WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I thought I had investing all figured out. I’d taken a handful of finance and portfolio management courses, I’d allocated real money for the University of North Florida’s student-managed fund, and I’d researched individual stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and even options.
But my confidence was crushed by a year of unsuccessful options trading when I was age 20. Nonetheless, through my 20s and into my 30s, I remained optimistic that I could earn handsome long-run returns by overweighting a few investment factors—such as smaller companies and value stocks—and by having plenty of foreign stock exposure.
I GOT CAUGHT UP IN some weird investment fads during the recent era of 0% interest rates. With cash investments and bonds yielding almost nothing, I instead sought to pad my investment returns by opening new brokerage accounts to snag promotion cash, and by dabbling in digital currencies and newfangled alternative investments.
Result? I ended up with far too many financial accounts—and it became a burden to keep track of everything. Just a year ago,
I STEPPED TO THE podium for the first time in more than three years. My presentation skills were perhaps a bit rusty, but I jumped at the opportunity earlier this month to speak at my former employer’s annual symposium. It felt great to see so many familiar and friendly faces, including old teammates, workplace acquaintances and former clients. It was also no big secret that I was curious about an open position at the company.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE a rally makes. So far this year, the S&P 500 is up more than 6%. Not bad considering the doom and gloom from Wall Street forecasters at the end of 2022. Recall how strategists in early December were projecting large-cap U.S. stocks to finish 2023 in the red. Naturally, the market did the opposite of what most experts were thinking.
Stocks soared to jumpstart the new year. Many regions notched their best January in decades.
WALL STREET WAS stunned Friday morning by the strength of the jobs market. While technology company layoffs have lately hijacked the fear-mongering media’s narrative, the truth is that the employment picture is quite strong.
With a 517,000 gain in net employment last month, along with ebbing wage growth, the “soft landing” crowd is one big step closer to winning the battle against the recession prognosticators. True, January’s jobs jolt is merely one data point.
JUST LIKE THAT, growth stocks are back in vogue. Vanguard Growth ETF (symbol: VUG) has outpaced Vanguard Value ETF (VTV) by more than nine percentage points over the past three weeks. That gap in favor of “risk-on,” meaning mainly technology shares, is the biggest since those two exchange-traded funds were created some 19 years ago.
What gives? Weren’t all the strategists proclaiming a new era of value investing? It still seems that way based on what you hear on financial TV and read in investment magazines.
THE MARKET IS NOW in the heart of the corporate-earnings reporting season. Traders will soon be digesting big tech’s fourth-quarter profits, as well as a Federal Reserve meeting and monthly jobs data. That’s a lot to take in. Volatility must be high with so much hanging on the line, right? Wrong.
The Volatility Index, or VIX, has dropped significantly, nearing levels last seen during 2021’s bull market. At less than 20, the VIX—known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge”—implies a somewhat tame 30-day S&P 500 price change of less than 6%.
I BEGAN WRITING for HumbleDollar in early 2020. As a market junkie, but one who’s also deeply curious about personal finance, I was already a regular reader of the site.
Since then, I’ve contributed roughly 140 pieces. My articles and blog posts often focus on the financial markets and long-term investing, with a nod toward the financial independence movement. What do my 10 favorite posts have in common? They’re mostly focused on macro trends and my own financial journey.
LAST FRIDAY’S U.S. JOBS report was just what the doctor ordered. While much attention gets paid to the headline change in employment—which was a solid 223,000 gain in December—the bullish news was in the report’s details.
Average hourly earnings, a key measure of wage growth, were up 4.6% from a year ago, significantly less than the 5% consensus expectation. Weekly hours worked were also a smidgen less than forecasted—another “cool” reading on the inflation front.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS to gauge whether individual stocks and the overall market are expensive. But which valuation metric should you rely on?
The fact is, you can find metrics to buttress any market narrative you want to believe. Such confirmation bias can prompt investors to make big changes to their mix of stocks and more conservative investments—sometimes with disastrous results.
As a market analyst, writer and former university finance instructor, I’m familiar with a host of valuation tools.
FEELING DESPONDENT about your 2022 investment returns? Yes, it’s been a grueling year for almost all stock and bond investors. But some folks have been hit far harder than others.
In the bounce back from 2020’s coronavirus market crash, near-zero-percent interest rates, coupled with consumers flush with cash, made for pockets of irrational exuberance. High-risk growth stocks—like those owned by Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF (symbol: ARKK)—captured the imaginations of Wall Street and Main Street alike.
LAST WEEK MIGHT HAVE been the moment we flipped from inflation worries to recession risks. On Tuesday, November’s inflation report turned out to be cooler than economists expected. Stocks initially soared, only to sell off toward the end of the day in anticipation of Wednesday’s news. Sure enough, the next day, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered not only a 0.5-percentage-point interest rate increase, but also a stern message in his press conference afterward.
ARE YOU TRAVELING for the holidays? There’s good news for drivers. Average retail pump prices have dropped below $3.30 a gallon, with many states seeing prices under $3. This positive development for consumers—including those off to grandma’s house this season—comes as wholesale gasoline futures fall to their lowest level in a year.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, and just in time for the busy U.S. summer driving season, gas prices notched all-time highs near $5 per gallon.
DO YOU THINK differently about money today compared to a year ago?
Cast your mind back 12 months. Interest rates were near record lows, cryptocurrencies were surging and stocks were hitting new highs day after day. Checking your investment account balance was an instant dopamine hit. Ditto for homeowners, who could get a sense for their home’s skyrocketing value by perusing the local listings.
Last year was also a time when many Americans called it quits from the nine-to-five grind.
I HAVE CHEERY investment news: Most Wall Street strategists are bearish on stocks. Last week, Bloomberg reported that 2023’s projected change in the S&P 500 by the best and brightest forecasters is negative. That hasn’t happened since at least 1999. Consider today’s bleak consensus to be a contrarian indicator. It could set the bar low enough for a decent 2023.
If you flip on financial TV or peruse investment magazines at this time of year,