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Second Quarter 2015 - Pinnacle Investment Management, Inc.

Second Quarter 2015

July 7, 2015 / Quarterly Newsletters

Although global equity markets began the quarter with a good start, concerns of upcoming tightening by the US Federal Reserve and a Greek debt default took their toll on both equity and bond markets late in the quarter.

The technology laden Nasdaq, boosted by Apple stock, was the only major index to post a significant advance this quarter. All other major US and foreign indexes squeezed out small gains or suffered small losses. The US Aggregate Bond index incurred a 1.8% loss as interest rates on the ten year US Treasury bond rose to 2.3% from 1.9% during the quarter, and that bond index is now down for the first half of the year.

Although large US stocks, as represented by the S&P 500 outperformed many other indexes in the second quarter,global diversification did yield benefits for the first half of the year as international stocks, as well as US small and mid-size stocks performed better than the S&P 500 during the first six months.

Returns for key indexes (including dividends) were:

 
1st Qtr

2015

2nd Qtr

2015

1st Half

2015

   
Dow Jones Industrials 0.3% 0.3% 0%
S&P 500 0.9% 0.3% 1.2%
NASDAQ 3.5% 1.7% 5.3%
S&P 400 mid-cap 4.9% 1.4% 3.4%
Russell 2000 small-cap 4.0% 0.1% 4.1%
Total International, excluding US 4.5% 1.0% 5.5%
Dow Jones Global Stock 2.1% 0.1% 2.0%
Barclays Aggregate Bond   Index 1.5% -1.8% -0.3%

 

Economic and Market Outlook The US economy continues to improve with employment growing, the number of discouraged job seekers declining, and wages increasing.

The current economic environment of a growing economy, low oil prices and low interest rates is favorable to stocks. Professor Jeremy Siegel of the University of Pennsylvania believes the fair value of the Dow to be 20,000 today, 13% higher than its current level. Even if that level is not achieved for another year that still implies a return of approximately 15% if dividends are included.

It appears increasingly likely that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates in September, but the increases are expected to be both small and infrequent – perhaps 0.25% in September and again in December. This will be the first rate increase in nine years. However rising interest rates should not end market advances. According to Prof. Siegel, during the period from 1955 to 2006, when the Fed increased rates, the stock market advanced 7.4% on average in the following twelve months, somewhat below the long term average annual gain of 11.8%.

The US economy was flat in the first quarter (possibly a result of adverse weather), but growth of about 3% is expected in the second quarter. Although the US economy is growing more slowly than desired, it remains one of the world’s strongest. In contrast to the US, European growth remains below 1%.   US unemployment declined to 5.3% while European unemployment remains more than double that and in both Spain and Greece unemployment remains above 20%. Germany is the one bright spot in Europe with a 4.7% unemployment rate.

In contrast to the anticipated monetary tightening in the US, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are expected to continue their monetary easing in an effort to improve those economies and financial markets.

Although US interest rates are low they remain significantly higher than many other countries. This interest rate differential is keeping the US dollar strong relative to other currencies. This is benefiting US consumers, but presents an obstacle to US exporters. Low interest rates in Europe and Japan will likely keep their currencies weak in relationship to the US dollar and if the Fed increases rates as expected in 2015 that would further strengthen the dollar. Mutual funds that hedge the currency risk offer some protection against weakening foreign currencies.

Greece remains a “wild card” in financial markets as they and the European Union (EU) seek a solution to Greece’s need to continue borrowing to fund their government deficit. The EU wants Greece to reduce government spending and increase taxes before they will provide any more loans and although Greece desperately needs the money, their population, which has already suffered a serious economic downturn and high unemployment is crying “no mas” regarding additional austerity measures. The EU and the IMF cannot afford to let Greece forego their obligations or other countries (such as Spain and Portugal) may follow in their footsteps. Until this impasse is resolved, or at least stabilized, there is likely to be turmoil within the financial markets.

Greece is not a significant economic power and does not play a major role in global trade, so whatever happens will not have a long term impact on either the US or global economy. But the short term uncertainty is disruptive to the markets. One of the more difficult questions is whether countries such as Spain or Portugal will follow Greece’s lead. However if those countries look at the economic consequences to Greece’s economy, they will realize that they will incur significant economic pain if they do. While both Spain and Portugal have a high level of youth unemployment who may feel that they have little to loose by exiting the Eurozone, it is likely reason will prevail and they will not follow Greece. It is difficult to forecast how the crisis will be resolved, however the global economic and market impact should stabilize after it becomes clear what path Greece will take. This may be a matter of a few weeks or a few months. In the meantime this can be viewed is a buying opportunity.

Fund Managers who “eat their own cooking”    A study by Morningstar determined that funds whose managers have their own money invested in the fund they manage have on average out-performed those that did not. And generally, the more the manager invested, the greater the probability that they would outperform their peers. There are probably several reasons for this. First, the managers who have invested a significant amount of their own capital have aligned their interests with those of the shareholders. Secondly, the fund managers are in a good position to judge the strategy and costs of the fund and whether a fund is a good investment.

Medicare Part B and D premiums are subject to income-related adjustments based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and Medicare participants should be aware of the five-tier “break points” used to calculate these adjustments. These “break points” will change in 2018 based on 2016 income. It is a good idea to take these “break-points” into account when planning IRA distributions. Medicare uses income from two years prior to the current year to determine whether you are subject to an income related adjustment, but will consider “life-changing” events in reviewing your premium if brought to their attention. If you have experienced a “life changing” event such as retirement, reduced work hours, marriage, divorce, or been widowed, you can notify the Social Security Administration when you first apply for Medicare or when you receive the annual Medicare premium notice in the fall. It is likely that income related adjustments will become larger and affect more people in the future, so this is an item to pay attention to.


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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