Thoughts on investment outlook

I mentioned in a previous post on my macro investment outlook of another lost decade for stocks, i.e. that 10 yrs from now the S&P 500 would be at the same level it is today. This investment outlook is based on my thoughts for overall economic growth, which drives profit growth and thus stock returns, over the long run, combined with a secular bear market that drives valuation compression even in the face of moderate economic growth.

Where does this view come from? My favorite source for economic analysis is Dave Rosenberg, Chief Economist at Gluskin-Sheff (see link in Blogroll). Rosenberg is probably everyone’s favorite bear. He has been more right than wrong over the last decade and he backs up his views with great analysis. As a counterpoint, I read Brian Wesbury, Chief Economist at First Trust (see link in blogroll). Brian is definitely a glass half-full kind of guy and is much more bullish than Rosenberg. In my opinion his analysis is not as good as Rosenberg’s and neither is his track record. Yet he makes many good points about the positive points in the economy of which there always are many.

But probably the main reason I side with Rosenberg is that in managing a retirement portfolio in retirement where you are withdrawing money every year it pays to lean to safety. As Warren Buffet says, the first rule of investment is  don’t lose money – the second rule is to remember the first rule. Wealth protection is job #1. Negative returns are anathema to a retiree, in particular an early retiree (with a 40+ year retirement period) and early in your retirement years. We’ll discuss detailed numbers in later posts but needless to say a $1M retirement portfolio that takes a 20% hit in the first year is a lot worse than a portfolio that takes a 20% hit in year 20!

Thus, I lean towards a pessimistic outlook and focus on doing well in such an environment. If I’m wrong and there is more upside great. What I need to minimize is the chance of being wrong to the downside. In this light where does one look for solid investments with chances for upside. I think Rosenberg has it right with his SIRP (Safe Income at Reasonable Price) strategy. In his latest update he lays it out pretty clearly:

1. Focus on safe yield: High-quality corporates (non-cyclical, high cash reserves, minimal refinancing needs). Corporate balance sheets are in very good shape.
2. Equities: focus on reliable dividend growth/yield; preferred shares (“income” orientation). Starbucks just caught on to the importance of paying out a dividend.
3. Whether it be credit or equities, focus on companies with low debt/equity ratios and high liquid asset ratios – balance sheet quality is even more important than usual. Avoid highly leveraged companies.
4. Even hard assets that provide an income stream work well in a deflationary environment (ie, oil and gas royalties, REITs, etc…).
5. Focus on sectors or companies with these micro characteristics: low fixed costs, high variable cost, high barriers to entry/some sort of oligopolistic features, a relatively high level of demand inelasticity (utilities, staples, health care — these sectors are also unloved and under owned by institutional portfolio managers).
6. Alternative assets: allocate significant portion of asset mix to strategies that are not reliant on rising equity markets and where volatility can be used to advantage.
7. Precious metals: A hedge against the reflationary policies aimed at defusing deflationary risks — money printing, rolling currency depreciations, heightened trade frictions, and government procurement policies.

With that in mind I plan my portfolio allocation and choose my investments.

Full Disclaimer - Nothing on this site should ever be considered advice, research or the invitation to buy or sell securities. These are my personal opinions only.

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6 Responses to Thoughts on investment outlook

  1. Jim says:

    Hi, Just found your blog from the wheelingit site and look forward to following along. So far, I’ve been a fan of Jack Bogle and a keep it simple approach to investments. Not exactly being a financial guru myself I hope to learn some new things here – like MLPs for instance.

    I sure hope we don’t see another 10 years of no returns in the S&P500. Yikes! I’m going with a glass half full, but only because I hope to be traveling the world long before another decade passes.

    Your Money or Your Life, some of the early retirement forums, and Billy and Akaisha Kaderli helped push us into a frugal lifestyle and handling money wisely.

    Thanks for sharing some or your knowledge and hope to see you on the road somewhere.


    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Jim. I’m definitely a glass half-full kind of guy but as far as my retirement assets go I plan for a less than rosy scenario. Better to be surprised to the upside. I think its the engineer in me.

      I’m a fan of Bogle myself. I’ve also delved quite extensively into the early retirement forums, and follow Billy and Akaisha as well. Billy and Akaisha’s story prompted us on our frugal and early retirement path as well.

      What I have discovered is that there is a better way than the standard just follow the market approach and that’s the main thing I hope to get across in this blog.

      I hope I can help in anyway I can.

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