Inflation and interest rates are both moving higher. We see this trend continuing through year end. Fixed income markets, year to date 2018, are DOWN 4% to 9% depending on the duration of the bonds held. We believe this trend will continue with the over-all losses widening. Our portfolios avoided this down activity by keeping, on average, our maturities less than a year. We are benefitting as we own an abundance of floating rate issues. The rate re-sets every 90 days. A year ago, the rates were close to 1.5%. Today they are paying 3.5%. By next summer we expect 5%. The Federal Reserve Bank is committed, over the next two years, to shrinking the size of their massive balance sheet. The Fed is reducing the size of their reserves at the exact same time they will need to keep inflation from accelerating. This will result in higher interest rates.
To date, the stock market has ignored all issues that could be considered negative. The amount of speculation in stocks with no earnings, no cash flow, and increasing debt, is high. The complacency of investors willing to believe stocks can never go down is growing daily. Investors fearful they are missing out on performance, so they are “now” willing to put all their portfolio into aggressive stocks at all-time high prices, is also increasing daily. Their ability to consider potential risk is minimal.
Historically, all the above actions have spelled a top in stock prices. We believe this time is no different. Add in the coming major increase in interest rates and we see little reason to hold major stock positions.
We "are" holding our financial stocks. The growing cash dividends will continue. The higher interest rates are not a negative for the financials. Issues that benefit from higher commodity prices are also attractive.