Monthly Archives: September 2017

September 25, 2017

The Markets

Geopolitics, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!

In January, Robert Kahn of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in Global Economics Monthly:

“Markets showed impressive resilience in the face of a range of geopolitical shocks in 2016, but recent market moves suggest this year could be different…It should be the year that global geopolitical risks provide the volatility in markets that I, and many other economists, have been predicting for some time.”

Kahn may share the bemusement of bond market prognosticators who have anticipated the end of the bull market in bonds for years and have yet to see their predictions prove out.

So far in 2017, investor confidence has remained impervious to geopolitical threats. Bloomberg reported, while diplomats at the United Nations stress over North Korea’s threat to drop a hydrogen bomb, Russia’s provocations along the borders of Eastern Europe, rising Middle East tensions, and conflict between the United States and China in the South China Sea, investors remain relatively sanguine.

The CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, which measures market expectations for near-term volatility in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500), finished below 10 on Friday. Historically, the VIX has finished below 10 on just a few days in its history.5 While the very low level of the VIX doesn’t tell us much about the future, Barron’s reports it indicates investors are not too concerned about “what’s happening now and what has happened.”

That contention appears to be supported by U.S. stock market performance. Despite hostile rhetoric between the United States and North Korea last week, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average both finished slightly higher.

IT’S THE IG NOBEL AWARDS! On September 14, the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony kicked off with a flight of paper airplanes.8IT’S THE IG NOBEL AWARDS! On September 14, the 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony kicked off with a flight of paper airplanes.

The winners were chosen by the publishers of the Annals of Improbable Research, which reviews, “Real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere. Research that’s maybe good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless.” The most important characteristic of the works published is they make people laugh and think.

The evening’s entertainment included ceremonial bows from returning Ig winners John Culvenor, who received the 2003 Physics Prize for analyzing the forces required to drag sheep across various surfaces, and Deborah Anderson, who received the 2008 Chemistry Prize for testing whether a dark cola is an effective spermicide.

This year’s winning research explored diverse and improbable ideas, including studies entitled:

Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial, which discovered that, “Regular didgeridoo playing is an effective treatment alternative well accepted by patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.”

Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal, which showed that, “At-risk gamblers with few self-reported negative emotions placed higher average bets at the EGM after having held the crocodile when compared to the control.”

Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins concluded that, “identical twins cannot tell themselves apart, visually.”

On the Rheology of Cats, which explored whether a cat can be both a solid and a liquid and determined, “much more work remains ahead, but cats are proving to be a rich model system for rheological research.”

Each of the 10 Ig Nobel winners was given 60 seconds to explain themselves before being awarded a bust replica of a human head with a question mark on top of it, a certificate signed by a Nobel Laureate, and one trillion Zimbabweans.

Russian-born physicist Andre Geim was the first scientist to win both awards. He received a 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for his work using magnets to levitate frogs, and a 2010 Nobel Prize for discovering graphene (a new form of carbon).

Weekly Focus – Think About It 
“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.” —Langston Hughes, American poet

* These views are those of Carson Group Coaching, and not the presenting Representative or the Representative’s Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment advice.
* This newsletter was prepared by Carson Group Coaching. Carson Group Coaching is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer.
* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

Sources:
1 https://www.cfr.org/report/global-economics-monthly-january-2017
2 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-31/bond-market-s-biggest-rally-of-2017-amazes-traders-as-fed-looms
3 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-20/stress-at-un-not-shared-on-wall-street-as-stocks-set-records
4 http://www.cboe.com/products/vix-index-volatility/vix-options-and-futures/vix-index/vix-historical-data
5 http://www.cboe.com/blogs/options-hub/2017/06/02/vix-index-closes-below-10-again-as-professor-called-vix-level-the-biggest-financial-mystery
6 http://www.barrons.com/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-vix-the-markets-fear-gauge-1505942074 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/09-25-17_Barrons-The_Pros_and_Cons_of_VIX-the_Markets_Fear_Gauge-Footnote_6.pdf)
7 http://www.barrons.com/mdc/public/page/9_3063-economicCalendar.html?mod=BOL_Nav_MAR_other (Click on U.S. & Intl Recaps, then “The Fed and BoJ do the expected”) (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/09-25-17_Barrons-Global_Stock_Market_Recap-Footnote_7.pdf)
8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNwLfRpNHhI
9 http://www.improbable.com/about/
10 http://www.improbable.com/ig/2017/#opera
11 http://www.bmj.com/content/332/7536/266?ref=driverlayer.com
12 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10899-009-9174-4
13 http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/
14 http://www.rheology.org/sor/publications/rheology_b/RB2014Jul.pdf
15 http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/15/551225637/ig-nobels-awarded-for-research-into-big-ears-feline-fluidity
16 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130353581
17 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/langstonhu121611.html?src=t_humor

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September 18, 2017

The Markets

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.”

Yogi Berra was talking about baseball, but the concept also applies to diversification, according to the GMO White Paper, The S&P 500: Just Say No. From the title, you might think the authors – Matt Kadnar and James Montier – don’t like U.S. stocks. They do:

“Being a U.S. equity investor over the past several years has felt glorious. The S&P 500 has trounced the competition provided by other major developed and emerging equity markets. Over the last 7 years, the S&P is up 173 percent (15 percent annualized in nominal terms) versus MSCI EAFE (in USD terms), which is up 71 percent (8 percent annualized), and poor MSCI Emerging, which is up only 30 percent (4 percent annualized). Every dollar invested in the S&P has compounded into $2.72 versus MSCI EAFE’s $1.70 and MSCI Emerging’s $1.30.”

The authors’ concern is U.S. markets have performed so well, investors may be tempted to abandon diversification and concentrate their portfolios in indexed U.S. stocks. Kadnar and Montier wrote, “Human nature is to extrapolate the recent past. It is easy to see, given the strong performance of U.S. equities in both absolute and relative terms, why many are suggesting they are the only asset you need to own.”

Focusing assets in the United States, according to GMO, ignores the most important determinant of long-term returns: valuation. “From our perspective, one has to make some fairly heroic assumptions to believe that the S&P is even remotely close to fair value.”

High valuations haven’t dulled the appeal of U.S. stocks for investors, though. Last week, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its biggest gain since last December, reported CNBC.com.

7 STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF AFTER THE EQUIFAX BREACH. From May through July, hackers exploited a website vulnerability at Equifax, one of the major consumer credit reporting agencies. If you have a credit report, there is a chance your sensitive and personal information including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers, may have fallen into the wrong hands. The stolen information could be used in tandem with passwords taken from other databases to commit financial crimes against you, reported a source cited by Consumer Reports.

Here are seven steps to take to help protect your assets and credit:

1. Find out if you were affected. From a secure computer or encrypted network connection, go to the Equifax website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Scroll down and click on ‘Potential Impact.’ You will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

2. Enroll in TrustedID Premier. If your data has been breached, Equifax will offer enrollment in TrustedID Premier. The program provides up to $1 million in ID theft insurance, Social Security Number Scanning, 3-bureau credit file monitoring, and the option to freeze your Equifax credit report.

3. Place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your other credit reports. Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis also provide credit reporting services. Contact each of the companies to place an alert or a freeze on your credit report:

          • A fraud alert warns both current and prospective lenders they must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before providing credit. When you’re a victim of ID theft,                   an alert can be put in place for up to seven years.

          • A credit freeze is different. It restricts access to your credit report. If you request a freeze, the credit agency will send a letter with a personal ID number (PIN). Keep the PIN              in a safe place. You’ll need it to unfreeze your accounts, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

4. Change your passwords. Create new passwords for online banking, brokerage, and financial accounts. Each account should have a unique password. Best practices suggest passwords have 12 to 14 characters.

You may want to consider using a password management application. They’re designed to store and retrieve passwords so you can keep track of multiple long, unique password combinations without security issues like storing passwords improperly or failing to remember them.

5. Activate two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication provides an additional layer of security for email and other accounts. After you enter your user ID and password, you’ll be asked for a code to verify your identity. You can have the account provider text a code to your phone, although that creates vulnerability if your phone is stolen. A better option may be to download an authenticator app so you can generate your own code.

6. Beware email links. Some fraud attempts are obvious: text or email from a Nigerian prince or an update request from a financial institution where you don’t have an account. Others may be more difficult to spot. As a rule of thumb, if you receive an email with a link requesting you update or make changes to a financial account, don’t click on it. Call the financial institution or go directly to its website to make any changes.

7. Keep an eye on your accounts. Check bank, brokerage, and other financial statements for suspicious transactions. If you find unauthorized activity, report it to the institution and the proper authorities.

If you have any questions or concerns about this breach or the markets, please contact us. 

Weekly Focus – Think About It 
“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.”–Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer

 * These views are those of Peak Advisor Alliance, and not the presenting Representative or the Representative’s Broker/Dealer, and should not be construed as investment advice.* This newsletter was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance. Peak Advisor Alliance is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer.* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.* All indices referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.* You cannot invest directly in an index.* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Sources:1 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/y/yogiberra141506.html2 https://www.gmo.com/docs/default-source/research-and-commentary/strategies/asset-allocation/the-s-p-500-just-say-no.pdf?sfvrsn=7 (Pages 4 and 8)3 https://insight.factset.com/hubfs/Resources%20Section/Research%20Desk/Earnings%20Insight/EarningsInsight_091517.pdf4 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/15/us-stocks-weekly-gains-fed-retail.html5 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do6 https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/7 https://www.consumerreports.org/equifax/how-to-lock-down-your-money-after-the-equifax-breach/8 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs9 https://support.norton.com/sp/en/us/home/current/solutions/v121052439_EndUserProfile_en_us10 https://www.pcworld.com/article/3056827/security/4-password-managers-that-make-online-security-effortless.html11 http://stylecaster.com/beauty/strong-women-quotes/

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