Tips on rebalancing your retirement portfolio

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Many investors are in for a rude awakening when they open their year-end retirement plan statements. The bond portion will probably show negative returns. It could even wipeout a good portion of their positive returns from owning equities.

Now, the most common method used in rebalancing your established asset allocation mix would be to reduce the holdings that are up in value (sell stocks) and buy assets that have fallen in price (buy bonds). This practice may have worked very well in the past but interest rates are going up forcing bond prices down.

The chart below compares the S&P 500 with the IShares 20 plus year Treasury bond ETF

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“The decades-long bull market in U.S. Treasuries has finally drawn to a close following Donald Trump’s surprise presidential election victory, according to mutual-fund manager Bill Miller.”

“Miller isn’t the first to call time on the bond bull market. Economist Henry Kaufman, the original “Dr. Doom” who is credited with calling the last bond bear market in the 1970s, told the Financial Times this week that the current bull run is at an end.”

In the past, when the Federal Reserve decided it was time to unwind its easy monetary policies, it would raise the federal funds rate fairly quickly. The Fed believes a neutral stance on monetary policy is reached somewhere above the 4% level. The current Federal Reserve is moving slower than normal. Based on an average of three rate hikes per year, it will take the Fed a little over 4 years to normalize interest rates.

Tip # 1

Short-term, reduce or eliminate investing in target date mutual funds since they automatically rebalance from equities to bonds. Plus they increase your bond exposure the closer you are to retirement.

Tip # 2

During a period of rising interest rates, the prudent strategy is to reduce the duration of your bond portfolio. That could mean using a short-term bond ETF or a ladder of GICs both of which would allow you to benefit from an increase in rates.

Tip # 3

If you’re comfortable with a little credit risk, use short-term investment-grade corporate bonds to get a little more yield.

Tip # 4

Cash is by far the safest asset class. Move some of your equity allocation and some of your fixed income allocation to cash. I have my doubts that President Elect Trump can get congress to pass all his stimulus agenda and even economists are unsure if these policies will actual increase economic growth.

Corrections in the bond market are not as uncommon as you think. Most have been short in duration. See the chart below:

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Keep in mind that in the past, rate hikes were implemented  at a much faster pace than what the current Fed has purposed. Losses in the bond market could continue for longer than expected.

The Trump Rally: Buy on rumor, Sell on news?

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Never in a million years did I think that Trump would not only win the election but that the stock market would rally afterwards. It proves once again how difficult it is to time the stock market.

Trump’s promise of a big stimulus package, tax cuts and less regulation has boosted the dollar and triggered a selloff in the bond market. The “Trump trade” has become the reflation trade with investors buying cyclical stocks and selling bonds. Financials have benefited as well as industrials.

The markets have rallied assuming that Donald Trump is pro-growth. However, he was also the same guy who talked about tariffs and tearing up trade deals, things that are anti-growth. The stock market is currently ignoring the negative side of Trump’s campaign promises.

Now, I’m not convinced it’s a one-way street. Under the surface, the trend has certainly changed. Whatever you thought about stocks before the election, you have to like them a little more and whatever you thought about bonds, you have to like them a little less.

Could this be the start of the “Great Rotation’” out of bonds into stocks?

Almost $2 trillion has been wiped off the value of global bonds since Trump was elected as the next U.S. president, sparking a reassessment of growth and inflation views.

JP Morgan notes that over the past week, a record inflow into U.S. equity exchange traded funds (ETFs) was accompanied by a record outflow from bond ETFs.

Within equity markets,  a sharp rotation out of so-called “bond proxies”, dividend-paying sectors such as utilities, telecoms and healthcare which were favored by investors for their yield and a move into more cyclical sectors such as banks, industrials and some commodities-related sectors is already underway.

Before you jump on the bandwagon, there’s a flood of economic data in the week ahead

  1. update to third-quarter GDP on Tuesday
  2. OPEC meets on Wednesday and it will decide whether to curb output
  3. Thursday is ISM manufacturing data and November auto sales
  4. jobs report on Friday expected to show 175,000 nonfarm payrolls

Now, the bond market has already priced in expectations that the Fed is on track to raise interest rates Dec. 14 by a quarter point. Next week’s economic data will be evaluated to determine future rate hikes for 2017. If inflation expectations are overhauled than so are perceptions about the rate outlook. Money markets are starting to price in one or more Federal Reserve rate hikes for next year.

Good economic numbers could cause a further selloff in the bond market next week which would be positive for U.S. stock markets. Plus many active fund managers have underperformed their benchmarks, there could be some performance chasing until year end.

Unfortunately, President Elect Trump is unpredictable and somewhat scary. If he shuts the borders because the anti-trade Trump comes out, we’ll have a recession and the market will go down. If that side stays quiet and he manages to convince congress to cuts taxes, it could be up a lot.

My gut tells me that we could be in over bought territory and that we could see some market consolidation. My fear is that Janet Yellen could spark a stock market selloff like she did in December 2015 when she indicated the possibility of 4 rate hikes for 2016 which didn’t materialize.

Are you buying into the Trump rally or are you a seller?

 

 

 

Trump economics could be hazardous to bonds and dividend stocks

Trump’s stunning victory for the White House may mark the long-awaited end to the more than 30-year-old Bull Run in bonds, as bets on faster U.S. growth and inflation led investors to favor stocks over bonds.

There has been a sentiment shift in the bond market. The stampede from bonds propelled longer-dated U.S. yields to their highest levels since January with the 30-year yield posting its biggest weekly increase since January 2009. The 10-year German Bund yield rose to its highest level in eight months, while the 10-year British gilt yield climbed to its highest level prior to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union on June 23, known as Brexit.

“I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me,” Trump told Norah O’Donnell in an interview that aired on “CBS” “I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out I renegotiate the debt. I mean, that’s a smart thing, not a stupid thing.”

Global bond markets worldwide have already lost more than 1 trillion dollars.  Speculation is that Trump’s tax cuts and stimulus spending could increase the national debt by trillions of dollars. The chart below is the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)

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TIPS appeal

While investors dumped most types of bonds after Trump’s victory, they piled into Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities as a hedge against a pick-up in inflation. Investors poured $1 billion into TIPS in the week ended Nov. 9, the second-biggest inflows since records began in October 2002, data from Thomson Reuters’ Lipper service showed on Thursday.

Higher bond yields could have a negative effect on dividend stocks

Bonds have historically enjoyed a lower risk premium than dividend stocks. Higher bond yields could attract investors away from owning dividend stocks. Consumer staples and utility stocks have already fallen based on the Fed raising interest rates in December. Some experts believe that the Federal Reserve will be forced to increase rates even more in 2017.

The good news is that this could be just a knee jerk reaction to the shocking election results. In a subtle effort to lessen fears, President Obama suggested Monday that the office of the president has a way of opening one’s eyes to the realities of governing and decision making.

“Regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up,” Obama said.

“My advice, as I said to the President-elect, was that campaigning is different from governing,” Obama said Monday. I think he recognizes that I think he’s sincere in wanting to be a successful president. I think he’s going to try as best he can to make sure that he delivers not only for people who voted for him but the people at large.”

It remains unclear how Trump’s promises translate into policy and the degree to which they would affect the economy. So far, the rally in U.S. stock markets suggest whatever Trump may do with the help of a Republican-controlled Congress would give a lift to the U.S. economy, which is growing at about 2 percent this year.

cautionHigher interest rates could cause a U.S. recession!