic recovery is out of the way, we have a firm conviction in our posture of reducing U.S. stock market exposure. Having said that, we do not have a proverbial crystal ball, therefore we diversify and avoid throwing all of our eggs into the international basket.

Don’t Give up on Bonds

In addition, we haven’t given up on bonds, which have been tough to own this year, with U.S. Bonds down on average -1.62%.

 

Callan Periodic Table

https://www.callan.com/periodic-table/

 

It’s important to keep in mind how bonds have performed during down years for the stock market, something that is potentially in the cards this far into an extended bull market.

bonds vs stocks

One does not need to own the entire U.S. bond market via an index fund or otherwise. We currently prefer shorter term bonds, typically corporate bonds, and even in some cases inflation protected bonds. With a recent uptick in short-term government bonds, they aren’t nearly as painful to hold as in years past when yields hovered near zero. The 2-year treasury currently yields 2.829%, at the time of writing this article.

Late Cycle Playbook

With a backdrop of rising inflation globally, rising rates here in the U.S., accommodative monetary policy globally, and stretched valuations in U.S. equity markets, we continue to prefer assets that tend to outperform late in the economic cycle and when the factors above are present.

These assets include:

  • International and Emerging Market stocks
  • Industrials, Metals, Energy
  • Shorter Term Bonds, TIPS

Signing Off

While we realize this year has been far less exciting than the last, we remain firm in our convictions on how we want to combine elements from the “Periodic Table of Returns” moving forward. We stand at the ready to buy into recent market weakness and will not capitulate to chasing what has done well. We appreciate your continued trust and patience while we navigate through what’s been an unstable first half of 2018. Don’t hesitate to contact our office should you have any questions or concerns about how we are approaching your investments.

Respectfully yours,

Blake Street, CFA, CFP®


Blake StreetBlake Street, CFA, CFP®
Chief Investment Officer
Founding Partner
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Blake Street is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. Information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice, but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented.

Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals may materially alter the performance, strategy, and results of your portfolio. Historical performance results for investment indexes and/or categories, generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges or the deduction of an investment-management fee, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results. Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any portfolio and there are no assurances that it will match or outperform any particular benchmark. Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.