Category: Investment Planning

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update – At War (April 9th, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on April 9th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

Wars can be very inconvenient and last a long time.  Around our office, we feel we are fighting wars on two fronts; one a health care war and the other, an economic war.

Health Care War – Obviously, this is not our area of expertise, so when life is threatened, one should at least find an expert.  Dr. Scott Gottlieb is one and in his recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal this past Monday, he lays out the two ways drugs are being developed in the near term: antivirals and antibody therapies.  Both of these approaches could be ready before a vaccine, which is probably still a year away.  These two drug approaches would help to blunt the ferociousness of Covid-19, while the hope is that a vaccine would prevent the illness altogether.  And while we are hopeful for any help, Dr. Gottlieb extends our return to normalcy much farther than our politicians, at least until year end.

Economic War – At least we have a little better understanding of the recession we have entered, and the bear market that started last month.  This bear market is very purposeful and self-inflicted; the slowing down, and in some cases, stopping economic activity to slow and hopefully, stop the spread of the virus.  The health care fallout created by the virus is staggering and dire; the economic cure will be just as dire. As we watch the normal monthly and quarterly statistics, so far, the real numbers (unemployment) and the estimates (GDP) are off the charts to the down side.  A bear market usually follows three stages: 1) a down-side drop (or in this case, a crash), 2) an equity rally off the first low set (sometimes retracing ½ of the initial drop) and finally 3) a consolidation phase that takes the market down at least to retest the initial low, and in some cases takes the market well below the original low point.  Some bear markets are relatively short (nine months) and some may last over three years, like the tech bubble from 2000 to 2003.  The 2008 crisis lasted 18 months, from October 2007 to March 2009.  Longview’s primary thesis is that we are currently in the upside bounce phase, which is being materially supported by Congress and our Federal Reserve Bank.  While the news of Covid-19 should get slowly better over the next six to eight weeks, the economic news may get significantly worse, bad enough to constitute the third stage, a new testing of the bottom.  Early on, many economists have theorized that the economy may start growing again in the late third quarter, possibly September or October of this year.  Our feeling now is that it may take much longer.  Richard Bernstein, in a recent Barron’s article wrote: “At bottoms, people just assume that horrific performance is going on forever and nobody wants to invest.”  The same feeling many of you felt in early March 2009! Protecting your capital is our primary responsibility, and while we don’t know for sure where the market is going day to day, history is an excellent guide.

Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

2nd Quarter 2020 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on April 8th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

2020 started off with a continuation of the longest bull market in history, but it didn’t last long into the new year.  The major U.S. Indices hit their final high of the bull market on February 18th, 2020, and it was quickly downhill from there.  It took slightly more than a month for the S&P 500 to reach its recent low of 2,191.86, a decline of more than 35%.1  This included the fastest 20% decline in its history, multiple days of futures trading being stopped at their maximum loss and gain, multiple tests of the market “circuit breakers” that pause trading for 15 minutes when the index falls by 7%, and some of the best and worst single days in the history of the market.  The first quarter of 2020 was truly one for the history books.

We are living through a time that will be talked about for generations.  We are in a health crisis the likes of which have not been seen for more than 100 years, and it is having drastic effects on the economy.  A new virus that currently has no cure, no vaccine to prevent, and no heard immunity; it is truly a perfect storm.  This virus has lead governments across the globe to take measures that only months ago we would have likely considered unthinkable.  Global supply chains have been shut down, countries have banned travel, thousands of businesses in the United States have been forced to close, and millions of Americans have already lost their jobs.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

The Federal Reserve has thrown everything it has at the markets in order to try and dampen the long-term effects of this crisis.  They cut rates by 1.50%, all the way to 0%, and all of the cuts were made during emergency meetings.  In addition to rate cuts they also announced multiple assets purchase programs which include buying treasury bonds, mortgage backed securities, municipal bonds, and for the first time in history, investment grade corporate bonds.  The Fed is not alone.  The federal government has also passed a massive stimulus bill of more than $2 trillion, which includes direct payments to American tax payers.

To add to the uncertainty, there was also stress on the global energy markets.  At their latest meeting, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to come to an agreement with Russia on production cuts.  This led to an oil price war, with Saudi Arabia increasing production to their maximum capacity and dropping prices.  The price of oil has seen a dramatic drop since that meeting falling to a low of below $20.  This has put significant stress on U.S. energy companies which require a price much higher in order to produce a profit on their oil drilling operations. 

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the oil price war it is difficult to understand the effects that will be seen in the economy and the financial markets, both short and long term.  With that said, volatility is likely to remain high over the coming months while investors digest economic data, company earnings, and continued economic shutdowns.  It is also probable that some small businesses that have been forced to close will not be able to reopen and some of those that have lost their jobs will not see those jobs return.  The one thing that is certain is that this crisis is going to have real and lasting effects on our economy and on our population. 

We wish all of our clients, friends, and family health and safety during these uncertain times.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update (March 25, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on March 25th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

I hope this finds you well.  Jon Meacham, today on a news show, was referring back to the phrase in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Certainly it is no coincidence that Thomas Jefferson put the word life first.  As Americans, we find ourselves fighting two wars at the same time in our own backyards.  If history is any guide, without prioritizing one over the other, we might very well lose both.

Obviously, the first war is the one against the Covid-19 virus, the one threatening our lives.  When I wrote to you just two weeks ago, this virus was just getting started in the U.S.  Now, while China and South Korea seem to have greatly contained the virus, the United States seems to be the new epicenter and on a trajectory steeper than that of Italy.  This is as serious as it gets.  We all have a collective responsibility to follow the guidelines set out by healthcare professionals, those doctors and scientists who have the training and understanding to see us through this.  This may take three or four weeks longer and be much more inconvenient, but the lives of our families is certainly worth the price.

The irony here is that if we are following doctors’ orders, we make the other war, the economic crisis worse in the short term.  Our government, as I write this, and most other developed governments are throwing everything they have in the way of stimulus at this problem, with little or no regard for sequencing or the longer term consequences.  And while their efforts may not stave off a recession, their collective work should shorten a downturn and blunt its negative effects.  To a large degree, that is what we have done with your portfolios: by creating a cash buffer, we have slowed the downside dramatically.  That said, your March statement will still look pretty ugly!

Now the question is how do we get back into the market safely.  This is a true, ferocious bear market, with huge swings both downward and upward.  I wish I could say we think this is over. We don’t think it is, but we do think we are closer to the bottom than the top.  In late March 2009, Jeremy Grantham of GMO fame put out a letter entitled “Reinvesting When Terrified”, and while we are certainly not terrified, putting money (risk) to work in uncertain markets goes against human nature.  So be it; you will find us putting cash back to work strategically over the next several weeks and months, primarily using a dollar cost averaging rather than a lump sum strategy.

Again, as we navigate the pitfalls of the global markets over the coming months, should you have any questions about either our investing process, our thoughts on the economy or your own financial planning, please don’t hesitate to contact your advisor.  If we all do our part, we will eventually get through this crisis.  Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update (March 9, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on March 9th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

Erik Larson has just released a new biography of Winston Churchill entitled The Splendid and the Vile.  It documents the one year from May 10, 1940 to May 10, 1941, the period in which Nazi Germany overran France and began the bombing of London.  During this perilous time “Churchill’s great trick was his ability to deliver dire news and yet leave his audience feeling encouraged and uplifted”.

There is an investing concept we first heard during the 4th quarter of 2008: “the permanent impairment of capital”. During that recession, where the S&P 500 fell 50% over 18 months, this concept was loosely defined as losing no more than 20%.  We feel it is imperative to protect capital when it is called for and especially not to injure financial plans so much that they may never recover.  While the S&P 500 recovered in four to five years, it did so from a base of inexpensive equities and much government stimulus.  This time around equities are expensive, bonds even more so and global central banks have spent most of their stimulus.  We have been de-risking all of our managed portfolios since late January, from only 7% for aggressive accounts to 39% for moderate accounts.  So going into this Coronavirus crisis, we felt we were reasonably prepared, but its effect on the U.S. economy may be deeper than we thought.  That said, the Covid-19 crisis may dissipate quickly over the next three to four months if China and South Korea are any indication.  But it also may leave our economy, along with other global economies, in a much weaker state, much more so than even at the turn of this year.

As we navigate tough markets over the next several months, should you have any questions about either our investing thesis, the economy in general or your own financial planning, please don’t hesitate to contact your Longview advisor.  We try to build resiliency into our portfolios and planning for times like these, and while we might not have Churchill’s knack for encouragement, this crisis will also eventually pass us by.  Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility (February 28, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on February 28th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

In his brief essay yesterday, Woody Brock, one of our research partners, wrote that the Coronavirus is truly an “unknowable unknown”.  And while we are all sympathetic to those who have died, or are sick and possibly stranded, the stock market around the world can be brutal when there is not enough information to make an informed decision.

Longview, as investment advisors, has the same access to information as any other investors around the world. So far, this information has been vague and inconclusive.  Global markets have corrected this past week faster than at time in the history of the S & P.  We, along with most other investors, have watched as the situation went from a local Chinese problem to a global panic.

We have been tracking the downturn since last Friday, February 21, and aggregate portfolio losses have been about half of the market losses.  Many of you will remember our philosophy of “grow and protect” and we feel the “protect” mode is prudent now.  Many investors are attuned to buying the dips, but as in late 2008, when you don’t know where the floor is, we would rather wait.  Your capital and ours is too hard earned to be anything but prudent.  You will see in your portfolios where we, as we understood the unfolding gravity of this global panic, have exchanged “growth” assets for “protect” assets.  It is our opinion that a resolution to this situation will not be quick, but could take months or longer, not only longer to overcome the virus, but to also re-establish global trade.

We are never happy to add additional turmoil to your lives by changing investments within your portfolios, but taking a lesson from 2008, we feel it prudent to do so.  As always, thank you for your confidence in our abilities.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.

Sincerely,

Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s Investment Team

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

1st Quarter 2020 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on January 14th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

In contrast to major lows at year end 2018, the end of 2019 saw major U.S. indices at or near record highs. The fourth quarter saw much lower volatility than the middle of the year as the markets continued mostly higher with only a few minor pullbacks along the way. Many of the risks that were influencing markets throughout the year are still relevant today; however, most of them have shown signs of moving toward a resolution.  There have been more negotiations in the U.S.-China trade war, and they are finally showing signs of progress, tensions in the Middle East seemed to have peaked for now, and the latest deadline for Brexit is less than a month away.

In their fourth quarter meeting, the U.S. Federal Reserve stopped the interest rate easing cycle, for now, and left their benchmark rate alone following three consecutive cuts during the year. The future path for the Fed is still in question however.  Chairman Powell has said that the three cuts during the year were simply a mid-cycle correction to interest rates and do not point to a long-term easing cycle.  Although the Fed has stopped their interest rate cuts for now, they have been forced to continue to increase their balance sheet through an asset purchase program in order to continue to provide liquidity to overnight lending markets.  While it continues to be talked about as a short-term issue, there has been continuous intervention through the fourth quarter and plans to halt the asset purchases have continued to be delayed.

The trade war between the U.S. and China is finally starting to show progress and talks are finally starting to look like they could bring results over the coming months.  The first phase of the deal has been verbally agreed to and is expected to be signed in mid-January.  While many details of the first phase have not been shared publicly, it is expected to include China increasing purchases of U.S. agricultural products and increasing intellectual property protections, while the US is likely to end any tariff increase. That said, phase two of a long-term deal could be years away.

Geopolitical tensions continue to be a threat. Protests in Hong Kong have continued throughout the past few months, despite the government removing the controversial extradition bill that provided the initial spark for the protesters.  While the first of the protester’s five major demands has been met, in the removal of the bill, the remaining four have seen little interest from the government. In the Middle East, following U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed rebels, protesters occupied the Green Zone in Iraq and were able to break into the compound surrounding the U.S. Embassy.  While the situation de-escalated after a few days, the United States then killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, to which the Iranian military responded by launching rockets at bases in Iraq that house American troops.  While there were no casualties reported in the attack, it showed that Iran is willing to use military force if they deem it necessary. This has been reported as the end of the retaliation from Iran and both sides seem to be standing down, for now. Over the next few months global growth could begin to rebound off of recent lows due to the stimulus that has been provided over the past year.  This growth will likely be supportive of risk assets over the next quarter, with international markets expecting out-performance relative to the United States as the dollar begins to weaken. While a recession in the United States continues to be a threat, one is not expected during the first three to six months of 2020 unless there is a significant unforeseen event.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.



4th Quarter 2019 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on October 16th, 2019 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

The third quarter of 2019 was a wild ride for U.S. Markets.  The S&P 500 hit a new all-time high of 3,027.98 in July only to sell off more than 6.5% by early August. Many of the risks that were influencing markets in the second quarter are still relevant today.  There has been little progress made in the trade war between the United States and China, tensions in the Middle East have continued to escalate, and the latest deadline for Brexit is less than a month away.

During the third quarter, the Federal Reserve followed through on their dovish commentary by cutting their benchmark rate by 0.25% in July and September. The future path for the Fed is still in question however.  Chairman Powell continues to say that these rate cuts are not part of a cyclical change, rather a mid-cycle correction, meaning that he would prefer not to continue to cut rates in the future.  In addition to rate cuts, the Fed also had to intervene in over-night lending markets in order to provide liquidity as there have been multiple spikes in the overnight rate due to a lack of dollar liquidity.  If the dollar liquidity issue continues, and the Fed is unable to provide sufficient capital through their current repo operations, a new quantitative easing (QE) cycle might begin.

The trade war between the U.S. and China has seen little progress with increased tariffs from both sides.  Tensions have come down over the last few weeks as a potential deal has been tentatively reached.  The deal is said to be implemented in phases with the first phase being China purchasing more American agricultural products, primarily soy beans, and the United States agreeing to stop increasing tariffs.  No tariffs have been removed at this point; however, pending the first phase of the trade deal, some tariffs have been delayed from the third quarter to the end of the fourth quarter after the holiday shopping season.

Tensions in the Middle East continue to be a significant threat, especially to the oil market.  Oil had its largest one day move in history in September following an attack on the largest oil refinery in the world, located in Saudi Arabia. The United States has blamed Iran for the attacks, which has continued to degrade relations between the two nations.  While there has not yet been a response to the attack, it is unlikely that tensions will subside anytime soon.

Over the next few months it is likely that central banks around the world will continue stimulus both by cutting rates and by resuming, or increasing, QE. Earnings for U.S. companies are likely to disappoint when they report third quarter results, which could lead to a short-term consolidation in equity markets.  As central banks continue to provide stimulus, we will likely see equity markets pick up later in the fourth quarter or early in 2020, although a global recession continues to be a viable threat.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

2nd Quarter 2019 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on July 18th, 2019 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

U.S. Markets ended the second quarter near fresh all-time highs, but the path taken to get there was far from smooth.  We saw the return of volatility to its highest levels since the major sell-off in December 2018 with the volatility index nearly doubling to over 20 in the first half of May before slowly returning to the lower teens by the end of the quarter.1  This volatility was influenced by multiple factors, including the continued trade war between the United States and China (the two largest economies in the world), the increasing tensions in the Middle East (with Iran saying that there is no longer a path to a diplomatic solution with the United States), and the Federal Reserve’s lack of clarity on their future policy. 

The Federal Reserve has continued to hint that a rate cut is coming, but we still lack clarity on when the first one will be and how much it will be cut.  The market is currently assuming a rate cut of at least 0.25% and as much as 0.50% in July.2 If there is no cut in July, it could bring a short-term consolidation to equity markets in the U.S. as investors wait to find out what the Fed’s outlook on the economy means for risk assets.

The trade war between the U.S. and China saw talks break down in the early part of last quarter with increased tariffs from both sides.  Tensions cooled slightly after President Trump and President Xi met at the G20 summit in June and agreed to restart trade negotiations between the countries and to put any further tariffs on hold.  No tariffs have been removed at this point; however, trade talks have resumed and both sides say that there is a path to a deal.

Tensions in the Middle East continue to be a significant threat, especially to the oil market.  In the last three months there have been attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, for which Iran has denied responsibility. Also, a U.S. drone was shot down, for which Iran claimed responsibility stating that the drone had illegally entered Iranian airspace.  Tensions in this region continue to rise with Iran saying there is no longer a path to a diplomatic solution with the United States. These tensions arose after the U.S. decided to reimpose sanctions on Iran that had been removed as part of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community.

While new all-time highs are being reached in U.S. stock markets, global stocks have not fared as well since the last recession.  The MSCI EAFE index (a broad measure of international equity) reached its most recent peak in early 2018, but has yet to return to the all-time highs that were seen in 2007.3 Economies outside of the U.S. have not had the same success throughout the recovery since the Great Recession and their stock markets reflect that.

Over the next few months it is likely that China will increase government stimulation in their economy in order to combat declining growth. The European Central Bank (ECB) will likely continue their policy of easy money and could possibly increase stimulus. The Federal Reserve will likely cut rates by at least 0.25% over the next three months which will confirm their change in policy from the last rate hike in December 2018.  All of these factors could be supportive of global economic growth which should be positive for global equities. 

Sincerely,

Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.

1, 2, and 3: Information found at CNBC.com

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

A Farewell to Marty Whitman

Most of us vividly remember particular incidents in our lives. So it is with my chance meeting with Martin Whitman, founder and driving force behind the Third Avenue Value fund company. He passed away last week at age 93, and to quote his remembrance in last week’s Wall Street Journal, “He was an extraordinary investor, impassioned philanthropist, impactful teacher, and a true capital markets pioneer.” He was all of those things and more. In January of 1999 I took a week off from my day job to attend Benjamin’s Graham’s Columbia Business School course on value investing, resurrected after fifty years and taught by Bruce Greenwald. As you might expect, New York City in January is cold and dreary, and I found myself totally unprepared for the coursework coming at me. On the second day of the course, it was announced that we would have a mystery guest speaker to close the day with a reception afterwards. That speaker was Marty Whitman.

Keep in mind that January 1999 was close to the top of the internet bubble, which made his talk on deep value investing in both the stock and distressed debt markets even more interesting. Obviously, value investing was totally out of favor and Marty, along with other well-known value guys, like Jean Marie Eveillard of First Eagle and Robert Sanborn of Oakmark, was having a hard time and losing clients in that environment. During the reception in his honor, I introduced myself and was surprised how he drew me into a memorable conversation. He asked where I was from, and when I told him North Alabama, he asked where again. When I responded Gadsden, he laughed said he had been stationed at Camp Sibert just on the outskirts of Gadsden during WWII. I quickly understood that he had more knowledge of my hometown during that period than I did, and he enjoyed remembering stories from that time and place. He was very personable and also wanted to know about my family and career. When he found out that I was considering a career change, it became an even more important conversation. He urged me to consider an investing career and to follow a different path. I am forever grateful!

So, you might ask, “What is the relevance of this story”? First, Mr. Whitman was an extraordinary investor and seemed to be passionate about his craft and life in general. His style was global and always deep value. It led to him to outperform the stock market more often than not. Second, he was interested in people, who they were, and what they were doing. He didn’t have to talk to me, but his advice helped. And third, I very quickly learned that although over the years, he had been winning with deep value, that no style, even his, worked all the time. Flexibility and understanding of the rotations of the markets is very important, important enough to understand when and if his style or another style fits into a portfolio. In a 2015 interview he talked about how after the financial crisis, his funds struggled because the Fed’s quantitative easing and the lack of volatility. With the recent volatility, this investment climate appears to be returning to being a “stock pickers market.” Marty, along with many of his deep value peers, is undoubtedly smiling.

Thoughts on the Market

Note: This market review was published on January 23rd, 2018 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

Rule No. 1 – Never Lose Money. Rule No. 2 – Never Forget Rule #1.

~Warren Buffet

Rarely do I listen to the talking heads on the business channels.  But when I do, or even when I listen to forecasts from money managers we know and trust, I am transported back to the late nineties. Back then all you heard was that “technology and the internet has created a new investing paradigm.”  How could you not have all your money in stocks, stocks that had no earnings, but were grossly overvalued?  There were a handful of excellent value managers during that time who refused to participate in the market frenzy, including the one quoted above.  Many lost over 70% of their assets, or were fired, or both!  Today, as markets head ever higher the phrase is that “there are strong earnings.  Global markets are synchronized and the investing environment is good everywhere.”  I just can’t figure out whether I’m in early 1997 or late 1999.

We do a lot of research at Longview.  Mostly we concentrate on global economies, the global investing environment, asset allocation, what to buy, why to buy, what not to buy and on and on and on!  Most economists we respect and follow think we are in the late stages of the economic cycle, meaning that we are much closer to the end of favorable markets than the beginning.  But that is where their consensus ends.  Some economists think this good investing environment could continue for several more years.  Others see storm clouds on the horizon.

Our main investment objectives are two-fold: 1) not to permanently impair your capital and 2) help our clients accomplish their financial goals.  We have done this over the years by growing assets when there is an appropriate environment and protecting assets when there is not.  We are data dependent, hence all the research mentioned earlier.  Eventually, we know we will have to transition from growth to protection.  We are not there yet, maybe not even close.  But we do think the global economy may transition into one that is much slower, similar to markets not seen for over fifty years.  Please understand that “may transition” means that there are multiple future scenarios, and none knows exactly which scenario will appear.  But we do think that there is a probability that the investment tools we now use could be exchanged for ones from a much different time, leading us to morph from grow to protect.

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