The Independent Market Observer

The View from the Aisle: Rosie’s Place

January 31, 2020

Here on the blog, Brad often writes about gratitude. The things he gives thanks for range from the seemingly trivial (watching his cats wrestle) to the profound (health, family, and happiness). Often, he mentions that he jots down three things for which he’s grateful every day. In reading these posts, what strikes the strongest chord with me is seeing things through the lens of “getting to” rather than “having to.” It has very much influenced how I try to navigate the intricacies of modern life and the stresses that come along with it. I get to go to work and do something I love. My wife suggested there’s another wrinkle to it and added “celebrate.” As in, I get to go to the gym and celebrate with 30 minutes on the treadmill. Sounds trite, but it helps.

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New Records—and New Risks?

January 30, 2020

Two Fridays ago, the S&P 500 hit its closing record. About two weeks ago, the Dow cracked 29,000 for the first time. At the time, the headlines were all about how high the markets could go—and how quickly. But after the past couple of days, with the markets experiencing renewed volatility, we’ve started hearing much less about the new stock market records. Instead, the headlines are all about the risks, which certainly include the coronavirus, but also the impeachment trial and Brexit.

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Brexit Day Approaches: What Should We Expect?

January 29, 2020

After years of drama, headlines, predictions of doom, multiple elections, and so forth, we are finally (almost) there: Brexit day. On Friday, the British flag will be lowered outside European Union (EU) buildings as Britain formally exits the union. And so the post-Brexit world will begin.

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Sustainable Investing: The Capitalist Perspective

January 28, 2020

Brad here. One of the hot topics in investing is sustainability—expressed as either socially responsible investing (SRI) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. Recently, major players have doubled down on their commitment to sustainability, although Commonwealth has been here for years. In this post, Peter Essele, vice president of investment management and research, gives a very good summary of what is happening—and what we are doing about it.

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Monday Update: Existing Home Sales Beat Expectations Again

January 27, 2020

Last week was very quiet on the economic update front, with only the release of December’s existing home sales report during the holiday week. This week will be quite another story, with six major releases scheduled. Highlights include both major consumer confidence surveys, as well as the first look at fourth-quarter GDP growth.

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Will the China Coronavirus Strike Investments?

January 24, 2020

One of the potential disruptors of the generally positive economic news surfaced in the form of a viral outbreak in China last week. Known as the coronavirus, as of this morning, there were 895 cases in mainland China (mostly in the Wuhan area) and 26 deaths, for a mortality rate of less than 3 percent. There were also at least 20 other cases around the world, including 1 case here in the U.S. The comparison that is being made is to the last major new disease from China, SARS, in 2003.

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Will the China Phase One Deal Spell the End of the Trade Wars?

January 23, 2020

With the recent signing of the phase one trade deal with China, the sense has been that everything is all set, and we can now move on. There is some truth to this belief, as the deal is better than nothing. Still, the agreement leaves many issues unresolved and even creates some new ones.

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NAFTA Versus the USMCA: What’s Different?

January 22, 2020

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is just about to be formally replaced by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). This news has generated both headlines and optimism in recent weeks, as a sign that progress can be made on trade issues. With the approval of the agreement by both the House and the Senate here in the U.S., and the pending signature by President Trump, it looks like the USMCA will become the law of the land very soon. But what does this mean?

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Monday Update (on Tuesday): Housing Sector Continues to Shine

January 21, 2020

Last week was full of economic updates, with more than a half dozen important data releases. The results largely beat expectations, revealing muted inflation pressure and strong results for retail sales and the housing sector. This week will be very quiet, with Wednesday’s report on existing home sales the only scheduled release.

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Could Atomic Habits Help You Reach Your Goals in 2020?

January 17, 2020

Brad here. There is a lot that goes in to investing. One of the underappreciated problems, though, is simply how to be most effective with the limited time and energy we have. Today’s post from Chris Stuart, a senior analyst in Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research group, looks at how we can do better at everything over time, which certainly applies to investing. I found his thoughts to be both interesting and helpful. I think you will, too.

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Repo Market Update

January 16, 2020

Brad here. When interest rates in the overnight lending market (known as the repo market) spiked in September, there was a real fear that it was a sign of something much worse. Commonwealth has been following this development closely, and recently we’ve been receiving another wave of questions. Nick Follett, manager of fixed income on our Investment Management and Research team, is here to explain what has happened since the spike and whether the risks are still real. Spoiler alert—they are not. Over to you, Nick!

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Monthly Market Risk Update: January 2020

January 15, 2020

My colleague Sam Millette, senior investment research analyst on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Market Risk Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

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Economic Risk Factor Update: January 2020

January 14, 2020

My colleague Sam Millette, senior investment research analyst on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, has helped me put together this month’s Economic Risk Factor Update. Thanks for the assist, Sam!

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Monday Update: Service Sector Confidence Improves

January 13, 2020

Last week was relatively quiet on the economic update front, with only three major data releases. The reports on international trade and service sector confidence beat expectations, but December jobs didn’t meet the number forecasted. This week will be packed with news, as more than a half dozen important releases are scheduled.

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Value Is Growth, and Growth Is Value?

January 10, 2020

Brad here. One of the major discussions we have internally is how to allocate investments, with one of the biggest open questions being whether growth or value will do better going forward. Here is a detailed discussion of that by Chris Fasciano, a portfolio manager on Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team. Our internal asset management team stewards more than $7 billion in client assets, and this is a rare chance to pull back the curtain and listen to the discussion. Over to you, Chris!

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Inflation Versus Wage Growth

January 9, 2020

Last week, a reader had an interesting question in response to the Homer Simpson economic video. He wondered, given the number of jobs that Homer Simpson has had and how compensation has changed over time, is there a good analysis of income versus inflation? I didn’t know of any such analysis, so I decided to come up with one. Since much of the analysis around this question is less than clear (to be frank), I also decided to use it as a primer on how to read through economic statistics. As always, caveat emptor!

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Looking Back at the Markets in December and Ahead to January 2020

January 8, 2020

As I do every month, it’s time to take a look back at what happened in the previous one and what it could mean going forward. With the start of a new year, we have a lot to cover.

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Investing in an Election Year

January 7, 2020

Brad here. Today, Rob Swanke, an analyst with Commonwealth’s Investment Management and Research team, shares his insights. Enjoy!

It’s 2020, the beginning of a presidential election year. As the months unfold, the election will likely become the primary market risk to worry about for many people. Democratic primary voting will begin in February with the Iowa caucuses, but only 4 percent of the delegates will be chosen that month. The party’s direction won’t begin to unfold until March 3, when 34 percent of the delegates will be chosen by 14 states. But we still won’t have clarity at that point, as delegates are distributed proportionally for each state by the Democratic Party. With several candidates polling in the double digits, a lot of uncertainty regarding the Democratic nominee may exist right up to the July convention. Although the bull market has lasted more than a decade, will valuations keep moving higher in this uncertain political climate?

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Monday Update: Consumer and Manufacturer Confidence Fall

January 6, 2020

Last week, we saw both consumer and manufacturer confidence fall unexpectedly in December, despite minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showing central bankers are satisfied with the current economic expansion. This week marks a return to normal for economic updates following two holiday-shortened weeks. We’ll be focusing on international trade, service sector confidence, and the December jobs report.

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What Would a War with Iran Mean for the Markets?

January 3, 2020

The news this morning that a top Iranian commander was killed in a U.S. drone strike sent global markets reeling. According to news reports, Iran is now vowing to retaliate, which means terrorism and cyberattacks are likely. Here in the U.S., apparently, Congress was not notified of the strike ahead of time. The heightened risk factors we must now consider include increased domestic political dysfunction, a rising risk of military action (either by us or against us in an already troubled area), and a probable disruption of the oil markets.

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Market Thoughts for January 2020 [Video]

January 2, 2020

We closed out the year and the decade on a burst of strength. December was a great month, and it capped a great 2019. U.S. markets were up more than 2 percent and, in some cases, considerably more than that. For the year, they were up more than 20 percent. International markets also had a strong year. In December, job growth came in much better than expected, continuing a trend that has more and more people joining the labor force. For the ninth month in a row, both income and spending went up. The housing sector did very well, and there’s a lot of confidence baked into that. So, December was a great handoff to 2020.

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