Are Fed Actions Working? Parsing the New Data

After April’s downturn, the first two weeks of May have not seen substantial improvement. By Thursday, May 12, markets were dangerously close to bear territory. The Fed enacted a 50-basis point increase in the Fed funds rate at the May FOMC meeting, and we also now have April’s key data. In addition, Fed Chairman Powell sat for an interview in which he discussed his definition of a “soft landing” and what it will take to get there.

Our three main points are the labor markets, interest rate hikes, and economic growth as measured by GDP. Let’s dive in.

Continue reading

Avoiding the Medicare Surcharge: What You Need to Know About IRMAA

Reaching Medicare eligibility solves one of the most expensive retirement problems for many retirees: healthcare. Once you’ve made the adjustment and selected all the various Parts and plans, the convenience and affordability of Medicare are one of the benefits of turning 65. However, Medicare is means-tested. If you make over a certain amount of income, surcharges on the Medicare Part B and Part B premiums kick in.

Making it a little more painful, it’s not a flat increase. The surcharges go up as incomes get higher and at the highest level can amount to hundreds of dollars a month in additional costs.

The key to avoiding or minimizing the surcharge is to control income levels. In early retirement, this may be reasonably easy to do. But if you’ve amassed a retirement nest egg in a traditional tax-deferred 401(k) or IRA account, once you hit 72 and required minimum distributions (RMDs) kick in, you can find yourself with a very hefty bill.

Continue reading

May Market Commentary: The Fed Owned It, But Can They Control It?

April Recap and May Outlook

COVID concerns took a definitive backseat as mask mandates on flights ended, and the concerns about the economy turned to how bad things will get. The concerns over the disruption of the ongoing war in Ukraine, 40+ year record inflation, and the resulting amping up of the Fed’s intentions on rate increases moved distinctly into the foreground. Let’s look at some headlines:

  • The IMF released projections for the impact of the war in Ukraine. Global growth will likely slow from an estimated 6.1% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2022 and 2023. This is 0.8 and 0.2 percentage points lower for 2022 and 2023 than projected in January.

  • The war isn’t just impacting growth. The IMF also reported that war-induced commodity price increases and broadening price pressures have led to 2022 inflation projections of 5.7% in advanced economies and 8.7% in emerging market and developing economies—1.8 and 2.8 percentage points higher than projected last January.

  • In remarks at a panel discussion at the IMF on April 21st, Chairman Powell reiterated that it is appropriate “to be moving a little more quickly” on rate hikes. That translated into guidance on the first 50-bps rate increase in 22 years.

  • Economists began talking about “stagflation.” Stagflation is high inflation, high unemployment, and slow or negative real economic growth. Stagflation fears rise out of the potential for the Fed to overshoot and tip the economy into recession. Another way to think of stagflation is a circular firing squad. In stagflation, the moves the central bank makes to rescue the economy push it further into recession.

Continue reading

GMB Episode #128: Using Technology to Drive Business Value With Chris Hood

 

We live in the era of tech giants, where technology-driven businesses keep innovating and newly emerging technologies are becoming a key factor in driving business value. Our guest today, Chris Hood, is the Head of Business Innovation and Strategy at Google Cloud. Throughout the conversation, Chris discusses how he assists enterprises in driving economic value through the smart application of technology.

 

 

Show Notes

[01:38] Chris’s Background – Chris shares his background, as well as some of his daily duties at Google.

[04:48] Digital Strategy – Chris describes how the process of deploying technology changes based on the desired customer experience and explains how difficult this can be to navigate in larger organizations.

[15:20] Frequent Technologies – Chris cites specific types of technology that he sees commonly employed and explains how they assist organizations in generating commercial value.

[22:56] API – Chris expresses his thoughts on API monetization.

[27:41] AI and Machine Learning – Chris describes common applications of AI and machine learning.

[39:12] The Future – Chris shares his predictions for the future.

[47:09] Business Owners in Transition – Chris provides some important considerations for business owners in transition.

[54:58] Twitter Deal – Chris comments on Elon Musk’s $44 billion offer to acquire Twitter.

 

Resources

GMB Ep #127 – Should You Adjust Your Bond Holdings Since Interest Rates Are Rising?

 

If you’ve been paying attention to the financial markets lately, you’ve probably noticed that interest rates have been increasing, resulting in a decrease in bond prices. Other recent developments, such as Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition and the decreased performance of popular growth stocks, have a lot of people questioning if it is time to adjust their portfolios. In today’s episode, Grant reviews the relationship between interest rates and bonds, how investors should react to increasing interest rates, and some of the stock price behaviors related to acquisitions.

 

 

Show Notes

[03:30] Market Updates – Grant recaps some of the interesting developments in the financial markets.

[05:26] Growth Stocks – In recent months, some of the popular growth stocks, such as Netflix and Amazon, have not been performing very well. Grant shares his thoughts on the implications of this trend.

[07:18] Bonds and Interest Rates – Grant dives into how the value of bonds fluctuates based on the interest rates and some of the methods used to evaluate bonds.

[13:31] Responding to Interest Rates – How investors should respond to increasing interest rates and why this is not a good reason to sell your bonds.

[20:25] Bond Funds – How bond funds work, differences between stock funds and bond funds, and how to evaluate bond funds.

[27:14] 60/40 Portfolios – Grant shares his thoughts on whether 60/40 portfolios are a good asset class to invest in.

[29:46] Twitter Share Prices – Grant discusses Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, and what this means for investors.

 

Resources

What’s Driving the Recent Volatility? A Quick Guide

The Federal Reserve has been very clear about its intentions to move more aggressively in fighting inflation. It currently defines “more aggressively” as a likely series of 50 basis point rate hikes, beginning with the May Federal Open Market Committee meeting. This will mark the first time in 22 years that the Fed has doubled the normal 25 basis point increase.

In remarks at a panel discussion at the IMF on April 21st, Chairman Powell reiterated that it is appropriate “to be moving a little more quickly” on rate hikes. He also indicated that he believes that financial markets are “acting appropriately generally,” meaning that they are adjusting to the expectations of higher rates.

Markets are forward-looking, so prices today reflect what markets think will happen in the future. A good example of this is mortgage rates: The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 5.29% as the last week of April opened. For contrast, in early March, it was 3.76%.

Markets are having trouble interpreting this information. The problem is that so far, we’ve heard the Fed’s intentions, but without corresponding data showing whether or not rate hikes are working, markets can’t assess the likely path. And that leads to volatility.

Continue reading

What’s the Fed Up To? Rates, Inversions, and Quantitative Tightening

The U.S. Treasury yield curve inverted last week. An inversion is when the shorter-term yield in a pair of U.S. Treasury maturities is higher than the longer-term yield, reversing or inverting the normal relationship. The significance of a yield curve inversion is that inversions have a history of predicting recessions.

The yield curve inverts because investors believe that the economy will slow in the future. The Fed attempts to control inflation by increasing interest rates, which makes business investment more expensive. Markets appear to think that the Fed will overshoot with rate increases, which will stifle rather than slow economic growth. The Fed will then have to begin decreasing rates again.

Continue reading

A Plan for Managing Stock Sales: 10b5-1s and SEC Rules

Corporate insiders at publicly traded companies are privy to information that can have a major impact on the share price, such as a Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval or rejection of a new drug. As a result, corporate trading policies restrict the number of days corporate insiders can buy or sell shares. Often, these policies limit the number of open trading windows to less than 60 days per year.

Overall, insider trading restrictions include blackout periods and exposure to material, non-public information (MNPI).

These trading constraints hamper corporate executives’ ability to manage their holdings, posing a stock concentration risk within their overall investment portfolios.

There is a solution to this problem: Rule 10b5-1

Continue reading

GMB Episode #126: Pulling the Wisdom From Jeff Bezos’ Investor Letters With Steve Anderson

 

It’s an undeniable fact that Jeff Bezos did some exceptional work to develop Amazon into the e-commerce giant it is today. What if you could discover Amazon’s secrets and translate them into your business? Our guest today took on the task of analyzing every investor letter addressed by Jeff Bezos to Amazon shareholders dating back to 1997. Steve Anderson, Co-Founder & CEO at Catalyit™, and the author of the international bestseller, The Bezos Letters, joins us to dive into the 14 principles that created the Amazon that we know today.

 

 

Show Notes

[02:52] Summary of Letters – Steve starts the conversation with a synopsis of the letters, as well as what we can take away from them as we manage our own businesses.

[05:08] Beginning of Amazon – Steve explains Jeff Bezos’s background, how his childhood inspired him, and how he ended up launching Amazon.

[11:14] Becoming a Tech Giant – Steve dives into the growth of Amazon from its IPO in 1997 to current day.

[24:38] Four categories– Steve discusses the four categories mentioned in his book, and provides an excellent explanation of the 14 principles.

[31:44] High-Velocity Decisions – Steve explains how Jeff Bezos used a unique decision-making process to accelerate Amazon’s growth.

[45:56] Amazon’s Culture – Steve expresses his thoughts on Amazon’s culture.

[54:40] Steve’s Background – Steve shares his background, his career as an entrepreneur, and how he came to produce his phenomenal work.

 

Resources