Word from Jeff: Come the Season of the Witch?

Fall is traditionally a dicey time for stocks. For 2017, this is especially so. The geopolitical landscape grows increasingly dark, led by the madness on the Korean peninsula. Other hotspots abound, and the U.S.’s relations with allies and other superpowers have entered a period of turbulent flux. Despite all this, the U.S. bull market continues to bounce higher on waves of frothy valuations, making fresh highs in mid-September. Clearly it has become quite elongated of tooth – now being the second longest bull market on record – yet still chomps blithely away. To misquote Bette Davis, we may want to fasten our seatbelts against the upcoming bumps. For one thing, stocks are sporting bloated valuations not seen since the dot-com era, which as you remember did not end well in 1999-2000. For another, the Fed is set on raising interest rates. While it now dithers over stagnant inflation and may pause a bit, the odds of a miscalculation – either keeping rates too low too long, and sparking inflation, or raising too fast and stifling the economic recovery – are higher now, and could derail the market. The recently falling dollar plays into the former scenario, dropping the relative price of U.S. goods both here and abroad, goosing production and employment, and nurturing inflation. All this, and more, on top of a world that looks more complicated and dangerous than it has in years, or decades. For these and other reasons, Camarda still expects a pretty sharp stock market correction, a song we’ve been singing for much of this year. No, this is not guaranteed, and the market may soar on wings of hope far higher yet. And, no, it may not be imminent, as hope can linger for a long time. But we think it is the way to bet, given the cold math of reasonable valuations. If (or when) it comes, the correction will probably affect markets worldwide.  That said, it is important to underscore that we don’t expect such a correction to signal the beginning of a bear market, at least not for awhile. Bear markets are typically associated with recessions, and Camarda does not think that’s in the cards – yet – for the U.S. The U.S. expansion continues strongly. Still, the U.S. economy and stock markets led the world out of the darkness of the Great Recession, and will probably begin to falter long before other parts of the world. And, as expanded below, U.S. stocks look pricey and overvalued compared to other markets. While things still look good, we think it is time to reconsider investment strategies. For these reasons, we think it is important for investors to consider a serious shift from a concentration in U.S. stocks to a more globally –diversified portfolio, and to concentrate on value stocks even more than ever. As you go through this month’s other investments articles, please bear this in mind.

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