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Letter to Clients: 4th Quarter 2019

Dear Clients and Friends:

It seems as if each passing year goes faster and faster. I have finally gotten used to writing dates with the year 2019, and now the year is in the final quarter. It is hard to imagine that in just a few months we will be entering the third decade of the century.

As the year draws to a close, I find myself considering a new financial planning software platform. We have been using the current system for many years, and while it is an extremely powerful system, it comes at a price. That price being a system that is so complex it is sometimes difficult to lead and awkward to address common issues.

The new system under review has a similarly powerful engine under the hood, but the developers have made the user interface simple, clean, and easy to use and navigate. I will be reaching out to some of our existing clients who use the current system to set up accounts for you in the new system. I am sincerely interested in your feedback.

If you are not using our current financial planning system, I would encourage you to reach out to our office at (515) 255-3354 or send an email to LeKisha or myself so we can help you develop a plan. Ultimately, we want every client to have a financial plan and to know where they are in relationship to their goals.

Race to the bottom

Generally, I write these letters early in the month but try to focus the content entirely on the previous quarter. This will be an exception to that practice.

On October 1st the Charles Schwab investment platform, which is probably the closest competitor to TD Ameritrade (the custodian of the accounts we manage), announced that they are eliminating trading commissions for U.S. stocks, ETFs, and options. The next day TD Ameritrade responded with a similar announcement. They are eliminating trading commissions for U.S. Stocks and ETF’s, Canadian ETFS, and lowering option commissions to $0.65 per trade.

On the surface, there is a lot of good news in these announcements, but also raises concerns which may be less obvious. For instance, now that there is no cost to making a trade, could that cause the average retail investor to trade too quickly without proper consideration? Do free trades lead to increased trading activity as a result of reaction instead of maintaining a plan of action? Reckless trading can “cost” the investor far more than the $6.99 they used to be charged.

At DV Financial, we have never considered trade costs to be a significant consideration. A trade worth doing was worth paying $6.99 or even more. From a behavioral perspective, the reduction in cost has no influence on how we will manage your portfolio. However, it is nice that you will now get to the keep the fees TD Ameritrade used to charge.

State of the Markets

Trade headlines have controlled market prices during much of the year and the third quarter was no exception. A shift in the Fed’s stance and a reduction in trade tensions sparked a rally that took the S&P 500 Index to a new high in July[1].

Despite a late July rate cut, an escalation in trade tensions in August created a brief bout of volatility. Yet, the peak-to-trough decline in the S&P 500 Index was only 6.1%. Economic growth and a Fed that was (and probably still is) in rate-cut mode (the Fed snipped another quarter-point from the fed funds rate in September) cushioned the downside.

But a renewal of trade negotiations and a de-escalation of tensions were well-received by investors. When September ended, the S&P 500 wasn’t far from a new high.

Table 1: Key Index Returns

  MTD% YTD %

Dow Jones Industrial Average



NASDAQ Composite



S&P 500 Index



Russell 2000 Index



MSCI World ex-USA*



MSCI Emerging Markets*



US Aggregate Bond TR** -0.53


Source: Wall Street Journal,, Morningstar, MarketWatch,

MTD returns: Aug 30 - Sep 30, 2019            
YTD returns: Dec 31, 2018 - Sep 30, 2019

*in US dollars           **Bloomberg Barclays


Political storm clouds on the horizon?

Trade headlines will likely continue to influence short-term trading and uncertainty surrounding Brexit could also influence daily activity. Meanwhile, Europe appears to be on the cusp of a recession. The impeachment inquiry launched by the U.S. House of Representatives is also likely to give the press ample opportunity to create concern among investors.

President Nixon’s impeachment troubles coincided with a nasty bear market. But was there a link between the impeachment discussions and the 1973-74 market slide that lopped nearly 50% off the S&P 500? Or did the economic fundamentals hobble the major averages?

Table 2: Then vs Now

1973-74—Bear Market

(Nixon era)

1998—Bull Market

(Clinton era)


(Trump era)

Inflation rose to double-digit levels, peaking at over 12%

Inflation low and slowing

Inflation is low

Interest rates were spiking higher; prime loan rate hit 12%

Interest rates steady

Interest rates are low

OPEC oil embargo roils economy; oil prices rise four-fold

Oil plentiful; prices stable

A glut of oil exists today, and prices are well below levels of recent years

The unemployment rate jumped; the economy fell into a steep recession

The economy expanding

The economy is expanding, and the unemployment rate is near a 50-year low

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve, U.S. State Dept.                 
Past performance is no indication of future performance


Though political uncertainty likely exacerbated the selloff in the mid-1970’s, high inflation, high interest rates, and a deep recession also took a big toll on stocks. Contrast 1973-74 with the late-1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton. Twenty-five years later stocks performed well, amid much better economic fundamentals in spite of political turmoil. While no two situations are exactly alike, economic conditions today are more reminiscent of the late 1990s than Nixon’s second term.

Final thoughts

While we have seen a few rocky days this year, major indices have performed well. An official correction would require the S&P 500 and the Dow to shed 10 percent. For the long-term investor it hasn’t been a volatile year because interest rates provide little competition for stocks, the consumer has been strong, and the economy is expanding at a modest pace. Successful long-term investors do not make investment decisions based on an emotional response to daily volatility and are wary of being whipsawed by headlines.

If you have questions, let’s have a conversation. That’s what we’re here for.

Please feel free to reach out to us by email or call (515) 255-3354; you can also like and follow us on Facebook @dvfin. We especially enjoy when you share our value with others and consider it the highest form of complement. If you know of others who seek answers to calm their financial nerves, we would appreciate the introduction.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your financial advisor.


Art Dinkin, CFP®

This newsletter contains general information that may not be suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter will come to pass. Investing in the stock market involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Unless otherwise noted, performance of indices do not account for any fees, commissions or other expenses that would be incurred. Returns do not include reinvested dividends.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded “blue chip” stocks, primarily industrials, but includes financials and other service-oriented companies. The components, which change from time to time, represent between 15% and 20% of the market value of NYSE stocks.

The Nasdaq Composite Index is a market-capitalization weighted index of the more than 3,000 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The types of securities in the index include American depositary receipts, common stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and tracking stocks. The index includes all Nasdaq listed stocks that are not derivatives, preferred shares, funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or debentures.

The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value.

The Russell 2000 Index is an unmanaged index that measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.

The MSCI All Country World Index ex USA Investable Market Index (IMI) captures large, mid and small cap representation across 22 of 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries (excluding the United States) and 23 Emerging Markets (EM) countries*. With 6,062 constituents, the index covers approximately 99% of the global equity opportunity set outside the US.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index that consists of indices in 21 emerging economies: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

Barclays Aggregate Bond Index includes U.S. government, corporate, and mortgage-backed securities with maturities of at least one year.


[1] S&P 500 data – St. Louis Federal Reserve