2017 Predictions

Market movement since Election Day has been massive and investors see this as confirmation of just how good Republicans are going to be for the economy. How could so many investors be wrong? Actually, fairly easily.

Right or wrong, investors should be careful not to get carried away. There is a high amount of uncertainty and no way to know what the future will bring.

(1) Trump Rally
The big move in stocks in November and December has been an acceleration of the positive momentum already taking place in the economy. It has been characteristic of many presidential election years with a good economy.

It is completely normal to get excited, but don’t let it lead to overconfidence. Few things last forever and most years have their ups and downs.

It is not unusual to see inauguration day (Friday, January 20, 2017) mark a change for investors as they realize the new president does not have a magic wand.

(2) Dow 20K
The Dow stock index has been flirting with 20,000. It just could not quite get there in 2016. In 2017, I believe it will! And it will likely cross that mark many times.

The first time the Dow reached 10,000 came in March of 1999. Over the next 11 years, it crossed that level on 34 days until it surpassed it a final time in the summer of 2010.

It’s hard to fight gravity and it’s hard to turn a large ship. There is so much positive momentum right now that I expect it to continue. Unemployment is falling. Wages are rising. Confidence is climbing.

One unknown is the impact of policy changes on global trade, which may decline this year as the United States turns its focus inward.

(3) Fed Does Its Job
The Federal Reserve is likely to “take away the punch bowl just as the party is getting started.”

For two consecutive years I have accurately predicted that the Fed would be more cautious than its own forecast. This year, I am accepting the Fed’s forecast that it will raise rates 3 times in 2017.

Of course, no one knows with certainty because with each rate hike, I expect investors will become more concerned.

2016 Review

“If you want to see the sunshine you have to weather the storm.” In its first 3 weeks, 2016 delivered investors more than a 10 percent loss–the worst start in 80 years. Our natural human instinct at such moments is to feel that it will continue, but predicting the markets is extremely difficult.

In a dramatic turnaround, the U.S. stock market rose in February and March–recording the best recovery in 83 years.

(1) Fed will move slowly. The Federal Reserve planned to raise rates 4 times in 2016. This aggressive forecast in combination with falling oil prices spooked investors. Then came the uncertainty of Brexit and the U.S. elections. By year end, the Fed raised rates just once (in December).

(2) Election years are not recession years. I expected the economy to grow and for the market to continue to rise as our bull market entered its 8th year.

This positive outlook proved beneficial in the early days of 2016 when the resolve of many investors was tested. The market turned positive and remained there for most of the year.

(3) United States grows and the dollar slows. A strong U.S. dollar is not as good as it sounds. Sure, it’s great for Americans traveling overseas, but it presents challenges for large U.S. companies and investors.

The year began with too much strength: From July 2014 to January 2016, our dollar rose against every major currency around the globe! It gained 20 percent versus the euro and 54 percent versus the Russian ruble!

Fortunately, the U.S. dollar spent 9 of the last 12 months below January 2016 levels. That gave investors more opportunity as we invested globally.

This international diversification helped a great deal until a great divide formed in November.

These investments have taken a break as U.S. stocks rose in November, but I believe the worldwide economy still looks positive and may offer benefits to investors again in 2017.

Make Markets Great Again?

Happy New Year Dear Friends and Financial Partners!

With the new President of the United States, namely Donald J. Trump, substantial changes may be coming our way. Below is a compilation of optimistic perspectives on the incoming administration.

Corporate Tax Cuts: Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network posed the following question to House Majority Leader, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA). Maria Bartiromo: “One of the analysts that I had on the morning show the other day on Fox Business Network said, ‘A drop in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will equate to a 20 percent increase in corporate earnings.’ Do you agree with that?”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy: “I do agree… and when you look at what we’ll do in the House, our number one focus is jobs. We need growth in America. Growth in America will solve so many problems. You won’t be able to stop this deficit unless we grow” (Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, December 11, 2016, Fox News Network).

Tax Repatriation Plan for Cash: Many corporations have chosen to keep their foreign profits overseas rather than pay the U.S. corporate tax rate–one of the highest in the world. Bringing these funds–estimated to be $2.6 trillion–back to the United States with only a 10 percent tax payment versus the current 35 percent rate could create hundreds of thousands of jobs. But its impact totally depends on how the money is deployed.

On Bloomberg Television, Goldman Sachs Senior Investment Strategist Abby Joseph Cohen addressed the repatriation of cash. “In 1999 and 2000, 70 percent of the cash, by companies in the S&P 500, went back into the company for things involving growth: capital spending, R&D (Research and Development), even cash acquisitions from operating assets. That 70 percent number is now 42 percent.

“If that money comes (back to the United States) and there are no restrictions in terms of how that money is used, one of the things I worry about is a good deal will go for… share repurchase alone or dividend increases, and so on, and not into growth, the benefit to the nation will not be there.”

Regulatory Environment: American businesses claim to be smothered by new rules and regulations, thus holding back Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Congressman Kevin McCarthy: “The Obama Administration has just put all of these new regulations on us, kind of just pushed the economy down, pushed investment out. Why? Because the new people being hired were hired to carry out new regulations, instead of more output.

“The Obama administration, in just the first six years, proposed more than 500 major rulings. And this is really important because you do not become a major ruling unless it gets scored that it’s going to cost $100 million (or more) to business” (Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, December 25, 2016).

In 2017, we may see common sense changes in the law that will create greater check and balance among the branches of our Federal Government. The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act states that no major ruling of new regulation that costs more than $100 million can be imposed without a passage of the House and Senate. The Sue & Settle Reform states that you cannot have a new regulation until any previous lawsuits are settled.

Economic Growth: Abby Joseph Cohen: “GDP growth in the United States is very likely up 2.2 percent, something along those lines. If we look for ways in which that number would be wrong, it’s probably more likely to be stronger, rather than weaker, in part, because the economy is ending 2016 on an accelerating note.”

Know this, what presidents propose and what actually takes place may be two different things. President Obama had this to say about our next president: “I…think that (Trump) is coming to this office with fewer hard-and-fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with. I don’t think (Trump) is ideological. I think ultimately, he is pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction” (November 14, 2016).

At Smedley Financial we have only been able to harvest what the stock market is willing to deliver. If the market gives a little more to your portfolios then you will be closer to reaching your financial goals. To us, investing is about meeting your personal financial goals in a careful and prudent manner, and not necessarily meeting or beating a benchmark.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is this: Always call us if you have any questions or concerns. We mean it. Don’t be hesitant to contact us. We are your financial advocates and financial bodyguards.

Have a Most Prosperous New Year!
Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
President

Financially Empowering Your Adult Children

With life expectancy increasing each year, saving for retirement is becoming more important. You’ve worked hard your entire life, sacrificed to take care of others, and now, as you’re nearing retirement or are in retirement, it’s your time to live out your retirement dreams!

Sounds great, right? But then you realize the amount you’ve planned to live on each month is not enough because you are helping your adult child out each month financially. You could be helping them out with their mortgage, car loan, student loan, or the emergencies that come up each month; and you realize your retirement dreams will either have to wait or be downsized.

According to Consumer Credit, 31 percent of parents financially support an adult child on a monthly basis.1 If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to set yourself free of the financial burden and empower your children to stand on their own feet.

Here are some ideas to empower your child:

Set boundaries
Let your child know you love and support them and want them to be able to take care of themselves without relying on you.

Have a candid conversation about your retirement plans and how your independence is impacted because of the money required to support them.

Explain that if something major does come up, you will be there for them. Define what those issues are and are not. For instance, compare medical emergencies to their kids’ need for new clothes. One you cannot plan for and the other you can.

For more information, the book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud is a great resource.

Create a game plan
Whether your adult child has just graduated from college or has a family of their own, it is critical to come up with a plan that will enable you to live your retirement dreams and allow your child to achieve financial independence.
Create a timeline long enough that your child will be able to get their finances under control.

Help them create a budget that will enable them to live on their current income. If expenses are higher than take-home pay, sit down and work through it by looking at their needs versus wants.

Budgeting is a great way to know how much money can be spent on items such as groceries, gas, clothing, etc. Once money is used up for the month, they will have to wait until the next month to purchase certain items.

Use personal growing experiences
Transparency can demonstrate to your child where you are financially and why it is important for your child to prosper without relying on you.

Use examples from your past where you wish you would have made better financial choices. Be sure to include what you learned and how the experience changed you. Your children will see that they too can make it out of a tough financial situation.

Financial conversations can be difficult. Yet, they are crucial to both your financial freedom and your child’s financial success!

1. http://www.consumercredit.com/financial-education/infographics/the-cost-of-supporting-adult-children-or-elders.aspx

The Family Bank

Many clients have wondered how to give money to adult children without creating dependence. Financial dependence can be an “addiction that is as serious as dependence on alcohol or drugs.”

This becomes even more problematic when you start looking to give assets to grandchildren and successive generations. One simple yet sophisticated tool to create a financial pool that can be self-perpetuating is a family bank.

The main purpose of the family bank is to use assets to improve the human and intellectual capital of each successive generation.

Rather than just gifting assets away, you create a “bank” where the children or grandchildren can apply for a loan through a formal process. There is a board of trustees, formed of family members, that reviews the application and approves or denies the loan. The loan is then repaid over time at an interest rate that is slightly lower than the prevailing interest rates. The repayment of the loan replenishes the family bank for future family members to use.

The benefit of using a family bank is that it promotes a sense of accountability as the recipient has to first prove the merits of their request and second return the capital based on the returns they receive from their endeavors.

Frequently, family banks are used to help pay for college, provide mortgages, or provide seed capital for a start-up business.
Again, the goal should be to improve the human and intellectual capital of each family member. It should be more than just a son asking his mom for $20. It should not be a gift that has no purpose and no expectation of repayment.

To set up a family bank you can use a legal document like a trust or a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to dictate how the family bank is operated.

As you work with an attorney to create these documents, be sure to include a mission statement. The purpose of the mission statement is to explain your intent and goals to help guide future generations in the administration of the family bank.

Once the governing documents are created, you can open an investment account that is titled in the name of the trust, LLC, or family limited partnership. It can be invested according to the restrictions in the documents.

If it is planned and implemented correctly, a family bank “can be a powerful mechanism to put wealth to good use for the benefit and development of the family.” If you have questions about how to set up a family bank, please contact one of our private wealth managers.

*Smedley Financial and its employees do not provide tax advice; therefore it is important to coordinate with your tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

Election Impact

President-elect Donald Trump made a lot of promises to Americans on the campaign trail. Yes, he proposed building a wall on the Mexican border and blocking certain groups from immigrating to the United States, but none were more important to voters than how the candidate would impact their money.

Trump believes his economic plans will double U.S. growth, which is currently at 2.9 percent. He plans to focus on cutting taxes for the rich, increasing government spending, and negotiate better trade deals with foreign countries. If necessary, he has even suggested imposing tariffs on imports of goods to the United States.

Republicans will control the Senate and House of Representatives, so the next president may find it easier to get things done, especially at first. Here are a few of the promises made during Trump’s campaign.

Jobs

The foundation of the United States is firm and its economy is strengthening. Unemployment numbers cannot get much better than current levels. Wage growth may be a more valuable measure of economic health. Infrastructure spending of $500 billion may help by boosting productivity of Americans in the long-term.

Education and Family

  • Require paid maternity leave for 6 weeks.
  • Make child care expenses tax deductible.
  • Allow “dependent care savings accounts.”

Healthcare

    When it comes to healthcare, any president faces an aging population and rising costs of new medical technology. Trump plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something different.
  • Make health insurance premiums tax deductible.
  • Encourage health insurance to be sold across state lines (something already allowed by federal law).
  • Allow imports of foreign drugs where prices are cheaper.

Taxes

    Trump has proposed many changes to the tax code. The greatest impact will be on the top one percent of earners who are estimated to save about $100,000 in taxes every year.
  • Increase the standard deduction to $30,000 for joint filers from its current level of $12,600.
  • Eliminate the personal exemption of $4,050 per dependent that parents use.
  • Eliminate estate tax.
  • Eliminate alternative minimum tax.
  • Lower corporate tax to 15 percent.

Investments

In the coming months very little should change. Increased government spending on infrastructure combined with tax cuts roughly the same size could boost growth in the coming year or two. It would also increase the national debt significantly. This could depress the value of existing bonds as interest rates rise on U.S. debt.

If we raise tariffs and other countries do the same then global trade could decrease and the cost of goods could rise. Less trade would also decrease profitability for U.S. exporters. This could even cost workers their jobs.

Our advice? Vote with your ballot, not your portfolio. Think of all the missed opportunity if one withdrew whenever there was uncertainty. Whether your favored candidates were elected or not, we want to reinforce the importance of sticking to your long-term plans.

The Promise of Prosperity

Americans want a strong country and growing economy. That much we agree on. Of all the promises we heard this election year, none may be more difficult to keep than the commitment to boost growth up to levels last seen decades ago.

Since 2009, the U.S. economy has increased at a rate of 2 percent. Many countries envy that number, but Americans expect more. Our increases were twice as big 20 years ago.

In all of human history I know of no other time with such miraculous growth as post World War II. We have come to accept boom times as normal.

From 1948 to 1973 the average economic output of an American worker doubled. That productivity trend continued until the early 2000s when it suddenly slowed.

prosperity

Consumers Carried the Economy
The “Great Recession” of 2008-2009 complicated things further by drastically altering Americans’ perception of stability and diminishing their tolerance for government debt.

This led to tighter limits on government spending, which has been a huge drag on economic growth. The federal government has cut spending 4 of the last 5 years. This is good short-term because it reduces debt. The long-term impact is less certain.

How much can our economy grow when the government is cutting spending? Who picks up the slack? Businesses have been hesitant to reinvest large amounts in long-term projects. So the responsibility for economic growth has fallen on the shoulders of the U.S. consumer.

Politicians Turned to Spending
Today, politicians and economists are calling for stimulus. What form this takes is yet to be seen, but the popularity of such an idea is rising. Both presidential candidates announced plans to increase government spending to improve infrastructure and stimulate an atmosphere of growth. Donald Trump plans to increase spending by $500 billion. (Hillary Clinton proposed bumping it up by $275 billion.)

Will Stimulus Work?
The answer for decades following the Great Depression was “yes.” The theory is that for every dollar the government spends it can boost the economy by several dollars—creating more wealth than was spent as the dollars circulate through the country.

It fell out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s. Now it’s back.

If stimulus is going to work then it should be concentrated on “fiscal multipliers.” These are the best places and they are often described as levers that can be pulled to actually create growth in the economy.

For stimulus to work it should be focused on the most effective area: infrastructure. Why?
1. Immediate creation of jobs
2. Jump in demand for construction materials
3. Greater efficiency for the entire economy
4. Investment in the future of America

Our bridges, airports, and freeway systems are in need of repair. Our electric grid is outdated and vulnerable as well. Technological advancements have redefined living. It may be time to apply some innovative American ingenuity to our infrastructure.

If there ever was a time that Americans could benefit from this stimulus it would be following a lack of spending—a situation we now find ourselves in.

 

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The Attitude of Gratitude

Season’s Greetings Dear Friends and Financial Partners,

Recently, I heard a man talk about being cut off in traffic. Rather than complaining, the man surprised me by saying that less than one percent of the world’s population will own or even be in a car. He had the attitude of gratitude. Now, I don’t know how to test the veracity of the man’s statistic, but his point was well received by me.

In the United States of America, so many of us are blessed to live like kings and queens. A little over one hundred years ago, our forefathers did not enjoy the conveniences of indoor plumbing, hot water on demand, carpeting, microwave ovens, refrigeration or air conditioning. These modern-day conveniences are quite remarkable and only made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of those who have gone before.

Perhaps you are familiar with this phrase by the English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton some 340 years ago in 1676: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton was just 34 years old when he uttered those words.

What Sir Isaac Newton meant—while pondering his life as a physicist, astronomer, alchemist, inventor, natural philosopher, and mathematician—was that by using the understanding gained by major thinkers, who had gone before, he was able to make the intellectual progress that he did.

In a similar way, each generation of Americans has sought to make the lives of their children and grandchildren better than their own. Today, we are the beneficiaries of those who have gone before. (FYI: From Latin, the prefix, “bene,” means well or good.)

We have all heard of someone who has survived a horrific disaster, such as an earthquake, flood, major automobile accident, or household fire. It is not uncommon to hear him or her say, “Thankfully, I have my family and what else matters?”

Everything that is ultimately important comes back to our family and friends. It all comes down to our personal relationships with each other. At Smedley Financial, you become not only our friends, but more like family. We are so grateful for you.

Please have a safe, wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
President

Subzero Rates Freeze Growth and Hold Back Your Portfolio

Crazy things are happening in the world! There is a chronic shortage of demand for goods in global economies. For years, governments have been fighting back—fighting back by dropping interest rates. Recently, rates overseas have fallen to subzero levels.

Negative rates—where lenders pay the borrowers—seemed unimaginable and foolish a few years ago. Now, they are beginning to feel like the new normal. How can individuals and countries flourish in such an environment? They can’t!

What is it like to live in a subzero-rate world?

1. The subzero world is so crazy that global interest rates are at their lowest level in 500 years of recorded history.1

2. The subzero world is so crazy that if you want the German government to borrow your money you have to pay! Hold that bond for ten years until it matures and the government promises to pay you back less than it borrowed.

3. The subzero world is so crazy that many homeowners in Denmark are no longer paying interest to banks for their mortgages. The banks are paying interest to them!

Hans Peter Christensen, a recipient of a check from his mortgage company in Denmark, said this after receiving his first payment: “My parents said I should frame it, to prove to coming generations that this ever happened.”2

The biggest borrowers in the world include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. The figure below shows how low these rates have become.

rates

Negative Rates Matter to Americans.
Low rates overseas make positive rates in the United States more attractive for investors, which pushes U.S. rates down as well. This makes it less expensive for us to take out a mortgage or a car loan. It creates opportunities for businesses to borrow and grow. On the surface, these low rates seem like a benefit.

Low Rates May Have Helped. Now They Hurt.
During the recession of 2008-2009, there was an economic emergency that required extraordinary effort to infuse calm and confidence.

The emergency is over. The economy should come off life support. The reluctance to move forward is now harming the very confidence it was meant to create.

Artificially low rates are also destroying natural incentives to borrow and lend.

Consumers and businesses do better when banks are healthy, but banks are not healthy. There is little profit to be made and a low incentive to offer loans when interest rates are so low. Why take the risk when the potential reward is so low?

Subzero and near-zero rates also encourage transactions that would not take place in a rational world. For example, many corporations now borrow just to pay dividends. Of the 500 largest companies in the country, 44 have paid more in dividends in the last year than their respective net income.3 This financial engineering helps investors now, but does nothing to strengthen a company or its employees.

End the Pessimism.
Despite all the positives in the economy, consumer confidence is low. Investor sentiment is terrible. Most Americans believe we still have not recovered from a recession that officially ended over six years ago.

Look around. Americans are in a good financial place. Most people who want to work have a job. Unemployment is at just 4.9 percent. In Salt Lake City, where SFS is located, that rate is just 3.6 percent.4

then-and-now

A Day of Reckoning Will Come.
The next financial scare could come after fantastic economic growth, leading to inflation and central banks would have to rapidly raise rates—shocking the economy. Or the storm could blow in from the opposite direction: economic slowdown.

If the Fed and other central banks don’t normalize rates now then there will be fewer options in the future to help keep the world economies going in a real emergency.

It’s Time to Begin Moving Back to Normal.
Central banks around the world should stop experimenting. The United States is strong enough to handle a more normal business environment. The Fed can do that by slowly bringing U.S. interest rates up.

The U.S. economy is not perfect, but it is good enough to handle borrowing one quarter of one percent higher. It could even help by sending a signal of confidence to the world—confident workers, businesses, and consumers.

Higher rates may cause the U.S. dollar to strengthen, and that could hurt American businesses that export. However, the United States has the best economy in the world and we are growing faster than any other developed country. Keeping our dollar artificially low may not be a good idea.

We can allow the dollar to rise a little as we bump up interest rates from their near-zero levels. This message of confidence may help increase demand worldwide—giving investors something to cheer about as well.

 

1. Bill Gross, “Negative Interest Rates a Supernova,” Janus Funds, June 2, 2016.
2. Charles Duxbury and David Gauthier-Villars, “Negative Rates Around the World,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2016.
3. Mike Bird, Vipal Mongaand, Aaron Kuriloff, “Dividends Eat Up Bigger Slice of Company Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2016.
4. Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.

Research by SFS. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Stocks Predict Elections

Yes, stocks can help predict who will be the next President of the United States. While this particular election season has been filled with an unusual amount of conflict, the stock market has been surprisingly calm.

What does this calm predict? Very little, so far. Direction of the market in the final 90 days is what matters.

election-prediction

In 19 of the 22 presidential elections the change in the stock market in the 90 days preceding the election has correctly revealed the winner.

When the market rises during these 90 days then the incumbent’s political party wins. When the market falls then the opposite occurs.

In August, the market was flat, which means that this election may be closer than some polls currently predict. Of course, there are no guarantees.