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investing

Timely Advice for Investors

Our goal is to give you a heads-up about the market’s danger points and opportunities so you can apply them to your individual circumstances.

Each July, we stick our necks out to come up with our best estimate of where the stock market is headed for the rest of the year. Talk about fraught with peril. Economic uncertainty has made the market particularly volatile lately. And there’s no way to account for unpredictable market shocks, such as international incidents and flash crashes.

The job of writing our midyear forecast falls to senior editor Anne Kates Smith. Anne, our resident futurist, is the editor of our “Ahead” section. She’s also an experienced reporter who has been covering the stock market for decades. This time around, she found herself reporting our cover story (see Midyear Investing Outlook 2015) during an earnings season that started out “godawful”—with gloomy expectations thanks to the one-two punch of a strong dollar and the collapse in oil prices—but ended up not being so bad. Then there’s the fact that at six years and counting, the bull market is getting long in the tooth. “What are we dealing with here?” Anne writes. “A super bull? Or one on its last legs?”

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Looming over it all is the specter of the Federal Reserve. As Anne reports, no one expects anything but the tiniest increase in interest rates this year, if that. Nevertheless, she says, “this is the most interest-rate-sensitive market ever.”

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And no wonder. In his usual colorful language, economist Ed Yardeni observes that the world’s central banks “have continued to pour intoxicating liquidity into their monetary punch bowls” to try to stimulate their economies, with limited success. But “there’s no doubt that their efforts have propelled asset prices into outer space.” Historically low interest rates have cost U.S. bank depositors $749 billion in purchasing power over the past six years, according to a study by MoneyRates.com, forcing savers to turn to stocks and other higher-risk investments in search of yield.

A slowing bull. To make sense of all this, Anne’s strategy is to not get caught up in daily market moves. When she takes a long view, she sees market fundamentals that appear strong enough to support further gains, though not the double-digit annual increases we’ve gotten used to. Her conclusion: For 2015, Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index will deliver a total return of up to 9%, including the market’s 2% dividend yield.

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But with the bull market aging, you might want to pull in your horns. For example, you could cut back on the percentage of your assets devoted to stocks (for suggestions on what to do with your money, see 3 Smart Ways to Protect Your Stock Market Gains). Or you could spread your risk by going abroad (see Anne’s interview with BlackRock investment chief Russ Koesterich). And in 9 Funds for a Rainy Day, senior associate editor Nellie Huang suggests nine mutual funds that can help cut the risk in your portfolio.

Our goal is to give you a heads-up about the market’s danger points and opportunities so you can apply them to your individual circumstances. Says Anne, “That’s more important than where the Dow will end up.”

A new feature. One reason Kiplinger’s is so useful to readers is that so many real people are willing to make the numbers come alive by telling us about their own personal finances. We often wonder what’s happened to the people we’ve interviewed over the years. Did they pay off their debt? Was their business a success? Did their investments pan out? This month we begin a new back-page feature, called “Then and Now,” in which we revisit people to see how they’ve fared and what we can learn from their experiences.

P.S. See our picks for the best rewards credit cards.

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