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Controlling Your Financial World

Between the harsh realities around the state of retirement savings in America, shifting headlines and data points creating confusion and the lack of time to properly address one’s own financial world, many investors find themselves in a hard spot. This week we discuss three keys to quieting the storm around your financial world, and the real role information and allocation need to play.


  1. Equity Markets – were mixed this week with U.S. stocks (S&P 500) down -0.07% while international stocks (EAFE) rose 0.55%

  2. Fixed Income Markets – fell this week with investment grade bonds (AGG) down -0.23% while high yield bonds (JNK) fell -0.31%

  3. Credit Bulls – Despite comments earlier this week from NY Fed President John Williams suggesting that credit conditions may continue to deteriorate as a result of March’s banking sector issues, Goldman Sachs reiterated its bullish conviction on U.S. credit. Goldman strategists argue that companies in the U.S. are less reliant on banks for capital than many other countries and that “large and highly rates firms can adapt to tighter bank lending standards.”

  4. U.S.-China Relations Sour – News broke this week that President Biden plans to sign an executive order limiting investment into China by American businesses, escalating a years-long economic campaign against China. The executive order is likely to be signed around the next G7 summit on May 19 and will pressure other members to support the action.

  5. Key Insight – [VIDEO & ARTICLE] Between the harsh realities around the state of retirement savings in America, shifting headlines and data points creating confusion and the lack of time to properly address one’s own financial world, many investors find themselves in a hard spot. This week we discuss three keys to quieting the storm around your financial world, and the real role information and allocation need to play.



One of the hardest things as an investor is resisting the urge to “do” something. Headlines scream, data points play tug-of-war with one’s emotions and investor sentiment swings back and forth.

All this within a backdrop where according to a recent study by the Journal of Accountancy investors biggest fear is running out of money, even for those considered “high net worth.” Bloomberg reported some dire savings info this week as well noting that 20% of those 59 and over don’t have a retirement account, and current estimates show a $7 trillion retirement savings shortfall. Such data may not impact the market, but it isn’t helping the noise around it.

Conflicting data, conflicting emotions wrapped up in a perpetual common fear and proven human “mental wiring” that causes our brains to confuse financial danger with mortal danger … does not result in a recipe for success.

However, you need not “control the financial world” to “control your financial world.”

Key steps to achieving a place of preparedness include:

  • Clearly defining your needs vs. your wants and/or hopes to avoid trading the former for the latter. Most people haven’t defined their budget or common expenses, let alone create a framework for working through trade-offs, all of which are critical.

  • Thinking of economic/financial data as a tool to quell your emotions by being prepared for what may lie ahead, as opposed to carrying the pressure of thinking you need to use data to predict the future.

  • Building a portfolio that can survive and succeed in a variety of market conditions through proper diversification and releasing the pressure of trying to time one’s asset allocation.

As we touched on many times before, we are always happy to take you through our unique planning process to help with #1 above, but today’s commentary will focus on addressing #2 and #3 below.

Where is the risk(iest) trade today?

Before we head into some actual economic data (fundamental), let’s explore investor sentiment and positioning (quantitative) to deduce what may lie ahead.

After a recent surge in bullishness in the AAII survey, this week’s survey saw sentiment moderate back into a “neutral” reading. However, the CNN Fear and Greed index that encompasses not only sentiment but also market momentum, positioning and options data (more on that momentarily) currently sits at a level associated with investor “GREED.” What does this all mean, for those that subscribe to a more contrarian approach to investing (e.g. “fade the crowd”) such levels would suggest caution but are not at extremes.

Speaking of positioning and options data. Remarkably, despite recent scares and the brutality of the last 15 months, recent futures data showed that investors are still NET short approx. 650,000 futures/options contracts on 10-year bonds, and NET long positions equity options. The myopic nature of many investors never ceases to surprise.

If, as the old adage goes, “the market will do whatever will hurt the most people” expect some renewed equity volatility and continued strength in many parts of the fixed income market as we head into the back half of the year.

So that’s how people “feel” but what about the “facts”?

Current economic data also seems to be indicating caution with the leading economic indicator index having now posted negative readings for twelve consecutive months (most recently -7.7% year over year) which historically has always resulted in a recession. Such an outlook is reinforced when one also considers a recessionary level reading of 46.3 in the latest ISM Manufacturing reading, an ISM service reading just barely above 50 (the line separating growth from contraction), continued declines in retail sales and housing, and continuing unemployment claims rising 37% over the last six months.

On top of this troubling “cake” sits the “cherry” data point which is a still solidly negative yield curve whether one wants to use the classic 10-year vs. 2-year yield (3.55% vs. 4.20%) or our preference of the 10-year minus the 3 month (3.55% vs. 5.04%). A negative yield curve is a strong historical indicator of slowing economic activity and a likely recession.

Such an environment is in part why you are likely hearing more and more from various Fed governors about a pause soon in rate hikes, alongside comments such as those from Fed Governor Loretta Mester this week that it wouldn’t take much of a shock at this point to trigger a recession.

The (Possible) Good News …

All is not lost however, which is why investors need to take this all in and prepare, but not panic. As noted by analyst Tom Essaye “it may seem odd to say that “economic uncertainty” would be something that’s supporting stocks, as it’s usually the opposite. But the uncertainty I’m referring to has to do with how bad the coming economic slowdown will be, because this is a unique time and if ever there’s been a legitimate chance for a very mild recession, it’s now, and it’s all because of the pandemic stimulus and tight jobs market.”

Furthermore, not all data is bad with global data actually surprising to the upside of late with the Eurozone posting a solid PMI reading of 53.9 and UK posting a reading of 54.4. Furthermore, here in the U.S. the most recent composite PMI reading jumped to an 11-month high as of 53.7.

Positioning for Unknowns

It is often said that “cash is king” while others counter with “cash is trash.” We’d say they both miss the mark and that “cash flow is king.” That is why we believe for most investors making sure to have a portfolio that generates cash is critical whether that’s to support one’s lifestyle/retirement today or be a powerful dollar-cost averaging tool to achieve one’s goals for tomorrow.

So, while we always build equity and alternative positions with that in mind, of late we’ve been adding exposure to investment grade bonds with longer durations within many our strategies for the first time in years and strongly encouraging clients to reduce any outstanding cash positions they may have.

If equity markets do face renewed volatility in the months ahead these positions will not only buffer volatility and be a good source for any needed cash, but also be a powerful tool to build wealth by rebalancing into any beat-up sectors of the market.

As always, have a wonderful weekend!

Tim and the team at TEN Capital


Data points this week included:

  • U.S. Jobless Claims – saw a 5,000 uptick of initial claims last week for a total of 245,000, the most in a month. Continuing claims also saw an unexpected increase to 1.865 million, the highest level since November 2021.

  • U.S. Housing Starts – fell 0.8% month-over-month in March for a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.42 million. Multi-unit starts fell 6.7% while single-family starts saw a 2.7% increase.

  • U.S. Existing Home Sales – fell 2.4% in March to an annualized rate of 4.44 million. Of the homes sold in March 65% were on the market for less than a month and first-time buyers accounted for 28% of sales.

  • U.K. Retail Sales – dropped 0.9% in March following a downwardly revised 1.1% improvement in February. For the quarter sales rose 0.6% for the first quarterly gain since 2021.

  • U.K. Employment – the unemployment rate for the UK rose 0.1% to 3.8% with the total number of unemployed reaching 1.29 million. Total pay growth also held steady at 5.9% year-over-year.

  • China Retail Sales – rose 10.6% year-over-year in March, far outpacing expectations of 7.4% growth. This marks the sharpest increase in retail trade since June 2021.
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