Inflation Monitor – April 2016

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor - April 2016 Summary

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – April 2016 – Introduction

 

April Fool’s… every year people use this day to play practical jokes on others. This year it was the Fed’s turn to make fools of us all. Janet Yellen made a strong point early in her tenure as Fed Chair that she believed in more transparency with communications to the public about Fed policy. She must have a new years resolution this year that we are not aware of, because her transparency has taken a back seat to settling the market gyrations. The Fed has always claimed that their decisions are not driven by the stock market, however their recent actions might suggest otherwise.

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These Top 7 Powerful Tools Can Create Legacy Wealth from Real Estate

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real estate wealth

“Buying real estate is not only the best way, the quickest way, the safest way, but the only way to become wealthy.”  – Marshall Field

Marshall Field was an American Entrepreneur who lived in the 1800’s. His quote was obviously made in an era before tech stocks, hedge funds and excess money printing by the Federal Reserve. However the principal of owning real estate to become wealthy still holds true.

Real Estate is arguably the best asset class if you want to build enormous wealth. While you may have heard of real estate investors such as Donald Trump, or Sam Zell, there are countless more who are relatively unknown and are just as wealthy. Many of these investors prefer to live in relative obscurity.

What I want to show you are the 7 powerful techniques that these real estate tycoons were able to use to build their enormous wealth. While most of these techniques apply to both real estate investors and homeowners, there are more benefits from owing real estate as an investor rather than a home owner.

The 7 reasons you should own real estate as an investment:

real estate leverage
 

Leverage

Real estate is one of the few assets where you can use enormous amounts of leverage to own the asset, and banks will happily lend it to you. Leverage is a way to amplify the returns you receive on that asset, in both directions. Leverage is both beneficial and dangerous, so make sure that leverage is working in your favor.

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Inflation Monitor – March 2016

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor - March 2016 Summary

 

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – March 2016 – Introduction

 

The first quarter of 2016 has been an interesting one. It started off with a significant bout of volatility and risk-off investing. Then after the stock market bottomed in mid-January and re-tested those levels a few weeks later, it has taken off like a rocket. It was almost as if the global economic troubles didn’t exist anymore. Unfortunately they do… It was almost as if someone (the Fed) waved their magic wand and all the problems of the world just disappeared.

Magic is a wonderful thing. Easter is coming soon. Kids are eagerly awaiting the day where they get chocolate eggs and toys from the magical bunny. What a wonderful thing to believe in magic and illusion.

While many of you don’t believe in the Easter bunny, you probably believe in magic. Earlier this year the markets swooned based on poor economic data, then the Fed told a magical story of how they are data dependent (but only when they want to be) and lowered rate hike expectations and without further consideration the market believed it and started to rise.

Spoiler Alert for those of you who still believe in the Easter bunny, he isn’t real, and neither is this stock market rally.

Sure the prices confirm that stocks and commodity prices have been rising in the past few weeks, but what has really changed? Have US or global economic conditions improved? The only thing that has changed significantly in the past 3 months has been the stock market. So does the Fed’s data dependency include stock prices? Maybe I missed that Fed meeting where they discussed how stock prices determined monetary policy.<end sarcasm>

The Fed’s stated target of four interest rate hikes in 2016 communicated to the public that US economic conditions were strong enough to attempt to return to historically normal rates… At least those were the expectations communicated by the Fed.

At the last Fed meeting, Fed Chairwoman and magician Janet Yellen indicated that the number of rate hikes may be closer to only two. Like magic, the markets rose to greet the new bullish expectations. Apparently four rate hikes was too much and two was just the right amount. The Fed has a notoriously poor track record of predicting the future of interest rates and inflation, but in this case there may be another motive.

The Fed has another magic trick in their act other than changing the fed funds rate and printing money. With a few carefully placed words they can change the direction of the stock market. All market participants want to know what the Fed says. They hang of every word uttered by Fed board members. Yet what the Fed actually does is very little. One meeting they predict 4 rate hikes and the next they reduce it to 2. They have not changed any of the underlying conditions, but like magic, they have made everything all right again in the markets.

This is one of the Fed’s greatest tricks…

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Inflation Monitor – February 2016

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor Summary December 2015
 

Inflation Monitor – February 2016 – Introduction

 

It is February, and winter has finally arrived in the northeast. Not only has the weather turned cold, but so have the markets. The stock markets started the year off cold with the worst start to January performance on record and ending with the S&P 500 down -3.37% for the month. The start of February has not been great either. As I write this the S&P 500 is at its lowest levels since February 2014.

Generally this Inflation Monitor is not focused on the stock markets, but I have been wondering for the past year how long it would take for the stock market to realize that deflation was strong and growing stronger. Apparently it is now on the table since Japan lowered their interest rates into negative territory to join their European brothers. The idea of negative interest rates should be an episode of the twilight zone. It is new to almost everybody and how this plays out will certainly be interesting. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (this was not said by Einstein, although frequently attributed to him).

Gold has finally picked up steam in the past few weeks with the metal up over 10%. Maybe it the fear of negative interest rates that is driving the flight to safety in gold. With the rest of the commodity complex still in a bear market, I doubt gold and silver prices will start a new bull market. Only time will tell, but despite the rise in gold price in US Dollars, it is important to note the price of gold in other currencies (see this below in the gold section).

I mentioned this last month, and I’ll mention it again.

If you have not read my 2015 recap, then now is a good time to read it. Last year the S&P 500 ended with a performance of -0.7%, which is surprising since many blue chip companies were down between -10% & -20% for the year. If you did nothing but look at the index, you would have missed the large dislocation of the index performance and the performance of the underlying stocks.

The risk you should consider this year is contagion. This is the risk of assets selling off because other assets are selling off, having very little to do with underlying fundamentals. For example, if the high yield bond market continues to sell off or worse yet, crashes, then the investment grade corporate bond market may also sell off. This in turn could lead to a sell off in equities and other assets. The spread of this contagion is not knowable, but you should be aware of this risk.

 
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5 Common IRA Prohibited Transactions That Could Tax You

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5 Common Prohibited Transactions That Could Tax Your IRA

If you are like most investors, you probably have not heard of prohibited transactions. Prohibited transactions specifically apply to retirement plans such as self-directed IRAs or 401ks. It is estimated that less than 80% of investors fully understand the flexibility that a self-directed IRA offers, so most IRA account holders won’t have reason to come into contact with this rule. If you do use your retirement plan to invest in alternative investments, then please keep reading.

What is a prohibited transaction?

A prohibited transaction can be described as an improper use of your IRA account assets by a disqualified person. The term prohibited transaction in this case applies to retirement plans such as a self-directed IRA, or 401(k) The IRS defines a prohibited transaction as:

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Inflation Monitor – January 2016

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor Summary December 2015

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – January 2016 – Introduction

 

Happy New Year. I hope you enjoyed your holidays with lots of eggnog and holiday cheer.

2016 has started with a bang… or rather a thud. The US equity markets have had their worst start to the new year ever. I guess you could say that the thud has not happened yet since the US stock markets are still falling. The Chinese stock markets have gotten all the blame, but I think the drop in equities is overdue.

In week one, S&P 500 (-6%), NASDAQ (-7.3%), and Dow (-6.2%). Gold surprised to the upside +3.1%.

End of week two, S&P 500 (-8%), NASDAQ (-10.4%), and Dow (-8.2%). Gold is still up 1.8%.

If you have been following this Inflation Monitor for the past year you will know my thoughts on the markets. We saw strong deflationary data last year. Not surprisingly, no one noticed. The fact that it took the equity markets this long to react to this data is really the only surprise I see.

If you have not read my 2015 recap, then now is a good time to read it. Last year the S&P 500 ended with a performance of -0.7%, which is surprising since many blue chip companies were down between -10% & -20% for the year. If you did nothing but look at the index, you would have missed the large dislocation of the index performance and the performance of the underlying stocks.

The risk you should consider this year is contagion. This is the risk of assets selling off because other assets are selling off, having very little to do with underlying fundamentals. For example, if the high yield bond market continues to sell off or worse yet, crashes, then the investment grade corporate bond market may also sell off. This in turn could lead to a sell off in equities and other assets. The spread of this contagion is not knowable, but you should be aware of this risk.

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Inflation Monitor – December 2015

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor Summary December 2015

 

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – December 2015 – Introduction

This is the last issue of 2015. I hope you are enjoying the holidays and getting ready to bring in the new year. While this is a joyous time of the year. It should be used to reflect on the past year and what surprises are to come in the next 12 months. While no one can know the future, we can look for signs that things are not quite right. These are what I would call new potential risks to the equilibrium of the global financial markets.

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2015 Recap: High Yield Bonds, Instability, and Financial Contagion

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2015 recap

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” -Yogi Berra

 

Is this the start of a high yield bond rout that many bond experts have been predicting?

Is the S&P 500 performance this year a good indicator of the overall market?

Will instability in the bond market spread to other asset classes?

What is the blueprint for the next financial crisis?

These are all questions that clients have asked recently and I thought this would be a good chance to discuss these issues as a wrap up of 2015.

Lets start by taking a look at what has happened this year, where we stand today, and try to pass some judgement on what could happen in 2016. Normally I don’t write about “predictions”. Yogi Berra was a wise man. However I think this post is relevant to the nature of the markets and the growing instability that is occurring under the surface.

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Why You Should Worry About Japan Deflation?

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Is the U.S. becoming Japan?

Japan has long been known as an example of what can happen when you allow deflation to happen in an economy which is highly reliant on persistent inflation to sustain itself. What is happening in Japan is one of the reasons that the Federal Reserve is trying so hard to avoid deflation in the US.

Japan is in a challenging economic situation. This is mainly due to their demographics. They have an aging population, where the amount of elderly people is quite a bit larger than the younger generations. Anecdotally, in 2011 sales of adult diapers exceeded the amount for baby diapers.10. The chart below shows the demographics of Japan during 3 periods of time with approximately 50 years in between. A shrinking population can become a problem in an economy because it is a strong deflationary force. Japan has an aging population which will only continue to shrink over the next few decades. While other developed nations have stagnant or slow growing populations, this is not ideal for an expanding economy.

japan deflation

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The $100 Million Dollar Mitt Romney IRA – How You Can Use These Strategies to Build One Yourself

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mitt romney ira

The Big IRA and the recent Government Accountability Office report

In 2012, during the presidential election campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the issue was raised about Mitt Romney’s over-sized IRA. At one point the IRA is reported to have had as much as $102,000,000 in it. Yes, you read that correctly.

Mitt Romney’s IRA was worth $102,000,000.

Even compared to his reported $250 million net worth, this is a sizable chunk of capital to have accrued in his IRA given his approximate 40 years of working experience. How did he do it?

The recent Government Accountability Office report

government accountability office

In October 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, “Individual Retirement Accounts – IRS could bolster enforcement on multi-million dollar accounts, but more direction from congress is needed.  According to the GAO, they found that there were 314 taxpayer IRAs which had an account balance of over $25,000,000 and 791 taxpayers with balances between $10,000,000 and $25,000,000. That is a total of 1105 people who have been great investors, extremely lucky, or both. Either way, they have found a way to capitalize on the tax benefits of a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA by growing their capital in a tax-deferred or tax-free manner.

While it may not be easy to accumulate over $100 million in your IRA, you can still use the same strategies that Mitt Romney used to accumulate a sizable IRA account balance.

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Inflation Monitor – November 2015

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

inflation monitor november 2015 summary

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – November 2015 – Introduction

Looking at the past year I have to give a hearty laugh at the people to claim that the US Dollar is losing value. I wonder if these people own a computer, or have bothered to look at the US Dollar chart. It is included below along with the chart of gold (which is a long gold/short US Dollar trade) and a few other important  assets.

The important thing to know about the US Dollar is that putting a value to it is complicated because it is a fiat currency. This means there are more than one moving variables that need to be accounted for to determine whether it is rising or falling in value.

Take gold for example. Gold is a chunk of metal. People put a price on it of what they are willing to pay for it, but that is it. Its price is only determined what someone with a specific currency is willing to pay for it. Pricing an asset like gold is easy. Prior to being removed from the gold standard, the US Dollar was pegged to the price of gold, so there was an easy relationship which could be determined.

Now let’s take a look at the current version of the US Dollar in comparison. The US Dollar is a piece of paper, but also a whole lot more.

What is a US Dollar worth?

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The Big List of 47 Famous Misquotes That Have Fooled You

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famous misquotes

 

Famous Quotes, False Quotes, Misquotes, and Mis-attributed quotes

This post is inspired by a skit John Oliver did recently on his show, Last Week Tonight about famous quotes. I have been meaning to write this for months and I could not find enough famous quotes to fill the post. In my search for accuracy in writing my posts, I have found a number of famous quotes that I thought were accurate, but when I looked them up, there was no record of the person ever saying it. To make matters worse, the internet is rife with errors, that anyone can find a picture of a famous person and add words to it and make it seem real to any reader.

When it comes to famous quotes, there are many types of errors that appear all over the internet. Most of these quotes fall into three categories:

  1. False Quotes – Famous quotes that were not actually said by the person being quoted. This is where the original source is not known.
  2. Mis-Attributed Quotes – Famous quotes attributed to the wrong person. Frequently a more famous person gets the credit of a quote.
  3. Misquotes – Famous quotes that are not accurately transposed – Many times the errors are small or the quote is paraphrased.

The obvious problem is the internet is both a place for people to have fun as well as a place for people to do research. What is real simply fades into the background. It is much easier to just pull something you see from a website that seems reputable, than to actually research the quote and its accuracy. This is why many of these quotes go undisputed for years.

Some of the more common famous people with quote errors are Albert Einstein, Buddha, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Mark Twain. I tried to limit the number of quotes attributed to each of these people but it was a bit of a challenge. Movies are also another common source of famous quote errors. I also tried to limit these since they tend to be misquoted frequently and it is less important to get these correct. It is much more important that the president of the United States to correctly quote a founding father or other famous president for his words correctly.

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Inflation Monitor – October 2015

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor - Summary Oct 2015

 

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – October 2015 – Introduction

The last month has been really interesting. My prediction seems to be coming true. I have stated for most of this year that the second half (3rd or 4th quarter) of this year would show the US entering into a recession. While I still believe that the US has a strong economy relative to the rest of the world. There are just too many factors bringing it down.

The powerful people in this country as well as many academic economists have been pushing for a more global economy for a few decades. Now that we have a more global economy, it is more interconnected than ever. With the benefits of this type of system, come drawbacks. Having global booms and busts is one of those symptoms.

Despite what the media personalities say on TV, the US is not an island. The US cannot decouple their economy from the rest of the world. I am not aware of this happening in any meaningful way for the past few decades. Prior to that, the global economy was not as interconnected, so any data would be less relevant. I have not looked at prior data, but I assume it has a similar theme to what we have now.

What is important to remember is that the global economy is interconnected by money flows, relative currency valuations, asset valuations, inflation, jobs and many other factors. Most countries are dependent on one or more other countries for their economic prosperity. Unless the worlds nations decide to get into a economic battle as they did going into the great depression, this dependency will not change.

While this service is called the inflation monitor, it is important to discuss the economy as well since it has such an important bearing on inflation and deflation. But as you know if you have been reading this for any amount of time, most of what is driving inflation or deflation at the moment is debt.

I do not want to be hyperbolic, but the debt bubble that exists today is extremely dangerous and when it pops, a huge amount of wealth will be destroyed. While this bubble can be managed, as it has been up to this point, the Fed is not strong enough to control the global economy’s debt.

There is one point I want to leave you with. Bear markets are dangerous, they are not a time to “make money”. The most important thing you can do in a bear market is to “not lose money”. Depending on the nature of it, this might be harder than you imagine.  Logic does not always prevail in a bear market. 2008-2009 should have taught you that lesson, please go back and refresh you memory.

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38 Images of Investments During the August 2015 Stock Market Crash

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Investments during the August 2015 Crash

 

Investor Behavior – “You can bury your head in 10q’s and 8k’s and memorize a thousand facts about a company. You can become an expert on a given stock sector and establish relationships with all of the executives who run the show. You can build your own DCF models and outguess the other guessers on earnings estimates and forward guidance. But until you accept that market mood and behavior is as big a factor as the fundamentals, you won’t ever be completely honest with yourself. The E is only half of the PE. No matter how good you are at understanding and predicting the E, you’ve still only got half the story. The P is determined entirely by psychology.”
– (The Reformed Broker)

In August of 2015 the stock markets around the world were once again shocked to see stock indexes drop significantly in a matter of days. The biggest drop happened on Monday August 24th at the opening bell at 9:30am EST.

The total drop in 3 days accounted for 11.7% in the S&P 500 futures. Yes this happened in 3 days.

On Monday the 24th from open to the low of the day the S&P 500 dropped 6.8%. The Dow lost more than 1000 points early in the day.

What did this have to do with earnings? Very little from what I could tell. However, stocks don’t always move based on earnings, or fundamental influences.

So what happened?

I would like to recap those few trading days in August to illustrate a point about markets. They are not always rational, and they move based on more than just fundamental news or earnings.

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The Big List of Alternative Investments – 75 Investments That Can Help You Invest Outside The Stock Market

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list of alternative investments

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about 10 alternative investments that you have never heard of. I got so much positive response from it, that I decided to add to it by creating the Big List of 75 Alternative Investments so investors could have more options to diversify their portfolio. This is available as a special report here.

In 2008, many people lost money by investing in the stock markets around the world. There was a cascade of events that caused people to flee the markets in favor of cash, safe bonds and other assets such as gold.

More than 7 years later, this fear has stayed in many investors’ psyche due to the massive losses that they took on their stock portfolios during that difficult period of time. It is hard to forget such a traumatic experience. Some investors were only a few years from retirement and they lost 50% of their money. What if the stock market had not come back so sharply? Worse yet, what if the investors sold at the bottom and stayed in cash?

More importantly, how could this have been avoided?

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13 Yogi Berra Quotes – Learn What the Legend Can Teach You About Stock Trading

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Yogi Berra Quotes

 

 

“It ain’t over till its over.”   – Yogi Berra

For the famous NY Yankee catcher, it is finally over.

The famous “philosopher” and NY Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, passed away last week at the age of 90. It truly is a sad day for baseball. While Yogi was a famous NY Yankee, he was also well know for his humorous quotes or Yogisms due to their paradoxical and obviously redundant nature.

Even if you are not a fan of baseball or the Yankees (I cannot blame you for that), you might have heard or even said some of his quotes in the past without knowing they were his. In memory of his contributions to baseball and the American lexicon I decided to write this post about his famous quotes and how they apply to the financial markets.

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Inflation Monitor – September 2015

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

Inflation Monitor Summary 09.15

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – September 2015 – Introduction

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output”   – Milton Friedman

This is the 12th issue of the Inflation Monitor. During the entire year that we have published this report, the trend has been deflationary. This is contrary to what many economists and fear mongers are claiming. the US has created an enormous amount of money and this should have caused inflation, yet other than the stock market, this is not the case. There are a number of reasons for this, but one thing is clear, the deflationary forces are strong and persistent.

This past month, The stock market swooned and dropped a bit more than 10% during the month…

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The Stock Market Crash 2015 – 9 Stock Market Tips to Help You Sleep at Night

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2015 stock market crash

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful”

-Warren Buffett

Stock Market Crash 2015 – Should you be scared?

stock market crash 20152015 has been an interesting year for stock investors. 2015 started out with the S&P 500 opening at 2058.9. From there the index has fluctuated between +3.8% and -4.1%. When investors are accustomed to getting 6 years in a row of positive gains, it is hard to imagine what a down year looks like. In the past week the S&P 500 is down about 10% as of this writing. Should you be scared?

Maybe. But it really depends on what you are invested in and how it is structured. If this recent 10% drop is causing you to lose sleep, then you need help.

Here are 9 tips for helping you bring your portfolio to your sleeping point.

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Inflation Monitor – August 2015

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Inflation Monitor Summary – Composite Ranking

inflation monitor summary

 

* The Inflation Equilibrium is a quick summary for the whole data series of the inflation monitor. If you don’t like statistics, this is the chart for you.


 

Inflation Monitor – August 2015 – Introduction

The lazy days of summer are almost over. As the summer ends, the Wall Street traders and money mangers will also be going back to work. If you looked at a chart of the S&P 500 without the dates, you would not be able to tell which days were summer days and which were not. It looks like the traders have been in vacation for the entire year.

The S&P 500 has been fluctuating around 0% all year long. It is kind of refreshing to know that there is another direction other than straight up. The end of the year has a chance to be very interesting considering the speculation that the Federal Reserve will be raising rates. While I have said many times I think the Fed will lock the floating rate of 0%-.25% at .25% as a starting point, this will amount to nothing. This might even be a catalyst for the market to resume its march higher, if the Fed says that they will stop and assess the markets reaction before raising again.

The US stock market is already very overpriced according to a number of metrics, but until there is a better place for investors to put their money, it may remain expensive. The Chinese stock market has been unraveling in the past few months and this may be a catalyst to move global markets. It is too soon to tell. Keep watching Chinese markets as a sign of trouble ahead.

The rise in interest rates has cast some interesting speculation on the future movements of the stock market. I want to dispel some of the myths about the rise in interest rates. In short, historical data suggests that the stock market rises with the rising rates, but what is not explained is that the rates start rising to stop the excessive rise in the stock markets. In fact in recent history, the Fed has raised interest rates until the stock market slows. Inevitably the Fed overshoots the mark and causes the market to decline. The US has had 0% interest rates since 2009. This is a long time with low rates. I am surprised the market is not higher.

This month’s inflation monitor data once again show the US market is experiencing deflation. I have not heard more than a handful of people discussing this deflationary data. I am wondering when more people are going to recognize this fact. I suppose that will be when the markets turn, then everyone will have seen it.

I hope you enjoy this month’s Inflation Monitor – August 2015.

Kirk Chisholm

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