5/6/2010 Historical Post – The flash crash

From: Dale Beals <dpbeals@comcast.net>
Subject: Today’s market insanity … what I did and why…
Date: May 6, 2010 4:20:24 PM CDT

Dear clients and friends.  After returning from a client lunch appointment today, I saw that the US stock markets had gone from -1% (before lunch) to -4% in just an hour or two. Then the market went into free fall and I decided to begin selling most of your stocks in case this was a 1987-style one day crash (that day was -25%). There was a point when many equity or commodity markets were down 7% or more before we found a bottom for today.

The good news is that because we were well diversified, the Gold, IEF and TLT, and the TIPS (US Treasuries) were all sharply higher as people fled from stocks, so your accounts did not suffer anywhere near the market losses.  I’ll get you interim balances over the next few days, but just wanted you not to worry. Our proprietary asset allocation methodology worked very well today against the unexpected.
The bad news is that the US stock markets finished “only” down -3.2% or so, so some of the securities we sold finished today at higher prices than where we sold (of course nobody knows where they will open tomorrow morning).  One promise I made you when you became my clients, is that I would not let you take big losses if I could possibly help it, so I made a “safety first” decision today. If the market goes straight up from here, we will have missed an opportunity, but I prefer to play it safe when dealing with your money. Hey, just think about those who never heard from their traditional brokers or advisors today. Even if those brokers wanted to act for their clients, they would have been restrained by regulations because they don’t have discretionary authority to act quickly on your behalf. Also, those brokers do not have the same fiduciary responsibility to their clients that I have to mine.
Now for the future. I’ve never seen a day like the last few followed immediately by a happy return to normal. A spike in volatility usually produces more volatility. While the press may blame a “trader error” or a “technical pullback” for the selloff today, they can’t explain the last week’s decline like that, nor can they explain why so many people were sitting with their “hand on the button” to sell. People are getting scared, and I expect more volatility.Many of these scared people are professional mutual fund and hedge fund money managers. Even though many professionals have been uneasy, they felt like they “had to” stay invested as long as the markets were going up, or risk losing clients who feared “falling behind” or “missing an opportunity”. We could even see another big down day in the next 2-3 days.
Whatever happens, I’m going to take the increased market volatility into consideration when rebalancing your accounts after I have a day or two to reflect on the markets.

Safety first.
Thanks for your trust,

2/3/2010 Historical Post

From: Dale Beals <dpbeals@comcast.net>
Subject: Just a quick update on my thinking … please call with any questions
Date: February 3, 2010 7:16:09 PM CST

Dear Clients,

First, thanks for hanging in there with me when I was so timid from September on. The dip I was concerned about finally arrived, and I was able to dollar-cost average some money into the market this Monday morning, Feb 1 at a good time.  Last Friday and Monday, the S&P 500 was back down around the levels from last September and October…. Amazing how the market can give back several months of gains in less than 2 weeks.
I don’t know if there is more downside after the bounce of Monday and Tuesday.  If the market goes lower after today, I’ll plan on more downside and may hedge a little. Either way, the plan remains the same…. dollar-cost-average into the market, based on our models, at the rate of 10-20% more each month.
For those of you who are watching your holdings and comparing to the Asset Allocation Sheets from Appendix A of your Investment Strategy documents,
I’m going to use EWJ – the ETF for Japan’s Nikkei index instead of EFA – the ETF for Europe’s developed markets, for the non-US developed markets.
I’m going to use GAZ – the ETF for US Natural Gas instead of USO – the ETF for US Oil as part of the allocation in the Satellite portfolio.
You may also notice the symbol UUP – the ETF that tracks the movement of the US Dollar against a basket of other currencies. Right now, believe it or not, the US $ has begun an uptrend which we will opportunistically follow until it ends.
Don’t put too much stock in what they say on CNBC every day about why the market went up (or down). What years of study have shown me is that every day there is plenty of bad news and there is plenty of good news about the markets or the economy. If the markets go down, then the pundits link that to fear of unemployment, or fear the stimulus will stop… or any of the bad news of the day. Their reasons may have nothing to do with what actually tipped the scales.
Similarly, when the market is up, the pundits will say “Intel had great earnings” or “Manufacturing index rose over 50.0”. They don’t know what really tipped the scales any more than you and I. They are like sportscasters who have to keep talking about the action, so folks will stay interested and keep watching their commercials. Making investment decisions on what pundits say is extremely hazardous to your savings.
What does matter, and what can be used, is an understanding of the emotion or sentiment of the “Big” investors and the “Little” investors. Like you and me, our overall view causes us to filter the news and focus more on the good news or the bad news, depending on how we feel.  The “Big” investors are not immune to this, but they are aware of it and try to compensate.  The “Little” investors are usually wrong when they all agree.
That is why asset diversification is so critical. That is why allocation of your money to each asset class, based on its volatility and direction is so key to managing risks. That’s why a steady discipline has kept us from big losses during the 2008 crash.
Let’s look at our scenarios again:
1. Inflation, leading to higher interest rates and devaluation of the dollar.
2. Recovery, where we keep reasonable interest rates and gradually return to prosperity.
3. Recession / Depression, where economies turn down and stock markets drop.
A month ago the inflation and recovery scenarios were about even, and the recession/depression scenario was in 3rd place.
Now, in my view Inflation and Recession are tied in 1st, with Recovery in third.
I’ll keep watching and positioning with an eye to 1. Risk Management, 2. Disciplined asset allocation, 3. Averaging back into the market, and 4. Opportunistic trades when I think reward outweighs risk.
I appreciate each of you so much.
Thanks for everything.

01/19/2010 Historical Post

From: Dale Beals <dpbeals@comcast.net>
Subject: Strategy for entering the market
Date: January 19, 2010 10:13:46 AM CST

Dear Clients,

As you know, I’ve been viewing the market with much skepticism for the last half of 2009. If you haven’t done so, please take a look at the email comparing the  S&P 500 over the last 3 years with the Justin Mamis diagram of market sentiment-driven cycles. That will show you why I’ve been concerned.
But, it’s time to fish. So, you will see me invest around 10-20% of your portfolio each month, thus dollar cost averaging into the market during 2010. If we have a big drop, we’ll take advantage of that through dollar cost averaging. If the market keeps going straight up, we’ll have some money invested.
If you have any questions, please give me a call.

12/17/2009 Historical Post

From: Dale Beals Financial Wisdom

Subject: Seasons Greetings

Date: December 17, 2009
Dear Clients and Friends,

Happy Holidays! I pray God’s blessings on you and your family during this special time when my family celebrates the Incarnation of God as Jesus the Messiah.
It’s been a wild year in the markets, with very good gains in most stock indexes. Here is an interesting chart to put things in perspective from www.dshort.com

<Chart Removed>

The chart beautifully shows Four Bad Bear Markets over the last 90 years, with the blue line representing where we have been recently.  Isn’t it amazing that we are still down about -29% from the top in 2007 after all the recent gains this year?
A year or so ago, I wrote you that we don’t believe in predicting the future and then making big bets with your money. Instead, I wrote, we develop possible scenarios and let the market tell us which scenarios appear most likely. Then, we adjust our asset allocation to benefit from the most likely scenarios, while staying flexible all the time. This approach allowed our clients to avoid big losses in 2007 and 2008, so we are doing OK, even without huge gains this year… we’ve still beaten the market as defined by the S&P 500 and slept much better than many folks. (Past performance is no guarantee of future results)
Right now, we seem to be at a tipping point between three almost equally likely scenarios:
1. Inflation becoming very high with rising interest rates and potential damage to the US Dollar;
2. Prosperity returning, with mild inflation, stable interest rates, and gradually improving employment.
3. Recession / Depression with another downturn in asset prices and the economy.
Right now, the US Stock market has been chopping sideways for about 6 weeks in a very narrow range.  In fact, it hasn’t done this since the top in October 2007.
So, while I can’t predict which scenario will win, I do expect a fairly big move one way or the other when one scenario begins to win out over the others.
My Holiday Question to you: Is your investment strategy flexible enough to make you money whichever way things go?
If you are with our firm, I believe the answer is “Yes!”. If you aren’t, check our web site and give us a call during the holidays.
Merry Christmas.

11/18/2009 Historical Post

From: Dale BEALS Financial Wisdom LLC <dbfwllc@me.com>
Subject: Fwd: bloomberg article
Date: November 18, 2009 4:02:54 PM CST

Dear client and friends,

I thought you would enjoy the attached article from Bloomberg Magazine talking about the changes in the financial industry. Investors are leaving traditional banks and brokerages in droves for independent Registered Investment Advisors…. like us!

Access to your Morningstar Reports from PortfolioWisdom.com

As you know, we use Morningstar to produce our client performance reports. Until now, you needed to remember a separate web address to reach the web portal for a look at your current portfolios. You also needed to store performance reports as you received them for later reference.

No longer. Now, just go to www.portfoliowisdom.com and look at the menu line across the top of the page. At the left is a link directly to the Morningstar web site. From now on, your performance reports will be available there also, archived for your convenience and later reference.

Thanks again for your business.

Market Indecision

For the life of me, the markets seem to be holding their collective breath. I really do not believe that anyone who really knows what happens behind the scenes is going to say anything on the news. So, I advise you to ignore most of what we are seeing and hearing on CNBC and Bloomberg. I doubt that any market movement is truly attributable to the after-the-fact “causes” and “reasons” they give each day for why the market went up or down.

We continue to be very cautious, currently holding a lot of cash, which we will move gently in to the market between now and year-end, unless one of these fiscal problems explodes.

You may notice some other posts to our web site. I’m creating a free section of the web site called portfolio wisdom to help individual investors who do not have financial advisors. I’m actually going to make available a limited but very useful version of the methodology to anyone who wants to learn from it. So, those posts you see may not apply to you, but if you have friends who need help with their 401k’s or IRA’s, send them our way.

Volatility Slowly Decreasing?

Although the news continues to reflect great fear and uncertainty, volatility seems to be gradually diminishing in almost all asset classes (which is a good thing). Each peak of fear in the market is a little lower than the peaks of fear in August, September, and then October. If this trend continues, I expect to be fully allocated back into the model portfolios by the end of the year.

Things look risky

This is my first post to portfoliowisdom.com. I’ll be adding a few past client communications for context, but this is the first… here goes…

Over the next few days, I will be adjusting my client portfolios to raise cash and lower risk until things are a little more clear. The risk of financial loss  is greater, in my mind, than the risk of missing a big rally in equities, and I’m not comfortable that a big drop in stocks would be cushioned by a rally in bonds, given their already high levels. Continue reading “Things look risky”