Time Flies! In a year of hyperbole, that may be the biggest understatement!
2017 produced three major surprises. First and foremost, of course was the performance of the overall stock market. My “Fearless Forecast” – a tongue in cheek exercise our founder Jack Nelson started decades ago on the Sunday radio program “Dollars & Sense” that I continue to host – was not nearly this optimistic with my DOW prediction for 2017 at a mere 23,000! Needless to say, our consistent investment approach that utilizes predominantly large blue-chip companies generated us all very good investment results this year.
Second, there was very little volatility in achieving this performance. In fact, 2017 is on track to be the first year ever in which the S&P 500 will have a perfect record of no negative months.
Third, there was a significant Christmas gift to all in the form of large tax cuts. Regardless of what you may have heard in the media, this tax cut unequivocally puts more money in your pocket. To be determined, of course, is its effect on the deficit and future generations. I am glad we all don’t run our personal finances the way the federal government operates!
I have no doubt that 2018 will have its share of surprises as well. There are always headlines – new and old – that will be dissected thoroughly and whenever possible stoked to create maximum fear. I suspect 2018 will have more short-term headline driven market volatility than 2017 – it can’t help but not given the perfect record of 2017! The obvious volatile example is North Korea which continues to smolder. The less than obvious example is the task in front of the Federal Reserve as they try to increase interest rates while monitoring the proper growth level for an economy that shifted into a higher gear in 2017. Their task, along with many other central banks, of continuing to unwind the post-2008 financial response is a daunting one at best.
However, we believe that the economic trends that started to accelerate in the second half of 2017 will carry over to 2018. 2018 would be hard-pressed to match the performance of 2017, but the year should be a decent one for investors as consumers start to spend more, corporate profits continue to increase, and the immediate effects of the tax cut spur further economic activity.
Be sure to listen to my radio show “Dollars and Sense” this coming Sunday at 9AM on 540 AM/102.5 FM for my official “Fearless Forecast” for 2018. If you miss the show on Sunday, it will be posted to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and our website www.NelsonFinancialPlanning.com.
The start of a new year begins anew our series of regular client meetings at the Country Club of Orlando located at 1601 Country Club Drive in Orlando. Our February 6, 2018 dinner meeting at 5:30PM features a return of Joe Valencia from American Funds. This should be an informative way to start the year off as Joe will be providing a 2018 Outlook. Bill Cass of Putnam Investments returns for our March 20, 2018 dinner meeting at 5:30PM. This will be a timely discussion as well featuring both a current tax and economic analysis.
Please be sure to RSVP to these events either by email or contacting the office at 407-629-6477 to reserve your space. Feel free to invite your friends to these meetings as well!
The start of a new year also means that tax season is around the corner. The recent tax cut only affects 2018 returns and beyond so your upcoming returns should follow the same pattern of the prior year return. In our usual mid-January letter, we will include a special Top 10 Tax Changes for 2018 to help you begin to prepare for these sweeping tax changes.
Enjoy the New Year’s Holiday and I look forward to seeing you in 2018!
There are many things we are thankful for this year – paramount among them is the nice returns to date in 2017!
The year has been surprising not only in the magnitude of the market increase but in the absence of volatility so far. The amount of the increase is partially making up for the absence of significant market improvement in 2015 and 2016. Of course, the greater contributing factor to this increase is the global economic upswing occurring across nearly all of the world’s major economies. This upswing has led to improved corporate profits particularly in large multi-national companies that are predominant in the funds you own. In fact, these types of companies have experienced two consecutive quarters of double digit profit growth.
Meanwhile, this market increase has been extraordinarily smooth. However, some level of short-term volatility (the type that produces declines of 5-10%) is normal and to be expected simply by being an owner of large blue chip companies. This short-term volatility is normally headline driven and occurs over a span of weeks. Longer term volatility (the type that produces declines of 20-25%) is directly connected to a downturn in economic activity which is clearly not where the current economic trends are pointing. These trends from employment and manufacturing data to business and consumer confidence remain quite positive. The global economy is certainly improving but still not in top gear. Consequently, we remain optimistic about market returns in 2018 but with a healthy perspective on the realities of short-term headline driven volatility.
The ending of a year means that tax season and our 2018 client events will be upon us shortly. Time will tell what tax changes will occur for 2018 and beyond. The dueling House and Senate tax proposals don’t provide a clear direction at this point. For the current year, there are no major tax changes so we would expect tax returns to be similar to prior years. The only exception would be that capital gain distributions are expected to be slightly larger than past years which would increase the tax implications on non-retirement accounts.
Please mark your calendar for Tuesday, February 6, which will be our first client meeting of 2018. This will be a dinner event at the Country Club of Orlando and Joe Valencia from the American Funds will provide a 2018 Outlook. Look for more details on this event in our letter mailing in early January.
The end of the year is always a good time for a review so if you have not been in to see us lately, please call the office to set up a conversation.
21,000 on the DOW – what does it really mean? Clearly, it means positive things for the value of your accounts. Our investment allocations that typically include high levels of exposure to stocks are now fully participating in this rally. Our email at the first of the year expressed concern that the post-election rally in November and December was quite concentrated in a handful of companies in certain sectors where a Trump victory meant less regulation and more profitability. So far, in 2017, the rally has become much broader principally because the economic data continues to improve. Just last week, manufacturing activity in both China and the U.S. showed nice improvement. Meanwhile, sentiment among consumers and small business owners continues to hit levels not seen in many years.
However, just as our counsel is to maintain perspective and not get too caught up in the constantly negative news cycle, we encourage the same behavior now. A 1,000 point increase on the DOW doesn’t mean as much as it used too. The simple math underscores that. When the DOW was at 10,000, a 1,000 point jump meant a 10% increase. Now, with the DOW at 20,000, a 1,000 point increase means a 5% improvement. This 1,000 point jump in just 24 days is not even record setting in market history – merely tying a record set in 2009.
Clearly, there are reasons for cautious optimism ahead on the strength of consumer confidence and improvement in manufacturing activity. But in terms of percentage swings, this is nothing more than normal market behavior where on average swings of 5-10% occur about three times per year. We remain somewhat concerned about the continued inconsistencies of the Trump administration. In this global economy where corporate America makes nearly half of its profits (45% to be exact) from outside the U.S.A., a breakdown in international relations and trade could quickly undermine these results.
All of this certainly sets the stage for our next client meeting on March 28. Our speaker will be Bill Cass from Putnam Investments. Bill returns to discuss the latest economic and market conditions and to provide a look ahead to the rest of 2017. Please join us on March 28 at 5:30 at the Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Drive, Orlando, FL. Please RSVP for you and your guests to this email or the office at 407-629-6477.
Please stay tuned to our weekly radio show “Dollars and Sense” for our thoughts on the latest news. The speed of the news cycle these days is ever increasing and our live weekly show provides an opportunity to hear our take on the current headlines. The show airs at 9AM on Sunday at 102.5 FM or 540 AM and is available the following day on our website www.NelsonFinancialPlanning.com or our social media outlets on Facebook, Twitter or Linked In.
Around the office these days tax season is underway. While we expect many changes for 2017, 2016 returns are generally running quite similar to the prior year for most people. The only exception to this is that mutual fund capital gain distributions appear to be lower from the previous year so that is helping to reduce the tax burden for some.
On a personal note, my oldest son Nelson recently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. So very proud of him and his accomplishments. Hard to believe he turns 16 later this month and then I will be constantly looking for my car keys!
Look forward to seeing you at the meeting on March 28!