If you have listened to the news on the financial channels over the past couple of years, you have probably heard many of the pundits wax and wane about the age of our current bull market. Most market followers mark the beginning of this bull market as March 9, 2009, which suggests that we have just celebrated this market’s tenth birthday.
Now it seems we hear daily about various strategies promising to protect your investments from the demise of the bull market, but the end of the bull market just seems to move further and further out into the future.
One of my favorite moments in recent months was the presentation of the market strategist from Fidelity Investments at a Raymond James Regional Conference last fall. He presented a slide detailing the interest rate forecasts of the “Professional Forecasters” from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank’s data bank. The slide shows that over the past 16 years, forecasters have consistently (and almost always incorrectly) predicted higher interest rates for the next 12 months. Their track record was terrible, and these individuals are supposed to be the brightest, best-informed economists in the country.
The takeaway, obviously, is to ignore predictions. Forecasts about future interest rates as well as predictions about the age of the bull markets are notoriously inaccurate. Our advice is to own high-quality investments that may survive the inevitable correction and to avoid watching too much television.
“We’ve long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children.”
WHAT KEEPS THE MARKET GOING?
Normally, the end of bull markets is caused by the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to cool off inflation, which puts the brakes on the housing and automotive industries, two of the largest economic engines in our economy.
As we discussed in last month’s letter, our theory is that inflation is being kept in check by the availability of so many products from around the world over the internet. Unlike the U.S. before 1995, U.S. companies are now competing with companies from around the world, which drastically limits their ability to raise prices. This keeps inflation from getting a foothold and, in turn, allows the Federal Reserve to be more patient in pushing interest rates higher.
Although we experienced a slight increase in interest rates in 2018, which cooled off the housing and automotive industries, business in those industries leveled off but did not fall dramatically. Therefore, our service industries have continued to do well and employment have continued to be healthy. So far, so good.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 2019 RAYMOND JAMES INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS CONFERENCE
Each year in early March, I am fortunate to be able to attend the Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference held in Orlando, Florida. Portfolio managers from around the world gather to hear presentations from the Executive teams of many of the companies covered by the Raymond James Research Department.
This year over nineteen hundred mutual fund and pension fund managers attended, including over seven hundred international managers from Europe and around the world. Over 300 executive teams presented their stories in thirty minute “dog and pony shows” followed by Q&A sessions. The opportunity to size up not only the business prospects of the companies but also the quality and vision of the leadership teams is invaluable.
I never know what I am going to learn at this conference or on an airplane going to and from it. When the conversations turned to leisure time and they discovered that I own a farm, the portfolio managers from Europe immediately wanted my opinion about Tractor Supply and my shopping habits there. It seemed to be one of their favorites.
In an airport conversation that became extended by a weather delay, a delightful young lady whose family owns a chain of rent-to-own stores shared with me that over 70% of their business comes from repeat customers, giving me a much more positive view about that industry. As a result, I was prompted to attend sessions of two companies in that business…you just never know what you will learn!
Another benefit of attendance at the Conference is the opportunity to hear the comments of the speakers about the general economy, the cyclical trends in their respective businesses, and the behavior of consumers from their perspective.
The Home Depot team, for example, convincingly predicted that they see no signs of a recession in 2019 from the behavior of their customers.
Another surprising bit of information came from the boating industry, including the Brunswick Corporation, MasterCraft Boat Holdings and Malabu Boat leadership teams. They said that the boat business is booming…surprising given that there is no purchase more discretionary than a boat! The economy must be doing okay!
All that being said, we work every day to examine the investments available and structure your portfolios to minimize short-term volatility as much as possible and perform well over the longer term. As we always remind you, please call if you need any reassurance that your portfolio is positioned to meet your financial needs. We always enjoy your calls.
Any opinions are those of Dave Crouch and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained
in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate
or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of any non- Raymond James speakers.