Quarterly Letter, April 2020

Before Ron and I start with our normal topics, please allow us to extend our heartfelt wishes for good health and good luck during this exceptional period. Also, our deepest thanks to all of you that are reaching out to help others. We are continually amazed at the many, many ways we see people helping each other and are inspired and heartened by such actions. Thank you.
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Quarterly Letter, January 2020

Looking back over 2019 only two things really mattered much to the economy of all the things that hit the headlines: tariffs and the Federal Reserve. The imposition of tariffs on imported goods forced a re-evaluation of a lot of supply chains and was a headwind for businesses. The Fed reversed the direction of policy in January: shifting from raising rates and reducing their balance sheet to lowering rates and expanding their balance sheet.
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Quarterly Letter, October 2019

It’s been a noisy summer. Lots of political news, lots of tariff and trade war news, lots of international headlines of various sorts. Funny thing though, as we write this note during the last week of September the S&P 500 Index is within three percent of the all-time high it set in July. By that measure, it’s been a quiet summer.
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Quarterly Letter, July 2019

Here are the highlights of what we’re seeing so far this year: The Federal Reserve last raised short-term interest rates in December 2018 and is now actively talking about cutting them. The futures market, in fact, is pricing in two to three cuts this year. The Fed has also stated they will end the shrinking of their balance sheet in October. They’ve undergone quite a shift in thinking over the last six months! Our concern last year was that the Fed, through the reduction of the balance sheet, would reduce dollar availability and cause asset markets to fall. The Fed’s actions this year have alleviated that concern.
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Quarterly Letter, April 2019

A couple of noteworthy changes have occurred in the first quarter of 2019: First, the Federal Reserve has reconsidered their program of interest rate increases and balance sheet reductions. They now intend to hold short-term rates steady in 2019 and end their balance sheet reduction program in October 2019. Last year, we wrote extensively about the risk to asset prices we saw in the Federal Reserve’s asset reduction program and, we believe, the market started reacting to that program in October 2018.
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Quarterly Letter, January 2019

When we began 2018 we thought the markets would be dominated by two important changes: the passage of the new tax law in the final days of 2017 and a decline in dollar liquidity as the Federal Reserve both raised short-term rates and reduced the size of its balance sheet. We thought the first change would be good for the economy in both the short and long-term and the second change would be negative for most asset markets. We didn’t hazard a guess regarding when the negative influence would start to appear.
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Quarterly Letter, October 2018

At the end of the third quarter the U.S. economy is by most indicators in good shape. Real (inflation adjusted) GDP growth the first two quarters averaged 3% and forecasts are for the full year to come in at about 3%. Small business and consumer sentiment indicators are at high levels. Unemployment is quite low and most credit metrics are looking fine.
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Quarterly Letter, July 2018

Allow us to summarize what we’re seeing so far this year. The U.S. economy is doing well, with 1st quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth coming in at 2%, unemployment in May was a low 3.8%, and inflation was 2.8%. The interest rate on 2-year U.S. Treasury notes at the end of June was roughly 2.5%, 10-year U.S. Treasury notes yield almost 2.9%, and the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the county is 4.4%.
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Quarterly Letter, April 2018

The first quarter of 2018 was marked by a sharp market correction and the unraveling of some very popular investment themes. The correction kicked off in February when wage data triggered inflation fears which caused bond yields to jump up (bond prices dropped) and equity prices to drop.
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Quarterly Letter, January 2018

If you had told us a year ago that the market would rise 20% in 2017, we would have been skeptical. Yet, here we are at the end of the year and the S&P 500 Total Return Index was up 21.83% for 2017. The S&P 500 Index was up 19.42%.
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