Crestwood Perspectives

A quarterly review by Crestwood Advisors designed to keep you informed of the latest economic and market changes.

  • Quality Bonds: an Underappreciated Role in Portfolios

    Stock markets across the globe fell sharply during the first few weeks of 2016. After years of strong stock market performance, downturns like these remind investors of the importance of diversification and disciplined portfolio construction. Even though interest rates remain near historic lows, bonds remain an important part of this diversification as adding them to portfolios lowers volatility (i.e. risk). Historically, high quality bonds, that is those with lesser credit risk, proved an important source of diversification during periods of equity market stress, offering lower correlation while their lower quality brethren tend to have returns more highly correlated to stock market returns. Lower quality bonds imply greater credit risk, which is the risk of not getting paid because the issuer goes bankrupt.
    Whenever the outlook for the stock market is threatened, investors will sell risky assets to buy safe investments. This ‘flight to quality’ behavior is a well-known herding reaction to bad news. Historically, owning high quality bonds provides a diversification boost during periods when portfolios need it most. At Crestwood, we include high quality bonds in portfolios to provide a ballast against equity risk which helps to offset periods of stock market stress.

    Despite these attractive qualities, concerns over lower expected returns and potential interest rate increases have reduced the appeal for quality bonds. Unfortunately, the near historically low current yields for bonds is suggestive of low future returns (see Perspectives 5/1/15). In addition, the Federal Reserve is on a path to reduce their aggressively stimulative policy of near-zero interest rates. In December 2015, they increased the federal funds rate for the first time since 2006. When interest rates rise, bond prices fall, because most bonds have fixed interest payments and higher rates make these fixed interest payments less valuable. So, not only are lower returns expected, but depending on the pace of future increases in interest rates, it is possible that returns for some bonds could be negative. (more…)

  • Profiting from an Emotional Market

    The human race’s evolutionary wiring is a marvel: it has enabled us to avoid predators, feed ourselves and thrive in even the least hospitable parts of the planet. Unfortunately, the same wiring has made humans struggle as investors. Following age-old impulses of fear and greed, our species consistently behaves in a manner that often reduces our investment returns.
    Ironically, our tendency to commit behavioral errors provides opportunity for disciplined investors to perform better and helps to inform Crestwood’s investment process. Crestwood’s investment process seeks to outperform the market over a full market cycle – with less volatility – by understating, and avoiding, common behavioral errors in the market. Indeed, our investment approach is designed to take advantage of the predictable, self-defeating behaviors of so many market participants.

    Behavioral Finance 

    Let’s look at a small sampling of the many innate hurdles to successful investing that typical investors must contend with:

    Overconfidence: Investors systemically overestimate their knowledge and their ability, and the results can be unpleasant. In 2014, the S&P 500 index returned 13.7%–but the average equity mutual fund investor earned just 5.5%, according to research firm Dalbar. The discrepancy is explained by investors’ well-documented tendency to sell low and buy high. Additionally, high rates of “turnover”—holding investments for a short time, and then dumping them to buy others—demonstrates overconfidence that one investor knows more than others, even though historically low-turnover portfolios have outperformed high-turnover portfolios.

    (more…)

  • The Case For Owning International Stocks

    Recent headlines from overseas have been grim: Debt-wracked Greece is struggling to avoid economic collapse, while slowing growth and rampant speculation has triggered a plunge in China’s stock markets.
    For many, the bad news will reinforce a perception that investing beyond our shores is to be avoided. The fact that the S&P 500 has beaten international stocks since bottom of the market in 2009 seems only to reinforce the argument for keeping one’s money home.

    Annualized Stock Returns by Region
    3/31/2009 to 06/30/15
    S&P 500                             20.2%
    International Developed       13.3%
    Emerging Markets                13.9%
    Source: Crestwood Advisors, FactSet, MSCI and Standard and Poor’s

    (more…)

  • Matt Morse appears on NECN to discuss PetSmart

    Matt Morse appearance on NECN regarding PetSmart – 12.15.14

  • Life in a Low-Return World

    Many believe that we’re living in an environment of perpetually slower economic growth and potentially lower investment returns.
    Due to a variety of factors, investment returns may be below what investors might have reasonably expected not long ago. However, investors’ desire for returns hasn’t changed and, as a result, many are grappling with how to achieve higher performance in more modest markets.

    “Macro” factors

    Investment returns are heavily influenced by “macro” factors, which are more universal than, say, the sales results of a particular company. These “macro” factors may help explain why we may be in an era of lower investment returns. (more…)

  • Caution: Diverging Monetary Policies & Volatility Ahead

    2014 Wrap up:
    While the rapid decline in energy prices dominated headlines as 2014 ended, the U.S. stock market turned in a 6th consecutive year of positive returns with the S&P 500 up 13.7%, outperforming most major international benchmarks. Despite a third consecutive year of double digit returns, there was a defensive tone to U.S. equity returns, as the best performing sectors were utilities and health care, while cyclical sectors like consumer discretionary and industrials trailed. The energy sector was the only group posting negative returns for the year, declining 7.8%.

    Driving U.S. equities higher was improving economic growth, something that’s been lacking for some time. U.S. GDP for the 3rd quarter grew 5%, the highest rate in 10 years, and revenue and earnings for the S&P 500 came in at 4% and 8%, respectively. We’ve also seen a meaningful decrease in unemployment, with close to 3 million jobs added last year, bringing unemployment below 6% for the first time since 2008. (more…)

  • Summer Perspectives 2014

    “Summertime is always the best of what might be.” ― Charles Bowden
    While the severe winter weather may seem a distant memory in the midst of the current summer heat, its impact was more longstanding as evidenced by the -2.1% contraction in economic growth in Q1 2014, the first quarterly contraction since Q1 2009.  Fortunately, the economic slowdown proved to be short-lived as the warmer weather brought the reemergence of economic growth with GDP rebounding to +4.0% in Q2.  Investment markets have reacted favorably to the stronger economy and the S&P 500 index is up a respectable +5.7% through July.  Perhaps in a bit of a surprise, virtually every broadly watched global index also produced low to mid single-digit returns with the MSCI All World Index up 4.9%, the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index up 3.5%, and gold up 6.7%.

    Remarkably, despite unnerving geo-political events, these returns have been achieved with market volatility at its lowest level since 1995.  So far, investors continue to shrug off the tragic exchange of missiles and the ground war in Gaza, the rise of the fanatical lunatics of ISIS in Iraq, the fears over a spreading Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the escalating threat of war in Eastern Europe between Russia and Ukraine.  This relative calm in the investment markets has created an anxious environment where many investors seem to be waiting for the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, prompting a long-awaited pullback in U.S. stocks.  This anxiety has been heightened by the shifting sands of the accommodative monetary policies of global central banks that have spurred the ongoing bull market in stocks and elevated the valuations of most investable assets. (more…)

  • Does Tax Loss Harvesting Matter?

    The recent Memorial Day weekend kicked off the “unofficial” start of summer.  Contrary to the old adage “sell in May then go away” the team at Crestwood does not have a summer sabbatical planned for the next few months.
    Through the summer we will continue to actively manage your accounts with the important goal of maximizing your net of fee and after tax returns.   As you may have noticed while filing your 2013 tax return, an important aspect of our ongoing portfolio management is tax loss harvesting in your taxable accounts.

    Tax loss harvesting is defined as selling securities at a loss to offset a capital gains tax liability.  Capital losses generated can be used to offset other gains and reduce taxes.   Given a top Federal marginal tax rate on income of 39.6% and a top Federal tax rate on capital gains of 20%, or 23.8% for couples earning more that $250,000, these savings are increasingly important.

    2014-06-03_11-42-15 (more…)

  • Matt Morse comments on NECN regarding CitiGroup mortgage settlement

  • Market Perspectives: Year End 2013

    What an exciting year for U.S. equity investors! The 32% return of the S&P 500 was particularly surprising relative to the less than 2% growth in the U.S. economy last year.  Returns were predominantly U.S. centric as the MSCI All World Index was up 22%, inclusive of the U.S. returns, and a more modest 14% as measured by the MSCI All World Index excluding the U.S. Though 4th quarter earnings are not yet in, consensus earnings growth for the year is approximately 5.5%, about half the 10% was predicted last January. Given these lackluster fundamentals, it is fair to say that the Federal Reserve’s policy of “easy money” accounted for much of the market’s success. The efforts by central banks to hold down interest rates in an effort to stimulate economic growth have actually pushed investors into equities in search of higher returns.  Hence, it is no surprise that over 75% of the S&P’s return last year came from the willingness of investors to bid up the prices they pay for stocks (i.e. a price to earnings (P/E) multiple expansion).
    S&P500Source: Crestwood Advisors

    (more…)

  • Crestwood Advisors adds new partner

    We are pleased to announce the addition of Aaron M. Beltrami, CFP® as Partner at Crestwood Advisors.  Aaron joined Crestwood Advisors in August of 2008 and has been an integral part of our relationship management and financial planning team.  Our team and clients alike have benefited from Aaron’s 18+ years of financial industry experience and in particular, his deep experience working with high net worth individuals and families on solutions to simplify their complex financial lives. Aaron is a graduate of Assumption College in Worcester, MA and is an active member of the Financial Planning Association and the Boston Estate Planning Council.
    We remain committed to devoting and retaining the resources necessary to deliver the wealth management results that our clients expect from us.  We continue to experience significant growth in client assets under management and we are confident that this is due to the strength of our entire team’s focus on delivering strong investment and wealth management solutions to our clients and our commitment to open, honest and ongoing dialogue with our clients.

    We are pleased to welcome Aaron as a Partner at Crestwood Advisors and we are delighted to share the news with you.

    As always, please contact us if you have any questions.

  • No Tapering the September Rally

    Earlier this  month, we indicated September would be interesting as we anticipated the results of the next Federal Reserve policy meeting and increased chatter regarding the appointment of the next Federal Reserve Chairman (or woman!). With the S&P 500 index up 2.2% for the week as we write this, we have not been disappointed and we want to share our views of the major headlines which sparked this rally.
    This week started with Sunday’s announcement that Larry Summers, the presumed leading candidate, withdrew his candidacy to be the next Federal Reserve Board Chairman. The markets viewed this positively, as Summers was generally believed to be more “hawkish” than other candidates and most likely to withdraw the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) policies more quickly (i.e. “tapering”).  The remaining candidates, including Janet Yellen, are viewed as more “dovish” on QE and markets rose globally in anticipation of a more gradual tapering, with interest rates to remain at low levels for a longer period of time. As the Fed’s mandate is to maintain price stability and low unemployment, many believe the weak economic data continue to support a highly accommodative monetary policy. (more…)

  • Market Outlook – A Glimpse into the Consequences of Fed Tapering

    It’s been a fairly eventful couple of months in the investment markets, highlighted by a marked increase in volatility and, for the month of June, negative returns across virtually all major asset classes. Much of this was driven by discussion of the possibility of sooner-than-expected tapering of quantitative easing efforts by the U.S. Federal Reserve and a sharply slowing Chinese economy. As a result, bonds and emerging market stocks felt the brunt of the relative weakness.
    While July has seen a welcomed easing of interest rates and a sharp bounce in equity markets, given this volatility and broad macro events, some perspective of recent events is worthwhile as it highlights reasons for some of our recent strategies and the adjustments we continue to make in order to position our clients’ portfolios for the months and years ahead.

    What Happened to Bonds and Emerging Markets in Q2 2013? (more…)

  • Insurance – Considerations for the unknowns

    What Kinds of Insurance Do You Need?
    Just last week a client expressed his confusion over assessing whether or not he and his family are appropriately covered given his current insurance policies.  This confusion in regards to insurance is not uncommon.  Clients know they need some protection, but how much insurance and for how long is a very personal decision and changes with many variables.  In general, insurance protects you against the risk of the unknown and the key to obtaining appropriate coverage is to understand what you want to protect.

    Disability insurance

    If you need your income to maintain your lifestyle, then you need disability insurance.  Statistically speaking, you are four times more likely to face a long term disability than you are likely to die before your 65th birthday.

    Disability plans vary greatly and the income benefits are partially to completely taxable (if your employer covers some or all of the premium).   If your employer does not offer the benefit, individual policies are available for purchase.  The maximum benefit for which you may be eligible will be less than 100% of your current income.

    Life insurance

    The primary purpose for life insurance is to protect your surviving family in the instance of an untimely death.  The amount of protection will vary depending on circumstances but 7 – 10 times your annual income often provides sufficient protection for a young family.  Even a stay-at-home parent should have some protection to help offset the additional costs that it would take to replace their role in family life and childcare.

    Once your family is grown, and college and retirement has been funded you may no longer need the additional protection life insurance offers.   This will vary greatly on individual circumstances.  Life insurance can also be a good tool to provide liquidity for an estate liability or a vehicle for charitable gifting.

    Long-term care insurance

    Research shows that at least 70 percent of people over 65 will need long term care services at some point in their lifetime.  Long-term care insurance provides funds when the insured can no longer perform two of the six basic activities of daily living (also known as “ADLs” – eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring (walking) and continence).  Typically people consider purchasing long-term care insurance between ages 50 and 65 while they are still relatively healthy and active so that the insurance is that much more affordable.  If you anticipate a family member being financially dependent on you in the future, it may also being worthwhile to consider purchasing protection for them.

    Today in Massachusetts the median expense for a private room in a nursing home is $133,225, at an assisted living facility it is $59,400 and the median cost is $55,370 for a home health aide (44 hour week).   In the next 20 years these costs are expected to nearly triple.  While the cost of long term care insurance is high, it is often worth having at least a minimal daily benefit to “share the risk” of needing this additional assistance.   When you consider your daily benefit and length of coverage, important factors for consideration are your age, family history and your goals for preservation of wealth.  In general, the average period for which an individual needs assistance is 3 years and a policy that provides $200-$300 daily reimbursement for that period should help offset the expenses of the additional care.

    Property & Liability Insurance – Auto & Homeowner’s & “Umbrella” Policies

    Auto insurance is required for anyone who owns and drives a car. Depending on the value of your vehicle and your state’s requirements, the type of automobile insurance you should carry will vary.  In most cases you will want to purchase the maximum liability coverage available.

    If you own a home and you have a mortgage, you mortgage company requires that you maintain adequate homeowner’s insurance protection.  We would recommend that even if you own your home outright, you should still consider homeowner’s insurance to protect for unexpected home repairs.  As costs rise, it is a good rule to review the policy every few years to help ensure you have appropriate coverage.

    An umbrella policies offer liability protection over and above your auto and homeowners policies.  It is added protection.  Everyone should have an umbrella policy for at least as much as their net worth or $1,000,000 whichever is greater.  In the rare event you are sued, the policy will help pay towards a legal judgment, thereby preserving at least the value of the policy from your current assets and future earnings.

    Conclusion

    Everyone hopes to never need to access their insurance, but if you do you will want the appropriate protection.  If you have any questions about your current coverage, please let us know.  We are happy to review your protection with you.

  • Crestwood Advisors LLC Hires Additional Portfolio Manager

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Crestwood Advisors LLC is pleased to announce that Leigh Breitman Hurd, CFA has been hired to the position of Portfolio Manager/Director.

    “We are delighted to bring someone with Leigh’s skills and experience to Crestwood Advisors”, said Michael A. Eckton, CFA, Managing Partner. “Leigh is a wonderful addition to our team and we are excited for the additional depth and fresh perspectives she will bring to our clients”.

    Mr. Eckton added, “Leigh’s hire is an important step in the continued evolution of Crestwood Advisors and is consistent with our commitment to devoting the resources necessary to deliver the exemplary service our clients expect from us.”

    Prior to joining Crestwood Advisors, Leigh was a Portfolio Manager for 13 years at U.S. Trust, a subsidiary of Bank of America.  While at U.S. Trust, Leigh was responsible for managing investments for approximately 100 families with assets totaling over $200 million.  Previously, Leigh worked for Brown Brothers Harriman in Boston.  Leigh earned her undergraduate degree and MBA degree from Boston College’s School of Management.

    Crestwood Advisors LLC, based in Boston, Massachusetts, is a boutique investment and wealth management firm serving high-net-worth individuals and families.  For additional information, please contact John W. Morris, Managing Partner at 617.523.8880 or visit our web site at www.crestwoodadvisors.com.

  • Market update

    After a steady rise for much of 2013, market volatility picked up significantly in June, with broad weakness across most major market indices.  Through Monday, the S&P 500 declined 3.4% during the month (down almost 7% from its peak) and emerging markets, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Market index, is down 11% in June (and 19% from their peak).
    The declines were not limited to traditional “risk” asset classes like equities. As interest rates have risen on concerns of the Federal Reserve “tapering“ its quantitative easing program sooner rather than later, the Barclays Aggregate Bond index fell 2.5% in June and is now down 3.4% in 2013.  Times like these create anxiety in even the most seasoned investors.  As we have articulated in prior communications, we have been expecting increased volatility and possible weakness for quite some time and have taken proactive steps over the past few months in an effort to dampen the impact to client portfolios. While downside volatility is never pleasant, we do expect risk markets (stocks and bonds) to operate outside the “norm” periodically.  Additionally, while uncomfortable, we believe that market weakness does create opportunities for attractive investments.

    Even with the negative returns in the month of June, U.S. equity markets remain solidly positive year-to-date and continue to be the best performing asset class in the world.  Crestwood portfolios have benefited from this as our largest growth-oriented asset class exposure is in large cap U.S. equities.  Additionally, as markets rallied higher in the first part of the year, we actively reduced overweight exposures to stocks approaching our target valuations.  Now as markets pull back, we hope to have the opportunity to purchase high quality companies trading at more attractive valuations.

    The more significant sell-off in emerging markets is the result of a convergence of negative factors including a stronger U.S. dollar, geopolitical tensions, a slowing Chinese economy, concerns over future central bank policies and a general retreat from riskier assets.  These risks are always amplified for this asset class and why emerging markets continue to be a more modest weight in client accounts, relative to U.S. equities and fixed income.  Today, many emerging markets trade at valuations near previous crisis troughs (i.e. 2008), which we believe amply represents the confluence of risks noted above.  While we anticipate emerging market investments to continue to be volatile, we believe that these economies will continue to be the primary engine of global growth in the years ahead and that they remain attractive investment opportunities.  As with many of our investments, we’ve emphasized dividend income within our emerging market exposure as this has historically offered stronger and smoother returns for long-term investors. (more…)

  • Crestwood Advisors Team Participates in JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

    On July 12th, 8 members of the Crestwood Advisors team took part in the annual J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. The Corporate Challenge is a three and a half mile run that begins in the Boston Common and goes through Kenmore Square and other parts of the city.
    The race benefits the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, which makes locally-designated donations at each of their 13 global events sites. In Boston, the 2012 beneficiaries were the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Horizons for Homeless Children. Funds provided to Emerald Necklace Conservancy will support its Youth Leadership Program and Green Team, employing up to 50 urban youths to work on restoration projects in backyard parks. Horizons for Homeless Children is directing its donation to provide quality early education and care to 300 young children in Boston who have experienced the trauma of homelessness.

    The Crestwood Advisors team had a great time representing one of the 629 participating companies in this year’s sellout event, which had over 12,000 individual participants. Crestwood is proud to support the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge and its efforts to give back to the community.

  • Crestwood Perspectives Q4 2011 — Market Outlook: Volatility Behind & Ahead

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    Market Outlook: Volatility Behind & Ahead

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  • Crestwood Perspectives Q2 2011 — Market Outlook: Challenging Landscape

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    Market Outlook: Challenging Landscape

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