US consumer confidence rose for the 4th straight month and posted its second highest reading in the last 16 years. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index increased to a reading of 122.9 in August which was above expectations. US consumers remain upbeat thanks to the strong stock market, rising real estate prices and a tight labor market. Consumers have thus far shaken off the news of violence in Charlottesville and the increasing tensions between North Korea and the US. While war is always a risk to markets, we believe that cooler heads will prevail. Tougher sanctions will likely be the next step against North Korea unless they do something really crazy. Keep in mind that North Korea is so puny that it is almost laughable. It is like boxer Floyd Merriweather showing up to your house for a fight. For comparison, in one day, the US makes up over 2x the size of North Korea's annual GDP.
As a dedicated reader to our blog, you may have noticed that our blogging pace has slowed this summer much like the stock market. I guess you can say we are both stuck in neutral. Well we are still grinding away but have been busy with conferences and now I am on a much needed holiday to recharge and enjoy some shave ice. Don't worry I will back blogging with more regularity next week. As for the stock market, the sell in May philosophy has worked well again this year. While seasonality doesn't occur exactly the same every year, there definitely are seasonal trends that prevail in the stock market. This year, the S&P 500 has been stuck in a sideways move since June and volatility has picked up a bit as well.
Since last summer, I have written several blog posts on positive earnings from the S&P 500 constituents. We view accelerating earnings growth as a key driver of stock prices moving forward. Schwab's Chief Global Investment Strategist Jeffrey Kleintop just wrote a very compelling post called "Earnings may be about to do something they've never done before." Thanks to global growth picking up across virtually all regions, global earnings (measured by the MSCI All Country World Index) are expected to reach new heights in the near future. This is also bullish for the S&P 500 which generates roughly 44% of its revenues from outside the US.
Despite the weekly doomsday headlines (this week is from filmmaker Michael Moore - we do not recommend taking investment advice from fimmakers, ever), Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper called comparisons of today's market with the tech bubble of 1999 'ridiculous' and we wholeheartedly agree. Tepper who runs Appaloosa Management says that the market run doesn't translate into over the top valuations in equities.
Last Friday on CNBC, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said that it's fair to characterize the current bond bubble as an "irrational exuberance" type of forecast. He did hedge the statement by saying that he has "no time frame on the forecast." Also note that he started making this bond bubble call in 2015.
Happy birthday to our Founder/Chairman (and my dad) Sam Wang!
Berkshire Hathaway is close to a milestone that Warren Buffett doesn't want to achieve. On Friday, the company reported that it held $99.7 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter. Thanks to a collection of businesses that generate lots of cash, Berkshire's cash has been growing steadily in recent years. Because the company doesn't pay a dividend and rarely buys back its own stock, Buffett is on the hook to find ways to invest those funds. The huge cash hoard shouldn't be taken as a pure bearish signal. Remember he didn't sell assets to raise cash. In fact, he would love to spend some and he said "I hate cash" earlier this year. However, he is having trouble getting the right company at the right price.
Strategist Jim Paulsen just said the perfect quote to be scoffed at on social media. Of course he doesn't believe this but it makes for the headline of the day for CNBC. Gotta love it. In the past, you would probably say that this signals a market top but if you look below the headline, his bullish case is much like ours. He just said the quote to gain more views and mission accomplished on that.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised its China's GDP growth forecast for 2017 and 2018 to 6.7% and 6.4% respectively. This is up from an upgrade made in April to 6.6% and 6.2%. China's growth is expected to continue to be a key driver for a firming recovery of the global economy.
I just read an interview with retired fund manager Bob Rodriguez who managed award winning FPA mutual funds in stocks and bonds. Like us, Rodriguez believes in owning cash when there is a storm on the horizon and he held significant amounts of cash (30-40%) in 2000 and 2008 in his actively managed stock mutual fund. He is now retired but he is seeing a perfect storm developing thanks to the huge shift into passive management where there are NO cash holdings. When the next downturn hits, many of those invested strictly in passive instruments will likely be hit extremely hard and their timing will be poor to hit the sell button. Here are his insights on the coming storm:
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