Investing in a Time of Tweets and Tariffs…

Investing in a Time of Tweets and Tariffs

By Howard Coleman, Chief Investment Officer & General Counsel 

Coldstream Chief Investment Officer & General Counsel, Howard Coleman, wrote an article for One Accord on market volatility between August and early September. He provides important information on how investors should respond to volatility caused by tweets and trade tariffs.

To read the full article on One Accord, click on this link.

 

It’s a Marathon…

Market Commentary

By Rafael A. Villagran, Portfolio Manager

Markets started the year on a sprint, and that’s encouraging, particularly in light of how stocks finished 2018. But investing is a marathon and we always keep our focus on the longer-term. And, putting the first quarter rally into context, stocks just climbed back up to where they were last September/October prior to the fourth quarter pull-back. We see two primary drivers behind the recent bounce: (1) the Federal Reserve reversed its’ guidance regarding anticipated changes to interest rates from ‘likely hikes’ to a ‘data dependent maybe not,’ and (2) more recently the markets are responding to indications about a potential trade deal sooner rather than later. Both of these factors are highly important to the economy and markets, and both remain very fluid and deserve close watching.

Regarding economic trends, the U.S. economy has shown signs of slowing over recent months (e.g., retail sales and durable goods orders), although the jobs increase in March was encouraging. Economic conditions in Europe and Japan have also softened, and even more so than in the U.S., and Brexit (i.e., the U.K.’s planned exit from the European Union) remains a bit of a threat. It’s unclear the extent to which the global softening reflects the impediments to trade attributable from the U.S./China tariff exchange, but it’s widely expected that their removal would be positive.  Even more positive for the global economy would be a ‘real’ trade deal that could encourage more trade, rather than simply a ‘face saving’ agreement.

Reflecting investors’ recent concerns about the economic outlook, the yield curve shifted towards a flattening and even briefly inverted. The yield curve is the relationship between market-driven interest rates for shorter-term maturities versus longer-term maturities. An inverted curve for a sustained period has historically been predictive of economic downturns, and as such this condition deserves watching. At present, however, we continue to believe that continued economic growth appears more likely than not through 2019.

In all, we embrace the very positive start for the year, which for the S&P 500 was the best first quarter since 1998. Such double digit starts have historically tended to bode very well for the year. We do caution clients, however, to contain their expectations for the remainder of 2019.

The Underwriting of a Construction Loan Through the Eyes of a Lender

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. – Neil Armstrong

By Chris Blakeslee

This summer, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.  I recently watched the movie, “First Man” which is about the life of astronaut, Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling), and the space mission this country embarked on that led to this historic event on July 20, 1969.

As an engineer, I am instinctively attracted to science, so I naturally found this movie entertaining.  While I currently don’t practice many of the engineering principles I once painstakingly studied, I oftentimes, in my business career, find a direct connection.

Project Gemini, which was NASA’s second human spaceflight program (Project Mercury was the first), was designed to carry two astronauts into low earth orbit.  Its objective was to develop space travel techniques to support the eventual Apollo mission that would transport and land astronauts on the moon.

NASA engineers concluded through Gemini it would be impossible to reach the moon with one, single stage rocket.  As a result, they developed a system of staged rockets, each designed for a specific part of the mission.  The larger task (or problem) of getting man to the moon was broken down into smaller problems (or stages) that engineers could manage and solve.  The discipline I fall back on most from my days as an engineer is to break down a larger problem into smaller solvable tasks.  By doing this, the larger issue eventually gets solved.

To make it even more complex, NASA engineers had to resolve how to design a craft (the lunar module Eagle piloted by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong) that could both land on the moon lightly without crashing, while reserving enough fuel to launch off the surface and re-connect with the command module piloted by Michael Collins.  The calculations of how much fuel was needed to both pilot the lunar module to the moon and provide enough lift to get off the surface were exacting, and all interconnected.  When broken down into smaller tasks, the calculations could be solved in pieces that fit together like a mathematical jigsaw puzzle – each needed to do its part to complete the entire picture.

While underwriting a construction loan is far less complicated than putting someone on and getting someone off the moon, a similar approach is taken when faced with a potential new loan opportunity.  It’s best to break the larger task into smaller, more manageable problems.  I describe the process as a three-legged stool.  Each leg has to stand on its own or the stool (or loan) won’t function properly.  The first leg to address is to determine the end value of the project being underwritten.  We have to be able to determine with confidence what this number is.  The second issue to address is the builder’s ability to execute and complete the project on time, within the budget.  This is probably the most difficult task a lender must face.  It is much easier to underwrite a loan with repeat builders who have proven that they know how to execute.  The third and final leg of the stool is that the home has to sell.  It has to be priced appropriately and the design has to be such that it is desirable.  Through the sale, the loan is paid back and those funds are recycled into a new project.  When the analysis is complete and all three tasks (or legs) are satisfied, the loan most likely will be considered for funding.

As the real estate market tightens, sloppy underwriting will reveal itself over time.  Often, investors, underwriters, and appraisers all get caught looking in the rearview mirror rather than through the windshield at what lies ahead.  It’s too easy to become complacent and come to the conclusion that what has worked before will work again.  For instance, over the last year, construction cost increases have risen more than 30% in many cases while end prices of homes have leveled off.  Ultimately, this will have an impact on the end profitability for builders and developers.  It is imperative to take this information into consideration as new opportunities are contemplated.

I cannot say it enough: the challenge for all investors is to continue to be mindful of the past, but to continue to look through the windshield so you see what is coming down the road

Chris Blakeslee is the Portfolio Manager for Ascent Capital, a subsidiary of Coldstream Holdings, Inc. He enjoys staying active outside of work and spends the majority of his time on Mercer Island with his wife, two daughters, and black lab named Gypsy. Chris loves golfing, kite-surfing, skiing, surfing, tennis, and any other activity that really gets his juices flowing.

The Inherent Value of Good Advice

By Rachel McCracken

I joked the other day that now that I’m in my 40’s, I have a stable of specialists that I go and see to help me stay healthy and informed.  Other than the standard preventative annual check-ups to the doctor and dentist, I now regularly see the chiropractor, masseuse, trainer, and a radiologist, among others.  I have a watch to monitor my heart rate while I run, an app to clock weekly workout goals, and a scale that will tell me my BMI (should I ever want to know it).

Anyone reading this likely has similar individualized specialists, stats, and dashboards readily available in our information-overloaded world.  Weeding out useful concepts I should be paying attention to from the consistent media stream of consciousness (or “noise” as I like to call it) can be difficult and overwhelming.  It is exactly the copious amounts of information demanding attention that has made me realize having a cadre of real, human advisors whom I trust to help guide and educate me is an invaluable resource in my life.

It can be scary to explore parts of our lives in depth.  Cancer was one of those parts for me, because it has affected my family.  I am not an alarmist, and the web searches I did on “Dr. Google” returned information that reassured me I didn’t have enough markers to be a genetic carrier.  However, since it is something that can be tested, my doctor suggested (over several years) I should get the tests to be sure.  Genetic testing then made it to my list of things-to-do, but it was never a priority.  It felt more comfortable to sit in the ambiguity, and not dwell on the ‘if yes, then what?’  Finally, at the end of 2017, I put on my big girl pants and made an appointment with the surgeon who would administer the genetic test and report the findings.

On my first trip to the surgeon, he informed me about the process of testing me for cancer genes and mutations:  answer a questionnaire, get some blood samples, come back to review the results.  All in all, a half of a day of my life.  During the time between taking the test and getting the results, I experienced some uneasy nights what-if-ing the different possible outcomes.  What would my life look like if I did have cancer?  What would that mean for my daughter?  If you are a parent, then you know that the second question is even scarier than the first.  Uncertainty is scary and possibly the most haunting feeling because the possibilities are literally infinite.  In the end, I did not test positive for a gene that carries cancer.  But I did have the humbling realization that I should not have been so cavalier about something I really didn’t know much about.

My negative test results are now securely available in my online health chart, and, if I can ever remember my password, they are at my disposal.  I will also get a friendly reminder every few years to check back in with the surgeon to see if any technological advancements have been made that would warrant a retest, allowing a deeper look into the unknown of my DNA.  In the meantime, I continue in my day-to-day life never thinking of those what-ifs, except maybe “what if I had not been tested and I did carry it…and passed it on to my daughter…and we didn’t know?”.  By getting answers, even if they are the kind I don’t want to hear, I know there are many experts available to help advise me and figure out a plan.  While getting older isn’t always fun, it brought the wisdom to realize the value of being open to input that I may have been closed to in my teens and twenties.

I think the readily accessible wealth of information we have at our fingertips is awesome.  I think having an app to tell me my heart rate is cool.  But I also respect the fact that there needs to be expert, human interpretation for the information we receive.  Google searches on cancer genes don’t make me an oncologist.  Information needs to be processed with an advisor you trust, whether it’s for your health, for your savings, or any other important decisions you need to make.

Navigating the unknown can be scary; and not just with your physical health.  I see that same fear frequently with clients I serve as an investment advisor.  Stock market corrections, like the one we experienced in December 2018, are frightening and unnerving even for the most experienced investor.  The implications of economic downturns can be very unsettling to anyone who has savings invested in financial markets; even more of a stressor for those in retirement or on a fixed income with no recurring revenue stream.  Like having preventive health visits with your doctor, it is beneficial to have preventative investment check-ins with your advisor throughout the year.  It’s important to make sure you are on the same page of understanding the objectives of the investments, so when we do hit volatile times, it isn’t as scary.  Most people don’t spend their time looking at financial markets, just like I don’t spend my time researching genetic cancer cells.  We have other things we want to focus our time on professionally or personally.  I trust the advisors whom I have hired and chosen to work with to help me through the unknown.  I check in with them regularly when I am not sick, and when we do come across uncertainty, I know that there will be a plan in place to help guide me through it.  We have regular check-ins and talk about the ‘what if’ scenarios, and plan for the unexpected.

All said, information is power.  As with health information, there’s a lot of investing advice and information available at your fingertips from seemingly infinite online and offline sources; some amazing and insightful, and some not worth the code they’re written in.  Investing is an information business, and information these days is transmitted in a nanosecond.  Those that efficiently gather it, sift through the junk to get to what’s necessary, make good decisions, and communicate, are the winners in our industry.  Given the rise of institutional asset managers and high frequency trading, individual investors may feel lost in the shuffle.  Having a knowledgeable advisor help you interpret and determine the good information from the bad can help guide you away from painful missteps others have made, allow you to plan more mindfully, and effectively navigate whatever your financial future holds for you.

 

Rachel McCracken, CFA, MBA is a Relationship Manager and key member of the Investment Strategy Group at Coldstream Wealth Management.  She lives in Seattle with her husband, daughter, and stepdaughter.

The CFA Institute owns the certification marks CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst®.

Coldstream Holdings Inc. Announces Addition of Board Member, Heather Redman

Coldstream Holdings, Inc. (CHI) is pleased to announce the addition of Heather Redman to their Board of Directors.

 

Heather joins Coldstream’s board at an important threshold point with the company. Coldstream has successfully integrated two mergers (George Pierce & Associates and The Rainier Group) over the past two years. With the addition of Rainier Group’s consulting division, Coldstream has additional resources to formalize the company’s efforts toward continued merging with complementary regional wealth management and related financial services firms and new capabilities to serve clients. Heather also brings an important network of relationships, experience, and intellectual capital to these efforts.

 

Ms. Redman serves as the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Flying Fish Partners. She was formerly the VP Business Operations & General Counsel at Indix Corporation, Senior VP at Summit Power Group, and Executive and Senior VP at AtomShockwave, Inc., Getty Images, Inc., and PhotoDisc, Inc.

 

She is a well-known technology investor in the Pacific Northwest and is experienced in corporate development and finance, business development, and intellectual property strategy. She has led the negotiations for the successful sale of companies and negotiated many acquisitions on the buy side.

 

“I am excited about the opportunity to join Coldstream’s Board of Directors. This region has grown dramatically and has emerged as one of the key regions in the world for innovation, development, and entrepreneurialism. Coldstream has a stellar reputation and I look forward to helping the company and its employees and clients enjoy continued success,” says Ms. Redman.

 

Ms. Redman sits on the following other boards: Beneficial State Bank (Audit Committee and Technology Committee), Yesler, Inc., the Washington Technology Industry Association (Vice Chair), the Greater Seattle Chamber (Immediate Past Chair), the Hawthorn Club, and is a Regent at Washington State University.

 

Ms. Redman holds a JD (with distinction) from Stanford and her BA from Reed.

 

“We spent several years looking for someone with Heather’s unique background and experience to join our Board. We look forward to partnering with her to help Coldstream Holdings and its affiliates continue bringing best-in-class solutions and services to our clients and strategic partners,” says Kevin Fitzwilson, CHI Board Member and Managing Shareholder of Coldstream Wealth Management.

 

 

Strategas Event With Dan Clifton – September 2017

Watch Coldstream Wealth Management’s moderated discussion with Dan Clifton, director of legislative and public policy research at Strategas Research Partners in Washington, D.C. In this discussion, Mr. Clifton provides his analysis of how current legislation and policy impacts our economy.

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