Investment Updates

2018 2nd Quarter Investment Commentary

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Helping our clients achieve their goals is truly a team effort here at The Center.  You may not have met or spoken to the investment team here at The Center, but we are an important resource leveraged to help you achieve your goals.  Watch the video below to learn more about the investment team and how we help you reach your financial planning destination!   We are always here to help so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! 

Rebalancing

The investment team monitors and rebalances your portfolio, in addition to portfolio construction.  It is equally important to continue to monitor portfolios and their compliance with your investing preferences and objectives as it is to determine what the proper investments are.  Rebalancing is a key part of this process.  See our recent blog post on how to rebalance a portfolio to understand the reasons and mechanics behind the process.  The most important way to be successful is to get invested and stay invested.  Rebalancing your portfolio on occasion will help you stay the course for the long-term.

Market Update

The story has stayed much the same over the past quarter with trade tensions remaining center stage.  Volatility remains, while trade war talks have spilled over into action and interest rates continue to rise.  Synchronized global growth is slowing but is not yet slow; so, do not expect growth to immediately fall off the cliff from a peak to a trough. 

U.S. markets remain in consolidation mode after a strong 2017 as investors waffle between getting comfortable with the lower rate of growth while having a strong economic and earnings outlook.  The U.S. market ended the quarter on a higher note up 3.43% for the S&P 500 despite the ups and downs throughout the quarter with China and U.S. relations.  Despite being up as much as 6.6% and down as much as 4.4% throughout the year so far we are up 2.65% through the end of the second quarter for the S&P 500. 

Bond markets have continued to struggle with bonds giving back what they are earning via interest payments, and then some, as the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate bond index is down 1.6% year to date.  Interest rates continue to increase at a well-telegraphed pace by the Federal Reserve with two more increases expected this year. 

In contrast to the U.S. market, international markets are struggling for the year with the MSCI EAFE posting a -2.75% so far.  In stark contrast, domestic small company stocks are enjoying a nice tailwind from the corporate tax reform so far this year.  The Russell 2000 is posting a startling 7.6% return year-to-date, all of which occurred in the second quarter.

Inflation continues its slow creep back into our economy with wages slowly starting to increase.  Just as slowing growth in the economy is not yet slow, rising inflation is not high inflation.  We are still at very low levels of inflation when you look at the history of our domestic economy.  Our investment committee has decided to add an allocation to an inflation-focused real asset strategy.  We want to add exposure within the portfolios to a strategy that would have the potential to respond more favorably than the broad equity markets to rising inflation. 

Preview of exciting changes

The investment team has been working on some exciting developments for your experience.  We will soon have a “Center for Financial Planning, Inc®” app for your smartphone where you can view returns, asset allocation and even your probability of success for your financial plan.  This new portal will be available to all who are interested.  More information and training on how to set up and view information will be coming later this year so watch your inboxes!  As always, please feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions.

On behalf of everyone here at The Center,
Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
Director of Investments
Financial Advisor 

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF® is the Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Angela specializes in Investment and Macro economic research. She is a frequent contributor The Center blog.


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 opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. Investing involves risk and no strategy can ensure success. The process of rebalancing may carry tax consequences. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Diversification and strategic asset allocation do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks. The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a market capitalization-weighted index, meaning the securities in the index are weighted according to the market size of each bond type. Most U.S. traded investment grade bonds are represented. Municipal bonds, and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities are excluded, due to tax treatment issues. The index includes Treasury securities, Government agency bonds, Mortgage-backed bonds, Corporate bonds, and a small amount of foreign bonds traded in U.S. The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australia, Far East) index is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the international stock market. These international securities involve additional risks such as currency fluctuations, differing financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic instability. The Russell 2000 index is an unmanaged index of small cap securities which generally involve greater risks. Inclusion of these indexes is for illustrative purposes only. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Bond prices and yields are subject to change based upon market conditions and availability. If bonds are sold prior to maturity, you may receive more or less than your initial investment. Holding bonds to term allows redemption at par value. There is an inverse relationship between interest rate movements and bond prices. Generally, when interest rates rise, bond prices fall and when interest rates fall, bond prices generally rise.

Why I Disliked my Diversified Portfolio in 2014

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Let’s face it; we live in a headline kind of world these days. One of the fastest growing media outlets, Twitter, only allows 140 characters. They might as well rename it “Headwitter”! I was reminded of the power of headlines recently as I was reviewing my personal financial planning; reflecting on the progress I have made toward goals such as retirement, estate, tax, life insurance, and investments. And, after reviewing my personal 401k plan, and witnessing single digit growth, my immediate reaction was probably similar to many other investors that utilize a prudent asset allocation strategy (40% fixed income and 60% equities). I’d be less than candid if I didn’t share that my immediate thought was, “I dislike my diversified portfolio”.

The headlines suggest it should have been a better year. However, knowing that the substance is below the headlines, and 140 characters can’t convey the whole story, my diversified portfolio performed just as it is supposed to in 2014.

The Financial Headlines

The financial news -- whether it be radio, print, or social media -- almost entirely focuses on three major market indexes; the DJIA, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ. All three are barometers for Large Stocks in the United States; they are meaningless for additional assets found in a diversified portfolio such as international stocks, small and medium size stocks, and bonds of all varieties. It is true that large US stock indexes were at or near all-time highs throughout 2014.  It is also true that many other major asset classes gained no ground or were even negative for the year including: high yield junk bonds, small cap stocks, commodities, metals, energy, international stocks and emerging markets. Moreover, even within US large stocks there was vast disparity as large cap value stocks lagged large growth stocks by almost 50%!

How to Dig Deeper into Strategy & Outlook

Our firm utilizes a variety of resources in developing our economic outlook and asset allocation strategies including research from well-respected firms such as Russell Investments and Raymond James. Review the “Russell Balanced Portfolio Returns” graphic that provides a useful visual on how a variety of asset classes have performed since 2005. (Click below image to enlarge.)

This chart shows the historical performance of different asset classes, as well as an asset allocation portfolio (35% fixed & 65% diversified equities). The asset allocation portfolio incorporates the various asset classes shown in the chart and highlights how balance and diversification can help reduce volatility (risk) and enhance returns.Risk adjusted returns are always a worthy goal and, as I have written in the past, risk is always present and matters.

Do you recall 2008-2009 or how about the lost decade of 2000-2010? If you “see” a pattern in asset class returns over time, please look again. There is no determinable pattern. Asset class returns are cyclical and it’s difficult to predict which asset class will outperform in any given year. A portfolio with a mix of asset classes, on average, should smooth the ride by lowering risk over a full market cycle. I’d suggest if there is any pattern to see, it would be that a diversified portfolio should provide aless volatile investment experience than any single asset class. A diversified portfolio is unlikely to be worse than the lowest performing asset class in any given year, and on the flip side it is unlikely to be better than the best performing asset class. Just what you would expect!

Staying Focused & Disciplined

The current environment reminds me of the strong US stock market experienced in the late 1990’s.  During that time, unfortunately some folks were willing to abandon discipline because of increased greed or conversely, increased fear. Currently I sense an interesting phenomenon, an increase in fear. Not of markets going down, but rather a fear of being left behind in such a strong US stock market. As important as it is not to panic out of an asset class after a large decline, it remains equally important not to panic into an asset class. I believe maintaining discipline in both environments is critical to investment success.

Like the late 1990’s, many folks have taken note of the S&P 500’s outperformance of many other asset classes over the last five years and wonder why they should invest in anything else. The question is understandable. If you find yourself asking the same question, you might consider the following:

  • The S&P 500 Index has had tremendous performance over the last five years, but it’s difficult to predict which asset class will outperform from year to year. A portfolio with a mix of asset classes, on average, should smooth the ride by lowering risk over a full market cycle.
  • Fundamentally, prices of U.S. companies are hovering around the long-term average. International equities, particularly the emerging markets, are still well below their normal estimates and may have con­siderable room for improvement.
  • U.S. large caps, as defined by the S&P 500 Index, have outperformed international equities (MSCI EAFE) four of the last five years. The last time the S&P outperformed for a significant time 1996-2001, the MSCI outperformed in the subsequent six years.

Managing Risk

Benjamin Graham, known as the “father of value investing”, dedicated much of his book, The Intelligent Investor, to risk.  In one of his many timeless quotes he says, “The essence of investment management is the management of risks, not the management of returns.”  This statement can be counterintuitive to many investors.  As I have shared before, risk does not have to be an alarm; rather a healthy dose of reality in all investment environments. That’s how we meet life’s financial goals. Diversification is about avoiding the big setbacks along the way – it doesn’t protect against losses – it is used to manage risk.

So, if you are feeling like I did initially about your portfolio, hopefully after review and reflection you might also change your perspective like I did from “I dislike my diversified portfolio” to “My diversified portfolio - just what I would expect”. As always, if you’d like to schedule some time to review anything contained in this writing or your personal circumstances, please let me know. Lastly, our investment committee has been hard at work for several weeks and will be sharing 2015 comments in the near future. Make it a great 2015!

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

Required Disclaimer: This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Tim Wyman and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of the Wall Street Journal. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system. MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure developed market equity performance, excluding the United States & Canada. The EAFE consists of the country indices of 22 developed nations. Inclusion of these indexes is for illustrative purposes only. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index, and index performance does not include transaction costs or other fees, which will affect actual investment performance. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Raymond James is not affiliated with Benjamin Graham.

View from the Morningstar Conference

Nearly 2,000 people gathered at McCormack Place in Chicago this June.  The views of the Chicago skyline, while beautiful, were not the views I flew to Chicago to see.  Advisors, asset managers and press gather once a year at this conference to listen to some of the greatest minds in investing share their views of the markets and economies around the world.  This is one of my favorite conferences of the year. 

We heard from legendary investors including Michael Hasenstab, PIMCO's Bill Gross a.k.a. The Bond King, and AQR's Cliff Asness a.k.a. The Father of Momentum Investing.

Bill Gross: The New Neutral

Keynote speaker, 70-year-old Bill Gross did not disappoint.   Very aware that his image has been dinged in recent months with the departure of his heir apparent Mohammed El Erian, and subsequent departure of $50 billion of money flowing out of his flagship product, he took the stage wearing sunglasses and spent the first 10 minutes of his speech poking fun at himself while jokingly trying to brainwash the crowd and press Manchurian Candidate style.  All fun aside, he came to the conference to coin a new phrase the “New Neutral".  He is encouraging investors to look at interest rates from a different, more muted perspective.  What does this mean for investors?  Overall lower return expectations going forward for stocks and bonds.  This is an extension of PIMCO’s 2009 “New Normal” which stated that economic growth will be sluggish as it has been.

Employment Outlook: Labor Shortages?

Bob Johnson, Morningstar's very own economist, predicted that next summer at this conference the hot topic of discussion will be labor shortages.  He explained that the unemployment rate remains high despite the extremely large amount of open requisitions for new job postings.  He argues that there is a mismatch in job skills causing the unemployment rate to stagnate despite companies needing to hire so many.  He goes on to explain that the Federal Reserve cannot fix this skill mismatch, only the private sector, corporations and individuals, can acquire the necessary skills needed to match people to the needed job openings.

International Opportunities

Emerging markets and Japan were hot topics of discussion.  "Go anywhere" Investment managers, with the world as their oyster, prefer to access emerging markets through companies domiciled in developed markets that derive most of their revenues by selling to emerging market consumers.  Japan was a hotly debated topic, with about half of the experts loving it and half not wanting to touch it with a 10-foot pole.

In addition to these larger investing and macro-economic themes, I also find value in speaking directly with portfolio managers about their investing processes and trying to discover new strategies that may be beneficial to our clients’ portfolios.  There is never a shortage of ideas after a few days spent at Morningstar listening and learning!

Angela Palacios, CFP®is the Portfolio Manager at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Angela specializes in Investment and Macro economic research. She is a frequent contributor to Money Centered as well asinvestment updates at The Center.


Please note that international investing involves special risks, including currency fluctuations, different financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic volatility. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well-established foreign markets. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss. Bob Johnson, Michael Hasenstab, Bill Gross, Cliff Asness are independent of Raymond James. Any opinions are those named herein and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

June 2012 Investment Update

The year opened with a quarter of exceptional returns for markets such as the S&P 500. This rising tide was quickly curtailed in April and May. The ongoing European troubles have reached a new crescendo. Withering employment and housing numbers in the US added fuel to the fire in May.

The situation in Europe is complicated and includes both real economic challenges and unresolved political questions. The combination has led to a slow-moving crisis without the sign of an end. The primary issues we're watching today:

  • Greece Unraveling. We do not know of any credible experts who think that Greece is solvent today. The insolvency is a foregone conclusion but related political upheaval has escalated the crisis. We now look to June 17 elections to determine remaining support for continued membership in the EU. A so-called "Grexit" would be unprecedented and would bring even more challenges to Greek recovery.
  • Contagion in Spain & Italy. While Greeks have been wreaking havoc on their banks by hoarding Euros, Spain and Italy seem to be experiencing their own quiet bank run. Unemployment rates are very high in Spain and Italy and borrowing costs continue to rise for the governments. Earlier in the year, the ECB fiscal relief program infused money into banks, but did little to fix their exposure to bad sovereign debt along with other bad loans. Finding a way to secure investor sentiment in these economies remains critical.
  • Slowing Growth. The odds of a European recession are high and growing. Meanwhile, signs of slowing growth are cropping up in places like China and here in the US.
  • End of US Stimulus. "Operation Twist" is scheduled to wind down this spring and summer. We have long seen 2013 as challenging regardless of the presidential victor because of agreed-upon fiscal cuts plus tax breaks which are scheduled to expire. Add to that the need to rehash the debt ceiling discussion, and we know the US Government and Economy will be in headlines that rival Europe in the coming months. With US interest rates at record lows (going back to WWII), a new Fed program to buy even more treasuries would seem to offer very little in the form of help for investors.

What actions should investors take? We can share some strategies that we’re using with our clients from a financial planning and wealth management perspective.

  • Work with a professional who is looking forward with today’s situation in mind. The challenges listed above have been on our minds and on the minds of our portfolio managers regardless of market returns. We discuss these issues on a daily and weekly basis within the firm as well as with money managers and peers. For many managers, a European outcome may be a "United States of Europe" approach with more centralized EU power. This, they say, will not happen without considerable effort and time.
  • Look at your risk orientation. In 2011, we considered significant changes to positions for our clients in anticipation of sustained volatility (which we saw last summer and seems to be popping up again). From our point of view we may continue to see more uncertainty this summer and through the presidential election cycle in November. We have been underweight dedicated international positions and our managers have tilted portfolios toward Asia and away from Europe. We have incorporated alternative strategies which have historically had a less direct relationship to the whims of stocks and bonds. This is not a blanket prescription but our point of view. You should know your own posture in terms of investment mix.
  • Stick with your plan. Because of the changes last year, we continue to be comfortable with portfolio positions today and do not anticipate a significant overhaul to portfolios. That said, our focus on monitoring investment mix in light of current scenarios is as vigilant as ever. If you have started a plan, you need too much change or doubt may result in a drag on your portfolio’s returns.
  • Rebalance when appropriate. If markets continue to decline, we may rebalance portfolios into the assets that have declined. This is by design and meant to position investments through a forward-looking lens rather than the natural human tendency of focusing on the rear-view mirror. Ultimately, we believe that volatility will lead to buying opportunities.
  • Talk to someone when you have concerns. Working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is a partnership. A financial planner can help uncover your concerns and find answers for your fears! Most importantly, when your financial situation is changing, make sure to update your overall financial plan and analyze your investment mix based upon the new information.

As the summer gets going, you should be able to enjoy barbecues with family and friends rather than worry about the ups and downs of stocks and bonds. Ultimately, you are investing so that you can achieve your financial goals. If you ever have questions about investing or comprehensive financial planning, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Melissa Joy, CFP®
Partner, Director of Investments
Investment Advisor Representative, RJFS


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 Melissa Joy and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Please note that international investing involves special risks, including currency fluctuations, different financial accounting standards, and possible political and economic volatility. Alternative investments are available only to those who meet specific suitability requirements, including minimum net worth tests. There are special risks involved with alternative investments, including investment strategies, and different regulatory and reporting requirements. There is an inverse relationship between interest rate movements and bond prices. Generally, when interest rates rise, bond prices fall and when interest rates Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.