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1st Quarter March 2015

Markets

The beginning of this year has been very volatile in accordance with the S&P 500 Index. January was negative, February was positive, and March was fairly flat. There is concern about oil prices. Are they low because demand is lower from places like Europe and China? Or because there is more supply with the U.S. Energy Renaissance? Many argue both. Will it help or hurt the economy? Jobs will be lost in producing states like North Dakota, but lower prices at the pump help consumers. The dollar is strong against other currencies, especially as the euro drops. Goldman Sachs has said that they think the euro will go to 85 or lower, against the dollar. That hurts exports from us to those countries. However, our economy is doing well, as recovery and growth continue and unemployment drops. The Fed is even talking about increasing interest rates this year. It may be in June, but many think it will be later, if at all. Knowing the direction of interest rates is as difficult as any other guessing game. Historically, if rates are rising due to increased growth, markets tend to pause and even go lower, but tend to recover quickly. Since inflation is low, slow increases in interest rates seem likely. We would all welcome some return on savings. It has also been hard on insurance companies and pension plans, who have to invest conservatively.

Strategy

I attend an investment strategy conference every year whose speakers are all hedge fund and private equity managers. These are managers that large pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, as well as wealthy individuals, invest with. While the minimum investment is generally in the millions of dollars, some do have mutual funds that we can access. It is very helpful to understand where their performance comes from and how they perceive markets and manage risk, since overall I believe the best hedge fund and private equity managers tend to have good performance relative to the markets. One theme that was clear is that technology is moving very fast. Information or "big data" is a big part of our growth story. Technology for everything, including healthcare, manufacturing, "the internet of things", and how we communicate, touches just about everything we do. One statistic I heard was that the average person checks their smartphone 155 times a day! Most retailers can track where we are if we have our smartphones with us. We buy more and more online and they know what we like and what our preferences are. We can turn on our car, our heat, unlock the door, check into our airline, etc. all on our device. The explosion of information is accelerating. Consensus from many of the managers was that we are still in the mid stages of an economic recovery. There are always many risks and at any time there could be disruptions. Collectively though, markets are "fairly" valued based on historical metrics, but lower returns are ahead for both stocks and bonds. Alternative types of investments, like hedge funds and other products, may help reduce risk overall. As these trends evolve, we will work towards better tools for you to be able to get the information you need from us.

Tax Season

As tax season winds down, be sure to let us know if we can assist you in any way, especially if anything has changed financially for you. It is always a good time to check your credit report to be sure no one has used your identity. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com.

Be Prepared

One additional thing I suggest is that you keep 2-4 weeks of cash in a safe. A recent USA Today article "Power Grid Left Open to Attacks", addresses the vulnerability of our electrical grid and what can happen when there is an extended electrical outage, caught my attention. I am not an extremist, but I do believe it is quite possible that we could experience an extended power outage, due to our aging infrastructure, specifically our electrical grid. I experienced it about ten years ago, at the office, when power went out for a few days from Detroit to New York. Also, recently during Christmas of 2013, for a few days at home, as many in our area were out of power for several days in a deep freeze and snow storm. No power could mean no internet and no cable. While we read a lot and had great family time, it can cause major problems on a larger scale for those without backup power - just a thought.

New Website and Email Addresses

We have updated our website and will soon be rolling out new email addresses. Check it out: www.StephensWMG.com. We hope you can find us online easier and find resources you need, such as details on each staff member, copies of the newsletters, and information on topics of interest like retirement planning, estate planning, and 401(k) plans. You can even log into your account at Raymond James. Our new email will end with @StephensWMG.com. It is shorter and easier to remember. Nothing else has changed. We hope you like the new site. Please give us your feedback and suggestions. We want it to be as helpful as possible.

Spring is long overdue for anyone in the Midwest or East Coast. We look forward to warmer, sunnier days and hope you had a very happy Easter season.

Best Regards,

Sherri

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Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Expressions of opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Any opinions are those of Sherri Stephens and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Stephens Wealth Management Group is independent of RJFS.
The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected.

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Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.