I am not sure you understand how passionate I am about financial markets. When we were rebranding years ago, I proposed the following catch phrase, “We don’t sleep, so you can.” which was shot down and rightfully so. At some point, clearly sleep deprivation would impact judgment, I digress.

Ever since I was a child, markets fascinated me to the point of obsession. I had the great privilege of owning my first stock at age 12, McDonald’s, a story I tell regularly. I also owned shares in the Boston Celtics, something you could do at the time similar to the Green Bay Packers, albeit the shares wound up being worthless. I remember hearing stories of my great grandfather, a broker on Wall Street during the Roaring 20s, who stayed in the business during the Great Depression. More fascinating than any other family story was how he made it to the other side of the Depression and sold his business in the 1950s.

During college, I traded stocks between classes on an E*trade account, participated in a startup technology company and got my start at the peak of the dotcom bubble as a commissioned broker in New York.

While I’ve gone through multiple bear markets, bull markets, and everything in between, nothing has hindered the passion I have for the financial markets. When chaos ensues, such as it has in the last few weeks, my days become quite short as I prepare super early to get a jump on the newsflow as global markets truly never sleep.

 

When I started in business, only my mother and my bride believed I would make it. Fast forward to last year when our $300MM practice was acquired by a billion dollar conglomerate, thus solidifying our legacy for decades to come. Needless to say, despite that operational transition, not a single thing has changed with my passion, approach or work ethic when it comes to markets.

 

Why, you may ask, am I writing about this now? Well, it’s really quite simple. Over these last 10 years it wasn’t difficult to make money in the markets. You literally threw a dart, hit an index fund and jumped on for the ride. While the S&P 500 was academically diversifying, I would argue that with 5 stocks occupying nearly 50% of the market value of the entire index, diversification wasn’t as vast as one would expect. In my opinion this has now changed, and it is a change I welcome and a change that I suspect is here to stay. In no particular order, here are some things I’m pondering this morning.

 

Gold – Unless you are thinking of a zombie apocalypse, gold is an asset class to generate returns like any other. While Gold held its own during 2022 it did not act as many expected when we saw great inflation. It was flat for the year. Why then is it on a tear now, when inflation seems to be subsiding? Gold is more of a proxy against the dollar, not necessarily inflation. While traditional inflation has been a result of a falling dollar, that was not the case in 2022. The dollar rose while inflation reared its ugly head. Now that inflation is subsiding and the dollar is back under pressure, Gold has been a standout and I suspect will continue that way. Side note, I am NOT an advocate of physical gold stored in your home. If you’ve ever traveled to a 3rd world country you can understand why. If you ever tried to use this for commerce folks would chuckle at you, and it would be impossible to make change. If it makes you feel better, I have no issues with that as long as you understand the true cost of physical ownership. It’s not as great as many suspect.

 

Technology stocks are back in vogue. Why is this happening? It’s really quite simple. As the economy has slowed, throwing in a banking crisis to boot, the idea of such an aggressive Fed is now off the table. Yes, I suspect a 25bp rate hike today, but I also suspect a softer tone stressing ‘data observation’ going forward. Markets should like this and interest rates should continue their decline. As interest rates decline, the idea of owning cash heavy, debt free technology becomes much more attractive. This is precisely why we’re seeing such strong outperformance in the NASDAQ this year with many technology stocks looking to take out new highs. There’s a bull market in specific areas, don’t let the media tell you otherwise.

 

Regional Banks – Unfortunately, despite a raised FDIC limit, or general uninsured backstop by the government, I fear for the future of regional and smaller banks. Increased regulation, which is code for ‘higher cost,’ will be coming down the pike very quickly. These higher costs will be a significant burden to these banks, which will squeeze margins and profits making it difficult to operate and grow. I suspect we’ll see quite a bit of consolidation in the space in the coming years and it is not an investment area I’d be allocating much capital to at this time.

Pessimism rules – In all my years as an advisor, I’ve never quite seen the pessimism I do today. This is in stark contrast to just two years ago when conversations were centered around clients wanting to take more risk and have more stock exposure. This was a sure fire sign of things to come. Now, it seems as if things have completely turned around. Markets are still down significantly from their peaks with many individual stocks and sectors trading far, far below average declines, yet we’re struggling to get people into the ‘discount bargain’ mindset. Just the other day, I had a discussion with someone who asked my opinion on selling out. I simply told him, “Well, when you sell, I’m going to buy, so take that for what it’s worth.” While we certainly don’t want to time the market, I can’t stress enough that the ebbs and flows of markets are part of the game. When others are fearful it’s an opportunity to be greedy, not the other way around. While we continue to face many challenges with the economic backdrop, I am finding many opportunities that I like quite a bit.

 

We continue to watch the developments within the banking sector, the Fed’s response, inflationary data and geopolitical challenges as well. There is no doubt about it, we’re on our toes on a daily basis. Thankfully, it’s more than a job to me, it’s a passion that I feel blessed to be able to pursue. I don’t tell you enough how thankful I am for the opportunity to work with you and to navigate this crazy journey together.

Until next time