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U.S. Performance Dashboard – April 2020

By | May 4th, 2020|Markets|

  • After March’s carnage, U.S. equities roared back in April, driven by fiscal stimulus and the apparent slowing of the spread of COVID-19. The S&P 500® gained by 13%, the best monthly performance since January 1987. In a reversal from the recent past, mid-caps performed even better, with the S&P MidCap 400® up 14%. While still relatively high, volatility calmed, with the VIX® closing the month at 34.15.
  • International markets also recovered, with the S&P Developed Ex-U.S. BMI and S&P Emerging BMI up 8% and 10%, respectively.
  • All factors and sectors posted gains, with High Beta and Growth in the lead, followed by Equal Weight, thanks to the recovery of smaller-caps.  After suffering this year and in spite of the volatility of oil prices,  Energy made a comeback as the top performing sector.

U.S. Performance Dashboard – March 2020

By | April 2nd, 2020|Markets|

  • Global markets in Q1 were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. equities posted their worst quarter since 2008, with the S&P 500® down 20%; smaller-caps performed even worse, with the S&P MidCap 400® and the S&P SmallCap 600® down 30% and 33%, respectively. Volatility rose, with the VIX® closing at a record high of 82.69 on March 16th.
  • International markets were not spared, with the S&P Developed Ex-U.S. BMI and S&P Emerging BMI down 24% and 25%, respectively.
  • While all factors and sectors posted losses, Momentum, Growth, Quality and Low Volatility managed to outperform the market.  Info Tech and Health Care were the top performing sectors, while Energy was the laggard, down an astonishing 50% as a result of the plunge in oil prices.


Epidemics and Stock Market Performance

By | March 30th, 2020|Markets|

Clients and Friends:

Our firm is busy monitoring the current market conditions, events and client accounts.  Here is a brief overview of recent events:

Last week was one for the history books. Tuesday: the highest percentage gain for the Dow since 1933.  Thursday: record new unemployment benefit claims of 3.3 million—doubling some estimates. In the end, the Dow finished the week in the green.

Dow Jones Industrial Average*
  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday The Week
-582 +2,113 +496 +1,352 -915 +2,463
-3.0% +11.4% +2.4% +6.4% -4.0% +12.8%
Notes on recent events:

  • The Federal Reserve raised its response to the coronavirus crisis to a whole new level, with its open-ended QE as well as unprecedented purchases of short-dated IG corporate debt and ETFs, measures that had not been adopted even at the height of the global financial crisis.
  • The decision to purchase ETFs expands the purchase of IG debt to longer maturities. Together, these measures show that the Fed understands the need for a creative, decisive and adaptive strategy to fight the current crisis.
  • The Fed announced a raft of new measures and facilities aimed at: 1) providing targeted relief to affected households and businesses; 2) giving broad support to economic activity; and 3) ensuring the smooth functioning of money and credit markets. These include:
    • Open-ended QE. It announced it will purchase Treasuries and agency MBS “in the amounts needed” to keep markets functioning smoothly and ensuring monetary policy can do its job.
    • New facilities to support credit to households and businesses with up to $300 billion in new financing.
    • Expansion of [liquidity facilities] to a wider range of securities.
    • Planned launch of a program to support lending to small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • We think the Fed’s support can help the US economy survive the shock and set the stage for a strong recovery in the second half of the year, on two conditions:
    • One: the government-mandated shutdown of large parts of the economy is sufficiently short-lived. 
    • Two: Congress follows suit and launches a sizable package of fiscal measures, and remains committed to implementing all measures that may be needed to weather this exogenous shock.
  • Update as of 3/27 – Congress negotiated a $2 trillion relief bill this week, the largest stimulus package in US history, that has now passed the House and Senate—and was signed by the President into law.

Market updates:

  • In terms of where the markets go from here, our base case is U-shaped recovery; likely with some significant ups and downs during this phase. A quick V-shaped recovery seems unlikely barring an antiviral breakthrough.
  • The delay in rebound is because the demand shock should lead to business and household stress that, in turn, leads to higher unemployment and defaults. This puts “stickier” downward pressure on aggregate demand in the recovery phase. On the positive side, our base case is that we experience the worst of the virus before the second quarter of 2020 is over.
  • As we’ve often discussed, we recognize that while we can’t control returns, we certainly can control risks. Even in these uncertain times, we seek to build well-diversified, low-cost portfolios.
We will continue to monitor the situation and make any recommendations that we deem appropriate, but given that your goals and time horizons haven’t changed, we believe the current strategy remains the best course of action.




By | March 14th, 2020|Markets|


Manic Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)

By | March 10th, 2020|Markets|

I’d like to share today’s insights from Schwab Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders in response to the economic implications of COVID-19 and the recent crash in oil prices: Manic Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday).

I hope these insights help you navigate the current market volatility. Please reach out with questions or for more information.


Dimensional Reduces US Mutual Fund Management Fees

By | February 14th, 2020|DFA, Dimensional Fund Advisors|

A Core principle of the Park + Elm’s Investment Strategy is investing efficiently, and adding value by analyzing and reducing portfolio expenses. We focus on partnering with firms that value those same principles, in order to deliver a cost efficient, research based portfolio for our clients.

We are thankful to be partners with a well-respected organization that recently announced fee reductions. As a fiduciary, we continuously analyze the cost of building a portfolio, and work with partners that add value through reducing expenses. Dimensional Fund Advisors is pleased to announce a reduction in management fees or expense caps for 77 US Mutual Funds effective February 28, 2020.

Across Dimensional US Funds, there will be an average management fee reduction of 8% on an asset-weighted basis.  Many of Dimensional’s most widely held funds, including the flagship Core, Value and Fixed Income portfolios, will see management fee reductions. For a full list of the changes, please refer to the table below.

“We evaluate expense ratios and management fees for every fund on an ongoing basis and look to make adjustments where appropriate,” said Co-CEO Dave Butler. “We have made previous reductions to US Fund management fees or expense caps in 2015, 2017, and 2019.”

“We expect to do better than benchmarks and peers, after fees, so we fight for every basis point,” noted Gerard O’Reilly, Co-CEO and CIO.  “We continue to gain insights from research and innovate across all aspects of our process.”


Dimensional US Mutual Funds – Management Fees




Dimensional US Mutual Funds – Total Management Fee Limit



Dimensional US Mutual Funds – Expense Limitation Amount


This is a BIG deal. This will positively affect our portfolio values, and, long-term, can make an impactful difference in retirement. Investing in equity markets can be risky and volatile, but expenses are one controllable aspect of an investment strategy. These efforts also confirm that Park + Elm and Dimensional are working to give clients the best products, in the most efficient way.

January Performance Dashboard

By | February 6th, 2020|Markets|

  • U.S. equities started the year strongly, but gains were erased towards the end of the month as a result of coronavirus fears. The S&P 500® was flat in January, while smaller-caps lagged, with the S&P MidCap 400® and the S&P SmallCap 600® down 3% and 4%, respectively.
  • International markets declined, with the S&P Developed Ex-U.S BMI and S&P Emerging BMI down 2% and 4%, respectively.
  • Low Volatility was the top performing factor; not unrelatedly, Utilities was the top performing sector with Real Estate close behind. Similarly, Momentum and Growth were the next best factor index performers, while Info Tech and Communication Services were the second and fourth best performing sectors. Meanwhile, in a reversal from last year’s outperformance, Value lagged Growth.

Quarterly Market Review – Q4 2019

By | January 14th, 2020|Dimensional Fund Advisors, Quarterly Market Review|

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

Click HERE to download this quarter’s breakdown!

Year-End Performance Dashboard

By | January 2nd, 2020|Markets|

  • In sharp contrast to last year, U.S. equities triumphed in 2019, with the S&P 500® up 31%, its biggest annual gain since 2013.  Easing trade tensions and Fed accommodation renewed optimism about the economic outlook. Mega-caps dominated as gains for the S&P MidCap 400® and the S&P SmallCap 600®, 26% and 23% respectively, lagged the S&P 500.
  • International markets also gained, with the S&P Developed Ex-U.S BMI up 23% and the S&P Emerging BMI up 20%.
  • High Beta was the best performing factor, followed by Quality; not unrelatedly, Information Technology was the best performing sector, up a remarkable 50%.  Meanwhile, Value outperformed Growth for the first time in three years.

November Performance Dashboard

By | December 2nd, 2019|Markets|

  • Amid optimism that U.S.-China trade issues will be resolved amicably, U.S. equities showed strength in November. The S&P 500® was up 4%, its biggest monthly gain since June, while the S&P SmallCap 600® and the S&P MidCap 400® gained 3%.
  • International markets also gained, with the S&P Developed Ex-U.S BMI up 1%.
  • The resurgence in Value continued, as Enhanced Value was the best performing factor. Year-to-date, Quality was the top performing factor index, up an impressive 29%; not unrelatedly, Information Technology was the best performing sector.
  • dashboard-us-2019-11
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