Financial Focus: Hoping for some Irish luck in March

Financial Focus: Hoping for some Irish luck in March

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By Michael E. Russell

Michael E. Russell

After a rocky start this past February, I am really looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day.

The world economy is showing resilience despite higher energy and food prices as well as rising borrowing costs. This is troubling in that the Federal Reserve may have to continue raising rates in order to bring inflation under control.

The World Bank has been blindsided by the growing vitality shown by the economies of the U.S., Europe and the surprising data coming out of China.

At the close of 2022, the World Bank was predicting that 2023 would be one of the weakest years for the economy in decades. Well, so much for having advanced degrees from the Wharton School and Harvard! I probably should not have said that, but couldn’t help it.

To explain, when the U.S. Central Bank raises rates, emerging markets borrowing costs rise causing currencies and exports to weaken. It is important to note that the 5 major emerging markets are Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia and China.

There is nothing in the near term that indicates that Fed policy has slowed growth and inflation. Many analysts are now saying that a recession will be delayed until 2024. Let us hope that they continue to be wrong! There was a cartoon in last week’s Wall Street Journal that says it all. At an economists meeting a speaker was looking at a report and stated, “This opinion is vague, it needs to be made extremely vague.” And so it goes, always certain but seldom right.

Even the brightest of the bright make mistakes. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has admitted that its plan to be the bank for everybody failed miserably. Goldman should have stayed with the business model that had worked for decades, managing the wealth of institutions and high net-worth individuals. This model has generated steady fees, no matter what the direction of the market. As an example, their Asset and Wealth unit generated almost $10 billion in profit last year. Why would they want to start servicing checking accounts? Wharton School, Harvard? Oops, sorry again.

Back to the market. February showed that inflation isn’t slowing as fast as expected. Bond and Stock markets underperformed as interest rates spiked. The 10 year treasury bond hit 4% while 1 and 2 year notes reached 5%. The S&P dropped 2 ½%, Dow Industrials down 4.2% and the Nasdaq down 1%.

U.S. equity funds declined by 2.2% cutting the yearly gain to less than 5%. Energy, Science and Technology were the best performers showing losses of less than 1%. At the close of February, Gold fell 5.5%, the worst loss in more than 18 months. Until inflation eases, Gold will probably continue to show losses.

This past week, Barron’s listed what it considers the 100 most sustainable U.S. companies. I have mentioned many of those companies in previous articles. One that I have strongly recommended is Nvidia [Nvda]. This stock was up 13% one day last week. I consider this U.S. company a long term holding in a portfolio. Nvidia is at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence [AI]. The U.S. government is partnering with Nvidia to help harness the power of A.I. to help solve some of society’s biggest challenges. [Purportedly]! They have now teamed with Microsoft to build a massive Cloud A.I. computer. The company has given robust forward guidance estimates for the next 5 years, thus my recommending holding for the long term. As a caveat, AMD is always a threat as well as Intel.  

Lastly, I really love these 2 year treasuries at 5%.

I hope each of you enjoy the coming spring which hopefully will bring lovely weather. On a closing note, happiest of birthdays to youngest son, Andrew Patrick, born on St. Patrick’s Day. Have one on me!!! 

Michael E. Russell retired after 40 years working for various Wall Street firms. All recommendations being made here are not guaranteed and may incur a loss of principal. The opinions and investment recommendations expressed in the column are the author’s own. TBR News Media does not endorse any specific investment advice and urges investors to consult with their financial advisor.