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Science, Markets & Reality. Who is on First?

In our last blog post which we published last week, we wrote about the Efficient Market Hypothesis [EMH] and whether it was true, half-true or half-false. We fielded different responses to this post, half of which stated "of course, markets are inefficient" and the other half stating "they are efficient most of the time". We pointed out that these theories do not take "human nature" fully into account. History charts a series of irrefutable market bubbles and busts across multiple asset classes. When you are actually in a bubble or bust period, it can feel like conditions will go on indefinitely. The law of market cycles sais otherwise.

Over the last two months, the markets have charted a strong recovery track defying the hard hitting economic realities of the impact of the coronavirus. They have been - or so it appears - in denial of what all medical specialists and virologists are saying, which is that the coronavirus will inevitably re-surface in the fall of 2020, if it even disappears or lessens in-between. There are no maybe's, it's a 100% guarranteed. There is a reason why Operation Warp Speed [OWS], the government funded program to fast track the development of a vaccine, as well as its manufacturing and distribution, was established. Without a vaccine, a large sector of the general population are not going to get back to life, work and patterns of consumption as they were pre-coronavirus. The virus is highly transmittable and without vigilant precautions and collective discipline, we are only going to make it easier for it to find a path to its next host.

It is not a secret that the virus has not been contained and cannot be effectively contained without such collective effort. It is not a matter of dispute among medical experts. Until today, the markets have seemingly been ignoring this fact which has been continuously stated by medical experts. Even Jerome Powell, the chairman of the federal reserve, when interviewed a few weeks ago about the impact of the virus and what the Fed was doing, talked about various scenarios which would of course be worse he said "if the virus were to return in the Fall". But there are no "If's" from the perspective of every virologist on the planet. Did this fact go un-noticed by Mr Powell? We think this is unlikely.

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Efficient or Innefficient Markets - Which One Is It?

What Is the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH)? Is it True or False, Half-True or Half-False?

The efficient market hypothesis (EMH), also known as "efficient market theory" states that share prices reflect all known information in the current moment and that ergo they are valued fairly. This in turn infers that consistent alpha generation cannot be achieved and that it is also fruitless to try and beat or out-perform the markets.

According to the EMH, stocks always trade at their fair value. Therefore, expert stock selection or market timing is a myth being chased by investment bankers, analysts and brokers at the expense of investors. Why should Wall Street be paid high fees if they are not outperforming the market. EMH states that the only way an investor can potentially beat the market is by making riskier investments. A low cost ETF or balanced fund that tracks the market is all that most investors need.

EMH or efficient market hypothesis fails however to take one key factor into account, namely human beings. Human beings are not rational. Stock market or housing or art bubbles and busts are littered along the path of progress in human history. They come and go. They repeat, again and again. We can probably go back a lot further in history to illustrate this point but we will start with what was referred to and more commonly known as "The Dutch Tulip Mania" in the 17th century when tulips reached absurdly inflated prices and then collapsed in 1637. Fast forward to the roaring 1920's and crash of 1929 and then to the dot.com bubble leading up to 2000 and the housing bubble of 2007. You get the point. Every one of these bubbles was fuelled by human "greed" and an infinite supply of hope that things would keep getting better or that stocks or property would go higher and higher. Not exactly rational given that the battle hardened and tested "theory-not" of "market cycles" which states that all markets whether it be commodities, stocks and collectables move in cycles.

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US - China Tensions. The Battle For Global Supremacy, Security & Influence

China USA TensionsGlobal tensions between the USA and China were already a "thing" prior to the Coronavirus rearing its ugly head. However, in a post-coronavirus world that has severely impacted economies, supply chains and trade, the sheer extent to which countries - in particular the USA - are dependent on vital goods such as key ingredients for pharmaceuticals, medical equipments and auto-parts for example, has been highlighted in dramatic fashion. Significant sectors of US industry have sacrificed "price advantages" over "security" in a long established US led transition of exporting manufacturing and jobs to China.

In a world where China and American trade relations may continue to sour and worsen, such dependency can no longer be viewed as a smart play. China has never been viewed as a fair player. They play to win at all costs. The mis-handling of the coronavirus outbreak has not endeared China to the world. The US which has suffered the worst impact of the coronavirus worldwide and where the governement was slow to take it seriously, has decided to blame the WHO (World Health Organization) for not being more circumspect about what was happening in China and more suspect about information regarding the outbreak and therefore wasting precious time.

The US pulled its funding from the WHO much to the chagrin of its allies while China was more than happy to cough up a couple of billion dollars to plug the funding gap and win more favor. An investigation is now underway within the WHO. It's fair to say that very few countries were prepared for a pandemic. It was never a matter of "if' but "when" and most of the world chose to ignore the matter of preparedness. That changes only in the instance of a pandemic hitting and by the time that happened - as we have all witnessed - it was already too late.

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Are The Markets Disconnected From Reality or Ahead of It?

For most people looking at the stock market it's hard to understand how the US stock markets keeps trending up when -as of this week - almost 40 million people, that is 1 in every 5 people in the USA are now claiming unemployment. It's hard to comprehend. 40 million people is almost 73% of the entire population of England or 4x the entire population of Switzerland.

Yet, the US stock markets -the DOW, the Nasdaq and so forth - keep trending up. Is the economy going to be back to normal in 6 months time? Are 90% of the population who are claiming unemployment going to be back at work in 6 months time? Are we going to have an approved successful vaccine in 6 months time that has been distributed to 350 million people in the USA? And if a vaccine is not ready or still in the process of being proven out, is the coronavirus going to disappear in the winter of 2020/2021? You will be hard-pressed to find a virologist in the USA that is not saying that it is inevitable that the coronavirus will re-surface in the winter of 2020 and that is even if it recedes during the summer which is not necessarily the case on a regional level, where patchworks of outbreaks will vary regionally as the virus migrates as it will with passage made easier in states with looser restrictions.

Is the massive government and fed stimulus enough to prop everything up indefinitely. There will be more. It may take time for the next round to be passed by the house and senate but the commitment to do so, if it is necessary, is there.

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When The Chairman of the Federal Reserve & Prominent Investor Billionaires Speak - The Markets Listen!

As unemployment crosses the 36.5 million mark and economic data indicates a more protracted recovery timeline, not to mention the guaranteed re-surfacing of the coronavirus in the fall, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell along with a handfull of billionaires begin to speak out about their outlook for the US economy.

Its a more sobering assessment than the markets hope for a "V" shaped recovery trajectory. When the Chairman of the Fed and a handful of uber-successful billionaire investors speak, the markets take notice and listen.

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1600 South Main Street, Suite 190
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Phone: 925-906-9800
Fax: 925-906-9884
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