July 13, 2024

Wealth Matters: Advisers Keep Eyes on the Horizon in a Choppy Economy

Given that this has already been a year of political and financial upheaval that none of these people had anticipated, this advice may be the only viable option. Still, each had his own take on how the long view would look.

Richard Cookson, chief investment officer at Citi Private Bank, has been the contrarian throughout. He admitted that he made the wrong call on the United States stock market this year, predicting that it would go down when, in fact, it went up. But he said that increase in value was meaningful only if you had invested in dollars.

“The U.S. is a wee bit like the emerging market countries in the 1990s in the sense that it has been debauching its currency,” Mr. Cookson said. “The stock market does well in the local currency, but it does very badly in any other currency’s terms. If you bought it in euros or Swiss francs and didn’t hedge it, you would have done appallingly.”

Niall J. Gannon, director of wealth management at the Gannon Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, has been the steady member of the group. He has continued to ignore the noise and focus on the data.

Mr. Gannon’s preferred measure for his high-net-worth clients is to analyze the earnings yield of various securities. (This is defined as the earnings per share over the previous year divided by the current price, or the inverse of the price-to-earnings ratio.)

Mr. Gannon said he was looking at stocks with earnings yields of 7.5 to 8 percent, which compare favorably with 4 percent on United States Treasuries and 4.65 percent on municipal bonds. “We continue to stress that you have to extract value where the value is coming from,” he said.

The five advisers were in accord on the outcome of the deficit talks between Congress and the White House. All predicted that the politicians would find a short-term solution that would leave the country in the same predicament a few years from now.

They also agreed that the politicians in Europe would probably come up with a short-term solution for Greece’s debt problems, but they disagreed on the potential impact of Greece’s situation on Europe and the rest of the world.

So let’s look more closely at what the group thought was good and bad in the first half and what its concerns were for the future.

HALF TIME At the end of the last quarter, two unexpected events upended the group’s predictions: the turmoil in the Middle East and what it might do to oil prices, and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and how that disaster affected the global supply chain.

The price of oil spiked to $114 a barrel but is now back to about $96. (And while the price of gasoline has edged down in recent weeks, it is still higher than it was in December 2010.) Japan, meanwhile, appears to be on the road to recovery. But none of that could be known as it was occurring, and the way some investors panicked again showed just how fragile confidence was.

Mr. Cookson said he was proud of his call to buy Japanese stocks as a way to invest in the country’s quick recovery.

Marc D. Stern, chief investment officer at Bessemer Trust, said the fall in gas prices had helped increase consumer spending.

Now, though, the group is making the case that investors need to remain confident about the United States stock market. Mr. Stern said that there had been five stock market drops of at least 7 percent since the March 2009 low, including the most recent one from April to June. But he argued that those drops were the results of broader economic shocks. Corporate profits remain strong.

“It’s remarkable how companies are taking advantage of rising world trade, improved business opportunities and increasing capital availability,” Mr. Stern said.

While this is good news for companies and their shareholders, it has yet to make a dent in the unemployment rate. No one had a firm prediction of when the rate might fall. Mr. Stern framed it as a chicken-or-egg case: companies will start hiring when other companies hire.

Mr. Gannon said high unemployment had not affected his investment decisions. Those decisions are focused on the growing middle class in other parts of the world, which is why he continues to invest in companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nike, which derive their revenue globally.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a7b883020b4b90bc34fff16f977680a2

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