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Volume 10, Edition 31 | September 6 - September 10, 2021

Journey from Naive to Evidence-Based Investing

Doug Walters, CFA
The 20 years since 9/11 have taught me that if you are prepared, there is no need for panic. That is why our investment philosophy favors science over speculation.

Contributed by Doug Walters, Max Berkovich

On September 11th, 2001, in the midst of the dot com implosion, the United States endured an unthinkable shock as American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The subsequent events of that sad day are etched into the minds of Americans. For me, it was the start of a journey.

I was living in Manhattan at the time and three days away from boarding a plane to London to begin my career in finance. With the stock market closed and air travel grounded, the flight, the move overseas, and a career in finance all seemed impossible (both physically and emotionally). Twenty years later, it is still difficult to think about that day without tears. But that naive young investor, that stepped aboard that British Airways flight on September 14th, 2001, is a distant memory.

The past twenty years have provided an unprecedented training ground for investors. The dot com bust, 9/11, The Financial Crisis of 2008, and the current coronavirus pandemic all caused market disruptions and tested investors’ emotions. Yet, through it all, the S&P 500 has returned over 500%! When you are in those difficult moments, surrounded by negative news flow, the tendency is to shed risk and run for cover. But that is how value is permanently destroyed! The research shows, and the events of the past twenty years have taught me, that investors who can put those emotions aside and take a more evidence-based approach have an advantage. In other words, investing should be about science, not speculation.

Today, the stock market seems to know only one direction; up. There will be a time when it falls again, and that is okay. Investors should not try to predict the fall, and when it happens, they should not overreact. The past twenty years have prepared us well for whatever comes next.

WTC

We snapped this photo just a few weeks before 9/11 while sightseeing on the Hudson with some visiting friends. We will never forget.

Headlines This Week

Stocks ended the week down as investors faced concerns over the continued impact of the coronavirus delta variant, the impending pullback of Federal Reserve stimulus, and the lapse of covid unemployment benefits.

Falling Off the Benefits Cliff

Many covid benefits expired last weekend, with roughly 7.5 million people losing their expanded unemployment coverage and around 3 million losing the $300 supplement.

  • Proponents say this will encourage more individuals back into the workforce. The “JOLTS” report on Wednesday (which looks at job openings) showed there are a record 10.9 million job openings in the US. So there are jobs… although there is no indication if the jobs match the skills of those looking.
  • Detractors point to states that have already pulled benefits and have seen minimal impact on the return to work. Covid fear and lack of child care are cited as contributors.

Raising the Roof

Debt ceiling talks are likely to heat up in the coming weeks.

  • Treasury Secretary Yellen has called for an increase in the national debt ceiling to avoid a default in October if a bill is not passed.
  • The US technically hit the current $28 trillion debt ceiling back in early August. Since then, the Treasury has been pulling levers to not exceed it. They will run out of levers in October.
  • Failure to reach a deal would cause the US to default on its debt and likely be economically disastrous. We have been here before (about every two years), and never have lawmakers allowed default to occur. However, the political wrangling impacts bond pricing, so expect fixed income volatility over the next few weeks.

A Building Debate

Speaking of political wrangling, the debate continues on the $3.5 trillion proposed infrastructure bill.

  • The debate is largely among Democrats who need to somehow find common ground between the moderate and progressive ends of the spectrum to get the needed 50 votes in the Senate.
  • Investors are closely watching the bill for details on how it will be paid for, including, potentially, higher corporate and capital gains taxes.

The Week Ahead

We Remember

This weekend will mark the 20th Anniversary of the tragic September 11th, 2001, terrorist attack.

  • Officially 2,996 lives were lost on that day.
  • We honor and memorialize them, and our hearts are with their families, friends, and loved ones.

Apple Picking

On Tuesday, Apple, Inc. (AAPL) will be streaming a special event called “California Streaming.”

  • Rumor has it the iPhone 13 and 13 PRO, Apple Watch Series 7, and 3rd generation AirPods will be unveiled.
  • With Apple’s market cap at over $2.5 Trillion, it takes a lot to move the dial, and rumored upgrades and features may not be enough.

Inflated Expectations

Economic releases next week will be heavily tilted towards inflation measures both at home and abroad.

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI), Import/Export Price index, Retail Sales for August, Industrial Production, and University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index will be the ones to keep an eye on.
  • CPI is expected to be up 0.4% month-over-month for August.
  • The preliminary read on consumer sentiment should reflect the impact of the Delta variant of COVID. The previous month’s read was the weakest since 2011 and spooked investors.

Are you ready for some Football?

The National Football League returns for a brand-new season with official kick-off already in the books (on Thursday). We have another 271 regular season games to watch.

  • Fantasy Football and the various online gambling platforms should siphon some enthusiasm from the Meme stock trading phenomena.

Day of Atonement

For those observing the holiest day of the year in Judaism… may you be sealed in the Book of Life!

  • Yom Kippur starts on Wednesday at sunset and is an intense and solemn holiday.

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