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The Friday Brief

How to Time the Market

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Jesse Livermore was a stock trader who made his fortune during the 1929 stock market crash, in which he heavily shorted U.S. stocks and then began to buy them up near market lows. On the worst day of the crash, October 29, 1929, Livermore is said to have made the equivalent of $3 billion in one day of trading. Since then (since time immemorial, really), this notion of trading stocks based on the ever cyclical nature of the economy at large and the stock market in particular–commonly referred to as “timing the market”–has long since captured the imaginations–and fortunes!–of many an

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What Are the Markets Telling Us?

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Markets are in a tizzy (a state of nervous excitement or agitation). Investors are asking, is the party over, is the bull market ending or are we just taking a pause? The latest volatility has been set off by ‘tariff-tweets,’ Fed talk, economic data, and the arrest of a Chinese CEO during trade talks. As global markets are mind-numbingly complex, the answer is definitely all of the above, and a lot more. But market catalysts pop and fizzle with short lives, the more important questions are what do the signs tell us will happen in the mid-term and the long-term

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Bond Portfolios Have Been Corrupted

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I happened across this tweet last night: We got an official holdings list for Janus Henderson Global Unconstrained Bond Fund (i.e., Bill Gross's fund) today: https://t.co/2r5AKChE73 What it seems to more definitively confirm is that 1) Aetna stock was a ~15% position, 2) there was no offsetting position to hedge it. 😮 https://t.co/VNemKYc9Z1 — Jeffrey Ptak (@syouth1) November 29, 2018 If you are unfamiliar with Bill Gross, he founded the mutual fund powerhouse PIMCO and for a long time ran the largest bond fund in the world, PIMCO Total Return. He’s something of a legend in the bond world. For

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Thanks for Nothing, Headlines

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We will celebrate Thanksgiving in less than a week, on the 22nd of November (which is, incidentally, the earliest possible date we could celebrate Thanksgiving). You know how it goes when these early ones come around–we are all getting “snuck up on” and “caught off guard” by the suddenness of Thanksgiving. And this year, perhaps, in the midst of a vicious socio-political atmosphere, faced with dystopian landscapes of a burning California, dealing with our first dose of hard markets in years–maybe we find it difficult to engage the idea of thankfulness in any meaningful way. Indeed, the front-page headlines of

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2018 Year End Money Moves

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As the holidays and new year approach with alarming rapidity–but before you get swept up in parties and family gatherings completely–it’s a great time to take a look at your finances. 2018 still has some important planning opportunities, and getting ahead of 2019 could pay huge dividends, too. With that in mind, here’s a quick list of seven things you might consider doing before 2018 draws to a close. 1. Revisit your 401(k) contributions: The IRS recently announced an increase to the annual contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans. The current annual limit, effective through the end of 2018, is

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Investment Efficiency

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Efficiency measures what is produced against the inputs required to produce it. Efficiency is generally reduced by some form of drag, such as friction, cost, energy, or time, but there can be great reward in improving efficiency. An investment portfolio produces greater wealth as the friction of expenses, taxes, and under-performance relative to markets are reduced. While the most efficient way to achieve the returns of a particular market is to own that market. The most practical way of doing that is through the use of an Exchange Traded Fund or ETF. We use the VTI offered by Vanguard to efficiently

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Beacon Flash: How to navigate your employer being acquired

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With the recent announcement that Red Hat is being acquired by IBM for $34B, we thought it would be helpful to share our thoughts on how employees of acquired companies can smoothly navigate a transition like that. Watch as we discuss what to do with your 401(k), how your benefits may be impacted, and the potential income tax consequences that come with public company acquisitions.  

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Quarterly Statements and Market Volatility

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Lofty expectations for corporate earnings have combined with rising interest rates and increased global trade tensions to bring volatility back to the stock market after a long hiatus.  It would appear that daily, multiple percentage point swings in stock prices may be the norm, at least for a while. While it’s perfectly normal, expected and even healthy for the market to behave this way, it’s never comfortable to watch your nest egg gyrate with the daily fluctuations in the market.  The financial media doesn’t help with their attention-grabbing headlines.  So what should you do if the current level of stock

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Good money, Bad money

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When my son Charlie came home from the NICU in February and was going to doctors appointments with some frequency, one of the things that came up was that he, like many newborns, had a case of torticollis. Torticollis is basically the tendency for a baby’s head to lean one way and an associated difficulty for them to lean it the other way on their own. It’s not serious if you do some pretty straightforward physical therapy, which simply involves stretching the baby’s neck muscles and retraining them to work in a more symmetrical way. On the other hand, if

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Hurricanes and Market Turbulence

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The last ten years of fair-weather markets have spoiled us a bit, but storms do come, and they can be ferocious. Just as Hurricane Michael came out of nowhere, so did a stock-selling spree that shaved more than 5% from the S&P 500. We are once again reminded that stock markets do not move in straight lines, and that emotions often get the better of investors. The US economy is strong. Corporate earnings have grown more than 20% for the past two quarters and are on pace to do the same for the third quarter of this year. Unemployment at

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