Coming to Terms with Rising Rate Risk

With the hike in mid-June, the Fed has now raised its key interest rate seven times since embarking on its current tightening cycle in December of 2015.  Presently, the yield on 3-month T-Bills is near 2% for the first time in over a decade.  Yields on the flagship U.S. 10-year Treasury Note have eclipsed 3%, more than doubling over the last two years.  In that time, the yield curve has flattened quite dramatically, especially in the key 2-year to 10-year zone. 

Trade War Reignites Dollar Strength

The geopolitics of tit-for-tat tariffs and trade disputes this spring and summer has largely gone in favor of the U.S. dollar, with the index rallying around 7%, bringing it back up to a key technical level around 95.  As a result, strong-dollar headwinds have begun to re-emerge, with downward pressure on commodities and foreign investments being the most noticeable thus far. 

Goldilocks:  "This one's just right."

It was a robust year for equities of all origins.  Globally, both developed foreign and emerging markets equities outpaced the S&P 500, as did the Dow Industrials and Nasdaq here on the domestic front.  Relatively speaking, U.S. small cap stocks were the laggards of the broader equity markets but, historically speaking, gains this year were still well above their average.  On a total return basis, the S&P 500 has now posted 14 straight months of positive gains.  Presently, the longest such period on record is 15 months (March 1958 to May 1959).

Active is Bound To Find More Favor

Trends can have a major impact on how well investors following a particular investment approach or discipline perform during those times.  If you are on the same side of the trend, then the trend is your friend and your approach is known as being “in favor.”  If you’re are on the opposing side of it, the trend is your foe and you are “out of favor.”   An example of this was in the late 1990’s when when value went out of favor and renowned long-term value investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway lost about half of its market capitalization. 

Bull Market Crossroads or Conundrum?

Now in its ninth year, the current bull market is the second longest in U.S. stock market history, and could soon be claiming the number two spot in the biggest gains category as well. It's true that bull markets don't die of old age. It is typically a looming economic recession or a  recession in corporate earnings (or a combination of the two) that ultimately brings them down.

Passive Indexing Mania—Watch Out!

It is amazing how quickly investors can forget about the dangers of manias and the consequences of the bear markets that typically follow them. When the Nasdaq-driven bubble burst in March of 2000–just over 17 years ago–the S&P 500 lost 49% peak to trough. The Nasdaq itself lost 78%. The losses in those indices require gains of 96% and 455%, respectively, to get back to where they left off.