The last several days in the US market has been a bit of a shock to lots of investors. History has had many surprise events such as the unexpected 1987 super US Market crash. Anyone connected to the markets in some way back then can remember it as easily as those who remember the assassination of President Kennedy. Not too many years ago, we had the "Flash Crash" that saw a 1,000 point swing in the Dow Jones. The main difference I see in markets from years ago and the markets today is the movement of markets around the world all trending in the same direction.
I've talked about this for several years now but I thought a graph below of today's market returns would do a better job of describing what happens when one country's market goes down. Many many years ago this was not the general case. When one country's market went down, other countries markets might be down or up.
The simple reason for all markets trending the same has to do with the fact that companies are now doing business in other countries. When business slows down in a country they are doing business then this affects their bottom line and investors care about the bottom line. So when expectations of a company's revenue are perceived to go down then investors in the parent country trade the stock with those expectations. Essentially now everybody is in everybody's business around the world. The world economy is now acting like what one country's economy used to do.
Trade according to the big movements and investing will be less of a surprise.
This is just a short quick observation. Other than Octobers increase of 968,000 people to the bucket of those who quit looking for work according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the last two months have been really dull. I keep wondering how the BLS can keep 10.9 Million extra people in the bucket who quit looking for work (Not in the Labor Force). The extra expanded from 2.2 million in 2007 to 10.3 million in 2013 and has stayed relatively the same since. Right now that total number is 95.5 Million, but if we adjust for normal percent of the population then the number should be 84.5 million in that bucket. The good news is that at least the extra bucket has not significantly been expanding in the last four years. But why has the number not been decreasing?
How do eleven million people give up looking for work? I have a hard time imagining that many people don't want to work and/or are too discouraged to work. If I had those extra eleven million back into the unemployment numbers then the true unemployment percent is 10.2%, not the wonderful 4.09% reported. Of course, I'm probably making it too simple, right?!
A number of months ago I was asked by Investopedia.com to join many other advisors to answer questions posed by investors looking for direction. This evening I responded to a 66 year old who retired in February of this year. There seems to be only two different types of investors posting questions. The first type is searching for information to go it alone and the second is the type that is trying to understand enough information to find a good advisor. However, many post questions that allude to "going it alone" when they are uncertain whether to "go it alone" or hire an advisor. So the answers to their questions really do not address their objectives and essentially increases their time spent figuring it out. So I thought I would post a copy of my response in this blog as well. In fact I plan to transfer many of my replies on Investopedia.com since most of my replies are more general in nature and I feel very helpful to investors asking the better questions.
"What you pose is a great question “how do I maintain this income stream”. Years ago, when I first entered into the investment world I kept thinking there was a Holy Grail method to be discovered. Many years since I have found that there are probably more investment methods and tools to accomplish investors goals than investors to trade them. However, I found that the success of each method had to rely on universal fundamentals, but more importantly, the method and tools used had to match the viewpoint of the investor or advisor for long-term success. (i.e. if the investor doesn’t believe in using stocks for investment then the least amount of negative market returns will cause the investor to likely sell too soon or some other negative actions).
If I were you I would decide whether you wish to use an investment advisor for advice or go it alone. If you go it alone I would recommend that you should probably reduce your stock exposure and bond maturity length to mitigate a downturn in the stock market and a possible increase in interest rates (bond values go generally opposite of interest rate increases) till you learn a bit more how markets work. Then at some point, you will need to make your method your own. I will caution you to have patience with yourself in learning.
However, if you choose to find an investment advisor I offer you that many advisors probably could get you to your goal. Just understand that you are borrowing their methods, so your responsibility is to hold them accountable to their method and not to instruct them on how to do their job. If you find yourself instructing the advisor it’s probably because you are not confident in their method and/or advisor’s ability. When this happens you should cut your loss and just go find another advisor or method. Think about it like if you had a subordinate you continue to have to micromanage. It will drain you and you would probably be better off just doing the task yourself.
Once you decide which path to take it will be easier to decide on more questions to ask. Good luck and keep asking questions on Investopedia.com. It’s a great resource for investors. "
Your feedback is welcome!
I've heard it so many times, "Why does this not feel like things are really not ok?" Usually that is in the context of economics in the USA. Here in Colorado I have to say that things locally have been doing extremely well with housing prices again going crazy up over the last few years. I seem to hear about startup companies coming out every single day. And it is easy to get caught up in linking the local economic success to the nation as a whole, but here I have to show you a couple of charts that I've updated each month for the last 10 years.
Both charts are built with the unemployment numbers the labor department publishes each month. The chart on the left is based on the reported unemployment percent, while the chart on the right adds back in the "Not in Labor Force" #s minus the historical average % relative to population #. Which just means I add back in the abnormal amount of unemployed individuals that do not belong in the "Not in Labor Force" bucket to get a true unemployment percent. It's rather simple math and logic, but it shows a very different picture.
It may explain why Denver is bringing in out of state families from all across the United States to come work here. I see a minimum of 8 to 10 out of state license plates a day just driving around. I usually only see that in the summer months but now its constant year around. Economics are not well nationwide and families are moving thousands of miles seeking jobs they used to be able to find within a hundred miles.
The real unemployment picture is not what everyone would wish to see and the reported picture I'm sure has had some positive effect of building back the confidence of the population, but for the investor it holds a concern. And that concern is this, "If the government cannot give a more accurate picture with the unemployment numbers how confident can we be in our economic fed picture?" I encourage you to do your own observations. I cannot predict market turn points with any accuracy, but when things start to make less sense for a long time it usually means a time will come to balance the equation. Just have a strategy for when the market goes up, sideways and down.
John Hamel is the Managing Member of Austec Wealth Management, LLC. helping current & retired business owners optimize relative to their company value and personal life.