Oct 072019

How to spot the warning signs of a looming recession

Last year I wrote a blog post explaining that a recession may not be far away. A recession is 2 consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. The indicators at that time were still questionable. But fast forward to today and wow, the signals have become much clearer! Here are 10 economic indicators that strongly suggest a U.S. recession could be imminent.

recession indicators to keep an eye on

  1. Inverted yield curve
  2. Unemployment rate reaching an inflection point
  3. The long term unemployment is flattening out
  4. Declining GDP growth
  5. Lower expectations for corporate earnings
  6. Manufacturing index PMI falls to 10 year low
  7. Global uncertainty index at all time high
  8. Declining Cass Freight Index
  9. The Fed Bank of New York drastically raised the likelihood of a recession
  10. Rising auto loan delinquencies

Additional breakdown of each of the 10 indicators below.

The yield curve has inverted

The graph below shows the difference between the 10 year treasury yield and the 2 year treasury yield. The yield curve tends to get flatter when the economy reaches the end of an expansion cycle. The vertical gray bars on the graph represent periods of recession. How reliable is this indicator? Over the last 50 years, every recession was preceded by a yield curve inversion. 😮 The graph dropped to below 0% earlier this year in March, officially inverting the yield curve. According to Credit Suisse, a recession occurs about 22 months on average after a yield curve inversion.

US 10 year treasury against 2 year treasury yields from FRED


The unemployment rate is bottoming out

A lower unemployment rate is good for the economy. But at the end of every full employment cycle is a sharp increase in the civilian unemployment rate, usually accompanied by a recession. When we last looked at this graph in 2018 the unemployment rate was at 4% and heading down. Today it is lower at 3.7%, a 50 year low in fact. Practically speaking it cannot drop much more than this. Historically we can see in the chart that after the lowest point in each employment cycle, the unemployment rate shoots up abruptly, usually coinciding with a recession.

Unemployment rate cycle against past recessions. The correlation is very clear.


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Oct 012019

Tight Race Ahead

In a few weeks Canadians will vote for a Prime Minister to lead the country. Who knows what kind of chicanery will ensue. According to the CBC poll tracker, which aggregates all publicly available polling data, the Conservatives hold a narrow lead over the Liberals. Looks like it’s going to be a close call. 😮

canadian poll for 2019 election

Financial markets are always uncertain right before an election because policy changes can drive consumer incentives and business decisions. During the past quarter leading up to this month’s election the stock market has seen lower volumes of trading. Many companies put off hiring and investing until they know which political party is going to win.

Meanwhile south of the border, the United States economy is slowing down. Its 2nd quarter GDP growth dropped to 2%, down from 3% from the previous quarter. Manufacturing data also shows weakness and poor sentiment about businesses. Business earnings growth estimates have dropped from 7.6% last year to just 2.3% now. As a result the U.S. central bank dropped interest rates by 0.25% last month. This is good news for people who have floating rate debt in US dollars like myself. 🙂 So now my investment expenses are slightly lower than before.

Markets were slightly positive in September bumping up my net worth to $991K. It’s nearly at the $1M mark. 🙂 Below are my financial results ending September 30th.

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes: = $2,700

  • Part time job =$700
  • Freelance = $400
  • Dividends =$1200
  • Interest = $500

*Discretionary Spending: = $2,200

  • Food = $400
  • Miscellaneous = $300
  • Interest expense = $1300

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Total Assets: = $1,377,500 (+4900)
  • Cash = $8,800 (+1200)
  • Canadian stocks = $192,700 (+3200)
  • U.S. stocks = $133,500 (-1800)
  • U.K. stocks = $21,400 (+700)
  • Retirement = $135,800 (+1000)
  • Mortgage Funds = $36,900 (+300)
  • P2P Lending = $36,400 (+300)
  • Home = $367,000 (assessed land value)
  • Farms = $445,000
  • Total Debts: = $386,400 (-3,300)
  • Mortgage = $186,500 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $162,900 (-500)
  • Margin Loans = $35,000 (-400)
  • Line of Credit = $2,000 (-2000)

*Total Net Worth = $991,100 (+$8,200 / +0.8%)
All numbers are in $CDN at 0.76/USD

Another month is in the bag. 🙂 The Canadian dollar got stronger which is both good and bad. On one hand Canadians have stronger purchasing power globally so we can buy more things for cheap. But on the other hand our assets outside the country are worth less when converted back into $CAD.


Random Useless Fact:

The hamburger got its name from a cut of beef in Hamburg, Germany, and doesn’t contain any ham.

Sep 232019

The lump sum or monthly dilemma 

When it comes to investment timing there are generally two recommended strategies – either invest all the cash immediately, or break up the total amount to invest in regular installments. For example, if you receive a $12,000 bonus on January 1st, should you put all $12,000 into the stock market as soon as possible, or invest $1,000 per month over the course of the entire year?

The answer, statistically speaking, is to invest the entire amount right away. This is because the stock market rises about 3/4 of the time over a typical 1 year period. So a pattern of investing as early as possible, will over time, yield lower buying prices than dollar cost averaging which spreads the capital over the course of 12 months.

However, the difference in performance isn’t very dramatic. Investment management company Charles Schwab published a study comparing these 2 strategies along with a few other ones. They gave $2,000 at the beginning of every year to 5 hypothetical investors, each with a different timing style. They are as follows.

  1. Timing the market perfectly by investing the full $2,000 at the stock market’s lowest point of the year, every year.
  2. Invests the $2,000 at the very beginning of each year.
  3. Uses dollar cost averaging, dividing the $2,000 evenly by 12 and investing once a month.
  4. Timing the market in the worst way possible, investing $2,000 at the peak of the market each year.
  5. Investing in government T-Bills and other cash equivalents that are safe instead of the stock market.

Here is how much money each investor built up after 20 years.

how investment timing works

As we can see, investing a lump sum as soon as possible yields slightly better results than splitting up the amount and investing gradually month by month. 🙂 This is true using older periods as well. The study further analyzed all 68 rolling 20-year periods dating back to 1926. In 58 of the 68 periods, the rankings were exactly the same.

In conclusion, if you plan to invest in the stock market, your best move is to invest the entire amount immediately. Don’t split up your capital to gradually invest it over time. Dollar cost averaging will probably set you back instead of help you. The earlier you take the risk with your money the more time it will have to grow. 🙂

Here are some questions to sum up today’s blog post.

  • The TSX just reached a record high last week on Sept 17. If you have money to invest now, should you wait for a small pullback before jumping in?
    Answer: The data would suggest no. Believing that lower stock prices are just around the corner is a terrible mindset to have, financially speaking. As a case study, the Dow Jones index in the U.S. reached over 120 all-time highs just in the 2010s alone so far. It’s quite common for record highs to be followed by more record highs. The last investor in Charles Schwab’s study stayed out of the market and ended up with the smallest portfolio after 20 years. Many renters in Toronto missed out on the real estate boom over the last 2 decades because they were waiting for home prices to drop since 2000. Waiting for any correction is generally not a good idea.
  • Are there times when it’s better to dollar cost average rather than invest immediately?
    Answer: Yes. If you don’t already have a large pile of money saved, then dollar cost averaging (DCA) is better than waiting until you save up enough for a larger lump sum investment. The simple lesson is the sooner your money is invested, the better. 🙂
  • Does timing the market work?
    Answer: In most cases, no. In the study above, after a 20 year period, the perfect market timer amassed only 6.5% more wealth than the investor who put money to work right away. Market timing can easily go wrong. The worst market timer in the study ended up with 12.6% less than the lump sum investor. So the risk is not the worth the potential reward to time the market.



Random Useless Fact:

The goal of golf is to play as little golf as possible.

Sep 162019

One advantage of owning real estate is being able to access the value of the underlying asset for financial gains. The more properties we own, the more equity we can use to buy additional properties. This is why it’s often easier for homeowners to grow their net worths, but harder for renters. One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing mortgage. Historically, many lenders agree that refinancing is a good idea if you can reduce your interest rate by at least 1.00%.

As we know, a mortgage balance gets paid down slowly over time. In the beginning you might have a $300,000 mortgage. But maybe after the first 5 year term is over, your balance is only $250,000. When you go to renew your mortgage you’ll likely have a couple of options. One is to continue paying down the $250,000 balance. Assuming interest rates haven’t changed, your monthly mortgage payments would also be unchanged, because that’s how mortgages are designed. But the other option is to refinance at a higher balance so your total loan amount is increased. By refinancing, you can access up to 80% of your home’s value less any outstanding mortgages. So if the value of your property is now higher than when you bought it, you could potentially borrow more than your initial mortgage amount against your home. 🙂 But your monthly payments would go up in this scenario because you have more debt.

In order to figure out when is a good time to use one method or the other, we need to consider the following factors.

  • How tight is your budget? 
    If you are already struggling to make ends meet, then it’s usually not a good idea to refinance at a higher balance. Just keep to the lowest amount until your income and spending situation improves.
  • Are there any investment opportunities out there?
    If you expect a good return on a potential investment, then it may be worth it to borrow more money against your home. For example, the Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAR.UN) has performed somewhat predictably over the years. Its 1-Year, 3-Year, 5-Year, 10-Year, and even 15-Year returns have all averaged over 10% per year. If my mortgage rate is 3% then that’s a 7% gap minimum, before taxes. It’s reasonable to assume that a margin of safety of 7% is a low level of risk, considering the stability of Canadian real estate.
  • Do you have any other debts?
    Using home equity is a great way to pay out higher interest debt through a refinance. For example, let’s say you have outstanding car loans, student loans, and credit card balances that combine to equal $50,000. Chances are these are all charging a higher interest rate than your mortgage. So instead of refinancing at $250,000 you could simply grow your mortgage debt to $300,000. And use the extra $50,000 to pay off your other debts, saving interest expenses over time.

In terms of how to get more equity out of your home, you could either take on a home equity line of credit, or blend and extend your current mortgage with your lender. Please be aware there are costs associated with refinancing. If you want to refinance in the middle of your term to access equity or lower your interest rate your lender will charge you a penalty. For fixed mortgage rates this penalty is the greater of 3 months interest or the interest rate differential payment (IRD). For variable mortgage rates this is simply 3 months interest. There may also be lawyer fees involved with a refinance. You can also have multiple mortgages from different lenders at the same time, but a 2nd or 3rd mortgage will often come with a higher interest rate and may not be worth it. So it’s important to consider which type of refinance you need before renewing your mortgage. 🙂


Random Useless Fact:

Sep 032019

Gold and Silver Outshine the Equities Market

Stock markets fell in August across North America and Europe in general. 🙁 But there is a silver lining. Precious metal companies managed to do quite well. A couple of months ago I explained why silver is a great investment for 2019, and how it’s more undervalued than gold. I disclosed buying 300 shares of Wheaton Precious Metals (WPM) in July because I thought the price of silver would continue to rise. Thankfully it did. My net worth today is $2,000 higher because of that one investment decision. 🙂 Hurray!

Besides WPM I also own shares in Newmont Goldcorp (NGT.) If I didn’t have so much silver and gold related assets in my portfolio my net worth surely would have dropped in August. But diversification saved the day and I managed to grow my wealth by $4,100.

Gold had been in the dumps for several years since 2013. Its price dipped to a low of US$ 1060/oz in 2016. However things are looking very different now. Since the start of this year gold’s price has grown by 21%. It’s one of the best performing asset classes of 2019 so far, currently trading at $1548/oz. But silver has performed even better at 24% return year to date. The price of silver had a large rally last week and is now sitting at $19.17/oz. 🙂 Precious metals are making a comeback this year, due to more dovish monetary policies worldwide and the uncertainty of the U.S. and China trade war.


Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes: = $2,700

  • Part time job =$900
  • Freelance = $400
  • Dividends =$1000
  • Interest = $400

*Discretionary Spending: = $2,200

  • Food = $400
  • Miscellaneous = $300
  • Interest expense = $1300

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Total Assets: = $1,372,600 (+600)
  • Cash = $7,600 (+2100)
  • Canadian stocks = $189,500 (+300)
  • U.S. stocks = $135,300 (-1600)
  • U.K. stocks = $20,700 (-800)
  • Retirement = $134,800 (+200)
  • Mortgage Funds = $36,600
  • P2P Lending = $36,100 (+400)
  • Home = $367,000 (assessed land value)
  • Farms = $445,000
  • Total Debts: = $389,700 (-3,500)
  • Mortgage = $186,900 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $163,400 (-400)
  • Margin Loans = $35,400 (-700)
  • Line of Credit = $4,000 (-2000)

*Total Net Worth = $982,900 (+$4,100 / +0.4%)
All numbers are in $CDN at 0.75/USD

I have been an advocate of gold and silver since 2011, suggesting everyone should have at least a little bit of each in their portfolios. The value of my 1 kilogram Arctic coin has held up nicely in Canadian dollars. I have been slowly buying more bullion over the years at lower prices than today and stashing them away.

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