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A Buffet of Hope & Realism

"NEVER BET AGAINST AMERICA" !! Warren Buffet spent the first 45 minutes of the Annual Berkshire Hathaway Meeting last Saturday on May 2nd providing a summary historic analysis of the United States Economic growth story.  Since its inception around 1776, with a population that represented a tiny fraction of the global population, no one at that time could have foreseen what America was going to become in just 244 years. Using a crude calculation based on the 1815 sale of Louisianna to the USA for a mere $15million icluding mineral rights (3cents an acre) Buffet estimates the total worth of the US to have been $1billion in 1815. That total worth has mushroomed to over $150 Trillion in just 234 years. That is a staggering 150,000% growth. No wonder Buffet calls America "An Economic Miracle"!

During this time America has withstood a civil war, the 1918 flu pandemic, the great depression and two world wars. Take a look at this chart documenting major crisis and the stock markets growth. It is staggering to think what America has accomplished and it is on this factual basis that Buffet's opening takeaway was "Never, Never Bet Against America"! 

A strong opening statement that was followed by the reality that we are living in uncertain times with the Coronavirus Global Pandemic and that no-one really knows how this is going to unfold. Scientists have been warning for years that it was not "if" but "when" a global pandemic would hit. Berkshire Hathaway's philosophy is to be prepared. Always hold a lot of cash on hand, not only for potential business opportunities but also for weathering uncertain economic times. With 120 Billion cash on hand, Berkshire Hathaway is in a good position to withstand the current economic shock even with the significant losses its businesses are facing.

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No Man's Land - Hope, Reality, Unknowns and X Factors

Its Thursday, Aprill 30th and there are reasons for optimism. For example, the preliminary indications for Gilead"s Remdesevir and Oxford University's "Vaccine" development program look promising. There are however also reasons for pessimism such as unemployment numbers topping 30 million (exceeding numbers at the peak of the great depression), the possibility of renewed trade friction with China and a more cautious consumer in the immediate months ahead.

The rising tide of corporate debt over the last few years and more than 1,000 credit downgrades since January 2020 is also cause for concern. The COVID-19 economic shock is only going to exacerbate the issues in companies with marginal quality debt ratings. It is realistic to expect a wave of banruptcies. The Federal Reserve will be avoiding companies at the lower end of the ratings spectrum.

It is unrealistic to expect a robust return of the economy as most states adopt a gradual "phased" approach to re-opening their economies along with maintaining social distancing and strict hygiene standards. This will inevitably slow "commerce" and "demand" as we head into May and the summer 3rd quarter.

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Why Promise & Proof Are Binary Events in the World of Drug Discovery

In a previous blog post, we mentioned that we will be on the lookout for news relating to drug discovery for the coronavirus, in particular, anti-viral treatments. There has subsquently been news about Gilead's "remdesivir" showing promise along with a variety of anti-body treatments being developed by other companies.

When it comes to drug discovery, it is important to distinguish between "promise" and "proof". In the case of Gilead, the news was leaked from one of a number of trials that are yet to complete. It is not wise to draw conclusions that "promising indications" leaked from one arm of a trial in drug discovery will result in a better chance of achieving a meaningful outcome e.g. proof of effectiveness in clinical trials.You should take any such news with a pinch of salt. Unless a drug or vaccine has shown efficacy in the context of a Phase 3 trial and has been approved by the FDA the odds of that "promise  turning into reality" are fairly slim.

Until we have solid proof of effective Phase 3 trial results and a variety of FDA approved anti-viral treatments, it will prove challenging to manage our way through this pandemic. Should Gilead's drug prove out to be effective, it still faces big challenges with respect to production and availability on a very large scale. Furthermore, it may prove to be effective in only certain type of cases and instances. What is needed is a toolbox of anti-viral drug treatments.

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The Big Debate: Analysts & Economists Diverge On The Timeline for a Market Recovery

The BIG question and debate of the moment ammong economists and analysts is whether the market is going to make a V shaped recovery or re-visit new lows and make a longer term recovery. We have curated some of the articles -see below - that we believe shed some thoughtful light on these topics.

We have witnessed unprecedented government and federal reserve intervention in the economy and as a result the markets have rallied with an optimism that would have absolutely not been present had this not been the case. The swift financial interventions provide a backstop and floor in the market. The question is: "Where is that floor". That depends on a lot of unknowns and we question whether the analysts and economists who believe the March market bottom is "in" and now behind us have fully accounted for all the unknowns.

Unknowns include:

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When Will The Nation Re-Open for Business?

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all facing significant unknowns and new stresses. We are all reliant on the economy for our daily existence and the big question on everyone's minds is when will life return to some semblance of normalcy?. This article explores the questions about when the US will get back to business.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/upshot/coronavirus-four-benchmarks-reopening.html

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1600 South Main Street, Suite 190
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Phone: 925-906-9800
Fax: 925-906-9884
info@hawleyadvisors.com

 

 

Hawley Advisors is an investment advisor, registered with the State of California. Any investment ideas or strategies on this website are for the purposes of education and general information only and should not be construed as specific investment advice. For more information about our firm please check the SEC Public Disclosure website: https://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/

 

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