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Volume 12, Edition 26 | September 4 – September 8, 2023

The Question No One Asks

Doug Walters, CFA
The investment industry is confusing to many, and we get asked a lot of questions which makes that abundantly clear. Today we answer the one question nobody ever seems to ask, which is, “so wait… what is it you actually do?”

Contributed by Doug Walters, Max Berkovich, David Lemire, Eh Ka Paw

After a week off from writing Insights and two kids off to college, it is nice to be back behind the keyboard. Whenever I am away from the office, I like to put my finger on the pulse of investment gossip from those not in the industry. Often, in this context, I am asked for casual advice. But based on the typical questions… I don’t think people know what we do.

As a registered investment advisor (RIA), we partner with our clients to help them live their best life. Our advisors will help you articulate your goals, and then we on the Investment Team will translate that into a portfolio that will put you on what we believe to be the best path to success. Invariably, that will be a well-diversified portfolio constructed with the right balance of risk and return for your particular situation.

I can tell you exactly when I was last approached by a friend or stranger and asked, “Do you have any hot tips on a well-diversified portfolio?” Hah! Never! But portfolio strategy is what we do. We obsess over it. Instead, the questions are inevitably along the lines, “Who is going to be the next winner in AI?” or “Who do you like in the EV battery space?”

For us, those are questions of speculation… questions for a bookie or broker who will always tell you what you want to hear so long as it results in a sale or trade. We are fiduciaries, bound to always act in your best interest. RIAs do not get paid on transaction volume. We get paid based on assets under management. We are, therefore, always incentivized to recommend what is in your long-term best interest.

While a well-diversified portfolio may not sound exciting and sexy, it is the key to achieving your goals, in our opinion… and reaching your goals is very exciting indeed!

$180 Billion

The market cap lost by Apple (AAPL) this week on the news China was raising the trade war temperature.

Headline of the Week

China Takes a Bite Out of Apple

The bite mark on Apple’s iconic image took on new meaning this week as China looks to ban iPhones for central government workers. Later news stories saw the ban expanding to state-owned companies. Given the number of people in government and state-owned companies, Apple may need to update the size of the bite mark on its logo. For now, the stock seems to be weathering the storm, having initially declined in the high single digits before moving back higher.

China’s move is not too surprising, given the current state of trade between the US and China. Between tariffs and technology restrictions, some retaliation was to be expected. Apple seems a bit of an odd target given their long relationship in the country and the number of people that Apple employs there.

Whatever the eventual outcome, this type of headline serves as a fresh reminder that even the best and most valuable companies can get blindsided by events beyond their control. It also reminds us of the risks in markets when a few large tech companies have dominated performance—caveat emptor.

The Week Ahead

An inflation report mid-week coupled with a rate decision in Europe will be the primary drivers of the market next week.

Back, Back Again!

If it feels like a new “critical” inflation report is out every week, it isn’t. it is more like every other week. This is because we have three different reports.

  • The one the Federal Reserve prefers is the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, and that one we already had out.
  • The other two, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) are out this week.
  • The CPI measures inflation the consumer experiences and is expected to run hotter than it was in July, thanks to oil prices, but the core CPI, which excludes food and energy, is expected to edge down from 4.7% in July.
  • The PPI is inflation manufacturers experience and is expected to increase slightly due to energy prices.
  • The Federal Reserve has a rate decision on the 20th after a break in August. Hence, this will be the last look at inflation ahead of that meeting.

Keep It Steady!

The European Central Bank (ECB) has a rate decision next week and is expected to keep rates steady at 3.75%.

  • There is a market-implied probability of ¼ point hike in the 35% range.
  • Inflation in Europe is proving to be stubborn, with core inflation, which excludes food and energy, running at over 6%.
  • However, the economy is not running as smoothly as it is in the States, with Gross Domestic Product across the continent declining or nearly unchanged in major countries, leaving less room to tighten lending any further.
  • Interestingly, Germany’s Bundesbank president Nagel is asking for another hike since his country is experiencing a higher inflation rate than the average and has a weaker-looking economy than the rest.
  • It is believed that even if ECB president Lagarde announces no change in rates, it will be presented as a pause rather than a halt.

Wonderlust

  • Apple Inc. is hosting its product event on Tuesday titled “Wonderlust,” where it is expected to reveal new products.
  • iPhone 15, a new iPad, and Apple Watch Series 9 are the expected new products.
  • The new product cycle needs to excite consumers enough to boost sales since smartphone sales are slumping this year.

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