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Investing When the Market is at an All-Time High

Posted by Doug Hutchinson | CFA®, Director of Research and Trading

September 18, 2018

Should You Be Concerned About the Height of the Market?

US equity markets have been trading at or near all-time highs recently as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both reached new highs multiple times in August.1 This news has led some skeptics to believe that a US stock market at a record high level could be a cause for concern.

Does reaching an all-time high mean that the market is more likely to decline in the near future?

After all, reaching an all-time high means we could be at the peak of the market and we could now be poised for a sell-off. Before we get too caught up in the hype though, let’s take a look back at what market highs have shown historically.

Looking at the month-by-month returns of the S&P 500 (including dividends) from 1900 through July 2018, 276 of all months in this time period ended at all-time highs as compared to the monthly close of all previous months.2

Interestingly enough, of these 275 months ending at all-time highs prior to July 2018, 258 of them, or 93.8%, were followed by at least one new month-end all-time high at some point in the next year. 98.2% of all-time highs were followed by at least one new all-time high within the next 5 years and 99.3% of all-time highs were followed by at least one new all-time high within the next 10 years.

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Investment Planning

How Should You Handle Roth IRA, HSA, and 401k Savings? – Doug’s Quiz Corner

September 14, 2018
Saving for Retirement and Potential Health Care Costs Your friend Jody has recently started a new job and she has several options for saving for her retirement and future health care costs. Jody’s new employer offers a 401(k) with a match of up to 3% of her salary. They also offer a Health Savings Account (HSA) option. Jody lives in a state that does not tax withdrawals from HSAs for qualified medical expenses and contributions to HSAs may be deducted from taxable income for state income tax purposes. In addition, Jody also has a Roth IRA which she is using to save for her retirement. Jody is in very good health and would prefer to have a health plan that limited her upfront health care costs while allowing her to save for future expenses. She is comfortable with a high deductible plan. She is financially secure and doesn’t plan on touching the money in her Roth IRA until retirement. Assume Jody meets the eligibility requirements to participate in her employers 401(k) program, enroll in a Health Saving Account, and simultaneously has enough to contribute to a Roth IRA. [+] Read More

Nuveen Sees Economic Growth Picking Up, Believes It Should Help Stock Prices

September 13, 2018
Trade issues may continue to cause trouble but shouldn’t derail the bull market or end the economic expansion. Investor sentiment was mixed last week. Negatives included concerns about market liquidity, sparked by the rising value of the U.S. dollar and fears of contagion from some emerging markets. Ongoing trade issues also posed a general concern, particularly fears surrounding a potential new round of U.S./Chinese tariffs. On the positive side, investors focused on strong U.S. economic data that pointed to accelerating growth. The negatives won in the end, as the S&P 500 Index fell 1% for the week, after rising during eight of the nine previous trading weeks. Liquidity Concerns Appear Overstated Some investors are growing more concerned about shrinking liquidity as the Federal Reserve raises rates and shrinks its balance sheet, the value of the dollar climbs and select emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina experience currency crises. Of all of these factors, we are most concerned about the rising dollar. The increase is not overly problematic by itself, but we would be more worried if interest rates were higher and rising more quickly and/or if economic growth were decelerating. On balance, we recognize that market liquidity is growing more constrained and the current economic cycle and equity bull market are in their later stages. But we believe such concerns are overwrought. The global banking system remains healthy and global monetary policy is still relatively easy, which suggests that a liquidity squeeze isn’t in the cards. [+] Read More

Investing Isn’t Always About Retirement Planning

September 5, 2018
When we talk about saving and investing for the future, the conversation usually steers quickly towards retirement planning – IRAs, 401(k)s, pensions, Roth IRAs, and so on. After all, retirement is when all of your careful saving, well-intentioned investing, and hard work pays off. It’s when you’re finally supposed to be able to live the good life. But investing isn’t always about retirement planning. Nor should it be. While it’s true that many people share the same goal of retiring with financial security, there are myriad of other life goals that require careful saving, planning, and investment returns. J.P. Morgan Asset Management created a graphic that effectively illustrates this point: [+] Read More

Should You Invest Your Entire Investment Portfolio in a Single Management Strategy?

September 4, 2018
We’ve all heard the term “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Of course, this concept can be easily applied to investing. Many sophisticated investors understand that investing in only one stock, or only one asset class, or only one anything is risky. However, the question of whether or not you should invest in just one money manager is rarely directly addressed. A key objective of diversified investing is to build a portfolio that is spread across multiple asset classes in an effort to lower the overall volatility of the portfolio. If you invest your entire portfolio in one single stock it’s clear that your entire portfolio will be tied to the fortunes, and therefore risk of that one company. Adding additional investments to the portfolio can lower the overall volatility and risk of the portfolio, especially if you are adding additional holdings with low correlations to one another. In other words, if your portfolio zigs, you want to add something that zags to get the most effective diversification benefit. To take this further, if your portfolio is made up entirely of one large cap telecom stock, adding a second and third large cap telecom stock may give you little in the way diversification benefit if each of these companies have similar factors that drive their returns. Ideally, a portfolio will be well diversified among different sectors. That way, if one sector is performing poorly, this poor performance may be offset by other sectors with stronger performance. Likewise, geographical diversification is important to help mitigate the impact of a poorly performing market. [+] Read More

Nuveen Sees Investors Looking Past Risks to Bid Stocks to New Highs

August 30, 2018
We see threats to equities, but we don't believe this bull market is over. Last week featured multiple negative political headlines for President Donald Trump that questioned the stability of his administration. The news was also dominated by signs of increased trade tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as statements from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that interest rate hikes were likely to continue. Despite the noise, however, investors continued moving money into stocks, causing the current bull market to become the longest in history and the S&P 500 Index to reach new record highs by the end of last week. It is natural to ask what risks will likely cause the bull market to end, as equity prices again reach new highs and the roller coaster action that has dominated markets since February appears to be over (at least for now). Rising protectionism appears to be the biggest theat. From a rational perspective, we think this risk should fade since trade restrictions are ultimately a lose-lose proposition. And the United States appears more willing to negotiate than President Trump’s tough rhetoric would indicate. Trade uncertainty remains a wildcard, but we still believe that an all-out trade war is unlikely. [+] Read More

How to Successfully Roll Over Your 401(k)

August 29, 2018
When a person leaves a job to retire or to join another employer, there are often decisions about what to do with your 401(k). Should you leave it where it is, and just not mess with it? Should you roll it over to your new employer’s plan? Should you roll it into an IRA? Those three questions, in fact, present three distinct options for an investor to potentially choose from. In this post, we’ll examine each option, detail the pros and cons, and in the process, hope to provide you a road map for how to successfully manage your 401(k). After all, there’s no reason for an investor to not do something with their 401(k) because it just seems too hard to move without incurring penalties. Our biggest suggestion though is that – unless it’s absolutely necessary – you resist the temptation to cash out. Cashing out of a 401(k) and taking it as a distribution means potentially incurring a sizable tax burden, and if you are under the age of 59 ½ your distribution will also be subject to an early distribution penalty of 10% unless an exemption (such as medical costs) exists. [+] Read More

Lord Abbett Dives Into the Roth Recharacterization Repeal in the New Tax Act

August 23, 2018
Recharacterization of Roth IRA conversions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s has been repealed, but recharacterizing Roth contributions is still permitted. When Congress passed the Tax Reform Act of 1997, what was originally referred to as “IRA Plus” became known as Roth IRA after its primary sponsor, Senator William Roth (Del.). Two decades later, Roth IRAs continue to grow in popularity and assets, especially with younger investors. More than 30% of Roth IRA investors are younger than 40, while cumulative assets have grown to more than $660 billion as of December 31, 2016 (latest available), according to the Investment Company Institute. [+] Read More

Financial Best Practices for New Parents

August 22, 2018
Having a baby (or babies!) and starting a family means so many exciting, happy, but also unknown things. For first time parents, in particular, it means navigating the often head-spinning tasks of feeding, caring for, and cleaning a baby while also working, taking care of the house, and if you’re lucky, sleeping. For most new parents, there’s not enough time in any day to get everything done, and by the end of every day you’re exhausted. Making time for budgeting, financial planning, and taking steps to prepare for the child’s future can often seem so far out of reach. But at the end of the day, it must be done. A recent study found that in the first year alone, the cost of raising a baby can run upward of $21,000 – and that’s not even factoring-in any unexpected illnesses or conditions an infant might have early-on, which are quite common. From the time the baby is born until he or she turns 18, the total cost of upbringing can range from $260,000 (“no-frills”) to $745,000.¹ In short, it’s no financial walk in the park. [+] Read More

Should Investors Stress Over an Inverted Yield Curve?

August 21, 2018
Despite Apple topping $1 trillion in market value, the unemployment rate continuing to climb down, and a multitude of other positive market indicators, the Treasury yield curve has begun worrying some market analysts. That said, we don’t feel that investors should worry too much about an inverted yield curve. Here’s why… The Treasury Yield Curve as an Indicator of Recession The Treasury yield curve is typically upward sloping where long-term yields are higher than short-term yields. The longer the time to maturity, the higher the risk to the bondholder since the longer-term bonds have a longer time horizon and are therefore exposed to more potential changes in interest rates than short-term bonds. This forces investors in long term bonds to seek higher yields in exchange for accepting the added risk of a longer maturity bond. What is the Treasury yield curve? The U.S. Treasury Yield Curve compares the yields of short-term Treasury bills (those with terms of less than a year) with long-term Treasure notes and bonds (notes have terms of two, three, five, and 10 years while bonds have terms of 20 or 30 years). Yields always move in the opposite direction of Treasury bond prices because low demand drives the price below the face value while high demand drives the price above face value. The yield curve becomes inverted when short-term yields are higher than long-term yields. An inverted yield curve does not happen very often, but it has preceded every recession in the U.S. for the last 50 years.1 What Causes an Inverted Yield Curve? [+] Read More