Not much has changed in the last few months to alter my view that stocks will
continue to be the best place for long-term investors over at least the next several years. Even at record levels,
most categories of stock funds do not appear overvalued, and some appear to be significantly
undervalued. (These valuation levels are reflected in my specific updated Stock Model Portfolio recommendations and suggested
weightings for each presented in this Newsletter.)
Obviously, this column's title reflects one of the most challenging questions that many investors now face. But, just as
obviously, there is no one answer to fit all investors.
Of course, for some investors this is not an issue at all. They merely start with some pre-determined allocation to stocks;
it could be as high as 100% or as low as zero, but is typically about 50 to 60%. They now, as before the current stock surge,
essentially just hold on to their initially chosen portfolio investments. If and when any replacements are made, they
mostly switch to highly similar types of funds
(i.e. a stock fund is replaced with another stock fund, as opposed to a bond fund, or cash.)
An additional strategy they might use is to
periodically rebalance, bringing their stock allocation back to where it began if it has grown.
Such an approach can
have its benefits, freeing one from having to make difficult allocation-altering decisions. But these investors
must be able to hold their stock allocation steady during a bear market,
on page 5
New April 2013 Model Portfolios
The main thing that may have changed since my Jan. Model Portfolio is that many, or most,
bond fund categories seem more and more unlikely to deliver the kind of
returns investors have achieved in recent years. Given this fact, and what I think is the small possibility
that some of these categories may fizzle out altogether, I am lowering the bond allocation, but only
for highly risk averse (Conservative) investors. However, if I had to guess, I would still
expect the best bond funds to beat out money market funds (with essentially zero returns) by
several percentage points over the course of this year.
Likewise, I have also dropped my allocation to stocks by a tad for Conservative investors, while
increasing cash. This does not represent an endorsement for holding cash, but only suggests that with
risk levels somewhat higher for both bonds and stocks, cash is one of the only places left if one
is convinced that risk assets may possibly lose value.
But for all those investors who systematically rebalance, rising values for stocks since the first of the
year might suggest the need to sell off some stocks just to stay even with your January allocation.
Overall Allocations to Stocks, Bonds, and Cash
For Moderate Risk Investors
Current (Last Qtr.)
For Aggressive Risk Investors
Current (Last Qtr.)
(New April 2013 Model Portfolios,
continued from page 1)
For Conservative Investors
Current (Last Qtr.)
Note: If you are very risk adverse, you obviously might want less in stocks.
Model Stock Fund Portfolio Recommendations
In my Model Portfolios, I recommend specific stock funds I feel investors should invest in,
and in what specific proportions within your portfolio. Obviously, if you are already invested in
a fund and are satisfied with the results thus far, or even if you think your fund will eventually
prove its worth, then treat my suggestions as just that. The main reason I provide these specific
recommendations is that I would like readers to do as well as possible. My research on which specific funds
to invest in has gone on for many years. While not exhaustive and not intended to find the absolute highest
performers (which frequently have very high risk), the research has led me to believe that the chosen funds
are not only the best ones for me to personally invest in, but probably, for most others too.
I am suggesting several changed funds within my Model Portfolio. I feel we have entered a period
where category choices within the stock fund realm will lead to larger and larger differing levels
of return as compared to the last 4 or 5 years of relatively non-differentiated returns. (You may wish to
read what I said on this subject back in Oct. 2010.)
For example, domestic Value-oriented funds have returned on average
about 16% over the last 12 months; domestic Growth-oriented funds only about 10%.
In my largest allocation category, International Stocks, I am adding a fund, Vanguard Pacific Index (VPACX),
investing in the Asia/Pacific region with a current rather huge (59%) position in Japan. Such an selection would be mainly
for relatively aggressive investors. As risky as that might sound, the fund has actually outperformed the S&P 500 index
on an annualized basis over the last 10 years, even though Japan's stock market was hurt badly by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami
and continued to be slow to recover until around mid-2012.
Japan, with a newly elected leader, is on the cusp of taking aggressive steps,
similar to the "quantitative easing" of the US and Britain, to right their economy which has been
floundering for more than a decade. After all the missteps, they finally seem to have a grasp of what not
to do, and so are ready to embark on that corrective path. We have already seen have how such policies have juiced
the US's and Britain's stock markets in spite of their oft-struggling economies.
In the Large Value category, a fund that has been been doing quite well, especially over the last three years, is
Vanguard US Value (VUVLX). It is run by a highly experienced and successful manager who also manages
the Vanguard Equity Income Fund (VEIPX), also a highly successful fund which we have previously recommended.
As I pointed out in the March Newsletter, Large Value (including Financials) seems
to be poised to outperform, so we are recommending a fund that seems capable of doing that. VUVLX has
outperformed 97% of its peers over the last year, returning more than 6% better than its category average with a
one year total return of over 21%.
As I also said in my March Newsletter, Global Real Estate along with Financials, are sector funds
I believe are the most undervalued. Therefore, I have replaced our US-only Real Estate fund,
Vanguard REIT (VGSIX), with a fund that invests worldwide, namely Third Avenue Real Estate Value Fund Investor Class
(TVRVX). (If you wish to keep your choice within the Vanguard group, you might try Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate Index
(VGXRX), although the fund is somewhat new with an even more recent manager.)
Model Stock Fund Portfolio
Our Specific Fund Recommendations
Recommended Category Weighting Now (vs Last Qtr.)
-Fidelity Low Priced Stock (FLPSX) (See Note 1)
-Tweedy Brown Global Value (TBGVX) (C & M) -Vanguard Internat. Growth (VWIGX)
-Vanguard Pacific Index (VPACX) (A) (See Notes 2, 3 & 4)
-Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX) -Yacktman (YACKX)
-Vanguard Growth Index (VIGRX)
-Fidelity Contra (FCNTX)
-Vanguard US Value (VUVLX)
-Vanguard Financials ETF (VFH)
-Third Avenue Real Estate Value Fund (TVRVX)
Funds with (C) are recommended for Conservative investors; (M) Moderate; (A) Aggressive.
FLPSX currently has a 35% international position; we think this should pay off as international stocks
are more undervalued than US stocks. If you want a fund that avoids such exposure, substitute Vanguard Extended Mkt. Idx. (VEXMX).
ETFs (exchange traded funds) of the same category can be substituted for any of the above 3 index funds;
e.g. Vanguard MSCI Pacific ETF (VPL) can be substituted for VPACX.
We favor TBGVX over VWIGX right now because TBGVX hedges currency exposure,
eliminating loses due to the stronger trending dollar since mid-2011.
Model Bond Fund Portfolio Recommendations
The mainstay for many bond fund investors should still be with one form or another of the
PIMCO Total Return Fund (PTTRX). For those not aware of the fact, PIMCO launched an ETF version of the fund (symbol BOND) a
little over one
year ago. Even with the same "top of the line" manager, Bill Gross, this ETF may not perform any way near identically
to PTTRX. In fact, over the last 12 mos., BOND has returned approximately 11%, while PTTRX "only" about 8%.
Some have attributed the outperformance to the relatively small size of the ETF as compared to the fact that
PTTRX is the largest mutual fund in the world, allowing Gross to focus on his best bond investments within the ETF.
Whatever the reason, we think BOND will continue to do at least as well, if not better, than PTTRX, but obviously,
there are no guarantees of continued outperformance since the two are essentially different funds with the same
Note that we have lowered our specific fund allocations to inflation-protected (TIPS), munis, and long-term bonds of any
sort. On the other hand, we have raised our allocations to PIMCO/Harbor Total Return (or the new PIMCO Total Return ETF) as
well as to our specific international bond fund choice, PIMCO Foreign Bond (USD-Hedged) Adm (PFRAX).
We highly recommend PFRAX. Just as with TBGVX (in our stock portfolio), PFRAX will not suffer from the fact that the US dollar
looks likely to get stronger. If so, one will not lose out as non-hedged funds will
when foreign investments are converted back to dollars in a rising dollar environment.
The fund has returned about 10%
over the last year, compared to less than 4% for the main bond benchmark (AGG) and even beating PTTRX at around 8%.
We have discussed in prior issues why we see limited gains for government bonds (which include TIPS). Additionally,
taking the added risk of meager yield gains in longer maturity bonds would seem not worth it. Muni bonds remain a
big question mark, with most funds having slowed considerably since last July.
Model Bond Fund Portfolio
Our Specific Fund Recommendations
Recommended Weighting Now (vs Last Qtr.)
-PIMCO Total Return Instit (PTTRX) or -Harbor Bond Fund (HABDX)
-PIMCO Real Return (PRRIX) or
-Harbor Real Return (HARRX)
-Vang. Intermed. Term Tax-Ex. (VWITX) (see Note 1)
Intermed. Term Muni.
-Loomis Sayles Retail (LSBRX)
-Fidelity High Income (SPHIX) (see Note 2)
-PIMCO Foreign Bond (USD- Hedged) Adm (PFRAX)
-T Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond (PREMX) (A)
Note 1.Select a fund, if available, that has your own state's bonds for double-tax exemption.
Note 2. Unfortunately, our prior recently recommended High Yield funds are closed to new investors.
(Do Record Highs Tempt You to Change Course?,
continued from page 1)
and on the other hand, do the same during a bull market, not rueing the fact of possibly missing out on much larger gains.
Investors thus able to "stay the course," may find little value in my Quarterly model portfolio overall allocations
to stocks, bonds, and cash which recommend periodically changing your
overall allocations to these basic investment categories.
But for those who do believe, as I do, that there are better and worse times to have
significant amounts of money tied up in stocks, and that to some extent, these times can be
successfully predicted in advance, it follows that periodically altering one's allocations can significantly help one to
achieve their financial goals.
While no one set of recommendations can equally serve the needs of all investors, my overall
allocations to stocks for three "types" of hypothetical investors, based on risk tolerance, can serve as guideposts. While
I assume that the majority of investors likely consider themselves as "Moderate Risk" investors
and therefore gear my main recommendations toward them, factors such as age, current financial situation,
and even personality can dictate either a relatively small or large degree of divergence. Of course, only
you, yourself, can determine how much risk you are willing to take.
Unfortunately, it is common that investors use the stock market itself as
an indicator of how much risk they should take on. Thus, since we have recently been hitting
record highs, some investors are now thinking they should increase their
allocation to stocks. This implies they may have been previously under-allocated to
stocks, and due to mere performance alone, are now more willing to bump up their allocation.
I suggest that the best strategy is to always have at least a moderate allegiance to your
chosen investment preference, whether it be stocks or bonds. That way, you do not have to
always be looking over your shoulder as to whether you should be significantly more in or, possibly, out of the market.
Initially, as the stock market goes higher after a significant pullback, one might seriously consider increasing their
allocation. But, in the current situation, the market has already been going up for more than 4 years now.
Thus, if you already had a moderate position in stocks, rather than considering increasing your allocation
to stocks, you might actually consider decreasing it to preserve some profits and in recognition
that stocks are now a more risky place to be than they were going back
at least several years.
If you find yourself significantly under-allocated to stocks right now, should you therefore increase your allocation? I think it is
always preferable to get yourself to what you now consider to be your proper allocation, but only if you
are willing to essentially look past likely short-term disappointments and stick with this higher allocation for at least
several years. In other words, your 'proper allocation' should not rest on what may happen, say, within the next year
or so, but rather, what one expects to be the end result over at least several years.
To recap: One's best plan of action, it
seems to me, is not to increase your allocation solely based on stocks' strong current performance. To the contrary, plan on doing
most of your additions to your stock portfolio
when the market has been struggling. Such a strategy might take many years to implement: Who knows when stocks will again
fall significantly? On the other hand, it may make sense take some off the table as the market goes higher and higher.
Alternatively, if you already do have a significant position in stocks, you may choose to let
your positions ride. But once you see perhaps a 5% correction, you may wish to protect yourself
against a potentially bigger fall by reducing your position at that time. The last 5% correction in the
S&P 500 was in early Nov. 2012, nearly 5 months ago. Although not likely, perhaps it might take an equally long time
for the next one.
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