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5 reasons interest rates stay low

Last week we focused on investors’ waiting game with the Federal Reserve. Would their policy statement following last Wednesday’s meeting, like last month’s Groundhog Day sighting, suggest more weeks of winter in the form of rising interest rates?

The result of the wait was, contrary to many market “experts,” very dovish. While the word “patient” was removed—in fact the entire sentence was removed—the statement made it clear that a rate hike was not imminent—April was out and, while June was still in play, a change that soon seems doubtful. Why?

  1. Let’s look at what the Fed said: Inflation must look like it is moving higher toward the Fed’s 2% target rate before a rate increase is likely. But the rate of inflation is moving down not up. Two weeks ago the Producer Price Index actually registered a decline in wholesale prices. Before that, the Consumer Price Index also fell. Last week, in both the Philly and New York Fed Manufacturing Report, the few companies reporting an increase in the Prices Paid component declined in number yet again.

  2. Certainly one reason why prices fell was the sharp decline we have been experiencing in oil prices. Energy costs are an important part of the inflation calculation and the prices continue to fall. Last week, the latest market low point of a few weeks ago was broken to the downside yet again. Oil inventories continue to build to historic levels. Here’s market researcher Bespoke Investment Group’s recent report:

      For only the sixth time since 1983, US crude oil inventories have risen for ten straight weeks. For those keeping track, there has only been one prior period where stockpiles increased for 11 straight weeks (September – December 2004). In this week’s report from the Department of Energy, crude oil stockpiles for the latest week increased by 9.822 million barrels, which was nearly three times the expectation of 3.3 million barrels. Over the last ten weeks that crude oil inventories have risen, the total increase in stockpiles has been 76.3 million barrels, which is a record for any 10-week period, and 75% more than the prior record 10-week build of 43.9 million from 2001.

    Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words and this one bears repeating:


    Source: Bespoke Investment Group

    One would think that this would mean that producers would slow down or stop producing. Well, no signs of that as yet. In fact, a Saudi Arabia spokesman announced today that there would be no change in their production levels, despite the unprecedented overhead in inventory. Oil prices are likely to stay low for longer than most expect ... and inflation rates with them

  3. Of course, a reason many have suggested for oil’s plunge is the rising Dollar. Its performance has been practically off the chart now for more than six months. The effect of this is to make imports cheaper (putting further downward pressure on inflation rates) and our exports more expensive (resulting in lower economic and, perhaps, earnings performance for US-based international companies). The result of both of these outcomes is contrary to the Fed’s twin mandate of moderate inflation and growing employment.

    Ironically, the cure for a rising Dollar is lower interest rates, not higher. When interest rates in a nation are higher than those of its competitors, it attracts investments in that nation’s currency. If money supply growth is flat or moderate, the supply of the currency is less that the demand and the currency value is driven higher. That is precisely what is happening here with our Dollar.


  4. Source: Bespoke Investment Group

  5. The Fed, though, is caught between a rock and a hard price. Currently our rates, as low as they are, are higher than our competitors. And that is not likely to change for quite some time. Both Japan and the European Union have adopted the Fed’s Quantitative Easing approach precisely to drive rates in their countries lower AND, importantly, to make their currency cheaper than ours and their other competitors. If the Fed raises rates, it will exacerbate the situation, and the outcomes the Fed seeks to avoid re its mandates become even more likely.

  6. Finally, it is very difficult for the Fed to raise rates at the same time that economic reports are suggesting a weaker economy. As we pointed out last week, the Fed has never raised interest rates in the past when retail sales fell for three months in a row.

    Among the economic reports last week, only two out of ten exceeded expectations while eight failed. This disproportionate result has been the case for most of this year. Many say this is because of weather, but the economists setting the expectations on the diverse economic reports that have underachieved were all aware of the brutal weather in much of the country BEFORE they set the level of expectations.

It seems that we should look forward to a longer-than-expected period of lower-than-targeted inflation rates and oil prices, together with a rising Dollar and weak economic reports. What’s this all mean for investors?

With comparative rates of returns favoring stocks versus bonds, equities are likely to continue to shine. Bonds are likely not to be negatively impacted by a stable interest rate environment contrasted with a rising rate atmosphere. Importantly, there is still time to lock in low mortgage rates and seek out those 0% credit card deals.

Unfortunately for both the stock and bond markets, however, volatility is likely to increase. There will be times when headlines will run counter to the storyline advanced above. Since both stocks and bonds are more extended to the upside than the downside, the reaction is going to be violent on those days. We’ve already seen the increase in volatility this year. In the past seven trading days, for example, the S&P has flip-flopped its direction each day!

Of course, this hotline is a part of our “In My Opinion” series. It represents just my opinion and is subject to change. Rather than relying on it or those of the talking heads on TV, why not do what I do with my own investments—utilize disciplined, computerized trading strategies that have been tested over years in a wide range of economic environments. These dynamic, actively managed methodologies can follow a given direction for quite some time (like our now multi-year stock market bullishness) but then change direction sharply if conditions warrant it.

One final thought on the Fed. The Federal Reserve has many tools in its tool bag. Raising and lowering interest rates are two of them, and no one knew that QE was also lurking in their bag of tricks before they pulled it out not once, but three times. They have many options, some that can be anticipated, some that cannot.

One that has not been mentioned much but which may be already in play is the Fed’s ability to talk rates up or down with its pronouncements. Without them raising or lowering the Fed funds rate a single basis point, they can cause the interest rates to rise or fall simply by what they say. It’s my guess that that is all they will be doing until fall at the earliest, but as I said last week … we will just have to wait and see.

All the best,

Jerry

 

 


1st Quarter Statements

1st quarter account summaries and OnTarget statements are scheduled to be delivered in the coming weeks. For those clients who have elected to receive electronic delivery of our correspondence to you, be sure to go to ontargetinvesting.com to verify that we have your current email address in our system.

To set up electronic delivery, contact Client Services at 800-347-3539 x 1.

 


US equity markets were up last week. The NASDAQ Composite gained 3.17%, the S&P 500 was up 2.66%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.13%. Nine of the ten S&P industrial sectors were up for the week. The move upward was led by Health Care (4.52%), Utilities (4.21%), Energy (3.39%), and Information Technology (2.92%). The Quantified Funds were up for the week. The largest gain was in the Quantified Market Leaders Fund (QMLFX, 5.45%), followed by the Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (QACFX, 2.68%), the Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (QALTX, 2.07%), and then the Quantified Managed Bond Fund (QBDSX, 0.42%).

Last week the Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (QACFX) shifted its weightings in four leading stock baskets, which were over 48% of the portfolio’s composition: “All-Cap Low Debt” (22%), “All-Cap Cash Flow” (11%), “All-Cap Upside” (8%), and “All-Cap Quality Acceleration” (7%). Among domestic sector distributions, Information Technology and Financials led with portfolio allocations of 22% and 14%, respectively. The largest stock holdings in the All-Cap portfolio were in the common stock of CTS Corp. (CTS, 2.79%) and the common stock of II VI Inc. (IIVI, 2.42%).

The cash level within the All-Cap Fund decreased to 10% last week. The Fund’s daily pattern trading of S&P 500 futures started the week neutral and remained there to begin this week. Our TVA-based futures hedge started the week 15% long, changed to 10% long on Monday’s close, and neutral on Tuesday’s close to begin this week.

The Market Environment Indicator (MEI) remained bullish last week. On Friday, equity asset class allocations in the Quantified Market Leaders Fund remained at the following: Large-Cap Growth (17.26%), Mid-Cap Growth (9.60%), Mid-Cap Value (4.30%), and Small-Cap Growth (19.20%). Total sector ETF weightings remained at 49.64% from the prior week. Distribution of sector holdings and weights were as follows: Health Care (14.14%), Biotech (13.00%), Retail (9.50%), Electronics (9.25%), and Leisure (3.75%). The individual ETF positions with the leading portfolio weightings were the iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index ETF (IWO, 8.50%), the ProShares Ultra Russell 2000 ETF (UWM, 8.10%), the ProShares Ultra NASDAQ Biotechnology ETF (BIB, 6.50%), and the ProShares Ultra QQQ ETF (QLD, 5.93%).

Within the Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (QALTX), the Long/Short Market Neutral Alternative sub-portfolio decreased allocations to the Dreyfus Dynamic Total Return Fund (AVGRX, 3.24%) and to the John Hancock Asset Allocation Trust (JHAAX, 1.45%).

Among the largest ETF positions there were a few changes: allocations to the Materials Select SPDR ETF (XLB, 4.12%) and the iShares Dow Jones US Consumer Services ETF (IYC, 2.72%) increased, while allocations to the iShares Dow Jones US Industrial ETF (IYJ, 2.78%) and the Vanguard Materials VIPERs (VAW, 2.27%) decreased.

The cash level within the Fund decreased to 11.13% last week. The daily pattern trading of S&P 500 Index futures with 10% fund capital allocation started the week neutral and remained there to begin this week. The 7.5% capital allocation of the volatility-based systematic trading of NASDAQ 100 Index futures started the week 7.5% long and changed to 6% long on Thursday’s close to begin this week.

The Quantified Managed Bond Fund’s (QBDSX) two leading broad-bond index ETF holdings, the iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG, 0.89%) and the PIMCO Total Return ETF (BOND, 0.81%), were up for the week.

The 10-year US Treasury yield decreased to 1.93% for the week. The Fund increased weightings in the iShares S&P National Municipal Bond ETF (MUB) from 0% to 6.18% and in the iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) from 5.60% to 6.18%, while decreasing allocations in the PowerShares Senior Loan Portfolio ETF (BKLN) from 15.02% to 6.02% and in the SPDR Barclay’s Capital High Yield ETF (JNK) from 6.76% to 1.40%. Cash increased to 18.56%.

The 10% active portfolio exposure to 30-Year US Treasury bond futures in the Fund started the week short, changed to long on Monday’s close, and short on Tuesday’s close to begin this week. The position lost around 1.18%.

Total Return

Fund (Inception) Symbol Qtr Ending 12/31/14 YTD Ending 12/31/14 1 Year Ending (12/31/14) Since Inception Ending (12/31/14)* Annual Expense Ratio
The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (7/5/13) QGLDX (3.20%) (3.75%) (3.75%) (4.53%) 1.66%
Quantified Managed Bond Fund (8/9/13) QBDSX (0.05%)
1.96%
1.96% 1.31% 1.68%
Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (8/9/13) QACFX 4.18%
(0.50%)
(0.50)% 2.93% 1.51%
Quantified Market Leaders Fund (8/9/13) QMLFX 3.74%
2.85% 2.85% 6.53% 1.71%
Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (8/9/13) QALTX (0.14%) 0.71% 0.71% 6.38% 2.20%

*Annualized

As of the most recent prospectus, the expense ratios for the Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are as follows: Investors’ Class (No Load), 1.66%; Class A, 1.66%; Class C, 2.41%. The maximum sales charge imposed on Class A share purchases (as percentage of offering price) is 5.75%. An additional 2% redemption fee applies to all share classes, including Investors’ Class, when shares are redeemed within 7 days of purchase.

The performance data quoted represents past performance; past performance does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate and an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. For current performance, please call 1-855-647-8268.

Risks associated with the Quantified Funds include active frequent trading risk, aggressive investment techniques, small and mid-cap companies risk, counter party risk, depository receipt risk, derivatives risk, equity securities risk, foreign securities risk, holding cash risk, limited history of operations risk, lower quality debt securities risk, non-diversification risk, investing in other investment companies (including ETFs) risk, shorting risk, asset backed securities risk, commodity risk, credit risk, interest risk, prepayment risk, and mortgage backed securities risk. For detailed information relating to these risks, please see prospectus. 

The principal risks of investing in The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are Risks of the Sub-advisor’s Investment Strategy, Risks of Aggressive Investment Techniques, High Portfolio Turnover, Risk of Investing in Derivatives, Risks of Investing in ETFs, Risks of Investing in Other Investment Companies, Leverage Risk, Taxation Risk, Concentration Risk, Gold Risk, Wholly-owned Corporation Risk, Risk of Non-Diversification and interest rate risk. “Gold Risk” includes volatility, price fluctuations over short periods, risks associated with global monetary, economic, social and political conditions and developments, currency devaluation and revaluation and restrictions, trading and transactional restrictions. 

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of each Quantified Fund and The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectus, which can be obtained by calling 1-855-647-8268. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing in The Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund. 


There is no guarantee that any of the Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund will achieve their investment objectives.

Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., serves as investment sub-advisor to The Gold Bullion Strategy and Quantified Funds, distributed by Ceros Financial Services, Inc. (member FINRA/SIPC). Ceros Financial Services, Inc., and Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., are not affiliated entities.

Advisors Preferred, LLC, is the Funds’ investment adviser. Advisors Preferred, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceros Financial Services, Inc.

 

For more information on the Quantified Funds, sub-advised by Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., please review the prospectus and fund performance.

Current or historical holdings of the funds

 


Over last week, the gold spot price rallied 2.08% as the US Dollar Index weakened following the Fed meeting announcement. The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (QGLDX) rose 2.87% for the week, its difference against the gold spot price due mostly to QGLDX’s early close at 1:30 PM (rather than 4:00 PM for the gold spot price). The prices of short-duration fixed income ETF holdings were higher, on average, over last week, while the value of the COMEX gold futures, which has the same early 1:30 PM close as the Fund, gained by 2.79%. The Fund continued buying into short maturity individual bonds and Certificates of Deposit last week.

Total Return

Fund (Inception) Symbol Qtr Ending 12/31/14 YTD Ending 12/31/14 1 Year Ending (12/31/14) Since Inception Ending (12/31/14)* Annual Expense Ratio
The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (7/5/13) QGLDX (3.20%) (3.75%) (3.75%) (4.53%) 1.66%
Quantified Managed Bond Fund (8/9/13) QBDSX (0.05%)
1.96%
1.96% 1.31% 1.68%
Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (8/9/13) QACFX 4.18%
(0.50%)
(0.50)% 2.93% 1.51%
Quantified Market Leaders Fund (8/9/13) QMLFX 3.74%
2.85% 2.85% 6.53% 1.71%
Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (8/9/13) QALTX (0.14%) 0.71% 0.71% 6.38% 2.20%

*Annualized

As of the most recent prospectus, the expense ratios for the Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are as follows: Investors’ Class (No Load), 1.66%; Class A, 1.66%; Class C, 2.41%. The maximum sales charge imposed on Class A share purchases (as percentage of offering price) is 5.75%. An additional 2% redemption fee applies to all share classes, including Investors’ Class, when shares are redeemed within 7 days of purchase.

The performance data quoted represents past performance; past performance does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate and an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. For current performance, please call 1-855-647-8268.

Risks associated with the Quantified Funds include active frequent trading risk, aggressive investment techniques, small and mid-cap companies risk, counter party risk, depository receipt risk, derivatives risk, equity securities risk, foreign securities risk, holding cash risk, limited history of operations risk, lower quality debt securities risk, non-diversification risk, investing in other investment companies (including ETFs) risk, shorting risk, asset backed securities risk, commodity risk, credit risk, interest risk, prepayment risk, and mortgage backed securities risk. For detailed information relating to these risks, please see prospectus. 

The principal risks of investing in The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are Risks of the Sub-advisor’s Investment Strategy, Risks of Aggressive Investment Techniques, High Portfolio Turnover, Risk of Investing in Derivatives, Risks of Investing in ETFs, Risks of Investing in Other Investment Companies, Leverage Risk, Taxation Risk, Concentration Risk, Gold Risk, Wholly-owned Corporation Risk, Risk of Non-Diversification and interest rate risk. “Gold Risk” includes volatility, price fluctuations over short periods, risks associated with global monetary, economic, social and political conditions and developments, currency devaluation and revaluation and restrictions, trading and transactional restrictions. 

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of each Quantified Fund and The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectus, which can be obtained by calling 1-855-647-8268. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing in The Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund. 


There is no guarantee that any of the Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund will achieve their investment objectives.

Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., serves as investment sub-advisor to The Gold Bullion Strategy and Quantified Funds, distributed by Ceros Financial Services, Inc. (member FINRA/SIPC). Ceros Financial Services, Inc., and Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., are not affiliated entities.

Advisors Preferred, LLC, is the Funds’ investment adviser. Advisors Preferred, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceros Financial Services, Inc.

 

For more information on the Quantified Funds, sub-advised by Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., please review the prospectus and fund performance.

Current or historical holdings of the funds

 


Jim Cramer: Gold bullion

 

As we pointed out last week, Jim Cramer, of Mad Money and CNBC fame, “created five buckets of stocks that will shield a portfolio while obtaining maximum gain.”

He listed them as: “high-yielding stocks, growth stocks, speculative stocks, a healthy geographical stock and gold.”

But he makes a distinction between gold bullion and gold mining stocks:

Jim Cramer's going gold with your portfolio

“As for a gold miner stock, remember what makes gold so valuable: its scarcity and the difficulty of getting the metal out of the ground cheaply.

Cramer noted that almost every single time he has gotten behind a gold stock, he's gotten burned. There are just too many issues with them and the stocks get hammered.

So, he finally gave up on the whole group and sticks with … the physical commodity.”CNBC 12/30/14

Their respective performances since 2008 bear this out. Since 2008, the price of gold bullion has gone up over 40%, while the value of gold mining stocks has gone down over 59% … a difference of over 99%.

 


Terrific week for U.S. equities

A little dollar weakness, a rebound in energy prices, easing in Europe, the latest FOMC statement and pleasing corporate earnings all supported a 5-day rally. From March 16-20, the S&P 500 gained 2.66% to settle Friday at 2,108.06. The Dow and Nasdaq posted weekly gains of 2.13% and 3.17% on their way to respective closes of 18,127.65 and 5,026.42.4

% Change Y-T-D 1-Yr Chg 5-Yr Avg 10-Yr Avg
DJIA
+1.71
+11.00
+13.75
+7.16
NASDAQ
+6.13
+16.37
+22.34
+15.04
S&P 500
+2.39
+12.61
+16.35
+7.81
Real Yield 3/20 Rate 1-Yr Ago 5-Yrs Ago 10-Yrs Ago
10Yr TIPS Yd
0.17%
0.66%
1.50%
1.80%

  February YTD returns
DJIA
-3.69%
NASDAQ
-2.13%
S&P 500
-3.10%

Sources: online.wsj.com, bigcharts.com, treasury.gov - 3/20/15 5,6,7,8
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.
These returns do not include dividends.


FED may wait longer to tighten

March’s Federal Reserve policy statement provided less forward guidance than many investors expected. As anticipated, the word “patient” disappeared – but the Federal Open Market Committee also lowered its 2015 GDP forecast (to a range of 2.3-2.7%) and nearly halved its 2015 inflation projection (to a range of 0.6-0.8%). Seconding this weaker economic outlook, the Fed indicated it might wait until late 2015 to tinker with interest rates, altering the commonly held perception that a rate hike might be in store before Q2 ends.1


Oil prices rise

Light sweet crude rose 3.9% on the NYMEX last week, settling at $45.72 Friday. It was the first winning week in five for the commodity, and a short-term decline in the dollar and lower U.S. rig counts helped. Gasoline advanced 2.0% on the NYMEX for the week, natural gas 2.2% and heating oil 1.2%.2


Fewer starts, but more permits

The Census Bureau measured a 17.0% drop in groundbreaking for February, which took housing starts to a 13-month low. Declining builder sentiment, higher construction costs and fewer available parcels were all contributing factors. Building permits increased 3.0% last month; apartment permits jumped 18.3%.3



Citations

1 - thestreet.com/story/13084714/1/meaning-of-fed-policy-statement-depends-on-definition-of-is--surprising-market-reaction.html [3/19/15]
2- marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-stay-choppy-ahead-of-rig-count-data-2015-03-20 [3/20/15]
3 - eyeonhousing.org/2015/03/housing-production-stumbles/ [3/17/15]
4 - markets.on.nytimes.com/research/markets/usmarkets/usmarkets.asp [3/20/15]
5 - markets.wsj.com/us [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=3%2F20%2F14&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=3%2F20%2F14&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=3%2F20%2F14&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=3%2F19%2F10&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=3%2F19%2F10&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=3%2F19%2F10&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=3%2F21%2F05&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=3%2F21%2F05&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
6 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=3%2F21%2F05&x=0&y=0 [3/20/15]
7 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyield [3/20/15]
8 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [3/20/15]

 


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Disclosures

To our readers
Everything in the newsletter pertains to strategies available on our Strategic Solutions platform at Trust Company of America. The same strategies are implemented on many other products: mutual funds, variable annuity, variable life and retirement platforms. Therefore, we expect the strategic discussion may be of interest to you. Note, however, that since these products have their own subaccount and fund universes and different internal expenses, the results and trading of the same strategy on other platforms may differ substantially from those described herein.

Managed Retirement Plan Participants:
Most of you are managed using Lifetime Evolution and our sub-advised funds, so those topics will be most applicable to your account. But, more and more of you are in plans using Market Leaders. If so, that newsletter section may interest you

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