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June 2013 Performance Review

Almost all yield-oriented foreign investments were already sliding, and U.S. stocks finally got caught up in the downdraft. The S&P 500 fell 1.35%, although the drop in the index was better than the average returns in essentially all categories of funds except short term bonds and small cap growth, including many of our own holdings. It was a bad month to be diversified.

A Distinct Lack of Interest

Predictions about rates having nowhere to go but up might have looked equally correct half a dozen times in recent years – yet been wrong.

May 2013 Performance Review

Interest rates jumped, creating fears the end of falling rates is finally here. This took the entire bond market down almost 2% with a bit more damage to longer-term bonds (notably government bonds) which dropped almost 7%. High yield bonds, which are sensitive to interest rates but also to rising stocks and an improving economy, were down around a half percent. 

Crash Redux

With the market maintaining a perpetual upward trajectory in 2013, it could be time to revisit our theories about crashes and market peaks.

April 2013 Performance Review

How did we beat BOTH the stock and bond indexes in April? Many of the out-of-favor areas we hold rapidly became favorable - notably Japan and telecom (both up over 8%).  Utilities were up almost 6% AND interest rates were down again, sending our longer-term bond fund up. Best of all, commodities tanked which boosted our oil short – usually up only when stocks are down.

(Gold) Hoarders, Buried Alive!

I reckon we’ve been talking about this here gold bubble in them thar hills for quite some time. Thankfully, the market gods have finally deigned to demonstrate exactly why we shouldn't be worshiping this particular golden calf. As of this writing, gold is down 27% from the highs it reached in September 2011. It fell 8% on Monday alone.

March 2013 Performance Review

Wow. The S&P 500 and the Dow both reached record highs last month, each breaking previous marks set in 2007. Don’t hold your breath for a new NASDAQ record though – that’s a solid 10-20 years off (and maybe even longer than that if adjusting for inflation). 

The Rocky Path

Many factors could trigger another major slide in the next few years, which is why stocks are intrinsically riskier than most bonds and cash. Yet it's possible to estimate an expected total return over, say, the next 10 years.

February 2013 Performance Review

What we’re really seeing here is the steady erosion in returns of anything other than bonds. Among the worst areas over the last five years – sporting serious negative returns of between 5 and 10% per year on average (as opposed to positive annualized returns of the same magnitude in U.S. stock funds) - are gold mining-oriented and commodities funds. Gold the metal is still higher than 5 years ago, though the yellow metal is finally showing some erosion in price and popularity. 

There's No Perfect Hedge

Someone once said that the only perfect hedge is in a Japanese garden. Here are a few typical strategies for minimizing downside (and upside…) in a portfolio, with some brief notes on the imperfections of each, especially in light of an ever-shifting landscape.