The Madison Weekly Market Wrap

September 27, 2019
Volume 6, Issue 38

Market Monitor

Above the Market - Information is cheap; meaning is expensive

What’s the Trade?

The attack on a Saudi Arabian oil field last weekend is still sending reverberations through markets, far and wide, and it could have long-term implications for much more than the price of crude. Most immediately, Saudi Aramco could take some time fully to restore output at its giant Abqaiq plant, with oil analysts saying that damage at the facility is more severe than originally thought.

This event and its aftermath remind me of I game we used to play when I worked on one of Wall Street’s big trading floors (and recounted in Michael Lewis’s first book, Liar’s Poker): “What’s the trade?” The idea of the game was to propose a hypothetical world event and decide what the best trade is in response (e.g., nuclear plant problem in Russia — buy potato futures).

Here is how “What’s the trade?” played out immediately after the oil field attack: I filled my car’s gas tank right away, even though I didn’t need to. Not surprisingly, oil prices saw the biggest move, with U.S. WTI crude futures rising by 15 percent, the largest uptick since 2008. Stock prices fell, with the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq all ending moving lower. Airlines were hit hard as JetBlue and United Airlines both fell nearly 3 percent while American Airlines dropped 7.3 percent. Energy stocks, on the other hand, had their best day of the year, with the S&P Oil & Gas Production ETF jumping almost 11 percent, and the S&P energy sector rising out of a bear market with its best session of 2019. Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell by the most in 3 weeks, as traders sought safe haven U.S. government debt. Gold prices also jumped 1 percent.

Since Monday, not nearly so much has happened, as markets moved on to look for “new news,” most notably last week’s Fed meeting. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve voted to cut short-term interest rates by a quarter-percentage point for the second time in as many months to cushion the economy against a global slowdown amplified by the U.S.-China trade war. While they left the door open to additional cuts, officials were split over the decision and the outlook for further reductions. The differing opinions among FOMC members helped drive the spread between two and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields close to inversion, with shorter-term yields rising as the long-end dropped. “Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again,” President Trump tweeted. “No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!”

That doesn’t sound like positive news, does it? Moreover, at his post-meeting press conference, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said:

“Since the middle of last year, the global growth outlook has weakened, notably in Europe and China. Additionally, a number of geopolitical risks, including Brexit, remain unresolved. Trade-policy tensions have waxed and waned, and elevated uncertainty is weighing on U.S. investment and exports. Our business contacts around the country have been telling us that uncertainty about trade policy has discouraged them from investing in their businesses.”

Domestic equities closed last week modestly lower. The broad stock market showed little reaction to the attacks and the ensuing jump in oil prices. Large-cap stocks outperformed small-caps. Higher-valuation growth companies held up slightly better than value stocks, with companies in the value-oriented transportation industry, which experienced steep losses as a result of the jump in oil prices, weighed on returns for the value category.

Oil prices remained volatile all week as Saudi Arabia adjusted its estimates for when it expects the production and processing facilities to come back online. Although oil prices moderated midweek, they still finished the week up approximately 6 percent.

Domestic stocks also displayed little reaction to Wednesday’s Fed’s decision to lower rates. Market participants had widely anticipated the move, and the Fed’s statement following the meeting had no substantive language changes from the previous meeting. Fed Chair Powell also seemed to stick closely with his script in his post-meeting press conference, giving investors little information about the central bank’s potential next move.

U.S. Treasury yields decreased as the jump in geopolitical risk in the Middle East seemed to convince some investors to move into safe-haven assets. Overnight lending rates were unusually volatile relating to the amount of bank reserves available for lending in the money markets. This caused the fed funds rate to break through the upper end of its target range before the Fed stepped in to inject more reserves into the system via overnight repurchase operations.

Stock markets in Europe were largely range-bound last week, even as trade negotiations between the U.S. and China resumed after two months and hopes for a Brexit deal rose. In Asia, Japanese stocks were up for the fifth straight week, while Chinese stocks retreated as a batch of closely watched indicators underscored the continued toll of the U.S. trade war on the country’s economy.

From the headlines…

As noted above, Wall Street is buzzing about the repo market. On Friday, the New York Fed injected an additional $75 billion into the repo market, its fourth liquidity injection of the week, after swap spreads fell to their lowest level on record.

Funds that track broad U.S. equity indexes hit $4.27 trillion in assets as of August 31, according to Morningstar, giving them more money than stock-picking rivals for the first-ever monthly reporting period.

The OECD cut its global growth outlook to 2.9 percent this year — down from its 3.2 percent projection four months ago, and the slowest since the financial crisis.

U.S. business optimism dropped this quarter to its lowest level in three years. U.S. home sales in August rose to the highest level in nearly a year and a half, sparking fresh hope that a protracted slump may finally be starting to reverse. Existing-home sales in August were up from a year earlier for the second straight month — following 16 straight months of declines.

Last year’s U.S. college graduates averaged about $29,200 in student loan debt — a record.

Economic activity in China cooled further in August, with industrial output and retail sales data suggesting sluggish demand and low confidence among businesses and consumers.

In 2010, coal supplied nearly half of America’s power, but this April, for the first time ever, renewables supplied more power to the U.S. electric grid than coal. Solar and wind are expected to power half the globe by 2050.

The U.S. continues to lag other developed nations when it comes to ensuring retirement security, according to the 2019 Natixis Global Retirement Index. In fact, the U.S dropped two spots to no.18 for retiree well-being, according to the annual index, which gives a snapshot of the well-being and financial security of retirees in 44 countries. And for all four indices measured, the U.S. ranked the same or lower this year.

What “retirement” means now.

The Nest Egg Game: Your life in 10 financial milestones.

Chart of the Week

Securities and advisory services are offered through Madison Avenue Securities, LLC, a member of FINRA and SIPC, a registered investment advisor.

This report provides general information only and is based upon current public information we consider reliable. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes an offer or an invitation to make an offer, to buy or sell any securities or other investment or any options, futures or derivatives related to such securities or investments. It is not intended to provide personal investment advice and it does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the particular needs of any specific person who may receive this report. Investors should seek financial advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities, other investment or investment strategies discussed or recommended in this report and should understand that statements regarding future prospects may not be realized. Investors should note that income from such securities or other investments, if any, may fluctuate and that price or value of such securities and investments may rise or fall. Accordingly, investors may receive back less than originally invested. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. Diversification does not guaranty against loss in declining markets.

Is Term Life Insurance Right for You?

Term insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. Here’s how it works.

Provided by Asset Marketing Systems

Term insurance is the simplest form of life insurance. It provides temporary life insurance protection on a limited budget. Here’s how it works:

When policy holders buy term insurance, they buy coverage for a specific period and pay a specific price for that coverage.

If the policyholder dies during that time, their beneficiaries receive the benefit from the policy. If they outlive the term of the policy, it is no longer in effect. The person would have to reapply to receive any future benefit.

Unlike permanent insurance, term insurance only pays a death benefit. That’s one of the reasons term insurance tends to be less expensive than permanent insurance.

Many find term life insurance useful for covering specific financial responsibilities if they were to die unexpectedly. Term life insurance is often used to provide funds to cover:

  • Dependent care
  • College education for dependents
  • Mortgages

Would term life insurance be the best coverage for you and your family? That depends on your unique goals, needs, and circumstances. You may want to carefully examine the pros and cons of each type of life insurance before deciding what type of policy will be the best fit for you.

Another factor to think about: term policies generally become more expensive as you grow older. If your term life insurance expires and you are facing certain health challenges, such as an injury or disease, you may find that a policy with similar coverage may be much more expensive.

Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.


  1. [11/24/18]

Life Insurance Psychology 101

Jeff Stemler, CLU, ChFC – Sr. VP Advanced Planning
(Asset Marketing Systems)

Life insurance agents have historically sold life insurance as a “need” product. They start by offering a “needs analysis,” which looks at a family’s needs and obligations, and then they subtract liquid assets to determine the amount of life insurance one might “need.”

This “needs” analysis then dictates the minimum or least amount someone should have in force in the event of an untimely death. At Asset Marketing Systems, we like to think about life insurance a little differently.

If you don’t want something and yet you “need” it, how much are you willing to pay for it? Probably as little as possible.

In contrast, if there’s something you “want,” how much are you willing to pay for it? Probably whatever it costs.

When you discuss life insurance with your clients, it’s important to talk about how much they “want” versus how much they “need.” Focusing on how much protection they might “want” for their family to allow their loved ones to live the lives they envisioned is important. Painting that future life picture is paramount in changing their mindset.

The difference between needs and wants is quite pronounced, and people move in the direction of their wants much more rapidly than their needs.

The next time you’re discussing life insurance, talk about how much they “want” and not how much they “need” – try it out!

Don’t forget to download this month’s latest Top Life Product Recommendations! Our Product Specialist team can run any of these scenarios for your client. (888) 303-8755

Life Insurance and Swiss Army Knives

Sam Payne RICP®, CLTC – VP, Business Consultant
(Asset Marketing Systems)

When I was a kid, I remember getting my first pocket knife, it was a Buck Pocket Knife, and it was a beauty!  It had a 2½ inch blade that was sharp and could easily cut anything. I always carried it in my pocket and spent hours whittling anything I could think of with it.  I still carry a replica of that first knife today, but as I got older and ventured into the wild I realized that having a knife that could do more than just cut could be a real lifesaver. So I got a Swiss Army Knife.

On a recent trip while sitting around a campfire with my grandson, I was showing him one of my new Swiss Army Knives and explaining to him that it was so much more than a knife.  It has several types of straight blades, a screwdriver blade, a bottle opener and can opener, a corkscrew, a file, a Phillips head screwdriver, a pair of tweezers, and a toothpick to name a few.  Thirty-three separate tools in this one little knife.  It is an amazing knife, but it does so much more than just cut and whittle.

In my opinion, Life Insurance is the Swiss Army Knife of the financial world.  I remember when I first started selling life insurance, we sold it for one reason — “death benefit”, and it does a great job at providing a death benefit to protect the ones you love.  But like the Swiss Army Knife, this product does so much more.  Today we sell Life Insurance for the death benefit for sure, but we can also use Life Insurance for so many other purposes with Whole Life, Universal Life, Indexed Universal Life, Term Life, Accelerated Benefit Riders, LTC Riders to name a few.  Life Insurance products and riders are amazing tools.  Much like the Swiss Army Knife, it can be a solution to many other planning issues in addition to providing a death benefit, such as:

  • Business Planning for buy-sell agreements, employee benefits, and business succession
  • Wealth transfer
  • Extended care
  • Retirement income planning
  • Estate equalization

If your Life Insurance sales have declined or are non-existent, reach out to your Business Consultant, Jeff Stemler, or any of the Product Consultants in the Life Department and allow us to show you more of the tools this Financial Swiss Army Knife has to offer.

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month!

Josh Ver Hoeve – VP Annuity & Life Distribution
(Asset Marketing Systems)

We could inundate you with story after story about how life insurance has saved thousands of families who experienced unexpected deaths. However, we also understand that when dealing with retirees or pre-retirees it could be too late for life insurance.

One way to help pass the money onto an estate without having to worry about medically qualifying is by using the Athene BCA with the Family Endowment Rider Max (FER MAX) rider. This Fixed Indexed Annuity with rider has primarily been used for qualified funds when a client is not quite sure whether their goals are accumulation, income, or an enhanced death benefit. The good news is the Athene BCA with FER MAX can provide all of those benefits. However, it works best for qualified money as an RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) solution. The way the FER MAX rider works is that it credits the death benefit value by a guaranteed 2% compounded annually, plus 100% of any index credits. For example, if you average 5% annually on your accumulation value, your death benefit value will earn 7%.

Here are two main reasons why this is great for qualified money:

  • All RMDs are free withdrawals.
  • Any withdrawal up to 5% of the accumulation value will only reduce the death benefit value dollar-for-dollar up to 5%, as opposed to a pro-rata reduction we typically see in the market place

The dollar-for-dollar reduction is an important feature and the numbers prove it! Due to this type of reduction, you will find your client’s qualified account growing at an incredible rate while still delivering a substantial death benefit. Meanwhile, RMDs, or really any type of income from qualified or non-qualified assets, can be taken without significantly jeopardizing the death benefit value.

The BCA FER MAX brochure presents a couple of case studies. There is one, in particular, we want to focus on.

Bill is age 65, and his wife Susan is age 62. The first necessity for Bill is to protect his spouse when he dies by providing life insurance. However, he or his advisor believe one of three things:

  1. Because he’s 65, life insurance is too expensive, and he fears that paying the premiums will be a concern later in retirement if he needs that money for income.
  2. Bill cannot qualify medically.
  3. Bill has $1 million and doesn’t really think he’ll need money other than the RMDs at age 70.5, but he’s unsure and wants flexibility, safety, and a reasonable rate of return.

Bill is like many clients who want their money to be safe while earning a reasonable rate of return but he also wants it available for income if/when necessary. And, of course, if he doesn’t need the income wouldn’t it be nice to pass on an enhanced value in a lump sum to his beneficiaries?

The only assumption we’ll make in this example is that the Athene BCA earns a 3.70% return. Anyone reading this who has sold the BCA will be fine with this conservative assumption since the product has out-performed a 3.70%/year return since it has been on the market. (Note: If you want an even more conservative assumption view the brochure for the guaranteed numbers which assumes no index credits for 30 years.)

Bill takes his $1 million of qualified money and purchases the BCA 10 with the FER MAX rider. Bill’s RMD will be $43,714 at age 70.5. By age 80 Bill’s RMD has increased to $55,526, and by age 85 his RMD has increased to $57,452 per year. He has been taking these RMDs from his BCA contract every single year. Let’s assume Bill lives to age 87 in this example. By age 87 he will have taken out just shy of $900,000 in RMDs. After $900,000 in RMDs, his accumulation value would be $831,000, but better yet his death benefit paid out to his wife or children is sitting at just under $1,400,000. Not a bad deal, right? He started with $1 million, has taken out about $900,000 in RMDs/income and has about $1.4 million to pass on to his beneficiaries. The great part about this product for Bill is that over the 27 years that he owned it, he had the ability to take his RMDs while still maintaining a legacy for his family. If Bill needed more income he could have taken it (up to 10%/year as a free withdrawal) or after the ten-year surrender another product could have been positioned, if available, to suit any changes in his plan. Assuming he simply used this product for accumulation, he really didn’t give up much accumulation potential other than paying a rider fee for the FER MAX.

I’ll leave you with a couple of additional product notes for September. We understand rates have been declining across the board. Let’s not forget the value of FIAs for our clients. We’re planning today and tomorrow for our clients which means comparing current FIA rates from a year or two ago will not help you plan for them today. FIAs still offer reasonable rates of return, safety, and guaranteed income.

I also want to highlight the Nationwide New Heights product. The New Heights is still an incredible accumulation story, but it also has one of the best performance-based income riders, and one of the best guaranteed income riders. Because of the riders available, this is one of those products that can be designed for almost any type of client situation. If you’re not using and the new Nationwide Lifetime Income Analyzer, be sure to contact us to gain access. This is a new client approved income report that can really help to explain the New Heights product to a client.

Would you like to see an illustration for your client? Call the product team at Asset for a customized illustration!

The Madison Weekly Market Wrap

September 1, 2019
Volume 6, Issue 35

Market Monitor

Above the Market - Information is cheap; meaning is expensive

Course Reversal

Worldwide, politicians left and right are demanding that their central banks aggressively cut rates to juice their economies, irrespective of whether doing so is prudent. And central bankers obviously seethe with a desire, most recently expressed (last week) by former New York Fed President William Dudley, to force politicians to do their jobs, make difficult decisions, and make necessary corrections so that central banks might keep some ammunition for a real crisis, retain their independence, and simply do their jobs. As Mr. Dudley said, “Officials could state explicitly that the central bank won’t bail out an administration that keeps making bad choices….”

Thus far, largely because the central banks – perceiving themselves as the only grown-ups in the room – are unwilling to force the politicians (and, most importantly, their constituents) to pay for their mistakes, the politicians are clearly winning (as they should – central bank officials aren’t elected and shouldn’t go about trying to decide elections). That the politicians are winning suggests that the economy will be the worse for it and that the Fed (or other central banks) won’t be able to stimulate the economy when doing so really becomes necessary. But the economy will probably remain fine, at least for a while. As ever, politicians – for whom lunch is a long-range plan – favor right now over what is in the longer-term best interest of their countries. Moral hazard is right in their wheelhouse.

In the capital markets last week, domestic stocks enjoyed their best week in nearly three months, as traders appeared to grow more confident in the prospects for a U.S.-China trade deal. Within the S&P 500, industrials outperformed while health care, consumer staples, real estate, and utilities shares lagged.

Futures markets were sharply lower before markets opened Monday, as traders reacted to President Trump’s announcement the previous Friday evening of additional tariffs on Chinese imports. However, Mr. Trump appeared to reverse course on Monday, stating that prospects for a trade deal were the best they had been in some time and asserting that the Chinese “want to make a deal very badly.” Markets pulled back as hopes for a deal faded again Tuesday, however. The editor of a state-owned Chinese newspaper tweeted that he had no knowledge of any recent talks and that China “didn’t change its position” and “won’t cave to U.S. pressure.”

On Thursday, trade prospects took another turn for the better. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce told reporters that China had no plans to respond to the White House’s latest tariff escalation, although he also remarked that “China has ample means for retaliation.”

Reflecting the week’s mixed economic signals, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note ended the week little changed at 1.50 percent.

Most major European stock markets rose last week, buoyed by the seeming improvements in U.S.-China trade talks and the agreement of Italian political parties to form a new government. The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 rose more than 2 percent, while the exporter-heavy German DAX advanced 2.5 percent, and Italy’s FTSE MIB gained almost 4 percent.

In Asia, traders of Chinese stocks appeared less encouraged by the latest trade developments and braced for the next wave of U.S. tariffs and both major Chinese indexes traded off slightly. All the Japanese indexes advanced.

I trust you will all enjoy your Labor Day holiday tomorrow.
From the headlines…

Across the country, more than 1 million more jobs are available than there are people to fill them.

President Trump claims he has the “absolute right” to order U.S. companies out of China. The trade battle is shaping up to be a definitive issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. The world’s central bankers are increasingly worried Mr. Trump’s tactics to reorder global trade are destabilizing economies in ways they can’t easily fix. A growing number of U.S. companies say they’re hurting as the U.S.-China trade war intensifies.

U.S. consumer confidence declined in August by less than forecast as Americans’ assessment of current conditions climbed to the highest level in almost 19 years, helped by a job market that remains robust.

Second-quarter GDP was up a seasonally adjusted, annualized 2 percent, the Commerce Department said — a decent pace but down from the first quarter’s 3.1 percent and 2018’s overall 2.9 percent, as well as from the previous second-quarter estimate of 2.1 percent. Weakness in inventory investment and trade were bigger drags than previously thought. And a broad measure of corporate earnings that had dropped for two consecutive quarters rebounded.

Last week, the dividend yield of the S&P 500 went higher than the yield one can obtain from a 30-year U.S. Treasury bond. That has only happened once before in the post-WWII era – at the tail end of the 2008-09 Great Financial Crisis.

One of the broadest gauges of the American bond market, the Barclays Aggregate, is sitting on gains of 9.10 percent YTD. If it were to finish the year at that level, it would be the index’s biggest increase since 2002. Longer-term bonds have done even better. If you had simply bought the 10-year U.S. Treasury note at the end of 2018, you’d be up almost 13 percent YTD. TLT, an ETF of U.S. Treasury paper 20 years and greater in term, is up 23 percent YTD.

The U.S. Treasury yield curve completely inverted Tuesday, with 1, 2, and 3-month U.S. Treasury bills all paying higher interest rates than 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds. The yield on the 3-month bill moved as much as 52 basis points above the 10-year note (the highest since 2007) with the 10-year yield ending the trading day well below the 2-year — fully inverting another closely watched yield curve. The 3-month/10-year and 2-year/10-year yield curve inversions are closely watched precedents of recession. Economists at the Federal Reserve recently called the 3-month/10-year inversion “the best summary measure” for an economic downturn.

Greek government 10-year bonds yield 1.83 percent, yields on Italian 10-year government bonds have dropped below 1 percent, an unprecedented level, and 10-year U.S. Treasury notes yield 1.49 percent. Those levels seem out of whack in that Greece is rated B1/B+ (a junk rating) and Italy is rated Baa3/BBB (a very low investment grade rating), while the United States (Aaa/AA+) is generally considered to be the best credit on the planet. What yield might 100-year U.S. debt trade at?

Insider selling is increasing.

FAANG shares, once darlings of the tech sector, have been losing their luster.

Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $572 million for its role in Oklahoma opioid crisis.

For those within 10 years of retirement, this eight-step review can help.

What are your investment beliefs and why are they important?

Chart of the Week

Chart of the Week 2

Chart of the Week 3