Tag: Investors

An investment service can provide individuals and businesses with a number of advantages. Here are some key benefits:

Help you to save time

If you are busy with work or other commitments, it can be difficult to find the time to research investments and make informed decisions about where to invest your money. An investment service can take care of this for you, freeing up your time to focus on other things.

Help you to save money.

Investment services can often get access to discounts and deals that individual investors would not be able to get. This can help you to save money on your investment costs, meaning you have more to invest and potentially earn a higher return.

Diversify your investments

Investment services can provide you with access to a wide range of investments, which can help you to spread your risk and diversify your portfolio. This can potentially help to protect you from losses in any one particular investment.

Provide you with expert advice

If you are new to investing, or simply don’t have the time to research investments yourself, an investment service can provide you with access to expert investment advice. This can help you to make more informed decisions about where to invest your money.

Stay disciplined

Investing can be a emotional process, and it can be easy to make impulsive decisions when markets are volatile. An investment service can help you to stay disciplined with your investment strategy, which can potentially help you to avoid making costly mistakes.

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The company is a world leader in the development of vaccines and other biologic products that help protect people from infectious diseases. In addition, the company has a strong track record of success in developing and commercializing new products. As a result, investors can expect to see strong growth in both the top and bottom line in the years ahead.

One of the key reasons to consider investing in Emergent Biosolutions is the company’s exposure to the growing global market for vaccines. Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. As such, they are in high demand, especially in developing countries where disease is more prevalent.

Emergent Biosolutions is well-positioned to capitalize on this growing demand. The company has a portfolio of over 20 vaccines in development, including a number of new vaccines that are in late-stage clinical trials. In addition, the company has a strong partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a major player in the global fight against infectious diseases.

Another key reason to consider investing in Emergent Biosolutions is the company’s diversified product portfolio. In addition to vaccines, the company also develops and commercializes a range of other biologic products, including blood products and treatments for rare diseases. This diversification reduces the company’s dependence on any one product and gives it a more balanced revenue stream.

Finally, Emergent Biosolutions has a strong track record of success in commercializing new products. The company has launched several new products in recent years, including the Ebola vaccine and the Anthrax vaccine. As a result, investors can have confidence in the company’s ability to bring new products to market and generate strong growth.

The company has a strong product pipeline, a diversified business model, and a proven track record of delivering shareholder value. In addition, the company is well-positioned to benefit from the growing global demand for vaccines and biotherapeutics.

Emergent Biosolutions is a global biopharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures, and commercializes vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for public health and biodefense applications. The company has a diversified business model, with products in development for both the civilian and military markets. In addition, the company has a strong product pipeline, with several products in late-stage development.

The company’s products are used to protect against a range of diseases, including anthrax, smallpox, and Ebola. The company’s products are also used for the treatment of a range of conditions, such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Emergent Biosolutions has a proven track record of delivering shareholder value. The company’s shares have outperformed the S&P 500 index over the past five years. In addition, the company has a strong balance sheet, with a cash balance of $1.1 billion at the end of September 2016.

The company is well-positioned to benefit from the growing global demand for vaccines and biotherapeutics. The global market for vaccines is expected to grow from $24.8 billion in 2015 to $41.9 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research. The global market for biotherapeutics is expected to grow from $178.8 billion in 2015 to $376.3 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research.

Emergent Biosolutions is a strong investment opportunity for long-term investors. The company has a diversified business model, a strong product pipeline, and a proven track record of delivering shareholder value. In addition, the company is well-positioned to benefit from the growing global demand for vaccines and biotherapeutics.

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Emergent Biosolutions is a pharmaceutical company that specializes in developing and manufacturing vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases. The company’s products are used by government agencies, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical companies around the world. Emergent Biosolutions has a strong track record of success in developing and commercializing new products, and its products are backed by a large and growing body of scientific evidence.

Emergent Biosolutions is a smart investment for several reasons. First, the company has a strong track record of success in developing and commercializing new products. Its products are backed by a large and growing body of scientific evidence, which gives investors confidence that the company’s products will continue to be successful in the marketplace.

Second, Emergent Biosolutions has a diversified product portfolio that includes vaccines and treatments for a wide range of infectious diseases. This diversification reduces the company’s risk and makes it more likely that one of its products will be successful in the marketplace.

Third, Emergent Biosolutions is a global company with a presence in many countries around the world. This gives the company a diversified customer base and reduces its risk.

Fourth, Emergent Biosolutions has a strong financial position. The company has a strong balance sheet and a history of profitability. This gives investors confidence that the company will be able to continue to invest in research and development and to commercialize new products.

Emergent Biosolutions is a smart investment for several reasons. The company has a strong track record of success in developing and commercializing new products, a diversified product portfolio, a global presence, and a strong financial position. These factors make Emergent Biosolutions a smart investment for long-term growth.

Emergent Biosolutions is a pharmaceutical company that focuses on developing and commercializing immunizations and therapeutics that help protect and enhance public health. The company’s products include vaccines for anthrax, smallpox, and hepatitis B, as well as treatments for snake bites and chemical exposures.

Emergent Biosolutions has a strong track record of delivering on its promises. The company has a history of meeting or exceeding earnings expectations, and its share price has outperformed the market in recent years.

The company is also well-positioned for future growth. It has a strong pipeline of new products, including a next-generation anthrax vaccine and a treatment for the Ebola virus. It is also expanding its manufacturing capacity to meet the growing demand for its products.

Emergent Biosolutions is a smart investment for those looking for a company with a strong track record of delivering on its promises and a bright future.

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Financial research is the process of identifying and analyzing financial data in order to make informed investment decisions. It is a critical part of the investment process, as it allows investors to assess the potential risks and rewards of an investment.

There are a number of different ways to conduct financial research. The most common method is to use financial news sources, such as CNBC or The Wall Street Journal. These sources provide up-to-date information on the latest financial news and events.

Another way to conduct financial research is to use financial data sources, such as Yahoo! Finance or Google Finance. These sources provide historical financial data, which can be used to identify trends and make forecasts.

Finally, investors can also use economic data sources, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Federal Reserve, to conduct financial research. These sources provide data on economic indicators, such as inflation and employment, which can be used to assess the health of the economy and make investment decisions.

Financial research is the process of acquiring and evaluating information about investments. It is a critical part of the investment process, as it helps investors make informed decisions about where to put their money.

There are many different ways to conduct financial research. One of the most important is to use a variety of reliable sources. This includes reading news articles, financial reports, and research from investment firms.

Another important part of financial research is to understand the risks and potential rewards of an investment. This involves analyzing the financial stability of a company and its industry, as well as considering the political and economic conditions of the country in which it operates.

Finally, it is also important to have a clear investment strategy. This will help to guide the research process and ensure that the information gathered is relevant to the investor’s goals.

Financial research can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, it is an essential part of the investment process and can help investors make informed decisions about where to put their money.

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Many of my prospective clients come into my office either not knowing how much they are paying in investment fees or mistakenly thinking that they are receiving their investment counsel for free.  It is no wonder this occurs.  Fees are often embedded in the form of loads (either front-end when the fund is purchased or on the back end when it is sold), commissions, and expense ratios.  These hidden fees make it difficult to ascertain total investment costs for your portfolio. 

Many financial statements appear to have no fees deducted, but just because you can’t see a fee, does not mean it is not present and having an effect on your portfolio.

So how do you determine the fees you are being charged?

How much do you pay for advice? – Fee only versus Fee Based Advisors

First, if you use an advisor, you will somehow be paying for this advice.  There are many ways advisors receive compensation.

A fee “only” advisor charges a fee based on either a percentage of your total assets invested, a retainer, or per project fee based on an hourly rate.   This is the easiest and most transparent way for the client to be charged.  Furthermore, with retainers and hourly fees, large portfolios are not charged egregiously high rates just because they have higher account balances.  Note that true fee-only planners are in the minority in the financial advisory world.   Hourly, fee only advisors are even rarer.

The downside of this approach is that since the client has to write a check for the amount, behaviorally it is less palatable for him, even if the charges are far less. Ironically, this enhanced awareness of the fee, even if it is substantially lower, makes the client more resistant to paying via this method.

Fee “based” advisors are distinctly different from fee only advisors in that they can charge a certain percentage of assets AND may also receive commissions on the products or funds sold to the client.  This could be the case if your advisor who charges you 1% annually on your investment portfolio also gets commissions from the funds or positions in your portfolio or from an insurance product or annuity he or she sells you.

The ABC’s of Investment Fees

Most investors that go to a solely commissioned based brokerage are not charged a fee as a percentage of their assets. So, on the surface, it may appear that the advice they receive is “free.”   Instead, the broker will buy funds that have a built in commission.  These funds are often denoted by a capital letter after the fund.  An “A” fund has a front-end load.  Typically 4-6% of the total amount handed over to the advisor will go straight to him or her as commission.  These fees may decline at certain breakpoints, particularly if you stick within one fund family.  “B” funds have back-end commissions that normally decline over time, so it is best to hold on to these until they have expired.  C funds have level but relatively high annual expenses.  Due to these loads or commissions, load funds tend to have higher expense ratios, as well as potentially 12b-1 fees.

What are expense ratios and 12b-1 fees?

An expense ratio is the most common fee an investor will encounter.    It represents the annual operating costs of the fund.  Every mutual fund or exchange traded fund has this ratio, and, of course, you would ideally like to see these as low as possible.  For example, active funds may have expenses ratios well over 1%, whereas passive index funds may have expense ratios less than .20%.

The 12b-1 fee is also considered an operational expense and, as such, is included in a fund’s expense ratio. It ranges between 0.25-1%, but is more often closer to 0.25%.  It is primarily used as an incentive for the broker or rep to sell the fund and is paid to that broker annually.

Note that although active funds purport to “beat the market,” over two-thirds of these funds fail to beat their benchmark in any one year.   See this related article. As you can imagine, the more of these active funds you add to your portfolio, the chance of you beating the market (as represented by index funds) over many years substantially diminishes.   Thus, the increased expenses many investors pay a fund manager to “market time” or pick “winning funds” are often a waste of money.

Let’s look at an example to bring it all together:

Say I invest $100,000 in a fund with front end loads of 4.75%.  The fund also has an expense ratio of 1.13% inclusive of a 0.25% 12-b1 fee, which goes back to the broker.  At the same time, I decide to invest in a no load passive indexed fund in the same investment category.

After 5 years, assuming that the annualized rate of return for the category index is 10%, the total costs and return of the portfolio would be as follows:

 Even though the expenses for the higher cost fund were perhaps not as transparent, the ending value of the investment shows the dramatic difference.  This is why many investors scratch their head and wonder why their portfolio seems to underperform the market.

The moral of the story is costs matter, especially over long periods of time.  Over just five years, in this example, the low cost investment balance is over 10% higher.

Make sure you fully understand all of your investment costs and how you are being charged.  If future investment returns are expected to be lower than what we have historically experienced, keeping costs low is even more imperative.

If you invest in low cost funds and use a low cost fee only advisor consider yourself well-armed to defend against lower returns in the future.

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Investors are well aware that financial markets go up and down.  That is the essence of business and economic cycles.  What is difficult for individual investors to master is how to act in the face of market advances and declines.  Unfortunately, most people become very tolerant of risk and increase their exposure to the stock market when the market is advancing.  Similarly, they avoid risk and clip their exposure to stocks when markets are declining, or after a large correction.  It is human nature and “recency bias” that create this visceral response to market perturbations.  Recency bias occurs when investors believe that the most recent performance of their investment portfolios will continue indefinitely in the future.  It is just one factor that results in investors consistently underperforming the stock market.

Brad M. Barber  and Terrance Odean, in their 2011 study “The Behavior of Individual Investors,” conclude that individuals routinely underperform benchmarks through 1) selling winning investments and holding losing investments, 2) being heavy influenced by most recent past returns (repeating investment behavior that coincides with pleasure and avoiding behavior that is painful), and 3) holding undiversified portfolios.

Dalbar studies have also shown that most individual investors typically trail the market rate of return, and they typically do so by a fairly wide margin.

The message from Dalbar since its first study in 1994 is that investment results are more dependent on investor behavior than fund performance and that mutual fund investors who tend to buy and hold are more successful than those who attempt to time the market.

Investors who attempt to time the market are often acting irrationally out of fear of a potential loss.  Stocks and investment funds happen to be the only assets that people buy less of when they become less expensive. Let’s think about buying food at the supermarket, if the price of steak rose considerably, you would be more inclined to reduce your purchase of steak or buy something else, but if the supermarket suddenly reduced the price of the steak by 30%, you would stock up.  However, you do the opposite when it comes to stocks and other investments.  The stock market can foster a gambling mentality.  When you are on a roll you hate to stop, but that is exactly when you should cash some chips in.

So how does an investor counteract the tendency to time the market and invest based on most recent results?  Rebalancing is great way to fight the effects of recency bias.  Rebalancing to your target asset allocation is a mechanistic and unemotional way to fight these counterintuitive emotions.  I sometimes get an odd look from my clients when I suggest that they rebalance after a market run-up.  “Why would I want to do that, the market is hot?” might be a typical comment.  But that is exactly why rebalancing is so important.  It removes the emotions, market noise, and other extraneous factors, and reminds the investor of their original financial plan and goals.

The best value-added proposition a financial advisor provides is to set the target allocation and then monitor and adjust it based on the client’s personal goals and life events.  The asset allocation is set within the investment policy statement and the portfolio is rebalanced yearly, or as needed, after large market advances or declines.  The asset allocation is revisited periodically, at least every 3 years, and is adjusted in response to a client’s retirement goals, change in health or marital status, or market valuations.

Rebalancing in this way, will not only help the client attain rates of return closer to the respective benchmarks for his or her portfolio, it can actually be a source of additional return.  In a recent article in Financial Planning magazine, “Portfolio Rebalancing: Get It Right,” Allan Roth underscores the incremental benefit of rebalancing.  His analysis shows that “over the past 15 years, the portfolio that stuck to its allocation earned 1.54 percentage points more each year than the average portfolio that tried to time asset classes.”

Rebalancing is just one area where advisors add incremental return and why it is essential for our clients to commit to the annual review and rebalance exercise.   Emotions can be hard to control, let your re-balancing take them out of the mix, so you can maximize your long range returns.

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If you have planning to invest your money in the stock market, you need to read this carefully. It cannot be denied that every investment has its own risk. Today’s article gives an overview of the situation in the stock market today and the prediction about what will happen in the future.

Client meetings over the past year have been quite sanguine. Investments and assets are up. People seem to feel better about job security. The housing market is slowly recovering, and retirement projections look rosier. Strong stock market performance is good, in that it gets us closer to our goals; however, it can also breed a false sense of complacency.

Valuations are high and reaching points not seen since 2007, 1929, and by some metrics, even 2000.

Overvalued Stock Market

Courtesy:www.insideinvest.com.sg

Stock markets become overvalued when stock prices rise at a much faster rate than earnings, which is what has occurred for the past several years due to the belief that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies will continue to force investors into stocks in order to get a decent return on their money; low-interest rates punish savers and cause them to seek yield by investing in increasingly speculative investments. But even members of the Federal Reserve are warning about frothy segments of the market as they tiptoe toward shutting off the quantitative easing spigot.

debt is increasingly being purchased on the basis of yield rather than the careful evaluation of repayment prospects. John Hussman Hussman Funds

The Cycles In Financial Markets

Courtesy:encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com

It is important to remember that financial markets move in cycles, and just because this multiyear stock market advance has been rewarding, it does not mean that it can continue indefinitely. In fact, the longer it persists, the greater the chance of a severe correction.

One way to evaluate whether or not the market is expensive is to look at the current PE10 or CAPE ratio. This valuation method was developed by Robert Shiller from Yale, and it historically has been helpful in forecasting market crashes as well as future rates of return.

This article in the WSJ “Yes, Virginia, You Can Time the Market” explains that, although no one can time the market with precision, using the Shiller PE as a method to modify your stock exposure by overweighting or underweighting by up to 30 percentage points has resulted in stellar returns since 1926.

The Prediction of Bubbles

Courtesy:www.nasdaq.com

It is a strategy, however, that requires patience. A high CAPE ratio can persist for years. It tends to have a better success rate for predicting 10-year future returns and is less accurate in predicting returns less than 5 years out. In fact, in 2000 it was over five years early in diagnosing an overvalued market. The article acknowledges that extreme market timing by moving all of your assets in and out of the market based on certain parameters is very difficult and not a recommended strategy. Using Shiller’s ratio, though, can provide some guidance in dialing down equities when markets are overvalued and dialing up exposure when markets are undervalued, thus protecting investors from large corrections and enhancing long-range returns.  See the chart to the left.

John Hussman has been warning about stock valuations for years as the Shiller PE, as well as his additional proprietary methods, indicate that returns over the next decade will be roughly 2%, before inflation. His weekly commentaries are a must-read.

He makes this powerful assertion in, Yes, This Is An Equity Bubble:

Make no mistake – this is an equity bubble, and a highly advanced one. On the most historically reliable measures, it is easily beyond 1972 and 1987, beyond 1929 and 2007, and is now within about 15% of the 2000 extreme. The main difference between the current episode and that of 2000 is that the 2000 bubble was strikingly obvious in technology, whereas the present one is diffused across all sectors in a way that makes valuations for most stocks actually worse than in 2000.

The question a rational and prudent investor should as himself is this, “ is it prudent for me to take additional risk in the stock market at this juncture, given such dismal future returns?” This is a particularly important consideration for those people who are looking to retire in the next 7-10 years, as well as those how have recently retired.

For more information on the Shiller PE and market valuations you may want to read the following:

Market Valuation Overview- Yet More Expensive

The Mystery of Lofty Market Valuations by Robert Shiller

Is the CAPE Ratio Good at Predicting Future Returns? (Yes) Is it Perfect? (No)

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Addressing a large and unresolved issue that had pended since 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday imposed new restrictions on money-market mutual funds. The rules will perform a sort of balancing act, reducing the risk of the $2.6 trillion industry, but keeping intact the prime utility of the product. Asset management companies, as well as the five-member SEC committee, have given the move mixed reviews, with two members of the latter voting against the new ruling.

The SEC Commission has approved rules that require institutional money market funds to implement floating share values and other restrictions, such as restricting withdrawals and imposing redemption fees of up to 2% if fund assets drop below prescribed levels.  The shares would float based on changes to NAV (changes to the underlying market value of the fund’s assets).  Currently, these funds have a fixed price of $1 per share.

The New Rules

Young businesswoman and businessman signing contract in office

According to Mary Jo White, SEC chairwoman, these rules “will reduce the risk of runs in money market funds and provide important new tools that will help further protect investors and the financial system.” She went on: “Together, this strong reform package will make our markets more resilient and enhance transparency and fairness of these products for America’s investors.”

Wall Street Positively Affected

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 19, 2018 traders work on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange. – Wall Street stocks pushed higher for a second session in a row on January 7, 2019, a sign of improved investor sentiment despite the ongoing US government shutdown and other economic headwinds. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 0.4 percent higher at 23,531.35, as the broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.7 percent to close at 2,549.69. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP)BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Wall Street seemed on the whole satisfied with the final results – which are a significant shift from the 2012 proposal. Then, former SEC Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro wanted all funds to adopt the floating NAV practice or hold capital to absorb losses of any kind.

The rules were crafted in response to the 2008 financial crisis, when corporate lending markets seized up in response to a lack of liquidity.  The new restrictions will hopefully help maintain capital levels and keep markets operating smoothly during times of stress.

Individual Money Market Funds Not Affected

While the new floating share rules apply to institutional funds (both prime and tax exempt), they will not impact government and retail funds that are sold to individual investors. (Note that they will apply to institutional municipal money markets.)  However, provisions for liquidity fees and redemption gates do apply to all funds, both institutional and retail.

For a definition of government and retail money market funds, the SEC provides this detail via a press release on their website:

Government and Retail Money Market Funds – Government and retail money market funds would be allowed to continue using the amortized cost method and/or penny rounding method of pricing to seek to maintain a stable share price.  A government money market fund would be defined as any money market fund that invests 99.5 percent (formerly 80 percent) or more of its total assets in cash, government securities and/or repurchase agreements that are collateralized solely by government securities or cash.  A retail money market fund would be defined as a money market fund that has policies and procedures reasonably designed to limit all beneficial owners of the money market fund to natural persons.  A municipal (or tax-exempt) fund would be required to transact at a floating NAV unless the fund meets the definition of a retail money market fund, in which case it would be allowed to use the amortized cost method and/or penny rounding method of pricing to seek to maintain a stable share price.

One way this might affect individuals, is if they invest in institutional money market funds through their 401K.  It is likely that most retirement plans will choose retail money market funds as a plan option for this reason.  This will affect small and large businesses that use these accounts as short term funding for their day to day and week to week operations.

The new rules will not go into effect immediately.  Fund companies have two years to comply with the new restrictions.

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Investors are well aware that financial markets go up and down.  That is the essence of business and economic cycles.  What is difficult for individual investors to master is how to act in the face of market advances and declines.  Unfortunately, most people become very tolerant of risk and increase their exposure to the stock market when the market is advancing.  Similarly, they avoid risk and clip their exposure to stocks when markets are declining, or after a large correction.  It is human nature and “recency bias” that create this visceral response to market perturbations.  Recency bias occurs when investors believe that the most recent performance of their investment portfolios will continue indefinitely in the future.  It is just one factor that results in investors consistently underperforming the stock market.

Brad M. Barber  and Terrance Odean, in their 2011 study “The Behavior of Individual Investors,” conclude that individuals routinely underperform benchmarks through 1) selling winning investments and holding losing investments, 2) being heavy influenced by most recent past returns (repeating investment behavior that coincides with pleasure and avoiding behavior that is painful), and 3) holding undiversified portfolios.

Dalbar studies have also shown that most individual investors typically trail the market rate of return, and they typically do so by a fairly wide margin.

The message from Dalbar since its first study in 1994 is that investment results are more dependent on investor behavior than fund performance and that mutual fund investors who tend to buy and hold are more successful than those who attempt to time the market.

Investors who attempt to time the market are often acting irrationally out of fear of a potential loss. Stocks and investment funds happen to be the only assets that people buy less of when they become less expensive. Let’s think about buying food at the supermarket, if the price of steak rose considerably, you would be more inclined to reduce your purchase of steak or buy something else, but if the supermarket suddenly reduced the price of the steak by 30%, you would stock up. However, you do the opposite when it comes to stocks and other investments. The stock market can foster a gambling mentality. When you are on a roll you hate to stop, but that is exactly when you should cash some chips in.

So how does an investor counteract the tendency to time the market and invest based on most recent results? Rebalancing is great way to fight the effects of recency bias. Rebalancing to your target asset allocation is a mechanistic and unemotional way to fight these counterintuitive emotions. I sometimes get an odd look from my clients when I suggest that they rebalance after a market run-up. “Why would I want to do that, the market is hot?” might be a typical comment. But that is exactly why rebalancing is so important. It removes the emotions, market noise, and other extraneous factors, and reminds the investor of their original financial plan and goals.

The best value-added proposition a financial advisor provides is to set the target allocation and then monitor and adjust it based on the client’s personal goals and life events. The asset allocation is set within the investment policy statement and the portfolio is rebalanced yearly, or as needed, after large market advances or declines. The asset allocation is revisited periodically, at least every 3 years, and is adjusted in response to a client’s retirement goals, change in health or marital status, or market valuations.

Rebalancing in this way, will not only help the client attain rates of return closer to the respective benchmarks for his or her portfolio, it can actually be a source of additional return. In a recent article in Financial Planning magazine, “Portfolio Rebalancing: Get It Right,” Allan Roth underscores the incremental benefit of rebalancing. His analysis shows that “over the past 15 years, the portfolio that stuck to its allocation earned 1.54 percentage points more each year than the average portfolio that tried to time asset classes.”

Rebalancing is just one area where advisors add incremental return and why it is essential for our clients to commit to the annual review and rebalance exercise. Emotions can be hard to control, let your re-balancing take them out of the mix, so you can maximize your long range returns.

Read Full Article

The economy appears to be making strides as it emerges from critical condition and enters into rehabilitative mode. Some positive signs include increasing bank lending, auto sales, and consumer confidence. Unemployment is also declining, especially for skilled labor. Both the US budget deficit and state budgets are improving. Corporate infrastructure such as plants, buildings, and equipment are overdue for upgrades, suggesting substantial future increases in capital expenditures.

Headwinds from the Euro debt crisis have subsided to a large extent, with credit spreads collapsing. In fact, spreads seem unusually tight given that Spanish bond yields are currently lower than US Treasury yields. This is quite unusual, and likely due to the European Central Bank’s announcement that they will engage in more aggressive monetary easing policies to halt disinflation and spur growth.

Japan and China are still muddling through their own economic malaise attempting to establish equilibrium. In short, the global financial landscape seems eerily quiet, especially given the growing geopolitical pressures. Increased tensions in the Ukraine, civil war in Iraq, and continued presidential scandals have failed to disrupt financial markets. The US stock market, in particular, is experiencing reduced volatility. We are now going on almost three years with no correction of 10% or more (since August of 2011).

The current situation reminds me of my garden. This year I made a vow to finally grow vegetables. I decided to start with something easy and small. I filled a cement container with soil and compost and planted two tomato plants. The plants grew tall quickly; and before I knew it, I had about 15 shiny green tomatoes. I was so excited that I started to plan my recipes, who I would share my bounty with, and what I was going to add to my garden next year. Then one day when I went to check my plants; I found a shriveled up tomato and one that had brown rot on the bottom. Uh, oh. I researched the disease online and now realize that I may not be able to save my tomatoes. I am taking steps to reduce the risk of further rot, but I am concerned that I may be fighting a losing battle.

I may lose a lot of my tomatoes, or I may be able to minimize the losses and still have plenty of tomatoes for weeks to come. The same may hold true about the financial landscape. Although the economy is starting to improve, the stock market seems to have gotten a bit ahead of itself. The market appears frothy, with little room for future growth, but a correction may come in days, months, or maybe years.

Why are stocks and investors so complacent?

The Fed Reserve’s policy of printing money has resulted in a massive increase to their balance sheet from $800B in 2007 to over $4.5T today.

This massive flood of money into the system has drastically devalued the dollar and has forced investors to put their cash in riskier investments. This has been the main reason for the overly ebullient markets since the Great Recession of 2008. In this zero interest rate world, desperate retirees and savers are reaching for yield in risky areas of the market in order to get more return on their money. This has resulted in overvalued fundamentals. Valuations are rich for US equities using metrics that have traditionally been highly correlated to market performance.

Using the CAPE (Cyclically adjusted PE) ratio developed by Robert Shiller from Yale University, the market may be signaling that US stocks are possibly overvalued by 50%, as the ratio is approximately 51% above its average (arithmetic mean) of 16.5.

Of course, valuations can’t be used as market timing techniques, as markets can stay overvalued or undervalued for long periods of time. But at these levels, it does suggest that loading up on equities, especially if you are a new or soon to be retiree, may not be a good long-term move.

According to John Hussman, “The median price/revenue multiple for S&P 500 constituents is now significantly higher than at the 2000 market peak.” He is currently forecasting weak returns over the next decade with negative returns for period of 7 years or less.

Similarly, James Montier from GMO expects that large U.S. stocks will have a return of -1.6% a year for the next seven years.

Mebane Faber in a recent conference suggested that not only US stocks, but particularly dividend stocks are severely overvalued. He also warned that “home bias” skews our portfolios in favor of our own country’s stocks. Right now international markets, especially certain emerging market countries, have better valuations.

The point is that shocks occur when you least expect it. They are often caused by some triggering exogenous factor and are met with disbelief, which in turn leads to unpredictable human behavior.

We need to prepare for inevitable corrections as they are part and parcel of business cycles.

Since this rally is particularly long in the tooth and has created severe overvaluations, it may be a time to mentally and financially prepare for a market setback. While I do not espouse market timing, I do think it is prudent to reduce exposure by 10-20% in the event of extended markets, impending retirements, or in the event that you have reached or surpassed your target financial goals.

Times like these also underscore the importance of re-balancing your portfolio. Re-balancing is the best way to keep yourself unemotional, since you invest based on your target allocation as opposed to market noise. This is why I always urge my client’s to be faithful regarding their annual reviews.

When you re-balance or take some actions to reduce risk, you not only enhance your awareness of your financial well being, but you feel more in control of your situation. When it comes to investments, we can’t control the economy or the direction that the markets will turn, but we can and should control the things that we can, such as reducing costs, planning to avoid tax spikes, and maintaining an exposure to the stock market that is consistent with our risk profile and market valuations.

In order to reduce the risk of losing more tomatoes to disease, I bought some gypsum and added it to the soil in my tomato plant container. I don’t know if it will work, but I at least feel better that I did all that I could to help prevent the spread of the disease. I hope to have an abundant garden this summer, but only time will tell.

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