The Investment Pulse: What we’ve heard in the First Quarter

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At The Center each of us spends a substantial amount of time reading, listening to speakers and attending conferences. The goal is to provide our clients with the best possible advice. Here’s a brief summary of the high points the Investment Department has heard this year so far.

Municipal Bonds

In January, Melissa Joy and Angela Palacios spoke with a Municipal bond specialist from T. Rowe Price. We discussed the current environment and what may affect municipal bonds looking ahead.

  • Distressing news from Detroit and Puerto Rico last year caused retail investors to flee from municipal bonds in general, creating what many believed to be an excellent investment opportunity.
  • This caused unusual cross-over buying which means that investors that typically only invest in taxable bonds were compelled by valuations and yield to purchase tax free bonds for portions of their portfolios. Banks are even utilizing municipal bonds as part of their liquid investment buckets. These are rare events.
  • Tax filing time creates buying opportunities for municipal bond investors as taxes are top of mind in the March/April time frame when checks are being written to pay for taxes due.

Stock Market Valuations

There has been much heated debate as to whether the stock market is over or under valued on the fifth anniversary of the bull market. We attempt to review varying arguments in order to make educated decisions on the allocation of our portfolios. One extreme yet interesting view-point comes from Eric Cinnamond, Portfolio Manager for an Aston/River Road fund. Eric has strict valuation guidelines as to what he will and will not pay for small companies and is willing to hold cash in absence of opportunities.

  • He has more cash than he ever thought he would have, currently 70% of his allocation. He feels valuations are very bloated and that for valuations to continue to expand, the U.S. economy will have to continue running at peak profits with no recession indefinitely (he did state that these valuations can continue for quite some time before correcting).
  • When we get to these points in the market cycle, you start to hear the question, “Is it different this time?” Cinnamond says he is getting this question a lot lately because of his contrarian viewpoint.
  • He will continue to hold cash as dry powder to deploy in the event of a market pull back and stands by his process.

Bond Giant Woes

In mid-January, PIMCO announced that Mohamed El-Erian resigned his role as co-Chief Investment Officer and Chief Executive Officer for PIMCO funds. While he had only an indirect impact on our PIMCO holdings we are continuing to watch further developments at PIMCO. Bill Gross & Rob Arnott remain the key managers to the PIMCO strategies we utilized for clients. While it currently appears Bill Gross is a difficult personality to work with he continues to provide excellent returns compared to the bond market in general.

The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Municipal bond interest is not subject to federal income tax but may be subject to AMT, state or local taxes. Income from taxable municipal bonds is subject to federal income taxation; and it may be subject to state and local taxes. Municipal securities typically provide a lower yield than comparably rated taxable investments in consideration of their tax-advantaged status. Investments in municipal securities may not be appropriate for all investors, particularly those who do not stand to benefit from the tax status of the investment. Please consult an income tax professional to assess the impact of holding such securities on your tax liability.