September 2018 Market Letter

“Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door” – Bob Dylan 1973

America lost two iconic figures late last month, and both were quite inspirational to me. Putting it simply, Aretha Franklin had the best voice I’ve ever heard. The daughter of a minister, Aretha was the unquestioned “Queen of Soul”. She could have been easily dubbed the “Queen of Gospel” as well. She had range, power, expression, and emotion. Rolling Stone named her the #1 Singer of all time, and she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aside from her prodigious talent, what really made me R-E-S-P-E-C-T her were actions that went largely unnoticed. She was a pioneer for female artists controlling their own creative destinies. While she was a self-confessed “Diva” onstage, Aretha was actually a very private person devoted to her family. Finally, while other successful artists sought the spotlight of LA and New York, Aretha stayed in Detroit. Rock Steady.

Senator John McCain of Arizona also passed away in August. In today’s age where popularity of political officials is at a historic low, John McCain defied the trend. He was a rare breed – a man dedicated to service for our country that preferred cooperation and compromise over partisanship and tribalism. He was strident in his views and certainly never backed down from a legislative fight. That being said, he believed in discourse and had many Democratic colleagues across the proverbial aisle. It speaks volumes that former Vice President Joe Biden delivered the primary eulogy at his funeral. John McCain had a vision for America that was rooted in safety and diversity. Arizona and the United States Senate will have a most difficult time filling his shoes.

Thankfully, the stock market suffered few losses overall last month. The Dow reached the 26,000 mark, the S & P 500 eclipsed 2900 and the NASDAQ shattered the 8000 barrier. Small and mid-caps also performed nicely. Laggards on the equities side were mostly in the international realm, as US stocks continue to outperform their foreign counterparts. Fixed income and commodities were flat to slightly lower. Volume was seasonally light and volatility remained in check. All in all, another positive month. Where do we go from here?

September and October are historically the worst two months of the year for stocks. As the saying goes, though, “prior history is no guarantee of future performance”. Yes, we could easily have a garden variety correction of 5-10% at any point in time. Markets simply do this occasionally as a cleansing mechanism. Barring that, we have to look at why the rally would stop. Other than an exogenous reason like an unexpected military debacle or terrorist incident, bull markets simply don’t end because they’re tired. When corporate profitability cycles weaken, that’s a problem, but it’s one that we’re honestly not seeing now. The other is if monetary policy gets ahead of productivity and earnings. Even though the Federal Reserve will undoubtedly hike interest rates another ¼ point this month, the bond market is not signaling Treasury yield inflation. It’s my macroeconomic sense that if these two parameters stay on their present course, equities should be largely fine.

I’m certainly not intimating throwing caution to the wind. President Trump’s ongoing issues and the mid-term elections in November are wild cards of uncertainty. However, the stock market has done a fine job ignoring the vagaries of Washington during the past two months. Let’s hope that it continues to concentrate on fundamentals this fall.

On another front, the transition with W3 continues to go quite well. We’re happy here, and it stays business as usual. Thanks as always for your ongoing trust and support. We look forward to talking with you soon.

Sincerely,

Bill Schiffman

Registered Representative

 

The opinions expressed in this letter are those of William Schiffman and should not be construed as specific investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, no representation is made to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results.  Diversification cannot assure a profit or guarantee against a loss. Indices are unmanaged and do not incur fees, one cannot directly invest in an index.

 

 

November 2016 Election Edition Newsletter

“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look”. This quote from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar might be an appropriate one for yesterday’s election results. So might the adage “Be careful what you wish for”. In Shakespeare’s case, Caesar meant that Cassius looked dangerously dissatisfied, as if he were starved for power. Donald Trump doesn’t appear to be either lean or hungry, but we can understand the quote nonetheless. As far as being careful what we wish for, I guess that we’ll just see what happens in the months and years to come.

Let’s attempt to put some things into perspective. Trump’s victory is nothing short of a mandate. He won states that have been solidly blue for decades, and there was little, if any, downstream fallout at the Congressional level. What we learned is that professional pollsters and political pundits are worthless. The pollsters did about as good a job as a meteorologist predicting sunny and calm conditions for New Orleans and New Jersey in the face of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Pundits were equally inept. To my knowledge, these well paid know nothings don’t live in places like Appalachia or Flint. Almost to a fault, they failed to see what happened during the campaign through the prism of those most affected.

I wasn’t a Trump supporter, but I do have to give him and his team credit for the stunner they pulled off. Trump is probably the most natural political animal I’ve ever witnessed. He was able to channel a mix of populism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, foul language, and charisma into a winning combination. Very few in either the Republican or Democratic “establishment” gave him any chance to win. He steamrolled 16 primary opponents because he alone was able to successfully harness the anger and disaffection of many Americans. The same story held true in the general election.

Remember Ross Perot’s comment about “that big sucking sound”? I guess that’s the Democratic Party right now. The pundits have been talking about fractures in the Republican Party for months. At this juncture, the GOP is firmly in power and Democrats are trying to get the license number of the truck that hit them. In the end, Hillary Clinton proved to be an unelectable candidate. Her baggage and lack of charisma doomed her to defeat. Would Bernie Sanders have fared any better? That’s water cooler speculation now. The fact of the matter is that Clinton-Kaine was an unappetizing ticket. The Democrats’ tried and true methods of polling and a “ground game” in major cities failed to compete against Trump’s grass roots appeal.

It’s now the day after, and we all have to face this new reality. What will a Trump Presidency look like? I honestly don’t think that anyone knows for sure. His acceptance speech this early morning was measured and optimistic. He spoke of uniting the country and getting along with our international allies and adversaries. Whether this is a pivot or a head fake is difficult to tell.

Trump doesn’t appear to be an ideologue. He’s straddled party lines throughout his life and has financially supported all types of candidates. His stances on issues have been muddy. Therefore, it’s impossible to truly know where his reign will go. He, unlike career politicians, owes the Republican Party nothing. He won by trusting his instincts and chafing at his handlers.

There are plenty of things to worry about. Trump has never worked within a bureaucracy other than his own. Even with majorities in the House and Senate, how will he govern? How effective will he be in dealing with the new Obstructionist-In-Chief Chuck Schumer? It’s obvious that America was ready for change. So was England in their Brexit vote. There has been a period of remorse in Britain ever since that day. Will we have a similar reaction? What will the changes look like? If Trump repeals Obamacare, what’s next? Does he or any of the Republicans realize how difficult writing an all-encompassing new health care law will be?

I guess that we’ll learn a lot about the new administration once the Cabinet is selected. I feel that his team could range from mildly inclusive to proto-Fascist. The “Oz” behind the curtain of the campaign is Steve Bannon, who founded Breitbart. This organization is politely called “alt-right”, but in my opinion, it’s pretty far right. It outfoxes Fox on most days. If Trump takes his cues from that portion of the party, that may not be beneficial for our country. Many folks don’t like the new Vice President, Mike Pence. He describes himself as “Christian, Conservative, and Republican, in that order”. His tenure as Governor of Indiana was marked by anti-gay legislation that was later repealed. Perhaps the best thing about him is that (like all other Veeps) he’ll be irrelevant unless Trump dies in office.

As far as our investments are concerned, a Trump administration could actually have some positives for stocks. If he successfully lowers corporate tax rates and is able to repatriate the billions of dollars that companies are stashing overseas, those funds could be used for job creation and research/development expense. His promises of infrastructure building, if kept, might also be a big plus. Some facets of deregulation could be accretive for business.

What the markets told us last night and thus far today is important. I knew that Trump would win at around 9PM last night when equities futures began to crater. The Dow Futures were down over 800 points around midnight. Panic quickly subsided, however, and only Japan’s Nikkei Index had a viciously down day. I don’t know how the rest of the day here will go, but the Dow is actually up as I type this missive. The Volatility Index (VIX) is counter-intuitively down today. We perhaps need to pay more attention to fixed income. The rate on the benchmark ten year has risen dramatically. Trump’s stated dislike of Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen is sowing uncertainty in the bond pits. We’ll have to see how that trend evolves.

The bottom line is that we as investors cannot combine emotion and asset management. Some of us are disappointed with last night’s results. Some are fearful about TrumpWorld. I can totally understand all of that, but we must not connect our feelings to our money.

Like many other times in American history, the populace adjusts to jarring news. That’s our job now. We will see what the future holds. In the meantime, I’m remaining calm. Please feel free to call or e-mail with your thoughts and comments. Don’t forget to breathe, and try to have perspective.

Sincerely,

Bill Schiffman

Registered Representative

 

The opinions expressed in this letter are those of William Schiffman and should not be construed as specific investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, no representation is made to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results.

Diversification cannot assure a profit or guarantee against a loss.

June 2016 – Brexit Edition

“And so it goes…”

This phrase was one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite aphorisms. He often wrote it with the meaning that life proceeds no matter how outside forces impact it.

Overnight, it was confirmed that Great Britain passed a referendum that mandated that it leave the European Union. The “Brexit” came as somewhat of a surprise, particularly to the world markets. Prior to today, equities rose nicely this week in anticipation of the vote having the opposite result. So, as it has been many times before, the so-called “smart money” was wrong. Overseas markets tumbled… Japan’s Nikkei lost almost 8%, Germany was down 7%, and as I write this letter, our exchanges are off by 3%. It sounds like a tremendous amount for a day, and it is. However, in light of the previous action for the week, we’re merely shedding prior gains. Where this all will lead is a different matter for speculation.

What is the fallout from “Brexit”? The most immediate issue is that it breeds a significant amount of uncertainty. British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned this morning, leaving his country without leadership. It’s reasonable to assume that other dominoes may follow. The United Kingdom proved in this referendum to be anything other than the name implies. England voted to leave the EU, but Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Scotland re-attempting to secede from the UK. Northern Ireland may follow suit. On the continent, Spain has an election Sunday, and there is turmoil in other countries like the Netherlands. The EU has been able to withstand recent economic problems from Greece and other southern members. How it will handle a resignation from a major player is yet to be seen.

Let’s attempt to put some perspective on things. The terms of “Brexit” have yet to be determined. The EU can decide to be punitive if it wants to; however, logic would tell me that they won’t take this tack. We have to remember that Norway and Switzerland have never been members of the EU, but these countries do business smoothly with EU members. England and Germany, the two strongest economies in Europe, have been active trading partners for decades. Do we really think that this will stop? I’m not trying to be sanguine here… this is a major development. But some pundits are overreaching in the immediate aftermath of the vote. I saw one talking head this morning saying that this reminded her of Lehman’s demise and the closing of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management years ago. Let’s be clear… “Brexit” is not bankruptcy, and shouldn’t be thought of in analogous terms.

That being said, the uncertainty is palpable. If a series of dominoes of defection from the EU occurs, the stability of Europe may be in question. As America’s major partners for trade and national security, a strong Europe is doubtless better than a fractured one. If Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the United Kingdom, the fallout could be major. One of my worries is that the “plumbing” of the international banking system will be adversely affected if the trend continues. As a governing body, the EU has been a major contributor to the overall economy of the region. “Brexit”, though, showed that at least one country wasn’t happy being economically ruled from afar.

The leaders of the “Brexit” movement couched their efforts along the lines of independence and sovereignty. Veiled in much of the populist rhetoric were discussions of immigration and border safety. More than a small level of xenophobia added to the emotional fervor. In the end, it boiled down to nationalistic jingoism winning over economic common sense. The demographics of the vote were startling. Younger UK residents were overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the EU, while older folks largely supported leaving. Those who drove the proverbial bus will deal with the consequences for a shorter time span.

I also believe that “Brexit” was a favorable outcome for Donald Trump and his supporters. There are many similarities between his brand of (c)overtly racist populism and the “Brexit” campaign. Also, the common wisdom never felt that the UK would leave the EU. Trump has proven the “smart money” wrong thus far, and it would be unwise to under-estimate his chances at this point. We’ll be feeling levels of uncertainty on our shores until the first Tuesday in November, and perhaps beyond.

Panicking is never a good course of action. Equities are acting adversely today, but the fixed income market is doing quite well. Having a sense of balance in a portfolio is always helpful on days like today. My feeling is that a few more days like this should bring opportunities for investors. My suggestion is to stay calm and remain on the investment course that you have selected. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions or thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you soon. And so it goes.

Sincerely,

Bill Schiffman

Registered Representative

 

______________________________

The opinions expressed in this letter are those of William Schiffman and should not be construed as specific investment advice.  All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, no representation is made to its completeness or accuracy.  All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results.

Diversification cannot assure a profit or guarantee against a loss.

 

S&G Welcome RC Arseneau

It is with great pleasure that I announce the addition of RC Arseneau to our financial services team. RC has a wonderful collection of accreditations: CFP – Certified Financial Planner, CEP – Certified Estate Planner, and ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant. RC has been a licensed professional in our industry for over eighteen years, and he prides himself on his ability to plan cogently for a client’s future. RC will give us further depth and experience, and he’s a great team player.

RC lives in Delaware with his wife Deana, and they have three children. The Arseneau family is quite musical (RC sang back-up vocals for Wynonna Judd on the TV show Touched By An Angel). RC and Deana embody the same types of values that we have had in our firm from the beginning – hard work, integrity, and the ability to check your ego at the door.

RC started with our firm earlier this month. Kelley King and I will be including him in all facets of client relationships. He’s excited to be able to wear jeans in the office, and ready to embark on what he hopes will be a lifelong tenure with SG Financial Services.

Thanks in advance for welcoming RC into the fold. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sincerely,

Bill Schiffman
Registered Representative

Schiffman | Grow & Co. Acquires Milliron & Kensinger CPAs

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller.

Bill Schiffman, President/Co-Founder and Todd Grow, Managing Partner/Co-Founder of Schiffman Grow & Co., are honored to announce the merger of two central Ohio CPA firms.  Schiffman Grow & Co. has acquired Milliron & Kensinger as the principals for both firms were in agreement that the time was right to form an alliance.

“This partnership allows us to grow our practice and provide a wider array of services”, stated Grow.  Jim Kensinger echoed those sentiments and added, “Succession planning is critical and we’re thrilled that the Schiffman Grow team has opted to obtain our firm.  Sam (Milliron) and I have been on a quest to locate an established company that mirrors our core values.  We expect little to no disruption for our clients and associates as we make this transition.”  Clients of both firms will continue to work with the same people as they have previously.  A critical component of this marriage is that all personnel be retained, rare indeed in the modern era of mergers and acquisitions.

The fit is so perfect, in fact, that the accounting and bookkeeping practices offered by Milliron & Kensinger complement the Schiffman Grow portfolio of services.  Notes Schiffman, “We’re far from your typical accounting firm –  we perform audits, produce business valuations, prepare personal and business taxes, provide business management services, conduct retirement and estate planning, offer asset protection products, and wealth management.  The depth and breadth of experience we deliver is first rate.”

Effective immediately, the combined firms will operate as Schiffman Grow & Co. and maintain offices at 890 Proprietors Road in Worthington.  Grow quipped, “About three years ago we realized we had outgrown our space in Clintonville, so we moved to Worthington and tripled our space.  Now almost every office and desk will be occupied.”

Milliron addressed what he feels will be a primary concern of current Milliron & Kensinger clients when he said, “There is simply an amazing unity of purpose here.  I’m confident our long-term clients will thoroughly enjoy the new facilities and personalities.”

The expanded company adheres to the principle that each employee work together to achieve one very important goal: client satisfaction. The enhanced range of skills means the firm is uniquely positioned to guide individuals and businesses through the complex financial world.  The team of CPAs, tax specialists, insurance professionals and financial advisors is ready to serve client needs.  “We weren’t aggressively pursuing another firm, but the fit was too great to ignore” says Schiffman.  “The courtship was brief and we were able to bring this deal to fruition before tax season begins in earnest.  We are eager to get started on this next chapter.”