Market Update Through 6/30/2014

as of June 30, 2014
Total Return
Index 12 months YTD QTD June
Stocks
Russell 3000 25.22% 6.94% 4.87% 2.51%
S&P 500 24.61% 7.14% 5.23% 2.07%
DJ Industrial Average 15.56% 2.68% 2.83% 0.75%
Nasdaq Composite 31.17% 6.18% 5.31% 3.99%
Russell 2000 23.64% 3.19% 2.00% 5.32%
MSCI EAFE Index 23.57% 4.78% 4.09% 0.96%
MSCI Emerging Markets 14.31% 6.14% 6.60% 2.66%
Bonds
Barclays US Aggregate 4.37% 3.93% 2.04% 0.05%
Barclays Intermediate US Gov/Credit 2.86% 2.25% 1.23% -0.07%
Barclays Municipal 6.14% 6.00% 2.59% 0.09%
Current Prior
Commodity/Currency Level Level
Crude Oil  $105.37  $102.71
Natural Gas  $4.46  $4.54
Gold  $1,322.00  $1,246.00
Euro  $1.36  $1.36

Mark A. Lewis

Director of Operations

??????????

Share this:

One Down, One to Go

There was much rejoicing among analysts, economic forecasters and financial market participants on June 6 when the BLS told us that total nonfarm payroll employment on a seasonally adjusted basis set a new record in May 2014 with 138,463,000 such jobs then. The old record of 138,350,000 such jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis was set in January 2008, which was the first full month of the 18-month long recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

The chart shows the pattern of this widely followed economic series since January 1978. It is quite obvious that instead of the fairly quick recovery in such jobs that followed every recession from 1945 to the 1981-1982 one, the length of time to return to previous levels has gotten longer and longer with every recession beginning with the 1990-1991 event.

Capture

While many reports on this new record contained statements claiming that all the jobs lost in the recession had been made up, that is not technically true. What IS true is that the total number of jobs has now been matched. But tens of millions of actual jobs that disappeared in 2008-2010 will never come back. They have just been replaced by other jobs.

In addition to that, the total population and the labor force have grown a lot over this time frame. Some estimates are that we might need as many as five million more jobs today just to be even with how well off we were in January 2008 in terms of payroll employment.

It turns out that the pattern of nonfarm payroll jobs today is vastly different from what it was back in January 2008. Here are some of the comparisons.

By far the largest number of net new nonfarm payroll jobs over that period is found in the “health care and social assistance” category, which has risen by 2,150,000 such jobs. Next is “Accommodations and food services” with an increase of 941,000. “Professional and technical services” jobs have grown by 512,000. “Education services “has gained 425,000 jobs and “Temporary help services” has added 307,000 jobs since January 2008.

Not very surprisingly, the biggest loser is jobs in manufacturing. There were 1,650,000 fewer of those in May 2014 than in January 2008. This is hardly a new story. The peak was 19,553,000 jobs back in June 1979. The recent trough counted 11,453,000 such jobs, which was the lowest number since March 1941, well before the US became involved in World War II. The May 2014 level of 12,099,000 is still lower than in June 1941, both on a seasonally adjusted basis. No one expects to see a new record here for many years, if ever. It is a fact that total manufacturing output has soared since then. The Industrial Production manufacturing index was 10.5 (2007=100) then and 99.5 in May 2014. That shows how huge the labor productivity increases have been in manufacturing. The US has the highest levels of labor productivity in manufacturing in the world and also the highest average annual rate of increase in this critically important measure over the past 70 years.

The construction sector was still down 1,496,000 jobs in May 2014 from January 2008. The government sector lost 507,000 jobs over that period, but almost all of these were at the state and local level.

Consistent with this shift in the type of nonfarm payroll jobs over the past 6-1/2 years, it should not surprise you to learn that the number of nonfarm payroll jobs held by women has been above the old peak set in February 2008 every month since September 2013. There were 68,393,000 nonfarm payroll jobs held by women in May 2014 or 49.4 percent of all such jobs.

As a corollary to the still-missing millions of construction and manufacturing jobs, the total number of nonfarm payroll jobs held by men is still below the old peak. It will take several more months to see a new record for men holding nonfarm payroll jobs.

Of course, there are two different measures of employment. In addition to nonfarm payroll employment, we have total civilian employment, which includes the self-employed and agricultural workers. This measure counts each person only once, whereas the payroll survey does not adjust for people who have more than one payroll job.

Total civilian employment peaked in November 2007 with 146,595,000 people employed on a seasonally adjusted basis. In May 2014 there were 145,814,000 people employed, so there are still 781,000 fewer people employed than at the peak. There were 9,799,000 people who were unemployed and looking for work in May for an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent. We should see a new record in the next two or three months. Then we can celebrate the fact that we are in uncharted territory by both measures.

The June 10, BLS report on “Job Openings and Labor Turnover” (the JOLTS report) told us that on April 30 on a seasonally adjusted basis there were 4,455,000 unfilled job openings in the US. That was the highest since September 2007, before the recession began.

The report also said that there were 55.1 million hires in the twelve months ending in April 2014. There were 52.8 million job separations in the same period.

Thus, we had 107.9 million people changing jobs over 12 months in order to get a net employment gain of 2.2 million people. The US economy remains the most incredible “jobs machine” every seen.

 

Dr. James F. Smith

Chief Economist

?????????

Share this:

Giving Away Your Cake (and eating it too), AKA Charitable Remainder Trusts

ImageOne of the first recorded instances of the age old phrase “a man can not have his cake and eat it too” was written from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk to Thomas Cromwell, speaking about how the construction of Kenninghall had cut deeply into his finances. Today, we use this phrase when considering saving something of value, or giving it up for consumption. When thinking about our own personal assets, we have many choices. We have the opportunity to hold on to them (having our cake), swap them out (trading for a different cake), or selling them and buying a consumable asset (eating the cake).

With responsible planning for the future, the size of your portfolio should grow through the years. At the point of retirement for someone, a combination of pension, social security, and portfolio income may be able to provide for all of their expenses. This is a fantastic place to be in as a retiree. A dependable cash flow can empower gifting to the extent that the cash flow remains intact.

A few months ago, I wrote about Charitable Remainder Trusts here. For a retiree that has an excess income stream from investments, a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) can provide a certain and continued stream of income from donated property.  As the name suggests, a charity will inherit the property held in the trust when the beneficiaries pass away, just as it would if you left the property to a charity in your will. However, the additional benefit of a CRT is the income tax deduction received for giving the property occurs immediately. As a beneficiary you retain an income interest.

Give thought to the idea of giving some of your cake away now. There are many great non-profits and charities that will thank you. Now, I know all this talk of cake has really gotten that sweet tooth going, so feel free to eat some cake now too!

Share this:

Gen Y, Say Yes to Stocks!

It started with anecdotal evidence: a conversation with a co-worker about a group of professionals he spoke to about their 401k. The wiser (by which I mean older) folks were asking about the outlook for the economy and how they could maximize their 401k contributions. But the young man in the group, who was in his early 30s, expressed complete contempt for the stock market.  All of his money, he said, was in cash. Then a client of mine who is nearing retirement called me just to tell me about a dinner he went to where the topic of investing came up.  He was shocked at how vehement the young people at the table were about not investing in stocks due to their risk.

Since then I’ve read about a growing body of evidence coming from surveys and other research that suggests that the younger generations are too conservative in their investments. Gen Y is saving but not investing aggressively enough. The problem is that they distrust financial institutions (we don’t count) and believe another financial meltdown is all but imminent.

Gen Y, we don’t blame you. You were in your teens on Sept. 11, 2001, which had to have rocked whatever concept of stability you had. By the time you were old enough to know what the stock market was, the technology-driven crash of 2001-2002 was causing strife in budding 401k plans. And just when you were starting to dream about home ownership the housing market was spiraling out of control in 2008-2010. Many of you watched your parents go through extreme financial duress during this time period, something you were well old enough to understand.

It’s no wonder that Generation Y is too conservative. Your generation doesn’t have the benefit of personally experiencing the roaring 80s and 90s to boost your confidence about the markets. You don’t know who Crockett and Tubbs are. Looking at historical stock returns on paper just isn’t the same as living through it. And it’s hard to understand why men ever wore over-sized shoulder pads, but they did. Even the last five (amazing) years of positive stock markets seems like mere payback for the horror of 2008-2009. Despite this, we have to remember that stocks have historically provided the highest long-term return. No matter what your steadfast beliefs are about the future of the economy, it probably carries no more predictive capacity than the next differing opinion. That’s why we look to history as a guide, rather than trying to guess the future.

When you look at stock volatility over long time frames, it isn’t nearly as risky as the day-to-day movement would have you believe. In the last 87 years large company stocks’ annual returns ranged from -43% in the worst year to +54% in the best. That’s quite a spread! But those same stocks in any given 20 year period (starting on any given day in any year) averaged returns in a range of +3% in the worst 20-year period to nearly +18% in the best 20-year period. That includes the Great Depression and the market crashes of this century. That’s a lot easier to swallow. You have a long time before liquidating your accounts for retirement – probably more than 30 years, so you should be taking a longer term view.

And let’s not forget about inflation. That cash that’s in your 401k is doing less than nothing for you. Long run inflation is around 3%. If you are getting a 0% return on your cash, that is actually -3% in real dollars, guaranteed.

Saving money isn’t good enough. Millennials need to invest with a little more oomph. Yes, diligently putting away $500 a month for 30 years is hard work and no one wants to see their money shrink. But consider this: if you get a modest 4% average return on those savings, you will have $347,000 in retirement; if you double that return to 8% an amazing thing happens: $745,000. Taking risk means a lot of ups and downs along the way, but potentially twice the money in the end. If you can go cliff-jumping with your friends, you can buy stocks, right? (No? Was that just my friends?)

There is no reward without risk, to be sure. Any investment plan should be done with the full comprehension of the volatility, range of outcomes and potential for return. There certainly is risk in losing money in the stock market over short and intermediate time periods. However, those losses only become permanent if you sell out during periods of decline. It seems all but certain that an all-cash/fixed income portfolio is doomed to growth too slow to possibly reach any long-term financial goals.

 

Harli L. Palme, CFA, CFP®

A Gen-exer who believes all of the above applies to her generation too, except the part about over-sized shoulder pads.

Share this:

Employee Education and the Ostrich

    I read many articles about ERISA plan governance, including articles about fiduciary duty, proposed changes to legislation, and the delivery of advice.  One article, in particular, did an excellent job describing the ineffectiveness of employee education.  Admittedly, I was a little off put by the premise, especially considering how hard I work as making these meetings interesting.  But by the time I finished reading, I had to agree with the author.  The author describes education material that includes an overwhelming amount of charts and graphs with a delivery filled with industry jargon and terms that the average person cannot understand.  What does work, however, are personal stories and relating the topic in plain English.

     Story telling also helps to pique interest, especially when the story is memorable.  One such story I tend to share is how people often act like ostriches.  An ostrich is a very fast bird, among its other notable characteristics.  We too are like ostriches, in that we are often distracted by the speed of life.  Our daily routine is predictable and busy.  We wake, we work, we pick the kids up from their extracurricular activities, we go to bed, and then we do this all over again.  Rarely do we take five or ten minutes out of our day to focus on other important matters.  Rather we will put it off for another day. 

     Retirement plan participants are often very driven by their work schedules and things that need tending to after work.  The education meeting, if structured properly, serves as motivation for the participant to take action with a sense of urgency.  After all, if something is not addressed immediately following the message or shortly thereafter, then the attitude of “take care of it tomorrow” will turn into next week and next week will turn into next month, and so on.

     So what can we do?  Start by having meaningful conversations and consider changing the way participant education is delivered.  It’s okay to open up and share personal stories if it helps deliver the message.  Have fun with the presentation because humor helps take the edge off serious matters.  Most importantly, be available to answer questions.  Participants are more likely to seek advice after the education meeting, especially when they know you’ll hang around to answer any questions.

Neal Nolan CFP(R), AIF(R)
Director of ERISA
Senior Financial Advisor

Share this:

College Savings for the Kids, or Retirement?

Many a financial advisor has been asked how to balance saving for retirement while also funding a child’s college education. Which brings up the question: Is it a parent’s responsibility to pay for their child’s education? And is it possible to do both? As with most difficult questions, there are no black and white answers.

While I’m not a parent myself, I’ve heard passionate positions on both sides of the argument. Some parents didn’t receive any college financial support and feel pride in having paid their own way, working and going to school part time in order to earn their four-year degree. Others, myself included, felt fortunate enough to receive monetary support from their parents, and the gift of graduating with a four-year degree debt-free. In a perfect world, most parents would choose to provide for their children’s education but unfortunately not everyone has the income to do it. In that case, what is the best course of action?

Before tackling that question, there is some good news. A recent Gallup Poll shows that expensive, prestigious colleges don’t necessarily produce happier people who lead more fulfilling lives. Specifically, graduates of colleges in the bottom-ranked U.S. News & World Report schools faired just as well as graduates from top-ranked colleges in terms of overall well being. The poll looked at several quality of life factors, including income level and “engagement” in graduates’ careers. See the article here. Of particular note, high college debt loads had a meaningfully negative impact on graduates. Sadly, 70% of students who borrow have a national average debt balance of $29,400.

I would tend to agree with these findings. As a state university graduate (go Gators!) I received a great education, learned and worked with some world-renowned scholars, and feel pretty darn satisfied in my life and career today. All-in, college cost my parents about $12,000 a year. Granted, that was seventeen years ago. Today, attending the University of Florida costs about $21,000 a year, including room and board; still a pretty attractive price tag considering sky-high tuitions at some of the top private colleges and universities. Don’t get me wrong, if money had been no option and my grades were a little better back in high school, I would have jumped at the chance to attend an Ivy League school. Such were not my cards. The point, however, is that state schools often offer a phenomenal education at a fraction of the cost of many private schools which can make the dilemma of whether to save for your retirement or your child’s secondary education a little less challenging.

However, different students have different needs and may be searching for what those more expensive colleges offer – whether that’s a smaller setting, specific academic programs or special facilities. So if your child is interested in what the pricier schools have to offer, consider applying even if you don’t have all the funds available to pay. Some of the most expensive schools have a tremendous amount of scholarship money available for qualified students in need. It’s a great reason for your child to stay motivated with grades and extracurricular activities throughout high school.

But back to our main question: should you save for your retirement or your child’s college education? Ideally, everyone would do both, but given a median US income of about $51,000, this isn’t always possible. Taking an economic perspective, the classic airplane analogy comes to mind: when the oxygen masks come down due to a drop in air pressure, air regulations require parents to first secure their own oxygen mask before helping their child. Why? Because we can’t take care of someone else, children included, until we’ve first tended to our own needs. I believe the same holds true regarding retirement savings and a child’s college education. Funding your child’s college education at the expense of your retirement savings plan implicitly shifts the financial burden of retirement from parent to child. Essentially, parents who first try to support their child at the expense of their own retirement are making the bet that their child will earn more than them, or at least enough to provide for them in their twilight years. While parents may have good intentions, this dynamic can ultimately prove unhealthy for all parties involved. As with the oxygen mask analogy, a sound strategy would suggest first meeting your own retirement savings needs and then, as you’re able, contributing to a child’s college fund. In the end, you’ll have peace of mind regarding your own financial security and likely be in a better position to further support your child – who may just be thriving on her own.

Carrie A. Tallman, CFA
Director of Research

Share this:

Market Update Through 5/15/2014

as of May 15, 2014
                                                                           Total Return
Index 12 months YTD QTD MTD
Stocks
Russell 3000 15.33% 1.39% -0.57% -0.69%
S&P 500 15.17% 2.02% 0.21% -0.53%
DJ Industrial Average 10.25% 0.15% 0.30% -0.57%
Nasdaq Composite 18.72% -2.09% -2.90% -0.95%
Russell 2000 12.33% -5.40% -6.45% -2.67%
MSCI EAFE Index 7.81% 1.65% 1.83% 0.94%
MSCI Emerging Markets 4.45% 2.11% 2.58% 2.72%
 
Bonds
Barclays US Aggregate 1.43% 3.58% 1.71% 0.85%
Barclays Intermediate US Gov/Credit 0.80% 2.12% 1.11% 0.59%
Barclays Municipal 1.94% 5.71% 2.32% 1.10%
 
  Current Prior
Commodity/Currency Level Level
Crude Oil $101.50 $99.74
Natural Gas $4.47 $4.82
Gold $1,293.60 $1,295.90
Euro $1.37 $1.39

Mark A. Lewis

Share this:

Paralysis from Analysis

This month, I celebrate my 500th year at Parsec.  OK – it is really 22 years, but sometimes it feels like 500 years.

During that time, I have been involved in a lot of highly technical projects.  With one project in particular, I was really stressed out about the details.  I analyzed every piece of data so much that I made little progress.  Bill Hansen, one of our Managing Partners, said I suffered from “paralysis from analysis.”  After some reflection, I realized he was right.  At some point, I had to let go and realize nothing would ever be perfect.

In my lengthy career here, I have seen the effect of “paralysis from analysis.”  Some investors may be reluctant to act based upon the endless stream of information available now.  One can flip on the TV at any hour and hear the opinions of investment commentators.  Peruse the Internet, and one can find a vast amount of data about the stock market and the economy.  With so much information and contradictory opinions, it is easy to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

In some cases, inaction can be as devastating as making the wrong choice.  Consider this scenario.  On March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 hit bottom.  A lot of people panicked and sold all holdings, leaving the proceeds in cash.  Five years later, the index was up 205.84 percent or 22.6 percent annualized (total return).

At the bottom point, there were probably a few people on TV who claimed the end was near.  One could probably find endless charts and articles foretelling great doom to come.  If an investor was paralyzed by this data overload, sat on the sidelines, and did not invest during that five-year period, he or she could have missed an opportunity to recover from deep losses.

What should a person do?  For starters, it helps to leave emotion out of the decision as much as possible.  Then, develop an investment plan that will not lead to sleepless nights.  The real test will come when the market has wild swings – either up or down.  One must commit to the plan and not deviate based upon the mood of the moment.  It is fine to alter the plan if goals or needs have changed, of course.

We at Parsec try to help our clients develop these plans and weather the inevitable market fluctuations.  Communication is a key factor in success.  We encourage our clients to tell us their goals, their changing life situations, or anything that is relevant to staying on target.

So, let’s switch off the talk shows, put down the business magazine, and take a nice walk.  Let’s try to enjoy life instead of obsess over every little detail.

Cristy Freeman, AAMS®
Senior Operations Associate

Share this:

The Challenges of Initial Public Offerings

This is a blog post of ours from 2012 that we thought was worth re-posting.

 

There have been many headlines recently regarding initial public offerings (IPOs) of technology companies.  These headlines tend to generate media buzz and excitement from investors eager to make a quick profit or get in on the next big thing.

The first issue investors face is access to IPOs. In an IPO, the company sells shares to one or more investment banks.  These firms then market the shares to their clients at a slightly higher price known as the Public Offering Price or “POP.”  These clients are typically large institutions rather than retail investors looking to buy relatively small amounts.

You can look up the prospectus, or S-1 registration statement, for any IPO at www.sec.gov.  If you do this, you will notice that the price and number of shares are blank until the last minute. These are filled in right before the registration statement is declared effective by the SEC and the shares start trading.  You do not know the price while you are reviewing the information to make an investment decision.

When trading opens, the shares may sell for above or below the POP.  It all depends on the supply and demand for shares.  Recent technology IPOs have tended to significantly underperform the overall market.

Some recent companies have come public at valuations of over 100 times trailing earnings, while the market as a whole currently trades at about 17 times trailing earnings.  What does this mean from an investment standpoint?  Mathematically, these new companies must continue to grow at a much faster rate than the overall market for a long time in order to justify their current stock prices.  If there is an earnings disappointment, these high-projected growth companies will tend to fall in price more than a company trading at a more reasonable valuation.

You may love the product, but that may not make for a good investment.  Let’s take the airline industry as an example.  I love the idea that you can get on a plane and go almost anywhere in the world.  But the industry has been plagued with bankruptcies, with many examples of common stockholders being completely wiped out and losing their entire investment.

How about the auto industry?  I love the product, and everyone has one.  In the early 1900’s in the US, there were thousands of auto manufacturers.  Now there are three.  What are the chances that you as an investor would have picked one of those three?  And two of them went through bankruptcy in the past three years.

In addition, there are many quality companies currently trading at valuations below that of the overall market that have increased their dividends each year for 25, 35 or over 55 years.  While we invest in technology companies, we prefer to focus on established companies with solid balance sheets that have the potential for long-term growth of earnings, dividends or both.

 

Bill Hansen, CFA

Managing Partner

February 12, 2012

Share this:

Portfolio Construction: The Way We See It – Part 1

In this ever changing world we live in, there are “advisors” everywhere. Flip on the TV, pull up a news app on your mobile device, or even the national paper. I came across a gem a few weeks ago from the NY Times archives.

SUNDAY, June 5, 1994; Picking Stocks by the Stars

Published: June 5, 1994

For those who missed the recent conference on “Astrology and the Stock Market” in Manhattan (about 40 people attended), here are some tips from several of the hot sessions:

The Art of Timing: Combining Astrological Indicators — Graham Bates, London financial astrologer. “I’m worried and confused about the eclipses in November. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I know they’ll be important.”

Stocks, Planets and Solar Cycles — Richard Mogey, executive director of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles. “There’s a 23 percent gain the fifth year of every decade because of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle. I’d expect the same in 1995.”

The Cosmic ‘Inner Winner!’ — Paul Farrell, author of “Think Astrology and Grow Rich.” “When Uranus and Neptune go into Aquarius, I look toward information and technology.”

Beyond Cycles: Using Interpretive Astrology to Identify Key Turning Points in Markets — Charles Harvey, president of the Astrological Association of Great Britain. “When there is a new moon in the eighth house, Placidus system, in New York, there is always a major change in interest rates. That happens July 8.”

Want something more specific? Henry Weingarten, who heads the Astrologers Fund (the conference sponsor), predicts, “Novell will be at 30 next May.” But, “If it hits 35 before then, I’m out.”

There will always be very smart individuals that develop complex theories of why and how the markets work. This is part of human nature and our innate desire to understand how our world works. This is why we have departments in government and universities dedicated to studying human behavior. Our investment approach at Parsec is incredibly simple. We accept that markets behave irrationally in the short term. We feel that it would be a breach of our fiduciary duty to attempt to predict short term market movements.

Fiduciary duty is extremely important to us. This duty is a very old idea, which was defined here in America with Harvard College v. Amory in 1830. The decision of this case scolded the trustees and instructed them of their duty to manage the trust as they would manage their own affairs. This is known as the “Prudent Person Rule.” Here at Parsec, when evaluating an investment, we ask ourselves first is this in the best interest of our client and secondly would we invest in this particular security.

Be on the lookout for further posts on this topic.

Share this: