October 2014 AAII MODEL PORTFOLIOS UPDATED: This Way and That Way

Posted on October 15, 2014 | Model Portfolios

The S&P 500 index climbed 4.0% in August, pushing past any resistance to trade at new all-time highs. Eventually, the bears will be right and there will be a pullback, but it hasn’t happened yet. While global worries ranging from war in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq to a possible European Union recession continued to dominate headlines last month, these concerns didn’t slow down the indexes like they did in July. Data continued to point to a slowly strengthening economy, and with Fed chair Janet Yellen insisting that the Federal Reserve is in no rush to raise interest rates, the market’s climb had little to oppose it. Earnings were overall better than expected and supported the story of a strengthening economy. The positive momentum carried over to both the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio and the Model Fund Portfolio, although only the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio beat its benchmark in August. The Model Fund Portfolio was up 3.6% for the month, while the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio, which concentrates on small-cap stocks, rose 6.4%. The Model Shadow Stock Portfolio can experience greater short-term volatilities because it is made up of stocks trading in the “shadows” of Wall Street, and are therefore more likely to be mispriced. While there may be negative periods in such a portfolio, over time the portfolio tends to significantly outperform the S&P 500. Short-term volatility is the price to be paid for higher long-term expected returns. While in July this worked against the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio, in August it turned in the portfolio’s favor.

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Top Charting Web Sites

Posted on October 14, 2014 | Investing

The FreeStockCharts site (formerly BestFreeCharts) is a relative newcomer to the online charting arena, but has already made quite an impression on us. From Worden Brothers, the maker of the popular TC2007 charting software, the site offers charting, scanning, and portfolio tracking on a free and fee-based basis. The site is unique in that it offers free streaming “real-time” charts of stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), indexes, and forex (foreign exchange) without exchange fees. It does this by providing real-time data from the BATS (better alternative trading system) exchange.

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AAII WEEKLY FEATURES 10/14/2014

Posted on October 14, 2014 | Weekly Features

Investor-Update

This week’s AAII Weekly Features has been updated.
View this week’s Top AAII Articles, Featured Stock Screen and Member Question.

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Higher Volatility is Not Necessarily Bad

Posted on October 10, 2014 | Stock Superstars Report

Down 300, up 300 and then down 300; the middle of the week saw some rather sharp fluctuations in the indexes. The swings were not limited to the indexes; our benchmark, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. ETF (IYY), also suffered from the increased volatility. Still, while the week felt tumultuous, put in perspective this volatility only feels sharp because the last two years have been unusually calm. Despite these swings, the indexes are only about 6% off of their all-time highs. With an improving economy making its presence more and more known, via such indicators as jobs numbers, even a short sell-off shouldn’t be of concern to long-term investors. U.S. airstrikes in Iraq continue to generate headlines, as does the Ebola virus as cases begin to appear in developed countries. Inflation expectations continue to drop, even for the long end, which could support the Federal Reserve’s dovishness.

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Putting This Week’s Volatility Into Perspective

Posted on October 10, 2014 | Dividend Investing

The relative calm the market has enjoyed over the past couple of years was interrupted this week. Our benchmark, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Index ETF (IYY), rose or fell by at least 1.5% on three consecutive days. This was the first time the fund has changed in value by 1.5% or more on three consecutive trading days since November 2011.

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Members Closely Watching Monetary Policy, Interest Rates

Posted on October 9, 2014 | AAII Survey

This week’s special question asked AAII members if there are any economic or market-related characteristics they are looking for over the next few months. Monetary policy and interest rates, the November elections, economic growth and geopolitics were listed by the largest number of respondents. Just under 20% of respondents said they are watching how Federal Reserve policy will evolve and what interest rates will do in response. Nearly 18% are awaiting to see the outcome of the November elections. About 16% are monitoring economic growth, with several watching job growth specifically. Geopolitical events were named by 14% of respondents. Ebola was cited by slightly less than 5% of all respondents.



AAII Sentiment Survey: Optimism Rebounds; Pessimism Stays Above Average

Posted on October 9, 2014 | AAII Survey

Optimism rebounded back above its historical average after having fallen by 6.8 percentage points between September 18 and October 1. Though bearish sentiment increased ever so slightly (0.1 percentage points), this is just the fourth time in the past 12 months that pessimism is above its historical average on back-to-back weeks.

Bullish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will rise over the next six months, rebounded by 4.5 percentage points to 39.9%. This is the eighth week out of the past nine with optimism above its historical average of 39.0%.

Neutral sentiment, expectations that stock prices will stay essentially unchanged over the next six months, fell 4.5 percentage points to 29.1%. The historical average is 30.5%.

Bearish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will fall over the next six months, edged up by a mere 0.1 percentage points to 31.0%. The historical average is 30.5%.

Both bullish and bearish sentiment are very close to their historical averages. This is occurring as stocks are experiencing both upward and downward volatility. Keeping some individual investors optimistic are the S&P 500’s overall upward momentum, earnings growth, sustained economic expansion and the Federal Reserve’s tapering of bond purchases. Keeping others cautious are worries about the possibility of a correction, prevailing valuations, geopolitical events, the pace of economic growth and Washington politics.

This week’s AAII Sentiment Survey:

  • Bullish: 39.9%, up 4.5 percentage points
  • Neutral: 29.1%, down 4.5 percentage points
  • Bearish: 31.0%, up 0.1 percentage points​

Historical averages:

  • Bullish: 39.0%
  • Neutral: 30.5%
  • Bearish: 30.5%

The AAII Sentiment Survey has been conducted weekly since July 1987 and asks AAII members whether they think stock prices will rise, remain essentially flat or fall over the next six months. The survey period runs from Thursday (12:01 a.m.) to Wednesday (11:59 p.m.). The survey and its results are available online at: http://www.aaii.com/sentimentsurvey.



Have Patience With Small-Cap Stocks

Posted on October 9, 2014 | Investor Update

Investor-Update

It has not been a good year for small-cap stocks. As of yesterday’s close, the Russell 2000 index was down 4.78% year-to-date. In contrast, the larger-cap Russell 1000 index was up 7.72%. We’re seeing similar comparisons with other indexes as well. For example, the S&P SmallCap 600 was down 4.99%, whereas the S&P 500 index was up 6.52%. (Obviously, these numbers will be lower once data reflecting today’s decline is published.)

Valuations have been blamed as the reason why. Small-cap stocks were expensive relative to large-cap stocks. They still are. S&P Capital IQ calculates the SmallCap 600 as trading at 22.1 times trailing 12-month (TTM) earnings, versus 26.3 at the end of 2013. In contrast, the S&P 500 is trading at 16.8 times TTM earnings, versus 16.9 at the end of 2013. Arguably, in the background, other concerns (e.g., the tapering of bond purchases by the Federal Reserve, geopolitics, the length of the bull market, etc.) are also playing a role in causing small caps to lag.

This is not the first time small-cap stocks have underperformed large-cap stocks, and it likely won’t be the last time either. As John McDermott and Dana D’Auria discussed a few months ago in the AAII Journal, small-cap stocks only beat large-cap stocks on an annual basis about 50% of the time between 1926 and December 2013. The size premium realized by small-cap stocks comes from their higher volatility. Small-company stocks experienced a standard deviation of 32.3% between 1926 and 2013. Large-company stocks had a lower standard deviation of 20.2%, according to the 2014 Ibbotson SBBI Classic Yearbook. (Standard deviation measures the range of values above and below average for a set of data. Larger values indicate greater variability.)

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Misunderstanding Variable Universal Life Can Lead to Adverse Consequences

Posted on October 8, 2014 | Financial Planning

I have been skeptical of variable universal life insurance policies (VULs) since they became popular enough to show up on my radar screen in the late 1980s.

In the beginning my skepticism was just instinct. Then experience proved that it wasn’t misplaced. Though I have been consistent in my published columns, I continue to refine how we should think about and treat variable universal life. This article is probably my bottom line on this type of insurance policy.

Almost all clients view variable universal life as similar to whole life and universal life, buying these policies for family protection or associated with estate planning. But as we will see, variable universal life policies are very different.

Virtually all variable universal life policies I have reviewed have these characteristics: a.) illustrated (represented based on hypothetical assumptions) to have level death benefits from the day purchased until death; b.) invested in risky sub-accounts [primarily stocks]; and c.) a premium that the client believes is his or her “policy’s premium.” Buyers of variable universal life are very loyal to their premium. The premium is based on an assumed constant investment yield that the selling agent selects during the sales process, which they justify based on some construct of historical data. The constant investment yield is mandated by regulators.

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Sell OF THE WEEK 10/8/2014

Posted on October 8, 2014 | Podcast

AAII Journal Editor Charles Rotblut explains to Chuck Jaffe of MarketWatch why Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) is his “Sell of the Week” on the MoneyLife Radio Program. MoneyLife is a daily personal finance show that sorts through the financial clutter to bring you the information you need to lead the MoneyLife.

Audio url: Sell of the week





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