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April 2017 Performance Review

May 3, 2017

April was a good month for stocks and bonds across the board in April, with foreign markets performing best of all. With longer-term rates declining and foreign markets strong, our model portfolios logged a decent month — even with the drag of shorting.

Our Conservative portfolio gained 1.62%. The Aggressive portfolio rose 1.06%. Benchmark Vanguard funds for April 2017 were as follows: Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX) up 1.22%; Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX) up 0.96%; Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (VTMGX) up 1.74%; Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index (VEIEX) up 0.32%; Vanguard Star Fund (VGSTX), a total global balanced portfolio, gained 1.53%.

Growth stocks led the charge in the U.S. market with returns between 2 and 3% typical. Big value stocks were barely positive (as seen in our Vanguard Value (VTV) holding, which was down fractionally).

European stocks were up just over 4% as anti-EU candidate Marie La Pen was denied victory in French elections (at least for now). This also boosted the Euro and helped our foreign bond fund SPDR Barclays Intl. Treasury (BWX) with a 1.43% return.

The hottest area was Indian stocks (again), up just over 5% and the best area abroad with solid double-digit annualized three-year numbers. Close behind was Japan stocks (and not much else) as foreign stocks have been weak for much of the last few years.

Shorting stocks and gold meant losses in April but oil slipped, sending PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO) up 7.42% for the month.

Longer-term government bonds led the bond markets in April even outperforming high-yield bond funds. Over the last year higher-risk debt has done better with high-yield bond funds up just over 10% while long-term government bonds are still down slightly over this period.

In general, safer debt (including muni bonds) are more attractively priced than high-yield debt now. Reach for yield has pushed bond prices up, and we're benefiting with Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX) — up 1.37% in April — and iShares Mortgage REIT iShares Mortgage REIT (REM), which delivered a 3.6% return. iShares Mortgage REIT iShares Mortgage REIT (REM)'s big month means it's up 14.16% YTD and 32.77% in the last year.

Stock Funds1mo %
PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO)7.42%
Vanguard European ETF (VGK)3.90%
iShares Mortgage REIT (REM)3.60%
Artisan Global Equity (ARTHX)2.85%
iShares MSCI Italy Capped (EWI)2.76%
Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF (VEA)2.21%
Vanguard Telecom Services ETF (VOX)2.19%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Tax-Managed Intl Adm (VTMGX)1.74%
iShares MSCI BRIC Index (BKF)1.46%
[Benchmark] Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX)1.22%
Vanguard Utilities (VPU)0.67%
Homestead Value (HOVLX)0.48%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Emerging Mkts Stock Idx (VEIEX)0.32%
Vanguard Value (VTV)-0.03%
ETRACS 1xMonthly Short Alerian MLP (MLPS)-0.52%
Gold Short (DZZ)-2.56%
Proshares Ultrashort Russel2000 (TWM)-2.64%
Proshares Ultrashort NASDAQ Biotech (BIS)-3.06%
Bond Funds1mo %
Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury (EDV)1.84%
Vanguard Long-Term Bond Index ETF (BLV)1.58%
SPDR Barclays Intl. Treasury (BWX)1.43%
Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX)1.37%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Total Bond Index (VBMFX)0.96%
Vanguard Mortgage-Backed Securities (VMBS)0.56%