It is amazing to read assertions from the Fed and others that the stock market is nowhere near being in a bubble. Several aspects of the financial environment are actually so extreme as to be unprecedented. Some indicate a bubble, and others a bubble in trouble.
Below are eight indicators we are watching closely, among others.
1) Record debt in U.S. dollars
Total dollar-denominated debt peaked at $52.7 trillion in early 2009. At the end of Q1 2015, it stands at $59 trillion, an unprecedented amount.
On February 20, I wrote an article discussing how a number of ETFs were massively overweight Apple Inc. (AAPL), leaving investors with too much exposure to the world's largest company. While I believe Apple is a wonderful company to own, as I am a shareholder, unknowingly investors could very easily be overly exposed to just one company. If you are buying an ETF, mutual fund or index fund it is likely because that one purchase diversifies your investment. But because these funds are so overweight Apple, you may not be as diversified as you may think. Luckily though, the announcement that Apple will join the Dow Jones Industrial Average is sign that investors will have the ability to still buy index funds and not have to worry about being overly exposed to Apple.
Before we get into why Apple joining the Dow is a good thing, let's discuss why Apple is so overweight in different funds available.
The wide majority of mutual funds, ETFs, or simply investors in general, measure their yearly performance by comparing it to the performance of the S&P 500, I have even recommended this. For mutual fund or ETF managers the issue arises from this because they need to have their portfolios perform similar to the S&P 500, or clients will begin defecting from their fund to find greener pastures, in most cases a fund manager who has outperformed or at the very least matched the S&P 500 performance. Continue reading "Apple + Dow Jones = Better Apple Exposure (Part 1)"→
For good and bad, Wall Street is constantly finding new ways for investors to attempt to grow their money. But, with all these products available for investors to choose from and a massive amount of information being presented to the average investor, it is easy to understand why so many investors still ignore ETFs and stick with mutual funds.
In most cases the average investor does not have a choice between a mutual fund and ETFs when it comes to their 401(K) plans through their employer. But for those investors who decide they want to put more money to work than just their 401(K) contributions, plowing more money into mutual funds is a bad idea for three reasons: truly knowing what your buying, performance, and cost.
Knowing What You Actually Own
Walk into any retail store in the US and pick up a any product; find the tag if it's a piece of clothing, the label if it's a drug or grocery item, or even the new Christmas toy you purchased, and you can find out exactly what was used to make that product. Depending on what the product is, there are different laws that have been put in place to protect the consumer which require the manufacturer to inform the customer of exactly what they are getting at all times.
Flip to the world of finance, unfortunately knowing what you are buying at all times is not always the case. While mutual funds are required to disclose their holdings to the public, these disclosures don't typically happen more than on a quarterly or semiannual basis. So what that means is that although you think you have purchased a large-cap growth mutual fund and that the manager must have at least 90% of the fund's assets in large-cap growth stocks, you essentially have no way of finding out if that's really were your money is invested. All the mutual fund manager needs to do is sell whatever doesn't meet the large-cap growth requirement the day before the fund's disclosure statement is put together and to investors it looks like the manager is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing.
In one our recent issues subscriber Jory G. sent us the following question:
“I have a 401(k) with my present employer that has a number of investment options, virtually all of which are mutual funds. Is it possible for Mr. Miller to address in a future letter what we might do to maximize growth or minimize loss in such programs? I realize there are many different 401(k) programs out there, but I just feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which of the funds provide the best growth/protection.”
As all of our readers know, I am neither licensed nor qualified to give personal investment advice. However, I can sure discuss mutual funds in general.