Building Retirement Confidence

Doldrums & Eclipses

From Webster Definitions.




A spell of listlessness or despondency


A part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds


A state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump


Good Morning,


I have lived them all – from the ocean to the markets.  This time of year is always fraught with angst and implied peril.  Sadly this year, though it waited ’til late in the summer haze, is no different.


Experts, media types, talking heads on TV and any number of website headlines are telling us a seemingly endless stream of reasons to be afraid of the markets.  The fear trades are getting the good press.  The wilting stock market (about 2.7% off most recent record highs) is the constant whipping boy.


Volumes are nearly non-existent.  Headlines immediately show pretty violent reactions. As such, double-digit down moves in stocks are the norm for the last few weeks.  If you think humans are the cause of milli-second reactions while no one is around, well, I have a bridge to sell you.


Lunacy – the issue has become so nutty that, for example, solar stocks are down today. Why?  Because for about an hour of existence, we are having a once in a couple-hundred year event – an eclipse – today.  Just today, not forever.  And yet, because of that and headlines shouting “The things That Can Go Bad for Solar Today During the Eclipse”, many of them are down by 1/20 of their entire value.


I say again, like so many other actions of the last few weeks – sheer lunacy.  This time only hidden from the masses by the major indices hiding the nonsense under the surface.

Idea:  Let’s stay focused on reality…as ugly as these periods can feel.


The Contrast?


The group that is not showing anything other […]

The Grim Reaper Cometh

Good Afternoon,


So in case you have a pencil, the license number was KHG 3491Y.


Yes, I know – it’s August and it feels like the world is ending.  Blood pressures are up. Cortisol is pumping into the collective investor body, stress is rising – even the strong are letting those ugly little headlines seep into their thinking.  It is indeed a dirty business.


It plays tricks on your mind, your emotions and your psyche.  It leads you to think things which almost never unfold and often end up in the opposite direction.  Some examples just during the summer – literally the last 90 days:


Before:  The year started with fears over a strong dollar hurting corporate profits.


After:  Q2 showed all-time record profits and the dollar is at one-year lows.


Before:  Just 20 days ago, the market was a bit rocky and the headlines blared that rates were breaking to the upside.  The 10-year Treasury hit (gasp) 2.39% and it was “surely” going a lot higher with the Fed raising rates.


After:  Yesterday, bonds approached their yearly lows and the fear trade raced back to the front of the line.


Before:  OPEC cuts would bring oil back to life and $100 was on the way again – yay. Imagine that for a quick moment – we are cheering paying more for Middle East oil imports?  Totally nutty.


After:  The technology shift moving through the landscape like a silent Grim Reaper won’t be stopped by OPEC…they got oil and sand – and we don’t need any more sand.


Before:  Just days ago, N. Korea was the rage – the true end of the world.  Do you realize how much time was wasted on fretting over a nuclear war?  I swear at times, we all […]

The Answer is No

Good Afternoon,


With earnings season mostly over, let’s look at the finale from Zacks’ data perspective:


Ten of the sectors are already done – of the 52 S&P 500 members still to report, expect some poor results as many are retail.  While Amazon does change things – one can be somewhat confident it won’t be as ugly as it seems in the headlines.


So for the 448 members who have reported?  Earnings are up 10.9% on top of a revenue increase of 5.8%.  For the record, nearly 74% beat on EPS estimates and more than 67% beat on revenue estimates for a blowout combined beat rate as one of your charts below will show.


If we combine already reported numbers and the estimates of those still to come, the YOY increases come down slightly (assumes no more beats at all – which is unlikely) to 10.1% and 5.3% respectively.  For the bears, growth was broad-based – and even if we go ex-energy, which clearly had a layup lapping of horrible results from last year – still solid all around at increases of 8.6% and 4.8%.


As is the case each earnings season – on beats, analysts for some odd reason simply ratchet down the next quarter.  But here is the key:  the ratcheting down for next quarter is as light as it was for for Q2, when adjustments were made after Q1.  In other words – they are moderate – and setting the stage for more beats.


Lastly – and this is the part where most get lost in all the data and miss:  records were set in revenues, earnings and cash flows.  Records = never higher.


Even Better?


We want to focus on “forward S&P earnings” from Thomson/Reuters since that is where the pricing mechanism is usually at work. […]

Keep it Short

Good Afternoon,


Nuclear war.  Nothing much scarier than that right?


I am just thinking out loud here but if there were really high enough tensions to warrant concern about a nuke lifting off into the heavens, South Korea’s market would be down a tiny bit more than 4% over the last few weeks.


I am just sayin’.


The chatterboxes on-air have gotten to the point where they cannot seem to figure out which ill is going to kill us.  They can barely catch a breath between telling us about the latest vitriol-laden missteps in DC or the latest Trumpism or the latest North Korea ICBM test date.


And it’s working.  Note the sentiment.


Make No Mistake


While the three major averages are feeling some of the brunt, the internals have been stinking up the joint for the last month.  With AMZN, GOOG, FB and AAPL carrying so much of the top weight in the markets, it is easy for the public to be dismayed by the broader measures “lack of movement.”


The NYSE Composite is up 6.49% this year – and the equally weighted S&P 500 is up not much more – at 6.54% YTD – quite a clip from the headline grabbing averages.


Further, while the headlines are solid given the tech push noted above and the ETF passiveness covered previously, note this important item:  Less than 60 percent of stocks in the Russell 3000 are trading above their 200-day moving average!


What does that tell you?


First don’t under-estimate the bullish nature of this piece of data. At first, it might appear negative.  But, if we step back far enough, turn off the crap being spewed in the press and keep our wits (read – stay calm) about us, history tells us that the “correction” everyone seems […]

About that Swoon

Good Afternoon,


I admit, it’s an ugly wake-up call.  Like that alarm clock you know is coming at 5:20 a.m. but you would much rather just sleep.  It was so much more fun hearing the financial pundits speak of another record high – even if they did so under the light of explaining how it should be impossible “given all the problems we have…”


Today’s action takes us back to price levels of almost a month ago – the morning of July 12th to be exact – all in one day.  Last week I hinted that we should remember “the string of records was not moving by a lot overall…”  I also hinted that it would only take a day or two of red ink to wash away any semblance of “record-setting excitement” in the crowd.


Sadly, we can be confident today did just that – but the crowd was already scared.


The latest AAII sentiment data from last evening show once again, that the bulls were culled.  Bullish sentiment fell again!  This on the back of all those new record highs last week – and before today’s red ink across the board:  read ’em and…smile if you are a long-term investor:

More Breadcrumbs….


Bullish readings are just 1/3 of the crowd?  You have seen the notes before on all of this sentiment stuff and it has remained the same – for 137 weeks now.  This has been a standing contrary signal that what is most feared is a setback – and not the missing of opportunity.


On a supporting front…


In case you may still be wondering if we are operating in a new world as it relates to the often referenced “economic uncertainty” and the various “perceptions of safety”, check this latest set of data points from the bond world:


Argentina, […]

Debunking Summer Swoons

Good Morning,


In case you had not heard it 4,578 times already, history suggests August is the worst month for the Dow Industrials, with an average loss of 1.39% over the last 20 years.


The good news?  Don’t fret – September is the worst month if you want to check the last 50 and 100 years.


The funny part most people miss though as they focus on the bad is that the fourth quarter is usually very strong.  If one cares to review, October, November, and December have averaged gains of 1.96%, 1.93%, and 1.47%, respectively, over the last 20 years.


For those who like math, that’s a compounded quarterly gain of 5.5% for Q4’s vs. a 1.3% average loss for Q3’s.


Not too shabby right?


This helps explain why I start suggesting we “pray for a summer swoon” starting about May 1 of each year.




The great former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, warned us all last week that he has new and growing “ominous” concerns about a bond bubble.  We have covered the bond bubble for so long I yawn when I type it.


Here is something to note of importance:  Alan is 91 years old now.  As has been previously pointed out, records show he traditionally has had most of his money invested in Treasury securities.


Sadly, like many retired folks, right after their healthy stuff each day – the morning run, coffee, yoga lessons and 5K sprints – worrying seems to be the new national pastime for those who watch too much financial TV.


The Good News?


I read a nice piece from Mr. Navellier.  It pointed out that current Fed Vice Chairman Stan Fischer does not seem to share Mr. Greenspan’s “concerns” as the former gave a long speech last week that attempted to explain that global interest rates remain […]

Lots of Chatter

Good Morning,


There was a recent interview with Jeremy Grantham in Barron’s.  Jeremy has been around for a long, long time – and his firm (GMO) manages billions and billions of client dollars.


His writings often see much coverage.  They are very intriguing, enlightening, extremely clear, sharp as a tack and usually, as for future market projections, quite ominous. Indeed as the year began, this warning:  “a horrendous bear market was in the offing” with their work.


White Flag?


Jeremy comments below:


“It suggests to me that I have in general been over-intellectualizing the working of the market for a few decades. I have had too strong a belief that investors would at least be influenced by past data in a sensible way. The market, however, appears not to care at all about the past or to learn much from it. This model for sure seems to say that for 92 years, at least, the market has with remarkable consistency been a coincident indicator of superficially appealing variables that in a strict economic sense have been inappropriate, and that have caused spectacular and unnecessary market volatility. The model is apparently a reflection of human nature and, of all factors influencing the market, human nature, as economically inefficient and unsophisticated it may be, seems the least likely to change.”

– Jeremy Grantham (GMO)


The lesson?  Not that someone is wrong – not at all.  More, it serves as a lesson from one very experienced guy.  There is no palm reading.  There is no crystal ball.  There is no unique choice to be made to eliminate risk.


Risk is everywhere – always present – in all ways.


Time is your controller of risk.  Just time.  Everything else is marketing.


Simple right?  Not really.


Another Take….


I have often stated that any market […]

135th Week

Good Afternoon,


For many stocks this has been an ugly earnings season.  That’s not because of results but because of reactions.  While I always say I will ignore what near-term reactions unfold in markets due to ill-perceived emotional events, sometimes it surprises even me.  The good news?


When a company surprises to the upside, speaks positively about the pipeline and demand and then watches their stock get shelled for some other odd reason, like, “the stock had run up into earnings”, then long-term investors can realize over time that the stock just became more valuable.  Sadly, it’s the classic “buy the rumor, sell the news” type of action which is focused on just one thing:  movement.


The better news?  For now, the second busiest week of Q2 announcements is a few hours a way from being “in the books.”  Then?  The rest of August.


Results So Far?


Stats are good – with some broader issues unfolding behind the scenes which merit our attention:


First – warnings were very light coming into the season which we had noted in early July. This becomes important when one realizes that this comes on top of easy beats from a significant portion of those reporting.  Cap this off with very light overall reductions in Q3, Q4 and 2018 expectations (recall it is normal for these things to trail off as each earnings season unfolds) – and you get a solid backdrop of growth ahead.


My hunch?  Global recovery is finally helping pull the economic cart up the mountain.  For so long, the world waited for most of the work to be done by the US economy.  Finally, the weight is being distributed.


Note:  the correlation between massive fears about the “euro” collapsing as it was “setting multi-year lows” […]

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Haze Dead Ahead

Good Afternoon,


The near-term risk of the “buy the rumor, sell the news” type of summer action was timely in the notes two weeks ago.  The busiest week of the summer and the Q2 earnings season – along with very low volumes – set the stage for some internal shellacking of several big names.


Yet, new records are being set, new forward earnings continue to rise and the numbers being chalked up as 2018 foundation (pre tax reform and more regulatory burden lift) suggest a steady upside surprise remains on track.  I remain very surprised at the continuing edginess in the crowd – further exemplified last week by wrongly-perceived “risks” and the pace at which minds are changed.  The ETF battle will only grow more burdensome as time goes on.


Just for illustrative purposes, the Inccome Portfolio saw three events last week – almost entirely related to ETF reactions.  I will highlight one example and am happy to cover others if you like.  I point this out for educational purposes.  STX reported a very big miss last week.  Instantly, as tech specific ETFs were sold – and since WDC is a holding in many of those ETF’s – it too went down.  This selling did not stop even as WDC announced stellar earnings, continued growth and results which will now far exceed the numbers provided as earnings at the start of the year.  In other words, almost a picture-book report.  The result?  The stock sold off over three days by more than $10 per share – settling somewhere around 7 times earnings for 2017.  This will give you a sense of just how poor emotions can be as a judge of reality.


More Earnings Data


One thing to be very aware […]

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