One of the common investing beliefs is that index investing – buying exposure to an entire index like the S&P 500 through a single investment – provides an extra layer of safety through diversification.
On the surface, it makes sense. Take the S&P 500 for example. With the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), you are buying into a basket of 500 companies, and so in theory you are spreading out your risk over all those companies.
But what many investors overlook is how the index is weighted toward a handful of companies. This means your return is mostly based on the performance of just a few companies.
The Top 10 Holdings’ Impact
For the SPY ETF, the top 10 holdings account for 26.86% of the total assets. The remaining 490 companies account for 73.14% of the total assets.
And out of those top 10 holdings, Microsoft makes up a full 6% of the ETF’s total assets. Meanwhile, Apple makes up 5.78% and Amazon is 4.49%. So, just three companies account for 16.27% of the ETF.
Think about how that skews your returns. For every $1 you invest in the SPY, $0.26 is riding on the performance of just 10 companies.
Those companies can do well in instances similar to this recent bull market rally. When it does, it can keep the overall index floating along despite what the “other” 490 companies are doing.
As Brett Arends points out in a recent MarketWatch column, since the March 23 lows, 30% of the S&P 500’s gains have come from just six stocks.
“Since the brief market euphoria peaked early last month, for example, casino stocks have fallen 18% on average, department stores 19%, hotels, resorts and cruise lines 25%, and airlines 28%, according to market data provider FactSet. American Airlines has fallen 40%, United 35% and Southwest 18%. MGM Resorts has lost a third of its value. Carnival, another 40%. Macy’s is down another 30%.”
Plunges Started During the Recent Rally
Arends points out that those massive plunges aren’t since the initial market dive in February, but since the recent rally.
“Those aren’t the stock falls since the crisis began in late February. These are the declines just since the early June “recovery” rally. Measured from the start of the year their declines in many cases are catastrophic,” said Arends.
“The notion that equity indexes are somehow risk-free states has to my mind always been a dangerous fallacy which has been amplified by the rise of passive investing,” said Mark Urquhart, a money manager at Baillie Gifford. “Actually, all three of the significant market crises which my career has contained—technology, media and telecoms (TMT), the financial crisis and now the coronavirus—have been linked by so much damage being done to particular parts of the index that it demolishes the thesis that index investing can diversify away such risk.”
Economist Robert Shiller, a Nobel prize winner, points out that right now S&P 500 index is valued at 30 times the average per-share earnings of the past decade. The index has only matched or exceeded that level twice since records began in the 1880s: In 2000, and 1929. Both of those instances preceded a significant market crash.
If you are looking for true diversification with an index fund and you don’t want just 10 holdings making up 26% of a fund’s assets, consider an equal-weighting index fund or ETF. With an equal-weighted fund, each holding is the same amount of the overall fund.
Gold ‘Frenzy’ To Build Around Election, Platinum Could Soar 50% By Year-End
Peter Hug, head of the precious metal division at Kitco, believes the Fed’s decision to hold interest rates at near-zero through at least 2023 is bullish for precious metals and particularly gold. He also mentioned the road platinum can head to by the year’s end.
“About three Fed meetings ago they indicated they would hold rates at pretty much zero through the end of 2021 into early ‘22, today they’ve extended that by an additional year, there have been some analysts that are suspecting they will keep rates at zero right through 2024, so we’ve got another almost four years of zero interest rates to look forward to,” said Hug.
“The Fed being a bit more accommodative on inflation indicates to me that it’s a very positive environment for hard assets in general but I think the metals as well will continue to move higher over the next period of time based on the dovishness of the Fed, global central banks and the uncertainty of the US election coming up in about six weeks.”
The State of the Gold and Silver Markets
Hug said the current consolidation phase is a great sign of the overall health of the gold and silver markets. This comes after the frenzy in the gold and silver markets about a month ago.
“The market has been consolidating, which is a very good sign, especially for gold. Gold has been consolidating between our support level of 1925 and 1975 for the better part of two weeks. Silver seems to be between $26.50 – $27.50 range and consolidating as well. The fact that people are not selling into a market that is as frenetic as it was a month or six weeks ago, indicates to me that this market is setting up for the next leg higher once we get through this consolidation phase.”
Availability and Premiums
The gold and silver markets are taking a bit of a breather and the mania has slowed a bit. With this, Hug said the availability of gold and silver coins is getting better. He said premiums are coming down as well.
“On the gold and silver side, dealers are starting to show inventory. That’s not a result of increased production, it’s more a result because of this consolidation phase, retail investors have started to pull back on the markets so there’s not as much buying frenzy in the physical space right now, I think that changes if gold gets north of $2,000 again. But this consolidation of $50 range in gold and the $1, $1.50 range in silver has basically dried up the demand at these levels.”
“So production is still coming on board and dealers are starting to build inventory. And because of that you are seeing premiums come down. Silver maple leafs you can get, again, depending on quantity, somewhere between $5-6 over spot, Eagles are down somewhere between $5-7 over spot, so you are starting to see as this market stays sideways and we don’t see another rush into the buying side from the retail investor, you give it another 2-4 weeks and I think there will be reasonable inventory on the market and premiums should come down.”
Volatility to Return Soon?
Hug said that if you are looking to acquire gold and silver coins, you shouldn’t wait long as we could see volatility return very soon.
“I caution that past October 15 the market is going to be very volatile as we go into the election.”
Other than gold or silver, Hug sees a huge opportunity in the platinum space. There, he expects prices to climb 50% by the end of the year.
“I’m constructive platinum. It is also consolidating in the $900-950 range, but I do anticipate platinum to be north of $1000 and then look to $1200 possibly $1400 before year end.”
US Billionaires Got Richer During Pandemic by $845 Billion
US billionaires got richer during the pandemic by a tune of $845 billion. This represents a 29% increase from the time the Covid-19 lockdowns started until now. While the stock market crashed during the early days of the pandemic, it has since recovered. Along with recovery are net worth increases for America’s billionaire. Among the pandemic’s big winners of 2020 were Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg. Also in the list were investor Warren Buffett, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and ex-NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
RELATED: Jeff Bezos Is Now Worth $200 Billion
In a report released Thursday, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) said the total net worth of 643 of the nation’s richest people rose from $2.95 trillion to $3.8 trillion.
This is equal to a 29% increase between March to September. The report based the numbers on Forbes’ annual billionaire’s report and real-time data.
Jeff Bezos, the founder, and CEO online retail giant Amazon is now the world’s richest man. The pandemic forced people indoors and played right into Amazon’s online strategy. As millions switched to online shopping, demand for Amazon’s services skyrocketed. Amazon shares zoomed along with 40% in 2020, as the company racked up billions in orders. People bought groceries, medicine, household products, and entertainment items on Amazon’s sites. As the company grew richer, so did its CEO and majority stockholder. On August 19, as stock prices of Amazon went up, his net worth exceeded $200 billion. As of September, Amazon stock has fluctuated and Bezos’ current worth is $184 billion.
Another rich guy that got even richer was Tesla’s founder and CEO Elon Musk. Tesla’s value grew five times its January price. By August, the company’s stock split pushed his personal shares to $104 billion. This allowed him to join the coveted centibillionaire club. Compared to his March net worth of $24.6 billion, he’s now over four times that. As of September, with Tesla dropping value, Musk’s worth has dropped as well to $88 billion.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who was worth $107.6 billion in August (now down to $93.7 billion). Facebook stock rose from $209 in Jan to $303 in August, making his 13% stake worth over $100 billion. Like Musk, he also joined the centibillionaire club this year.
“COVID crisis supercharges inequalities”
Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality, and co-author of the report said he was somewhat shocked by the figures. He added that the COVID crisis is “supercharging America’s existing inequalities.” He said, “I would have thought maybe six months into this that things would have shaken out – that everybody would take a hit.”
“The difference is stark between profits for billionaires and the widespread economic misery in our nation. It sort of dramatizes the unequal sacrifice and profiteering element of the wealth accumulation at the top.”
Meanwhile, Covid-19 infected 6 million Americans and killed more than 200,000. As businesses collapse, the economy outside of Wall Street is in recession. More than 50 million jobs vanished in the pandemic. At present, 14 million Americans remain unemployed. Even those lucky enough to still have jobs got hit. Average work income fell by 4.4.%, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Outbreaks are still prevalent, even as a vaccine remains under development.
As such, the economy’s reopening remains slow.
Even local governments are feeling the pressure. States and cities are hamstrung with crippling deficits. California declared a $54 billion deficit, while New York City is looking at a $9 billion loss in revenue. From now until 2022, state budgets face a $555 billion deficit. This is according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
COVID-19’s unique effect made those with better plans during the pandemic fares better than most. In the case of Amazon, people flocked to their site when going out posed safety issues. For the others, the rise in stock reflected more on how they handled their business during the crisis. Some people are just quicker to seize on opportunities, even those coming from a crisis.
Watch this as Bloomberg reported last July 2020 on how billionaires got $637 billion richer during the pandemic:
Should we begrudge the rich getting richer, especially at a time like this? Do they deserve this success? Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts on the comment section below.
Fed Keeps Rates At Zero, Powell Says More Fiscal Support Needed
The Federal Reserve wrapped up its last meeting before the November elections. It announced that it would keep rates at essentially zero until at least 2023. This serves as a signal that it doesn’t see inflation as an issue at all for the foreseeable future.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, “We’re going to continue to monitor developments, and we’re prepared to adjust our plans as appropriate.”
“With inflation running persistently below this longer run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved,” the Fed’s post-meeting statement said.
Uncertainty and the Stock Market
However, the Fed’s latest projections have core inflation staying below their 2% target until 2023. This leaves many observers unsure of the Fed’s actual plan to spur the inflation they desire. This uncertainty caused the stock market to drop after the announcement.
“He noted that targeting an inflation overshoot for ‘some time’ as the statement says, means that they are not targeting a ‘sustained’ overshoot. So how long is ‘some time’ if it isn’t sustained?'” asked AB economist Eric Winograd. “That imprecision is a problem that the committee is going to have to solve to reap the full benefits of the framework shift. It’s not a coincidence that the stock market, which had been in positive territory, flipped negative after the chair’s comments.”
“He’s the great and powerful Oz. Investors got duped. They thought enhanced forward guidance meant something, but when they peeked behind the curtain they realized the Fed didn’t do anything, and the market rolled over,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.
Jon Hill, a senior fixed-income strategist at BMO, added “This is dovish – lower rates for longer, higher equities, weaker dollar. The Fed is saying we’re not hiking in 2023, maybe in 2024 … What they’re saying is these are our goals. We expect to have just barely met them and even then, they’re not raising rates.”
Stimulus and Economic Recovery
Stepping ever-so-slightly into the political realm, Powell said that Congress should pass another stimulus package to support the economic recovery. He then identified unemployment aid, small business relief and funding for state and local governments as three key areas.
“More fiscal support is likely to be needed,” Powell said. “The details of that are for Congress, not the Fed.”
Republicans have repeatedly stated that they won’t provide additional funding to bailout poorly managed cities and states as part of any additional stimulus bills.
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