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  • Stocks At Record High, Treasuries At Record Low - A Rarity

    Stocks as measured by the S&P 500 and the Dow have cruised to new record highs over the last week. Treasury yields on 10-year notes and 30-year bonds moved to all-time record lows last week. Historically, these two things rarely happen at the same time. In fact, the S&P 500 has hit a record high when the 10-year Treasury note yield was below 2% only once in the last 40 years.

    The fact that stocks are at new highs and Treasury yields are at new lows is largely due to red-hot foreign demand for US securities. There are continued worries about the UK and Europe in the wake of "Brexit" and rising concerns about China's economy. With negative interest rates spreading around the world, foreign investors are gobbling up Treasuries which still have positive yields and adding US equities as well. Some say this is the "New Normal." But is it?

    That's what we'll talk about today.

    ...
  • Stocks Plunge Most On Record Last Week, Oil Down 10%

    In the first week of 2016, US stocks plunged by more than in any other first week of January since records have been kept (before 1900). The Dow Jones Industrial Index fell over 1,000 points from 17,591 at the close on December 31 to 16,519 at the close last Friday – a loss of over 6% in one week.

    The S&P 500 Index shed over 100 points from 2043.7 at the close on December 31 to 1922.0 at the close last Friday – a loss of 6.0% in one week. The Nasdaq Composite lost 7.3% during the worst first week of January on record.

    Most global stock markets were hit with similar losses or even worse in some cases. Investors around the world were stunned and are wondering what happened in the worst New Year’s  week in history for share prices – and worry if more pain is to follow.

    The financial media maintained that the carnage was caused primarily due to new economic data out of China, which was worse than expected. I will get into that as we go along today, but the rout was due to more than just disappointing Chinese data.

    The collapse in crude oil prices since mid-2014 is also becoming a serious global concern for reasons I will outline below. The price of West Texas Intermediate Crude has collapsed over 70% since mid-2014 from near $105 per barrel to below $33 a barrel as of last Friday’s close. It fell 10% last week alone and is down so far this week.

    While sharply lower gasoline and energy prices are a boon to consumers, there are now serious concerns about sovereign debt defaults in numerous oil producing countries. In addition, there are growing fears of global deflation as a result of collapsing oil and other commodity prices. I will tell you why below.

    Yet before we get into the complicated issues raised above, let’s take a few moments to discuss last Friday’s stronger than expected unemployment report for December.

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  • The Most Successful Public Company In The World

    Today we focus on the most successful and profitable company in the entire world. It just happens to be an American company, but many of us have never heard of it. If you had invested $1 in this company in 1968, your investment would have soared to $6,638 at the end of last year. I think you’ll be surprised to see which company this is.

    Following that discussion, I will address the growing trend of “socially-responsible” investing. That is, not investing in so-called “sin” stocks such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling, firearms, etc. A new report from Credit Suisse points out that there is a cost associated with socially-responsible investing – in the form of lower performance returns.

    I bring this to your attention, not in an attempt to discourage it, but to point out that there is a cost involved in “politically-correct” investing. In my 35+ years in the financial business, I have never seen an analysis that compares socially-responsible investing to investing in so-called sin stocks. I think you’ll find it very interesting.

    But before we jump into those topics, I want to briefly revisit the likelihood that the Federal Communications Commission, under orders from President Obama, will vote a week from Thursday to take control of our precious Internet. It now looks inevitable that the federal government will enact what may prove to be one of the largest power grabs in history!

    ...
  • Passive Vs. Active Investing, a New Perspective

    Since the bear market low in early March 2009, US stocks have come roaring back, the last few days not withstanding. In fact, the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 are within striking distance of their all-time highs. It is not surprising, then, that advocates for passive buy-and-hold strategies are once again singing their praises: See we told you, the market always comes back!

    What they fail to mention, however, is that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of investors bailed out of the stock markets in late 2008 and early 2009 and never got back in. The S&P 500 Index plunged almost 51% from its October 2007 high to the low in early March 2009. Not many investors had the stomach for that kind of collapse. Yet the buy-and-hold crowd would now have you believe that everyone held onto their stocks and mutual funds during that period. Not so!

    Today, we will take a fresh, objective look at buy-and-hold versus the actively-managed programs we recommend at Halbert Wealth Management that aim to make at least market rates of return during up cycles, and hold downside losses to a minimum. I will give you the pros and cons of both strategies and show you how you can get these professionally-managed programs in your portfolio (if you don't have them already).

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  • Stratfor’s Annual Global Forecast for 2011

    Since January is the month for forecasts, today I present you with Stratfor’s global forecast for the New Year which was just released last week. Due to the length of the report, I could not reprint all of it below, but all of the main points are included. I trust you’ll find this forecast very interesting, and as always, I thank Stratfor for allowing me to reprint some of their work from time to time. I highly recommend that you subscribe at Stratfor.com to stay a step ahead of world events.

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  • 2011: More Questions Than Answers?

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1.  More Questions Than Answers in the New Year

    2.  Long-Term Interest Rates: Correction or New Trend?

    3.  “A Fed-Induced Speculative Blowoff” by John Hussman

    4.  Will US Stocks Continue Higher in 2011?

    5.  Just Getting Back to Breakeven

    ...
  • Inflation Coming Sooner Rather Than Later

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1.  The Real Inflation Rate

    2.  What We Pay Versus What They Say

    3.  Federal Workers Making $150,000+ Soars

    4.  Obama Calls for 2-Year Federal Pay Freeze

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  • Inflation, Deflation or Stagflation?

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1. The Inflation/Deflation Debate

    2. Why Governments Love Inflation

    3. Deflation – Beyond Lower Prices

    4. The Shock Doctrine

    5. What You Should Be Doing

    ...
  • The Stock Market Conundrum

    The market goes up, the market goes down. Will we have a sustained rally, or is this just a 'sucker rally' that will soon end with a significant downturn? As we look to the experts to help answer these questions, we find that their predictions are all over the map. Many quantitative models are saying the market is severely overbought, while those relying on fundamental analysis say the market is fairly priced. It seems that the more 'expert' opinions we get, the more confusing it becomes for investors to know what to do.

    The biggest question for investors who are currently on the sidelines is whether they have missed the majority of the bull market rally, or if it still has a way to go. This is especially true in the case of Baby Boomers, whose retirement nest eggs have been hit by two major bear markets within a decade. They need the growth that the market has the potential to produce, but can't stand another major down market, which may also be in the cards.

    This week, I'm going to discuss the various viewpoints both for and against a sustained market rally. As you will see, both sides are supported by facts, figures and historical precedent. They can't both be right, but both could be wrong should the market be headed into a broad trading range.

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  • Institutionalized Deception

    Some of you may remember the colorful radio ads featuring Eddie Chiles, CEO of the Western Company. He was famous for his 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more' commentaries. I remember seeing scores of cars sporting an 'I'm mad too, Eddie' bumper sticker. I just have to wonder how mad Eddie would be right now concerning the institutionalized deception going on in the financial services industry. At a point in time when the public is calling for increased integrity from their financial institutions, just the opposite seems to be happening. Unfortunately, most Americans have no idea the wool is being pulled over their eyes. Read on to see if you have been the victim of 'institutionalized deception.'

    ...
  • On The Economy, Bonds & Bear Market Rallies

    Last Wednesday the government reported that 1Q GDP declined at an annual rate of 6.1%, thus confirming that we are still in a deep recession. While the GDP report was worse than the pre-report consensus, it was very much in line with what I predicted in my April 21 E-Letter. I continue to believe that we will be in this recession all year.

    Several recently released studies highlight the fact that long maturity Treasury bonds have outperformed stocks over the last 40+ years, and by a substantial margin over the last 28 years. I will examine these reports as we go along. Does this mean you should put all of your money in bonds now? I'll tell you why I believe that would be the wrong move to make at this time.

    Finally, we get calls every day asking if the recent rally in the stock markets means that the bear market is over, or if this is just a bear market rally. While no one knows for sure, we will take a look at some past bear market rallies to keep things in perspective. I think you'll find this week's letter interesting....
  • When Will The Bull Market Return?

    I'm going to be out of the office most of this week spending time with my son who is home from college on Spring Break. Since we live on Lake Travis near Austin, I'm sure he'll have me driving the boat while he and his buddies ski and wakeboard. That being the case, I'm going to reprint an excellent article by David Henry entitled "When Will the Bull Return?" David brings some good insights in to how stock market cycles work, and just how long it might be before the current bear market comes to an end.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Henry's note of caution is not being heeded by Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) climbed just over 9% last week, prompting many bull market cheerleaders to proclaim that the stock market has hit the bottom and its now on the way back up. While this may be true, it is also a fact that there have been many "market bottom" calls over the course of this bear market and, so far, they have all been wrong. After the article reprint, I'll briefly discuss why I think Wall Street so desperately needs a new bull market.

    Then, I'm going to share with you a way to begin introducing active management strategies into your own portfolio. By making "half a decision," you can test the waters of active management without totally abandoning other strategies that you may now employ. Buy-and-hold strategies are fatally flawed, so maybe its time you tried something else....
  • Why The Stock Markets Are Collapsing

    The US economy is in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the latest economic reports have been even worse than expected. The US stock markets continue to collapse, with the Dow and the S&P 500 down well over 50% since the peak in October 2007. It is estimated that $10 trillion in wealth has disappeared in the US alone as a result of the stock market bust. Investors around the world are asking WHY? In my opinion, a big reason why the markets are collapsing is the trillions of dollars in new federal spending that President Obama has enacted. Plus, his record $3.55 trillion federal budget for 2010 will likely result in a deficit of over $2 trillion for fiscal 2010. I believe that this enormous spending, plus his other liberal plans that he intends to put in place this year, are serving to drive stock prices much lower than what should be happening. This is a lot to cover in one letter, so let's get started....
  • Who's Making Money In This Crazy Stock Market?

    Can you believe this crazy stock market? After the S&P 500 Index rose almost 2% last Thursday, its value plummeted over 3% the very next day. In times like these, even many seasoned money managers have faltered. However, we have discovered a money manager who has not only survived the market's recent volatility, but has actually thrived in it....
  • Is Worst Of The Credit Crunch Behind Us?

    This week we ponder the state of the US economy and whether or not we have seen the worst of the so-called "credit crunch." The economy performed better than expected in the 1Q, and more and more analysts are concluding that we are not in a recession....