The Independent Market Observer

Sell in May and Go Away?

April 28, 2017

As April draws to a close, the old adage “Sell in May and go away” may be on some investors’ minds. The saying refers to the tendency of markets to underperform during the period from May to October (as compared with better performance from November through April), advising us to sell and wait for brighter days ahead.

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The Trump Tax Plan: What You Need to Know

April 27, 2017

The big news today is the White House's tax plan, which proposes to cut taxes across the board, relieve millions of people from the burden of paying income taxes, and make filing much simpler and easier—all while keeping the budget in balance (or at least not making the situation worse).

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Political Risk Update: Responding to Reader Comments

April 26, 2017

Yesterday, readers wrote in with a couple of very good questions about risk.

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Political Risk Update: France and the U.S. Budget

April 25, 2017

With Emmanuel Macron through to the second round, the French election is (largely) off the table as a systemic risk. Polls show Macron well ahead of Marine Le Pen of the National Front, and the likelihood is that the next French president will be a pro-European centrist rather than an anti-European populist.

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Monday Update: Despite Some Weakness, Growth Continues

April 24, 2017

Last week’s economic reports showed some moderation of growth, with substantial divergence between the headline figures and the underlying details in several cases. That said, the general levels of activity remain expansionary. Overall, it was a pretty positive week, but not one that significantly changes expectations going forward.

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When Assessing the Economy, Mind the Gaps

April 21, 2017

A friend of mine, a construction manager, once taught me a valuable lesson about evaluating the quality of a building: examine the edges, the corners, and where one material connects to another. Handling the transitions well requires skill, expertise, and time—and not all builders are able to pull it off.

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With French Election, Potential for Economic Shake-Up

April 20, 2017

If the U.S. economy isn’t bleeding—at least not a lot, yet—then what is? I closed yesterday’s post with the idea that Europe is the area we should be watching, and the place to start is in France.

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Why “Run in Circles, Scream and Shout” Is the Wrong Response

April 19, 2017

One of the many blessings of having a son is that my life is rarely calm. Drama is a regular guest at the McMillan household whenever anything, however minor, happens. I do not always greet Drama with what he would consider an appropriate response, though. In fact, he usually gets a look and then a question: “Is it bleeding?” If, rarely, the answer is yes, I then ask, “Is it bleeding a lot?” If not, we discuss how the adage “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout” is always the wrong response.

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Politics, Taxes, and Other Fun Stuff

April 18, 2017

Today is tax day here in Massachusetts, as we got an extra day due to Patriots’ Day, a state holiday. The holiday brings with it a number of special events, including the Boston Marathon, as well as reenactments of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. My wife, son, and I actually saw the local militia marching to battle yesterday morning, along the same route they did more than 200 years ago.

Politics and revolution, therefore, are in the air, and the events both here and abroad keep capturing my attention.

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Monday Update: Retail Sales Disappoint Despite Strong Sentiment

April 17, 2017

Last week’s data brought more of what we’ve been seeing lately: strong sentiment but weaker results. Despite some disappointments, the general levels of activity remain expansionary, though the headline declines do bear watching. That said, I don’t think last week’s news should significantly change expectations going forward.

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Mr. Trump Goes to Washington

April 13, 2017

Yesterday, President Trump did an interview in which he apparently reversed several key tenets of his election campaign. To wit, he noted that China was not actually manipulating its currency, at least recently; that he kind of liked Fed Chair Janet Yellen and more or less approved of the Fed’s low-rate policy; that trade was, in fact, good and so were government agencies like the Export-Import Bank that supported it; and that he would be happy to see the value of the dollar weaker rather than stronger.

Any one of these statements would have generated headlines, but to hear all of them in one interview really set bells ringing.

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Moment of Truth: Will the Market Meet Expectations This Earnings Season?

April 12, 2017

First, there was hype and then improving sentiment in the real economy, along with a nice initial rush in the stock market. More recently, we’ve seen doubts and weak numbers creep in for the economy and worries and a small pullback for the stock market. And, now, we’re getting to the moment of truth: We are actually going to see whether companies are making as much money as the market thinks.

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Monthly Market Risk Update: April 2017

April 11, 2017

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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Appearance on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report, April 6, 2017 [Video]

April 10, 2017

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of appearing on CNBC’s Nightly Business Report (my segment runs from 7:25 to 10:27) to discuss risks to the markets and economy.

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Monday Update: Amid Continuing Growth, Some Signs of Weakness

April 10, 2017

Last week was an eventful one in terms of economic data, with extensive news on both business and jobs. Although headline declines raised some concern, the details of the reports were better, and general levels of activity remain expansionary. Overall, it was a pretty positive week and shouldn't alter expectations going forward.

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Economic Risk Factor Update: April 2017

April 7, 2017

In March, many of the economic indicators we track experienced slight pullbacks. Given recent positive trends—and the fact that most of the metrics remain in healthy territory—I’m not that concerned. Although the weakness is certainly worth monitoring in case it becomes the start of a larger trend, all of our indicators remain in the green-light zone.

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March Jobs Report Preview

April 6, 2017

The monthly employment report comes out tomorrow, and markets are watching closely to see whether the string of positive surprises continues. If it does, it could be the start of a new upward run in the stock market. If not, it will suggest that economic strength may be starting to moderate. Either way, it will be big news.

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A Wall Street Perspective

April 5, 2017

I’m in New York today at the Goldman Sachs Asset Management Symposium, an annual event where a range of speakers discuss the markets and the world, with an eye to what might impact the future. I’m grateful to be here, listening to these smart people and trying to predict what the coming years may bring.

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Market Weather Report: Spring 2017

April 4, 2017

As I sit here looking out the window, wondering if my flight this afternoon will be able to take off, I’m reminded of the old proverb “April showers bring May flowers.” With rain coming down in buckets and expected to continue all day, we have no shortage of showers here in Boston. You could say the same for the U.S. economy and financial markets.

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Market Thoughts for April 2017 [Video]

April 3, 2017

Yet again, all I can say is wow. It was a decent month and a great quarter for markets, both in the U.S. and around the world.

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Monday Update: Consumers Confident, Just Not Spending Much

April 3, 2017

Last week’s data was generally positive, showing that consumers are feeling better and earning more. Surprisingly, spending growth continues to be weak, but that’s probably due to weather. Overall, it was a good week, but not one that significantly changes expectations going forward.

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