How to defend against this tough equity market? Some say to buy defensive sectors like healthcare and consumer staples. Others buy gold. Ironically, however, the best protection may be to stick with the old 60/40 balanced portfolio. Despite all the market turmoil recently, if you had been holding a 60% SPY and 40% AGG portfolio over the last month you would have had a net return of negative 0.62%, which is pretty good considering how ugly markets were. If you had been holding it for the whole year, you would have a sterling return of 14.45%.
FINSUM: These stats are a testament to old fashioned diversification!
September is usually a very poor month for stocks. Investors are generally uptight because of this, but this year tensions are much higher after a brutal August that saw benchmarks fall around 3%, a figure which frankly does not do justice to the turmoil. The Dow actually averages a large decline in September historically, and the month has only had positives returns 36% of the time in the last 100 years. This statement from Barron’s says it all: “If you only owned the S&P 500 in September during every year, a $100 investment starting in 1969 would now be worth just $70.
FINSUM: September is usually bad (which does not really mean anything for this year in itself), but this year could be extra ugly because it may just be more of the same turmoil that has already been occurring.
Rollovers are one of the most important and hotly contested areas of forthcoming regulation. The mostly defunct DOL rule stated that advisors need to act in the best interest of clients when dealing with rollovers only if the firm was a fiduciary. However, the big forthcoming change is that the SEC Best Interest rule essentially states that advisors AND brokers need to act in the best interest of clients all the time, but allows that disclosure of material conflicts can be sufficient to overcome any hurdles. According to Drinker Biddle & Reath, a leading wealth management law firm, “Reg BI standard of care obligation requires that a broker-dealer have a reasonable basis to believe that taking the assets out of the plan and rolling them over to an IRA is in the best interest of the participant at the time of the recommendation”.
FINSUM: So the DOL rule was very strict but fairly narrow in application, while the SEC rule is broader (encompassing brokers and fiduciaries) but less strict.
The last month has been an unusually tough market. While the volatility itself is not highly irregular, what has been difficult is the rise of correlation. Over the last month, the market has traded the same way a whopping seven times. On those days, stocks, bond yields, and commodities have all traded in the same direction. When that happens it is very hard for investors to find a place to hide.
FINSUM: A couple of months ago using bonds as a safe haven seemed like a good idea. But prices have gone up so astronomically without a real change in the economy, that fixed income is looking like a fragile place to hide.
New data just released shows the US economy is a bit weaker than everyone expected. Second quarter GDP data has been revised downward, showing that the US expanded at only 2.0% in the quarter instead of the first-reported 2.1%. Government spending, weaker exports, and private inventories weighed on the numbers. However, the very good news in the data is that consumer spending increase was the strongest in 4.5 years.
FINSUM: Consumer spending is at its highest levels since 2014 at the same time as bond yields are at extraordinary lows and everyone is worried about a recession. Either a recession will arrive or there will be some big losses in bond markets.