It’s often said there are two things that are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. While there have been many who have expanded this list to include other certainties life has to offer, one that often doesn’t make the list is recessions. As much as we hope and plead that economic expansions will last forever, we know the inevitable truth. The economy is cyclical. It goes through periods of expansion and contraction. Recessions happen as a result.
Markets had a great first half of the year. Major stock indexes, including the S&P 500, reached new highs. However, global economic growth is slowing. Investor concerns about a recession have increased and unresolved trade negotiations with China have created even more uncertainty. Slowing economic growth, rising recession risk, and tariff uncertainty doesn’t sound like a recipe for a stock and bond rally, does it? So, what has spurred stocks and bonds higher?
Things can change quickly. If I was writing this post one month ago, it would be a completely different topic with a much different tone.
Following four straight months of positive performance to start the year, the S&P 500 posted a -6.35% return in May. This was the third time in eight months the S&P 500 had a monthly loss of more than 6%. Fears of a full-blown trade war were reemerging as trade negotiations with China soured and it looked like fresh tariffs would be imposed against Mexico. The trade wars would put downward pressure on an already slowing global economy, putting even more pressure on central banks to ease monetary policy.
Everyone, young and old alike, can be a target for fraud. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission collected 1.4 million fraud reports. People reported losing a whopping $1.48 billion to fraud in 2018, which is an increase of 38% from 2017. Of people that included their age in reports, those aged 20-29 reported the loss of money in 43% of reports compared to 15% for those aged 70-79. However, the loss amount reported was nearly twice as high for ages 70-79.
It’s not every day a “Jeopardy!” contestant becomes a household name and makes one of the longest running television game shows must watch TV. But that’s exactly what happened during James Holzhauer’s 32-game winning streak. Throughout Holzhauer’s dominant run, it seemed to be only a matter of time before he became the highest-winning contestant in “Jeopardy!” history, a record held by Ken Jennings. Jennings amassed a total of $2,520,700 over his 74-game winning streak in 2004. However, Holzhauer was defeated in his 33rd game, coming just $58,484 shy of Jennings’ record.
As we highlighted in our post “Anatomy of the U.S. Economy,” consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Current consumer spending, as well as future spending, is highly influenced by consumer expectations for the economy.
The U.S. economy is on the verge of breaking the record for the longest stretch of economic expansion in U.S. history. Since the U.S. economy hit bottom in June 2009 following the Great Recession, it has been on a slow and steady recovery that has it on the brink of surpassing the expansion from March 1991 to March 2001 as the longest in U.S. history.
The American Dream consists of baseball, warm apple pies, and homeownership. As I near the end of my mid-twenties, many of my peers are trying to realize the American Dream of purchasing their perfect starter home. Over the years, my cohorts have casually been looking to find the deal of the century in a move-in-ready starter home at a low price. But even the starter homes that require major renovations and improvements have come with lofty price tags.
For the past 18 months, two hot button issues for investors have been the Fed and trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. These two issues were the catalysts for two market corrections in 2018, the latter of which nearly approached bear market territory. However, for the first five months of this year fears of a Fed misstep were alleviated and reported positive progress towards a trade deal between the U.S. and China spurred markets to new all-time highs.
On Friday, Uber went public in the what is the biggest initial public offering (IPO) so far this year. Earlier this month, Beyond Meat went public with less hype and saw its price skyrocket 163% in its first trading day, making it the best-performing first-day IPO in nearly two-decades. Beyond Meat is a producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009. The company’s Beyond Burger is sold at Whole Foods and restaurants chains around the country.
At HIGHLAND, one of the cornerstones of our investment approach is that securities offering higher expected returns share particular attributes, which we refer to as the dimensions of higher expected returns (or dimensions for short). These dimensions are based on economic theory, backed by Nobel Prize winning academic research, and supported by decades of real-world historical data. Dimensional Fund Advisors is an investment management firm with a long history of applying academic research to practical investing and is one of our preferred investment managers. Dimensional Fund Advisors defines a dimension as a return difference between two assets or portfolios “that is sensible, empirically robust in the data, and cost-effective to capture in well-diversified portfolios.”
When Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters earlier this month, it capped off one of the greatest comebacks in golf history, if not one of the best comebacks in the history of all sports. Woods’s last Masters tournament victory came in 2005 and his last major tournament win was back in 2008. In this 11-year span between major wins, Woods faced a very public divorce, was arrested for driving under the influence, and battled a number of injuries. With his latest Masters win, Woods has 15 major tournament wins and is now three behind Jack Nicklaus for most of all time.
When the calendar turned from March 31st to April 1st, the U.S. economic expansion turned 117 months old. Should the expansion continue through July, it would become the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. Given that the U.S. economic expansion is starting to show signs of its age, many have been questioning how much longer until the next recession.
It’s been an eventful few months. After posting its worst quarterly return since the fourth quarter of 2008, the S&P 500 rebounded strongly in the first quarter of 2019 to post its best quarterly return since the third quarter of 2009. The S&P 500 has now recovered much of its fourth quarter losses as oversold signals have faded and investor optimism has been buoyed by a favorable shift in monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 are now being felt full fledge, and despite early fears, some filers have been pleasantly surprised by their tax returns for 2018. Historically, one of the more loathsome tax rules over the years was the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which disproportionately impacted earners in the Northeast and West Coast where wages and cost of living are higher. In 2018, the rules around AMT have changed increasing the amount of income you must earn to be impacted by the tax.
The Federal Reserve held their March meeting this past week and indicated no more interest rate hikes will be coming in 2019 as a result of concerns over slower growth and the potential for a bump in the unemployment rate. This is a significant shift from three months ago when the Federal Reserve announced two interest rate hikes would be appropriate for 2019.
Nobody likes paying taxes. Even though taxes are necessary to keep our schools open, communities safe, roads clean, and governments running, it’s not a fulfilling experience to see a percentage of your hard-earned income or investment gains vanish into thin air. With that being said, there’s no way of escaping taxes (without risking legal repercussions, of course), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do throughout the year to reduce the amount of taxes you ultimately end up paying.
Author Nancy Hatch Woodward once wrote, “Snow brings a special quality with it – the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.” Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows this all too well.
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the New Jersey/New York area was hit with one of the more notable November snowstorms in history. Parts of Northern New Jersey and New York City received upward of six inches of snow, with some areas getting hit with as much as ten inches.
The story of the millionaire next door has been told at nauseum. Since authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko first released their book “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” in 1996, the book’s themes have been used as an attempt to promote good savings habits.