The Independent Market Observer

As 2017 Dawns, Much to Be Grateful For

December 29, 2016

As I’ve said many times before, I believe that gratitude is a foundation for both happiness and a mindful life. Every day, I write down at least three things I’m grateful for, a practice that is proven to increase well-being. Beyond that, I also try to make time every couple of months to really think through my life and all I have to be thankful for.

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Appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch, December 28, 2016 [Video]

December 28, 2016

After the Trump bump and the Santa Claus rally, stocks slumped today, stalling the drive for Dow 20K. With all 11 S&P sectors lower, is that milestone slipping out of reach?

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3 Questions Investors Should Ask in 2017

December 28, 2016

portfolio questionsI wrote this post a couple of years ago, but the ideas here still hold true. In some respects, they're even more apt now than they were then. As we approach the New Year, it's a good time to examine our portfolios (and our lives) and ask ourselves what we could be doing better. — Brad

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Monday Update: Confidence Improves as Consumer Fundamentals Pause

December 27, 2016

Last week’s data was generally positive, with the housing market doing well and business investment improving. Consumer income and spending growth paused, however, suggesting that we need to keep an eye on the situation of the average American consumer.

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No Cash, No Carry: The Demonetization of the Indian Economy

December 21, 2016

On November 8, a major event shook the world of hundreds of millions of people. And no, I’m not talking about the U.S. election. The event I’m referring to is the decision by the Indian government to invalidate most of its own currency.

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Here Comes Santa Claus

December 20, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I suspect many of you are as tired of hearing that as I am. I love the holiday season, but the endless repetition of carols can get to you after a while. (In my case, I attribute it to high school jobs working in a department store. By the time I left for the day, I wanted to go after Frosty with an icicle.)

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Monday Update: Data Less Encouraging

December 19, 2016

Last week’s economic data wasn’t really terrible, but it was disappointing after the surprisingly strong numbers we’ve seen in recent weeks. Both consumer and business showed lower-than-expected gains and largely failed to meet expectations. Although the economy continues to improve and trends remain positive, the stream of positive data took a breather last week.

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The Boston Tea Party and Democracy Today

December 16, 2016

It was 243 years ago today that a group of Massachusetts Bay colonists threw the Boston Tea Party, protesting a law they did not like by dumping tea from British ships into the harbor. This, of course, led to further British laws and colonial unrest—and eventually to where we sit today, in the United States of America instead of Greater Britain.

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Fed’s More Hawkish Outlook Surprises Markets

December 15, 2016

The outcome of this week’s Federal Reserve meeting was as everyone had expected: the Fed raised short-term rates by 25 basis points. The surprising part was the more hawkish tone of the surrounding commentary.

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The Stock Market Giveth and the Bond Market Taketh Away

December 14, 2016

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written several posts that explained why U.S. market indices are not the best ways to measure your portfolio. Although it’s natural to look at the Dow, for example, and see how it matches up with your own portfolio, it really isn’t a good comparison.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: December 2016

December 13, 2016

Just as I do with the economy, I review the market each month for warning signs of trouble in the near future. Although valuations are now high—a noted risk factor in past bear markets—markets can stay expensive (or get much more expensive) for years and years, which doesn’t give us much to go on timing-wise.

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Monday Update: Business and Consumer Confidence Still Rising

December 12, 2016

Once again, last week’s economic reports were surprisingly strong, with most consumer and business data beating expectations, often significantly.

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Dow 20,000 in Sight

December 9, 2016

I remember when the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 10,000, both going up and going down. It was a lot more fun going up, especially the first time. The index is now approaching double that level—Dow 20,000. If we get there, it should be exciting.

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Appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch, December 8, 2016 [Video]

December 9, 2016

The markets have continued to rally since the election, reaching all-time high after all-time high. Should we be nervous about a short-term pullpack? 

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Floating-Rate Strategies: You Might Not Get What You Want

December 8, 2016

My colleague and friend Peter Essele, portfolio manager here at Commonwealth, has again put together an interesting piece highlighting the gap that often exists between what investors expect and what the market gives them. Although it’s a bit technical, the point is very important given recent moves in interest rates and the ongoing search for yield by many investors.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: December 2016

December 7, 2016

In the wake of the election, many of the economic indicators we track here each month saw substantial improvement. There was some weakness going into the election, but the news since then has been stronger. Although job growth continues to tick down, consumer confidence has rebounded in a big way, and business confidence has also continued to move higher.

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Should I Invest Outside the U.S.?

December 6, 2016

With U.S. stocks surging to new highs and trouble brewing elsewhere in the world (the failed Italian referendum and resignation of Matteo Renzi, not to mention the continued decline in the Chinese currency), I’ve been getting questions about whether investors should just stay here in the USA.

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Monday Update: More Strong Data for Consumers and Business

December 5, 2016

Last week’s economic reports were surprisingly strong, with both consumer and business data beating expectations, often by significant amounts. These results support the idea that the economy continues to improve—and that the improvement appears to be accelerating.

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Should You Be Worried About the Strong Dollar?

December 2, 2016

A speech I give regularly starts out with a series of worries investors have had in recent years. Four years ago, for example, we had three major concerns: the dollar was incredibly weak, oil prices were way too high, and China was a rising power. More recently (say, a year ago), we also had three major worries: the dollar was far too strong, oil prices were too low, and China was collapsing.

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Market Thoughts for December 2016 [Video]

December 2, 2016

Looking back on last month, the first word that comes to mind is wow . . .

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Problems . . .

December 1, 2016

I’ve been pretty optimistic about the U.S. economy and stock markets over the past couple of weeks, and I stand by that. Almost all of the news is surprisingly good and likely to improve even further.

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