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August 2017 Performance Review

September 8, 2017

The portfolios had a good month relative to the benchmarks and Vanguard's total portfolio fund. With our gains in August we're almost neck and neck with a double-digit (for 2017) S&P 500 with significantly less downside risk. Our Conservative portfolio is up 10.54% for the year while Aggressive is up 9.49% — compared to the 11.82% return for the S&P 500.

For August, our Conservative portfolio gained 1.26%. Our Aggressive portfolio gained 1.10%. Benchmark Vanguard funds for August 2017 were as follows: Vanguard 500 Index Fund (VFINX) up 0.29%; Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX) up 0.85%; Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund (VTMGX) up 0.07%; Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index (VEIEX) up 3.05%; Vanguard Star Fund (VGSTX), a total global balanced portfolio, up 0.53%.

August was close to flat for the S&P 500 and the U.S. bond market. Most of the gains to be had were in emerging market stocks and longer-term U.S. government bonds, and we are exposed to both.

Our iShares MSCI BRIC Index (BKF) holding was up 4.41%, exceeded only by shorting oil which delivered a 13.18% return via PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO). Long-term bond gains boosted Vanguard Long-Term Bond Index ETF (BLV) 2.08% and even more interest rate sensitive Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury (EDV) up 4.89%.

Utilities were strong as interest rates fell, delivering a 2.9% return to Vanguard Utilities (VPU).

Besides gains in oil shorting our losses shorting gold and biotech stocks were balanced by small gains shorting small-cap stocks and MLPs (energy limited partnerships) essentially neutralizing the drag of shorting.

European stocks were as flat as in the U.S.

Higher risk bonds were weaker leaving Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX) down fractionally.

Fears over North Korea's nuclear advances haven't been a significant drag on stocks, which could be an indication of too much investor optimism. It's preferable to invest in a fearful market with lower valuations than one brimming with confidence.

Even south Korean stocks have been strong in recent weeks. And rightly so. As for trying to put probabilities on nuclear destruction and the resulting impact on stocks ignoring the greater issue of the impact on life as we know it, nuclear war with North Korea remains a very low probability event.

Stock Funds1mo %
PowerShares DB Crude Oil Dble Short (DTO)13.18%
iShares MSCI BRIC Index (BKF)4.41%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Emerging Mkts Stock Idx (VEIEX)3.05%
Vanguard Utilities (VPU)2.90%
Proshares Ultrashort Russel2000 (TWM)2.13%
iShares MSCI Italy Capped (EWI)1.78%
Artisan Global Equity (ARTHX)1.48%
iShares Mortgage REIT (REM)1.27%
ETRACS 1xMonthly Short Alerian MLP (MLPS)1.03%
[Benchmark] Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX)0.29%
Vanguard European ETF (VGK)0.07%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Tax-Managed Intl Adm (VTMGX)0.07%
Homestead Value (HOVLX)0.06%
Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF (VEA)0.02%
Vanguard Telecom Services ETF (VOX)-0.23%
Vanguard Value (VTV)-0.47%
Gold Short (DZZ)-7.95%
Proshares Ultrashort NASDAQ Biotech (BIS)-9.47%
Bond Funds1mo %
Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury (EDV)4.89%
Vanguard Long-Term Bond Index ETF (BLV)2.08%
[Benchmark] Vanguard Total Bond Index (VBMFX)0.85%
SPDR Barclays Intl. Treasury (BWX)0.74%
Vanguard Mortgage-Backed Securities (VMBS)0.64%
Artisan High Income Fund (ARTFX)-0.03%