Dear Clients and Friends:
Last quarter’s client letter focused on a major personal financial transition – retirement. Shortly after that letter, DV Financial began a major business transition. On August 24th we announced a new SEC Registered Investment Adviser (RIA), Independent Wealth Network, Inc., which I co-founded. Since our previous RIA was owned by our previous Broker-Dealer, the creation of Independent Wealth Network also required us to find a new Broker-Dealer relationship. Since August 24th we have been busy reaching out to every client, one at a time, to explain the transition and to facilitate the documents required to continue working together. For those who have already completed the transition, thank you. For those who have started the process but the transition is not yet complete, please know that we are working hard towards completion. For those who have not yet had the opportunity, please feel free to reach out to us or we will be in touch with you very soon.
With any major change, realistically we have to expect the occasional hurdle. As accounts are updated, there may be brief periods where we are unable to provide the timely/immediate service you have come to expect. Rest assured, this is only temporary. Despite this, there are several wonderful outcomes we are looking forward to.
Perhaps the most important and obvious benefit comes from the need to reach out to every client individually. While we always try to maintain open communications, many of you are busy people! Part of the value of working with us is that your financial wellness is being taken care of without a lot of effort on your part. This leaves you free to spend your time and energy elsewhere. We have already had several instances where we were able to address things clients had in mind, but probably would not have been enough of a priority to initiate right away.
We are also excited about the less visible, but still important, systems and infrastructure we are now using. Your accounts, products, and underlying investments are not affected but we are implementing state of the art technologies which will provide better information in almost real time. Armed with this information, we feel confident that we can better monitor your accounts, adjust as necessary, and better report your results.
Switching gears: New highs and the fundamentals
The S&P 500 Index finished the quarter at a record high. Notably, the closely followed gauge of 500 large U.S. stocks ran up its quarterly winning streak to eight consecutive quarters (WSJ, MarketWatch data) despite three devastating hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria, dysfunction and gridlock in Washington, and unsettling headlines about North Korea. Since we tend to focus on economic fundamentals rather than headlines, a strong market isn’t really a surprise to us.
Stocks prices are a function of corporate profit growth, and profits are driven primarily by economic growth at home and abroad. We are in the midst of a synchronized global expansion which has created a strong tailwind for earnings. Moreover, interest rates remain near historic lows and the Federal Reserve hasn’t been shy about signaling that any rate hikes are expected to come at a gradual pace.
If one were to concoct a recipe for bull market, they would probably go heavy on profits and economic growth, then sprinkle in low interest rates—oh, wait a minute—that’s today’s environment!
This is not to understate the personal and life changing impact of the damage caused by the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. While the short term economic data will probably be adversely affected by the storms, it is unlikely to have much impact on the long term trajectory. Similarly, North Korea’s quest for an ICBM that can strike the U.S. is very unsettling. While short-term investors seem to be pricing in the unpredictability of the rogue regime, long term investors behavior indicates they are not anticipating a disruption in the economic cycle.
Despite the troubling news, and there seems to always be something in the news to worry about, it simply isn’t affecting U.S. economic activity.
Key Index Returns
|MTD %||YTD %||3-year* %|
|Dow Jones Industrial Average||+2.1||+13.4||+9.5|
|S&P 500 Index||+1.9||+12.5||+8.4|
|Russell 2000 Index||+7.4||+9.9||+10.1|
|MSCI World ex-USA**||+2.3||+16.5||+1.8|
|MSCI Emerging Markets**||-0.6||+25.5||+2.5|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond TR||-0.5||+3.1||+2.7|
Source: Wall Street Journal, MSCI.com, MarketWatch, Morningstar. MTD returns: August, 2017-September 29, 2017. YTD returns: December 30, 2016-September 29, 2017 *Annualized **In U.S. dollars
The quote “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree,” was attributed to the late Louisiana Senator Russell Long, who chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee from 1966 to 1981 (NYT). He assisted with tax reform in 1986, and Congress is now considering the first major rewrite of the tax code since then. The initiative that’s been proposed by the President and the Congressional Republican leadership is simply a blueprint. It must clear many hurdles before becoming law.
The framework is silent on how dividends and capital gains will be treated, and no mention has been made of the 3.8% surtax on investment income for high-income Americans. The outline calls for special treatment for retirement accounts, but no other details were provided. A 20% top corporate rate, down from 35%, has been proposed. It’s roughly in-line with most developed nations and is expected to be supportive of stocks. Knowing the bill will likely see many changes before it is finalized, anticipating and positioning for changes would be very difficult.
It is early in the game and any discussion of the final points would be purely speculative. Nonetheless, please reach out to me if you have any questions. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss tax reform, your investments or financial planning, our transition, or anything else which may be a concern for you. I am never more than an email or phone call away, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-255-3354.
As always, I’m honored and humbled that you have given us the opportunity to serve as your financial confidant and advisor. As this letter winds down we realize that the year is winding down too. We wish you and your family a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.
Art Dinkin, CFP®
This newsletter contains general information that may not be suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter will come to pass. Investing in the stock market involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security. Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Unless otherwise noted, performance of indices do not account for any fees, commissions or other expenses that would be incurred. Returns do not include reinvested dividends. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded “blue chip” stocks, primarily industrials, but includes financials and other service-oriented companies. The components, which change from time to time, represent between 15% and 20% of the market value of NYSE stocks. The Nasdaq Composite Index is a market-capitalization weighted index of the more than 3,000 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The types of securities in the index include American depositary receipts, common stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and tracking stocks. The index includes all Nasdaq listed stocks that are not derivatives, preferred shares, funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or debentures. The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value. The Russell 2000 Index is an unmanaged index that measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe. The MSCI All Country World Index ex USA Investable Market Index (IMI) captures large, mid and small cap representation across 22 of 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries (excluding the United States) and 23 Emerging Markets (EM) countries*. With 6,062 constituents, the index covers approximately 99% of the global equity opportunity set outside the US. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index that consists of indices in 21 emerging economies: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey. Barclays Aggregate Bond Index includes U.S. government, corporate, and mortgage-backed securities with maturities of at least one year.