Wow! It’s been a roller-coaster ride of a first quarter!
After dropping like a stack of bricks during the first six weeks of the year, the market staged an incredible comeback during the last six.
The S&P 500 rallied 14% since it’s February lows, ending the quarter up 1.5% for the year. This is probably the strongest rally I can remember (outside of the tech rally in 1999).
Luckily our value and quality-based strategy did even better, outperformed the market by about 5 percentage points. After last year’s performance, where mostly low-quality, unprofitable company stocks went up, and value/quality-strategies performed miserably, it’s good to see a validation of our investment strategy. (And of course, for compliance reasons I have to state that past performance is no guarantee of future returns).
The biggest gains came from Gold, and Gold Mining stocks, checking in at 15% and 45% respectively. As I explained last month, in a Negative Interest Rate Environment, gold is expected to do well.
And while interest rates in the US are not yet negative, if they do continue to decline, we can expect this gold rally to continue.
The Federal Reserve, which sets the short-term rates, has continually flip-flopped on it’s stance regarding interest rates. While stating late last year that they were going to raise the rates steadily, and continually for the next few years, they’ve since reversed their position.
Personally, I expect rates to stay at this rate for quite some time.
Rates in Europe are already negative.
Negative interest rates act as an unfair tax on savers, both at the individual level as well at the corporate level.
It especially hurts companies which need access to large amounts of capital, such as insurance companies who need liquidity to pay out claims – companies like German insurance giant, Munich Re.
According to a recent Bloomberg article, faced with the option of paying -0.4% to keep cash in the bank, Munich Re, has instead decided to store $10 million euros in cash, in its vaults. This is on top of the 300,000 ounces of gold it already stores, currently valued at $366 million.
If global interest rates continue to decline into negative territory, more and more companies will start holding more of their cash in the form of gold. This can really start to move the needle on gold purchases.
While it’s hard to predict the movement of asset prices, but I believe we’re seeing the early stages of a gold rally.
All of my client portfolios have a small portion allocated to gold and gold mining stocks. While this diversification in alternative assets has acted as a damper on returns in the past few years, it’s worked out excellently this quarter.
And if the US joins the negative-interest rate club, it will continue to perform well.
But please don’t take this is to mean you should bet the farm on gold!
A well-diversified portfolio both protects against catastrophic losses and provides decent returns over the long-term.
Concentrated bets into any one stock or one sector may be how fortunes are made, but much more often, it is how fortunes are lost.
On another note, tax season is in full swing.
Tax-related fraud is on the rise, with thieves rummaging through mail looking for tax refunds to steal.
One way to avoid this is by having your refund directly deposited into your account – but make sure you have the correct routing number and account on your form! And you can keep tabs on your refund by using the IRS’s Where’s my Refund? page.
If you haven’t contributed to an IRA yet, it’s still not too late. For those of you who make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA, there may be a backdoor method to contribute, providing you do not currently have a Traditional IRA. If you do have a Traditional IRA, it’s probably not worth the hassle.
If you have questions on your eligibility, feel free to contact me.