FORBES ARTICLES BY KEN WINANS
Are You Sure Oil Is A Good Bet? The Previous Slump Lasted About 100 Years
Published March 23, 2018
Whenever oil prices surge, some individual investors wonder if oil futures could be a good investment for the year ahead.
The answer is no.
Look, I don’t fault anybody for asking the question. After all, they don’t call it black gold for nothing. In recent months, the price of a barrel of oil has been soaring — Brent Crude, the international benchmark for a barrel of oil, hit $70 in January, up nearly 50% since June, and was near those levels again in late March. What’s driving prices up? Unrest in Iran, Arctic temperatures in the United States and lower oil production, among other favorable factors.
You’d think financial advisors would remind their clients that the best time to buy anything is before it goes up 50% in value, not after. But various experts are now encouraging do-it-yourselfers to load up on oil stocks or risky commodity instruments. U.S. News & World Report tells investors: “These energy stocks will warm your pocket.” InvestorPlace, a site for individual investors, suggests buying oil itself, being more aggressive by buying oil futures — betting on the future price of oil — or even taking the potential lose-your-shirt risk of buying an oil exchange-traded fund that is triple leveraged. That means if oil rises, you could capture three times that gain. But if it falls, your loss would be three times greater than its decline.
Sure, It's A Correction. History Shows They're A Common Feature Of Bull Markets
Published Published February 9, 2018
When it comes to U.S. stocks, 2018 has already had its ups and downs.
The recent return of stock market volatility has produced sensationalized media coverage, not least the Feb. 5 CNN headline “Dow plunges 1,175 — worst point decline in history” over a story that declared, “It was the scariest day on Wall Street in years.” The second-largest point decline in history — 1,033 points — followed days later.
These declines are certainly notable. For investors taking a considered longer-term view, however, the outlook remains bright.
The overall decline in the S&P 500 — from its all-time high on Jan. 26 to its Feb. 8 trough — is not a crash. In fact, it was a 10.16% decline, just crossing the threshold for what market officialdom would call a “correction.” That seems like a lot if you are watching wealth evaporate in real time on your mobile phone, but history tells us that this is a fairly typical occurrence in long-running bull markets. This bull market hits its nine-year anniversary in March, which sounds a bit long, but several bull markets have lasted longer. And each of them has featured a few corrections, too.
For Investors Dreaming Of Dow 40,000, Congress Must Deliver On Taxes Now
Published Published December 14, 2017
As Republicans in Washington haggle over the final details of their tax cut, they could hold the near future of the U.S. stock investments in their hands. With the current bull market approaching its ninth anniversary, economic and market conditions suggest that 2018 should be a reasonably good year for stocks. However, only if lawmakers do the right thing on taxes can investors hope that the Dow Jones Industrial Average could repeat its outsized 2017 performance next year, in 2019 and in 2020. That type of rally would put the Dow near 40,000 by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Dec. 6 that Republican leaders would bridge the differences between House and Senate versions of the tax bill by Dec. 22, sending the final law to Trump to sign before Christmas. After early chatter about what the new tax rules might eliminate, most provisions that individuals care about look set to remain in place. We can expect that the pre-tax status of 401(k) contributions will remain unchanged, and we can expect a mortgage interest deduction on a primary residence at up to $750,000 for a married couple. One problem spot: Taxpayers may no longer be able to deduct more than $10,000 of property taxes. That lower threshold won’t trouble most Americans, but it is not high enough for some living in high-property-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California.
Some critics complain that the bill goes too far in favoring corporations, stocks and investors. (The New York Times has warned that the reduction in property-tax deductions is a threat to housing values in and near New York City.) But even the Times’ economics columnist David Leonhardt, who is quite critical of the tax package, notes that “some of the commentary about the bill is exaggerating” its flaws. Like most things in Washington, by the time the final law is printed, the end result will likely be the middle ground across the board.
Should Investors Trust The Trump Rally?
Published Published January 27, 2017
Maybe you love the new U.S. president, Donald J. Trump. Maybe you hate him. But regardless, you ought to be wondering what to make of the stock market rally that has taken place since his surprise election last November. Time to hang on or bail out?
Stocks rose about 6% in the first few weeks after the election. The rally stalled in mid-December but picked up again this week, nudging the Dow Jones Industrial Average past 20,000 and the S&P 500 to almost 2,300. On average the 500 large companies in the latter index are trading at around 17.5 times their estimated earnings, according to data from Birinyi Associates. This certainly is not low by historical standards.
Will a much heartier long-term rally take hold? Quite a few of our clients have called us—some dismayed, some jubilant—about what the election means for stocks. Here’s what we’re telling them: Forget President Trump’s Twitter account. Instead, focus on his tax and regulatory plans. Essentially, sit tight. Or even buy in.
As part of research for a new book, Investment Atlas II, published in November, I looked at political history since 1848 and puzzled over how presidential elections since then have influenced stocks, bonds and housing going forward. I noticed some interesting patterns. For one, this was not the first time that the U.S. electorate shocked us in a presidential vote.
Think Stocks Won't Stumble Again Soon? You're Ignoring History---And 4 Smart Moves
Published Published October 29, 2015
Talk about a wild year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 16% from mid-May to August. It has since rebounded. But is there another downswing just around the corner? What should you do about it?
The buy-and-hold perma-bulls argued this time, as always, that there was nothing to do about market turmoil. The best investment move, they consistently insist, is to make no move. Their strategy, which worked in the 1980s and 1990s, also did reasonably well this time because the correction has been brief — so far.
I don’t buy it. As I’ve written here before, standing pat with your stocks doesn’t work as well as other strategies in choppy markets , particularly like the ones we’ve endured since 1999. And history tells us that market choppiness is here to stay for a while. If you plan for it, you’ll not only do better financially, you’ll also sleep better.
It’s startling to consider how many bear markets we’ve seen in the last seven years. The market tumbled way below its 200-day moving average in 2008 and 2009, of course. Smaller retreats followed in 2010, 2011 and mid-October 2014.
Built For Marketing: Why The S&P 500 And Dow Are Misleading Investors
Published Published May 8, 2015
Since the start of the year, the two major U.S. stock market indexes—the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500—have (between them) closed at new highs nine times. But do those highs really mean the market is doing better than ever before?
Not necessarily. Human beings pick which stocks to put in these indexes, and their decisions, I fear, are being influenced by marketing. These indexes produce loads of highly profitable licensing fees paid by mutual funds, ETFs and other financial instruments linked to them. Thus the incentives—both direct and indirect—to stimulate investor interest with higher numbers are enormous.
5 Big Mistakes Investors Make When They Diversify
Published February 5, 2015
Diversification: That word is supposed to make investors feel warm and fuzzy.
A diversified investment portfolio “may provide the potential to improve [risk-adjusted] returns,” fund giant Fidelity Investments explained to its investors last summer, in an article that included several pretty pie charts showing stocks balanced against bonds, cash and foreign securities. A well-diversified portfolio, Fidelity said, would comprise, “ideally, assets whose returns move in the opposite direction.”
The carnage of 2008 and 2009 should have taught investors just how impossible that ideal is to achieve. Legions of seemingly
Alas, financial memories tend to be short-lived. And the notion that you — with the help of a financial adviser—can build a diversified portfolio that can easily ride out the next storm has come roaring back. (Fidelity, urging its clients to put 6% to 25% of their money into foreign stocks and 15% to 50% into bonds, is scarcely alone in promoting the idea.) And while I agree that one should own a mix of stocks and bonds,
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