After Meltdown, Tech-Bottom Signals Have Yet to Scream ‘Buy Now’

Calling the bottom in the tech-sector meltdown isn’t easy, even after a $5.5 trillion wipe-out, yet there are some signals giving investors hope.

Tech stocks have been hammered this year as rising interest rates, slowing economic growth and soaring inflation form a perfect storm of negative catalysts. That’s hurt everyone from retail investors who loaded up on Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment exchange-traded funds last year to deep-pocketed asset managers who invested in Apple Inc.

The price charts paint a dire picture: The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 Index just capped its seventh straight week of declines, the longest such streak since 2011, and has shed nearly 30% from its peak last year. The U.S. trillion-dollar quartet of Apple, Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. has led the charge lower in the latest leg of this selloff.

Yet a number of investors are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The Nasdaq 100 now trades for about 20 times its estimated forward earnings — in-line with long-term averages — as frothy valuations built up during the pandemic recede. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, home to chipmakers including Intel Corp. and ASML Holding NV, trades at about 15 times expected earnings for the next 12 months, well below a peak of 24 hit in early 2021.

“It’s hard to be patient when there’s been so much carnage. But the pain should end, possibly soon,” said Jordan Stuart, client portfolio manager at Federated Hermes. “Our recommendation is growth investors need to be ready.”

Last week, Jefferies strategists turned bullish on the information-technology sector, saying in a note that a “dash for cash” by investors discounting extreme interest-rate scenarios “has been more than reflected in the compression of market multiples.”

Source: After Meltdown, Tech-Bottom Signals Have Yet to Scream ‘Buy Now’

The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 Index SPX, +0.01%, got off to a rocky start this week. But that produced enough of an oversold condition that buyers stepped in and have taken the benchmark index all the way back to the top of its trading range, at 4700 points.

The lower end of the trading range is 4500 (see the accompanying chart, below), although there is also support at this week’s lows, 4530. SPX has tried many times to break out over 4705 and hold those gains but has been unable to do so. But market internals have improved somewhat, so maybe this time it will do so.

The extreme volatility that has been on display within the trading range has pushed the 20-day historical volatility (HV20) of SPX up to a historically large 21%. That is a sell signal in itself. Only if that volatility begins to retreat (falls below 15%, say), will this sell signal be terminated.

Equity-only put-call ratios have continued to rise — until yesterday (December 22nd), when they plateaued a bit. However, our computer analysis programs are still “saying” that these ratios are on a sell signal. Obviously, they are quite high on their charts, meaning they are oversold.

So a potential buy signal exists, but we need to see them begin to trend lower (and for the computer analysis programs to agree) before we can say that they are on buy signals.

Market breadth was abysmal when the market was going down. But it has recovered strongly with the rally since Monday, and now both breadth oscillators are on buy signals. We had a contingent bull spread recommendation in place and those contingencies have been fulfilled.

These oscillators had reached extreme oversold conditions in late November and early December — extremes not seen since the pandemic selling of March 2020. That sets the stage for a strong buy signal, and it is usually the second such one that is the “true” buy signal. This current signal is that second one, so this is promising for the bulls. For the record, the cumulative breadth indicators are nowhere near their old highs.

New 52-week lows have continued to outnumber new 52-week highs, even with the market rallying back this week. This situation could reverse in the coming week, but so far it has not. That means this indicator is still clinging to a sell signal. In a broad sense, it is not a constructive thing for SPX to be right at its highs, yet there are more stocks making new 52-week lows than making new 52-week highs.

The implied volatility indicators are mostly bullish, but not totally. First, the VIX “spike peak” buy signal remains in effect. Action was wild in VIX, though, as it exploded to above 27, then closed below 23 on one day (Monday, December 20th).

It is the trend of VIX that represents something of a problem. That is, VIX has continued to close above its 200-day moving average, which is just below 19 and going sideways. VIX has nearly fallen to that level for the first time in a month (note the box on the accompanying VIX chart). A clear close below that 200-day MA will be another bullish sign for stocks.

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Buffett’s Berkshire Buys Citigroup and Several other Stocks, Slashes Verizon

May 16 (Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Monday said it added new investments in Citigroup Inc and several other companies in the first quarter, as Warren Buffett’s conglomerate took advantage of volatile stock markets to invest $51.1 billion that had largely been sitting in cash.

In a regulatory filing describing its U.S.-listed equity investments as of March 31, Berkshire reported new stakes in Ally Financial Inc, chemicals and specialty materials company Celanese Corp, insurance holding company Markel Corp, drug distributor McKesson Corp and Paramount Global, formerly known as ViacomCBS.

Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said it sold nearly all of an $8.3 billion stake in Verizon Communications Inc that it had amassed in late 2020.

Berkshire also finally exited Wells Fargo & Co, a 33-year-old investment that Buffett soured on after finding it too slow to address revelations that employees had mistreated customers, including by opening unwanted accounts.

Buffett’s company ended March with $106.3 billion of cash and equivalents, down from a near-record $146.7 billion three months earlier, largely reflecting the new investments.

These included previously disclosed stakes in Chevron Corp and Occidental Petroleum Corp, computer and printer maker HP Inc and video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc, the latter an arbitrage bet.

Stock sales totaled $9.7 billion, and also included drugmakers AbbVie Inc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co .

Citigroup, where Berkshire invested nearly $3 billion, has embarked on a multiyear plan to boost performance and a share price that in recent years has lagged larger rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp, the latter a major Berkshire investment.

Some investors have described Markel as a small-scale version of Berkshire, and Buffett in March committed $11.6 billion to buy another insurance holding company fitting that description, Alleghany Corp.

Berkshire also owns several companies specializing in Celanese’s sectors. Monday’s filing does not say which investments were made by Buffett and his portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.

Most large Berkshire investments are Buffett’s. Stock prices often rise after Berkshire reveals new stakes because investors view the investments as a stamp of approval.

At Berkshire’s annual meeting on April 30, Buffett said investors were too focused on flashy stocks, causing markets at times to resemble a casino, allowing him to focus on stocks that Berkshire understands and which add value.

Analysts have also viewed Chevron and Occidental as a way for Berkshire to benefit from rising oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I wish the rest of the world worked as well as our big oil companies,” Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger said at the annual meeting.

More than three-fourths of Berkshire’s $390.5 billion equity portfolio on March 31 was in American Express Co, Apple Inc, Bank of America, Chevron, Coca-Cola Co and Kraft Heinz Co. Berkshire owned 26.6% of Kraft Heinz. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr).

By Jonathan Stempel

Source: UPDATE 1-Buffett’s Berkshire buys Citigroup and several other stocks, slashes Verizon

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Will Inflation And The Stock Market Conspire To Kill The 4% Rule?

1-23-1

A recent WSJ headline sent chills down the backs of every retiree—”Cut Your Retirement Spending Now, Says Creator of the 4% Rule.”

In the article, the WSJ quoted the father of the 4% rule, William Bengen, as saying that “there’s no precedent for today’s conditions.” Stock and bond prices are still at record highs. Mix in a reference to 8.5% inflation, and the WSJ starts to sound like an insurance salesperson pitching indexed annuities.

So are things really that bad? And do retirees need to rethink the 4% Rule? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

The 4% Rule is Now the 4.4% Rule

In the article, Mr. Bengen said he believes a safe initial withdrawal rate is 4.4%. Yes, that’s an increase from his initial findings in his 1994 paper.

In his 1994 paper, he assumed retirees invested in the S&P 500 and intermediate Treasury bonds. That’s it. Since then he expanded the asset classes to include mid-cap, small-cap, micro-cap and international stocks. This diversification caused him to increase the safe withdrawal rate from 4% to 4.7%. Because of the unprecedented conditions noted above, however, new retirees might want to start at 4.4%, he said.

As far as I can tell, the 4.4% rate is not based on data. Still, it represents a 10% increase, not decrease, from his initial 4% rule. That doesn’t sound so bad.

“The combination of 8.5% inflation with high stock and bond market valuations make it difficult to forecast whether the standard playbook will work for recent retirees,” said Bengen. He’s even gone so far as put 70% of his personal portfolio in cash. When the father of the 4% rule cashes out, shouldn’t we?

I don’t think so. For starters, it’s important to understand how Bengen developed the 4% Rule. He examined 50-year retirement periods dating back to 1926. For each, he identified the highest withdrawal rate one could take in the first year of retirement, adjusted for inflation in subsequent years, without running out of money for at least 30 years.

As you might imagine, every year had a different initial withdrawal rate. Some years the starting rate was twice what it was in others. Here’s the key point. He didn’t average all of these initial withdrawal rates to come up with the 4% rule. He took the absolute worst year—1968.

Here’s more on how the 4% Rule works.

What does this mean? It means the 4% Rule has survived the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the inflation of the 1970s and early 1908s, the 1987 market crash, 9/11, the Great Recession and Covid-19.

Stock Prices

No matter how difficult past times have been, current conditions feel awful in ways that history never can. One need look no further than Robert Shiller’s CAPE (cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio) of the S&P 500 to raise concerns. It stands at roughly twice its average and at historic highs. It’s only been higher once, and that was during the tech bubble.

Yet as “unprecedented” as this may seem, it’s not for two reasons. First, most portfolios don’t have the same PE as the S&P 500, even if measured using CAPE. Add in mid-cap, small-cap and international stocks, and the PE comes down significantly.

Second, and more important, the CAPE of the S&P 500 would fall to average with a 50% decline in the S&P 500. This wouldn’t be fun, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented, either.

As noted above, the market lost 90% to kick off the Great Depression. And going back to the tech bubble, the market lost 9%, 12% and 22% from 2000 to 2002. That’s not quite a 50% total loss, but close. And from peak to trough during the Great Recession (2007-2009), the market lost more than 50%. The 4% Rule survived like a cockroach.

Bond Prices and Inflation

Bond yields were at historic lows. I say “were” because that’s no longer the case. The roughly 3% yield on the 10-year Treasury is still below average, but there are plenty of years dating back to the 1800s when they were lower. And when Bengen published his 1994 paper, TIPS were three years away and the first I bond was still four years away. So at least now we can keep up with inflation.

Here’s the key. The 4% Rule has survived Treasury yields as low as 1 to 2%. It also survived inflation of more than 13% and a decade of inflation at 6% or higher. And like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going (or ticking for you Timex fans).

Final Thoughts

Some year might come along that is worse than 1968 for new retirees. Maybe 2022 will turn out to be a worse time to retiree since the late 60s. Perhaps in 30 years we’ll know that for 2022, the initial safe withdrawal rate was 4.2% instead of 4.4%.

But can we really predict that based on current conditions, when the 4% rule has survived much worse? I don’t think so.

Rob is a Contributing Editor for Forbes Advisor, host of the Financial Freedom Show, and the author of Retire Before Mom and Dad–The Simple Numbers Behind a Lifetime of

Source: Will Inflation And The Stock Market Conspire To Kill The 4% Rule?

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How To Build Back Your Emergency Fund In a Tight Budget

Emergency funds are  important should you be faced with an unforeseen setback like a sudden job loss, an unexpected car repair or a serious medical situation. If you tapped into or depleted your emergency savings during the pandemic, it’s vital to set a financial goal to rebuild an emergency fund. Experts suggest having enough money for six months of living expenses in an emergency fund.

Even if your budget is tight, there are ways to stash some cash each month toward emergency savings. “It may seem difficult to set aside savings when you are on a tight budget, but you have to think about it as having no other choice,” said Dawit Kebede, a senior economist for the Credit Union National Association, which advocates on behalf of America’s credit unions.

Why is an emergency fund so important to have?

Your emergency fund allows you to pay for unexpected expenses, like providing a cushion if you lose your job or face sudden financial obligations. If you don’t have savings, you may have to rely on credit cards.

“Most people rely on high-interest rate credit cards to pay for unforeseen expenses, which leaves them in debt,” said Kebede. “Creating an emergency fund avoids relying on debt to absorb a financial shock.”

Pay yourself first

Kebede noted that people tend to put saving at the bottom of their priorities when they have fewer resources. So make building an emergency fund a priority.

“Understand that savings cannot be the lowest priority on your budget,” Kebede said. “You have to pay yourself first, even if it’s $15 a month. Setting goals and setting aside something, however small it may be, will go a long way. It will accumulate over time.”

Set a reasonable monthly goal, even when there’s little wiggle room.

Commit to putting bonus cash in your savings

If you get any extra money during the month, even if it’s a small amount, earmark it for your emergency fund.

“When building out your emergency fund for the first time or rebuilding following a major emergency expense, it’s okay to start with small contributions, and any tax refunds, gifts or extra cash are all great ways to contribute,” said Ryan Ball, vice president of market experience at Capital One. “Having a small amount in your account is more helpful than nothing at all in the preparedness for an emergency.”

Set up a save schedule

If you get paid twice a month, for example, create a plan to take a set amount and transfer it directly to your emergency savings account. Even if your budget is tight, pick a small amount and devote it to savings. “When contributing to your emergency fund, the best practice is to contribute to your account regularly and setting a schedule can help,” advised Ball.

To force savings, Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, advised automating your savings with a direct deposit from your paycheck into a dedicated savings account. “The savings happens first without having to think about it,” McBride said.

Another option, McBride explained, especially for the self-employed, is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to a savings account at a regular interval, such as once per month or every two weeks.

How can you force yourself to save without it seeming like a punishment?

First, accept the mindset that savings should be viewed as deferred spending for important or unexpected items rather than a punishment, said Kebede. Next, take an inventory of your spending habits. Can you cancel monthly subscriptions you’re not using?

Can you reduce takeout meals or the amount you’re spending on extras like dining out or paying for coffee every morning? Can you carpool to save on gas or stick to your grocery list by meal planning in advance?

“Setting aside a small amount regularly helps you feel that you haven’t sacrificed a lot, and watching your savings slowly accumulate will also provide motivation for you to continue,” Kebede said.

Use your banking institution’s resources

Your bank may have resources available to assist you to promote financial wellness and education.

For example, Ball noted that Capital One has resources, including its complimentary Money & Life Program, that helps participants build a plan to achieve their goals in life and think through how their financial behaviors connect to those goals.

“In addition to Money & Life mentoring sessions with a professional mentor, we offer a self-guided Money & Life exercise, ‘Map Your Spend,’ that can help participants visualize their spending and figure out where they can make changes to put a little extra money per month away for an emergency fund,” he said.

Contact your bank or visit a retail location to inquire about what mentoring services may be available.

Source: How to build back your emergency fund in a tight budget | Fox Business

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Where Not To Die In 2022: The Greediest Death Tax States

Should death be taxing? Amid budget surpluses, states started slashing income taxes last year. But only two have made significant changes to their estate or inheritance taxes so far. Last year Iowa legislators decided to phase out the state’s inheritance tax by January 1, 2025. And this year Nebraska legislators made pro-taxpayer tweaks to its inheritance tax for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2023.

Other jurisdictions have lessened the tax bite for dying in 2022—through previously scheduled changes or inflation adjustments. But some, without inflation adjustments, are still taxing estates at levels that haven’t budged for years, meaning more families are getting surprise death tax bills. In one of those states—Massachusetts—Democratic legislators are pushing for changes to spare more estates from the tax as part of a broader tax reform package this summer.

In all, 17 states and the District of Columbia levy estate and/or inheritance taxes. Maryland is the outlier that levies both. If you live in one of these states—or might retire to one—pay attention.

These taxes operate separately from the federal estate tax, which applies only to a couple thousand estates a year valued at over $12.06 million per person. (That number is set to drop roughly in half on January 1, 2026, when the Trump tax cuts that temporarily doubled the base exemption from $5 million to $10 million expire.) While few individuals need to plan around the federal estate tax, the state levies all kick in at much lower dollar levels, often making it a middle class problem.

Consider the current state estate tax in Massachusetts. The $1 million estate tax exemption hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 2006, so it can hit the heirs of middle class folks who have seen their houses and retirement accounts appreciate.

“You can be real estate rich with a modest home, and your estate could be subject to this,” says Scott Cashman, a tax manager with Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s becoming more of an issue every year.” If the $1 million exemption amount set in 2006 had been adjusted for inflation, it would be closer to $1.5 million today.

Say a widow or widower died with a house worth $535,000, a $200,000 bank account, a $350,000 retirement account, and a $15,000 car, for a $1.1 million gross estate. Assuming $50,000 in deductions, the estate tax would be $20,500, he calculates.

(There’s no estate tax when assets are left to a spouse, but in this case the heirs are children.) If the house is worth $1 million, however, the tax would be $65,360— one third of the cash in the bank. Adding to the pain is what’s known as the cliff: Once the $1 million mark is crossed, the estate tax applies to everything over $40,000. “I don’t know if most legislators understand that,” he says.

A bill introduced by Democratic state senators would double the Massachusetts exemption amount to $2 million and only levy tax above that amount, removing the dreaded cliff. “We have such a surplus now, this is the time to do it,” says Cashman. “There’s broad-based support for reform.”

Inheritance taxes—levied in 6 states—can kick in at far lower levels, with the exemption and tax rate depending on the heir’s relationship to the deceased. In New Jersey, for example, if you leave your estate to a Class D beneficiary—including a nephew or non-civil-union partner—they’re taxed at 15% on assets up to $700,000 and 16% on assets above $700,000.

In Nebraska, lawmakers this year fell short of inheritance tax repeal but succeeded in chipping away at the state’s inheritance tax. The new law, effective Jan. 1, 2023, cuts the top tax rates (from 18% to 15%, for example) and increases the exemption amounts (from $10,000 to $25,000, for example). It also eliminates inheritance taxes for heirs under 22, and it makes unadopted step-relatives taxed at the lower rate for nearer family members and not the higher rate for unrelated heirs.

“Lawmakers wouldn’t agree to a general phase-down of the tax at this point that would apply to everyone, but they were willing to accept that if a younger person were to inherit property or cash (and we can use a lot more young residents and entrepreneurs in Nebraska) that it’s not in the state’s economic interest to take any of it away from them,” says Adam Weinberg, communications director with the Platte Institute, which is continuing its effort to repeal the inheritance tax in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, the least taxing of the estate tax states, is on schedule to increase its exemption to $9.1 million in 2022, and then to match the federal exemption for deaths on or after January 1, 2023. In an unusual nod designed to keep the richest taxpayers in the state, Connecticut has a $15 million cap on state estate and gift taxes (which represents the tax due on an estate of approximately $129 million).

Other states with 2022 changes: Washington, D.C. reduced its estate tax exemption amount to $4 million in 2021, but then adjusted that amount for inflation beginning this year, bringing the 2022 exemption amount to $4,254,800. Several states, which all have set their exemption amounts at different base levels, also see inflation adjustments for 2022. Maine’s is $6,010,000, while New York’s is $6,110,000. In Rhode Island, the 2022 exemption amount is $1,648,611.

I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997.

Source: Where Not To Die In 2022: The Greediest Death Tax States

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