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January 2017 Performance Review

February 4, 2017

The interest rate increase that accelerated when President Trump won in November ended in December.

Rate-sensitive investments across the board have performed well in recent weeks, pushing our Conservative portfolio up more than our Aggressive portfolio in January.

Stocks remained strong, though the overall investor shift from bonds to stocks has slowed.

Upside in stocks (and downside in bonds) could be limited without actual tax-and-spend policy taking shape and with no signs of rising inflation.

The Federal reserve just took a break on rate increases because economic growth and inflation just aren't there yet to warrant much higher short term rates.

Our Conservative portfolio gained 1.11%. Our Aggressive portfolio advanced 0.69%. Benchmark Vanguard funds for January 2017 were as follows: Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX) up 1.88%; Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX) up 0.29%; Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (VTMGX) up 3.66%; Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index (VEIEX) up 4.94%; Vanguard Star Fund (VGSTX), a total global balanced portfolio, up 2.11%.

Our strongest area was in emerging markets with iShares MSCI BRIC Index (BKF) up 7.31%, well above broader emerging market index returns.

Europe was strong but Italy took a breather after a hot streak. iShares MSCI Italy Capped (EWI) was down 1.94% in January — our only negative returning stock or bond fund last month that wasn't shorting.

Speaking of, PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO) was the lone area of shorting success in January.

Junk bonds led the bond market again with Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX) up 1.64% but recently hit foreign bonds rebounded with SPDR Barclays Intl. Treasury (BWX) up 1.46% as the U.S. dollar's rise may have also reached a limit. The rebound in junk bonds has now been significant and is increasing downside risk if the economy appears to weaken. As investment grade yields are higher than a few months ago the spread in yields between higher-risk and lower-risk debt isn't as appealing.

Stock Funds1mo %
iShares MSCI BRIC Index (BKF)7.31%
PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO)6.79%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Emerging Mkts Stock Idx (VEIEX)4.94%
Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF (VEA)3.67%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Tax-Managed Intl Adm (VTMGX)3.66%
Artisan Global Equity (ARTHX)3.09%
Vanguard European ETF (VGK)2.96%
[Benchmark] Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX)1.88%
iShares Mortgage REIT (REM)1.36%
Vanguard Utilities (VPU)1.17%
Homestead Value (HOVLX)0.55%
Vanguard Value (VTV)0.49%
Vanguard Telecom Services ETF (VOX)0.38%
Proshares Ultrashort Russel2000 (TWM)-0.89%
iShares MSCI Italy Capped (EWI)-1.94%
ETRACS 1xMonthly Short Alerian MLP (MLPS)-4.37%
Proshares Ultrashort NASDAQ Biotech (BIS)-10.20%
Gold Short (DZZ)-10.58%
Bond Funds1mo %
Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX)1.64%
SPDR Barclays Intl. Treasury (BWX)1.46%
Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury (EDV)1.25%
Vanguard Long-Term Bond Index ETF (BLV)0.56%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Total Bond Index (VBMFX)0.29%
Vanguard Mortgage-Backed Securities (VMBS)0.17%