Monthly Archives: April 2018

POCKETBOOK: Week ending April 27, 2018

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  • Amazon’s piggy Prime fees

Figure pretty much everybody on Earth is familiar with Amazon, the company.

As for it’s Prime arm, that benefits program didn’t begin until 2005. Since then, the program has garnered 100 million members. That’s a boatload of members, if you ask me. And at $99 a year for membership, the dollars racked in from it is mountainous—as in an almost unfathomable $9,900,000,000. Said out loud, that’s “9 billion 900 million dollars”. Which, apparently, isn’t enough for Jeff Bezos’ company to keep it going.

So next month –on May 11– an Amazon Prime annual membership fee is going up not 10 but 20% to $119.   That translates to 100 million Prime members paying a total annual membership fee to Amazon of $119. Said out loud that’s “ 11 billion 900 million dollars.”

And that’s a pigish amount.

So, if you’re in the camp that remembers how it was often said that Amazon doesn’t make any money, it’s time to rethink that.

According to Redode.net, in a piece dated Feb. 1, 2018, the headline read:“Amazon has posted a profit for 11 straight quarters—including a record $1.9 bilion during the holidays.”

Hum.

  • Market Quick Glance

A downer of a week for all but one (NASDAQ) of the major indices year-to-date returns followed here. Additionally, all four of their 1-year reurns were lower than they were the previous week.

FYI, it’s been since January that  new all-time highs were reached on three of the four indices followed below; the DJIA, the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. NASDAQ hit its last new high in March.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, April 27, 2018.

 

DJIA -1.65% YTD down more than the previous week’s -1.05%

  • 1 yr Rtn 15.87% down from the previous week’s 18.87%

Most recent DJIA all-time high was reached on January 26, 2018 of 26,616.71. The previous high was reached January 18, 2018 was 26,153.42.

 

-S&P 500 -0.14% YTD down a hair more than last week’s -0.13%

  • 1 yr Rtn 11.77% down from last week’s 13.34%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on January 26, 2018 of 2,872.87. The previous high was reached on January 19, 2018 of 2810.33.

 

-NASDAQ 3.13% YTD down from last week’s 3.52%

  • 1yr Rtn 17.70% down from last week’s 20.78%

Nasdaq reached a brand new all-time high on March 13, 2018 of 7,637.27. The previous high was reached on March 9, 2018 of 7,560.81.

 

-Russell 2000 1.35% YTD down from than last week’s 1.86%

  • 1yr Rtn 9.82% down from last week’s 13.00%

 

The Russell 2000 reached an all-time high on January 24, of 1,615.52. The previous high was reached on January 16, 2018 of 1,604.02.

 

-Mutual funds

At the close of business last Thursday, April 26, 2018, the average fund that falls under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading had a year-to-date return of 0.65%, according to Lipper.

Small-Cap Growth funds that were up on average 6.27% a week earlier, lost ground and now had an average return of 4.42%.

On the other hand, the average return for Dedicated Short Bias Funds had improved and were now down only -5.43% instead of their score from the previous week of -6.97%.

Anybody who wants to jump up and down and boast about their fund’s returns must be shareholders in science and tech funds as the average Science & Technology Fund’s y-t-d return is 5.46% with the Global Science & Technology fund not far behind at 5.25%.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various 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.

 

  • Fund fees headed down

Morningstar began tracking the fees on mutual funds 18 years ago in 2000. Since then, fees for funds have dropped dramatically. As they should have.

According to their Press Release dated April 26, 2018, “Morningstar estimates that investors saved more that $4 billion in fund fees in 2017 by continuing to gravitate toward lower-cost fees.”

Lowering fees is a big plus for fund shareholders—not so much for the fund company.

That said, every penny counts when it comes to an investor making any money from their fund or ETF investments.

Morningstar reported that most investors choose lower-priced funds. The three fund families offering the lowest asset-weighted fund ratios include Vanguard with its average expense ratio of 0.10%; State Street Global Advisors, 0.16%; and iShares, 0.25%.

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending April 14, 2018

  • FullSizeRender(69) •Stocks and Bonds

If I remember correctly, near the end of last year many many many talking heads were telling everyone that the best performing stocks in 2018 were going to be those of companies located outside of the U.S. and around the world.

As many times is the case, that advice hasn’t exactly panned out so far this year. What we’ve seen instead is more worries than rewards. Why? Because of rising interest rates. One reason, the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has come as close as possible to a dreaded 3 percent yield. At this writing it stands at 2.99 percent.

Should that 3 percent return come to bear, it would be the highest level on our 10-year Treasury in four years– since January 2014—and the widest spread between it and German bonds in 29 years.

This worries talking heads as rising interest rates do impact stock prices at home and abroad in a not so necessarily  great way.

Keep that in mind as our stock markets continue to unwind this year and talks of a coming recession begin being heard more and more.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

For those focused on the weekly, year-to-date market index returns, NASDAQ and the Russell 2000 rewarded those folks the most last week as both closed in positive y-t-d territory at the close of business on Friday.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, April 20, 2018.

DJIA -1.04% YTD down but less than the previous week’s -1.45%

  • 1 yr Rtn 18.87% down from the previous week’s 19.10%

Most recent DJIA all-time high was reached on January 26, 2018 of 26,616.71. The previous high was reached January 18, 2018 was 26,153.42.

 

-S&P 500 -0.13% YTD down but less than last week’s -0.65%

  • 1 yr Rtn 13.34% down from last week’s 14.06%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on January 26, 2018 of 2,872.87. The previous high was reached on January 19, 2018 of 2810.33.

 

-NASDAQ 3.52% YTD up from last week’s 2.94%

  • 1yr Rtn 20.78% down from last week’s 22.42%

NASDAQ reached a brand new all-time high on March 13, 2018 of 7,637.27. The previous high was reached on March 9, 2018 of 7,560.81.

 

-Russell 2000 1.86% YTD up from than last week’s 0.91%

  • 1yr Rtn 13.00% down from last week’s 15.18%

The Russell 2000 reached an all-time high on January 24, of 1,615.52. The previous high was reached on January 16, 2018 of 1,604.02.

 

-Mutual funds

Returns looking up.

At the close of business on Thursday, April 19, 2018, the average fund that falls under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading had a year-to-date total return of 1.62%. +0.32%. That’s up from the previous week’s average.

Small-Cap Growth funds gained the most as the average return here was 6.27% and Dedicated Short Bias Funds proved to have not so hot average returns, -6.97%.

Looking around the world, the average World Equity Fund had an average y-t-d return of 1.60% with Latin American Funds leading the way at 6.42%.

And then there are bond funds. The average here, including all types of bond funds, had a y-t-d return of down ½ of 1 percent.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various 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.

 

  • Recession ahead?

No matter what the White House has to say about our economy, what’s happening today mixed in with rosy projections about tomorrow can’t really be taken at face value. That’s because ignoring what history has shown us about our economy and the performances of the stock and bond markets have a way of repeating themselves.

On that note, consider the following from a recent Newsweek.com article written by two professors, Steven Pressman at Colorado State University and Robert H. Scott lll, at Monmouth University:

  • While the Great Recession has come to an end, people are adding to their household credit card debt and student load debt in a big time way. Today this  nonmortgage household debt is 41 percent above its previous peak achieved 10 years ago in 2018.
  • While low interest rates have helped the housing market recover from the housing mess experienced during the early 2000s, the cost of homes has risen while many people a) don’t have the income to qualify for a loan; b) have the down payment to qualify for such a loan; and c) have the credit score to make the dream of owning a home possible.
  • American households have 6 to 7 percent less spending power than they did a decade ago.

According to the authors, the U.S. economy is primed for another recession.”We believe it’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

 

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending April 14, 2018

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  • Golden

Good news this week for gold investors. On Wednesday, gold futures traded at an intraday high of $1,369.30 an ounce, according to Gary Wagner’s Kitco Commentary on Friday, April 13, 2018.

The June Comex contract wasn’t quite that high at the close of business on Friday ($1,348.60), but even so, for the week gold had enjoyed an $11 an ounce  gain.

That’s a big deal because this precious metal has had a hard time making any kind of sustainable gains over the past few years. And, in a jumpy market like we’ve all been a part of, one might consider that a bit of an oddity.

That said, the big takeaway here is that you’ve got to go back to August 2016 to find gold trading at that high a level. “More importantly,” writes Wagner, “ the highs achieved during that rally were the first occurrence of a higher high since the multiyear correction (that) began in the middle of 2011.”

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the value of this precious metal for ones investment portfolio other than see its worth only in golden bangles, earrings or as a cap to top off one of your back molars.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

A better performance week for stock index results than the week before with the downs not as down and the ups more up.

Look at the 1-year returns and one might even begin to wonder what all the bears on Wall Street are concerned about. Then again, the only time that 1-year returns that seem to matter to the average investor is when the end of the year 52-week results are in.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, April 13, 2018.

 

DJIA -1.45% YTD down but less than the previous week’s -3.18%

  • 1 yr Rtn 19.10% up from the previous week’s 15.82%

Most recent DJIA all-time high was reached on January 26, 2018 of 26,616.71. The previous high was reached January 18, 2018 was 26,153.42.

 

-S&P 500 -0.65% YTD down much less than last week’s -2.59%

  • 1 yr Rtn 14.06% up from last week’s 10.48%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on January 26, 2018 of 2,872.87. The previous high was reached on January 19, 2018 of 2810.33.

 

-NASDAQ 2.94% YTD way up from last week’s 0.17%

  • 1yr Rtn 22.42% way up from last week’s 17.62%

Nasdaq reached a brand new all-time high on March 13, 2018 of 7,637.27. The previous high was reached on March 9, 2018 of 7,560.81.

 

-Russell 2000 0.91% YTD up from than last week’s -1.45%

  • 1yr Rtn 15.18% way up from last week’s 10.91%

The Russell 2000 reached an all-time high on January 24, of 1,615.52. The previous high was reached on January 16, 2018 of 1,604.02.

 

-Mutual funds

Lipper’s weekly mutual fund performance figures not available yet. Will post them when received.

Till then, here’s a repeat look at last week’s report: At the close of business on Thursday, April 4, 2018 the average fund that falls under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading had a year-to-date return of +0.32%. That’s up—yes up—from the previous week’s average of -0.37%.

Large-Cap and Small-Cap Growth funds were up on average well over 3% last week. Science & Technology Funds and Global Science & Technology Funds both up at 4.92 and 5.08% respectively.

Latin American Funds, too, were up–averaging almost 6% y-t-d.

The biggest loser fund type of all were Energy MLP, down on average -10.02%.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various 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.

 

  •   Credit Risks

The ability to raise, borrow and repay money is great deal. And one individuals as well as businesses count on. But like everything else within the world of money, risks exist and timing is everything.

Last week, Jack Ablin,CFA and Chief Financial Officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors published a piece titled “Credit Conditions and Risk Taking”.

From the piece: “The easiest way to gauge real time credit conditions is by observing the yield differential between 10-year, BBB bonds and 10-year Treasury notes. Since the bond market is roughly seven times the size of the stock market, the yield premium lenders require to extend credit to lower-quality borrowers is a useful barometer.”

While currently credit conditions are “favorable”, Ablin thinks that rising credit spreads can be an early warning sign of troubles ahead.

The chart below  provides additional insight on the subject.

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Trumpbits#25: Stormy Whether

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In case you missed it on the national news, at the corner of Ranch House Road and South Congress Avenue in West Palm Beach is the Ultra Gentleman’s Club. It’s a hot spot that’s been basically a strip joint for all of the decades I’ve been living here. And as the sign tells us, is hosting the talents of one of Mr. President’s past squeezes, Stormy Daniels.

Whether or not the president will notice the bigger-than-life horny signage is anybody’s guess. But the odds seem good given the amount of time he spends at this golf club every time he is in town.

Until that report comes out, I’ve always wondered about Trump’s choice of locations for his Trump International Golf Club: A few blocks in one direction is a strip club; in another, the prison; and close enough to be annoying, the airport—a spot he has always tried to have moved because of noise. All of which sorta kinda gives new meaning to that old real estate mantra, “Location, location, location.”

As for  “Making America Horny Again”, how many guys are gonna argue with that?

 

 

POCKETBOOK: Week ending April 7, 2018

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Lots of worries over what could happen if Trump starts a trade war. This Op-Ed cartoon is from the Sunday, April 8, 2018, Palm Beach Post.
  • Trading places

Lots of talking heads have lots of things to say about the likelihood of trade wars developing should the mighty US of A decide to let President Trump rule and impose additional tariffs on goods and services from places where tariffs already are in place.

In general, many talking heads agree that there is an imbalance in our trade agreement with China. And many think that getting into a tariff war with that country could be very disruptive and costly to us, as in the average consumer.

What’s important to remember is that no new tariffs have been imposed on any country, anywhere,  yet.

It’s also important to remember that it’s really smart to remember to pick your battles.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

Q: Dear Wise One:

Any perspective investors ought to keep in mind with respect to the markets’ recent volatility?

 
A: Yes.

Right now the stock market is as jumpy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. And that’s just how it is. Today.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Friday, April 6, 2018.

 

DJIA -3.18% YTD down more than the previous week’s -2.49%

  • 1 yr Rtn 15.82% down from the previous week’s 16.28%

Most recent DJIA all-time high was reached on January 26, 2018 of 26,616.71. The previous high was reached January 18, 2018 was 26,153.42.

 

-S&P 500 -2.59% YTD down more than last week’s -1.22%

  • 1 yr Rtn 10.48% down from last week’s 11.52%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on January 26, 2018 of 2,872.87. The previous high was reached on January 19, 2018 of 2810.33.

 

-NASDAQ 0.17% YTD down from last week’s 2.32%

  • 1yr Rtn 17.62% down from last week’s 19.43%

Nasdaq reached a brand new all-time high on March 13, 2018 of 7,637.27. The previous high was reached on March 9, 2018 of 7,560.81.

 

-Russell 2000 -1.45% YTD down more than last week’s -0.40%

  • 1yr Rtn 10.91% up a tiny bit from last week’s 10.64%

The Russell 2000 reached an all-time high on January 24, of 1,615.52. The previous high was reached on January 16, 2018 of 1,604.02.

 

-Mutual funds

At the close of business on Thursday, April 4, 2018,  the average fund that falls under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading had a year-to-date return of +0.32%. That’s up—yes up—from the previous week’s average of -0.37%.

Large-Cap Growth and Small-Cap Growth funds were up on average well over 3% last week. Science & Technology Funds and Global Science & Technology Funds both up at 4.92 and 5.08% respectively.

Latin American Funds, too, were up—averaging almost 6% y-t-d.

The biggest loser fund type of all were Energy MLP, down on average -10.02%.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various 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.

 

  • ETF returns

 I heard Jack Bogle, Vanguard’s founder, point out that mutual funds have had better returns than exchange-traded funds, ETFs, a point I found worth thinking about. Seems the big push to advertise big time by various ETF brand families is one thing. But, out performing various categories of index funds however, is another.

So, while some consider the ability to buy and sell ETFs throughout the day –as one can do with both stocks and ETFs– is appealing, it isn’t necessariy financially rewarding.

One reason  is that  Bogle thinks ETFs could encourage individuals to trade their holdings more often rather than  holding their investments  for the long term. Doing so, he said makes  it difficult for an investor/trader to outperform the market.

Good point.

Then again, Bogle loves index funds.

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POCKETBOOK: Week ending March 30, 2018

  • file000242429675•April Fools

A new month. A new quarter. New Spring hopes. Maybe.

Take out any behind the scene guffaws from  White House policy makers, or economic and international surprises and the fourth month of the year could be a rewarding one for investors, if history is any guide.

Based on historical returns, ever since 1950 the S&P 500 has posted an average gain of 1.5% in April.

“From a purely seasonality point of view, April is a pretty good month…” says Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial.

And guess what? There’s a 50/50 chance he’s right.

We shall see.

 

  • Market Quick Glance

Remember when the indices below were reaching new all-time highs all the time? Well, believer it or not, that was happening only three months ago in January —but for some reason it seems like oh-so long ago. That’s the funny thing about keeping too close an eye on watching year-to-date returns—they’re clearly fickle. And, unless you’re a day trader, can make you crazy and doubt your overall reason for investing.

Investing for most of us, is a long-term obligation. One that comes with bouts of the unexpected on both the up- and downsides. All of which brings us to the end of the first quarter of 2018. For  many it was in a word: lousy. The S&P 500, for instance, lost 1 percent, according to CNBC.com. It was the first time that quarter has “ended in the red  since 2009”.

Below are the weekly and 1-year index performance results for four major indices— including the dates each reached new highs—according to CNBC.com based on prices at the close of business on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

 

DJIA: -2.49% YTD improved but still down from the previous week’s -4.9%

•1 yr Rtn 16.28% up from the previous week’s 13.93%

Most recent DJIA all-time high was reached on January 26, 2018 of 26,616.71. The previous high was reached January 18, 2018 was 26,153.42.

 

-S&P 500:  -1.22% YTD improved but still down from last week’s -3.95%

  • 1 yr Rtn 11.52% up from last week’s 10.33%

The S&P 500 reached its most recent all-time high on January 26, 2018 of 2,872.87. The previous high was reached on January 19, 2018 of 2810.33.

 

-NASDAQ:  2.32% YTD up from last week’s 1.29%

  • 1yr Rtn 19.43% down from last week’s 20.20%

NASDAQ reached a brand new all-time high on March 13, 2018 of 7,637.27. The previous high was reached on March 9, 2018 of 7,560.81.

 

-Russell:  2000 -0.40% YTD improved from last week’s -1.66%

  • 1yr Rtn 10.64% down from last week’s 11.57%

The Russell 2000 reached an all-time high on January 24, of 1,615.52. The previous high was reached on January 16, 2018 of 1,604.02.

 

-Mutual funds

Not such a hot week. But there’s always tomorrow.

At the close of business on Thursday, March 29, 2018 the average fund that falls under the broad U.S. Diversified Equity Funds heading had a year-to-date return of -0.37%. That’s down more than the previous week’s average of -0.11%.

Stepping back and taking a look at the big picture, while the average diversified fund was -0.37%, the average Sector Fund’s y-t-d return was -2.70 and the average World Equity Fund, kinda sorta almost flat at +0.11%.

Throw some fixed-income into the fold and the average Mixed Asset Fund’s y-t-d return was -0.90%; Domestic L-T Fixed Income Funds, -0.85%; and World Income Fund +0.97%.

Bottom line: Q1 of 2018 has turned out to be a stingy one for many investors. So, even though money market funds continue their puny returns, they nonetheless have provided people with positive returns. And as such, stand as a reminder that one keep some money in cash, short-term fixed-income investments and some in equities. How much and where is always your call.

Visit www.allaboutfunds.com for more information about how various 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.

  • Gas up

Spring is here and along with it typically comes higher prices at the pump.

On a trip to Hutchinson Island over the weekend, the range for a gallon of regular gas that I saw ranged from about $2.69 to $2.72. That’s above the national March average of $2.56, according to AAA.

And it’s considerably higher than prices last year were when the national average price in March was $2.30. That, however, was way higher than in 2016 when it was $1.93.

But that 2.30 isn’t nearly as expensive as petrol was four years ago when, in 2014, the average price for one gallon of regular gas was—hold on to your hat—$3.51.

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Happy Easter, Passover and Spring!

 

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One of the simplest of the dozens of  Easter flower arrangements carefully made by members of the Bethesda Flower Guild at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach.

From where I sit, there is nothing quite like Spring. It’s a season of hope and renewed spirit all witnessed by an impossible-to-ignore budding of Mother Nature’s incredible talents.

Nature aside, I was moved by  two display ads placed by Findlay Galleries in The Palm Beach Daily News, (a.k.a., The Shiny Sheet), this weekend. Both depict the work of great artists. Both with messages of the Season for their respective audiences. Both worth a look and a read.

On Saturday, (3/31/18), under a Marc Chagall lithograph, the ad read: “Happy Passover; May you be blessed with happiness, prosperity, peace and good health.”

Under Sunday’s Easter piece, (4/1/19), the ad read: “Happy Easter, Rejoice in the resurrection. We hope all your Easter prayers will bring you renewed hope and faith this Easter year.”

Happy Spring to all who breathe whether they practice a faith or not.