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Gold prices ended the year on a strong note by making all-time highs and finished the year with a 13% gain. Next year, the outlook remains bullish due to expectations that real interest rates will decline as inflation falls and the Fed shifts to a dovish policy, leading to increased demand. JPMorgan has a year-end forecast of $2,300.


Some of the factors that could lead to gold outperforming are the economy being weaker than expected which could lead to more aggressive cuts by the Fed. Additionally, there is a risk that geopolitical tensions could inflame even further whether it’s in the Middle East or the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Budget deficits in the US remain high for the foreseeable future with another close and contentious presidential election on the horizon.


Another positive catalyst for gold prices is that central banks are net buyers. According to the World Gold Council, they will purchase between 450 and 500 tons in the upcoming year. This is in addition to strong investing demand from ETFs which have seen substantial increases in assets over the past year.


The major risk to the outlook is if the economy remains robust enough so that the Fed can keep the fed funds rate elevated for a longer period of time. During the last 2 ‘soft landings’, gold had a total return of -1.6%, while Treasuries returned 16% and equities were up 33%.

Finsum: Gold prices are flirting with all-time highs. Recent catalysts for strength include geopolitical turmoil and expectations that the Fed is in the midst of a pivot.  


The Federal Reserve’s tightening campaign surprisingly has had a muted impact on the broader economy as evidenced by continued expansion despite the highest rate in decades. In terms of the stated goal of curbing inflation, results are mixed as well. 


However, the vector which immediately responded to tighter policy is real estate given that affordability has declined due to higher rates. In some markets, activity has simply cooled, while in those with poor fundamentals, prices are falling more precipitously. 


Within real estate, commercial real estate (CRE) is the most challenged given oversupply and the recent rise of remote work. For Barron’s, Rob Csneryik covers why some contrarian investors are seeing opportunity in the beaten-down sector.


In essence, it’s a buyer’s market with so many traditional sources of funding out of the picture, leading to more favorable terms and higher returns. Further, there is less risk with values already down so much. Many believe that office occupancy rates will start to gradually rise especially if the economy does weaken which would give employers more leverage to force employees back to the office. CRE would also likely benefit from a mild recession as it would compel the Fed to cut rates which would turn a major headwind into a tailwind. 

Finsum: Commercial real estate is the weakest segment of the real estate market. However, some contrarians see opportunities amid the carnage.


Ever since the Fed embarked on its tightening campaign starting in the early months of 2022, the real estate market experienced the most immediate impact due to rising mortgage rates negatively affecting home affordability.


Initially, publicly traded real estate stocks saw deep drawdowns while private real estate performed much better. Now, this gap is beginning to shrink as private real estate has been following public real estate lower. One factor is that it’s increasingly becoming clear that high rates are not going to disappear anytime soon due to the resilience of the economy and inflation. In fact, inflationary pressures seem to be reigniting given the recent strength in oil and auto workers striking.


In terms of when private real estate will bottom, some indicators to watch are an increase in transaction volume even at lower prices, a change in monetary policy, and increase in lending standards. Currently, all 3 are working against private real estate given that many markets are ‘frozen’ as sellers are unwilling to cut prices, while buyers don’t see many attractive deals at current yields. The Fed’s focus remains on stamping out inflation whether through further hikes or keeping rates ‘higher for longer’. Finally, lending standards are unlikely to loosen especially with so many banks struggling with balance sheet issues and/or an inverted yield curve. 

Finsum: Private real estate was immune to the weakness in public real estate for so long. Find out why this is starting to change.


Friday, 29 September 2023 13:29

Vanguard on Direct Indexing

Ben Hammer, the Head of Client Development for Vanguard, recently spoke to an audience of financial advisors about direct indexing. The asset manager clearly sees it as a major growth avenue especially as most advisors and investors remain unfamiliar with the concept and its benefits.


According to surveys of investors and advisors, the most appealing part of direct indexing is the potential tax savings which is not possible with traditional passive investing. By recreating indexes within an individual investors’ account, losing positions can be sold while stocks with similar factor scores are added in substitution to maintain consistency with the benchmark. Another benefit is customization as investors can adjust a portfolio’s holding based on their own situation, values, or preferences. 


Hammer also stressed that direct indexing wouldn’t be available to a wide swathe of the investing universe because of its cost and complexity. However, these issues have been solved by technology as trading costs have plummeted, while software handles the regular scans for tax loss harvesting opportunities and rebalancing.


Still, direct indexing is probably not necessary for most investors. It can be the perfect solution for those who want more tax savings and customization while retaining the benefits of passive investing. 

Finsum: At a recent conference for financial advisors, Vanguard’s Ben Hammer spoke about the evolution of direct indexing and its growth prospects.


Friday, 29 September 2023 13:28

Attract High Net Worth Clients

For advisors, there are many benefits to working with high net worth clients. They have more investable assets and also tend to have a better grasp of what constitutes a fruitful advisor-client dynamic. Of course, there is intense competition to land these clients. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success.


The first step is to understand their needs and goals. It’s also important to be aware that these prospects have seen many sales pitches and tend to be quite savvy. Therefore, any approach should be transparent in terms of purpose and intentions. Instead of being vague, it’s more helpful to focus on a specific topic like retirement planning, charitable giving, tax strategies, succession planning, etc, where you can demonstrate your expertise. 


The second step is to remember what makes you and your practice unique and to focus on these differentiators. Having a specialization can help you stand out especially if the client is looking for that particular service. This can also help you come up with a message around your brand which communicates your value. 


The final step is to spend time and energy into making sure that your prospects are aware of your practice whether this is digital or analog. This means defining your ideal prospect and figuring out where they spend time and attention, physically and virtually.. 

Finsum: Getting a high net worth client has many benefits for advisors, but the landscape is quite competitive. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success.


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