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E+R=O, a Formula for Success

Combining an enduring investment philosophy with a simple formula that helps maintain investment discipline can increase the odds of having a positive financial experience.

“The important thing about an investment philosophy is that you have one you can stick with.”

David Booth
Founder and Executive Chairman
Dimensional Fund Advisors

An Enduring Investment Philosophy

Investing is a long-term endeavor. Indeed, people will spend decades pursuing their financial goals. But being an investor can be complicated, challenging, frustrating, and sometimes frightening. This is exactly why, as David Booth says, it is important to have an investment philosophy you can stick with, one that can help you stay the course.

This simple idea highlights an important question: How can investors, maintain discipline through bull markets, bear markets, political strife, economic instability, or whatever crisis du jour threatens progress towards their investment goals?

Over their lifetimes, investors face many decisions, prompted by events that are both within and outside their control. Without an enduring philosophy to inform their choices, they can potentially suffer unnecessary anxiety, leading to poor decisions and outcomes that are damaging to their long-term financial well-being.

When they don’t get the results they want, many investors blame things outside their control. They might point the finger at the government, central banks, markets, or the economy. Unfortunately, the majority will not do the things that might be more beneficial—evaluating and reflecting on their own responses to events and taking responsibility for their decisions.

e+r=o

Some people suggest that among the characteristics that separate highly successful people from the rest of us is a focus on influencing outcomes by controlling one’s reactions to events, rather than the events themselves. This relationship can be described in the following formula:

e+r=o (Event + Response = Outcome)

Simply put, this means an outcome—either positive or negative—is the result of how you respond to an event, not just the result of the event itself. Of course, events are important and influence outcomes, but not exclusively. If this were the case, everyone would have the same outcome regardless of their response.

Let’s think about this concept in a hypothetical investment context. Say a major political surprise, such as Brexit, causes a market to fall (event). In a panicked response, potentially fueled by gloomy media speculation of the resulting uncertainty, an investor sells some or all of his or her investment (response). Lacking a long-term perspective and reacting to the short-term news, our investor misses out on the subsequent market recovery and suffers anxiety about when, or if, to get back in, leading to suboptimal investment returns (outcome).

To see the same hypothetical example from a different perspective, a surprise event causes markets to fall suddenly (e). Based on his or her understanding of the long-term nature of returns and the short-term nature of volatility spikes around news events, an investor is able to control his or her emotions (r) and maintain investment discipline, leading to a higher chance of a successful long‑term outcome (o).

This example reveals why having an investment philosophy is so important. By understanding how markets work and maintaining a long-term perspective on past events, investors can focus on ensuring that their responses to events are consistent with their long-term plan.

The Foundation of an Enduring Philosophy

An enduring investment philosophy is built on solid principles backed by decades of empirical academic evidence. Examples of such principles might be: trusting that prices are set to provide a fair expected return; recognizing the difference between investing and speculating; relying on the power of diversification to manage risk and increase the reliability of outcomes; and benchmarking your progress against your own realistic long-term investment goals.

Combined, these principles might help us react better to market events, even when those events are globally significant or when, as some might suggest, a paradigm shift has occurred, leading to claims that “it’s different this time.” Adhering to these principles can also help investors resist the siren calls of new investment fads or worse, outright scams.

The Guiding Hand of a Trusted Advisor

Without education and training—sometimes gained from bitter experience—it is hard for non-investment professionals to develop a cogent investment philosophy. And even the most self-aware find it hard to manage their own responses to events. This is why a financial advisor can be so valuable—by providing the foundation of an investment philosophy and acting as an experienced counselor when responding to events.

Investing will always be both alluring and scary at times, but a view of how to approach investing combined with the guidance of a professional advisor can help people stay the course through challenging times. Advisors can provide an objective view and help investors separate emotions from investment decisions. Moreover, great advisors can educate, communicate, set realistic financial goals, and help their clients deal with their responses even to the most extreme market events.

In the spirit of the e+r=o formula, good advice, driven by a sound philosophy, can help increase the probability of having a successful financial outcome.

1. Jack Canfield, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004).
Adapted from “E+R=O, a Formula for Success,” The Front Foot Adviser, by David Jones, Vice President and Head of Financial Adviser Services, EMEA. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securi­ties and Exchange Commission. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. Investors should talk to their financial advisor prior to making any investment decision. There is always the risk that an investor may lose money. A long-term investment approach cannot guarantee a profit. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
Rathbone Warwick 2nd Quarter Market Review (2018)

Sailing with the Tides

Embarking on a financial plan is like sailing around the world. The voyage won’t always go to plan, and there’ll be rough seas. But the odds of reaching your destination increase greatly if you are prepared, flexible, patient, and well-advised. A mistake many inexperienced sailors make is not having a plan at all. They embark without a clear sense of their destination. And once they do decide, they often find themselves lost at sea in the wrong boat with inadequate provisions.

Likewise, in planning an investment journey, you need to decide on your goal. A first step might be to consider whether the goal is realistic and achievable. For instance, while you may long to retire in the south of France, you may not be prepared to sacrifice your needs today to satisfy that distant desire. Once you are set on a realistic destination, you need to ensure you have the right portfolio to get you there. Have you planned for multiple contingencies? What degree of “bad weather” can your plan withstand along the way?

The key to a successful voyage is a good navigator. A trusted advisor is like that, regularly taking coordinates and making adjustments, if necessary. If your circumstances change, the advisor may suggest you replot your course.

As with the weather at sea, markets can be unpredictable. A sudden squall can whip up waves of volatility, tides can shift, and strong currents can threaten to blow you off course. Like a seasoned sailor, an experienced advisor will work with the conditions. Once the storm passes, you can pick up speed again. Just as a sturdy vessel will help you withstand most conditions at sea, a well-diversified portfolio can act as a bulwark against the sometimes tempestuous conditions in markets.

Circumnavigating the globe is not exciting every day. Patience is required with local customs and paperwork as you pull into different ports. Likewise, a lack of attention to costs and taxes is the enemy of many a long-term financial plan.

Distractions can also send investors, like sailors, off course. In the face of “hot” investment trends, it takes discipline not to veer from your chosen plan. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, media pundits can also be diverting, tempting you to change tack and act on news that is already priced in to markets. A lack of flexibility is another impediment to a successful investment journey. If it doesn’t look as though you’ll make your destination in time, you may have to extend your voyage, take a different route to get there, or even moderate your goal.

The important point is that you become comfortable with the idea that uncertainty is inherent to the investment journey, just as it is with any sea voyage. That is why preparation and planning are so critical. While you can’t control every outcome, you can be prepared for the range of possibilities and understand that you have clear choices if things don’t go according to plan.

If you can’t live with the volatility, you can change your plan. If the goal looks unachievable, you can lower your sights. If it doesn’t look as if you’ll arrive on time, you can extend your journey.

Of course, not everyone’s journey is the same. Neither is everyone’s destination. We take different routes to different places, and we meet a range of challenges and opportunities along the way. But for all of us, it’s critical that we are prepared for our journeys in the right vessel, keep our destinations in mind, stick with the plans, and have a trusted navigator to chart our courses and keep us on target.

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Adapted from “Sailing with the Tides,” Outside the Flags by Jim Parker, March 2018. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee an investing strategy will be successful. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Stocks Won

October 9, 2017 First Trust Monday Morning Outlook

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist  ·  Robert Stein, CFA – Dep. Chief Economist  ·  Strider Elass – Economist

Today, October 9th is exactly ten years from the stock market peak before the Financial Panic of 2008.

Imagine that Doctor Doom, the perceived “best analyst in the business,” told you on that night, when markets peaked, that financial authorities would allow mark-to-market accounting rules to burn the banking system to the ground, with many well-known financial firms failing or being taken over by the government. You knew the unemployment rate was going to soar to 10% and the economy would experience the deepest recession since the 1930s. You also knew the US would soon elect a president that would socialize much more of the health care system, raise top income tax rates, and push the Medicare tax for high income earners up by an additional 3.8%. Finally, you knew that ten years later all of those new taxes and expanded health care policies would still be in place.

Then imagine you knew the federal debt would be more than 100% of GDP, with massive annual deficits predicted as far as the eye could see.

Then, imagine you were allowed one investment choice, a choice you had to stick to for the next ten years, through thick and thin, no reallocation allowed. Put all your investable assets in the S&P 500, a 10-year Treasury Note, gold, oil, housing, or cash. Pick just one of these assets and let your investment ride.

Which asset would you have picked? Be honest! In that environment, with that kind of foresight, right at a stock market peak, it would have been awfully tough to pick stocks.

And yet, on the basis of total return, over the last ten years, that’s the asset that did the best. Assuming no major shift in the next week, the S&P 500 has generated a total return (capital gains plus reinvested dividends) of 7.2% per year, essentially doubling in value in ten years.

Gold did well, but lagged stocks, increasing 5.7% per year. A 10-year Treasury Note purchased that night (now coming due), would have generated a yield of 4.7%. Oil was a laggard, down 4.3% per year. Home prices increased about 1% per year, on average, and “cash” averaged 0.4%, both trailing the 1.6% average gain in the consumer price index.

You might have slept better by investing in 4.7% Treasury Notes. Certainly the volatility of stocks, and the cascade of financial news headlines predicting doom and gloom over the past ten years, wouldn’t have bothered you as much. But you’d have fewer total assets today than if you would have kept the faith and stayed long stocks. And if you wanted to reinvest, now, for the next ten years, your rate would be roughly 2.3%.

If you knew exactly when to buy and sell each of these investments over the years, you could have done better, but no one did that and no one knew how to do that.

So, what’s our point? You would have been better off by ignoring all those pessimists who became famous in 2008-09. Investing in companies, and allowing world class business managers to use your money to build wealth, was once again the best investment strategy. Ten years on, we still think that’s true.

Read this article online at First Trust Economics Blog.

Consensus forecasts come from Bloomberg. This report was prepared by First Trust Advisors L. P., and reflects the current opinion of the authors. It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.

When Rates Go Up, Do Stocks Go Down?

Should stock investors worry about changes in interest rates?

Research shows that, like stock prices, changes in interest rates and bond prices are largely unpredictable.1  It follows that an investment strategy based upon attempting to exploit these sorts of changes isn’t likely to be a fruitful endeavor. Despite the unpredictable nature of interest rate changes, investors may still be curious about what might happen to stocks if interest rates go up.

Unlike bond prices, which tend to go down when yields go up, stock prices might rise or fall with changes in interest rates. For stocks, it can go either way because a stock’s price depends on both future cash flows to investors and the discount rate they apply to those expected cash flows. When interest rates rise, the discount rate may increase, which in turn could cause the price of the stock to fall. However, it is also possible that when interest rates change, expectations about future cash flows expected from holding a stock also change. So, if theory doesn’t tell us what the overall effect should be, the next question is what does the data say?

Recent Research

Recent research performed by Dimensional Fund Advisors helps provide insight into this question.2  The research examines the correlation between monthly US stock returns and changes in interest rates.3  Exhibit 1 shows that while there is a lot of noise in stock returns and no clear pattern, not much of that variation appears to be related to changes in the effective federal funds rate.4

For example, in months when the federal funds rate rose, stock returns were as low as –15.56% and as high as 14.27%. In months when rates fell, returns ranged from –22.41% to 16.52%. Given that there are many other interest rates besides just the federal funds rate, Dai also examined longer-term interest rates and found similar results.

So to address our initial question: when rates go up, do stock prices go down? The answer is yes, but only about 40% of the time. In the remaining 60% of months, stock returns were positive. This split between positive and negative returns was about the same when examining all months, not just those in which rates went up. In other words, there is not a clear link between stock returns and interest rate changes.

Conclusion

There’s no evidence that investors can reliably predict changes in interest rates. Even with perfect knowledge of what will happen with future interest rate changes, this information provides little guidance about subsequent stock returns. Instead, staying invested and avoiding the temptation to make changes based on short-term predictions may increase the likelihood of consistently capturing what the stock market has to offer.

  1. See, for example, Fama 1976, Fama 1984, Fama and Bliss 1987, Campbell and Shiller 1991, and Duffee 2002.

  2. Wei Dai, “Interest Rates and Equity Returns” (Dimensional Fund Advisors, April 2017).

  3. US stock market defined as Fama/French Total US Market Index.

  4. The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which depository institutions lend funds maintained at the Federal Reserve to another depository institution overnight.

 

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GLOSSARY

Discount Rate: Also known as the “required rate of return,” this is the expected return investors demand for holding a stock.

Correlation: A statistical measure that indicates the extent to which two variables are related or move together. Correlation is positive when two variables tend to move in the same direction and negative when they tend to move in opposite directions.

INDEX DESCRIPTIONS

Fama/French Total US Market Index: Provided by Fama/French from CRSP securities data. Includes all US operating companies trading on the NYSE, AMEX, or Nasdaq NMS. Excludes ADRs, investment companies, tracking stocks, non-US incorporated companies, closed-end funds, certificates, shares of beneficial interests, and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (Permco 540).

Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
Results shown during periods prior to each Index’s index inception date do not represent actual returns of the respective index. Other periods selected may have different results, including losses. Backtested index performance is hypothetical and is provided for informational purposes only to indicate historical performance had the index been calculated over the relevant time periods. Backtested performance results assume the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains.
Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors for and provide consulting services to Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.
All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.

Investment Shock Absorbers

Ever ridden in a car with worn-out shock absorbers? Every bump is jarring, every corner stomach-churning, and every red light an excuse to assume the brace position. Owning an undiversified portfolio can trigger similar reactions.

You can drive a car with a broken suspension system, but it will be an extremely uncomfortable ride and the vehicle will be much harder to control, particularly in difficult conditions. Throw in the risk of a breakdown or running off the road altogether, and there’s a real chance you may not reach your destination.

In the world of investment, a similarly bumpy and unpredictable ride can await those with concentrated and undiversified portfolios or those who constantly tinker with their allocation.

Of course, everyone feels in control when the surface is straight and smooth, but it’s harder to stay on the road during sudden turns and ups and downs in the

market. For that reason, the smart thing to do is to diversify, spreading your portfolio across different securities, sectors, and countries. That also means identifying the right mix of investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate) that aligns with your risk tolerance.

Using this approach, your returns from year to year may not match the top performing portfolio, but neither are they likely to match the worst. More importantly, this is a ride you are likelier to stick with.

Here’s an example. Among developed markets, Denmark was number one in US dollar terms in    2015 with a return of more than 23%. But a big bet   on that country the following year would have backfired, as Denmark slid to bottom of the table    with a loss of nearly 16%.1

It’s true that the US stock market (by far the world’s biggest) has been a strong performer in recent    years. But a decade before, in 2004 and 2006, it    was the second worst-performing developed market  in the world.1

Predicting which part of a market will do best over a given period is tough. US small cap stocks were

among the top performers in 2016 with a return of more than 21%. A year before, their results looked relatively disappointing with a loss of more than 4%. International small cap stocks had their turn in the sun in 2015, topping the performance tables with a return of just below 6%. But the year before that, they were the second worst with a loss of 5%.2

If you’ve ever taken a long road trip, you’ll know that conditions along the way can change quickly and unpredictably, which is why you need a vehicle that’s ready for the worst roads as well as the best. While diversification can never completely eliminate the impact of bumps along your particular investment road, it does help reduce the potential outsized  impact that any individual investment can have         on your journey.

With sufficient diversification, the jarring effects of performance extremes level out. That, in turn, helps you stay in your chosen lane and on the road to your investment destination.

Happy motoring and happy investing.

 

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In US dollars. MSCI developed markets country indices (net dividends). MSCI data © MSCI 2017, all rights reserved.
In US dollars. US Small Cap is the Russell 2000 Index. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. International Small Cap is the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Index (gross dividends). MSCI data copyright MSCI 2017, all rights reserved.
Adapted from “Investment Shock Absorbers,” Outside the Flags, February 2017. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This information is intended for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.

The Power of Markets

In 1958, economist Leonard Read published an essay entitled
“I, Pencil: My Family Tree
as Told to Leonard E. Read.”

The essay, narrated from the point of view of a pencil, describes the “complex combination of miracles” necessary to create and bring to market the common writing tool that has been used for generations. The narrator argues that no one individual possesses enough ability or know-how to create a pencil on their own. Rather, the mundane pencil—and the ability to buy it for a “trifling” sum—is the result of an extraordinary process driven by the knowledge of market participants and the power of market prices.

The Importance of Price

Upon observing a pencil, it is tempting to think a single individual could easily make one. After all, it is made up of common items such as wood, paint, graphite, metal, and a rubber eraser. By delving deeper into how these seemingly ordinary components are produced, however, we begin to understand the extraordinary backstory of their synthesis. Take the wood as an example: To produce wood requires a saw, to make the saw requires steel, to make steel requires iron. That iron must be mined, smelted, and shaped. A truck, train, or boat is needed to transport the wood from the forest to a factory where numerous machines convert it into lumber. The lumber is then transported to another factory where more machines assemble the pencil. Each of the components mentioned above and each step in the process have similarly complex backstories. All require materials that are sourced from
far-flung locations, and countless processes are involved in refining them. While the multitude of inputs and processes necessary to create a pencil is impressive, even more impressive are the coordinated actions required by millions of people around the world to bring everything together. There is the direct involvement of farmers, loggers, miners, factory workers, and the providers of capital. There is also the indirect involvement of millions of others—the makers of rails, railroad cars, ships, and so on. Market prices are the unifying force that enables these millions of people to coordinate their actions efficiently.

 

Workers with specific knowledge about their costs, constraints, and efforts use market prices to leverage the knowledge of others to decide how to direct their own resources and make a

living. Consider the farmer, the logger, and the price of a tree. The farmer will have a deep understanding of the costs, constraints, and efforts required to grow trees. To increase profit, the farmer will seek out the highest price when selling trees to a logger. After purchasing the trees, the logger will convert them to wood and sell that wood to a factory. The logger understands the costs, constraints, and efforts required to do this, so to increase profit, the logger seeks to pay the lowest price possible when buying trees from the farmer. When the farmer and the logger agree to transact, the agreed upon price reflects their combined knowledge of the costs and constraints of both growing and harvesting trees. That knowledge allows them to decide how to efficiently allocate their resources in seeking a profit. Ultimately, it is price that enables this coordination. On a much larger scale, price formation is facilitated by competition between the many farmers that sell trees to loggers and between the many loggers that buy trees from farmers. This market price of trees is observable and can be used by others in the production chain (e.g., the lumber factory mentioned above) to inform how much they can expect to pay for wood and to plan how to allocate their resources accordingly.

 

The Power of Financial Marketsq4-market-commentary

There is a corollary that can be drawn between this narrative about the market for goods and the financial markets. Generally, markets do a remarkable job of allocating resources, and financial markets allocate a specific resource: financial capital. Financial markets are also made up of millions of participants, and these participants voluntarily agree to buy and sell securities all over the world based upon their own needs and desires. Each day, millions of trades take place, and the vast collective knowledge of all of these participants is pooled together to set security prices. Exhibit 1 shows the staggering magnitude of participation in the world equity markets on an average day in 2015.

Any individual trying to outguess the market is competing against the extraordinary collective wisdom of all of these buyers and sellers. Viewed through the lens of Read’s allegory, attempting to outguess the market is like trying to create a pencil from scratch rather than going to the store and reaping the fruits of others’ willingly supplied labor. In the end, trying to outguess the market is incredibly difficult and expensive, and over the long run, the result will almost assuredly be inferior when compared to a market-based approach. Professor Kenneth French has been quoted as saying, “The market is smarter than we are and no matter how smart we get, the market will always be smarter than we are.” One doesn’t have to look far for data that supports this. Exhibit 2 shows that only 17% of US equity mutual funds have survived and outperformed their benchmarks over the past 15 years. 

 

Conclusion

The beauty of Leonard Read’s story is that it provides a glimpse of the incredibly complex tapestry of markets and how prices are formed, what types of information they contain, and how they are used. The story makes it clear that no single individual possesses enough ability or

know-how to create a pencil on their own but rather that the pencil’s miraculous production is the result of the collective input and effort of countless motivated human beings. In the end, the power of markets benefits all of us. The market allows us to exchange the time we require to earn money for a few milliseconds of each person’s time involved in making a pencil. For an investor, we believe the lesson here is that instead of fighting the market, one should pursue an investment strategy that efficiently and effectively harnesses the extraordinary collective power of market prices. That is, an investment strategy that uses market prices and the information they contain in its design and day-to-day management. In doing so, an investor has access to the rewards that financial markets make available to providers of capital.

 

 

Leonard Read’s essay can be found here: http://econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html.
Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP. There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. US-domiciled mutual fund data is from the CRSP Survivor-Bias-Free US Mutual Fund Database, provided by the Center for Research in Security Prices, University of Chicago. Certain types of equity funds were excluded from the performance study. Index funds, sector funds, and funds with a narrow investment focus, such as real estate and gold, were excluded. Funds are identified using Lipper fund classification codes. Correlation coefficients are computed for each fund with respect to diversified benchmark indices using all return data available between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2015. The index most highly correlated with a fund is assigned as its benchmark. Winner funds are those whose cumulative return over the period exceeded that of their respective benchmark. Loser funds are funds that did not survive the period or whose cumulative return did not exceed their respective benchmark. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services. Ken French is a member of the Board of Directors for and provides consulting services to Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.

Presidential Elections and the Stock Market

Next month, Americans will head to the polls to elect the next president of the United States. While the outcome is unknown, one thing is for certain: There will be a steady stream of opinions from pundits and prognosticators about how the election will impact the stock market.

As we explain below, investors would be well‑served to avoid the temptation to make significant changes to a long‑term investment plan based upon these sorts of predictions.

Short-Term Trading and Presidential Election Results

Trying to outguess the market is often a losing game. Current market prices offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the aggregate expectations of market participants. This includes expectations about the outcome and impact of elections. While unanticipated future events—surprises relative to those expectations—may trigger price changes in the future, the nature of these surprises cannot be known by investors today. As a result, it is difficult, if not impossible, to systematically benefit from trying to identify mispriced securities.

This suggests it is unlikely that investors can gain an edge by attempting to predict what will happen to the stock market after a presidential election.

Exhibit 1 shows the frequency of monthly returns (expressed in 1% increments) for the S&P 500 Index from January 1926 to June 2016. Each horizontal dash represents one month, and each vertical bar shows the cumulative number of months for which returns were within a given 1% range (e.g., the tallest presidential-elections-exhibit-1bar shows all months where returns were between 1% and 2%). The blue and red horizontal lines represent months during which a presidential election was held. Red corresponds with a resulting win for the Republican Party and blue with a win for the Democratic Party. This graphic illustrates that election month returns were well within the typical range of returns, regardless of which party won the election.     

Long-Term Investing: Bulls & Bears ≠ Donkeys & Elephants

Predictions about presidential elections and the stock market often focus on which party or candidate will be “better for the market” over the long run. Exhibit 2 shows the growth of one dollar invested in the S&P 500 Index over nine decades and 15 presidencies (from Coolidge to Obama). This data does not suggest an obvious pattern of long-term stock market performance based upon which party holds the Oval Office. The key takeaway here is that over the long run, the market has provided substantial returns regardless of who controlled the executive branch.

Conclusion

Equity markets can help investors grow their assets, but investing is a long-term endeavor. Trying to make investment decisions based upon the outcome of exhibit2presidential elections is unlikely to result in reliable excess returns for investors.

At best, any positive outcome based on such a strategy will likely be the result of random luck. At worst, it can lead to costly mistakes. Accordingly, there is a strong case for investors to rely on patience and portfolio structure, rather than trying to outguess the market, in order to pursue investment returns.

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Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This information is intended for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. Investment risks include loss of principal and fluctuating value. There is no guarantee an investing strategy will be successful.
Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment; therefore, their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. The S&P data is provided by Standard & Poor’s Index Services Group.

Beware of Popular Narratives

August 15, 2016 First Trust Monday Morning Outlook

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist  ·  Robert Stein, CFA – Dep. Chief Economist  ·  Strider Elass – Economist

Narratives matter. They affect political outcomes and influence investment decisions. Narratives serve a purpose, but in serving that purpose they are often highly misleading, especially when they are invented to cover up a mistake, or to convince people to vote a certain way. These days, there are three main narratives impacting investors.

Narrative #1 says that Wall Street caused the Great Recession of 2008/09 and that government saved the economy, and recoveries are always slow after financial crises.

Narrative #2 argues that the US is not really in recovery. Anything good happening out there, a rising stock market or falling unemployment rate, is either a bubble or a lie.

Narrative #3 says that the US government did not allow all the excesses of the 2008 crisis to be completely wrung out of the system. Using Quantitative Easing, TARP and government stimulus to boost economic activity has created a bubble on top of a bubble. The next crash will be even bigger.

We don’t believe in any of these narratives. We believe that government (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, 1% interest rates, the Community Reinvestment Act, and Mark-to-Market Accounting) caused the crisis. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and QE did not fix it, either. The S&P 500 fell 40% in the five months after TARP was passed and QE was invented. What turned things around was finally getting rid of the nonsensical mark-to-market accounting rule in March 2009. Only then did the stock market and economy turn around. This is a real, innovation-driven recovery.

Those who believe that the unemployment rate is a lie are ignoring the fact that jobs have climbed for 70 consecutive months and initial claims have been below 300,000 for almost 1 ½ years. These same analysts say the US stock market is one big bubble, inflated by global central banks. Yes, they say, the Fed “tapered” and stopped QE, then raised interest rates, but now foreign central banks have taken up where the Fed left off.

What they can’t explain is why it didn’t work the other way. Why have European and Japanese stocks fallen so far behind US stocks in the past 7 years? If foreign QE lifts US stocks, why doesn’t US QE lift foreign stocks? No major European or Asian stock market is at record highs like the US.

All the bubble talk is either cover for a blown forecast, or an excuse to explain something good by someone who has said that nothing good can happen with a Democrat in the White House. Those who spin this narrative have argued for the past seven years that the US stock market or economy would collapse. But since the opposite has happened, these pundits have fallen back to the defensive position that everything is a bubble.

Slow growth isn’t a surprise to us. We have called it a Plow Horse economy for a long time. But that is because government spending, taxation and regulation hurt economic growth, not because of financial problems. Continental Europe has an even bigger government burden and we call Italy, France, Spain, Greece, et al., a “Plow Horse with Shin Splints.”

What we find interesting about all these narratives is that they are all so government-centric. All of them seem to ignore the role of Entrepreneurship. In the past seven years, fracking has made the US the most productive energy producer in the world. The cloud, smartphone, tablets, apps, 3-D printing, genetic mapping and testing, vertical farming, and Big Data are all boosting productivity and profits at company after company.

For the record, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen have never fracked a well or pulled an all-nighter writing an app, and those who call the stock market a bubble are actually slapping entrepreneurs and innovators in the face. QE did not create the cloud or Big Data. Entrepreneurs did! The stock market, jobs, incomes and profits are all up because of these new technologies.

The narratives the conventional wisdom has chosen to use to describe the economy are woefully inadequate and misleading. They should come with Surgeon General warning labels.

Read this article online at First Trust Economics Blog.

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L. P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.