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The Sandy Spring Way

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy is a lot more complex…

August 26th, 2013 | By Beau Mercer

Brian Oettinger“So much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens.”

Well, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy is a lot more complex than the simple tools mentioned in the oft-memorized William Carlos Williams’ poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, but an awful lot is depending on it. In some of those countries that have been affected negatively by changing expectations about quantitative easing, the importance of chickens, wheelbarrows, and other basic tools to a family’s economic well-being has not been forgotten.

During the past 10 weeks, currencies in many emerging countries tumbled against the U.S. dollar on expectations the Fed will begin to taper off its bond buying program (which is known as quantitative easing). The Brazilian real sank like a weighted fishing line, dropping almost 16 percent. The Indian rupee dropped almost 12 percent. The Indonesian rupiah lost seven percent, and the Malaysian ringgit fell by a bit more than 6 percent during the period.

The Mexican peso and South African rand dropped, as well, but both have recovered some value, in part because they don’t have large deficits, according to The Indian Express. China and South Korea, which are strong exporters, saw their currencies dunk down, but both bobbed back up.

According to The New York Times, currency weakness caused several emerging markets to lose significant value recently. India’s stock market lost one-quarter of its value during the past three months in U.S. dollar terms, but market declines in local currency terms have been much smaller. A recent New York Times article pointed out, “…From the end of 2000 through the end of 2010, the developed market index rose a scant 5 percent. The emerging markets index more than tripled during the same period. Since then, however, the developed markets have risen nearly 20 percent, while the emerging ones have fallen about the same amount.”

As we’ve mentioned before, mean reversion theory suggests prices and returns adjust towards a mean or average over time. That raises an interesting question. Have recent market shifts been adjustments toward a mean?

Data as of 08/23/13 1-Week YTD 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)

0.5%

16.6%

18.6%

15.9%

5.6%

5.3%

10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)

2.8

NA

1.7

2.6

3.8

4.5

Gold (per ounce)

0.6

-18.7

-17.3

4.0

10.7

14.4

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

0.5

-6.4

-10.8

-0.2

-7.5

0.8

DJ Equity All REIT TR Index

2.4

1.3

4.3

14.3

6.4

10.1

Notes: S&P 500, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

THE NEXT BIG THING…

In May, The McKinsey Global Institute released its latest thinking on disruptive technologies. That is, technological advances which have the potential to disrupt the status quo and transform life, business, and the global economy as we know it. Among the dozen technologies mentioned in the report were:

  • Mobile Internet is expected to improve productivity and delivery of service. McKinsey estimated one application – remote health monitoring – could reduce healthcare costs of by one-fifth. (Slide 1)
  • Automation of knowledge work is a brain twister of a category that encompasses intelligent software systems, which could produce output equal to 110 to 140 million full-time workers. (Slide 2)
  • The Cloud delivers services over the Internet or a network. It could improve productivity in IT infrastructure, application development, and packaged software by 15 to 20 percent. (Slide 3)
  • Advanced robotics could improve the lives of 50 million people who are missing limbs or have impaired mobility. Also, industrial, manufacturing, and service robots may change the face of labor. (Slide 5)
  • Autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles could save 30,000 to 150,000 lives by eliminating potentially fatal traffic accidents. (Slide 6)
  • 3-D printing may offer the ability to manufacture custom goods at home, while the medical industry may be able to bioprint tissue and organs in the lab. (Slide 9)

According to the report’s authors, these ideas “…can change the game for businesses, creating entirely new products and services, as well as shifting pools of value between producers or from producers to consumers.”

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

–John Wooden, American basketball player and coach