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@the Market: Buy the Dip

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist

Markets sold off this week but not everywhere. While the U.S. and Europe suffered a bout of profit taking, parts of Asia did fine. Investors should expect more volatility on the home front next week.

The mood among investment advisors was somber, if not downright bearish, at the Schwab investment conference in Boston. Over the last week, hundreds of money managers, including yours truly, sat through educational and investment sessions given by some of the best minds on Wall Street. Why so glum?

Many were worried that global growth would continue to slow and drag our economy down with it. Then there were the Fed Heads, who changed their mind about a December rate hike for the umpteenth time. Now, the odds are better than 70 percent (up from 30 percent) that the Fed will raise rates next month.

Given the current level of the stock market, which is close to all-time highs, most investment advisers are better sellers than buyers. Contrarian that I am, I think that is a mistake. The Schwab equity strategy team, Liz Anne Sonders and Jeffrey Kleintop, tend to agree with my view. Kleintop, Schwab's global strategist, pointed out that world GDP next year was forecasted to grow by 5 percent, according to the OECD, IMF and World Bank. He is also expecting global economic data will continue to surprise us on the upside between now and the end of the year.

Sonders, Schwab's U.S. equity chief, believes here at home a recession is several years away. It's her opinion that our economy is getting very close to "escape velocity." That's a term used to describe the ability of our economy to grow on its own, independent of any help from the Federal Reserve Bank.  She also thinks the Fed will raise rates in December, barring any unanticipated slowdown in the economic data between now and then.

There are, however, some issues confronting the economy that indicate that it won't all be smooth sailing in the weeks and months ahead. Although we have gained 13 million jobs since the financial crisis, which is a good thing, the flip side is that small businesses are having trouble finding workers.

We are also grabbling with an earnings recession. Profits over the last two quarters have been down, versus last year's results, and that is expected to continue. The rising dollar, energy prices, and a slowdown in China are among the causes of these disappointments. Corporations have been able to mask this decline by buying back more of their shares on the open market. This has the effect of boosting their profit per share (simply because they have less shares outstanding) but even the most naïve investor is beginning to see through this ploy.

Clearly, the above issues bear watching, but are not enough to derail the bull market. The days of double-digit gains may be over but we can still see respectable single digit growth from stocks. It all adds up to more volatility in the stock market in the months ahead.

This week was part of the readjustment in thinking among investors that is necessary as the Fed prepares to hike rates. Remember, two thirds of the nation's money managers have never experienced a rate hike by the Federal Reserve Bank. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.

As I predicted last week, the markets need to consolidate after several weeks of gains. It is nothing to worry about; just the usual give and take within the markets. If you have a little cash to spare, this would be a good time to put it to work.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

     

@theMarket: How High Will We go?

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist

The markets have two months to recoup their losses and deliver positive returns to investors. With this year's correction behind us, the question to ask is will the markets deliver positive returns for 2015 and, if so, what will they be?

As October comes to an end, historically the month of November is positive for the stock market. December and the traditional Christmas rally it typically generates combine to make these two months the best period for positive returns all year. Chances are high that this year the stock market will perform according to this behavior pattern.

I say that because so far in 2015, if you had followed the historical behavior of the markets: "sell in May," "expect at least 2-3 or more pullbacks per year," and the warnings that "the first half of October is usually volatile," you would not have been steered wrong.

As we trade today, the S&P 500 Index is slightly positive (1.5 percent) for the year. The Dow Jones Industrials is essentially flat, while the NASDAQ has done better, up 7.4 percent for 2015. I am expecting that all three averages will gain from here through the end of the year. The NASDAQ will most likely outperform the other two averages, but not by a wide margin.

As I have said all year, I expect a single digit return from the S&P 500 Index, but will that mean 1 percent or 9 percent? That's quite a range and the outcome could have a significant impact on your returns for the year. The low end of my range would see the S&P to hit 2,150. That is only another 2.3 percent gain from here. In total, that would generate a 2015 return of 3.8 percent for this benchmark index. On the other hand, if over the next two months the bulls get to see all their wishes come true then we could achieve as much as 2,250 on the S&P 500 Index. That would generate roughly an 9 percent return. What would need to happen in order for that wish list to come true?

One item on that list has already come true. The political issues that were bugging the markets are now off the table — debt ceiling, budget debate, a new speaker — thanks to this week's compromise in Washington.  

Bulls are also betting that the economy will continue to muddle through, neither too warm nor too cold, so the Fed won't take any action on interest rates in December. Energy prices will remain at this level, providing lower costs for both the consumer and corporations.

That will translate into more money for the consumer, who will be willing to spend more this holiday season. That should generate additional sales and profits for the retail sector. On the international front, both China and Europe will continue to stimulate their economies and that will support global equity markets.

I do believe that much of the bull's case will come true, although it will require good timing, some luck and cooperation from a number of sources. What can go wrong? The Fed could fool us. The dollar might spike higher. The weather, given El Nino, could turn frigid, fueling higher energy prices. Overseas central bankers and governments may not cooperate or change their minds. I could go on, but you get the point.

Whether the bulls get their way, or we have to settle for something less, my worst case scenario is still fairly positive for the markets. Especially for those of you who thought the world was coming to an end on that Dow 1,000 point down day in August.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

     

@theMarket: Regaining the High Ground

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist

As of today, the S&P 500 Index is in the plus column for the year. That seemed impossible to most investors just a month ago. And I expect more gains to come over the next two months.

In last week's column, I predicted the worst was over and the price action this week confirms that. This will be the fourth week in a row that U.S. markets have generated positive returns. The engine of growth behind these further gains this week came as no surprise to me.

I have argued repeatedly that the monetary stimulus programs underway by central banks across the globe would keep stock markets climbing. Last week I wrote that "The ECB launched a stimulus program at the beginning of the year. Investors not only expect that to continue, but possibly be increased if economic data warrant it." Evidently, economic data warranted it.

Thursday morning, ECB President Mario Draghi hinted that investors could expect further stimulus in December from the central bank. World markets greeted the news by gaining between 1-3 percent (depending on the country) by the end of the day.

I also mentioned China was another country where "every negative data point will convince investors that the government there will need to stimulate monetary policy further." Their GDP for the year was announced last weekend. It was 6.9 percent, a bit below the government's stated growth target of 7 percent.

Before the U.S. market opened this Friday (and after the close in Asia), China's central bank officials announced another (their sixth) cut in interest rates by one quarter percent. This further fueled gains in both Europe and America. One can only expect that Asian markets will move higher on Sunday night as a result.

In the weeks ahead, I would expect the discussion among Fed Heads to intensify as a result of these new monetary initiatives. Right now, the handicappers are giving a low probability to a rate raise in December.  That could change, if the macro-economic data both here and abroad gather strength. The dollar will also be a renewed topic of concern, since a hike in rates here and a decline in interest rates elsewhere will lead to a stronger dollar.

In the meantime, we still have earnings to worry about. Although the majority of companies have "beat" earnings, revenue and guidance tells a different story. Only 40 percent of companies thus far have raised revenue guidance, blaming the strength in the dollar for these disappointing numbers. Of course, there have been exceptions in the middle of these lackluster results. Some of the biggest names in the technology space have done quite well in both the top line (sales) as well as the bottom line (profits). That has heartened investors somewhat.

As for the markets, we have already topped my short-term targets. My next target on the S&P 500 Index is 2,100. Remember that the year's high is only 34 points above that. By now you should also know that nothing goes straight up, so expect some consolidation. We remain on track to see single digit gains from this index by year's end.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

     

@theMarket: The Worst Is Over

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist

It appears that we have reached our bottom in the stock market. If I'm correct, investors can now look forward to not only recouping any losses incurred over the last three months, but possibly seeing minor gains in their portfolios by year-end. Wouldn't that be nice?

Although I was worried that we might have to re-test the August lows one last time before the middle of October, it does not appear to be the case. Instead, it looks like we are on our way to the old highs. It won't be fast and it won't happen in a straight line. You can expect more pullbacks as we struggle to climb what will be most likely be a wall of worry.

The prospect of slowing global growth, including within the United States, an increasingly uncertain political climate as election rhetoric heats up, the debt ceiling debate, the Fed rate hike risk and continued disappointment in corporate earnings, are just some of the concerns that keep investors up at night. Although I believe these worries are overblown and will prove more of a distraction than a reality, it will keep all of us on our toes.

The most concrete issue between now and the end of the year will be the health of our own economy. Markets have rallied over the past few weeks because a recent string of macroeconomic data points seems to indicate our economy has hit a speed bump. In this case, bad news is good news. As such, the Federal Reserve has postponed a rate hike until the data justifies an increase. That, in turn, was cause for celebration among investors who had feared a rate hike and thus a further slowing of the economy.

As for me, I am sticking to my January forecasts. Monetary stimulus worldwide by the majority of the globe's central bankers will keep stock markets climbing, although as we have seen, not in a straight line; the more stimulus, the more gains. Here at home, I still expect only modest, single digit gains in the S&P 500 Index. This is largely due to our Fed's change in policy from monetary expansion to a more neutral stance on money supply growth. Nonetheless, I still see gains from here.

It was one reason why, although I was expecting this recent sell-off, I made the decision to stay invested. I expected the markets to come back and the timing of getting out and then getting back in was just too uncertain. Consider the last three weeks. Who could have predicted that a weak jobs report two weeks ago would catapult the markets higher by 7 percent - certainly, not me?

China, which I like, is still a topic of concern to investors. This weekend we are expecting a slew of economic data out of that country including a gauge of Gross Domestic Product. Weaker data, however, may not lead to weaker markets, since bad news is good news in that country. Every negative data point will convince investors that the government there will need to stimulate monetary policy further, as it did in this country for several years. The same holds true for Europe. The ECB launched a stimulus program at the beginning of the year. Investors not only expect that to continue, but possibly be increased if economic data warrant it.

Technically, our market appears to be in good shape. We have breached the 2,020 level on the S&P 500 Index. If we can hold on to that level, the next stop should be 2,040-2,050. Earnings have been less than spectacular thus far but, as in every quarter, expectations have been ratcheted down far enough that most companies either are beating or matching earnings estimates. I know I sound like a broken record, but my advice is to stay invested and consider this as a consolidation year.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

     

@theMarket: October Should Be the Bottom

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires Columnist

The third quarter was the worst for stocks in four years. Here we are in October and if history is any guide, investors should expect a bottom in the stock markets over the next three weeks.

That does not necessarily mean that history is a dependable guide. Historical data has proven to be less than helpful over the last few years. That is largely because the central bank's heavy hand in the financial markets since 2008 has skewed the data. Their intervention in both the bond and stock markets has made technical as well as fundamental tools of investing all but meaningless in valuing the markets.

I have been expecting the stock markets to re-test their lows made on Aug. 24, something we have yet to accomplish. Until we do, this correction will continue. Last week, we got close (within 4 points on the S&P 500 Index).  But markets tend to overshoot. It would not surprise me if we actually broke those lows and fell even further. That would create a panic among investors, in my opinion. And panic is what usually signals a bottom.

In addition, October is the perfect month for this to occur. The historical pattern indicates that this month should begin badly for the markets, but reverse course by the end of the month. The only problem with this scenario is that almost everyone is expecting the same thing. As a contrarian that worries me.

Certainly there is little evidence so far of the kind of reversal I am expecting. The news seems to go from bad to worse. Friday's unemployment number was much weaker than economists were expecting and triggered worries that the U.S. economy might be stalling. I don't believe you can base your assumptions on one data point, no matter what it is. The unemployment numbers have been notoriously unreliable when viewed week-to-week or even monthly.

But that didn't stop the algorithmic computers and day traders from hitting the sell button across the board on Friday morning. Investors can expect the wilds swings that we have been experiencing over the last two months to continue a bit longer. I know that most readers are worried. The tendency is to check your portfolios more and more frequently. As the stock market declines, commentators and the media always become more bearish and so will you.

The atmosphere becomes charged with emotion. As more and more pundits turn negative, they try to outdo one another in painting "what if" scenarios. The markets "could" drop much further, they say, without explaining why that would be the case. These are the same jokesters who were screaming "buy, buy, buy" at the top of the market. My advice is to ignore the circus.

Focus on what is important. Yes, your portfolios are lower than at the beginning of the year, but that doesn't mean that by year-end those paper losses won't be paired or completely disappear. I still think we will end the year positive, if only by single digits. That's why I have not changed my forecasts. So far just about everything that has happened has gone according to my playbook. Keep the faith and keep invested.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.

     
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Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of BMM. None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill’s insights.

 

 

 



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