A Personal Note from Cam – Dated May 1, 2020
The headlines are full of terrible news. The United States economy contracted nearly 5% in the first quarter. Jobless claims have topped 30 million, erasing ALL of the job gains since the Great Recession. And the coronavirus-with no successful treatment or vaccine available-has already infected over 1 million Americans. Yet through yesterday, April 30th, the broad stock market has taken a 32% bounce off the March 23rd low. In fact, U.S. stocks just had their best month in 23 years…and the 12th best top month for stocks since 1928. Believe it or not, the S&P 500 is only down 10% year-to-date.
With the S&P coming off such a strong month, it is important to keep in mind that seasonality often becomes a headwind starting in May. Going back 70 years, the average monthly performance over the course of the summer months is underwhelming and after a +30% rally from the March 23rd low, it would not surprise me to see the market cool off at least for the time being.
Upgrade Our 8-Track Government
Perhaps you read an Opinion page article on April 20th in the Wall Street Journal written by Andy Kessler in his “Inside View” column. If not, please allow me to summarize his message: “Early in April, Johns Hopkins surgeon Marty Makary was quoted talking about a much-needed COVID-19 antibody test developed in January that was under Food and Drug Administration review. He shared when the original scientists submitted an application, he was told he had to submit it also by paper mail with a CD-ROM with the files burned on it.”.
They might as well have asked for a deck of IBM punch cards, similar to the punch cards I used when I worked for the Lockheed California Company in 1980 when I left the United States Navy and transitioned back into the civilian workforce.
The article goes on and states “last week, New Jersey put out a call for Cobol programmers to update its unemployment-benefits software, which runs on mainframes installed 40 years ago. Cobol was invented in 1959. New Jersey has a $39 billion budget.”
“The feds, who spend $88 billion a year on information technology, are worse and notorious for ancient systems. The Pentagon’s control of nuclear missiles and bombers until very recently ran on 8-inch floppy disks from the 1970s.”
“According to the Government Accountability Office, as of May 2016 two different Internal Revenue Service computer systems used for tax data and refunds were written in “low level” assembly language 56 years prior.”
Are you getting the picture? It works, so why mess with success.
“In 1971, IBM introduce the 3270 terminal, used for data entry. Remember those ubiquitous green screens?”
Can you imagine that today, 44 of the world’s top 50 banks still use this exact same technology?”
I for one, am amazed at how quickly the American private sector has been able to pivot since the COVID-19 crisis stated. Sure, everyone was moving in slow motion initially, but within a matter of weeks, were you not amazed at how the private sector stepped up?
Personally, I’ve never felt more pride in the capability of the private sector to step in and fix the problems and challenges now faced by all local, state and the federal government.
I realize that President Trump is perhaps the most polarizing president we have ever had in our American history. Even with all of his human flaws, one positive trait he brings to the table is his experience as a businessman. He understands what it takes to make a payroll. He understands the impact on business the multitude of laws produce.
And it is for each of these reasons that a number of new private-public enterprises have been established over the past couple of months. Private ingenuity, coupled with cutting “red tape,” allows immediate progress into solving problems.
In my opinion, we need government, but I believe it should be limited. “Government is learning fast what the private sector already knows: As soon as you digitize, technology investment is no longer static-it drags you along a capital-hungry continuum from main-frame, mini, client-server, PC, mobile-first, cloud-first to, soon, AI. The private sector digitizes to reduce head count and generate productive returns, but government grows and grows at the expense of the taxpayer.
The entire government in the United States, including local, state and the federal government now totals almost 22 million employees. What do you think the potential of our “government” might be if steps were taken to upgrade the tools used by the government to more closely match what the private sector currently uses?
What’s on my Mind
My focus during these past three months has been laser sharp. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to help you get through these scary times with confidence, new capabilities and with your mindset intact.
Personally, and professionally, I feel as I did 38 years ago when I first started my registered investment advisory and financial consulting firm. I am energized and love coming to work.
Projects that had been sitting on my back burner during “normal times” and that I had planned on getting to at some distant point in the future, have now become goals that I’m currently addressing now. This future, which I though was months or even years away has actually arrived. Here, right now.
This past week, on Tuesday, April 28th, we launched a new weekly series that is going to focus on gratitude. I have found in my own life, that when I live in a state of gratitude, I’m just a happier man. I’ve also found this to be true with the clients and collaborative professionals we have worked with over the past 38 years. We are calling this new series “Start your day with…” If you have not yet had the opportunity to watch this inaugural video, please do so. We plan on emailing this series every Tuesday, before noon time.
And please, feel free to share your ideas on topics you would like us to focus on. I invite you to send us pictures, short stories, poems, or video clips that are meaningful to you and we will incorporate what you’ve shared in one of our upcoming videos.
Today, I am very pleased to publicly announce that we are officially changing the name of our investment advisory and financial consulting firm to CTA Wealth Advisors, Inc. which is “A New Name…The Same Team.”
Please click on both of the above links and you will be taken to our new website and our FAQs. The FAQs have been designed to explain the process of how we arrived at the decision to change our business name and it also explains the specific work that will continue under Cameron Thornton Associates.
On behalf of our entire team, I hope that you and all of your loved ones are well.
The information provided is not a complete analysis of every material fact and are subject to change.
Securities and some investment advisory services are offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a broker/dealer and Registered Investment Adviser.
Financial Planning and some investment advisory services are offered through Cameron Thornton Associates, a Registered Investment Adviser.
Cameron Thornton Associates and Cetera Advisor Networks LLC are non-affiliated companies.
The opinions expressed in this letter are those of Cameron M. Thornton, CFP® and Trevor M. Cole, CFP®. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results. Past performance does not guarantee results.
Investors cannot invest directly in indexes. The performance of any index is not indicative of the performance of any investment and does not take into account the effects of inflation and the fees and expenses associated with investing.
Dow Jones Industrial Average Index: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.
S&P 500 Index: The S&P 500 is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.
NASDAQ Composite Index: The NASDAQ Composite Index includes all domestic and international based common type stocks listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a broad-based index.
Websites provided as a courtesy and are not under the control of Cetera Advisor Networks LLC or Cameron Thornton Associates.
Cameron M. Thornton, CFP® is a Representative with Cetera Advisor Networks LLC and may be reached at www.cameronthornton.com or (818) 841-1746.
1 - Strategas – The Daily Macro Brief, May 1, 2020.