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Please note: The Frank Talk articles listed below contain historical material. The data provided was current at the time of publication. For current information regarding any of the funds mentioned in these presentations, please visit the appropriate fund performance page.

Finding a Silver Lining in the Markets’ Dark Clouds

August 23, 2011

Silver Lining Call it choppy, volatile, fickle or lively, market action continued to disappoint last week. Frightened investors pulled out more than $40 billion from long-term mutual funds for the week ended August 10, according to the Investment Company Institute.

The eurozone crisis fueled the outflows as economic growth figures for several eurozone countries disappointed—a hard trend to break given the austerity measures being implemented. Relatively, U.S. stocks have only suffered a fraction of the pain (down roughly 5 percent year-to-date as of August 16) felt by investors in the U.K. (down 9.2 percent), Germany (down 13.2 percent), France (down 15.1 percent) and Italy (21.9 percent).

Given this landscape, the International Strategy and Investment Group (ISI) lowered its forecast for global growth to 2.5 percent in 2012. That’s down from the 4-5 percent growth level many were estimating.

There is a silver lining: Despite all the negative news out there, the global economy will continue to grow.

In fact, the U.S. economy has had several positive developments recently. The four-week average for unemployment claims dropped to 402,000 during the week ending August 13. There is still a large chunk of America unable to find a job, but that group has shrunk 13 percent since August 2010 and is about 40 percent of peak 2009 levels.

Many S&P 500 Index companies have leveraged strong economic growth in emerging markets and a weaker U.S. dollar into higher profits. Second-quarter 2011 earnings for companies in the S&P 500 Index have been superb with nearly 71 percent of company earnings beating expectations, per ISI.

According to Citigroup, this continues a trend established in 2010 when year-over-year earnings for the S&P 500 were up more than 38 percent, more than double the historical average during the first full year following a recession.

In addition, the strong earnings report is across all sectors. These companies are also sitting on nearly the largest cash cushions as a percent of market capitalization (about 11 percent) we’ve seen in 20 years, Citigroup says. Markets have historically bottomed when cash as a percentage of market cap reaches 9 percent.

We’ve also seen a surge in U.S. money supply (M2). ISI says M2 has surged $460 billion (about 5 percent—38 percent on an annualized rate) over the past eight weeks. Though the rise is largely due to a plunge in institutional money funds, increased money supply means more funds are available to be lent out, pushing down borrowing rates. Access to this “cheap capital” can increase confidence and entice businesses to put cash to work.

Around the globe, two recent bright spots have been Taiwan and Russia. Taiwan’s equity market is technology heavy, says BCA Research, and the market’s performance tends to track the global information technology sector, not global markets. BCA says that Taiwan is set to outperform because “after two decades of stagnation, domestic demand has been showing signs of reviving…[and] equity/currency valuations remain attractive.” In Russia, strong cash positions and subdued credit flows since 2008 mean Russia’s “equity and credit markets are likely to outperform in the months ahead,” BCA says.

Stock market corrections are always difficult but they also create opportunities. One tried and true method which allows investors to compare similar companies is through relative valuation. This same process can be applied to asset classes. The S&P 500 currently yields about 2.27 percent—that’s higher than a 10-year Treasury bond which yields roughly 2.07 percent. The choice between the two is obvious for long-term investors: Equities.

If you were to buy the 10-year Treasury today, you would likely earn about 2 percent a year and get your principal back (barring disaster) in 10 years. However, by investing in stocks today, you could receive more in annual income plus the potential growth and appreciation over that time. Granted, the latter hasn’t always been positive. Just look at the past 10 years of returns for the S&P 500. But that’s been one of the worst periods in history for investing in stocks and it is unlikely stocks will suffer the same fate over the next 10 years.

The average annual total return for the S&P 500 during the 20th Century was 10.44 percent—the strongest period coming during the Tech boom in the late 1990s, research from Citigroup shows. Meanwhile, the total return on a 10-year Treasury bond was 4.68 percent over the same time period. Since 1961, there have been 18 years where the S&P 500 rose more than 15 percent compared to only 13 years of declines.

Those investors who have been waiting for a bounce in the markets may not have to wait too long. We mentioned last week that the S&P 500 has historically experienced strong upward moves after the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) reaches extreme levels. Research from Citigroup backs up this assertion, showing the average return for the S&P 500 is 5.5 percent (three months), 9.4 percent (six months) and 18.9 percent (12 months) following a breach of the 35-40 on the VIX.

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. The S&P 500 Stock Index is a widely recognized capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stock prices in U.S. companies. M1 Money Supply includes funds that are readily accessible for spending. M2 Money Supply is a broad measure of money supply that includes M1 in addition to all time-related deposits, savings deposits, and non-institutional money-market funds. M3 money supply is the broadest monetary aggregate, including physical currency, demand accounts, savings and money market accounts, certificates of deposit, deposits of eurodollars and repurchase agreements. Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX) shows the market's expectation of 30-day volatility.

Net Asset Value
as of 10/15/2021

Global Resources Fund PSPFX $6.88 0.07 Gold and Precious Metals Fund USERX $12.31 -0.08 World Precious Minerals Fund UNWPX $4.72 -0.06 China Region Fund USCOX $8.31 0.14 Emerging Europe Fund EUROX $7.42 0.04 Global Luxury Goods Fund USLUX $24.56 0.26 Near-Term Tax Free Fund NEARX $2.23 No Change U.S. Government Securities Ultra-Short Bond Fund UGSDX $1.99 No Change