March 2015 Market Commentary

The major equity indices were negative for the month of March, and so far in 2015, volatility is the name of the game. The equity markets experienced negative returns in January, only to see some positive returns in February, and then negative again in March. For the quarter, this resulted in the major indices being up less than 1%.

While it’s important to understand what’s happening in the financial markets and the major stock and bond indices, the actual performance of these benchmarks is pretty unimportant for most people. We chuckle that so many people and institutions are wed to this archaic form of measure. Simply put, the indices mean little because our clients are not the indices. To be an index would mean never having any cash on hand, zero. Furthermore, these benchmarks are often heavily over weighted by one particular industry due to its’ popularity; for example, the S&P 500 performs in line with technology due to the market capitalization of Apple. Again, this is ridiculous; however, if nothing else, Wall Street will always be buoyed by the spirit of competition. Competition requires scoring, and scoring requires a benchmarking system by which to judge. All of that said, not one bit of that system makes you a better investor.

For the past 9 months, our investments in natural resources have been a short term anchor to performance. This temporary shortfall doesn’t affect our thinking about this vital industry in the least. There are four important points about this investment: first, the industry is by far one of the best values in an overly high market today. Second, we don’t buy any company without at least a 3 to 5 year time frame. History has taught us that to do otherwise causes investors to lose money. Third, many of these oil and natural gas companies are selling at a fraction of their cash values which means the market is giving them an enterprise value of zero. This is silly because Putin wants to play war games, and the United States and Saudi Arabia know that low natural resource prices keep him in line. Thus, A.G. Campbell Advisory has used this as an opportunity to own these companies at a fraction of their true worth. Finally, we believe that an oil price of $65-$70/bbl could move these equities quite significantly; whereas, with an abysmal GDP in the United States, other companies are going to find it more difficult to report remarkable revenue increases and move the needle. 

Mark Scott

A.G. Campbell Advisory, LLC, 1340 Smith Avenue, Suite 200, Baltimore, MD 21209