Watch The Inflation Numbers

During the first few trading days of March 2023, we watched the stock market falter, housing demand cool, the 10 Year Treasury Bond rises to a 4% yield, and the 30-year fixed mortgage increase above 7%.

This all came after several hotter-than-expected inflation reports hit investor confidence.

The Federal Reserve has also cut back on its interest rate hikes, going from an increase of 75 basis points to 50 basis points, down to just a 25 basis point increase. Those reduced rate hike increases were due to inflation reports trending in the right direction.

However, reports coming out now show inflation has not yet been tamed after the hikes were slowed. And this is having both big and small investors and some Federal Reserve members calling for faster rate hikes in the future.

David Einhorn, who had a 36% return in his hedge fund in 2022, recently said investors should still be bearish on stocks and bullish on inflation in 2023. Einhorn was short US equities in 2022 and performed very well for his hedge fund investors.

Former Pimco Chief Executive Officer Mohamed A. El-Erian recently wrote in Bloomberg that he favors a 50 basis point rate hike at the coming Fed Meeting. He further noted that three Fed Members have publicly announced their wiliness to increase rate hikes by 50 basis points at coming meetings, despite all agreeing to raise rates by just 25 basis points at the Feb 1st meeting.

Federal Reserve member James Bullard is one of those three Fed members who have come out and announced he favors faster rate hikes in the future. Bullard believes inflation can be beaten in 2023, but only with aggressive rate hikes until it begins to come down. His concern is that inflation doesn’t come down but re-accelerates, and we are forced to relive the 1970s.

With the next Federal Reserve meeting just a few weeks away, now is the time to start planning your portfolio. There is a good possibility that even if rates aren’t increased aggressively at the March meeting, they will be increased multiple times over the coming meetings. Continue reading "Watch The Inflation Numbers"

Good Defense in a Bear Market

The S&P 500 slumped 19% in 2022, registering its biggest decline since 2008. Besides geopolitical turbulence and supply-chain disruptions, the market pullbacks were mostly driven by fears of a looming economic slowdown as an undesirable side-effect of the Federal Reserve’s fight against high inflation with aggressive interest rate hikes.

Since there is still a long way to go before inflation can be reined in to around the desired 2% mark, the central bank, by its own admission, is far from done with interest rate hikes. Hence, the market, subdued by the ever-increasing risk of a recession, is unlikely to stabilize anytime soon.

In fact, bearish sentiments have become so pervasive that the strengthening dollar has also been unable to offset the increasing luster of precious metals, such as gold. Such commodities are gaining popularity among market players as ballast during panic-driven market sell-offs and a time-tested hedge against a potential economic downturn.

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The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) is expected to offer downside protection. The fund is managed by Van Eck Associates Corporation. It offers exposure to some of the largest gold mining companies in the world.

Since gold mining stocks strongly correlate with prevailing gold prices, the ETF provides indirect exposure to gold prices.

Here are the factors that could influence GDX’s performance in the near term: Continue reading "Good Defense in a Bear Market"

3 ETFs That Could Diversify Your Portfolio

Inflation cooled again last month after starting to decline in October.

The Labor Department reported that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in November rose 7.1% increase year-over-year and was just 0.1% from the previous month.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected prices to grow at an annual 7.3% and 0.3% over the prior month.

The favorable November inflation report kept the Fed on track to increase interest rates by a relatively smaller amount after four consecutive hikes of 75-basis-point magnitude.

In addition to the optimism surrounding the decline in the Fed rate hikes, December has proven to be a strong month for the stock market over the past 70 years. However, many experts still expect a mild recession next year.

Given the backdrop, it could be wise to take advantage of the uptrend in JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF (JPST), IQ MacKay Municipal Intermediate ETF (MMIT), and VanEck Long Muni ETF (MLN) to diversify your portfolio this month.

JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF (JPST)

JPST is an actively managed, ultra-short-term, broad-market bond fund that aims to maximize income and preserve capital.

The fund makes investments in fixed-rate, variable-rate, and floating-rate debt, including corporate issues, asset-backed securities, and debt pertaining to mortgages, as well as U.S. government and agency debt, including treasury securities.

JPST has $22.76 billion in assets under management. The fund has a total of 467 holdings. Its top holdings include U.S. Dollar with a 44.64% weighting, Fixed Income (unclassified) at 1.73%, BNP Paribas S.A. 3.5% at 0.94%, and Nordea Bank AB (New York) FRN at 0.81%.

JPST has an expense ratio of 0.18%, lower than the category average of 0.60%. Over the past six months, JPST's fund inflows came in at $4.14 billion. Also, it has a beta of 0.04, indicating extremely low volatility compared to the broader market.

JPST pays an annual dividend of $1.04, which yields 2.08% on prevailing prices. Its dividend payments have grown at a 16.9% CAGR over the past five years. The fund has a record of dividend payments for five consecutive years.

JPST has gained marginally over the past month to close the last trading session at $50.19. It has a NAV of $50.19 as of December 12, 2022. Continue reading "3 ETFs That Could Diversify Your Portfolio"

ETFs for a Strong Dollar

Since the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates, we have seen a dramatic increase in the US dollar. The main reason is that the dollar is becoming a more attractive investment for investors at home and worldwide.

There are a lot of dynamics at play that investors need to consider when the dollar is rising. Such as, a rising dollar will hurt domestic companies that sell internationally because the exchange rate lowers their profits. However, companies that import raw materials will benefit from a strong dollar.

Due to the strong dollar, some emerging markets will suffer if they borrow in dollars. This happens because it becomes harder for borrowers to pay back their debt as the dollar strengthens. Furthermore, these same countries can get hit with a double whammy if they also import many US goods since those goods will now be more expensive.

Let us look at a few Exchange Traded Funds that you can buy that will help your portfolio weather this strong dollar storm.

I would like to mention the first two ETFs are also rather obvious picks. The Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP) and the WisdomTree Bloomberg US Dollar Bullish Fund (USDU) both are long the US dollar against a basket of other global currencies.

In plain English, these funds increase when the dollar rises and decline when the dollar declines compared to other international currencies. There is no magic here and nothing fancy going on; if you think the dollar is going higher, buy one of these two funds and hold it for a while.

Another set of ETFs you could buy are dividend-paying ones. Something like SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 High Dividend ETF (SPYD), the WisdomTree US High Dividend Fund (DHS), or my favorite, the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL).

These will typically do well when the dollar rises for a few reasons, mainly because the stronger dollar will likely hit the earnings of companies with large exports. But, as companies, especially those in the Dividend Aristocrat group, are very reluctant to cut their dividends, the stock prices of these firms usually hold up better than the non-dividend paying stocks. Continue reading "ETFs for a Strong Dollar"

Natural Gas Opportunity For Savvy Investors

On August 31st, Russia's state-owned energy company, Gazprom, stopped the flow of natural gas in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. The pipeline ran from Russia to Germany and was scheduled to be discontinued from August 31st until September 3rd. But September 3rd came and went, and the pipeline remained shut down.

At first, an oil leak was reported, causing the pipeline to remain shut down. But then, it was evident that the shutdown was in retaliation to the sanctions the West had implemented against Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

Many experts predict the economic pain in Europe will increase as the cold weather sets in across the continent. Some have gone as far as to say that the economic pain will be felt in both the coming winter and next winter, 2023-2024. Some are even saying that energy rationing will be required to ensure everyone has enough natural gas for heating.

However, many in Europe have been planning for this to occur for some time. Russia had reduced the pipeline operating volume to just 20% of what it could provide.

This was far less than what Europe comfortably needed to make it through winter. Thus, the European Union and other entities have been working on replacing the lost volume through other means. So while the pipeline shutdown is not ideal, it was predicted to happen at some point this winter.

Many are saying Russia is attempting to weaponize its gas supply to hurt the EU and other nations in an attempt to have Western countries drop or reduce sanctions against Russia.

At this time, there is no sign that either the EU or Russia will bend to the will of the other, and it is likely that we will continue to see elevated oil and gas prices in Europe. Thus, comes the opportunity for savvy investors.

I want to note that I am not condoning an attempt to profit from someone else's pain and suffering. I want to point out the high likelihood that natural gas prices will likely increase this winter as the EU finds ways to replace the gas they acquired through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

With that all said, let's look at a few of the options you have if you want to invest with the idea that gas prices will rise this winter. Continue reading "Natural Gas Opportunity For Savvy Investors"