How To Read Market Commentary and Stay The Course

forecastcloudEvery day, new articles are published telling you to buy this! Sell that! Hedge against this other thing! One of the most underrated skills in investing is the ability to stick to your plan and do nothing.

Some folks argue that that solution is to never listen to any market commentary (or “noise”). Keep your head down, plow your money into index funds and don’t look up until you’re ready to retire. Well, if you can do that, more power to you. However, I’ve been getting more e-mails from people scared to invest due to reports of high stock market valuations and rising interest rates. Here’s an example of how I read market commentary and keep on truckin’ ahead.

The Blackrock Investment Institute recently released their Q4 2016 Global Investment Outlook, which has a lot of carefully-considered statistics, charts, and predictions. The chart below compares the current yields of various asset classes as compared to their pre-crisis averages (2003-2008):


Blackrock’s analysis:

High valuations versus history point to more muted returns across asset classes in the long run. Yet slowing nominal GDP growth and aging populations argue for lower bond yields than in the past — and sustained demand for high-quality bonds. This structural shift changes the prism of assessing today’s valuations. It makes risk assets such as equities, credit, local EM bonds and selected alternatives look attractive on a relative basis.

I choose to take my risk and upside potential with stocks. While stocks have lower earnings yields (higher P/E) than pre-2008, they are still more attractive than high-quality bonds on a long-term basis. They are certainly more attractive than cash. US, European, Japan, Emerging Markets, nothing looks horrible.

I only invest in high-quality bonds because I want bonds to serve as portfolio ballast and help keep the ship steady. Risky bonds are more correlated with stocks, meaning if stocks go down then they are more likely to go down as well. I simply don’t want to own those types of bonds, even if they yield a bit more. Thus, I ignore any recommendation to buy high-yield corporate bonds, high-yield municipal bonds, and emerging markets bonds.

You can see that the high-quality bond yields are all significantly lower in the current environment. This second chart below looks more closely at the current bond picture. If you are in a high tax bracket, you should consider investment-grade municipal bond funds due to their high effective yields. Otherwise, a broad US Corporate bond fund (Investment Grade) is still a pretty good choice, and a a broad Total US Bond fund (US Aggregate) is in the “okay” zone.


If you’re doing the sensible index fund thing, perhaps via Vanguard Target Retirement fund, then I see nothing wrong with staying the course. Nobody knows what will happen in the next 1, 3, or 12 months. Stocks could drop. Rates could rise. But stocks could also keep going up. Rates could also stay flat for a decade. Investing for the long-term requires perseverance. Stocks are still compensating investors for taking risk and are more attractive than bonds in the long-term. I would still add some high-quality bonds to smooth out the ride.

Finally, keep on saving. As Jack Bogle says, “If we’re going to have lower returns, well, the worst thing you can do is reach for more yield. You just have to save more.”


How To Read Market Commentary and Stay The Course from My Money Blog.

©, 2016.

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