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Lessons from Dad

In honor of Father’s Day, we’d like to give a small tribute to Dad this week. For the many lessons and unspoken words of wisdom we’ve received over our lives, we say “thank you” to all the dads out there. To the dad who taught us to save Remember when you received your first piggy bank? I do, although it was not a piggy at all, but rather a red crayon shaped “bank.” Fortunately (or unfortunately maybe) for me, the memory is captured on film somewhere in our vault of embarrassing, never to be shared home videos. While my reaction to the gift at the time was what you might expect from any child on their third birthday – two seconds of mediocre excitement followed by a race to rip through the next present – I didn’t realize this was the beginning of a lifelong lesson. Beyond the gift of my first piggy bank, my father continued to reiterate the importance of savings and frugality through positive reinforcement and leading by example in his own life. While the lesson may Read on! →

It Pays to Allocate

U.S. equity markets have struggled to gain ground year-to-date, posting a meager 2.7% return by mid May. Still, the S&P 500 has slowly climbed to an all-time high and a few weeks ago peaked over the 1,900 level.  Over the past year, success in the equity market was supported by a pickup in economic activity and a dampening of tail risks globally.  However, going forward investors should not be surprised by mean reversion in both annual returns and volatility. As shown by a recent JPMorgan chart of the week, the maximum drawdown (intra-year decline) so far this year was -5.8%.  This was also equal to the largest pullback in 2013.  The average annual drawdown since 1980 put these pullbacks in the -14% range.  Despite these annual pullbacks, the S&P 500 index still returned to investors an annual total return of 9.9% since 1980. What does this tell us about stock investing?  It reinforces the notion of diversifying investments across all asset classes.  It pays to have a portion of your portfolio allocated to equities despite the volatility associated with them. Equity markets Read on! →

Do Small Cap Stocks Know Something We Don’t?

The Wall Street Journal reported this week the small-cap Russell 2000 closed below its 200-day moving average on Tuesday for the first time since November 2012, snapping a streak of 363 trading days above the closely watched technical indicator. That marked the index’s third longest streak dating back to its inception in 1978.  While history is not always an accurate predictor of the future, it can sometimes serve as a reference point, particularly when it comes to market cycles.  This technical indicator (the 200-day moving average) is often used as a benchmark to gauge a market’s long-term trend. When a stock or index trades above the 200-day, it is in an uptrend. But when it falls below, it is in a downtrend that could lead to more declines. The Russell 2000 dropped 1.6% Tuesday to 1108. It is down 7.1% from the record high hit in March and down almost 5% year-to-date. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “about half of the Russell’s components are down 20% or more from their respective 52-high weeks. Some 80% of them are down Read on! →

Spring Thaw

The weather is finally starting to turn, and economic data is returning to a more trustworthy state.  It’s early however and first quarter earnings season is just beginning as well.  Expectations are relatively low, in large part due to the weather, but there is increased interest in forward guidance which could be the catalyst for the next move in the market.  With corporate confidence improving and some fiscal concerns receding, we expect a relatively optimistic, yet cautious, tone to prevail. On the economic front, both versions of the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) surveys showed improvement.  The Manufacturing Index rose while new orders encouragingly increased.  The Non-Manufacturing Index, representing the larger service side of our economy, showed a nice gain with the employment component having the largest gain.  Auto sales appear to be rebounding from a weather induced pause, indicating that consumer demand is still decent and confidence is improving.   The Leading Economic Indicators Index (LEI) rose in March, the most in four months, and above consensus estimates. Six of its ten components made positive contributions indicating widespread strength among Read on! →

Is a Roth IRA right for you?

Roth IRAs get a lot of attention in the media, particularly aimed toward younger investors in their early earning years. Roth IRAs provide an additional way to save for retirement with after-tax dollars, but how do you know if a Roth IRA is right for you? Consider the following. Tax Advantages Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax contributions, meaning that you contribute after-tax dollars today to avoid paying tax on the money when it is withdrawn in the future. Essentially, you are giving up the current tax deduction for the future tax-free benefit in retirement. Traditional IRAs are just the opposite – you receive a tax deduction today (assuming you are within the IRS-defined deductibility limitations), but then pay tax on the contributions and earnings when withdrawn in retirement.  If you expect your income to increase over time pushing you into a higher tax bracket when you retire (as demonstrated in the illustration below), or you have a long time horizon for the tax-free earnings to build substantially over time, a Roth IRA may be a good option for you. Read on! →