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Fourth Quarter 2013 - Pinnacle Investment Management, Inc.

Fourth Quarter 2013

January 29, 2014 / Quarterly Newsletters

January 2014

2013 was highly profitable for US equities but disappointing for fixed income investments.  US stocks continued their strong performance in the fourth quarter, and many US equity indexes gained more than 30% for the year, their best performance since 1997.

Since US stocks performed so well, diversification beyond the US provided few benefits.  Although stock markets in most other developed countries turned in strong performances by historical standards, they lagged the US substantially.   Emerging markets not only lagged, but on average they lost over 5% for the year.  Gold and precious metals suffered an even greater decline as inflation remained unexpectedly subdued.

After declining to 1.7% in May the yield on the ten year US Treasury bond rose to 2.6% in September and 3% by year end.  Rising rates provided a headwind for bond investors, with many bonds posting small losses for the year.  The US Aggregate Bond Index lost 2%, its first annual loss since 1999.   The Federal Reserve held short term rates very low and has said they will continue to do so for an extended period of time, so money market yields will disappoint savers and will not likely keep up with inflation over the next year.

Returns for key indexes (including dividends) were:

1st Qtr
2nd Qtr
3rd Qtr
4th Qtr
Full Year
Dow Jones Industrials12.00%2.80%2.20%10.20%29.50%
S&P 50010.40%3.00%5.30%10.50%32.30%
S&P 400 mid-cap13.00%0.60%7.20%7.90%31.60%
Russell 2000 small-cap12.00%2.70%9.90%8.40%37.00%
Total International, excluding US2.20%-3.50%10.30%5.40%14.60%
Dow Jones World Stock6.30%-1.10%7.60%6.80%20.80%
Barclays Aggregate Bond Index0.10%-2.60%0.60%0.00%-2.00%

The US economy and equity markets overcame a multitude of obstacles – all of which the government had a hand in creating.  The year began with negotiations on the US debt ceiling, a significant number of new regulations, tax increases related to the new healthcare bill and the government spending “sequester”.  As the year progressed, concerns grew about the European sovereign debt crisis enveloping Cyprus and what would happen when the Fed began to reduce (taper) their $85 billion per month bond purchasing.  The US equity market suffered only a few short declines during the year, with the worst being a 6% pull-back in May and June.

Consumer confidence, spending and new home purchases continue to improve during the year.  The economy is benefiting from technological and productivity advances such as smart phones, tablets, 3-D printing and new methods of extracting oil and gas.  In the end the US entrepreneurial spirit and free market economy is overcoming congressional mis-steps and increased government regulation.

Economic and Market Outlook   Improving consumer confidence is creating a favorable economic climate.   The US economy grew 4.1% in the third quarter, with an average of 2.4% growth expected for the year.  In 2014 economic growth is expected to accelerate to 3%.

Fortunately many of the partisan budget issues facing Congress have been addressed and the risk that economic growth will be derailed by imprudent government policy now seems lower than last year.

US stocks are more than 25% above their level twelve months ago and are no longer as attractively valued, yet Professor Jeremy Siegel of the University of Pennsylvania believes the US stock market is still 10 to 15% undervalued.   In 2013 S&P 500 earnings grew approximately 10% and are expected to grow another 10% in 2014.

The risks of the sovereign debt crisis appear to be receding in Europe – both the financial risks and political risks.  Although unemployment remains alarmingly high in some European countries, European and other foreign stocks are becoming more attractively valued compared to the US. This suggests it could be an advantageous time to increase international equity allocations.

Although the Federal Reserve seems committed to maintaining extremely low short term interest rates, longer term rates will increase as the Fed begins to reduce their bond purchases.   Although bonds, especially government bonds, will likely continue to face headwinds, it is still prudent to hold some bonds or bond funds as they should remain less volatile than stocks.

The importance of beneficiary designations    The beneficiaries you designate on your IRA, 401K, 403B and other accounts take precedence over heirs named in your will.   With the rising popularity and growth of these accounts, it has become especially important to keep your beneficiary designations up to date.  When circumstances in your life change or when you are considering reviewing your will, make certain you review and change your beneficiary designation if appropriate.  Occasionally it is discovered after the death of an account holder that their beneficiary designation specified an ex-spouse rather than the current spouse, and it is doubtful that was the intention of the account owner.

Is your 401(K) on track?   As financial planners, we do not like rules-of-thumb since everyones’ situation is different.  With that caveat in mind, we do respect a study by Fidelity which developed the following guidelines for how much you should have set aside in your 401K plan.  At age 35 they suggest one times your annual salary.  At age 45, 3 times salary, at age 55, 5 times, and at age 67, 8 times.  While these guidelines are imperfect, they do provide guidance to whether you are on track.  In order to achieve these goals, you need to set aside 6% of salary when you are young and gradually increase to 12%, and with an employer contributing an additional 3%.  Due to contribution limitations, higher paid individuals will also need to save additionally outside the plan.

Federal Income Tax Distribution   According to the IRS, in 2011 the bottom 50% of tax payers paid 2.9% of the total US federal income tax receipts, while the top 50% paid 97.1%, the top 10% bore 68.3% of the tax burden, while the top 5% paid 56.5% and the top 1% paid 35.1% of the federal income tax.  Those numbers do not reflect payroll, state or sales taxes.

About the author

Pinnacle Investment Management: Pinnacle Investment Management, Inc. is a comprehensive investment management and financial planning firm committed to the financial future of our clients.

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