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Tahoe Market Pulse: Murky outlook for stocks

David Vomund
Special to the Bonanza

Strategists expect a fairly benign economic and financial environment with little inflation and low energy prices. Interest rates will begin to tick higher around mid-year, but won’t go far and won’t rise quickly.

Profits will rise 8 percent. Those are all probabilities, but hardly certainties. Things can happen. Look at the price of crude oil today. No one expected prices to fall more than 50 percent in six months while at the same time economic growth picked up.

A potential problem is that since all of the above is widely expected they are already reflected in today’s stock prices. That has implications well beyond the obvious.

Speaking of consensus, there is near universal belief that oil will continue to fall as supply exceeds demand. Maybe.

The crude oil plunge was the year’s Black Swan event, meaning it was sudden and on no one’s radar. The market always goes to extremes. We’ve seen that before, and we’ll see it again.

Cash moved out of high-yield bonds in 2014, but expect that to change this year. Junk bonds is an asset class that is as unloved today as utilities were a year ago. The reason, some insist, is that energy companies comprise 14 percent of the junk bond market.

Yes, some of the most aggressive exploration companies will run into trouble, but they’ll be acquired and debt will be restructured or assumed by the buyer. The amount at risk will be a small part of that 14 percent. Once again, investors are overreacting.

I remain optimistic for the market, and expect to be surprised by the leaders and laggards as I was last year.

I didn’t expect utilities to once again be so strong nor some energy stocks to be so weak. Did anyone? These are interesting and challenging times for investors, and rewarding for those who avoid the fast lane and take modest risks with quality stocks.

In this environment high-yielding preferred stocks are especially attractive. I’ll list my favorites next week.

David Vomund is an Incline Village-based fee-only money manager. Information is found at http://www.ETFportfolios.net or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial adviser before purchasing any security.


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