Volatility came back for a little while during the first quarter. That should not be a surprise to any of you as we have touched on stock market highs the past few years and geopolitical events can always shock the market. So far, earnings continue to support prices even though stock valuations seem to be pretty full - there aren't many discounted stocks out there right now.
The strength of the U.S. dollar has hurt large corporations as the items they sell overseas are more expensive to their overseas customers. On the flip side, this is one of the cheaper times over the last several years to travel abroad - your dollar will go a lot further. The bottom line is that a strong dollar means the U.S. is in a pretty strong position right now. China continues to slow as their leader grapples with inherent top-level government corruption that typically plagues communist countries while the European Central Bank initiated a quantitative-easing program to help stimulate a European economy that probably would have been in decline had this step not been taken. The 2 - 2.5% projected growth for the full-year GDP is looking pretty good right now from a global perspective and can partly explain why the U.S. dollar is rallying.
All of the above has resulted in the S&P 500 rising just under 1% while small company stock (which don't have as many foreign sales as large companies and are therefore less susceptible to the U.S. dollar valuations) and foreign stock indexes have rallied by more than 4%. The bond index has also done quite well - it is up 1.61% for the year through March 31.
All of this points to one more reminder of why we continue to believe a diversified portfolio is the best way to invest. While none of us enjoyed having foreign stocks in our portfolio last year, who would have thought our foreign stocks would be leading the pack this year? Small-cap stocks are right behind the foreign stocks. Once again, who would have thought? There is a perception that hedge funds are the superior investment due to the notoriety they receive as well as the big dollars they attract and the large paychecks the managers make. I have a difficult time with this perception. Not only are they non-diversified and highly leveraged, but they are usually practicing some type of market timing. While they may get it right once in a while and grab the headlines for a time, I would prefer the much more boring market index and low-cost, deep-value management philosophies which have proven themselves over the long-haul.