Will This Rally End In Tears?

www.profitscore.com 

An Update on Our Performance
The Great Inflation/Deflation Debate, Part II
Getting Real on Inflation (Continued)
Life on a Debt Rocket
A Shakespearian Tragedy
Resisting the Ostrich Urge
Real Estate Update - The Next Two Boots?
Portfolio Performance Analysis
The First Day of School and the Oregon Coast


Last month I clearly spoke my mind about the challenges we face.  I was hesitant to do so because I never want to be perceived as a doom and gloom guy.  To make money consistently, it is important to objectively evaluate the data and adjust your investment positions accordingly.  I am always cautious with my investment ideas because, as a manager of other people's money, it is my job to be nervous about anything that can cause my clients to lose money.  Lately, I have felt an overwhelming level of stress about the decisions that are being made and I am not alone.

Here are some facts from Warren Buffett's recent editorial in the New York Times:

  • Congress is now spending 185% of what it takes in
  • Our deficit is a post WWII record of 13% of GDP
  • Our national debt is growing by 1% a month
  • We are borrowing $1.8 trillion a year
  • $1.8 trillion is a lot of money.  Even if the Chinese lend us $400 billion a year and Americans save a remarkable $500 billion and lend it to the government, we'll still need another $900 billion.

So, where's it going to come from?  Most likely the printing press.  And, ultimately, Buffett says, "That will destroy the value of the dollar."

I must have struck a nerve with my frank comments in last month's newsletter because I received more feedback on it than any other newsletter I have published.  There are clearly a lot of people who are uncomfortable about our future.    

This month we will continue our debate about inflation versus deflation and attempt to bring some clarity to the clear as mud government data.  I also want to bring your attention to the pain that commercial real estate is about to inflict on our struggling economy.  Unlike residential real estate, commercial real estate mortgages are normally held by local and regional banks.  Are you aware that the commercial real estate market is actually larger than the residential real estate market?

Commercial real estate rents are plummeting across the nation.  Locally, commercial real estate rents in Eagle, Idaho have dropped from $24 per square foot to $13.50. And, to add insult to injury, taxes and utilities have increased.  I spoke to an owner of a Class A office property in Eagle a few weeks ago.  He bought several beautiful office buildings in 2006 and is now in mortgage remodification discussions with his local bank.  Our office is located in a beautiful office park along the Boise River and is considered one of the most modern office parks in the Boise MSA.  Vacancy rates in our office park are currently running close to 50%.  Based on rents, these buildings no longer generate positive cash flow and prices are dropping fast. 

Like residential real estate, commercial real estate is dependent on employment.  When businesses are going bankrupt, there aren't opportunities to rent office, retail and manufacturing space.  All of the problems we are about to face with commercial real estate are still in front of us.  Expect this boot to drop within the next six months.  You will soon see a lot of FDIC bank takeovers because of commercial real estate problems.  If you currently own bank stocks, this week would be a good time to put in your sell orders.  At the very least, purchase some put options to hedge your bets. 

The head winds continue to blow at gale force strength.  2010 promises to be another crazy economic year and a stressful year for investors.  

An Update on Our Performance

We managed to put green on the board for all our portfolios last month.  Fixed income continues to be our shinning star having its second best month since the launch of our multi-manager portfolios.  Because we take short positions, we will normally have a difficult time outperforming a market that goes up for continuous days and weeks in a row.  Rallies such as these seldom happen, so our models will bet against them occurring.  Long-term, we will be rewarded for these high probability decisions, but short-term, they can damage our equity curve.

Below are recent performance returns on the four portfolios we currently offer:


Past 12

YTD

July

Name

Months

2009

2009

Income Builder  (IB)

4.28%

7.20%

3.00%

The Guardian  (GRD)

9.18%

9.40%

1.73%

Harmony Plus  (HMY)

16.49%

11.55%

1.11%

The Expedition  (EXP)

20.75%

12.85%

0.83%

S&P 500  (SP500)

-19.96%

10.97%

7.56%

Important Performance Disclosure


 

 


ProfitScore provides separately-managed accounts for individuals, advisors and institutions.  If you would like to hire us to help you navigate this difficult bear market, below are three ways to contact us:

  1. Complete our Private Client Group request form by clicking here http://profitscore.com/insight.aspx and submitting your contact information. (This is the most preferred method.)
  2. Call us directly at (800) 731-5690.
  3. Simply send us an email to info @ profitscore.com.

Someone will contact you within 24 hours of receiving your information.

The Great Inflation/Deflation Debate, Part II

In our last ProfitScore IQ, we looked at some examples where hyperinflation got the better of a nation and whether it's a possibility that should worry us. With that in mind, we will take a closer look at the differences between the official and the unofficial Consumer Price Index (CPI) and examine the implications for the economy and market if inflation is greater than the official CPI would have us believe it is. 

What will it mean for the future of markets, our economy and your financial well-being? More importantly, what can you do to protect yourself?

Figure 1 - Chart comparing the monthly official Consumer Price Index numbers (CPI-U in green) that shows annual inflation was running at 3.84% in 2008 versus the Alternate CPI estimate (CPI-Alt in red) using the calculation before the changes post 1980, which showed inflation at 11.57% in 2008. Notice how the two estimates have diverged since the statistical changes were first made in the 1980s. Source - Bureau of Labor Statistics and ShadowStats.com

Getting Real on Inflation (Continued)

If we take the annual CPI numbers from the chart above, we can calculate how inflation has impacted buying power since 1970. First, we'll examine what the official CPI is telling us. According to annual CPI data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), inflation averaged 4.68% between 1970 and 2008.

In 1970, a US dollar purchased 100 cents worth of goods. What is a dollar worth today? More precisely, what percentage of the goods that a dollar bought in 1970 would it purchase today? According to the official BLS CPI, in 2009 a dollar buys about $0.18 worth of goods that it did thirty-nine years ago. Put another way, what cost you one dollar in 1970 now costs $5.56 if you believe official inflation figures.

Now let's perform the same exercise for the CPI (CPI-Alt) calculated the way it was before government statisticians began to modify it in the 1980s. According to CPI-Alt, a dollar in 2009 buys less than $0.06 worth of goods that it did in 1970, which means what cost $1 in 1970 now costs $16.95. In other words, the dollar has just one-third the value that the government would have us believe. 

Let's look at another measure of value - what did a cup of coffee cost in 1970? According to Wiki.Answers.com, most restaurants charged $0.10 for a cup of coffee with a meal. Today the cost of an average cup of coffee in the U.S. is $1.38. Our rudimentary coffee index says that it now takes $13.80 to buy what cost $1.00 in 1970. Let's forget that you usually got a bottomless cup back then so the comparison isn't perfect. But our coffee index is much closer to the CPI-Alt estimate.

Now let's examine a standard that has been used for thousands of years as a currency-gold. In 1970, while the U.S. was still on the gold standard, an ounce of gold (Englehard gold price) averaged $36.75. In 2009, gold averaged $920.40 which makes the 1970 dollar now worth just $0.04. In other words, it now takes $25 dollars to buy what a buck purchased in 1970 using the gold standard. If we use the linear regression of the price of gold today to remove the big ups and downs, which pegs the present day price of gold at $560/oz, the dollar is now worth $0.06.

Even using this extremely conservative gold price estimate, the present day value of a dollar is still roughly one-third the $0.18 estimate based on the official CPI and nearly identical to the Alt-CPI estimate.

Figure 2 - Chart showing three different estimates on how the value of a dollar has changed since 1970. By 1980, the buying power of a dollar had been more than cut in half. But then in 1982, a strange thing happened. Government statisticians began making changes to the way inflation was calculated that had the effect of minimizing it. The official CPI (CPI-U) puts the value of a 1970 dollar at $0.18 today compared to $0.059 using the Alt-CPI (original CPI calculation) and $0.04 using gold. Source data - Bureau of Labor Statistics and ShadowStats.com

But, no matter which way you slice it, it is safe to say that the official CPI estimate has underestimated the true rate of inflation and as we see from Figure 1 and from the Fudge Factor Chart in Figure 2 of our last report, this discrepancy is accelerating at an increasing rate. (At the end of this report we'll show you how the Dow Jones Industrial Average priced in gold has performed in the last decade.)

Why would the government mislead us? As long-time ProfitScore IQ readers know, we believe it's at least partly because statistics are just one tool that incumbent governments use to get re-elected. It would seem that the temptation to modify economic statistics to woo voters has been just too powerful for governments to resist.

Just look at the most powerful short-term cycle in markets - the four-year presidential cycle.  For those of you not familiar with it, 93% of Dow Jones Industrial gains were earned in the 26 months leading up to each election versus just 7% in the 22 months after each election between 1902 and 2006. So by being invested 54% of the time, the hypothetical investor would have captured 93% of Dow gains using a simple presidential cycle trading system. 

But whether or not you agree that official stats paint a biased picture, can we at least agree on the necessity of viewing the financial world as it really is, not as it should be or as someone would like us to see it? Certainly for the investor, that is essential. And no investor is more sensitive to the real rate of inflation than the bond investor.

So why focus on the bond investor? Simple, the fate of the western world now lies in its hands. Bond investors finance debt, and debt in the U.S. has reached gargantuan proportions. As Figure 3 shows, government debt projected to be nearly $13 trillion in 2009 is spiraling out of control. At $53 trillion (Q1-09) total credit market debt (debt at all levels of our economy) is more than four times greater than federal government debt (Gigure 4). Total debt has grown without a break since the 1981 recession, and has doubled in nominal terms since 2000 (see Figure 5).

Who finances a large chunk of the trillions in government debt? You got it, the bond investor. And as we have observed from this year's Treasury auctions, roughly one-half of the bidders have been indirect bidders comprised of foreign central banks. As the largest debtor nation in the world, we rely on the kindness of strangers to finance our debt - the total debt of the rest of the world is dwarfed by U.S. debt as we saw in Figure 3 of last month's report.

Figure 3 - Chart showing annual growth in government debt and the year-to-year growth rate. In 2009, the debt was growing at 29%, based on the estimate of the 2009 budget deficit. Since 1970, government debt has grown at an average annual rate of 8.89%. As this chart shows, since then it has not declined even for a year. Data - Whitehouse.gov.

Bloomberg estimated that the U.S. government will be selling as much as $3.25 trillion worth of Treasuries in 2009 (from 90-day to 30-year notes) to pay the bills for yields (interest rates) that, just last week, ranged from 0.17% at the short end to 4.44% for the 30-year Treasury.

Figure 4 - Historic chart showing total credit market debt to GDP through 2009. In the wake of the stock meltdown in 1933, the ratio hit 265%, but then dropped into the early 1940s. The last year that the total credit debt dropped relative to GDP was 1981. Since 2000, TCMD has grown 35% faster than the economy in a time of economic expansion (if you believe the official GDP growth numbers). Data Source - U.S. Federal Reserve and Gabelli Mathers Fund.

Figure 5 - The function of recessions is supposed to remove the excesses that have built up during the good times so as to reduce debt. But, as this chart shows, total credit market debt has continued to grow unabated since 1981, thanks in large part to the Federal Reserve's accommodative "cheap money" policies. As we see, debt expanded even more rapidly than average in 2008, as the credit crisis took hold, thanks to the Fed quantitative easing. Data - U.S. Federal Reserve.

This is where the inflation argument gets really interesting.

As of July 2009, the official annualized CPI from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was -2.1% showing deflation. This compares to annual inflation of +5.44%, according to the CPI-Alt from ShadowStats.com. A bond investor relying on the official CPI, buying a Treasury bond believes that it will shield him/her from the deemed real drop in prices with a guaranteed return of anywhere from 0.17 to 4.44%. However, if the CPI-Alt is a better reflection of reality, the bond investor is actually losing money, since the rate of return is below the actual inflation rate.

From a longer-term perspective, the second scenario has been the more accurate. The value of 10-year Treasuries lost 4.5% in nominal terms during the first half of 2009, which was the worst performance in 30 years according to Bloomberg (see article Treasuries Drop for First Time in Six Weeks below). If we use the CPI-Alt inflation rate of 5.44% it means investors generated a real annual loss of at least 9.94% (the rate of inflation according to the CPI-Alt was much higher at the beginning of the year)!

Figure 6 - Chart showing monthly changes in Treasury international capital flows (net foreign purchases of U.S. Treasuries) together with the amount required monthly to finance the budget deficit since 2005 (red line). This year's budget deficit estimated by the White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) equates to more than $140 billion per month. Also shown is the trend of foreign net Treasury capital flows (yellow line). Source - U.S. Treasury.

Figure 7 - Overview of foreign investments in the U.S. since 1980. Notice the big drop in 2009 indicating net selling of U.S. assets by foreigners. Source - St Louis Federal Reserve.

Life on a Debt Rocket

Is it any wonder foreigners are losing interest in financing our credit needs? Here is a brief summary of the problems we now face.  

Problem 1 - Sheer size and growth rate of the debt
The total projected 2009 government debt ($12.9 trillion) works out to more than $42,400 for every man, woman and child, or $112,000 per household in this country.  And, this debt has been growing at an average annual rate of nearly 9% since 2000. However, this does not include future unfunded Medicare and Social Security liabilities that taken together with total government debt total more than $50 trillion according to former U.S. Comptroller General, David M. Walker. Today's total credit market debt of $53 trillion (not including future liabilities), works out to nearly $175,000 per person or $460,000 per household (assuming 115 million U.S. households) and is approaching 4 times the size of our total annual economic output or GDP. 

If we take David Walker's estimate of future unfunded Medicare, Social Security and other liabilities and add them to current total credit market debt, the total is more than $90 trillion, which works out to total present and future debt obligations of more than $780,000 per U.S. household! (As I write this I am hoping I made a mistake with the math, but I have triple-checked the government and total credit market debt figures.)

Granted our savings rate has been climbing, but it would take far more than total U.S. savings to finance our debt. According to data gathered up until March 31, 2009, the 8,246 financial institutions insured by the FDIC had total assets of $13.54 trillion. So even if we used every penny of the assets of all insured U.S. banks, we would still only have enough to finance federal government debt, but that is just one-quarter of all U.S. debt.  We have been clearly living far above our income levels and debt levels tell us that this habit is growing. With foreign interest in our bonds dropping, who is going to finance our growing financial needs?

Problem 2 - Growing Cost of Financing
Over the last thirty years, debt has continued to grow in both booms and recessions, but so far it has been manageable enough to finance. Now, even at current low interest rates, it's getting more expensive due to its sheer size. This year's projected government debt of $12.9 trillion will cost us more than $452 billion per year at an interest rate of 3.5% (approximate yield on a 10-year Treasury). That is roughly equal to the entire cost of the total federal budget deficit just last year in 2008 ($455 billion). 

Problem 3 - Interest Rate Risk
Whenever there is a debt, it is accompanied by an interest rate risk-the greater the debt, the greater the risk. Historically speaking, current interest rates are near 50-year lows. If rates rise, so will the cost of the debt. At an interest rate of 8%, the annual interest on government debt rises above $1 trillion. Is this a real threat? This is where the real inflation rate becomes crucial. When (not if) bond investors get tired of financing this debt for the current small rate of return, they will demand a higher return. If the real inflation rate is 5.44%, it means we will have to pay bond investors that, plus a reasonable return of at least two to three percent, which puts the interest on government debt at a minimum of 7.44%.  Could it happen? Take another look at Figure 3 above. Government debt has increased at an average annual rate of 9% and at no time since 1970 has government debt declined.  It did happen in Iceland a couple of years ago. The government was willing to pay 8% to investors to finance the government debt, but no one was interested. Within fifteen days, the rate jumped to 14% and the government had no choice but to pay it or face default.

The important takeaway for now is to realize how vulnerable we have become due to our high debt levels and just how quickly this habit has spiraled out of control.

As we will see next, history has not been kind to nations that have found themselves in a similar position in the past.

Currency Life Cycle

In last month's report we began with a discussion of Zimbabwe, the latest example of a fiat paper currency that fell prey to the evils of hyperinflation. The overriding question today is, "Could it happen again here in the U.S.?"  When I say "again," it is not a typo. This has happened in our country before, and more than just once.

In his 2008 book entitled, Fiat Paper Money: The History and Evolution of Our Currency, bullion and currency specialist, Ralph Foster, discusses Zimbabwe and other national fiat currencies throughout history. And one important lesson stands out. Without exception, every fiat paper currency since the beginning of time has suffered a strikingly similar fate. As we mentioned last month, the U.S. dollar became a fiat paper currency backed by nothing more than the faith and good will of the government following the move by Richard Nixon to take the nation off the gold standard in 1971.

Fiat paper money is currency not backed by gold, silver or other semi-precious metal or tangible asset. Its first recorded use provides valuable insight into the challenges nations employing it have faced throughout history. 

According to Foster, fiat currency for general use first appeared in recorded history in the 11th century AD in Szechwan, China. Following a long period of peace and prosperity, the area around Szechwan endured a shortage of copper, which was used for coinage. Iron was tried, but it proved too heavy and impractical.   Paper had been used in money shops in the exchange of deposit receipts to transact business, so the next logical step was to use it as a currency. In 1024, it made its debut as a national currency for general use by the Sung Empire.

Armed with the best of intentions, bureaucrats for the Imperial Sung Treasury originally intended that the currency be redeemed for coin after three years. However, whenever there is potential for abuse, the temptation becomes unbearable and over time, the Sung Treasury kept printing an increasing number of notes and redeeming fewer at the allotted time. By 1077, only 29 percent of the issue was backed by coin.

But in spite of these abuses, the note called the chiao-tzu, held its value for seven decades. As time went on, the Imperial Sung Treasury gradually and quietly slipped into the practice of issuing series after series of notes with little regard for the regulatory controls. The days of 29 percent backing quietly slipped into oblivion as the state discovered how easy it was to pay its obligations in paper.  (Does this sound familiar yet?)

By the first decade of the 12th century, over 20 times as many notes were circulating as had been originally authorized in 1024 and prices were quickly rising. Then the Sung Empire was attacked and war began, further increasing the need for money by the rulers. Laws were enacted to contain inflation, but it was too late. In 1127, the leaders of the Sung Empire were broke, forced to cede the territory in dispute and flee south by which time the chiao-tzu had become worthless. 

This set of events, with different casts, played out four more times over the next two centuries in China.   And then, it happened countless times in other parts of the world over the next nine hundred years by just about every civilized nation in the world.  Even though the characters and locations changed, the plot remained strikingly similar to that of a Shakespearian tragedy-it could be broken down into five all-too predictable acts, including the death of the play's central character, the currency. 

Of Fiat Princes and Paupers (in that order) - A Shakespearian Tragedy

Act 1 - A form of currency, usually a metal, which had been in use, became impractical as the economy grew, causing bureaucrats to adopt a paper replacement due to its light weight, ease of use and versatility. Often, but not always, the new note was initially backed either by gold, silver or copper and would often have a redemption date.

Act 2 - As time progressed and prosperity grew, the temptation to create something from nothing was too great to resist and an increasing number of notes would be printed by those in charge of the treasury. This would not be immediately noticeable, which led to an increasing number of notes being printed to the benefit of those in charge. At this stage, the ruling classes often enjoyed new found prosperity, wealth and status. It was also at this stage of the fiat currency life cycle that Ponzi schemes like Tulip Mania (1637) in the Netherlands or the South Sea Company bubble (1720) took root. Without the availability of large amounts of ready and portable cash, such schemes and bubbles are nearly impossible.

Act 3 - Often a war, attack, military action or other crisis erupted that required huge sums of money from the ruling classes. Debt replaced greed as the primary motivator to print more money. Any checks and balances still in place to curtail money supply would be abandoned and the printing presses were kicked into high gear. Debt continued to mount and inflation rapidly accelerated.  

Act 4 - The result was always the same - hyperinflation ensued after attempts to pay off unmanageable levels of debt failed and the currency plunged in value until it became worthless. Act 5 was the unfortunate and inevitable final step.

Act 5 - In the wake of financial collapse, which was often but not always the result of a failed expensive military campaign or war (which the subject country usually lost), economic collapse gripped the nation and economic chaos followed. Citizens stripped of their property struggled to feed themselves and their families. Barter became the primary form of currency. Often laws would be passed banning the use of paper currency again. But in a generation these lessons were forgotten laying the foundation for the next fiat currency cycle. 

Foster's Fiat Paper Money is an essential read for anyone concerned about their future financial well-being. In the appendix, Foster lists the instances he found in which national notes became worthless, breaking the list into decade-long periods starting from the beginning of the 20th Century.  

In total, there are 431 examples (pages 216 and 217) in which a national note or currency became worthless between 1900 and 2009, which works out to an average of four fiat money collapses per year. And a number of nations have been repeat offenders.

Foster also discusses four interesting examples of fiat paper money in the U.S. since our nation's beginnings (not including the current dollar), that like every other case of every fiat currency in history, eventually became worthless and had to be taken out of circulation.  

Resisting the Ostrich Urge

Granted, our debt appears to be spiraling out of control.  It has only been made possible thanks to existence of a fiat paper currency that allows those in control of the Treasury to print as much money as they want when the need arises. But, burying your head in the sand won't make the problem go away.

History tells us that over time, regulatory controls diminish and out-of-control inflation is the unavoidable end result. I am still optimistic that we are not beyond the point of no return to become a Zimbabwe, at least not yet. But the window of opportunity is closing more quickly than most realize. As a friend of mine used to say, plan for the worst and hope for the best. This means taking some steps to protect your assets from potential inflation, which, once it has begun, could escalate to hyperinflation in relatively short order.  I will discuss that in more detail at the end of this newsletter.

Figure 8 - Chart showing the parabolic move in the Zimbabwe Industrial Index in the dying days of the Zimbabwe dollar. The problem is that by the time you sold the stock and cashed the check, you had virtually nothing left, thanks to an inflation rate running in the billions of percent.

Real Estate Update - The Next Two Boots?

We have been hearing about the green shoots in the real estate market. Both new and existing home sales have improved, and although median prices haven't responded with much conviction yet, they appear to have stopped falling, at least for the time being. Builder sentiment is also on the mend, if you believe the most recent National Association of Home Builders Sentiment Report.

But according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, while existing home prices are falling more slowly than before, they were still falling at an annualized rate of 17% in May. And there are two more clouds on the real estate recovery horizon. The first is foreclosures as another 1.9 million were registered in the first half of 2009.  And while existing home sales are gradually improving, the addition of new foreclosures means inventories will remain stubbornly high for the foreseeable future, further depressing prices.

The second cloud is commercial real estate. Based on recent news, the commercial property market may be as much as two years behind its residential counterpart, and this is very bad news for the beleaguered banks that hold the mortgages. Already reeling from residential defaults and soaring foreclosures, the banks are now taking it on the chin as commercial property values plummet and occupancy rates soar.  This has led to a new round of bank defaults, which hit 77 for 2009 on August 14, with the failure of Colonial BancGroup, which is the largest failure of 2009 and the most costly since the failure of IndyMac Bancorp in 2008.

Some areas have been harder hit than others. Commercial property sales in Denver dropped 68% in the 12 months ending June 30, 2009, according to a report from LoopNet Inc.  Property owners have been increasingly squeezed between falling demand amid the economic slowdown and tightening lending standards by banks desperately attempting to stem the hemorrhaging of red ink from their balance sheets.    

Figure 9 - Chart showing delinquency rates at commercial banks for residential and commercial real estate ad credit cards.

According to one industry analyst, "The bottom line: defaults are exploding. It's going to be worse than the early 90s."

The delinquency rate on commercial property loans pooled together into investments, estimated at around $750 billion, hit nearly 3% in Q2-09.  This is about triple from where it was at year-end 2008, according to real estate group Reis Inc. In all, there are about $3.5 trillion worth of commercial real estate loans held by banks, tied up in commercial mortgage-backed securities or held by other institutions.  More than $2 trillion in commercial mortgages are expected to come due between now and 2013 (see article below Recession and Debt Drag on Commercial Real Estate).

REIT Rally Madness
What I find interesting is the how well the majority of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have performed since March. The First Trust S&P REIT Index ETF (FRI) is up more than 65%, the REIT Diversified Industrial (MG441) is up 69% since March 6, 2009, which is representative of how well they have performed since the most recent recovery began. Overall, REITs (both equity and mortgage) are up 68% since March 6, 2009, according to the VectorVest Composite REIT Sector Index. According to data from VectorVest.com, per share earnings for the VectorVest REIT Sector Index comprised of 133 equity REITs and 41 mortgage REITs came in at negative $1.08/share, according to the latest data, which is an improvement from the March 18, 2009 low of -$1.35, but a sizable per share loss nonetheless. More importantly, the earnings growth rate is negative 4%.

So are gains approaching 70% justified when REITs are still bleeding significant cash? I'll let you be the judge.

For the broad range of stocks, according to the latest earnings data from VectorVest.com, per share earnings for the more than 8000 U.S. stocks tracked by the VectorVest Composite Index have risen to an average of $0.17 from an all-time low of $0.13 six weeks ago, which hardly justifies the more than 50% gains we have seen in equity prices since March 2009. There is little doubt in our minds that stocks in general have clearly gotten ahead of themselves and REITs are way overvalued given the economic environment.

Finally, the chart by dshort.com (above) compares the most recent rally (blue) with the rally in 1930 (grey). We don't believe that the S&P500 is getting set to drop 83% as happened from 1930 to 1932 (let's face it there is too much stimulus money being pumped into the system for that to happen), but it does suggest that the correction we saw in the third week of August may be the beginning of more to come in the coming weeks.

Suggested Reading:

The Economy Is in Deep, Deep Trouble...
http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14759

Toxic Loans Topping 5% May Push 150 Banks to Point of No Return
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aTTT9jivRIWE

Recession and Debt Drag on Commercial Real Estate
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090812/ap_on_bi_ge/us_commercial_real_estate_2

Commercial Mortgage Failure at 20-Year High in U.S.: Report
http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSTRE56J1A120090720

Commercial Real Estate Deals Off, Prices Up
http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2009/08/10/daily88.html?ana=from_rss

Underwater Mortgages May Reach 30% by Mid-2010, Zillow Says
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601110&sid=aL3gWFhKRt_w

Treasuries Fall for First Time in Six Weeks as Stocks Advance
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aVIVaL2qqOWY

HSBC Says 2010 European Bond Sales to Approach 1 Trillion Euros
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aEId3R3ePT9s

Fiat Paper Money: The History and Evolution of our Currency  by Ralph Foster
http://home.pacbell.net/tfdf/

Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles by Jesus Huerta de Soto
http://mises.org/store/Money-Bank-Credit-and-Economic-Cycles-P290.aspx

In New Phase of Crisis, Securities Sink Banks
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/In-New-Phase-of-Crisis-wallstreet-1020317667.html?x=0&.v=4


Portfolio Performance Analysis

Risk & Reward
Each of our portfolios is strategically allocated across one or more of the Investment Pillars of Strength discussed below.  Each Pillar is managed by multiple, uncorrelated, absolute-return investment managers to produce a return stream that is consistent, negatively correlated with the major market averages in down markets and non-correlated with each of our core Pillars of Strength. 

Managing risk is our most important consideration and it is reflected in the way our portfolios are built and managed each and every day.

The S&P 500 continues to soar higher, adding 7.56% in July and another 3.9% MTD August.  From the low on March 5, 2009, the S&P 500 has now rallied 50.3%.  Most market analysts expected some kind of bounce from oversold conditions, but few, including your humbled analyst, expected the most powerful rally since the 1930s.  During the Great Depression era, the Dow Jones also experienced significant rallies of 122.48%, 100.67%, and 52.16%.  Each rally lasting months and each ending in tears. 

Will this rally be different?  Will the history books list March 5, 2009 as the bottom of the market for the Great Recession?  Time will soon tell.  I think this rally will likely continue higher, but will likely end in tears after it has sucked every last dollar back into the market. 

July was similar to June for our portfolios, with our fixed income investments outperforming our allocations in domestic and international equities.  Volatility in government bonds still remains extremely high and equities continue to rise for consecutive days and weeks in a row.  Equity markets appear to be gravitating from mean reverting to trend following market behavior.  Regime changes such as this keep me up at night anticipating portfolio allocation adjustments. 

Below is a performance summary for the indices we track and benchmark our portfolios to:    


Cumulative Return

  

Average Annual Return

Indexes

Mth.

YTD

1 yr

  

3 yr

5 yr

10 yr

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

CSFB L/S *

1.46

9.79

-8.33


2.89

6.69

7.38

CSFB Multi-St. *

2.98

15.64

-7.53


1.24

4.70

7.00

Barclay F-of-F *

1.58

5.91

-13.10


-1.85

2.02

5.09

S&P 500

7.56

10.97

-19.96


-6.16

-0.14

-1.19

Barclay HY

6.09

38.37

4.92


3.79

5.29

5.28

Barclay Agg.

1.61

3.55

7.85


6.52

5.14

6.19









* Note:

Estimated monthly performance



Index Advantage:

Because we will short riskier or low probability trading opportunities, it is difficult for a long/short portfolio to keep pace with equity markets that move higher for consecutive days and weeks in a row.   For the month, this dynamically changing equity allocation managed to capture 15% of the S&P 500 7.56% gain, but keeping pace with our long/short equity benchmarks. 

For the month, this pillar gained 1.13%. 

Strategic Balance:

Total investment exposure for this nimble allocation remains historically low as our traders patiently wait for higher probability trades to materialize.  Because overall investment exposure remains low, our risk-adjusted returns for this allocation are in the stratosphere.  On a relative return basis, it has outperformed equity investments with much lower risk dynamics than traditional fixed income investments.    

For the month, this pillar earned .62%.      

Dynamic Income:

We had so many challenges with our fixed income allocation in our first year of trading, that I now feel like a proud father watching his young son score the winning touchdown.  Fixed income clearly continues to lead all allocation in this powerful bull market rally.  I am sure there are more bumps in our road ahead, but I am confident in the long-term performance of this very important diversifying allocation. 

For the month, this pillar earned 3.25%.

Our portfolios are built using varying distributions to the strategic allocations discussed above.  To view detailed performance and risk statistics information about our investment portfolios for the month, please click on the links below: 

If You Are a Client, Don't Be Confused.
Actual management and performance fees are incurred monthly but are deducted from client accounts in the first month of every quarter (January, April, July, and October).  For performance reporting purposes, we deduct fees monthly as they incur and not quarterly, as they are reflected in client statements.  It all washes out in the end, but this may cause your account performance to deviate from our published performance reports on a month-to-month basis.  To be conservative, we also deduct the maximum fees we charge from our performance reports and your actual overall fees paid may be less than our maximum. 

The First Day of School and the Oregon Coast

On Thursday, my daughters, Annabelle and Sarah, started school.  Annabelle is in the 2nd grade and Sarah is now in  the 5th.  Can you remember what a big day that was for you?  They were so excited to start school that they got up before their alarms went off.  Don't get me wrong, they weren't excited about their school work, but rather to see all of their friends.  I am sure this will change when they become teenagers. 

Before they left for school that morning, I informed them that this was the last day of their life that they would get to experience the first day of 2nd and 5th grade.  I try to communicate to them how short life really is, but when you live life one day at a time it doesn't have much meaning until you get older.  I wish I could have their innocent thoughts for a week.  What a joy it is to watch them grow up. 

I somehow talked my wife into letting me pull our kids out of school for a week to go to the Oregon Coast.  My college roommate and dear friend, Geoff Kittell, moved out west with me to Portland in 1993.  He married the girl of his dreams and still lives there with his young and growing family.  He invited us to his beach house, so the girls and I are hitting the road for a 9 hour road trip to the most beautiful coast in America.  If you have never been to the Oregon Coast, you need to add it to your bucket list!

Does anyone know of a good answer to the two most asked questions by children on long road trips?

Dad, are we there yet?
Dad, how much further is it?

If you have a good answer, please send me your comments.

By the time you receive next month's ProfitScore IQ, summer will be over.  You only have a few more precious weeks of summer left and life is short.  Please take some time to enjoy your friends and family and take pleasure in the precious few days of summer we have left. 


Working to grow your wealth,


John M. McClure
President & CEO
ProfitScore Capital Management, Inc.


P.S. If you would like to hire us to help you navigate this difficult bear market, below are three ways to contact us:

  • Complete our Private Client Group request form by clicking here http://profitscore.com/clientgroup.aspx and submitting your contact information. (This is the most preferred method.)
  • Call us directly at (800) 731-5690.
  • Simply send us an email to info @ profitscore.com.

Someone will contact you within 24 hours of receiving your information.

 

 

 





Posted 08-26-2009 2:46 PM by John M. McClure