A Letter from Our Founder: Q1 Takeaways and Opportunities
As we turn our calendars to the second quarter, it’s a great time to take a step back and reflect on the expected and unexpected events of Q1 2023.
Alongside unprecedented rain and snowfall throughout Los Angeles and southern California, the markets also faced continued volatility as the quarter marked increased pressure from the Federal Reserve (Fed) and ongoing collapse throughout the banking sector. However, I’ve always stood by the mantra, “every calamity presents an opportunity” – and events in the first months of 2023 no doubt fall into both categories. Let’s explore what we are up against and where we turn our focus moving forward as we enter a new quarter.
More Uncertainty in the New Year
We are all still recovering from 2022, which was one of the most challenging years we have witnessed in our 26 plus year firm history. While we have experienced broader and more violent declines in the equity markets, we have not simultaneously experienced such a significant pull back in the fixed income markets, which have historically been a safe haven in difficult economic periods.
We have now experienced four significant stock market pullbacks with our clients over the past 26 years. The first one was the bursting of the tech bubble and the horrific 9/11 attack which led the markets downwards from 2000-2003; the second was the financial crisis where many major banks and financial institutions melted down and collapsed from 2007-2009; the next was the sharp downturn in the first quarter of 2020 from the Covid pandemic and most recent was the broad markets and asset sell off in 2022 in response to far greater inflation than anticipated leading to a record number of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.
The Continued Fed Impact and Implosion of the Banking Sector
One of the oldest sayings in the financial world is “You can’t fight the Fed.” The Fed has the broad ability to impact and influence the direction of the financial markets, as we saw last December through raising their Fed funds rate half a percentage point to 4.50%. As inflation moved from transitory to a real issue requiring policy changes, we experienced what may have been the worst year in history for the bond markets. Arguably, the bump up in the markets in January were mostly predicated on the Federal Reserve changing its policy from hiking rates to neutral or possibly even to lowering rates by the end of this year due to softness in the overall economy.
However, the Fed in Q1 increased interest rates twice more, and the Federal funds benchmark borrowing rate is now in a 4.75-5% target range. We have been debating the hidden and unpredictable impact of the almost unprecedented Fed increase in the past year. It’s now obvious to all that while the Fed has been focused on bringing down inflation, their actions also may have led to a mini financial crisis in March, when we saw three major banks implode in only days. Other regional banks continue to trade as if they’re in deep distress and possibly also facing impending takeovers. While all depositor funds are seemingly safe due to the U.S. Treasury’s actions protecting depositors, we still saw panic in the banking system like we haven’t witnessed since 2008.
One likely impact is that future bank lending will slow down considerably, and the likelihood of a future recession has increased significantly. We have also seen a flight to quality in the U.S. government bond market as investors crave the safety of U.S. Bonds and have moved funds to institutions they deem safer.
JSF Client Account Assurance
In 2008, we at JSF decided to maintain the custody of our client funds at Fidelity and National Financial Services. These firms do not provide direct investment banking services. Because they have no banking arm, the companies have no exposure to banks – which we have seen with recent events could breach capital requirements or make ill-conceived investments that end up declining steeply in value. Fidelity states it does not utilize proprietary trading strategies and only executes trades at the client direction. Please view this brochure about the safety and protections of your accounts at Fidelity Investments and NFS.
What’s Emerging on the Q2 Horizon?
While it’s impossible to know when the market bottoms, the market pendulum tends to swing too far in either direction ending in fear and capitulation. Hindsight and experience teach us though that not only is it imperative to stay invested through the market volatility but those rewarded most are the ones who have the courage to remain invested and allocate more into the areas of the market most out of favor. In fact, most experts could not have foreseen the broad stock and bond market rally we witnessed in January, especially in light of decreasing corporate profits and the threats of a looming recession. Dollar cost averaging in pensions and 401k’s are one of the best approaches to continuously investing through strong and weak markets, no matter the inevitable human emotions of greed and fear to different market cycles.
Different traditional signals are telling us that a recession is on the horizon in 2023. However, by the time a recession is declared, the markets have usually begun rallying on the hopes of better days ahead, often through monetary and fiscal stimulus supporting consumers and businesses.
A year ago you received virtually no interest on your cash, whether in the bank, money market accounts or US treasuries. Today, depositors are receiving attractive yields on their cash, far higher than what anyone has received in years. This has led many to explore options to significantly increase the yields on their deposits in comparison to the low amounts of interest they are still receiving on bank deposits.
Real estate downturns typically lag the financial markets by about 12 months. Interest and mortgage rates are far higher than we have seen in years, and this will likely put a lot of pressure on different parts of the real estate market in 2023.
In light of the world conflicts and the ongoing atrocities in the Ukraine, we are reminded how fortunate we are to live in a great country like the United States. A year ago, we couldn’t imagine Russia invading Ukraine yet alone the conflict still raging over a year later.
This decade has already provided us two of what we affectionately call “Black swan events,” between the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war. These events reinforce that in life we always need to be ready for the unexpected because unfortunately nothing is linear. We are concerned about the inherent economic challenges from a possible recession and from decreased business lending along with the potential impact locally from a possible Writers Guild strike. Please let us know if there have been any significant changes in your life where a meeting will be helpful to review or recalibrate any goals, needs and/or planning expectations.
I don’t take your trust in our firm lightly and our team will do whatever possible to work together with you to help navigate through the inevitable challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2023 and beyond.
The information expressed herein are those of JSF Financial, LLC, it does not necessarily reflect the views of NewEdge Securities, Inc. Neither JSF Financial LLC nor NewEdge Securities, Inc. gives tax or legal advice. All opinions are subject to change without notice. Neither the information provided, nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation or recommendation for the purchase, sale or holding of any security. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested in directly.
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Dollar Cost Averaging-Dollar-cost averaging involves investing the same amount of money in a target security at regular intervals over a certain period of time, regardless of price.