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Riverfront June 10, 2019
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‘3 Rs’ Update: Fed Policy Accommodative, but Economic and Trade Risks Have Risen

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Riverfront June 3, 2019
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US/China ‘digging in’ on Trade…We are Reducing International Stocks

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Happy Memorial Day! May 24, 2019
Downloads: Memorial-Day-Letter-2019.pdf

Normandy.  D-Day.  Operation Overlord.  The events of June 6, 1944 are known by many names, and have been commemorated in countless books, dramas, and documentaries.  You’ve seen the pictures of GIs wading through rough, freezing water onto a murderous, mine-strewn beach.  You’ve heard the stories of those who braved smoke and shell to scale the cliffs beyond.  But most of the stories we hear were told by the survivors – the lucky ones who made it to the top and saw France on the other side.

What about the others?

As you know, Memorial Day is just around the corner.  It’s a day for remembering those who didn’t make it.  The ones who gave their lives so that others might live.  And since this Memorial Day coincides with the 75th anniversary of Normandy, I think it’s an especially good opportunity to remember the men who couldn’t tell their stories afterwards.

Men like the soldiers of Able Company.

The First Wave

Picture it: Roughly two-hundred soldiers packed like sardines in tiny boats that sway with the choppy sea.  This is Company A – “Able Company” – of the 116th Infantry Regiment.  Most are in their early twenties and barely into manhood, yet men they are.  Long before they land, they are already fighting fear and the worst seasickness any of them has ever known.  If they lift their heads above the sides, they can see the imposing cliffs of Normandy in the distance – and the 200-yard beach they’ll have to cross just to get there.  A beach that offers no shelter or protection.

But when the order comes – “This is it men, you’ve got a one-way ticket and this is the end of the line,” – they shoulder their packs and lift their weapons, ready to do their duty.1

Until everything starts going wrong.

First, water begins spilling over the sides of the boats, and many are swamped completely.  Those that stay afloat do so only because the men of Able Company use their helmets to bail the water out.  Other boats, hit by German artillery, catch fire and sink.  The noise is deafening.

Then, at 6:36 A.M, the boat ramps are lowered, and it’s time.2

One by one, the men jump into the frigid ocean.  They are not yet on the beach at all, but on a sandbar that stretches up to 100 yards out.  To even get to the beach, they’ll have to wade through water that often comes up to their necks.  Many soldiers, weighed down by heavy jackets, packs, and equipment, start to sink.  Those who can’t shed the weight, drown.  Those who can come up gasping for air – only to be greeted by a hail of bullets.

From the cliffs, German machine guns pepper the ocean, decimating Able Company before they even reach the shore.  But still they advance.  One pair of boots makes it to dry land.  Then a second, and a third.  They are the first wave, and they know what’s expected of them.  What’s required.  Despite fire and water, despite mine and mortar, they are the first liberators to step onto the shore.

The first free men to set foot on the beaches of France.

But in the meantime, they have more work to do.  Medics do what they can for the wounded, pulling anyone who might still be alive from the ocean.  Minutes pass.  No one from Able Company has yet fired a shot, and almost every officer – the men who give commands, who know the plans and have studied the maps – is dead.  The others, leaderless and bloodied, continue anyway.  It’s no glorious charge, but a desperate crawl.   Liberating France inch by inch, foot by foot.

Thirty minutes later, over half the Company is dead.  Most of the survivors are wounded and exhausted.  But still they continue.  Those who fall lift their heads to shout encouragement one final time.  For they are the first wave.  This is their job, their mission, their calling.  To pave the way for waves to come.

Finally, after an hour, the survivors make it across the sand to the bottom of the cliff.  A few join a nearby group of Army Rangers and scale to the top.  The others remain behind, holding the beach.  Most will remain forever.

Behind them comes the second wave.

Seventy-Five Years Later

It may seem like Able Company’s sacrifice was futile.  But I don’t think so.  Every yard they gained was a yard the next wave wouldn’t have to.  Every bullet they attracted was a bullet someone else was saved from.  Theirs was the smallest of footholds, yet it was enough – for the next wave, and the one after.  For what they did that morning led to everything that followed.  By the afternoon, the beach was theirs.  By evening, the cliffs were theirs.

And less than one year later, all of Europe was theirs.

History is often written down as the story of great leaders making grand speeches and grander plans.  But in truth, history is made up of moments.  Moments when normal men and women stared fear in the face and acted.  Moments when men and women offered service and sacrifice.  Moments that lasted the length of a heartbeat…and yet still affect our lives to this day.

This Memorial Day, I want to remember those men and women.  I want to remember the beaches of Normandy.  I want to remember the men of Able Company.  I hope you can take a moment to remember them, too.

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock, CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

1 “The suicide wave,” The Guardian, June 1, 2003.  https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/jun/01/features.magazine37

2 “First Wave at Omaha Beach,” The Atlantic, November 1960.   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1960/11/first-wave-at-omaha-beach/303365/

 

Riverfront May 20, 2019
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Negative Headlines, But Positive Returns

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Riverfront May 13, 2019
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Trade Tensions Deflate Excessive Optimism

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Happy Mother’s Day! May 10, 2019
Downloads: Mothers-Day-Letter-2019.pdf

The Origin of Mother’s Day

Did you know that there are more calls made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year? It’s   true! Across the US, phone companies deal with the highest volume of calls on Mother’s Day.1

As far as historians can tell, celebrating motherhood dates back to the Greeks and Romans. It is a tradition that has imbued our culture for millennia. And today the roots of this holiday intertwine with our own history.

The first record of Mother’s Day, as it is celebrated in the United States, dates back to an era just before the Civil War. Ann Reeves Jarvis began organizing Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to help young mothers care for their children. From child-rearing skills to hygiene to medications, these clubs provided all the basic essentials for new moms.

As rumblings of Civil War grew louder, the club’s purpose transitioned from supporting moms to maintaining friendship and unity at any cost. After all, many of the moms had sons on both sides of that war.

That bond saw them through the war. They nursed soldiers on both sides, offering their compassion, and ultimately saving the sons of countless mothers.

When the war finally ended, Ann re-christened the Work Clubs to “Mothers Friendship Day”, a celebration to heal the communities torn apart by this war.

When Ann passed in 1905, it was the second Sunday of May. Over the next several years, Ann’s daughter, Anna, worked to make that day in May one that all children would use to honor their mothers’ sacrifices. And in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it so.

Now, over a century later, we have perhaps forgotten the history of this day, but not its spirit.

So, in the spirit of friendship and compassion, I would like to wish you a wonderful Mother’s

Day from everyone here at Hudock Capital Group!

 

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock, CIMA®, CPM®

Chief Executive Officer

Founding Partner
1 “Mother’s Day 2019”, History.com, February 5, 2019.   https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

Riverfront May 6, 2019
Downloads: Riverfront-May-6-2019.pdf

What Could Go Wrong?

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Stay in or get out? May 3, 2019
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“We are now in a bear market – here’s what that means.”
– CNBC headline on December 24, 20181

“The stock market rally to start 2019 is one for the history books.”
– CNBC headline on February 22, 20192

If you’re like most people, it’s probably not uncommon for you to plan your day or week based on the weather forecast. For example, you might check the forecast, see that it’s supposed to be sunny, and decide to go fishing on Saturday.

But when Saturday rolls around, it starts to rain.

The frustration you’d feel is very similar to how investors and analysts often feel about the markets. The forecast says one thing – and then the opposite happens.

For example, let’s go back to the end of 2018. For months, the markets had been hammered by volatility. The Nasdaq entered bear market territory. Many pundits predicted even more volatility after the new year.

But four months later, the markets are on the verge of record highs.

So, the question is: Why the change in direction? What’s behind this year’s market rally? And most importantly, what can we learn from it?

The volatility that dominated the end of 2018 was largely due to fears of an economic slowdown. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which can cool both inflation and economic growth. Trade tensions with China showed no signs of stopping. Corporate earnings slowed down, oil prices had dropped, and several other indicators had many analysts predicting a recession in 2020 or 2021.

Even after the turn of the year, there was some interesting data that, when compared with historical trends, suggested more storms on the horizon. For example, you may have seen the term “inverted yield curve” bandied about in the media for a time. We’re venturing into “financial nerd” territory here, but this is when the yield on short-term Treasury bonds rises higher than the yield on long-term bonds. It doesn’t happen often, and historically, it has sometimes been a sign of an impending recession.

The result of all these signals was a forecast that had many investors reaching for their umbrellas, convinced that gloomy weather was here to stay.

But instead, the markets enjoyed their strongest start to a year since 1998.3

In many ways, this rally has been driven by something very simple: Nothing really got worse. The Federal Reserve has stopped raising interest rates, saying that it won’t raise them again in 2019.4 The trade war with China seems to have hit a lull. And now, investors can point to a host of different historical trends that work in their favor. For example, some data suggests that when the stock market rises 13% or more “during the first three months of a calendar year,” it will gain even more before the end of the year.3

So, does that mean the good times are here to stay?

No.

Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, has a saying: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” While we shouldn’t take that maxim too literally, it does illustrate an important point. Time after time, conditions that cause fear can change in an instant, leaving the fearful behind. On the other hand, conditions that stoke greed can shift before you know it, giving the greedy a nasty shock.

On their website, CNN has something called the Fear & Greed Index.5 Using seven different indicators, they can calculate which emotion is driving the markets most at any given time. As of this writing, that emotion is greed. A few months ago, it was fear. As we’ve just seen, the scale can swing from end to another very quickly.

When you look more closely at the data, there are still reasons to think a recession is possible in the next year or two. (A contracting labor market, problems in Europe, stocks being valued too highly, to name just a few.) Other data suggests that the stock market’s current highs are overblown.6 But does this mean it’s time to run and hide? Nope! While data is very good at telling us what was and what is, it’s still unreliable at telling us what will be – at least as far as the markets are concerned. In fact, for as much grief as we give meteorologists for getting a forecast wrong, they do a much better job predicting the weather than experts do the markets!

Here’s what we can learn from all this

As your wealth partner, the reason I’m sending you this letter is because there are a few things I think we need to keep in mind as 2019 rolls on.

First, we need to remember to guard against recency bias. Recency bias is when people make the mistake of thinking what happened recently is what happens usually. It’s why investors tend to panic during market volatility or take on unnecessary risk during a market rally.

Second, remember that emotion is a good servant, but a bad master. Emotion helps us interact with other people. It makes experiences more memorable and life more colorful. But it can be come harmful if it drives our decisions. We should always strive to keep our own personal Fear & Greed Index from swinging too sharply one way or the other.

Finally, whether the markets go up, down, or sideways, you’ll probably hear about many different statistics, indicators, and historical trends that predict this, that, or the other thing. When you do, remember that correlation is not causation.

Correlation, as you probably know, is the measurement of how closely related two things are. In finance, we often find that many things tend to change in sync with one another. Asset classes, market sectors, you name it. It’s why we spend so much time looking at things like inverted yield curves – because they are often correlated with the health of the markets or economy.

But just because two things are correlated does not mean that one causes the other. (It’s why an inverted yield curve doesn’t always mean a recession is nigh.) All the indicators and historical trends you hear about in the news are important, and worth studying – but again, they only tell us what was or what is. Not what will be.

So, to sum up:

  • -Just as we didn’t give in to fear when the markets were down, so too will we not give in to greed while the markets are up.
  • -We will remember that sun today doesn’t protect against rain tomorrow, or vice versa.

Instead, we’ll make decisions as we’ve always done: by keeping your long-term goals foremost in our minds. In other words, we’re not working to help you go fishing just this weekend.

We’re working to help you go fishing any weekend you want. It’s why we work so hard to tailor an investment portfolio and strategy to fit your unique needs. As you know, we start with your life and plan your money around it. With our commitment to what gives you purpose, our focus on long-term results and our strategies to minimize volatility, Hudock Capital Group is here to help you live the life you’ve imagined.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the markets, please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, have a wonderful Spring!

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Hudock, CIMA®, CPM®
Chief Executive Officer
Founding Partner

  1. 1. “We are now in a bear market – here’s what that means,” CNBC, December 24, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/24/whats-a-bear-market-and-how-long-do-they-usually-last-.html
  2. 2. “The stock market rally is one for the history books,” CNBC, February 22, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/the-stock-market-rally-to-start-2019-is-one-for-the-history-books.html
  3. 3. “The Stock Market is Having Its Strongest Start in 21 Years,” Money, March 20, 2019. http://money.com/money/5639032/stock-market-strong-start/
  4. 4. “Fed holds line on rates, says no more hikes ahead this year,” CNBC, March 20, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/20/fed-leaves-rates-unchanged.html
  5. 5. “Fear and Greed Index,” CNN Money, accessed April 17, 2019. https://money.cnn.com/data/fear-and-greed/
  6. 6. “Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq near records but stock-market volumes are the lowest in months,” MarketWatch, April 18, 2019. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-stock-market-volumes-are-the-lowest-in-months-as-the-dow-sp-500-and-nasdaq-test-records-2019-04-17

Riverfront April 29, 2019
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Three Rules Suggest Bull Market to Continue

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Riverfront April 22, 2019
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China’s Economic Trajectory Improving

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Riverfront April 15, 2019
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Q1 ’19: Strong Recovery from Tough Q4 ’18

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Riverfront April 8, 2019
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Q1 Earnings: Low Bar but Stocks Must Deliver

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