Should Investors Worry About Impeachment?

Tweets and speeches don’t drive the stock markets – numbers do

It’s now clear that the investigations into President Trump are likely to continue through the 2020 elections. What’s still uncertain is the impact that these investigations will have on the stock market.
After rallying since Trump’s election victory in November 2016, the S&P 500 Index has done pretty well, but it has stumbled at times too:

• Ending 2016 up 9.54%;
• Zooming up 19.42% in 2017;
• Dropping 6.24% in 2018; and
• Up more than 18% so far year-to-date at the end of the third-quarter in 2019.

Although stocks have rewarded investors with healthy returns, investors seem more nervous that Trump will be impeached because not only will his pro-business agenda be stalled, but the chaos could send the markets into a tailspin. At least that’s the worry.
And although no one has a crystal ball to tell us how the Trump investigations will end, investors would be smart to tune them out. Here are a few reasons why.

Economics Matter More than Tweets

Economics and numbers matter way more than politics to the stock market. Trump’s tweets and speeches get all the media attention, and while the market might seem to react a little bit at times, the reality is that boring economic numbers drive the markets one way or the other. And consider these numbers:

• Unemployment is at 3.7%, one-tenth of a percent from the lowest level in over 50 years.
• We have seen 107 consecutive months of job growth, the longest streak ever.
• Wages have risen 3.2% this year, the strongest year in over a decade.
• Inflation has run below the Fed’s intended longer-term 2% target for most of this 10-year expansion and core inflation has averaged 2.1% so far this year.
• Consumer spending came in much higher than expected with a 4.7% annualized growth number, the highest gain in 4 years.

Impeachment is Unlikely Anyway

Investors should remember that impeachment is very unlikely as no U.S. president has ever been impeached and kicked out of office.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached, but they were acquitted in the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required for conviction. Richard Nixon avoided impeachment and conviction only by resigning office.

Earnings Drive Stock Prices

What should investors worry about? Numbers. Specifically, corporate earnings.

It’s an investing adage that earnings are the lifeblood of the stock market. Stocks move in response to real or perceived earnings changes. If you are thinking of owning individual stocks, the trick is to find those whose earnings growth is strong, and should remain strong.
In aggregate, however, investors should worry about the upcoming earnings season as we head into the fourth quarter of 2019. Because according to research firm FactSet, as of September 27, 2019, 113 of the S&P 500 companies have issued EPS (earnings-per-share) guidance for the quarter.

And of these 113 companies, 82 have issued negative EPS guidance and 31 companies have issued positive EPS guidance. For perspective, the number of companies issuing negative EPS is above the 5-year average of 74.

Ignore Tweets and Speeches

Again, Trump’s tweets and speeches will continue to get all the media attention. But if you intend to own publicly-traded companies, make sure you read annual reports and earnings releases, not tweets.

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. This material and information are not intended to provide tax or legal advice.  Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. 

January FOMC Meeting: A pause, but (probably) not the end of tightening

Leading into the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decision, Chair Jerome Powell and many of the regional Federal Reserve (the Fed) bank presidents had unanimously expressed support for a pause in the Fed’s tightening cycle. Even Esther George, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, advocated for a patient approach to monetary policy in her speech a few weeks ago.

In a press conference following the conclusion of the FOMC meeting, Powell stuck to the script and emphasized the Fed is waiting patiently to see how the economy evolves. The January statement removed the reference to further gradual increases, scrapped the central bank’s assessment that risks to the economic outlook are roughly balanced (hinting that they are skewing slightly to the downside now), and noted that inflationary pressures are muted. Translation: the Fed is on hold until at least June. The battery of dovish tweaks to the Fed’s guidance was enough to lift U.S. equities in the minutes following the announcement.

The cause for the pause: Downside risks

It’s important to remember that the cause for the pause is most likely about emergent downside risks to both the U.S. and global economic outlook. While the Fed still expects a strong economy in 2019, the recent volatility in financial markets, the slowing in global growth, and sharp declines in measures of U.S. consumer and business confidence have all eroded the central bank’s conviction in that baseline somewhat.

Why Having a Financial Professional Matters

What kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor? The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long lasting.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncounseled investor may make self-defeating decisions. Some investors never turn to a financial professional. They concede that there might be some value in maintaining such a relationship, but they ultimately decide to go it alone. That may be a mistake. 

No investor is infallible. Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. In long bull markets, investors risk becoming overconfident. The big-picture narrative of Wall Street can be forgotten, along with the reality that the market has occasional bad years.  This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden market shock may lead an investor into other irrational behaviors. Perhaps stocks sink rapidly, and an investor realizes (too late) that a portfolio is over weighted in equities. Or, perhaps an investor panics during a correction, selling low only to buy high after the market rebounds.

Often, investors grow impatient and try to time the market. Poor market timing may explain this divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, the S&P 500 returned an average of 8.91% annually across the 20 years ending on December 31, 2015, while the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.67% per year.1            

The other risk is that of financial nearsightedness. When an investor flies solo, chasing yield and “making money” too often become the top pursuits. The thinking is short term.

A good financial professional helps a committed investor and retirement saver stay on track. He or she helps the investor set a course for the long term, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount. As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward. Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life. 

This is the value our PFG financial professionals bring to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time. For more information contact us here.

 

Citations.
1 – zacksim.com/heres-investors-underperform-market/ [5/22/17]
PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (“RIA Firm”) is a registered investment adviser located in Tampa, FL. PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. 
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This information is provided for information purposes only.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy.  This material and information are not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice.
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