All Star Investor

Your edge on ETFs and market rotation, with a consumer advocate’s eye.
Ron Rowland is the editor/publisher of, where he has provided market commentary, ETF/mutual fund analysis, and advice on active investment management since 1991. In addition to garnering numerous top performance ratings from the Hulbert Financial Digest, his flagship newsletter has also been named to Hulbert’s Honor Roll on multiple occasions for its above-average performance in both up and down markets. As founder of, Ron created a leading web site of all-original and independent ETF analysis, whose content is widely syndicated. does not accept any advertising revenue from ETF sponsors, making it a premier website for critical and unbiased analysis of ETFs, including the highly popular ETF Deathwatch and a timely, yet comprehensive source of ETF industry statistics. Ron is also the president and a founder of Capital Cities Asset Management (CCAM), a registered investment advisory firm providing management services, research, and investment planning
for both individual and institutional clients. CCAM utilizes Ron’s expertise with ETFs in helping clients achieve their investment goals.
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  • December

    All Star Investor Update #1930 - Winding Down 2016 with Strength in TIPS

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Last week consisted of five days of below-average volume. This week will likely be four days of the same. However, low volume is not synonymous with a boring market. In fact, the reduced volume makes it easier for stocks to post larger [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1929 - Asset Classes React to Fed's Interest-Rate Hike

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. As expected, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent at last week’s FOMC meeting and suggested that three more hikes are on tap for calendar year 2017. The stock market’s reaction was rather muted, and the S&P [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1928 - FOMC Meeting Should Not Disrupt Markets

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The last FOMC meeting of 2016 concludes this Wednesday, and Fed watchers expect interest rates to be hiked at the meeting’s conclusion. Since the increase appears to be a foregone conclusion, little or no stock market response is expected. However, stock market [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1927 - Rankling the Status Quo

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Although primary market benchmarks are showing signs of stability, large performance divergences continue to lurk below the surface. Last week, Energy rose 3.2% while Technology fell 3.1% for a 6.3% difference among major U.S. sectors. Internationally, Canada was up 1.4% versus a [...]
  • November

    All Star Investor Update #1926 - Rally Broadening

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The post-election equity rally doesn’t show any signs of letting up, but we all know it can’t and won’t go on forever. That’s not to say the rally doesn’t have legs; it’s just that no matter how long and far it goes, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1925 - Post-Election Divergence Continues

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Aftershocks from the surprise U.S. election results continue to ripple through the markets. Although the magnitude of the divergences was not as large as during the week of the election, last week’s results produced a bevy of winners and losers nonetheless. Starting [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1924 - Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The U.S. election results surprised many observers, and the market’s reaction seemed to be an even bigger surprise. On Election Day, The New York Times’ website was tracking the odds of a Trump victory in real time. As polls started to close, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1923 - Plenty to Be Worried About

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Some investors tend to worry about every twist and turn in the markets and the news, continually fretting about the potential portfolio impacts. If this describes you, then the good news is you can take solace in the fact that you are [...]
  • October

    All Star Investor Update #1922 - Uncertainty On Tap

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Market uncertainty, in the form of political risk, is likely to take center stage this week. With less than 180 hours remaining for voters to make their final choices in the U.S. presidential election, the political dynamics of this election cycle remain [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1921 - Brazilian Blowout

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Latin America has been experiencing a strong rally. Our benchmark for the region, the iShares Latin America 40 ETF (ILF), zoomed 5.2% higher last week and is up 15.4% since September 14. It has jumped an impressive 47.6% for the year, and [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1920 - Gold and Treasurys Moving In Unison

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It’s not often the U.S. dollar sits atop the performance charts, but that is exactly what is occurring today. Strength in the dollar can sometimes be traced to increased demand for U.S. Treasury securities, especially from foreign buyers. However, that has not [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1919 - Dividend Payers Decline

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Selling pressure on high-yielding stock segments intensified last week with Real Estate plunging 5.3%, Utilities dropping 3.8%, and Telecom slipping 2.1%. One of our former favorites, PowerShares S&P 500 Low Volatility (SPLV), fell 2.3%. Additionally, one of our new high-dividend holdings came [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1918 - New Models Are Now Invested

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It was a week of large point swings that left the broad market benchmarks flat, while Energy zoomed 5.0% higher and Utilities dropped 3.7%. The Tactical Fixed Income model is designed to provide current income and risk mitigation when interest rates start to [...]
  • September

    All Star Investor Update #1917 - New Models Unveiled

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. All Star Investor brings smart-beta investing techniques to ETF investors seeking to gain an edge on the markets. We have been providing active investors with easy-to-follow model portfolios for more than a quarter of a century. Our service has evolved numerous times [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1916 - New and improved All Star Investor arriving soon

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The next issue of our newsletter is scheduled to be published this Thursday (9/29/16), and it will contain the initial recommendations that our new model portfolios will purchase at the market’s close on Friday (9/30/16). My goal with All Star Investor is simple: [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1915 - Dow Finds Support at 18,000

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Volatility has returned. After going nearly two full months with all daily moves being contained within a narrow 1% band, larger swings have resumed for U.S. stocks. Large one-day downside moves, such as those that happened last Tuesday and the preceding Friday, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1914 - Nervous Participants Send Market Lower

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. On Friday, stocks went down, bonds went down, and gold went down. If you were counting on classical asset-class diversification to protect your portfolio, you might be disappointed. While this approach often works over the long term, shorter periods are not always [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1913 - Another Calendar Turn and Labor Report

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. August officially ended last Wednesday, and summer isn’t over until the autumnal equinox occurs on September 22. However, don’t get hung up on these minor technicalities. Although the calendars may be saying something else, in the mind of most Americans, summer ended [...]
  • August

    All Star Investor Update #1912 - Interest Rates to Rise -- Not Go Negative

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Central banks around the world have put themselves in unprecedented territory by continuing to lower interest rates past the point when they reached zero. The concept of negative interest rates is somewhat tough to grasp, and not everyone is convinced they will [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1911 - Action Beneath The Surface

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Looking at the major stock market benchmarks around the world, you might think there wasn’t any market action last week. The S&P 500 Index was flat, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, and the EAFE Index was flat. The NASDAQ Composite [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1910 - Emerging Markets Moving Higher

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Emerging markets are on a roll, a good roll. Latin American stocks have been doing well most of the year. The iShares Latin America 40 ETF (ILF) is posting a whopping 38% year-to-date gain despite suffering through a nearly 14% [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1909 - Employment Reports Spur Stocks

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The monthly jobs reports have produced both upside and downside surprises the past few months. Friday’s release of the July report seems to be of the upside variety, with employers adding 255,000 jobs and many citizens moving back into the labor [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1908 - Seasonality Gone Astray

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Do you remember when the Labor Day weekend used to mark the end of summer? It was once a major calendar delineation that some would claim was second only to the annual January 1 rollover of the calendar. Along with [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1907 - Market Loves Docile Fed

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The Federal Reserve is conducting a two-day Federal Open Market Committee (“FOMC”) meeting this week. At these FOMC meetings, “the Committee reviews economic and financial conditions, determines the appropriate stance of monetary policy, and assesses the risks to its long-run goals [...]
  • July

    All Star Investor Update #1906 - Political Risks and Earnings

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Overall, it was a good week for stocks. Emerging-market countries and ETFs were particularly strong, and you can see many of our emerging-market benchmarks are near the top of the one-week performance chart. Even iShares MSCI Turkey (TUR) was well [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1905 - Under the Hood of the Jobs Report

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. A month ago, the dismal jobs report caused the Fed to put its impending interest-rate hike on hold and provided a boost for gold, gold miners, U.S. Treasury bonds, and foreign currencies. As you may recall, the paltry 38,000 new jobs was [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1904 - Global Markets Move Higher

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The market has mostly recovered from its quick and sharp drop in late June.  The S&P 500 Index closed back above 2100 on Friday, and it is just 1.3% shy of its record high set back in May 2015.  Some sectors, such [...]
  • June

    All Star Investor Update #1903 - Why panic now? Brexit won't happen for years

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Ignore the fearmongers. According to the headlines and the pundits, the British referendum to leave to the European Union (“EU”) is nothing short of a disaster. You could almost hear them claiming the sky was falling as stocks sold off around the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1902 - Market Reaction To The Referendum

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. If you did not think markets were reacting to the possibility of the U.K. exiting from the European Union, then perhaps today’s market actions will convince you. Over the four trading days ending last Tuesday (6/14/16), the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1901 - European Angst

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Markets seemed to take an abrupt turn late last week. After closing within half a percent of an all-time high on Wednesday, the S&P 500 Index declined about 1.1% on Thursday and Friday. Normally, such a small drop over two days would [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1900 - Labor Force Reductions Outpace Jobs 17 to 1

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It could be just a fluke, but for now, the May employment report released last Friday represents the worst job-creation climate since September 2010. The meager 38,000 new jobs fell far short of the consensus estimate of 160,000. Adding insult to injury, [...]
  • May

    All Star Investor Update #1899 - Yellen Preps Market For Rate Hike

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The commentary in this space a week ago focused on how the Fed had shifted gears regarding the possibility of a June interest-rate increase. Just when the consensus was building toward the next hike occurring at the September FOMC meeting, the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1898 - Market Says, "Bring It On"

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Until last week, every Fed press release, policy statement, and speech of the past six months has echoed the economic data suggesting that the economy is sluggish and vulnerable. As such, the Fed, and Fed watchers, kept pushing back the expected date [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1897 - Cause And Effect Not Always Obvious

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Latin American markets, Brazil in particular, have posted some wild swings the past few months. Much of the action seemed to be centered on the potential for impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, with the market surging higher every [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1896 - Market Weaned From Employment Reports

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. For the past eight years or so, the monthly employment reports have been among the most hotly anticipated economic releases. Perhaps they still are, but their impact and newsworthiness seems to have diminished substantially over the past year. Last Friday, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1895 - Tech Weakness

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The dispersion in the one-week performance results was quite large last week, with a spread of 11.3% between Gold at the top and Japan on the bottom. Gold bullion surged in January and February, and after two months of consolidation, now [...]
  • April

    All Star Investor Update #1894 - Fed Should Remain On Hold

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Everyone expects that the next move by the FOMC will be to raise interest rates again. However, since hiking rates in December for the first time in years, the Fed has been doing its best to mold investor expectations toward the idea [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1893 - Noha In Doha

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The price of crude oil continues to dominate the financial news cycle. Unlike historical movements in oil prices, which typically produced opposite moves in stock prices, the gyrations of the past year have leaned toward a positive correlation. It’s not too often [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1892 - When Countertrends Become New Trends

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Countertrend moves have been discussed often in this column.  Most market environments can be described in terms of their major trend—rising prices, falling prices, or sideways movements.  It would be nice if all movements occurred in a straight line, then we would [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1891 - Disruptive Transportation

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Humans have been traveling ever since their feet touched the surface of the earth. Those same feet provided the early mode of transportation. We invented the wheel, domesticated animals, and built boats. Eventually, we created bicycles, trains, automobiles, airplanes, [...]
  • March

    All Star Investor Update #1890 - Bond Market Still Intact

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. There were only four trading days in the holiday-shortened week, but that did not prevent the development of some large divergences. A 3.6% spread between the 0.7% gain of Health Care—the week’s best-performing sector—and the 2.7% loss for Energy is the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1889 - Transports Up, Drugs Down

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The big winner this past week was the Industrials sector, posting an impressive 3.5% advance. The sector has been quietly moving higher since mid-January, and it got a little louder on Friday as it established a new 10-month high. The transportation segment [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1888 - Currency Effects

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The U.S. dollar took a hit in trading last week. Its 1.2% decline meant that the average international ETF that isn’t currency hedged had a 1.2% relative performance advantage. Topping the one-week performance chart is Canada. The unhedged iShares MSCI [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1887 - Stocks Like Higher Oil Prices

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. A week ago in this column, I discussed the constructive rotation I saw taking place in the market. My observations included moves that looked stronger than just countertrend bounces, strength outside of the traditionally defensive Utilities and Consumer Staples sectors, and [...]
  • February

    All Star Investor Update #1886 - Constructive Rotation

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. I am noticing what I would consider interesting action in the stock market recently. Instead of the weakest performers mounting the strongest bounces during relief rallies, and vice versa, there appears to be more constructive action taking place. Maybe it [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1885 - Pockets of Strength

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Stocks rallied strongly last week and are trying to overcome the negative trends that have dominated this year’s market action. Broader market measures are close to overcoming their early February downdrafts, but they are far from eliminating their negative momentum and even [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1884 - Oil Freeze

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Stocks opened strongly to the upside this morning, but the question of sustainability hangs in the air. Investors have seen many such optimistic starts the past couple of months, only to watch the initial surge fade during the rest of the session [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1883 - Gold Starts To Shine

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. If you thought the recent spate of market volatility had run its course, then last week’s and this morning’s market action is probably causing you to reconsider that position. It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of calm [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1882 - Countertrend Moves

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Unless you are heavily invested in health-related stocks or are shorting the market, there is a good chance you made some money last week. Even if you were sitting in cash, you still accrued a week’s worth of interest despite the paltry [...]
  • January

    All Star Investor Update #1881 - O Canada

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Canada, our neighbor to the north, is often overlooked by U.S. investors seeking exposure to foreign stock markets. One of the reasons for this is that although Canada is indeed a different country, it is not all that “foreign” to U.S. [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1880 - Good Ol' Fashion Gas War

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Consumers have long known of the correlation between crude oil and gasoline prices. When they hear the price of oil is rising, they brace themselves for the inevitable bump at the pump. These upward movements seem to occur almost simultaneously, with gasoline [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1879 - A Harrowing Week

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. I am usually a skeptic when I see headlines proclaiming the worst performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in who knows how many years. Such was the case over the weekend, when the Wall Street Journal said the Dow’s performance last [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1878 - 2016 Opens To The Downside

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Financial news headlines over the weekend proclaimed that 2015 was the worst of the past seven years for the financial markets. If you thought that would lead to a fresh and positive start for 2016, then you are only partially correct. [...]
  • December

    All Star Investor Update #1877 - Currency-Hedging Distributions

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Last week, we pointed out that despite their claims of higher tax efficiency, many ETFs make taxable distributions to shareholders. Unlike dividends, which investors seem to adore, investors tend to get upset if the distributions consist of capital gains. It’s [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1876 - Distribution Season

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It’s distribution season, and that means all mutual fund and ETF performance figures require extra scrutiny. This is especially true if you are thinking about buying or selling anything based on short-term performance. Before you make any such moves, check [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1875 - Junk Bond Mutual Fund Implodes

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. High-yield bond funds, often called junk-bond funds, have been having a rough time. After years of posting positive total returns (capital appreciation plus dividends), the asset class is on a path to close out 2015 with negative returns. The two largest ETFs [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1874 - End of ZIRP?

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Fed watchers now have something new to worry about. Some have been disappointed for a number of years, wanting the Fed to get rid of its zero-interest-rate policy (“ZIRP”) and raise rates. Based on the November employment reports and comments [...]
  • November

    All Star Investor Update #1873 - It's Just Another Day

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Gray Thursday! Black Friday! Cyber Monday! The country’s retailers, and their Madison Avenue advertising firms, are trying their best to make you believe you must spend large amounts of cash on these particular days. However, nothing could be further from [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1872 - Rounding Turn Four

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. If the market is a horse race, and many investors seem to hold that opinion, then the horses are now rounding turn four and getting ready for the home stretch. As any horse racing fan will tell you, it is the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1871 - Treasury Primer

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Any week the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 665 points is not a good week. However, a person needs to look back only three months to find an example of the Dow plunging 1,017 points in a calendar week. Such [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1870 - Rate Hike Baked In

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers created 271,000 new jobs in October, which was well ahead of the consensus estimate of 190,000. August and September figures were revised upward by 12,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 5.0%, the lowest [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1869 - Diverging Markets III

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Two weeks ago we discussed the divergence with the emerging market segments, highlighted by the one-week 3.2% gain for China and 3.3% loss for Latin America. Last week the focus shifted to divergences with the US, as Technology jumped 4.0% while Energy [...]
  • October

    All Star Investor Update #1868 -- Diverging Markets II

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Last week, we noted the large divergence in the performance of various emerging market segments. This was highlighted by the one-week 3.2% gain for China while Latin America posted a 3.3% loss. The market was showing divergences again this past week, but [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1867 - Diverging Markets

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The one-week performance chart is often skewed in one direction or another. Since most of the categories represent various equity groups, it seems reasonable that global stocks tend to move together. Although they may exhibit correlation in their directional movements, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1866 - The World Pressures the Fed

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The beaten-down groups rallied strongly last week. Energy tops the one-week performance chart after losing 40% the preceding fifteen months. Latin America is #2 on the chart and it shares a fifteen-month history similar to that of Energy. Going [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1865 - The Test Results Are Inconclusive

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Six weeks ago the day started with a strong bout of panic selling. Many securities were halted, and the rules enacted to prevent a reoccurrence of the 2010 Flash Crash compounded the problem. With many individual stocks not trading, ETFs [...]
  • September

    All Star Investor Update #1864 - This Time Is Different

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. In the financial world, the phrase “this time is different” is typically used to describe a situation or environment that has historically resulted in an unfavorable outcome, but the speaker is somehow convinced those same circumstances will now produce a favorable result.  [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1863 - Waiting For Inflation

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The Fed decided not to raise interest rates at last week’s FOMC meeting. In the post-meeting press conference, Chair Janet Yellen stated she believed the first interest rate hike will occur before the end of the year. If so, that leaves the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1862 - Volatility Still Present

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Despite the seemingly small day-to-day moves in the broad market benchmarks last week, volatility remains present and is an important part of the landscape. This becomes more obvious when looking at the one-week performance charts that are included in our weekly [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1861 - Labor Reports For Labor Day

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The US unemployment rate fell to a 7-year low of 5.1% in August. The Labor Department released its monthly reports last Friday before the country embarked on its annual 3-day Labor Day weekend. The establishment survey claimed that employers added 173,000 people [...]
  • August

    All Star Investor Update #1860 - Wild Week

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It was a wild week that saw the Dow plummet 1,089 points in the opening minutes and the CBOE Volatility Index, also known as “the VIX” and “the fear index,” spike above 53. How significant were these moves? The intraday [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1859 - Flash Crash Flashback

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, arguably the most famous and most widely known stock market index in the world, fell 530 points on Friday. For the week, it was off more than 1,017 points. The tally since May 19 adds [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1858 - Bottom Fishing

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Crude oil prices dropped again last week, a fact hidden by the surge in energy equity prices. Even though crude oil futures dropped more than 5%, and ended the week at $42.50 a barrel, the Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE) jumped 3.5% [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1857 - A Week of Defensive Action

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The S&P 500 lost 1.2% last week and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.6%, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Hidden behind these averages were a handful of segments able to post gains, and a rather large contingent of industries [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1856 - Greek Stocks Resume Trading

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The Greek stock market resumed trading today after being shut down the past five weeks, and stocks there registered a 23% decline at the opening bell. Throughout this five-week period, it was still possible to buy and sell exposure to Greek stocks [...]
  • July

    All Star Investor Update #1855 - A Week Of Declines

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Ouch!  The S&P 500 lost 2.1% last week, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.8%.  These are unpleasant numbers for anyone owning stocks, but as usual, they do not tell the whole story.  It was not the result of a one-day [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1854 - Of Stocks and Money Market Funds

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The NASDAQ Composite Index closed at a new all-time high on Friday, ending the week at 5,210.  You may recall that it was just three months ago the index finally surpassed its previous closing high established back on March 10, 2000.  Although [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1853 - Free-Range Lending

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Another week and another Greek deadline. For the past few years, deadlines and threats regarding Greece have been mostly meaningless. Greece has suffered no repercussions for missing deadlines and ignoring threats. It reminds me of a lackadaisical parent trying to discipline an [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1852 - The Euro's Big Fat Greek Exit

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. You have been hearing about the possibility of a “Grexit” for years. It now appears the time has arrived. Over the weekend, voters in Greece overwhelmingly voted “no” on a referendum designed to determine if the country should accept the latest austerity [...]
  • June

    All Star Investor Update #1851-It's About To Get Interesting

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Well, they did it. The Greeks closed their banks, closed their stock market, imposed currency controls, limited ATM withdrawals to 60 Euros, and imposed other capital controls. The 1-week performance chart shows that stocks of the European Monetary Union were the best-performing [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1850 - Greek Brink

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Greece has been playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship regarding its debt payments, demand for easing of bailout terms, possible bankruptcy, and abandoning the Euro currency. As a result, the yield on its two-year government bonds was running as high as 28% [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1849 - International Action

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Much of the market’s wilder action seems to be taking place in international locales this year.  I have written before about the sub-class of Chinese stocks known as A-shares, and the rocket ride they have been on this year.  Last week was [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1848 - Aggressive Signals

    Utilities, often considered to be the most safe and conservative sector, got whacked for a 4.1% loss last week. There is nothing safe, conservative or defensive about that. The Russell 2000 Index of small-cap stocks, often considered to be a barometer of investor aggressiveness, outperformed the Dow 30 by 2.1% last week. Nothing conservative about that, either.
  • All Star Investor Update #1847-Emerging Marketing Ex-China On the Horizon

    Chinese stocks have been on an upward tear much of this year. The rally accelerated in early April with SPDR S&P China (GXC) jumping 14.9% higher for the month. After a large advance of this type, investors should expect some give and take as prices adjust to the new altitude. Call it consolidation, digesting gains, backing and filling, or whatever terminology you prefer, the fact remains that short-term volatility is part of this process.
  • May

    All Star Investor Update #1846 - Melding of Sectors

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Much of the financial news over the weekend and early this morning focused on the potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) by Charter Communications (CHTR).  Although these two firms might be household names, they are not all that large in the [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1845 - Greetings from the BIOT

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The British Indian Ocean Territory (“BIOT”) is a small cluster of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Located about halfway between Africa and Singapore, it is about as close to the “middle of nowhere” that a person can get. The [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1844 - Materials Move Higher

    As we suggested last week, the current market rotation is not unfurling smoothly due to its massive size and abrupt start. Last week, many market segments moved in a direction opposite of their previous two weeks. So far, this appears to be normal backing and filling as opposed to a false start for the new emerging leaders. One exception was the Materials sector, which continued to climb the rankings.
  • All Star Investor Update #1843 - Large Scale Rotation

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The small ripples of sector rotation activities we noticed the past month became huge waves last week.  The former leadership of Health Care, Consumer Discretionary, and Small-Cap Growth all took a beating.  Simultaneously, the former laggards of Energy, Materials, and Mega-Cap stocks [...]
  • April

    All Star Investor Update #1842: NASDAQ Joins the Party

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The NASDAQ finally did it.  The Dow and the S&P 500 both did it eight years ago.  The Russell 2000 did it eleven years ago.  The “it” we are talking about is recovering from the Tech crash of 2000 – 2002.  Making [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1841: Do Not Fret About a 4-week Extreme

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The financial media did their best to make Friday’s market decline seem much worse than it was.  It would appear they were trying to scare investors.  Television headline banners had “market plunge” in bold ribbons across the screen, and the shows’ producers [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1840: Has The China Miracle Returned?

    China's heyday of double-digit growth is not likely to return anytime soon, but perhaps investors are starting to realize that 6% or 7% growth is pretty darn good.
  • All Star Investor Update #1839: Job Growth Plunges 39% In First Quater

    During the final quarter of 2014, job growth averaged 324,000 per month. For the first quarter of 2015 that figure plunged to just 197,000 per month—a 39% decline. Economists are left wondering if this is an anomaly or a sign the economy is weakening.
  • March

    All Star Investor Update #1838: M & A Bargains

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Do you think stocks are expensive, cheap, or fairly valued at this time? It seems many companies believe there are bargains available in today’s market. Last week we mentioned the announcement by H.J. Heinz, a privately held company, to take over Kraft [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1837: Market Likes New Fed Speak

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. In the days and weeks leading up to last week's FOMC meeting, it seems the market feared the prospect of a June interest rate hike. The market was fixated on the prospect of the word "patient" being removed from the post-meeting statement [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1836: Hedge Funds and Funds That Hedge

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Webster defines hedge as “something that provides protection or defense”. Hedge funds became popular in the 1990s, although many market observers believe the name is misleading because many (perhaps most) do not hedge. Instead, hedge funds are known for taking large, often [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1835: What A Difference A Day Makes

    February employment reports released before the market opened Friday. Markets focused on the positive aspects of the reports, which unfortunately resulted in a negative reaction. The reason for this is the belief the Fed now has the data it needs to start raising interest rates sooner rather than later. The fear of higher rates sparked selloffs in bonds, stocks and commodities alike. The higher yields available in the U.S. should attract more foreign capital, and the dollar surged in value.
  • All Star Investor Update #1834: New Set of Secret Rules

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate broadband internet as a utility. It's called 'net neutrality', and the name itself sounds like a reasonable goal. However, the actual regulations the FCC voted to approve remain a secret. It seems the [...]
  • February

    All Star Investor Update #1833: Walmart Wage Pressure

    Last week, Wal-Mart Stores announced it would increase the minimum hourly wage for 500,000 of its employees to $9 in the next couple months. While workers will enjoy that raise soon, they can also look forward to another bump to at least $10 an hour by February 2016. Even though the big box store is the country's largest private employer, the move won't have that big of a direct impact on the dollars available for consumers to spend.
  • All Star Investor Update #1832: Russian PIIGS

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Many of the largest upside movers in the ETF world last week were associated with either PIIGS or Russia. PIIGS, as you probably recall, is the acronym given to the countries of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. These five nations were [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1831: Divergence In The Ranks

    This past week, the level of divergence was much larger than usual. From a sector perspective, there was a difference of 9.5% between the 6.1% gain of energy and the 3.4% drop of utilities. Removing the strongest and weakest still results in a 7.8% spread between the 6.1% jump of telecom and the 1.6% retreat of real estate. Commodities as a whole rose 3.6% on the week, while gold prices plunged 3.8%. Some single-commodity funds posted even larger gains, such as the 11.2% surge of iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN, creating even larger divergences.
  • All Star Investor Update #1830: Competitive Devaluation

    A secondary effect of quantitative easing programs is that they tend to weaken the host country's currency, providing it with a competitive advantage. Any advantage the U.S. had in this regard started disappearing in mid-2014 when the end of U.S. quantitative easing was in sight. The weak-currency advantage now belongs to Europe.
  • January

    All Star Investor Update #1829: ECB Moves Into Quantitative Easing

    The European Central Bank has been wanting to get in on the QE action for quite some time, but there has been stiff opposition to stepping off that cliff. Arguments against the move are both legal and political. Despite the opposition, on January 22, the ECB’s Governing Council revealed its plan to purchase about 1.1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) in government bonds as part of an asset-purchase program. The purchases will amount to 60 billion euros ($70 billion) a month through September 2016.
  • All Star Investor Update #1828: Swiss Make Cheese Of Currency Markets

    In the world of currency trading, value changes of 2% in a week often receive the “big move” label. As such, plain vanilla currency trading might be boring. To make things interesting, traders typically employ large amounts of leverage in the currency markets, and we do mean large. With stocks, investors are typically limited to 2x leverage. There are ETFs that employ 3x leverage, but they typically reset on a daily basis to avoid total ruin.
  • All Star Investor Update #1827: Stocks React Negatively To Employment Reports

    Last Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its final employment reports for 2014. As always, the figures are likely to be adjusted in coming months, but until that time – the year-end figures are now in the books. The headline numbers tell a positive story of 252,000 new jobs being added in December and the unemployment rate dropping two ticks to 5.6%. The words behind the headlines claim 2014 was the best year for hiring since 1999, with an average of 246,000 jobs added each month. The 5.6% unemployment rate is the lowest since 2008.
  • All Star Investor Update #1826: Will 2014 Trends Continue In 2015?

    Crude oil at a multi-year low, the dollar at a multi-year high, interest rates near historic lows, commodities declining, and stocks meandering higher. These were the trends and market conditions prevalent at the end of 2014. Today, the calendar reads 2015. Investors are curious as to whether or not these trends will continue.
  • December

    All Star Investor Update #1825: Natural Gas Craters

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. If you thought the price of crude oil was dropping fast, then take a look at natural gas.  The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) plunged 12.5% last week, and the trading week was only three-and-a-half days long.  It is down 17.4% [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1824: Is It The Fed Or Santa?

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. The year’s final FOMC meeting concluded last Wednesday.  Prior to the meeting, many analysts and Fed watchers were speculating as to whether or not the Fed would remove “for a considerable period” from its statement.  Indeed, the Fed did eliminate the phrase [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1823: Two Camps On Low Energy Prices

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. It’s hard to believe, but there are two camps on the subject of low energy prices.  I will make my bias clear right up front by stating I am firmly in the “low energy prices are good for the economy” camp.  As [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1822: Falling Energy and Conflicting Jobs Report

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. Despite our Energy benchmark rising 0.6%, it is generally acknowledged that it was a tough week for nearly everything related to the Energy sector.  Oil prices continued to fall for the week, and crude oil futures are lower still in today’s early [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1821: Energy Sings The Blues

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. A week ago, we outlined the dismal performance of commodities this year.  Little did we know it was going to get much worse before getting any better.  The Thanksgiving holiday shortened the trading week to only 23 hours instead of the usual [...]
  • November

    All Star Investor Update #1820: U.S. Looking Better Than Foreign Markets

    Please see PDF for rankings, holdings and performance data. A week ago, we lamented the dismal performance of commodities this year.  Natural gas was among the worst, but then a blizzard hit North America sending freezing temperatures into nearly every state and dumping more than six feet of snow around Buffalo, [...]
  • All Star Investor Update #1819: Commodity Calamity

    The performance of commodities in 2014 has been downright dreadful. Crude oil has been making headlines recently, as the former $100 commodity is now trading below $80. Among commodities, crude oil’s dismal performance may be the most visible, but it is far from being the only dramatic story.
  • All Star Investor Update #1818: Jobs Report Fails To Attract Attention

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its monthly employment reports on the first Friday of every month. For the past five years or more, they have easily been the most closely watched and highly anticipated monthly economic releases. Last Friday, the Bureau issued the October reports, but for some strange reason they didn’t gather much attention.
  • All Star Investor Update #1817: Japan Opens The Spigots

    Markets appeared to be ready to settle down and digest their recent gains when out of the blue, Japan ignites the rally’s afterburners. Japan’s central bank said it was prepared to pump huge amounts of new stimulus into its economy. Meanwhile, the country’s main government pension fund revealed its plan to bolster the economy and security prices. Supposedly, the two announcements were not a coordinated effort, but not everyone is convinced.
  • October

    All Star Investor Update #1816: Better, But Not Out Of The Woods

    A week ago, the one-week performance chart showed mixed results. The reason for this was the early part of the week consisted of large declines while the latter part contained the start of a bounce. Not all market segments began their rebounds in unison, and the magnitude of the declines were not symmetrical with the bounces. In the end, Pacific ex-Japan topped the chart with a 3.2% gain while Health Care was on the bottom, posting a 2.1% decline.
  • All Star Investor Update #1815: Another Wild Ride

    Markets produced another wild and wooly ride for investors last week. Fear and panic ruled the action during the first part of the week, culminating in the Dow Jones Industrial Average registering a 460-point intraday plunge on Wednesday. At that time, the Dow was off more than 688 points for the week, economists feared Europe was headed for recession, and the American public was listening to a not-so-reassuring press conference from the CDC.
  • All Star Investor Update #1814: Assessing The Damage II

    Three months ago, we put the title “Assessing The Damage” on our weekly update. It followed a week of investor angst and scary media headlines. At that time, we concluded “Bottom line, the broad stock market barometers held losses to less than 1% for the week and most bonds rose. Despite the steeper plunges in Europe, small cap stocks, and select industries, the bull market is still intact.” This week, our conclusion is not as favorable.
  • All Star Investor Update #1813: Stocks Like Employment Report

    It is easy to be skeptical of government reports. For example, one of the most widely watched government data releases is the monthly employment situation report. Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed its August figure was off by nearly 27%. Seems there were 180,000 new jobs created instead of the 142,000 reported. However, we don’t know for sure if this is the extent of the error, because in early November the Bureau will revise the August number again.
  • September

    All Star Investor Update #1812: Bond King Abdicates

    An era is ending at Pimco. Bill Gross, a company founder and world-renowned bond trading guru, left the firm on Friday. His announcement took the market, and company executives, by surprise. Gross will be moving to Janus, whose stock took a 40% rocket ride on the news, although it is giving back some of that today. Pimco is part of the German firm Allianz, which headed down about 7%.
  • All Star Investor Update #1811: Scotland, FOMC And BABA

    If you were looking forward to having a Scotland ETF in your portfolio soon, you will need to put your aspirations back on the shelf for the time being. Residents there voted against independence in a closely watched referendum last Thursday. Although the measure to dissolve the 307-year union was defeated, it doesn’t necessarily put the kibosh on a Scotland ETF forever.
  • All Star Investor Update #1810: What A Strong Dollar Means

    The U.S. is losing the competitive devaluation war. Throughout history, you’ve probably heard various presidential administrations state that “a strong U.S. dollar is in our country’s best interest” or something very similar. Often times, this was accompanied by actions or policies seeking a contrary result, namely that of weakening the dollar. The debate on whether a strong dollar or weak dollar is better for the country depends on your point of view.
  • All Star Investor Update #1809: Two Sides Of The Pond

    The European Central Bank caught investors off-guard on Thursday when it cut its key lending interest rate from 0.15% to 0.05% and pushed its bank deposit rate deeper into negative territory (from -0.1% to -0.2%). The ECB also unveiled additional stimulus measures including the purchase of asset-backed securities.
  • All Star Investor Update #1808: On To September

    Last week, the S&P 500 poked its head above 2000 for the first time ever and even managed to hang on to close the week above that level. Friday being the last trading day of August means the venerable index also finished the month in record territory. Not too bad for a market and economy that can’t seem to get any respect. Stock market results don’t always correlate with investor expectations though. It is now September, and a new month always has the potential to change everything.
  • August

    All Star Investor Update #1807: S&P 2000

    If you have the financial news turned on this morning, then you are aware the S&P 500 is trading above the 2,000 level for the first time in its history. Investors are often enamored with large round numbers, but this is only the second three-zero number the S&P has encountered.
  • All Star Investor Update #1806: Some MLP Owners To Get Tax Bill

    A company that many investors indelibly link with master limited partnerships is exiting the MLP business. Here's why.
  • All Star Investor Update #1805: Rebound

    Some market categories produced nice gains last week. Unfortunately, many of the best winners were from groups that have been the weakest recently. We say unfortunately because this could imply last week was just a brief countertrend bounce instead of signaling the end of the downturn and the start of a new rally.
  • All Star Investor Update #1804: Good News Is Bad News

    A market fueled by Fed stimulus does not take kindly to the thought of that stimulus being taken away.
  • July

    All Star Investor Update #1803: Beneath The Surface

    For the week, the S&P 500 was flat and had no daily moves greater than 0.5% in either direction. The calm and subtle action of this major average belies the wide swings taking place beneath the surface.
  • All Star Investor Update #1802: Russia In The Spotlight

    From an investment perspective, Russia has been performing poorly. Not just last week – but for the past three years.
  • All Star Investor Update #1801: Assessing The Damage

    Stocks declined last week, but you might be pleasantly surprised to learn the losses were not as large as some financial media outlets want you to believe.
  • All Star Investor Update #1800: The Lowest Bidder

    Despite the shortcomings, failures, and accusations of fraud, the Department of Homeland Security awarded USIS a brand new $190 million dollar contract last week.
  • June

    Finalized First Quarter GDP

    The best thing we can say about first quarter GDP is that there will be no more revisions.
  • Energy ETFs Get Jolt From Turmoil In Iraq

    The situation in Iraq seems to be getting worse every day and appears to be heading toward another full-scale war. Energy-related companies are benefiting from the strife.
  • Markets Uneasy From Strange Headlines And Surprises

    Dramatic headlines can throw some investors off their games. Don't panic and stick with solid investment strategies.
  • Payrolls Finally Recover

    It took a while. It took a long while. It took longer than any other recovery of the past 70 years, but U.S. payrolls finally reversed the downturn of the past six years.
  • GDP Shrinks

    The U.S’ GDP shrank by 1% during the first quarter.
  • May

    Shifting Strength In The Market

    Small cap stocks have been lagging their large cap brethren for the better part of the past nine weeks. Looking at today’s one-week performance numbers paints a different picture.
  • Modi Momentum

    The run for India ETFs heated up with positive performances in the 8%-9% range. The latest run came as the country elected Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and a parliament majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • It's All Relative, Small Caps Performing Worse Than You May Think

    Small cap stocks have been taking a beating for a longer time than many would have imagined. However, it’s the magnitude of their relative underperformance that is the true concern.
  • Nearly A Million Leave The Labor Force

    A 6.5% unemployment rate was the Federal Reserve’s line in the sand starting about 17 months ago. This was supposed to be the point where it would consider removing its extreme accommodation regarding interest rates. Earlier this year, with the unemployment rate hovering around 6.7%, the Fed removed that line, stating the unemployment rate didn’t fully reflect problems within the labor market.
  • April

    Keep Your Eye On The Financial Sector

    Stock performance diverged widely by both sector and geographic locale last week.
  • Back To An Upswing

    Much like the weather this spring, stocks have been changing direction quite rapidly.
  • Back In The U.S.S.R.

    Apparently not content with the recent acquisition of the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin is intensifying efforts to take over portions of eastern Ukraine.
  • Job Recovery Reaches 55 Percent Threshold

    This month, the establishment survey claimed the economy achieved a major milestone with the 8.8 million jobs lost during the recession now replaced. This purported milestone is not a milestone at all. Here's why.
  • March

    Momentum Stocks Thrown A Curve Ball

    Recently much of the air came out of biotech, solar and homebuilder stocks. But don't count them out just yet.
  • Biotech Stocks Touched By Political Risk

    Political risk is no stranger to the biotech industry.
  • Flight To Safety

    Last week’s market action looked like a traditional flight to safety. Gold was up, bonds advanced, utility stocks rallied, and the VIX volatility index spiked, while the rest of the market faltered.
  • Unemployment Rate Ticks Up In February

    The Labor Department released the February jobs report on Friday. Once again, it surprised economists – this time to the upside.
  • From Russia With Love

    Headlines about Russia have shifted from Olympic metals to potential invasion.
  • February

    Subdued Inflation And Mortgage Delinquencies

    It’s now been five years since the recession ended according to official statistics. Much like the consumer skepticism regarding how inflation is measured, millions of unemployed and underemployed citizens are struggling with the notion the recession has ended at all, let alone five years ago.
  • Market Shift Or Bounce?

    With previously out-of-favor categories posting great short-term performance figures recently, it is natural to wonder if this is the start of a major shift in market strength or just a transient bounce.
  • Stock Sell Off And Then Bounce

    Selling dominated stock market activity early in the week before action turned positive on Thursday and Friday. Both days produced broad market gains of more than 1%, which may not seem to be a grand accomplishment, but it might be better than you realize.
  • Keep An Eye On This Defensive Sector

    In times of market trouble or uncertainty, various defensive groups often begin to display superior relative strength. Most of the time, this implies these groups tend to fall less than the broader market. Here's one group to pay careful attention to.
  • January

    Risk Returns To Wall Street

    Anyone thinking emerging market equities were a bargain at the beginning of the year has had a painful month.
  • Sluggish Market Start For 2014

    The seemingly effortless stock market gains of 2013 might not come so easily in 2014.
  • Another Controversial Employment Report

    Another month, another employment report, and another controversy. Here's the culprit.
  • 2014 Begins With Profit Taking

    Stocks continued to climb into the close of 2013. Although many investors were itching to lock in profits, they held their positions a few days longer. Here's why.
  • December

    Domestic Stocks Rule The Roost In 2013

    Probabilities point to 2013 being a great year for domestic stocks, a mixed year for international stocks, and a down year for bonds and commodities.
  • December FOMC Is Significant After All

    This week’s FOMC meeting, the last one of 2013, was long anticipated to be a non-event. Think again.
  • November Unemployment Drops To Seven Percent

    It’s generally believed the employment reports for October were built on transient and unreliable data as the partial government shutdown played havoc with the survey results. Therefore, it might be more instructive to look at the two-month changes of the November report in the hopes they filter out the temporary glitches.
  • Fed Tapers And Economy Grows

    Stocks rallied after the Fed announced it will begin to taper its asset purchases in January. Here's why.
  • Tapping Into Retailing

    Retailing is big business, even within the fund world.
  • November

    Thanksgiving Is Here, Investors Keep Your Eyes On The Retailers

    For investors, post-Thanksgiving weekend sales analysis will be the first glimpse of which retailers are likely to succeed and which ones may flop this season.
  • Still No Market Top

    Eventually, stocks will have a pullback, a correction, and another bear market. In the meantime, the market is making fools of those prematurely declaring a top.
  • More Employment Contradictions

    The delayed employment report came out on Friday showing 204,000 new jobs in October. This number is significant by numerous measures. Here are four.
  • A European Fund To Buy After The Pullback

    Europe continues to set the pace for global markets, and stocks there appear to have completed a minor pullback. Here's how to play it.
  • October

    Market Rally Starts To Fade

    Many market segments are hitting new highs every week, or so it seems. Here's why that may not be the case.
  • U.S. Treasury Gets Go Ahead To Borrow More Money

    Congress reached a deal last week. Unfortunately, lawmakers did not really resolve much, choosing the easier course of just extending the deadlines instead.
  • 'Deal On, Deal Off' Is Driving Market Movement

    As little as a month ago, stocks and bonds shrugged off any concerns about the looming budget and debt limit deadlines.That no longer seems to be the case.
  • Forget Government Shutdown, The Debt Ceiling Is The Real Issue

    The so-called government shutdown is nothing more than a sideshow. The real event is debt ceiling discussions.
  • September

    Shutdown Showdown

    Last week, the Republican-controlled House voted in favor of a bill to extend government funding through mid-December. It had a catch though, as it included a one-year delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”). As expected, the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the House bill and produced their own plan to extend funding without any changes to ObamaCare.
  • The Fed That Didn't Taper

    Do you remember the last debt ceiling discussions and the fiscal cliff? Well, the debt ceiling discussions have returned, and the indications are that this round will be just as contemptuous as the last.
  • Fed Making History This Week

    This week’s FOMC meeting is probably deserving of the “most highly anticipated FOMC meeting in years” title that many analysts are bestowing on it. The reason, in case you are not aware, is because this is likely to be the first time in the history of the Federal Reserve that they will announce the commencement of tapering. Never before has the Fed been in a mode of making $85 billion monthly purchases of bonds. Therefore, it stands to reason, the Fed has never before had to cut back or eliminate those purchases.
  • New Unemployment Rate Not As Good As It Looks

    The unemployment rate improved again, dropping from 7.4% to 7.3%. It sounds great, until you understand how the new number was derived.
  • War Jitters

    The prospect of another war sent stock prices down in every corner of the world last week.
  • August

    Flash Freeze And Flash Reversals

    Last Thursday, the Nasdaq shut down for three hours in the middle of the trading day in what has been dubbed the Flash Freeze. During the trading halt, Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ) officials were conspicuous by their absence. They were giving the press little to no indication about the nature or extent of the problems.
  • Of Gold And Real Estate

    The market, as measured by the S&P 500, is near an all-time high. The venerable benchmark closed Friday just 3.1% below the peak it established two weeks prior. Our one-week performance figures for various market segments show a market that is not moving synchronously. A massive 11.1% difference between the top and bottom performing groups makes it all too obvious. Removing the two extreme categories still reveals a huge 7.1% performance difference.
  • Developed Versus Emerging Markets

    It seems the world’s GDP is growing at a 3.44% annual rate, with 2.01% attributed to developed markets and 1.43% coming from emerging markets. This is the first time in about six years that the contribution from developed markets has been larger. The fact that emerging markets have lost their lead in growth contribution apparently comes as a shocker.
  • Unemployment Headline Misleading

    A 0.2 percent reduction in the unemployment rate should be good news, but a closer look at the underlying data shows the headline number is misleading.
  • July

    GDP Decimal Place

    Major market averages posted nearly flat-line results for the week, although there were day-to-day movements. The one-week performance chart shows more losing categories than winning ones, with most international equity categories coming out on the plus side thanks to help from a weak U.S. dollar.
  • Fed To Stay The Course

    Disappointing earnings from tech heavyweights Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) marred what was otherwise a good week for stocks. Downbeat earnings outlooks weren’t confined to the tech sector though, it’s just the others didn’t interfere with the market rally.
  • Taper Off

    It was a good week for the markets. Every category in our one-week performance chart, except the U.S. dollar, posted a gain. Even gold, commodities, emerging markets, and bonds had positive returns. Once again, most of the upside action ties back to remarks by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
  • Jobs, Taper And Earnings

    Bond prices fell immediately after the release of employment reports. Analysts and traders believe the employment gains were sufficient to keep the Fed on track for tapering its bond purchase program later this year. Consensus is now building for the Fed to begin reducing its purchases at its September 18 meeting.
  • Markets React Positively To Fed Spin

    Members of the Federal Reserve were out in force last week, trying to calm investor fears. They did their best to convince market participants that the $85 billion in monthly bond purchases were still taking place and would likely continue for many more months. This hand-holding operation by the Fed was required due to negative market reactions after Chairman Bernanke spoke on May 22 and June 19. Seems that investors misunderstood the message the Fed actually wanted to convey.
  • June

    Investors Overreact To Suggestion Of Tapering Starting Soon

    Prior to May 22, the consensus opinion regarding the Fed’s bond purchase program assumed buying would start scaling back late this year or early 2014 and end sometime in 2014. On May 22, Ben Bernanke spooked investors by suggesting the tapering process could begin as early as this month or next. After the FOMC meeting last Wednesday, the Fed reassured everyone the prior consensus was correct.
  • Financial Summit Week

    Despite the global significance of the G-8 and other multi-country meetings this week, the outcome of the FOMC meeting is likely to be the most newsworthy to investors around the world.
  • Unemployment Ticks Up Again

    The Fed’s policy of keeping accommodative measures in place as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5% does not face any foreseeable challenges. Last Friday, the jobs report showed the unemployment rate ticking up to the 7.6% level for May from 7.5% in April. The 175,000 new jobs number happens to be above the recent average and somewhat better than expected, but it is not enough for a healthy economic recovery.
  • High Yield Stocks Start To Display Their Riskier Side

    High yielding stocks have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of low bond yields the past few years. As bond and money market yields dropped to historically low levels, investors seeking income had to turn elsewhere. Dividend paying stocks seemed like a logical choice, although it is not entirely clear if investors truly understand the risk trade-offs.
  • May

    Japan Gets The Headlines While Greece Gets The Hammer

    Japan grabbed the headlines last week after the Nikkei 225 plunged 7.3% in one day. Weak economic reports out of China presumably provided the catalyst for traders to take profits, but the selling intensified as the day progressed. Japanese stocks have been performing very well this year, and it would be easy to make the case they were overextended and vulnerable to a pullback. But I don't believe this marks the end of the bull market for Japan.
  • Gold And Cast Iron

    Stocks continue to perform well, while bonds, commodities and precious metals paint a different picture. Once the yield for 10-year Treasury securities breaks below 2%, there is not much more they can give. The latest yield decline ended abruptly on May 3, just north of 1.6%. However, despite better yields from stocks, and forecasts for a massive rotation from bonds to stocks, 10-year Treasury yields have not climbed back above the 2% threshold.
  • Stimulus Exit Strategy Lacks Time Dimension

    At the conclusion of the FOMC meeting early this month, the Fed said it plans to continue the bond purchases until the labor market improves substantially and the purchase amounts may increase or decrease to adjust for labor market or inflation changes. The new strategy map has neither a start date nor an ongoing timetable.
  • Jobs Improving But Not Recovered

    Various reports take on different degrees of importance as the economic cycle progresses. The monthly jobs report, which the government releases on the first Friday of each month, appears to be the “most anticipated” at this stage of the cycle. If it seems like the jobs report has been the most important for a few years now, then you are not alone. Your mind is not playing tricks on you.
  • April

    Bounce Back

    Stocks, bonds, commodities, and even GDP bounced back last week. In typical bounce-back fashion, the weakest groups of recent months were among the biggest gainers last week. Additionally, many of this year’s leaders did not participate in the advance. Then again, since the leadership categories were already trading at new highs, there was no need or ability for them to bounce.
  • Market Dealt A Setback

    Gold had another tough week, dropping 5.9% on top of its 5.7% loss of the previous week. Silver took an even bigger lump, plunging another 11.4%. The weakness in precious metals spilled over to oil and broad based commodity funds as well. Not all commodities felt the pain however, as natural gas, coffee, and cocoa all posted impressive gains.
  • Precious Metals Not So Precious

    April 13, 2013 Equity investors are having a good 2013, as long as they haven’t been concentrating their investments in emerging market equities. It is not clear they are enjoying the ride though, as consumer sentiment took a tumble, retail sales are not up to snuff, and investors are getting nervous [...]
  • Rolling Into Spring

    The first quarter of 2013 is now in the history books, although much of the analysis is still incomplete. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about the new record highs for the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit new highs in early March, while the S&P 500 finally did so on the last trading day of the month. That is if you ignore dividends, otherwise those records were broken months ago.
  • March

    Cyprus Deemed Not Too Big To Fail

    This morning’s headlines of “Cyprus Bailout Approved” sounds like good news at first, until you read the details.
  • Cyprus Grabs The World's Attention

    Cyprus became headline news today as European officials came up with a bailout plan for the country over the weekend. The proposed controversial plan involves taxing Cypriot bank deposits.
  • Employment Reports Show Improvement

    Friday’s employment report shows that more Americans are working and the unemployment rate fell from 7.9% to 7.7%. These monthly reports contain a vast amount of data, and it’s always interesting to see some of the math behind the headline numbers.
  • Higher Tax Revenue Already Hitting The Books

    The closer the deadline for government sequestration got, the more investors seemed to ignore it. Some government officials tried to create panic, claiming it would cause wide spread devastation and destruction. However, many investors remain skeptical of these claims.
  • February

    It's Not A Currency War

    The G-20 developed and emerging market economies doesn’t want you to call the “competitive devaluations” taking place a currency war. The G-20 met in Moscow over the weekend, but the outcome remains almost as controversial as the topic.
  • Market Uptrend Intact

    There were just four trading days last week. For the S&P 500, it began and ended on positive notes, but the two negative days sandwiched in between were the dominate force. As a result, the S&P’s weekly winning streak failed to extend itself to seven weeks. If you were listening to the pundits instead of looking at the actual numbers, you may be surprised to learn the actual decline for the S&P 500 was a mere 0.3% for the week, less than its average intraday volatility. So yes, the market uptrend is still intact.
  • First Month Of 2013 Was Easy

    January is now behind us, and it turned out to be a very good month for investors. Stocks maintained a steady climb, making it very easy to enjoy the ride. It will be difficult for February to repeat that performance, but we will welcome the attempt.
  • January

    Europe Shows Strength

    Stocks of the European Monetary Union led all categories last week with some help from an appreciating euro. Domestic consumer discretionary was also strong as retailers and homebuilders contributed to upside action.
  • Cyclicals Lead

    Energy and industrials top the one-week performance chart today. Both sectors carry an “economic cyclical” classification, so it is encouraging to see them at the top of the list. Their strength suggests the economy is picking up steam, which could help sustain the market rally.
  • Week Two Is In The Books

    The second week of trading for 2013 wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first. However, most markets managed to post gains. Given the sharp run-up that occurred in the first week, I guess we should be thankful there wasn’t a pullback.
  • Off To A Strong Start

    Stocks rallied strongly, posting spectacular gains in a four-day week shortened by the New Year holiday. The last minute bill to “avert” the Fiscal Cliff gets most of the credit, even though not much was actually accomplished. Elected officials extended tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and bought a little time by pushing the deadline on spending cuts out another two months.