Sherri’s Sidebar

2nd Quarter March 2015

Markets

The headlines are full of negative news and the markets are reflecting the volatility. Greece is making headlines as they voted “no” by referendum, essentially rejecting the austerity measures that the European Union is demanding. They are a small country, relatively speaking, in terms of their GDP. Most economists and money managers are not overly concerned about the economic impact of Greece leaving the Union, as the banks in Europe have had a couple of years to shore up balance sheets and offload some of the Greek debt. However, for citizens living in Greece, life is challenging as they cannot withdraw money from banks and unemployment rates are very high. It may also cause hardship in Europe for future policy in the Eurozone.

In the meantime, the markets in China are down 30%. Stocks are widely held by individuals there and the negative impact to savings, along with new restrictions on small and medium size business’s access to capital, will be very problematic for growth. Their government is injecting capital along with stock exchanges, which seems to be propping up markets for now. However, slower growth and consumer spending in China means fewer exports from Europe and the U.S. It may also be a part of the reason why oil prices and commodities have dropped lately.

The U.S. is still the bright spot. Our economy continues to chug along and the dollar remains strong. There will be opportunities to invest more overseas as prices become cheaper. While still in recovery, U.S. markets are not inexpensive. It is important to keep diversification front and center. Most are still expecting an interest rate rise sometime this year and bond markets have adjusted in anticipation of that possibility. Diversification is more important than ever as currencies, interest rates, commodities and markets around the world adapt to their changing circumstances. Expect flat returns so far overall.

Continuing Education

Jason attended an annual Morningstar conference recently in Chicago. They are a leading research group as well as developers of technology in our industry that provide tools and research for mutual funds, separate account managers, and ETFs, as well as individual stocks and bonds. Along with keynote speakers, Dr. David Kelly from J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Jeremy Grantham from GMO, was Sallie Krawcheck former Bank of America executive and president of Pax Ellevate Asset Management. “Ellevate is a broadly diversified mutual fund that invests in the highest rated companies worldwide in advancing women’s leadership.” She discussed statistics around the retirement crisis, i.e. that most Americans have under-saved for retirement. In her view, the retirement crisis is really a women’s crisis as they make up 80% of resident and nursing homes currently!

We are passionate about helping families provide financially for their aging parents, grandparents and those with health issues. We are aware that with that comes a complete set of other challenges around how to coordinate resources, insurance, legal matters, etc. It will become one of the centerpieces for financial planning for the future. Plan to hear more from us on this topic.

On the Web

You may have noticed our new email addresses as well as corporate Facebook page. Like us! As we are working on building our presence on social media, this newsletter and other information, hopefully of interest to you, are always available on our website, StephensWMG.com.

Happy Summer!

Summer has finally arrived in Michigan. We hope you will be able to enjoy time with family and friends. It is my favorite time of year. It is hard to imagine as I spend time on our wonderful Great Lakes that parts of our country live in severe drought. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of maximum water capacity, stores water from the Colorado River for delivery to homes, businesses and farms in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. As of Thursday, 6/25/15, water levels in Lake Mead were at its lowest since 1937, (Source: Lake Mead water database).We are very lucky to have that resource.

Financial Market Update* Year-to-date change as of June 30, 2015
S&P 500 Index 1.23%
Morningstar Commodities
Broad Basket Category -2.63%
MSCI EAFE US$ (International) 5.52%
Barclay US Aggregate Bond -0.10%
*Indexes are for illustrative purposes only. One cannot invest directly in any index. Assumes dividends are reinvested.
Source: Morningstar

Warmest Regards,

Sherri

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