DO YOU EXPECT IT TO be warmer this winter in Minneapolis or in Miami? This isn’t meant to be a trick question. We’d probably all agree that it’ll be warmer in Miami. But what if I asked you to predict the precise temperature in either city on Jan. 1. This is a much more difficult question.
In his book Mastering the Market Cycle, investor Howard Marks uses illustrations like this to make an important point.
PERHAPS YOU’VE SEEN charts like the one below, which comes from Dimensional Fund Advisors. The message: Investors who try to time the market in search of better returns often end up damaging their results. To many investors, this seems intuitive, because trading isn’t easy.
But to others, market timing appears to make a lot of sense. For instance, for years, Yale University professor Robert Shiller has been maintaining a measure of market valuation known as the cyclically adjusted price-earnings (CAPE) ratio.
IN THE NETHERLANDS in 1602, the Dutch East India Company conducted the world’s first initial public offering. Then, in 1610, the Netherlands saw the issuance of the first ever stock dividend. And in 1611, when the Amsterdam Exchange opened, the Netherlands became home to the world’s first stock market. Throughout the 1600s, the Netherlands continued to see further financial growth and innovation.
During that period, the Dutch economy was among the world’s largest. But its dominance faded over time,
SUPPOSE YOU WERE presented with two prospective investments. On the surface, they look similar, except one has outperformed the other in 12 of the past 15 years. Which one would you choose?
This example isn’t hypothetical. The two investments in question are the S&P 500 and the EAFE Index. The S&P 500 is broadly representative of the U.S. stock market, while EAFE stands for Europe, Australasia and Far East. It’s the most commonly referenced index for developed international stock markets.
WHERE DOES THE STOCK market stand? After 2022’s decline, is it now fairly valued—or still overvalued?
When I think about questions like this, I’m reminded of an opinion piece written by Robert Shiller a few years back. By way of background, Shiller is a professor at Yale University and a Nobel Prize recipient. Along with a colleague, he created one of the more well-known and well-regarded measures of market valuation: the cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (CAPE).
MANY COMMENTATORS worry about the stock market in October, a month associated with the crashes of 1929 and 1987. But I now pay more attention to March—especially March 10.
As an observer of the stock market since 1980, I stumbled upon an odd coincidence. Major financial events this century, like stock market peaks and troughs, have centered on the month of March. Here are four examples:
March 10, 2000: The Nasdaq peaked at 5048.
IN THE WEEK SINCE Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) failed, a debate has raged: Did the government do the right thing when it decided to guarantee all of SVB’s depositors, including those that exceeded FDIC limits?
On one side of this debate are those who view the government’s action as an inappropriate and undeserved bailout. In an article titled “You Should Be Outraged About Silicon Valley Bank,” The Atlantic argued that the bank’s failure was the predictable result of incompetent risk management.
THERE’S SOMETHING ODD going on in the housing market. Mortgage rates are appreciably higher than they were a year ago, but home prices—on average—have yet to fall. As of the most recent reading, prices continue to rise on a year-over-year basis. It reminds me of the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, who experiences a delayed reaction every time he runs off the edge of a cliff. It’s only after he looks down that he realizes he has a problem.
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.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL for mega-cap tech, meme stocks and cryptocurrencies. And the bond market is starting to party again, too. True, the financial markets have pulled back in the two trading days since Friday morning’s strong jobs report. Still, year-to-date performance has been startling.
Investor’s Business Daily reported recently that just 10 stocks, including Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Alphabet (parent of Google), Nvidia, Microsoft and Meta (parent of Facebook), have accounted for half of the S&P 500’s 7% year-to-date rally.
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 FEDERAL RESERVE raised the federal funds rate in 2022 from zero to more than 4% to combat high inflation. While those rate increases severely damaged the stock and bond markets, they made some financial products more attractive. In particular, there are three products that are more appealing now than they were a year ago: income annuities, long-term-care insurance and various interest-paying investments.
Like many people, to take advantage of low loan rates, I refinanced my home mortgage before 2022’s rising interest rates.
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%.
IS THE STOCK MARKET headed for a sea change? That’s the argument money manager and author Howard Marks makes in his most recent memo.
The sea change Marks is referring to: For four decades, the federal funds rate declined steadily—from a peak of 20% in 1980 to 0% in 2020. The result, Marks argues, was a steady tailwind for the stock market.
In January 1980, the S&P 500 index stood at 108. At its peak early last year,