News

Why Investing Directly in Stocks Serves Investors Well

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives

What do you buy when you make high-quality US companies the basic building block of your portfolio? The short definition of a high-quality US company is one “that can grow and thrive under almost all envisioned economic scenarios” with the investment expectation that their “capital will compound at a healthy ‘real’ rate” meeting “any reasonable investment objective.”[1]

Leaving aside for the moment the discussion of “active” versus “passive” (see QMP Winter 2022), for the last twenty years this asset class has received disparaging comments from the endowment model community and from Wall Street investment managers as too predictable and unexciting. They say that with the right professional guidance, an investor could do better. As Charlie Weis, the former professional football coach and now commentator, says about NFL teams’ bad decisions: “How’s that working out!”

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As the Fed Fights Inflation, Can Recession Be Far Behind?

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives

The S&P 500 Index dipped briefly into correction territory in mid-March (defined as at least a 10% fall from a recent stock market peak, which it hit January 3rd) before rebounding to close out the first quarter down only -4.95% as of March 31st. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index was off -9.1% on a price-only return basis for the quarter, but technically has been in correction territory since mid-January, down -11.4% from the highs it hit November 19th. Likewise, bonds had a tough quarter, finishing in the red with long-term Treasurys down -10.2%. Energy and utilities were the only equity sectors with positive price returns, +37.7% and +3.9%, respectively. All of these markets were digesting news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, high energy prices, surging inflation, and a Federal Reserve turned hawkish with forecast aggressive federal funds rate hikes and open market bond sales to shrink its balance sheet. The question everyone is asking: Can the Fed orchestrate a soft landing with so many variables to combat? Not likely.

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Tax Update: Extensions, Capital Gains, & Social Security

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives

The first phase of the current tax season has ended. The flurry of activity to make sure that tax returns for 2021 are filed or, at least that the tax due is paid with the request for an extension, is done.

The Internal Revenue Service estimates that 15 million taxpayers requested an extension of time to file their 2021 tax return. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. Taxpayers must estimate their tax liability and pay any amount due by the April due date to avoid penalties and interest.

Filing a tax extension to file a tax return does not increase your risk of being audited, according to both the IRS and various tax professionals. Historically, it has been proven that individuals who earn $200,000 or more a year have a 3% greater chance of being audited. According to IRS data, the IRS audited 1% of people earning less than $200,000 and 4% of those earning more than $200,000.

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Trends to Watch in the Year Ahead

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives
Trends to watch image of computer screen

In thinking about what may happen financially and economically over the next several years, we realize that much depends on how countries and their citizens react to medical issues. For perspective, Marcel Proust wrote in 1913: “For, medicine being a compendium of the successive and contradictory mistakes of doctors, even when we call in the best of them the chances are that we may be staking our hopes on some medical theory that will be proved false in a few years. So that to believe in medicine would be utter madness, were it not still a greater madness not to believe in it, for from this accumulation of errors a few valid theories have emerged in the long run.”

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Inflation Presents a New Challenge

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives
Inflation present a new challenge image of investor

The S&P 500 Index returned 28.7% in 2021, following a 18.4% return in 2020, and a 31.5% return in 2019. Observers would be forgiven for not associating any of these returns with a two-year global pandemic. The index has in fact compounded at a 16.6% rate over the last 10 years. Equity investors have rarely had such excellent long-term returns. Last year, economic fundamentals were excellent too, with US GDP expanding 5.7% in real terms, surpassing its pre-pandemic size on a seasonally adjusted basis in the second quarter of 2021. S&P 500 Index earnings fell 13.9% in 2020 before rebounding an estimated 46% last year. The economic expansion and earnings rebound have been greatly helped by monetary and fiscal stimulus.

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Tax Update – Revenue Debates and the IRS

News, Quarterly Market Perspectives
Tax Update - Revenue Debates - image of taxpayer floating

Sometimes changes to the US tax code seem like they are “floated” just to stir up money-making opportunities. Interest groups react to proposed changes by contacting, and throwing money at, lobbyists who counsel Congress against or for whatever was floated. There seems to be no recognition that managing the US tax code should be treated as a steering mechanism on a $20 trillion “truck.” Care should be taken when operating it, as if even a slight wrong move can send it careening.

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