Monthly Archives: January 2016

Super Bowl goal

file000114810428Dear Dian: I’ve got the time go to the Super Bowl but would have to sell some of my stocks to get the money to cover the cost. Do you think that’s a good idea?

A Big Fan

Dear Big Fan: Really? Selling stocks to go to a football game? Are you kidding me? Unless attending a Super Bowl is on your bucket list, or you’re taking someone and giving them the experience of a lifetime, I can’t really see the appeal of spending the weekend in the company of a bunch of football yahoos you don’t know. So my short answer would be nope.

Then again, studies show spending money on experiences wind up being the most rewarding ways of spending our moola.  That means, depending upon your age and stage in life, perhaps the idea isn’t such a bad one.

As for the getting the thousands of dollars to make this extravaganza possible–tickets alone average $6000 a piece, throw in transportation, eats, cocktails, and impressing others and look-what-I-brought-you gifts—$20,000 might cover it. Or, might not.

Sure the stock market is and has been in a slump for a while now and the value of your portfolio is probably lower than it was two years ago, but selling  shares of anything makes the best sense when you’ve taking money off the table–as in taking profits— although that comes with tax consequences. Or, when you need money. That comes with tax consequences, too. Or if it’s time to tap your retirement funds. Also, tax consequences.

As you can see, there’s always cost.

Perhaps, if you are really crazy about football (and want to see the Carolina Panthers rip through the Denver Broncos, just a thought) consider taking the time to plan a whopper of a catered Super Bowl party and invite your most outrageously delightful friends. That way you’ll still have an experience,  but at a fraction of the cost.







For the week ending Jan. 23, 2016

       •Our brain on money

Turns out the part of our brain that gets turned on when using cocaine is the same part of our brain that gets turned on when we’re making money.

From a story last week, comes this: “According to Kabir Sehgal, author of Coined, people making money and those high on cocaine had nearly identical brain scans. When further looking at brain scans of people who were high, images of money produced the most brain activity compared to those of naked women or dead bodies…”

Apparently outside influences also have a hand in how we make  financial decisions as that same story reported  people tend to tip more generously when the weather is nice and sunny. “Money obviously acts as a neural stimulant and it makes us act in very sort of irrational ways,” Sehgal said, as quoted on “And so the part of the brain that lights up, again the nucleus accumbens, keeps on firing and firing and firing and obviously money excites us.”

No word on what happens to our brains when we are losing money.

On that note, here is how the markets have performed recently.

  • Market Quick Glance


Year-to-date performance figures for the major indices through January 22, 2016 according to Bloomberg. To provide a broader performance perspective, 1-year returns have been added.

-S&P 500 -6.61% YTD and 1-yr Rtn -5.61%

-Dow Jones -7.62% YTD and 1-yr Rtn -7.39%

-NASDAQ -8.28%YTD and 1-yr Rtn 2-.09%

-Russell 2000 -10.11% YTD and 1-yr Rtn -13.07%

-Mutual funds

Through Thursday, January 21, 2016 the average U.S.Diversified Equity fund was down 9.24%, according to Lipper. That’s a tad better than the 52-week performance of minus 9.51%.

World Equity Funds, on average, were off 10.65%. China Region, Japanese and Latin American funds taking the biggest hits. They were down 15.86%; 12.92%; and 12.20% respectively.

We all know China’s woes have become the world’s woes but one reason for the Latin American Funds’ lousy showing could be because the peso has fallen to its lowest value ever against the U.S. dollar: One Mexican peso is now worth barely more than a nickel (0.053 cents).

That’s bad news for emerging market investors but good news for anyone traveling to Mexico where the value of our dollars will now buy more sombreros than you can imagine.

Visit for weekly updates to see how equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

You will find all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds at in the left column on the home page.

On another note, as of last November, when there were 12 Republican candidates running for our nation’s highest office, funds run by Goldman were favored by nearly 2-to-1. In second place, Vanguard funds. The tally was 57 to 28, according to Reuters.


Louis Navellier’s January 21, 2016 newsletter addressed the question of whether now was the time to buy energy stocks.

His answer was nope:” I advise everyone to continue to avoid energy and commodities stocks. Instead, I’m loading up on consumer stocks that are benefitting from falling oil prices, “ he wrote.

Here’s his reasoning: “Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to work hard to keep that from happening. China’s slowing economy and currency devaluation have investors worried, and as the dollar continues to gain strength, U.S. markets are at an increasing disadvantage.

“There is good news in the midst of this, though: Congress recently passed a controversial budget bill that lifted the 40-year ban on crude oil exports. Two tankers have already left from Texas ports, and more shipments are expected soon. So hopefully, we can use this to balance out our crude stores.

“In the meantime, though, energy stocks are not the place to be. Natural gas prices are near 14-year lows, and crude oil is at a 12-year low. Kinder Morgan recently cut its dividend by 75% to help preserve its credit rating, and I would not be surprised if more energy companies follow suit.”

-Opportunity or not

Iran could be the hottest place for stocks over the next five years.

Speaking at Davos, Mohammad Nahavandian, the chief of staff to Iran’s president, expects the Iranian economy to grow at an average of 8 percent a year over the next five years.

“Iran may be one of the most promising emerging markets of the coming decades,” Nahavandian said.

Why? Because economic sanctions have been lifted thus opening the door for massive business opportunities.

  • Living:

 -You can kiss WalMart Greeter jobs good-bye.

If part of your retirement working plan was  to be a greeter at WalMart, the bad news is 269 of those stores will be closing; 154 of them in the U.S. Sorry.

Seems kinda weird. It wasn’t that many months ago when the chain, known for its cheapness on a variety of levels, announced they would increase hourly pay to 10 bucks. After that began, store closures were announced.

Go figure.

-Rents moving on up

Reis reported apartment rents up 4.6 percent, averaging $1,180, last year. That’s the fastest growth pace since 2007.

-Disgraceful income gaps

The world’s 62 richest billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population, according to a new report from Oxfam International.

Let’s see, if the world’s population is 7.4 billion, half of that would be 3.7 billion. So, if that is  true, it means the combined wealth of 62 individuals equals the combined wealth of 3.7 billion people.

There’s something very very very wrong with that.



Come with me to Davos

I was already to write a snarky review about Davos, the Swiss Alp’s town where the elitists of the elite gather annually to party and discuss a broad array of stuff. Then I went there. Online. And that changed my mind.

Instead of thinking the 46th World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos was just an excuse for the moneyed to gather for no particular reason —other than that they had the money and could afford to go—I learned the event is well worth attending. Particularly for those serious about learning about our changing world.

Before introducing you to one of the programs I insist is worth every bit of your time listening to, here are a few things to know about this WEF:

  • WEF is a Swiss non-profit organization. This year’s event theme is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
  • WEF is an invitation-only gig. According to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, attendees numbered 2400 (not including security). Among them, Pope Francis and our very own Vice President Joe Biden.
  • CNNMoney reported that tickets to Davos ran $20,000. Add in transportation along with lodging, wining and dining and costs could hit $40,000.
  • Sadly, the number of women participating remains at disgracefully puny levels. This year, 18 percent of those participating are women. That’s up from 17 percent in 2015 and 16 percent in 2014.

Enough background.

Below, in no particular order, are a few points made during the most excellent presentation titled “What If: You Are Still Alive in 2100?”

Narrated by Nancy Gibbs of TIME, the four panelists included: Elizabeth Blackburn , president of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California and co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel

Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Thomas DeRosa, chief executive officer, Welltower; Lynda Gratton, professor of Management Practice, London Business School; and Derek Yach, chief health officer, The Vitality Group Inc.

  • The audience and panelist were asked if they had a common life expectancy of 150 years, what kinds of changes might they expect. Answer choices included people marrying and divorcing more frequently; having children later in life; retirement age moved to 100; society less equal because of unequal access to health and education; and a more equitable society because of more opportunities to overcome poverty in a lifetime. More than one answer could be chosen.
  • The two most selected answers by both audience and the panel were first, that people would be getting married and divorced more frequently. Second, people would be working to age 100 before retiring.
  • Living to 100 is no big deal these days.
  • What’s interesting about that fact is why?According to Dr. Blackburn, the current life expectancy is now between 80 and 120 years. She said those who live 100+ years don’t die from common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, but that the cause of their deaths “mystify their physicians.” She added, “There is often some crisis that happens and it (death) looks like a systems failure.“
  • Live longer; work longer.

Professor Gratton said, “ If you want to retire at 100 and expect to live on 50 percent of your income, you will be working to ages 79 to 82. There’s no way out of that.”

There is, however, more to life than money. Relationships turn out to be very important, too. And so does the ability to change. Along with our shift towards an aging population will come a shift from “recreation to re-creation” said Gratton.

  • From Derek Yach:”Climate change is not going away.”

Additionally, he said in 50 years the world’s population would be between 10 and 11 billion (it’s currently around 7.4 billion). Then, the three countries with the largest number of aging people will be India, China and Nigeria, in that order. All are countries that will not have the increased wealth to handle the changes an aging population brings with it.

Yach said that all developed nations need to “strengthen their entitlement programs” and insure that they (the programs) can last over 75 years.

  • And if you’re hoping to “age in place”, that is live and die at home, that might not happen.

Welltower’s DeRosa pointed out how impractical and dangerous the elderly living at home can be. In addition to having a family that welcomes their aging parent(s) comes the reality of nutrition and safety. He said homes aren’t environments designed for the care of the elderly, and, neither are cities. “How does and 87-year-old navigate the city?”

No matter how you slice it, living a long life is hugely expensive for all involved: the individual, their family, health care and government programs.

Bottom line: Expect your taxes to go up.

Various Davos programs are available online at

To view this one visit:





IMG_0204For the week ending Jan. 16, 2016

  • Capitulation: A known unknown.

Funny thing about Wall Street, those in the know have a way of saying stuff that those who don’t know much about Wall Street don’t exactly get. It’s kinda like Donald Rumsfeld’s famous “known unknowns” comment. Remember hearing that and thinking “Huh?”

So instead of addressing this year’s market performance by saying something like the market is on a slippery slope that appears to be heading really fast into bear territory, or, that market corrections and bear markets are natural market occurrences, Wall Street’s talking heads are talking capitulation.

Capitulation is an action word and a fancy way of saying that lots of folks are selling their stocks because they are worried. According to Investopedia, capitulation is “derived from a military term which refers to surrender.” Synonyms include cede, succumb and cave in.

The plus side of a caving market is the opportunity lower prices afford investors —particularly those who consider themselves to be value buyers.

From where I sit, no matter what’s going on with stocks–whether prices in the indices are heading up or down—it’s always smart to buy value. A good deal is a good deal no matter if you’re buying a house or a car, a designer handbag or stocks. That said, all value buying  comes with a caveat of buyer beware.

In the stock market what’s unknown about the knowns,  is how stock prices are going to perform one day to the next, one year to the next.

  • Market Quick Glance


Here are the YTD performance figures for the major indices through January 15, 2016, according to CNN Money:

-S&P 500 -8.00% YTD

-Dow Jones -8.25% YTD

-NASDAQ -10.36 YTD

-Russell 2000 -11.28% YTD

-Mutual funds

The good news is that the average U.S. diversified Equity Fund in Lipper’s universe of 8,441 funds was down 6.89 percent year-to-date through Thursday, January 14, 2016. But, that was through Thursday and if you recall Friday was a horrible day for stocks. So take that and other YTD average return figures with a grain of salt— and an aspirin.

With that in mind, here two extremes: Dedicated Short Bias Funds were up 13.38 percent YTD on average and Equity Leverage Funds down 14.61 percent.

If you’re looking for plus-side YTD returns on funds, pretty much the only place to find them is in the fixed-income arena. The average Intermediate US Govt. Fund was up almost 0.78 percent while, hold on to your hat, the average General Treasury US Fund was up 1.70 percent. Again, through Thursday.

Every investor— stock, bond, mutual fund, ETF— needs to keep grounded all through his or her investing career. The best way to do that is by staying abreast of performance returns.

To that end, is the only site I know of that offers an opportunity for you, dear investor, to see how the world of equity and fixed-income funds have rewarded investors over the short-and long-term, based upon Lipper data. Short-term meaning weekly and monthly performance returns; longer-term includes quarterly, year-to-date, 1-yr, 2-yr, 3-yr and 5-yr returns.

You will find all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds at in the left column on the home page.

Take some time to click on the various performance link headings. You’ll be glad you did. Plus, you’ll learn something.

For instance, between Oct. 21, 2010 and Jan. 14, 2016 the SPDR S&P 500 ETF was up 12.01 percent while the Vanguard 500 Index; Adm was up a bit more at 12.09. The big long-term winner however has been Health/Biotechnology Funds. The average fund in that group, over that same time frame, was up 19.44 percent.


Friday was a lousy day for most companies but in the spirit of looking on the sunny side, three stocks that enjoyed plus returns on that day (each up from their 52-week lows) include Tiffany’s (TIF) it was up 79 cents, Macy’s (M) up 24 pennies and the big winner Revlon, (REV) up $2.91.






President O’s SOTU and the DJIA


Ya gotta love the market nuts who create lists for everything. Like how stocks perform after significant political events such as the presidential State of the Union addresses.

No matter how you felt about President Obama’s speech last night, the stock markets didn’t respond positively to it today. Who knows if one had anything to do with the other—they really didn’t—concerns about the price of a barrel of oil, what’s going on in China, our slowing economy and a not-so-hot earnings season—are more realistic reasons for the drop. Nonetheless, President Obama’s last SOTU resulted in some snarky stock market moves today.

While prices this morning started out cheery enough, it didn’t take long for the Dow Jones Industrial Average to take a deep dive in a southern direction: It closed down 2.21 percent for the day. The other indices were off as well. But we’re only talking DJIA numbers in this blog.

Based on WSJ Market Data and a story titled, “Here’s how the stock market has reacted to State of the Union speeches” by Robert Schroeder, here’s what I found interesting:

  • Down by 2.21 percent is a lot. But President Obama isn’t the only Democrat to rack up such a significant down figure. When Bill Clinton was president, the DJIA was down 2.62 percent the day after his SOTU in 2000. That, btw, is the most carnage done the day after for either Democrat or Republican president over the past 50-some  years.
  • Between 1961 and 2016 we’ve had 10 different presidents and listened to 57 different SOTU speeches. The breakdown looks like this:
    • -Two gave only three SOTU addresses each—President Kennedy and President Ford.
    • -Two gave four SOTU’s each, President’s Carter and George H. W. Bush.
    • -President Richard Nixon gave five SOTU speeches.
    • -President Lyndon B. Johnson gave six SOTUs.
    • -And four have given eight SOTU addresses each. They include President’s  Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.
  • The best day after return on the DJIA happened under President George H.W. Bush’s tenure when the Dow closed up 1.90 percent.

Find more of the particulars at:





IMG_0204For the week ending Jan. 9, 2016

  • Worst week? So what?

If you haven’t heard, the first trading week of 2016 has the distinction of being the worst first week of any year ever on Wall Street. If you’re upset by this year’s dour start, better forget long-term investing. Owning equities isn’t for those who don’t get that stock prices go up and down over time. Always have. Always will.

  • Market Quick Glance


Here’s how the major indices have performed year-to-date, YTD, through January 8, 2016 according to Bloomberg:

-S&P 500 -5.91% YTD

-Dow Jones -6.1% YTD

-NASDAQ -7.24 YTD (BTW, remember this was the only index that closed 2015 up.)

-Russell 2000 -7.88% YTD

-Mutual funds

Lipper’s year-to-date mutual fund performance figures through January 7, 2016 show:

-The average U.S. Diversified Equity Funds -4.93 percent.

-Commodity Precious Metals Funds +1.49 percent.

-Dedicated Short-bias Funds gained the most + 9.31 percent.

-Domestic L-T Fixed-Income Funds +0.11 percent.

Find all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds at in the left column on the home page.

-ETF News

Investors are loving ETFs.

According to Bloomberg: “ETFs took in a grand total of about $238 billion in 2015—just shy of their annual record of $243 billion set last year. No other investment vehicle came even close to this number. It is more than the flows into index funds, active mutual funds, and hedge funds combined.”

BlackRock’s IShares brought in $106 billion outpacing Vanguard’s ETF haul of $76 billion, according to that same source.

International ETFs saw the most inflows. SPY, the most outflows.

On the other hand, Vanguard is still big on keep its fees low. InstititionalAssetManager reported Vanguard clients saved a total of USD 12.4 million as a result of lower expense ratios for 53 individual mutual fund shares, including 21 exchange-traded fund shares (ETFs).

  • Turns out, when it comes to market value our secret passwords aren’t worth that much.

There seems to be no shortage of cyber crimals around. Or, computer accounts for them to hack. While that’s ugly enough, a study by TrendMicro found that passowrds for entertainment accounts with NetFlix, Hulu and Spotify can be had for as little as $2 bucks a piece.

Geez, isn’t anything sacred anymore?




A shooting range in every home

300 Tris Walker 11(Tris Walker, MorgueFile free photo)

Louis Navellier was a guest on CNBC Squawk Box this morning, Tuesday, Jan.5. I’m a fan of his so I watched. Two takeaways from the interview: First, President Obama is a great gun salesman. Second, there is a big difference between how those living in the West think about guns versus those living in the East. But before going there, consider the following.

Whether you’re a firearms enthusiast or not, or believe your right to carry or wear a gun out in public is as appropriate in 2016 as it was when the 2nd Amendment was adopted to the United States Constitution in 1791, really doesn’t much matter because—bottom line—there’s money in guns. Plenty of it. And, the more people who purchase guns, bullets and holsters, etc., or join shooting ranges and gun clubs and whip up others about the need to protect yourself, the more money this already multi-billion-dollar industry makes.

As for the hundreds of deaths caused by guns each day and every year, well, that’s sorta like collateral damage: An ugly reality that doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as profits do.

So while President Obama is hoping to knock a little common sense into all of us and would like to see some simple gun-control measures put into place—-and see the United States dump its top-billing status as the developed world’s most gun-violent country— every time he suggests any kind of gun control laws the sale of guns go up. As Navellier suggested, the guy, indirectly, is the best gun salesman in America today.

To that point, yesterday, at the end of the first trading day of the New Year, the DJIA tanked as did  most stocks on the major exchanges. Shares of both Sturm, Rugar and CO. (RGR) and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC), however, closed the day up $1.78 and $1.31 respectively.

Today, their gains were even more rewarding: Smith& Wesson Holding Corp. hit an all time high closing up over 11 percent at $25.86 per share and Sturm, Ruger & Co. ended the session up 6.46 percent at $65.54, according to Yahoo Finance.

The 52-week lows for each: RGR, $35.07 and SWHC, $9.39.

Like I said, there’s money in guns.

There’s also a gun-slinging mentality not shared by everyone across America.

Navellier, who owns homes out West and in the East, said his house in the West came outfitted with a shooting range and an RV garage. He didn’t specifically ask for either but said that was just how the homes in the area he lives are built. When out walking his dog this quant-style money manager said he can hear people target practicing inside their homes.“ I don’t do that but I can hear it.”

You won’t find those kinds of trappings in his home in the East. But the dichotomy between the two life-styles can’t be ignored. Nor can the odd chance that the real firepower underscoring the strength of our pro-gun lobbyists and legislators is really more about making money than it is the right to bear arms.






IMG_0204For the week ending Jan. 2, 2016

  • You saved how much on gas?

There’s been a lot of hoopla about how much money folks have saved because of the big decline in the cost of a gallon of gas. According to AAA, collectively Americans saved $115 billion in 2015 with the average driver saving $550. That’s all well and good. Trouble is, not every body has a car.

  • Market Quick Glance


Here’s how the major indices performed for the year ending December 31,2015, according to Yahoo Finance:

The only winning index was the NASDAQ closing up +5.7% YTD

-S&P 500 -0.7% YTD

-Dow Jones -2.2% YTD

-Russell 2000 -5.9% YTD


-Mutual funds

Year-end average equity fund performance figures from Lipper show the following:

-U.S. Diversified Equity Funds – 2.08 percent

Large-Cap Growth Funds performed the best + 5.13 percent

Equity Leverage Funds, the worst – 12.26 percent

-Sector Equity Funds -7.61 percent

Global Health/Tech Funds performed the best up 9.08 percent

Commodities Energy Funds, the worst -36,60 percent

-World Equity Funds –3.94 percent

Japanese Funds performed the best +12.09 percent

Latin American Funds, the worst -29.71 percent

Find all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds at in the left column on the home page.


The performances of Exchanged-traded funds (ETFs) and Exchanged-traded notes (ETNs) in 2015 can’t be overlooked. Here are some figures from ETF Hub:

-NASDAQ (QQQ) +9.8 percent

-S&P500 (SPY) +1.3 percent

-DJIA (DIA) +0.1 percent

-US Dollar (UUP) +6 percent

More ETF and ETN performance figures at

     •In today’s America, finding a working guy isn’t all that easy.

According to, around 94.5 million folks aren’t in the labor force and the lion’s shares of them are men. Oh my.

From that same source:” Those “not in the labor force” remains at a record level and this cannot be explained away simply by shifting demographics. Demographics alone is a convenient explanation for this large number but unfortunately only explains part of the large number of Americans not being included in the labor force. We have many going to college but as it turns out, not all colleges and degrees are created equal although most universities charge premium tuition. You also have many wanting a job but not being able to find one. …”

  • No matter what, be happy.

No matter what kind of market returns 2015 brought you, and whether you’re working or not, it’s always good for our psyche’s to be happy. In case that’s been a challenge, here are four  things the pros say to do to  remedy that.

According to TIME magazine, and a story titled “4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, According to Neuroscience”, here is  what brain research says to do to make you happy. They do not include puffing on a fat one or sucking down a case of anything:

  1. Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  2. Label those negative emotions. Give it/them a name and your brain won’t be so bothered by them.
  3. Decide to go  for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  4. Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.  (I’m going to add gingerly here…as we’re not talking perv touching of any sort. Just good old-fashioned hugging.)

To make sure you get it, read the full happy story at: