BREXIT! Why Is This Not Bigger Than Greek Crisis?

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Unless you follow global current or financial events you would not know that on Thursday the British

will vote on whether to stay in the European Union and be part of the Euro-currency – and by extension

stay part of the fledgling European economic experiment.  This event has been dubbed the “Brexit”

vote, short for “British Exit”.

You may recall (whether you liked it are not) that the sky seemed to be falling according most media

a few years ago when Greece was defaulting on their debts and the rest of Europe was struggling to keep

them solvent and, more importantly, within the Union.  The Greeks were, and still are, threatening to

leave the European Union (Grexit) due to what they see as unreasonable loan terms and draconian budget cuts

imposed upon them by other European countries as conditions for bailing Greece out of debt.

So, why does the Brexit vote not seems as pressing and news-worthy as the Greek financial crisis?

Major analyst and money managers have been sounding alarms for some time now yet, in comparison to the Greek crisis, things seem quiet – until recently.  Why?

It could be because the European Central Banks were able to kick this proverbial can down the road long enough, coupled with the vast selection of eye-catching, global headlines, that the Brexit story was kept off the main-stream media roles to some extent.  Maybe it is because the global markets are in unprecedented territory that a ‘wait and see’ or ‘paralysis by analysis’ attitude has taken hold.

Saint-Laurent Associates does not profess to know the future.  We prepare our clients for likely events based on experience and data.  As many know, we have been advising about market corrections and volatility for various reasons, the European Union being just one of them.

The bottom line is that with polls and experts basically equally divided, and data being scarce on this type of experiment, we find it best to be heavily weighted in cash, liquid or mostly conservative strategies for the near term.  

If anyone needs clarification or help with this, or any life-decisions, contact us.

Richard St-Laurent

5 Star Professional Wealth Manager Award Winner

 

We Have Seen This Before…….

July 10, 2015 by  
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……..but the ending may be very different.

If you follow our newsletters, articles and advice you know that we think a market correction
is imminent, and for that matter, healthy for long term growth. Of course, no one can predict
exactly when and how severe a correction may be. But we can be prepared for potential volatility.

Adhering to the time tested rule that preventing losses is the best way to higher average gains
we continue to stress reallocating assets into more tactical strategies. One such manager we
utilize to address growth and capital preservation in unsure markets, Tuttle Tactical Management.
Below is a short commentary by Matthew Tuttle, founder of Tuttle Tactical Management, on the
current, tumultuous global financial state.

If we have not spoken about reallocating your investments accordingly, please contact us to do so.
As always we are here to discuss anything with you.

Richard St-Laurent

“We Have Seen This Before

——————————————————————————–

Besides getting to ring the closing bell on the NASDAQ (video here if you missed it) yesterday pretty much stunk in the markets. As I write this at 5am EST the futures are up pretty big indicating a retracement of at least half of yesterday’s move and Chinese stocks finally had an up day. We have seen similar versions of this story over and over again the past couple of years—turmoil overseas creates a bunch of volatility here and scares everyone for a while and then our markets snap back and forget all about it. Right now this is what this looks like to us. If the selloff continues we will continue to scale out of the markets, if it reverses we will scale back into markets. Being tactical right now is more important than ever as we will be prepared to act accordingly no matter which direction this market goes in.

So what is going on?

Greece—We continue to believe that Greece, in and of itself, doesn’t really matter, but the Eurozone does. If Greece gets a sweetheart deal then other countries will think they can also spend beyond their means. Remember that all things being equal politicians would prefer spending vs. austerity. If Greece gets kicked out of the Euro and can actually make a go of it that might inspire other countries to leave. A breakup of the Euro would probably be a mess.

China–This is a bigger deal than Greece as the Chinese market is declining in spite of aggressive central bank easing. We have been conditioned to believe that stocks can’t fall as long as central banks are easing, China could be a canary in the coal mine.

Trading Glitch on the NYSE– Not sure how much, if at all, this impacted trading yesterday but if it turns out to have been a hacker that could shake confidence in the markets a bit. I have seen no news stories that are hinting at this but in this day and age you have to at least ask the question.

We have long said that this bull market will eventually end, and when it does it will be ugly. None of these issues as they are today are enough to end it, but if they spiral out of control then they could be the catalyst that finally does. The S&P 500 is right on its 200 day moving average so this will be a key level to watch as there could be a bunch of selling if that level is breached and a bunch of buying if it holds. For now in the US pre markets and in the overseas markets they buyers are winning out.”

http://tuttletactical.com/

2014 Year End & 1st Quarter 2015 Market Review / Outlook

March 17, 2015 by  
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First Quarter, 2015 Market Review & Updates

Our Investors have benefited from the stock market recovery, which began in March 2009.  Most market indices collectively trended higher in a low-interest rate environment as corporate earnings improved in a lackluster economy stimulated only by the low interest rate environment.

If the U.S. economic growth continues to improve at a slow, but steady pace, the Federal Reserve Bank is likely to postpone raising interest rates, a key factor of stock market growth the last five years.   At present, we have lower oil and gasoline prices, which will contribute to low inflation, and hopefully low enough not to warrant an interest rate increase.   Historically, the Federal Reserve begins to raise rates when the annual GDP (Growth Domestic Product) rate hits 3%.  It is expected that GDP will hit 3% in 2015.  However, if the U.S. workforce doesn’t see a significant rise in wages, and consumer prices remain steady, the FED is likely to postpone raising interest rates.  This may prolong the economic expansion and the bull market in stocks.

Since the stock market’s current valuation level had surpassed the historical average, we probably won’t see annual gains as large as what we experienced for the past few years.  We are not likely to realize annual gains of over 20% and beyond, in 2015.  With the market’s multiple a few points above the historical average, annual gains of approximately 10% would be more reasonable.   There is still room for expansion in the market if the U.S. economy continues to post gains as measured by annual GDP growth, and the revenue/ earnings growth of individual companies.

No one should expect that the average price-earnings ratio of the market will be a great indicator of how the market will perform going forward.  The market’s direction will have more to do with the health of the economy.   We can expect modest sell-offs for profit-taking throughout 2015.  Corrections of 10% would likely be the result of some significant negative news that would affect a large portion of the world’s economy, or an event that would trigger fear in the markets.

Since the U.S. economy is showing steady increases, as measured by GDP growth, the market is likely to end 2015 higher than it is now.  That is, if annual GDP growth hits the estimate of over 3% this year.  We can expect sell-offs along the way, but the overall direction of the market should continue upwards as the economy continues to show increases.

Rather than try to figure out when the FED will raise interest rates, it pays to simply ride an uptrend using solid risk management strategies.  The smartest way to stay safe is to diversify, not just within assets classes but with various strategies.  In times like these, and during uninterrupted uptrend’s, many investors become complacent.  That is usually a mistake.   To effectively grow wealth over the long term and to mitigate overall risk, one proven strategy is dollar-cost- averaging.  This strategy takes emotion and the guesswork of trying to time the market out of the equation.           

When asked what makes Saint-Laurent Associates different than other investment advisors or financial services firms we note one of many facts, not least of which is that we will not follow what we consider to be outdated planning or investment strategies.  We continue to strive to seek out more current, non-traditional means to stop investors from utilizing outdated methods pushed by the main-stream financial services industry such as the “Buy and Hold” and “Modern Portfolio Theory”.  Sometimes tactical investment, alternative investments and certain guaranteed contracts need to be considered.

Stock markets can be a roller coaster – record gains – or big letdowns.  Either way, it is always best to reduce volatility.  Also, to help you sleep easier at night we follow through with income planning, in order to ensure that you don’t run out of money in your retirement years.

Remember how content everyone was while we had such a great market run before 2008?  So is it Déjà vu, all over again?  How can you be prepared for this type of market correction, again?

The short answer be prepared for inevitabilities market corrections as in 2000 and 2008.  Because many do not have strategies in place to fit their risk tolerance, even worse, most investors think their tolerance to risk is much higher than it truly is. 

How do you determine your true risk tolerance?  The basic answer is to ask the proper questions in the first place, in a format that anyone can understand quickly.  Contrary to what you may thing, most conventional risk questionnaires are not easy to understand, nor complete and can be ambiguous.  For instance, answer the following question yourself: If you suffer a 30 percent loss in your portfolio overnight, what percentage gain would be required to bring you back to even?” You would be surprised how many people answer, “30 percent.” However, a client who suffers 30 percent loss followed by a 30 percent gain is still down 15 percent.

What if we told you that you could rest easily knowing you had no down-side risk and only have to participate in 27% of the up-side of any annual stock market in order to beat average returns? The chart below proves this is possible.  The key is to control the losses, or another term we like to use: reduce “draw-downs”!                                                    

How do we reduce the draw-downs? By utilizing proper tactical strategies that limit draw-downs.

The bottom line is we may have the best investment advice and strategies available but if we are recommending them based upon a flawed assumptions – including unrealistic risk tolerances – then optimal results are unlikely.

Call us for a free, detailed risk tolerance assessment of your work retirement savings and personal investments.  If you can’t meet, we now have a quick and easy to understand process that you can take in the comfort of your own home.

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As always, we recommend regular reviewing of your estate and elder care plans, pending life – changing decisions, investments strategies, insurance coverage’s, or just want to ask our opinion of anything, please contact us.  Many problems and damage to family relations can result from incomplete estate planning.

It is necessary that we, as your financial advisors, have certain estate planning documents on file to make sure that accounts can be quickly and easily transitioned to surviving spouses and, or beneficiaries.  If not, assets may likely be held up in probate court for months and, or subjected to potential law suits, while costing you hundreds or thousands in fees. Contact us to review your estate planning documents and recommend an attorney if necessary.

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Please be advised the IRS has changed rules on IRA to IRA rollovers. Beginning January 1st, owners can rollover only one time per year.  If this new rule is violated, the ineligible funds will be treated as taxable distributions to the IRA owner and contributions to the IRA receiving the funds. In addition, if in violation, IRA owners are subject to a 6% penalty on the amount of the receiving IRA each year until removed.

Also, many companies have made changes that benefit the employees in company sponsored 401k, 403b and other benefit plans. Now employees can roll-over part of their company retirement plans to their own self-directed IRA. This is great for consumers because it allows for more options, assets classes, strategies and lower costs.

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According to a recent Christian Science Monitor article

“Assets in 529 college savings plans (which differ from 529 prepaid tuition plans) fell from a record high in the first quarter to $157.5 billion in the second quarter – a 0.5 percent decrease, according to Financial Research Corp. (FRC) in Boston. In the third quarter of 2011, net inflows were negative – more funds flowed out than flowed in – the first time that happened since the middle of the Great Recession. In the first half of this year, net inflows were nearly 7 percent below the same period last year and about 60 percent below The second quarter’s $2.9 billion in net inflows (contributions minus withdrawals) were 12 percent lower than they were a year earlier, and down nearly half from their prerecession heyday in the mid-2000s.”

Consequently, many are realizing that whole life insurance, especially cash value life insurance, as a college savings tool is a better option. After the stock market crash in 2008, many have stopped contributing to 529 plans for their children’s education and instead began using cash value life insurance for college savings.

The reason is – no surprise – safety.  Taking a hit to your investment portfolio is one thing. You have to expect that to a certain degree. But when your children’s college savings starts losing value, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

IMPORTANT: Not just any life insurance policy will do if  being used as an investment vehicle.  Talk to us to make sure you choose the proper insurance policy and a highly rated company.

As always, we recommend that you schedule a meeting with us, at regular intervals, and as soon as possible.

 

Mass. Senior Investor Education Conference

June 7, 2013 by  
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finan plan raised wordsFrom: Massachusetts Securities Division

Sent: Monday, May 13, 2013 10:10 AM

Subject: 2013 Survey Regarding Fiduciary Duty

Dear Investment Adviser:

We are contacting you with respect to two important issues.

First, on June 14, 2013, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., the Securities Division is hosting a Senior Investor Education Conference at the State House.  The conference is designed to help seniors avoid fraudulent investments and give them the tools they need to protect their savings.

 We urge you to inform your clients of this free event.  Space is limited and investors wishing to attend must register via our website (link below) or by returning a brochure.  We suggest investors register early to secure a spot.  You can find more information regarding the conference (or register for it) on our website at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/InvestorComplaint/sctconf.aspx.  Brochures regarding the conference are available from our office and are available upon request by calling us at (617) 727-3548.  

Secondly, on Friday, the Division mailed all state-registered investment advisers located in Massachusetts a survey relating to fiduciary duty.  The survey was prompted by a request for information made by the SEC for “data and other information” regarding the fiduciary and suitability standards.  As you may know, the SEC is considering changing the standard of care owed by investment advisers and broker-dealers and making one uniform standard.  By collecting this information from you, we will be able to inform the Commission of investment advisers’ views on the subject, as your firm could be significantly impacted by the Commission’s decisions.  We encourage you to respond candidly to the survey questions in order to provide critical information for the Commission’s consideration.

To ensure your views are incorporated, please complete and return this survey by Friday, May 24, 2013 to the following address:

Massachusetts Securities Division

Attn:  Fiduciary Duty Survey

One Ashburton Place, 17th Floor

Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1552

Alternatively, you may scan and return the survey to this e-mail address.  If you have any questions, please contact the Division at (617) 727-3548.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

The Massachusetts Securities Division

Sound Financial Advice

January 17, 2010 by  
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The best advice you can get is sound financial advice. Sounds simple, but it is really hard to find. That is why you need the professionals at Saint-Laurent … We are firmly dedicated to your financial success.

We are on the watch for the municipal bond issues of the profligate spenders!

January 17, 2010 by  
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We are on the watch for the municipal bond issues of the profligate spenders!

The three biggest categories of debt in the United State are the debt of the federal government and its agencies, mortgage-backed debt, and municipal bonds. Over the past decade, the municipal markets have moved from being safe haven to a $2.5 trillion active market, complete with its own indices, ETFs, and credit default swaps. The size and sophistication of the muni market masks the following current sources of instability.
 
1. The states have, for years, been underfunding their pension plans, while at the same time, adding to their rolls. There are, currently, large gaps between the present value of the promised benefits and the value of the assets available to pay them. This is a structural problem that will not go away without a number of years of extraordinary investment returns, a reduction of benefits, increased taxes, or a combination of all three. At the same time, other state-mandated spending (schools, medical support, and public assistance) has increased to more than 50% of revenues that states take in via taxes. This higher mandated spending has not been matched by the politically unpopular solution of increased taxes. Instead, it has been addressed in large part by issuing bonds.
 
2. In the current economic downturn, the main sources of state revenues – property, income, and sales taxes – have all taken a hit. If a home has declined in value, then, with some delay, the property assessment will also fall. Houses that stand vacant often do not pay taxes, and homeowners in default on their mortgages are unlikely to pay property taxes. Tax receipts will not recover until house prices gat back above their pre-crisis levels. And house prices will not recover until the unemployment situation ameliorates.
 
In recent years, there has been a change in our national understanding of the sacred nature of contracts. We have seen untold numbers of homeowners default on mortgages with the justification that the bank should never have lent them the money. We have seen the banks improvidently speculate with other peoples’ money and then justify it by saying that they were only doing what the customer wanted. This same mentality is evident in the municipal governments. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania councilwoman Susan Brown Wilson exemplified the ominous trend when she said recently, “By no means should the citizens of Harrisburg alone be strapped with the debt created eight years ago by a prior administration.” Are we not responsible for what past administrations have done? Isn’t that principle what secures any bond issuance? If Mrs. Wilson’s attitude is becoming the prevailing attitude, muni bonds are nothing more than colorful paper
The number of muni bonds on dealer desks wanting bids is as large as at any time in history. Maybe this is dumb money getting out, creating a golden opportunity. (The more bonds available on the market, the more the price for those bonds declines.) But it could be smart money running from a market that has many of the characteristics of the pre-2008 mortgage markets: lack of transparency, legal obscurity, inflated values, and deteriorating economics. That’s a risk we, as investors cannot afford to ignore.
 
We are confident that municipal bond issues invested through Saint-Laurent Advisors are placed with reputable investment managers, who are actively attempting to identify problem states and municipalities. Those questionable muni bonds are being culled from portfolio, and replaced with quality issues. Among those of particular interest are bonds issued by California, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, and New York.
 
Liken this problem with a few “bad apples” in the barrel. Because of the rumors of municipal default in some states, the municipal bond market is painted with the same brush, and is currently in decline. Not all of the municipal bonds are in danger of default, but we have begun selling out of certain muni investments of particular concern.
 

If you have questions about any municipal investments in your portfolio, and you wish to review, please call to arrange a meeting.

 

 

 

Cordially,
 
Richard St-Laurent
 

 

Saint-Laurent Advisors & Associates

100 Cummings Center, 322A
Beverly, MA 01915
Tel: (978) 232-9990 ·    Email: rst@StLaurentPro.com