Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Commodities

Blinded by Shiny Objects?

By, 01/26/2015
Ratings114.772727

Gold and silver are up a wee bit off their November 2014 bear market lows, and here is what some people have to say about it:

There’s a competitive currency devaluation coming. … Gold is your natural hedge against that.”

Gold, traditionally seen as maintaining its value against floating currencies, has prospered with markets on edge as central banks have attempted to deal with deflation in the wake of falling oil prices.”

Commentary

Michael Hanson
Capitalism, Into Perspective

Upside Risks Are the Riskiest

By, 01/23/2015
Ratings184.472222

“Man is dragged kicking and screaming toward his destiny.” – Carl Jung

We’ve figured out a way to worry about low oil prices. Low oil prices…bad! In the last decade, I spent a good portion of my life trying to talk folks off an investing cliff tied to high oil prices. Now we’ve gotten our wish—cheap and abundant oil tied to rapid technological advancements few foresaw—and many seem to hate it. Sure, cheaper oil is trouble for some energy companies and their employees, but on net, low oil prices tied to innovation driving up supply creates winners, too, and are an overall boon to the world economy by magnitudes.

We’ll surely lament many more “surprise” developments that will do the world great good: widespread natural gas use for vehicles (both cheaper and cleaner than today); water desalination technology changing the game for agriculture and general human access to water as we know it; laser technology advancements transforming a variety of fields from the armed forces to aviation; robotic automation lessening forever sheer human toil; breakthroughs all over the place in medicine from neurodegenerative diseases to nanotechnology to preventative systems.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Monetary Policy, Across the Atlantic, Media Hype/Myths

The ECB Will Buy Some Bonds

By, 01/23/2015
Ratings214.619048


The ECB may consider putting a big Q to the left of this. Photo by Hannelore Foster/Getty Images

Breaking News out of Frankfurt: The ECB held interest rates stable! Just kidding, they actually cut their rate on four-year loans. Oh and announced the full-scale quantitative easing (QE) program pundits have long salivated over, which we guess is bigger news. Now that QE is reality, we fully expect headlines will laud it for stimulating growth, fret its potential end, argue over whether it will cause hyperinflation, fear it isn’t big enough, and so on. All happened in the US, UK and Japan, and we have little reason to expect different in the eurozone. We also don’t expect QE’s impact to differ: The ECB’s interference with long-rates should keep the yield curve flat, discourage bank lending and slow growth. But, though negative, ECB QE is too widely discussed and too small to flip this bull into a bear.

First, the details. The ECB will buy €60 billion of sovereign, agency and private debt monthly from March through September 2016 (although officials indicated the end isn’t set in stone). The aim, as has been widely reported for months, is to add just over €1 trillion to the bank’s balance sheet, bringing it back up near 2012 levels. National central banks will do 80% of the buying to get around EU treaty restrictions on the ECB financing governments (not the aim, but a concern some raised). No Greek debt will be purchased until at least July—probably wise, considering Greece has asked to default on ECB-held debt.  Like other QE doers, the ECB seeks to lower long-term interest rates to stimulate loan demand, increase lending and grease the eurozone economy’s wheels. The ECB theorizes this will boost inflation toward its 2% y/y target (it is presently -0.2%) and goose GDP by a few tenths of a percentage point.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Finance Theory

The Happy Medium

By, 01/22/2015
Ratings313.806452

In the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, Americans in 2015 drove flying cars and rode hover boards—but still used dot-matrix printers. Now, this movie was never meant as a forecast, so it can’t technically be considered wrong. Heck, a Delorean reaching 88 mph was a time machine, your cue to shut off the fact-o-meter. But that cars and skateboards are still earth-bound while printers use lasers (and some print in 3D) teaches a simple lesson: No one can accurately foresee what will happen in 10, 20 or 30 years. Today’s trends and hot frontiers don’t foretell what the world will look like decades from now—investing based on such factors is folly.

But that doesn’t stop some folks from trying. Recent advances in immunotherapy are driving excitement over the chance to cure cancer—and driving some folks into upstart Biotech stocks now. Frontier and smaller Emerging Markets are projected to have sky-high population growth, attracting demographic trend-chasers. A potential “drone revolution” has folks scouring for hotshot robo-stocks. Some say Energy’s recent sell-off is a can’t-miss opportunity to pile in and wait for an eventual glorious rebound.

We’ve no doubt the future will be amazing in unfathomable ways, with wondrous new technologies and investment opportunities. That has always been true. But trying to pick the eventual winners now is a fool’s errand. Things might play differently than you imagine! And even if you’re eventually right, it could take ages to play out, causing you to miss opportunities (and better returns) in the meantime.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Emerging Markets, Media Hype/Myths, GDP

China's Great Miss?

By, 01/21/2015
Ratings314.241935

It’s official: China grew 7.4% last year—its slowest growth rate in 24 years. Growth missed the official target and could drag down the global economy. And it’s only going to get worse. At least, that’s how headlines portrayed China’s latest slowdown. As ever, some perspective is in order. Despite the handwringing, slower growth isn’t a global expansion-killer or bull-market-ending nasty shock—a slower-growing China still contributes a ton to global GDP.

The way headlines tell it, you’d think 7.4% growth was a giant disappointment for China’s growth-obsessed government. Yet GDP didn’t really miss the target. Officially, the target was “about 7.5%.” “About” is a nebulous word, and most headlines skipped it and went straight for the 7.5%. Yet officials were always clear the target was a range. Days after Premier Li Keqiang announced the target last March, he and China’s Finance Minister said 7.3% or even 7.2% annual growth would qualify. So 7.4% isn’t a surprise or a miss—it’s in the target range. And just 0.3 percentage point slower than 2013. Status quo, folks.

Slower growth is also somewhat intentional. Officials didn’t set a lower target simply to keep expectations down. They realize slower growth is a byproduct of their ongoing shift from export-led growth to domestic consumption—their effort to keep China advancing long-term and curb recent excess. Last decade’s eye-popping growth was the fruit of a government-engineered, export and factory-led boom. It worked great when wages and Chinese manufacturing costs were low. But it couldn’t last forever. Wages and shipping costs rose. Labor became scarce, thanks to the one-child rule. Factories overshot to meet lofty local growth targets, creating oversupply in several industries. Polluted skies and rivers made the locals antsy. Citizens craved better working conditions and higher income potential—service-sector jobs. So, officials decided to overhaul their model, promoting services and deliberately dialing back manufacturing. They want high-quality growth, not just fast growth for fast’s sake. The slowdown is a tradeoff.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Currencies, Media Hype/Myths

The Swiss Miss: Media’s Take on the Franc’s Fallout

By, 01/20/2015
Ratings584.284483

Headlines globally remained stuck on Switzerland Friday, spouting nonstop warnings, lessons and overall hype. To us, it all seems fairly out of proportion. Switzerland is tiny, and the franc’s wild ride is a textbook case of a currency peg gone bust. The writing was on the wall, and the global implications here are miniscule—this is nowhere near enough to end the bull market. Nor is it evidence of festering global weakness.

Here’s a roundup of the major stories, which we read and analyzed so you don’t have to.

Francs, Fear and Folly
Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff

Switzerland Declares Currency Neutrality

By, 01/16/2015
Ratings384.118421

Fancy metalwork adorns the edifice of the Swiss Central Bank. Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is discontinuing the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro. At the same time, it is lowering the interest rate on sight deposit account balances that exceed a given exemption threshold by 0.5 percentage points, to −0.75%. It is moving the target range for the three-month Libor further into negative territory, to between -1.25% and −0.25%, from the current range of between −0.75% and 0.25%.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
GDP

Do Investors Fear Faster Growth?

By, 01/15/2015
Ratings364.569445

The World Bank slashed its 2015 global forecast Tuesday evening, and markets globally wobbled hard on Wednesday—leading many media outlets to connect the dots  and presume the World Bank’s move is Very Bad News . As always, it’s impossible to say what drives any day’s volatility. Maybe slow-growth fears did cause Wednesday’s wiggles, in which 10-year Treasury yields shed a few basis points[i], 10-year German yields dipped to 0.47%, global stocks fell -0.8% and copper dropped -5.2%! Or maybe not. Either way, the connection suffers a logic problem: The World Bank’s report isn’t bearish or even really slow-growthy.

The World Bank expects global GDP to accelerate. Grow faster. Not slower. Not shrink, stagnate or slump. Headlines focused on the fact the bank cut its 2015 growth estimate from 3.4% to 3.0%, but that 3.0% is higher than 2014’s 2.6%. It would also be the biggest bump in global growth since 2010. The World Bank is apparently darned bullish, folks—not warning of a weaker world.

Sure, one could argue the reduced forecast means expectations before were too high, and the sentiment adjustment will weigh on stocks. But we have piles of evidence otherwise. The World Bank, IMF, OECD and others have consistently revised their growth forecasts down throughout this bull market. Stocks shrugged and kept climbing. We guess markets have long since figured out supranationals’ forecasts are often wrong, constantly revised and not reliable blueprints of what actually happens over the next year, two or three.

Commentary

Michael Hanson
Into Perspective, Reality Check, Media Hype/Myths

How Wearable Gadgets Describe Economic Data

By, 01/15/2015
Ratings294.172414


Cool technology, questionable accuracy. Photo by Automatt/Getty Images.

So, for the holidays my wife received one of these newfangled wearable fitness devices, touted to spout customized daily data about her fitness. Feel better! Get fitter! Improve your life with a plethora of data! Within a couple days, something was obviously way off—she would run a couple miles and the device said she’d barely moved!

Turns out, these things are not nearly as accurate as widely believed. They are probably inaccurate to the point of not being particularly useful. Spokespersons representing these companies are now saying things like “…for many people, they’re inspirational, and if using one gets someone to move more, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s serving a good purpose.”

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Monetary Policy, Inflation, Media Hype/Myths

Data-Dependent Forward Guidance

By, 01/14/2015

Entering 2015, many forecast the Fed would start hiking rates mid-year. But only nine trading days in, folks are already singing a different tune, venturing the Fed may push back its rate increase a bit later. What gives? Well, what gave are inflation rates, which data show are down. As are oil prices, suggesting headline inflation rates may move further away from central bankers’ target rates, not toward them. And hey, central bankers from both sides of the pond say policy is data-dependent! But the timing of a hike isn’t any clearer now than it was entering the year. You see, data may reverse course; central bankers might interpret the data differently; and it could all just be jawboning anyway. This game of gaming a non-gameable body—central bankers—is fruitless for investors. We suggest you opt out.

The Fed and BoE have recently told anyone who’d listen monetary policy would be “data dependent”—rate hikes or policy shifts rely on economic data justifying moves. The inflation rate is just such data. Both central banks target a 2% y/y inflation rate, and the latest readings are below the mark. In the US, the November PCE Price Index—the Fed’s preferred inflation gaugerose 1.2% y/y, a bit lower than October’s 1.4% y/y increase. UK CPI slowed to 0.5% y/y in December, further south of the target than November’s 1.0% y/y change. As a result, BoE governor Mark Carney has to write a letter explaining why inflation is so low, a reversal from his predecessor Mervyn King, who more often had to explain above-target inflation.

Yet a major reason for this miss is pretty evident: falling oil prices. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, the US PCE Price index rose 1.4% y/y in November, which isn’t that much below the target (October was 1.5% y/y). Similarly, UK core CPI rose 1.3% y/y in December, up from November’s 1.2% increase. Now, to us, there is nothing magical about reaching 2% inflation. The US and UK have done just fine at current “low” inflation levels. But some rate hike forecasters presume these data will cause central bankers to pause a bit before making any policy changes and conclude a delayed rate hike, from mid-2015 to perhaps a bit later. Some even suggest bankers should consider additional measures to boost CPI.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Currencies, Media Hype/Myths

The Swiss Miss: Media’s Take on the Franc’s Fallout

By, 01/20/2015
Ratings584.284483

Headlines globally remained stuck on Switzerland Friday, spouting nonstop warnings, lessons and overall hype. To us, it all seems fairly out of proportion. Switzerland is tiny, and the franc’s wild ride is a textbook case of a currency peg gone bust. The writing was on the wall, and the global implications here are miniscule—this is nowhere near enough to end the bull market. Nor is it evidence of festering global weakness.

Here’s a roundup of the major stories, which we read and analyzed so you don’t have to.

Francs, Fear and Folly
Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff

Switzerland Declares Currency Neutrality

By, 01/16/2015
Ratings384.118421

Fancy metalwork adorns the edifice of the Swiss Central Bank. Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is discontinuing the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro. At the same time, it is lowering the interest rate on sight deposit account balances that exceed a given exemption threshold by 0.5 percentage points, to −0.75%. It is moving the target range for the three-month Libor further into negative territory, to between -1.25% and −0.25%, from the current range of between −0.75% and 0.25%.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
GDP

Do Investors Fear Faster Growth?

By, 01/15/2015
Ratings364.569445

The World Bank slashed its 2015 global forecast Tuesday evening, and markets globally wobbled hard on Wednesday—leading many media outlets to connect the dots  and presume the World Bank’s move is Very Bad News . As always, it’s impossible to say what drives any day’s volatility. Maybe slow-growth fears did cause Wednesday’s wiggles, in which 10-year Treasury yields shed a few basis points[i], 10-year German yields dipped to 0.47%, global stocks fell -0.8% and copper dropped -5.2%! Or maybe not. Either way, the connection suffers a logic problem: The World Bank’s report isn’t bearish or even really slow-growthy.

The World Bank expects global GDP to accelerate. Grow faster. Not slower. Not shrink, stagnate or slump. Headlines focused on the fact the bank cut its 2015 growth estimate from 3.4% to 3.0%, but that 3.0% is higher than 2014’s 2.6%. It would also be the biggest bump in global growth since 2010. The World Bank is apparently darned bullish, folks—not warning of a weaker world.

Sure, one could argue the reduced forecast means expectations before were too high, and the sentiment adjustment will weigh on stocks. But we have piles of evidence otherwise. The World Bank, IMF, OECD and others have consistently revised their growth forecasts down throughout this bull market. Stocks shrugged and kept climbing. We guess markets have long since figured out supranationals’ forecasts are often wrong, constantly revised and not reliable blueprints of what actually happens over the next year, two or three.

Commentary

Michael Hanson
Into Perspective, Reality Check, Media Hype/Myths

How Wearable Gadgets Describe Economic Data

By, 01/15/2015
Ratings294.172414


Cool technology, questionable accuracy. Photo by Automatt/Getty Images.

So, for the holidays my wife received one of these newfangled wearable fitness devices, touted to spout customized daily data about her fitness. Feel better! Get fitter! Improve your life with a plethora of data! Within a couple days, something was obviously way off—she would run a couple miles and the device said she’d barely moved!

Turns out, these things are not nearly as accurate as widely believed. They are probably inaccurate to the point of not being particularly useful. Spokespersons representing these companies are now saying things like “…for many people, they’re inspirational, and if using one gets someone to move more, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s serving a good purpose.”

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Monetary Policy, Inflation, Media Hype/Myths

Data-Dependent Forward Guidance

By, 01/14/2015

Entering 2015, many forecast the Fed would start hiking rates mid-year. But only nine trading days in, folks are already singing a different tune, venturing the Fed may push back its rate increase a bit later. What gives? Well, what gave are inflation rates, which data show are down. As are oil prices, suggesting headline inflation rates may move further away from central bankers’ target rates, not toward them. And hey, central bankers from both sides of the pond say policy is data-dependent! But the timing of a hike isn’t any clearer now than it was entering the year. You see, data may reverse course; central bankers might interpret the data differently; and it could all just be jawboning anyway. This game of gaming a non-gameable body—central bankers—is fruitless for investors. We suggest you opt out.

The Fed and BoE have recently told anyone who’d listen monetary policy would be “data dependent”—rate hikes or policy shifts rely on economic data justifying moves. The inflation rate is just such data. Both central banks target a 2% y/y inflation rate, and the latest readings are below the mark. In the US, the November PCE Price Index—the Fed’s preferred inflation gaugerose 1.2% y/y, a bit lower than October’s 1.4% y/y increase. UK CPI slowed to 0.5% y/y in December, further south of the target than November’s 1.0% y/y change. As a result, BoE governor Mark Carney has to write a letter explaining why inflation is so low, a reversal from his predecessor Mervyn King, who more often had to explain above-target inflation.

Yet a major reason for this miss is pretty evident: falling oil prices. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, the US PCE Price index rose 1.4% y/y in November, which isn’t that much below the target (October was 1.5% y/y). Similarly, UK core CPI rose 1.3% y/y in December, up from November’s 1.2% increase. Now, to us, there is nothing magical about reaching 2% inflation. The US and UK have done just fine at current “low” inflation levels. But some rate hike forecasters presume these data will cause central bankers to pause a bit before making any policy changes and conclude a delayed rate hike, from mid-2015 to perhaps a bit later. Some even suggest bankers should consider additional measures to boost CPI.

Commentary

Fisher Investments Editorial Staff
Personal Finance, Finance Theory, Market Cycles, The Global View

It’s a Big World After All

By, 01/13/2015
Ratings824.292683

It's a big world, folks—own it! Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images.

New research says international investors own more US stocks than ever. America outperformed all but one developed-world market last year. A certain index-fund guru says he “wouldn’t invest outside the US.” US economic growth is leading the developed world. Perhaps this has you wondering: Should I forget foreign and own US stocks only? But tempting as that might be, we think it’s unwise. Diversification matters, and leadership flip-flops.

Research Analysis

Fisher Investments Research Staff

MLPs and Your Portfolio

By, 11/26/2013
Ratings833.885542

With interest rates on everything from savings accounts to junk bonds at or near generational lows, many income-seeking investors are looking for creative or, to some, exotic means of generating cash flow. Some are turning to a relatively little-known type of security—master limited partnerships (MLPs). MLPs may attract investors for a number of reasons: their high dividend yields and tax incentives, to name a couple. But, like all investments, MLPs have pros and cons, which are crucial to understand if you’re considering investing in them.

MLPs were created in the 1980s by a Congress hoping to generate more interest in energy infrastructure investment. The aim was to create a security with limited partnership-like tax benefits, but publicly traded—bringing more liquidity and fewer restrictions and thus, ideally, more investors. Currently, only select types of companies are allowed to form MLPs—primarily in energy transportation (e.g., oil pipelines and similar energy infrastructure).

To mitigate their tax liability, MLPs distribute 90% of their profits to their investors—or unit holders—through periodic income distributions, much like dividend payments. And, because there is no initial loss of capital to taxes, MLPs can offer relatively high yields, usually around 6-7%. Unit holders receive a tax benefit, too: Much of the dividend payment is treated as a return of capital—how much is determined by the distributable cash flow (DCF) from the MLP’s underlying venture (e.g., the oil pipeline).

Research Analysis

Elisabeth Dellinger
Reality Check

Inside Indian Taper Terror

By, 11/08/2013
Ratings174.294117

When the Fed kept quantitative easing (QE) in place last week, US investors weren’t the only ones (wrongly) breathing a sigh of relief. Taper terror is fully global! In Emerging Markets (EM), many believe QE tapering will cause foreign capital to retreat. Some EM currencies took it on the chin as taper talk swirled over the summer, and many believe this is evidence of their vulnerability—with India the prime example as its rupee fell over 20% against the dollar at one point. Yet while taper jitters perhaps contributed to the volatility, evidence suggests India’s troubles are tied more to long-running structural issues and seemingly erratic monetary policy—and suggests EM taper fears are as false as their US counterparts.

The claim QE is propping up asset prices implies there is some sort of overinflated disconnect between Emerging Markets assets and fundamentals—a mini-bubble. Yet this is far removed from reality—not what you’d expect if QE were a significant positive driver. Additionally, the thesis assumes money from rounds two, three and infinity of QE has flooded into the developing world—and flows more with each round of monthly Fed bond purchases. As Exhibit 1 shows, however, foreign EM equity inflows were strongest in 2009 as investors reversed their 2008 panic-driven retreat. Flows eased off during 2010 and have been rather weak—and often negative—since 2011.

Exhibit 1: Emerging Markets Foreign Equity Inflows

Research Analysis

Brad Pyles

Why This Bull Market Has Room to Run

By, 10/31/2013
Ratings884.102273

With investors expecting the Fed to end quantitative easing soon, the yield spread is widening—fuel for stocks! Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Since 1932, the average S&P 500 bull market has lasted roughly four and a half years. With the present bull market a hair older than the average—and with domestic and global indexes setting new highs—some fret this bull market is long in the tooth. However, while bull markets die of many things, age and gravity aren’t among them. History argues the fundamentals underpinning this bull market are powerful enough to lift stocks higher from here, with economic growth likely to continue—and potentially even accelerate moving forward as bank lending increases.

Research Analysis

Christo Barker
US Economy

Let’s Call It FARRP

By, 10/10/2013
Ratings93.777778

While the rest of the country fretted over taper terror, government shutdown and debt ceiling limits, the Federal Reserve tested its Fixed Rate Full-Allotment Reverse-Repo Facility (a mouthful—let’s call it FARRP) for the first time September 24. FARRP allows banks and non-banks, like money market funds and asset managers, to access Fed-held assets—i.e., the long-term securities bought under the Fed’s quantitative easing—via securities dealers’ tri-party repo (and reverse-repo) market for short-term funding. (More on repos to follow.) FARRP aims to address what many feel is a collateral shortage in the non-bank financial system caused by too much QE bond buying concentrating eligible collateral on the Fed’s balance sheet, where it doesn’t circulate freely. As a result, many private sector repo rates turned negative. But, should FARRP be fully implemented, the facility could actually hinder some assets (in this case, high-quality, long-term collateral like bonds) from circulating through the financial system—much like quantitative easing (QE) locked up excess bank reserves. A more effective means of freeing collateral in the repo market is tapering the Fed’s QE.

Repurchase agreements, or repos, are used to generate short-term liquidity to fund other banking or investment activity—a means to move liquidity (cash) from one institution to another. In a repo, one party sells an asset—usually long-term debt—agreeing to repurchase it at a different price later on. A reverse repo is, well, the opposite: One party buys an asset from another, agreeing to sell it back at a different price later. In both cases, the asset acts as collateral for what is effectively the buyer’s loan to the seller, and the repo rate is the difference between the initial and future sales prices, usually expressed as a per annum interest rate. The exchange only lasts a short while—FARRP’s reverse repos are overnight affairs to ensure markets are sufficiently funded. In the test last Tuesday, the private sector tapped the facility for $11.81 billion of collateral—a small, but not insignificant, amount.

FARRP’s first round is scheduled to end January 29, and during that time, non-bank institutions can invest between $500 million and $1 billion each at FARRP’s fixed overnight reverse-repo rates ranging from one to five basis points. A first for repo markets: Normally, repo and reverse-repo rates are free-floating, determined by market forces. Another of FARRP’s differentiating factors is private-sector need will facilitate reverse-repo bids instead of the Fed. Ideally, FARRP’s structure will encourage unproductive collateral to be released back into the system when it’s most needed—and new sources of collateral demand may help ensure this. Swaps, for example, are shifting to collateral-backed exchanges due to Dodd-Frank regulation—meaning more collateral will be needed to back the same amount of trading activity. Collateral requirements for loans will likely also rise.

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What We're Reading

By , Bloomberg, 01/23/2015

MarketMinder's View: After news of King Abdullah’s passing, folks wondered if his successor would change tack and cut oil output to boost prices. But he said that isn’t in the cards for now, and he’s keeping the late king’s oil minister. Maybe they do change course eventually, but for now, it seems investors shouldn’t expect the king’s death to trigger a sharp rise in oil prices.

By , The Wall Street Journal, 01/23/2015

MarketMinder's View: We don’t typically highlight purely anecdotal evidence like this, and this is admittedly an extreme case, but it is a fascinating story and illustrates a few key lessons. One, margin debt is expensive, which is why we generally suggest folks avoid margin. Two, being on margin also puts you at risk of forced sales if you get a margin call, which can wipe you out in extreme cases—another reason we generally suggest folks avoid margin. Three, always stay up to speed on activity in your account and make sure you recognize it. Four, don’t count on a broker whose compensation structure incentivizes investment sales, not client service, to alert you if something in your account looks awry. Some might! But don’t think things must be hunky dory if you don’t hear a peep.

By , MarketWatch, 01/23/2015

MarketMinder's View: Agreed. Why? One: You’re paying extra for a redundant tax shell. Two: “Most annuity contracts provide some type of guarantee or an array of guarantees about the account value. These are often used as the heart of the sales pitch. All guarantees have a cost. The cost, in and of itself, isn't the problem. What is usually the problem is that in many cases, the costs cover guarantees you don't need or the costs aren't a good value. In addition, by buying an annuity, you are adding unnecessary complications. The insurance company, not you, offering the product decides what your investment options are going to be. If for any reason you want to move the money elsewhere, in many cases, you will have to contend with surrender charges. Many contracts also allow for fee increases at the discretion of the insurer up to specified limits.”

By , The Wall Street Journal, 01/23/2015

MarketMinder's View: This posits all sorts of reasons why investors should think about gold and silver—quantitative easing, currency volatility, inflation, past price movement, you get the gist. It’s all largely hogwash. Gold and silver are commodities. Not stores of value, not hedges against much of anything, not guaranteed to rise just because they’ve bounced some off a crushing bear market low.

Global Market Update

Market Wrap-Up, Thursday Jan 22 2015

Below is a market summary (as of market close Thursday, 01/22/2015):

  • Global Equities: MSCI World (+1.0%)
  • US Equities: S&P 500 (+1.5%)
  • UK Equities: MSCI UK (+0.8%)
  • Best Country: Sweden (+1.6%)
  • Worst Country: New Zealand (-2.3%)
  • Best Sector: Information Technology (+1.6%)
  • Worst Sector: Utilities (-0.1%)
  • Bond Yields: 10-year US Treasury yields rose 0.01 percentage point to 1.86%.

Editors' Note: Tracking Stock and Bond Indexes

Source: Factset. Unless otherwise specified, all country returns are based on the MSCI index in US dollars for the country or region and include net dividends. Sector returns are the MSCI World constituent sectors in USD including net dividends.