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Clearly, Not Everyone Is Getting Rich Off The Stock Market

Well, the NY Fed was out today with its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for Q4 2017. Clearly, Americans are in a lot of debt. Take a look.

Just a couple of quick hits from the report. Total U.S. household debt rose $193 billion in the 4th quarter, to a new all-time peak of $13.15 trillion. That's 17.9% above the most recent trough in Q2 2013. Broken down by segment, what do you suppose was the largest gain in percentage terms? Credit cards, with a 3.2% increase. In the picture above, the widening gap represented by the red arrows reflects the fact that non-housing debt is rising at a faster pace than housing debt.

Here's what's troubling about that. Below is a picture of the stock market, as represented by the S&P 500 index, over that same period; from the most recent credit trough in Q2 2013 to the end of 2017.

And thus, the title of this article. Over that period, the S&P 500 index rose by 75%; from roughly 1,600 to 2,800. Apparently, however, the r…

The ETF Monkey Vanguard Core Portfolio: 2016 Q1 Update

This article is an update to the following articles:
  1. On July 1, 2015, I wrote an article for Seeking Alpha introducing The ETF Monkey Vanguard Core Portfolio.
  2. On January 4, 2016, I wrote the 2015 year-end update for the portfolio. 
  3. On February 11, 2016, following the severe market decline during the first part of 2016, I wrote a follow-up article that detailed a rebalancing transaction that I executed to bring the portfolio back in line with my target weightings.
In this article, I will report on the performance of the portfolio for the quarter ended March 31, 2016.

Evaluating the Portfolio: Q1 2016

Here is the corresponding Google Finance page for the portfolio as of the market's close on 3/31/16. Have a look, and then I will offer a few comments.

First, as a reference point, the S&P 500 index closed at 2,043.94 on December 31, 2015 and 2,059.74 on March 31, 2016, for a gain of .77% for the period. 

Second, the portfolio received dividends totaling $208.56 during this period, bringing the cash balance in the portfolio to $251.53. This came from the 3 ETFs as follows:
  • VTI - $132.00
  • VEU - $45.88
  • BND - $30.68
So how did the portfolio perform? All told, not too badly. The closing value of the portfolio was $49,076.43 as of March 31 vs. $48,348.37 on December 31, for a gain of 1.51%. Therefore, the portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 by .74% over this period. 

Let's break down the performance, and reasons, by asset class.
  • Domestic Stocks - During the period, VTI grew from $27,120.60 to 28,825.50, an increase of $1,704.90. Subtracting the $1,382.85 added from the February 11 rebalancing leaves us with a net gain of $322.05. Add in the $132.00 of dividends and VTI gained $454.05 on a base of $27,120.60, a gain of 1.67%. This is a slight outperformance when compared to the S&P 500 index.
  • Foreign Stocks - During the period, VEU grew from $12,588.90 to 13,376.50, an increase of $787.70. However. removing the $761.40 added in the rebalancing transaction leaves us with a net gain of only $26.30. Add in the $45.88 of dividends and VEU gained $72.18 on a base of $12,588.90, a gain of .57%. As compared to the U.S. market, this reflects the continued underperformance of foreign markets.
  • Bonds - During the period, the value of BND declined from $8,076.00 to $6,623.20. However, if we add back the $1,648.20 used in the rebalancing transaction, BND actually increased in value by $195.40. Add in the $30.68 of dividends received and BND gained $226.08 on a base of $8076.00, a fairly stunning increase of 2.80%. This reflected a firming of bond prices as the signs of economic malaise during Q1 appeared to lead the market to conclude that interest rates would remain low for a longer period of time than previously anticipated, including the likelihood of the Fed having to modify it's goal of raising rates as often in 2016.

No Transactions or Rebalancing This Period

Here's how the portfolio stood in terms of its asset allocations at 3/31/16.

As can be seen, due to my February 11 rebalancing and the strong performance of the domestic stock market through March 31, domestic stocks are a little overweight and bonds are underweight. As noted in my rebalancing article, I did this on purpose. I am going to monitor this as time moves forward. My preference will be to increase the bond weighting by using dividends that I will receive moving forward. However, if the weightings get severely out of line, I may have to effect another rebalancing transaction. If you are interested in following these real time, make sure you sign up to follow me on Twitter, as I post what I am doing in real time using that medium.

Summary and Conclusion

The portfolio did very well during the quarter, outperforming the S&P 500, my chosen benchmark, by approximately 3/4 of a percentage point. Sadly, it is still down a little over 3% from its inception date of June 30, 2015. As can be seem from the graphic, weakness in foreign stocks is the main culprit, as these entered a very weak period almost immediately following the establishment of the portfolio. Still, it is my belief that a disciplined allocation to foreign stocks will prove beneficial over the long term.

Disclosure: I am not a registered investment advisor or broker/dealer. Readers are cautioned that the material contained herein should be used solely for informational purposes, and are encouraged to consult with their financial and/or tax advisor respecting the applicability of this information to their personal circumstances. Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. Readers are solely responsible for their own investment decisions.


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