Volatility is increasing in the U.S. markets making it more difficult to determine what direction your investments should take in 2015. When Oil slid from $100 to $50/barrel, the U.S. stock market rallied in anticipation that lower gasoline prices would allow consumers to spend this windfall somewhere more interesting than the pump, but that hasn’t happened yet. So far, all we’ve seen are layoffs in the oil patch and more price swings in the S&P 500. Europe is justifiably concerned about Greece and its willingness to resolve its debt crises. They keep talking and positioning as well as negotiating via the media with the Germans, but nothing significant has happened yet. So far this year, international markets have had some gains even slightly more than the U.S., but the structural problems outside the U.S. make us remain cautious. Over the past 6 years, the best place to invest your money has been the S&P 500. This index is likely a bit overvalued right now, and perhaps the international markets are a bit undervalued, but no one knows when the trend will change. It appears that the U.S. dollar will maintain the dominant currency for the foreseeable future making our exports more expensive. This does however, allow foreign companies to increase their sales to the U.S., likely making them more profitable. The U.S. has seen substantial job growth but minimal wage growth over the past year, which is encouraging news for corporate profits. We have yet to see consumer spending rebound to its pre great recession levels, but as more people get reemployed and old debts are repaid, the outlook for the U.S. appears to be the brightest around. How does this translate into your portfolio design? A large part of your portfolio will remain invested in the U.S. with some allocations hedged to the U.S. dollar in International stocks and bonds. Bond positions will remain primarily in U.S. corporations with some international exposure, but the U.S. looks like the place to be right now.
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