I TELL MY CHILDREN that they can’t possibly fathom the amount of information that they have in their hands. I’m part of the last generation—so-called Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980—who actually had to trudge down to the library and pray it had the information we needed. Today, the internet provides it all in seconds.
I needed to change a leaking bathtub faucet. I’m not qualified to be a plumber. But I looked up a few YouTube videos and,
FOREIGN STOCKS suffered big losses last week. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (symbol: VEA) dropped 6.2% as fears about Russia’s aggression came to a head. Losses were most sharp in Europe—iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (EZU) plunged 13.3%. For the year, the U.S. stock market is now slightly ahead of international stocks.
Investors often question whether they should own non-U.S. stocks. The common logic—flawed in my opinion—is that domestic firms offer enough foreign exposure because many are multinational businesses.
ACCORDING TO GMO investment strategist Jeremy Grantham, we’re in the midst of a rare “superbubble,” which he defines as a three-sigma event. Three sigma is a statistical term in probability, referring to an event which should occur less than 0.3% of the time or about once every 333 years.
Calling a bubble, let alone a superbubble, can be hazardous both to one’s reputation and one’s wallet. Even if Grantham’s call is correct, using that information to make money—or avoid losses—is easier said than done.
EVERYBODY SEEMS to hate bonds right now. Can you blame them? Inflation is at a four-decade high, the Federal Reserve is sure to hike short-term interest rates two weeks from Wednesday, and geopolitical jitters make owning high-yield bonds all the riskier. On top of that, returns have been awful since the start of 2021.
But maybe we should take a contrarian approach. Almost everybody should own at least some bonds. Yields have improved significantly.
A FRIEND TEXTED ME yesterday. He wanted my thoughts on putting cash to work given the big stock market decline over the past few weeks. I took my usual approach, saying it’s always a good time to make retirement contributions, and that he should go ahead and swoop in. That was when the S&P 500 was down roughly 2% in the morning. We texted again in the afternoon before the closing bell—and after the market had rallied big.
THIS IS A TEST. This is only a test. This is a test of our stock market resolve. Remember how you told yourself you’d stand pat during the next stock market decline, that you wouldn’t get rattled like you did in 2008-09 and early 2020? That moment has arrived.
Like any person with an ounce of decency, I’m appalled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the unnecessary death and suffering that will result. But I’m also confident that the Russians will come to regret their actions.
NEW YEAR, NEW TRENDS. That theme continues to play out. So far in 2022, the U.S. stock market, as measured by Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (symbol: VTI), is down 9.1%. Brighter conditions are found overseas, despite today’s geopolitical risks. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA) is down just 4.3% year-to-date, while Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is up 0.5%.
A sore spot for international investors has been small-cap stocks. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S.
THERE WAS MUCH hoopla last week about high inflation, surging interest rates and geopolitical turmoil. Sure, these are important macro conditions. Still, stocks took things in stride. If you only pay attention to once-highflying growth companies, especially tech stocks, the market appears dire. Broaden your perspective, though, and things haven’t been all that terrible of late.
Yes, the S&P 500 lost 1.8% last week. Small-caps, however, were up 1.5%. Foreign shares were about unchanged.
JUST HOW CRAZY WERE some of last week’s market moves? The Wall Street Journal detailed how Amazon.com (symbol: AMZN) recorded the biggest-ever one-day market cap gain in stock market history. The largest company in the consumer discretionary sector was valued $191.3 billion higher after posting better-than-expected earnings Thursday evening.
Amazon’s monster move came just a day after Meta Platforms (FB) notched the single-biggest market cap decrease in market history. More widely known as Facebook,
THE S&P 500 WAS UP 0.8% last week. It was a wild ride, with the Volatility Index climbing to almost 40—the highest level in 15 months—as investors grappled with the threat of rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve is steadfast in its plans to aggressively raise short-term interest rates. Bank of America Global Research was the buzz of Wall Street on Friday morning, with its economic team saying it now expects the Fed to hike rates by a quarter-point at all seven remaining meetings this year.
THE S&P 500 JUST HAD its worst week since March 2020’s COVID-19 crash. Ironically, the decline happened as coronavirus cases were finally dropping after the December surge. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (symbol: VOO) fell 5.7%, while Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) lost 7.3%.
Returns were not as bad overseas. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S. ETF (VEU) dropped 3.1%. Coming as a surprise to some index fund investors, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is actually positive so far in 2022.
OVER THE PAST 25 years, the Federal Reserve has become more transparent than ever. Much of this is the result of political pressure. Still, the Fed has taken it further, believing greater transparency to be a good thing in helping the public understand the likelihood of future policy changes. Talking more may have helped us move past the 2008 financial crisis. But it isn’t helping us now.
Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913.
LAST WEEK SAW additional gains for value stocks, while shares of once highflying growth companies continued to struggle. Meanwhile, foreign markets again rallied. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S. ETF (symbol: VEU) rose more than 1% last week, even as Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) slipped 0.5%.
Let’s further unpack these trends.
The Nasdaq Composite has endured its worst start to a year since 2009. At the same time, blue chip stocks and some of last year’s losers are suddenly in favor.
MINUTES FROM the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, which were released last Wednesday, roiled financial markets. Stocks fell sharply, with both the Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 falling more than 3% that day. On the week, the Nasdaq was down 4.5%, the S&P 500 down 1.9% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.3% lower. What did investors read in the minutes that gave them such pause?
For background, FOMC minutes are released three weeks after the meeting itself.
ARE LONG-SUFFERING value investors and those with a large allocation to foreign stocks finally about to get some relief? The new year has seen significant relative strength by both areas of the market. Meanwhile, after peaking in the first half of 2021, highflying small- and mid-cap growth companies continue to get hammered. Mega-cap tech shares have also lately succumbed to selling pressure.
What’s worked thus far in 2022 are the boring old large-cap blue chip names.