Which Market?

The NASDAQ is soaring this year despite the political turmoil, racial tensions, and a global pandemic. It has risen 18% so far, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down as it climbs a wall of worry. A few media outlets and financial experts are referring to the rise as a bubble. Market Watch had this to say about the stock market, “If you still do old-fashioned, cold analytical analysis based on numbers, you’ll see that the stock market is significantly above the mother of support zones. It is now a bubble.”[1]

When individual investors refer to the market, it is the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Is it up? Is it down? Will it keep rising, or will it crash? If the Dow falls more than 250 points, it’s considered breaking news even though it’s less than a 1 percent decline. The Dow Jones gets all the attention, but what about other markets? Is it fair to lump all markets together? What about the other indices?

Morningstar tracks more than 84,000 indices or markets, so when someone asks what I think about the market, I wonder which one they’re referencing. If you own a diversified portfolio of funds, you probably have exposure to dozens of markets.

To find out if the market is overvalued, let’s dissect a traditional 60/40 portfolio – 60% stocks, 40% bonds.

Large-Cap Growth Stocks. This sector has been red hot for more than a decade. The primary fund for this asset class is the Invesco QQQ Trust – The Qs! Stocks in this index include Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, Tesla, NVIDIA, and Netflix. This star-studded index is up more than 490% for the past ten years, and it is up 24% on the year. If stocks are in a bubble, it’s this sector.

Large-Cap Value Stocks. Value stocks have trailed growth stocks by a wide margin for the past few decades, and this year is no different. The Vanguard Value ETF is down 16% for the year and up 115% for the past ten. Companies in this index include Johnson & Johnson, Berkshire Hathaway, Exxon Mobil, Pepsi, and Amgen.

International Developed Markets. International stocks have barely budged for the past ten years, rising a paltry 24%. The MSCI EAFE Index (EFA) is down 10.2% for the year, hardly a bubble. Companies in this sector include Nestle, Novartis, Toyota, and Unilever.

International Emerging Markets. This sector is one of the worst-performing asset classes over the past decade. It has risen 6.4% – total, not per year. A $10,000 investment a decade ago is now worth $10,640. Popular stocks in this category include Alibaba, Tencent, JD.com, and Baidu.

Small-Cap Growth. This sector is showing some life this year because it invests in growth stocks. It is up 2.25% for the year, and it has risen 233% for the past decade. Stocks in this index include DocuSign, Moderna, Teledoc, The Trade Desk, and Pool Corp.

Small-Cap Value. As far as US stocks go, few have fared worse than this sector, falling more than 23%. In the past ten years, it has generated an 87% total return. Small-cap and value have been a disastrous combination this year. Companies in this index include PerkinElmer, Allegion, Gaming and Leisure Properties, and ON Semiconductor.

Mid-Cap Index. Mid-Cap stocks are down 6.6% for the year. Over the past ten years, they’re up 171%. This sector includes companies like Lululemon, Splunk, Chipotle, and Clorox.

International Small-Cap. This international sector is down 12.4% for the year, but up 57% over the past ten years. Companies in this index include Rightmove, Bechtle, and Avast.

Real Estate. Working from home (WFH) is taking a toll on real estate stocks. Malls, shopping centers, office buildings, and senior living centers are not doing well in the COVID-19 environment. Does it make sense to allocate money to this sector with all the negative headwinds? I believe it does because real estate stocks will also give you exposure to data centers, cell towers, storage units, and timber. Real estate stocks are down 16% for the year and up 63% for the past decade.

Short-Term Bonds. Short-term US government bonds are the safest investment in the world. They have risen .42% for the past decade, and they’re up .32% on the year. Treasury bills are shelter investments, providing you with liquidity and safety.

High-Yield (Junk) Bonds. Lower rated bonds, known as high-yield or junk bonds, trade more like stocks than bonds, especially when stocks fall. Junk bonds have lost money for the past ten years, falling 12%, and they’re down 6.75% in 2020. A few names in this sector include Ford, American Airlines, and Netflix.

Corporate Bonds. Corporate bonds are having a good year, rising 6.2%. They have risen 26% for the past decade. Companies in this category typically have strong balance sheets. A few quality names in this sector include Anheuser-Busch, Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle.

Gold. Gold typically does well when investors or scared or there is a hint of inflation. This year gold has risen 18%, and over the past decade, it has risen 42%.

Commodities. A commodity index includes gold, oil, sugar, soybeans, corn, copper, zinc, silver, etc. It has been a challenging decade for commodities, losing 14%. This year it is up 7% rising on the strength of gold, silver, and copper.

Your portfolio may include some of these components. At the start of this year, it would have made sense to allocate 100% of your assets to large-cap growth companies, but it’s not possible to know, in advance, which sector will outperform the others. For example, from 2000 to 2010, the large-cap growth index lost 49%, while emerging markets rose 102%.

So, is the market in a bubble? It depends on the market, of course. One of the best ways to protect your assets is to own a diversified portfolio of low-cost funds and rebalance them as needed. Rebalancing your accounts will keep your asset allocation and risk level intact.

Rather than worrying if we’re in a bubble and trying to time your buys and sells, focus on your goals, think long-term, and let the stock market help you create generational wealth.

History shows us, over and over, that bull markets can go well beyond rational valuation levels as long the outlook for the future earnings is positive.” ~ Peter Bernstein

July 11, 2020

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ from those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren’t suitable for every investor.

The data source for the investment categories, names, and returns come from YCharts.

[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-latest-sign-of-a-stock-market-bubble-small-companies-claiming-to-disrupt-large-industries-2020-07-06, by Nigam Arora, July 7, 2020