Clint Carpenter, Director of Operations

As we enter the month of May we are still near or beyond correction territory on each of the major indices. The DOW is off 9% YTD, the S&P 500 has retreated 12.8% and the NASDAQ sits at negative 20% so far this year.

Markets are down, but bond yields are up - the 1-year treasury crossed the 2% mark in recent days. The 10-year treasury is paying 3% and the 30-year has also crossed 3%. The average 30-year mortgage rate is currently 5.27% APR.

The volatility we’ve seen this year has gold prices up, currently at $1,861 per ounce. WTI and Brent Crude oil are both hovering around $106/bbl.

Kris Venezia, VP of Investments

I want to point out some numbers and data for context on corrections.

The S&P 500 has an average drawdown each year of about 16%. Of course, every year and every situation is different, but that number is a good reminder that markets are volatile.

It's also a reminder the corrections, as painful as they are, are not as rare as we might think. If you are a long term investor, you have to know that downturns are part of the game. We know that if you stay in the game for the long term, you have a great chance to have success.

When I have talked to clients recently, I have heard them talk about how this feels like a bad downturn. I think part of the reason for that is how long this correction has lasted.

The correction with the S&P 500 has lasted for more than 100 days. If we look at corrections going back to 2009, we have rarely seen corrections last for more than 100 days. We have tended to see a market drop, sometimes, like in the case of 2018 or March 2020, a swift deep drop. However, the market tended to recover fairly quickly.

The S&P 500 has struggled in 2022 and has stayed negative compared to many other corrections in the last 13 years.

The other reason why this feels worse than usual is we had a full year where the market didn't show much weakness. In 2021, the worst drawdown in the S&P 500 was about 5%. It was a positive year with very little downside.

Daryl Eckman, President

Very few people remember the last correction, even if it was a short time ago. History shows us that we have had corrections that have lasted for long periods of time. We have had recessions that took awhile to recover from. Can we make money during those times? Yes. Is it painful? Yes. Is it difficult to buy when the market is down? Yes. But those are the times we want to buy, when things are low. Real estate is a comparison I use because it's easier to digest and has less mystique than the stock market. Do you want to buy a house when prices are high, or do you want to buy when they're low? It's the same principle we use with stocks. We use construction as a way to understand cycles. We see building amping up in all parts of the country. We use this as a leading indicator that the economic cycle might be slowing down. We have had one quarter of negative economic growth, if the next quarter has negative economic growth, it will officially be a recession. There is a decent chance that happens. We have been talking about a slowdown, and we did a good job of trying to ease you out of bonds. We have been slipping out of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities recently. We have also slightly reduced some of the positions in stocks in some of the portfolios. We are ready to reposition the portfolios during the downturn because this is how we can make money during the long term. If we nibble during the tough periods, as we see bargains appear, that's when we make you money. Thank you for listening to our market commentaries, we appreciate that. We know more of you tune in when the market is struggling. Please, if you are feeling uncomfortable with the portfolio, give us a call. We do our best to make phone calls and stay out front, but if you want to personally talk with us, call us. Don't fear what is going on right now, and don't worry about politics or even some of the global issues. It's difficult to watch, personally, but our job is to focus on what's best for the portfolio and how you can be successful in the long term. I have personally been doing this since the mid-80's and have seen a lot of downturns. I know it's important to stay level headed to navigate through these periods.

Clint Carpenter

When times are good, we are constantly monitoring to make sure asset allocations in client portfolios are such that we can take advantage of those good times, but we’re also always preparing for when those good times will end and the markets turn negative.

That could mean rebalancing stock positions, or it could mean exchanging within different types of bond portfolios.

For example, and I’m speaking generally here as every client is different, but for example, we entered 2020 with healthy corporate bond positions that we made nice profits on, and then exited before the effects of rate cuts took effect.

We took that money and moved it into inflation protected securities as we saw the inflation outlook set in. Now that rates are back on the rise, we’ve exited our inflation protected positions and are looking to install lattered maturity bond programs in portfolios.

I say all of this because it’s important to understand that asset allocations may look static when looking at percentages, you know, like a 60/40 bonds/stocks portfolio, but within those percentages are a lot of dynamic changes that are responding to current conditions.

Making up our fixed income side of portfolios with individual bonds makes sense for current conditions because it will give us greater control over market value fluctuation and rate changes. This is different than something we would have done two years ago.

As for the stock side of things, there are some deals to be had for our younger clients with longer time horizons, but as Daryl mentioned, we’re fine to be much more patient with our more conservative clients’ stock positions.

Now, I’ve spoken very generally, so I’d like our clients to know that we’ll be reaching out to you to speak in more detail about your specific portfolios, and encourage you to give us a call in the meantime if there’s anything you have on your mind now.

Daryl Eckman, President

I will talk about what is happening with Russia and Ukraine and how it impacts the economy and markets.

I want to say that I don't mean to sound disrespectful. I very much understand that war is horrific, but we have to keep our composure when evaluating the portfolios. Our focus is how this will impact the portfolios we manage.

If you look at history, during these periods of time, there is an initial panic and pull back. People want to take money out of the stock market. In the future, people then return those funds to the market. In times of conflict, if you zoom out, those have been good buying opportunities.

Our plan is to do some small buying. We don't view this as a massive buying opportunity. The expectation is that the conflict with Russia and Ukraine will have longer term impact and we want to be careful with the portfolios.

It's hard to predict what Vladimir Putin wants to do. Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen, and we are not going to try and make some big proclamation because it would be guessing.

Historically, war has been good for markets. Governments tend to put aside differences and work together to spend money on items like technology.

We are keeping track of what's going on. We will be reaching out more often than usual as this plays out. If you are having anxiety, give us a call. We can go much more in-depth as things unfold.

Kris Venezia, Market Analyst

There is certainly a lot going on right now. We are in earnings season, where companies give their quarterly reports. There has been some interesting nuggets out of that. Inflation and some economic indicators have certainly been intriguing to start the year.

But I want to focus on a table I came across recently. Believe it or not, we are in a midterm year. Another year where politics will come into the focus. I do not think this downturn to start the year is because of midterms, but it is important to note that election years have more volatility.

Going back to 1950, midterm years have seen a big dip in them. On average, there has been a dip of around 17% in a midterm cycle. The striking detail of the table is the performance after the drop.

The average performance a year later, following a drop, is over 30%. It highlights how important it is that we as advisors keep you invested during these down times. It also points out to us that we need to nibble and take advantage of these declines when they present themselves.

The tendency when times get hard is to cut and run. After a great year like 2021, there is that mindset of leaving the market while ahead. But we know that historically, cutting and running, especially during midterm years, is not a smart move.

Daryl Eckman, President

We had a terrific 2021. Our clients saw healthy returns, but, so far in January we are giving some of that back. We will see how January ends up, but it brings up a signal investors look at.

January tends to be an optimistic period. People usually put money into retirement accounts and other accounts at the start of a new year.

The January effect can sometimes be an indicator for how the year is going to go. We have been cautious and looking for opportunities. October typically tends to be the tough month for investors because of things like tax selling.

There are reasons for the January sell-off, they include global issues with conflicts and the Federal Reserve has started to shake things up.

If we do go through an extended difficult period, which we stay prepared for, it's important for you to know that we have a plan in place.

We feel like this drop is a good thing for us because it allows us to do some buying at attractive levels. We know in history there have been negative returns for a full year. We have not forgotten that, but we know in the long term, buying at lower levels works out.

Warren Buffett is a great example of someone who has spent his career taking advantage of down times. We certainly monitor his behavior and will take advantage of the tough times.

We also want to announce that we are changing our name. We are going back to Eckman Wealth Management. I am not an egomaniac, but the name Eckman Wealth Management was liked more than First Choice.

Finally, I want to thank you for working with us. We take the relationship very seriously. We are constantly trying to improve to find more ways to help you.

We also are open to hear from you at any time. If you are feeling unsure about the market, especially with market being down, don't be afraid to reach out.

We have been gently buying, but we are being extremely careful. We do not want to get overexposed if things stay rocky for a longer period of time.