U.S. Stocks: All Better Now?

After having drifted lower since the beginning of the month, the U.S. stock market as measured by the S&P 500 Index suddenly exploded higher on Tuesday. And the key index tacked on a few additional points on Wednesday. In the process, the S&P 500 not only broke decisively above its recent downward trading channel but also nearly set a new all-time intraday high. Such a decisive reversal might understandably lead one to conclude that all is once again right with the U.S. stock market. But one does not have to look far under the surface to find evidence to the contrary.

Please click on the link to read more of my article on Seeking Alpha.

Rising Risks In The Quest For Yield

Income oriented investors have been traveling through a yield desert over the last several years. Thanks to extraordinary monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve that has included keeping interest rates pinned at zero percent for the last five years, those living on fixed incomes including retirees have been forced out of the safety of FDIC insured saving deposits and into various higher risk investment vehicles in an effort to find yield. Recognizing the voracious appetite for income in the yield-starved environment, some institutions and individuals have poured into these same higher income areas of the stock market, some with the use of leverage, to not only capture but also amplify yields. While the reliance on higher risk investments has helped satisfy the demand for yield to this point, it is reasonable to consider whether unforeseen risks and unintended consequences are being fostered in the process.

Please click on the link to read more of my article on Seeking Alpha.

This QE Bower My Prison

The Federal Reserve’s persistently aggressive monetary policy has had a paralyzing effect for many investors over the last several years. Like a skillet of boiling hot milk being emptied on one’s foot, repeated monetary stimulus programs, including three rounds of quantitative easing, two rounds of Operation Twist and the quintupling of the Fed’s balance sheet, has distorted capital markets in such a way that it has imprisoned many investors to a bower of heightened risk control and uncharacteristically short-term thinking amid the expectation that the negative spillover effects from such unprecedented policies will eventually come home to roost in a significant way. But as we enter the twilight of the Fed’s supposed final round of quantitative easing, the confined investor has reason for gladness, for they can continue to delight in the splendor of today’s market while also knowing that nature never deserts the wise and pure in the end.

Please click on the link to read more of my article on Seeking Alpha.

Are Stocks Set For A Major Decline In The Fall?

The market news coverage is becoming increasingly polarized. On one side of the debate are those that believe the sky is the limit for stocks in the months ahead. With stocks reaching a fresh all-time high on Friday, this view has yet to be invalidated. On the other side of the discussion are those that expect a significant stock market pullback is not only imminent but also long overdue. Given the fact that we are soon entering what has historically been a tumultuous time of year for stocks, such expectations may soon be validated. Who is right? Only time will tell, but in working to identify the answer it is worthwhile to explore market history to see if we can identify clues as to whether the stock market is setting up for a major decline as we head into the fall of 2014.

Please click on the link to read more of my article on Seeking Alpha.

A Surprising New Portfolio Diversifier

Portfolio diversification is a primary objective for most investors in any market environment. And it is a particular priority today for many that wish to participate in any further upside the aging bull market may provide in the coming months while also seeking to protect against downside risk. Normally for stock investors, true portfolio diversification is achieved through allocating to other vastly different and generally uncorrelated asset classes such as long-term Treasuries and gold. But in 2014, a surprising new category has emerged from within the stock market itself to become an effective portfolio diversifier in the current environment. This category is the utilities sector, and it may now be worth another look following a recent pullback.

Please click on the link to read more of my article on Seeking Alpha.

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