Friday, December 5, 2014

Growth Trumps Everything

The stock market is making new highs week after week.  "How can that be?" some ask.  After all, the global economy is limping along, Japan (the third-largest economy) is in a recession and Europe is flat-lining.  U.S. GDP had a good last quarter but mostly limps along.  So what gives?

First, I'll remind readers that for years I've been saying that there is no alternative to stocks.  Bonds, commodities, real estate, cash equivalents, gold and Treasurys all pale in comparison.  Only stocks provide growth and in many cases a good and rising income stream as well.  That alone explains part of the bull market.  Nothing new to say about that.  It is what it is.

The prospect of future growth spurs investors, and it's doing so now.  It starts at the top.  Unless the economic pie is growing, personal income and corporate earnings will stagnate.  Yes, some companies can grow at the expense of others, but investing is a lot easier when GDP is ticking up.  The outlook for GDP growth into next year is improving.  Finally.

Earnings growth, it is said, is both the mother's milk of a bull market and the key to investment success.  The proof: since the market bottomed in March of 2009, stocks have soared and so have earnings.  No coincidence there.

Growth is the key on the portfolio management level, too.  Peter Lynch, once the manager of Fidelity Magellan, said: Invest in well-run companies whose earnings will grow.  It's no more complicated than that.  If you're right, the stocks will rise over the long term no matter what else is occurring.  That was true years ago; it's true now.

— David Vomund is an Incline Village-based fee-only money manager.  Information is found at or by calling 775-832-8555.  Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article.  Past performance does not guarantee future results.  Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Preparing for a rising interest rate environment

The Fed won't raise interest until mid-2015 at the earliest.  That doesn't mean investors can't prepare portfolios for higher rates:

David Vomund

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Panic Attacks

The market is volatile with daily swings of 200 points or more, mostly on the downside.  In the first 15 minutes on Wednesday the Dow shed 370 points and the S&P more than 40.  Stocks fell further in the afternoon (down 460 points, S&P off 55 at the worst) and later recovered much ground only to sell off early the next day.  At its worst, the S&P was off 9.8 percent from its recently set all-time high.  Equity investors were panicking, but they weren't alone.  There was panic in the Treasury market, too.  Panic buying that is.  The yield on the ten-year T-note fell to 1.86 percent before rising again (now 2.22). 

The apparent trigger for the panic selling of stocks was the worsening outlook for global growth, one that is being re-enforced almost daily with soft economic data.  The IMF calls it the "new mediocre."  Others call it the "new normal."  Whatever, it could last for years.  Central banks have all but exhausted their tools to spur growth and government stimulus programs costing trillions were mostly ineffective. 

There's more bad news.  There's sanctions on Russia, no growth in Europe and Japan, a recession in Brazil, default by Argentina, fighting in Ukraine, turmoil in the Mideast, Ebola, collapsing commodity prices, deflation risks, Hong Kong protests, etc.

Yes, I'm well aware of what is wrong.  There a lot going right, too.  The growth outlook is still improving, though not quite to the degree people expected a few months ago.  Of course, the stock market is all about future earnings and interest rates, and that alone explains the multi-year bull market; that also explains why it's not over. 

Operating earnings will grow 6-8 percent next year (estimates vary based on one's outlook for the dollar) versus 10 percent or more this year.  Real GDP growth will be 3 percent, give or take.  Perhaps the fall in gasoline prices -- equivalent to a huge tax cut -- will boost growth a bit more because consumers will have additional cash to spend.  The Fed is focused on the effects of the dollar's rise, near-recession conditions in Europe and falling commodity prices.  Conclusion: whenever interest rates rise they won't rise fast and they won't go far.  There may not be any increase at all next year.  That means the two key areas -- earnings and interest rates -- will be positives for stocks.  There's more.

Bear markets begin amid rising interest rates, increasing inflation, a deteriorating economic outlook ahead of a recession or slowdown, falling earnings and an inverted yield curve.  They also come when stocks are grossly overvalued (think 2000).  No sign of those now nor are they on the horizon.  In fact, earnings are improving, deflation, not inflation, could be a more likely problem, interest rates aren't rising and won't be, and stocks are at historically average valuations, many now even lower. 

Then there is a practical reason to be optimistic.  Investors need to put money to work.  Individuals, institutions, pension funds, professionals, and hedge funds have that in common.  Selling stocks that pay dividends and junk bonds and others that pay interest to hold cash that pays nothing is not a Phi Beta Kappa investment strategy.  It's not an investment strategy at all.  

I haven't changed my position.  Clear-thinking investors with an adequate time frame will choose dividend-paying (and raising) stocks for the same reason they've been buying utilities.  A better pay off for T-bills, bank accounts and money-market funds is so far over the horizon that they are off the table.  Forget long-term Treasurys with their token yields, and by all means forget gold and silver.  Only stocks offer income and upside potential.

Bottom line:  There may be more volatile days ahead with wild swings, but I wouldn't be surprised if Wednesday's panic low proves to be the bottom of yet another bout of profit-taking.  I've been through times like this before, many in fact.  Were they unnerving?  Sometimes.  Unpleasant?  Always.  A reason to sell bail out of all stocks?  No.  Not in a bull market.

— David Vomund is a fee-only money manager.  Information is found at or by calling 775-832-8555.  Past performance does not guarantee future results.  Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.