Investment Insights

The White House and the South Lawn

Much Ado About Taxes

The Trump Administration today released its “Unified Framework for Fixing our Broken Tax Code” to flush out its tax reform priorities for individuals and businesses.  The nine-page document is similar to the single-page bulleted outline the Administration rolled out in April and which we commented on then.  Frankly, not much has changed in five months as the details of what will ultimately be a bill debated and voted on by Congress remain elusive. 

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NASA image of a hurricane from space

Harvey’s Path of Destruction

As the residents of southeast Texas return to their homes and assess the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, our thoughts and prayers are with them. Harvey’s torrential rains are likely to make this storm one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history. […]

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View of a London street, close to the ground, looking at part of Tower Bridge.

Is the European Recovery for Real?

One of the legends in the investment business (Byron Wien, long time chief strategist at Morgan Stanley, now at Blackstone, and a former mentor of mine) once described Europe as “a vast open-air museum”. Beyond its unique history and architecture, I believe he was referring to the continent’s antiquated labor rules, sclerotic decision-making processes[…]

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Picture of a skyscraper being built.

When Will the Expansion End?

The United States is now in its ninth year of economic expansion and third longest since the Civil War. If the expansion lasts another year, it will be the longest on record. With the 2008-09 recession a distant but still painful memory, investors are rightly wondering when it will all end.

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Crowd on boardwalk

Is Indexing Getting Too Popular?

Market watchers have noted the stunning growth of indexed vehicles over the last few years. Coupled with the ease of trading and transparency of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the low cost and tax efficiency of indexing have led to a boom in the growth of these vehicles to the detriment of actively-managed mutual funds. With indexing […]

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People waiting in a line on a city street

Hurry Up…and Wait

A much anticipated and, perhaps, over-hyped news conference rolling out the Trump Administration’s tax reform plan generated very little “new news” yesterday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn presented an outline of a plan that is very similar to the talking points the President promoted on the campaign trail. […]

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Black and white ink drawing of a castle being attacked.

Active Management Under Siege

As data continues to accumulate that reinforces the growing consensus of the superiority of passive indexing strategies over active management, the defenders of the old guard are fighting back. They are cutting fees, shuttering underperforming strategies, and merging businesses in order to reduce costs. The pressure is severe: according to Morningstar Inc., some $1.2 trillion has been withdrawn from actively managed U.S. stock funds since the start of 2007, while nearly the same amount has moved into passive U.S. stock funds over the same period. […]

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City billboards

What’s in a Phrase

The stock market abounds with colorful sayings that reflect the collective wisdom of decades of investment experience. For professional investors, these time-worn adages are reminders of sometimes-painful past market episodes and the unending challenge of getting the future right. But at the end of the day, can these slogans actually be useful in making investment decisions?

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A weathervane with blue sky in the background.

The Only Certainty is Uncertainty

Irrespective of your political views, one must acknowledge that big changes are afoot in Washington. Trump supporters applaud the aggressive style of the new administration’s take-no-prisoners approach, while liberals cringe at the thought of the damage that might be wreaked on their fundamental beliefs over a four-year presidential term.

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Tower of balancing stones.

The Trump Rally – Impressive, but selective

Since Donald Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 Presidential election, financial markets have been on a tear. Or have they? A casual observer of the business press would probably conclude that stocks and bonds around the world are rallying around President-elect Trump’s pro-growth, business-friendly, tax reform policies designed to “make America great again.” The reality, however, is somewhat different.

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Searching for clarity

Markets Struggle for Post-Election Clarity

With last week’s historic election now behind us, investors are feverishly recalibrating their plans in light of its stunning outcome. The despair registered in the early hours after the polls closed on November 8 turned sharply into euphoria as investors focused on the “pro-growth” agenda of a Republican president and control of both congressional chambers.  […]

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Shock and Awe in Financial Markets

The stunning upset in yesterday’s US presidential election has left many people in a state of shock. Although the polls indicated a tightening race over the last two weeks, very few observers predicted or believed in the possibility of a President-elect Trump. Yet here we are. If President-elect Trump fulfills many of his campaign promises, […]

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Volatility Returns, With a Vengeance

After an exceptionally quiet summer in the financial markets, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average failed to move more than 1% for more than forty days, the calm was broken rather dramatically on September 9. The Dow shed nearly 400 points that day, and the following week has been a roller-coaster ride of big ups […]

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Games That Managers Play

In evaluating a money manager, informed investors naturally want to evaluate the manager’s track record. Has the manager delivered returns above the chosen benchmark? Have they assumed excessive risk in order to achieve those returns? What about the impact of fees and taxes? How reliable is the performance data provided by less-regulated private fund managers? These are just a sample of questions that investors should answer in order to validate a manager’s competence, and the answers are rarely clear-cut.

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The Siren Song of Active Management

At Lake Wobegon, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Despite being an obvious fiction, many people seem to apply a similar logic to managing their money. They believe that through their own superior insight, or by hiring investment professionals with many years of experience, they can “beat the market”. Their confidence is an inherent part of human nature, and is responsible for creating so much wealth in our society over time.

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