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MARKET COMMENTARY: Second Quarter

July 31st, 2017

How many new ways are there for the same old market forecasters to twist a timeless truth: None of us has any idea what the markets will do next.

 

Consider the following quote from a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Global Stocks Post Strongest First Half in Years, Worrying Investors.”

 

“The question for stock investors is whether the strong first six months [of 2017] heralds a choppier second half or the start of a multiyear upswing. The data on global rallies offers a mixed record.”

 

Let’s translate that into plain-speak:

 

“We have no clue whether high-flying markets will go up or down the rest of the year. Heads or tails, we can’t call it either way.”

 

The article also reports: “All but four of the 30 major indexes representing the world’s biggest stock markets by value have risen this year, a first-half performance unmatched since 2009.”

 

What should we make of this data point? Or debates on whether U.S. equities are over-valued? Or the mixed signals on rising versus stay-put interest rates?

 

And by the way, why would strong returns worry investors, as the WSJ article title suggests? Shouldn’t we celebrate them?

 

Rather than try to answer unanswerable questions about a wonderful or worrisome future, here’s a more useful question to consider:

 

Does your low-cost globally diversified portfolio still reflect your goals and risk tolerances?

 

If the answer is yes, that’s great news. There is no sure-fire investment approach that guarantees you’ll come out ahead. As Nobel laureate Eugene Fama has observed, “The probability that you can lose money never goes away … It’s the nature of the beast.” That said, you are already doing all you can to capture expected market returns while managing the risks involved.

 

But what if your portfolio seems off-track from your carefully crafted plans? Perhaps your own goals have changed. Or recent market surges may have shifted your portfolio’s target allocations, so you’re now holding a little too much of a good thing. That’s nice as long as those high-flying assets continue to soar, but it can set you up for an overly hard fall when they stumble.

 

Because prudent portfolio management calls for maintaining your balance in good markets and bad, we focus on questions of a different sort. Questions like: How can we best employ upfront asset allocation and ongoing rebalancing to keep your portfolio on track toward your personal financial goals?

 

If you ask us, that’s a better question than what the rest of 2017 has in store for us as investors.  For all the clever ways there are to phrase a forecast, that’s anybody’s guess.

 

 

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