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2021 Year End Review and 2022 Expectations

2021 proved to be another strong year for the US Capital Markets. The final quarter was no exception to that and also brought a rotation back to large cap stocks and growth stocks. The S&P 500 returned 11% in the fourth quarter and 28.4% for the year. The Russell 2000 (Small Cap Index) returned 2.14% for the quarter 14.82% for the year. Stocks performed well across the board in 2021.

With so much happening in the first quarter of 2022 it’s challenging to remember back to the 4th quarter of 2021. The fourth quarter was dominated by headlines of the Omicron variant of Covid 19 sweeping across the globe and the continued acceleration of inflation in the U.S. economy. Despite all the potential for the market to take a pause and pull back, corporate earnings continued to be the driving force behind the markets strong performance in 2021. However inflation, Covid and host of other events have not just gone away and will likely impact 2022.

You have probably heard us say over the years “the biggest thing the market hates is uncertainty.” This could prove to be true in a number of ways in 2022. Inflation, mid-term elections, Covid, a Russian/Ukrainian conflict, all of which have unknown outcomes and could impact the market in significant ways. Let’s address each one.


The high inflation numbers have stalled the movement of future proposed government spending programs and forced the Federal Reserve to accelerate the tapering of liquidity. In addition, interest rates hikes are now a virtual certainty, the only question remaining is how far and fast the rate hikes will be. The key 10-year treasury bond rate has risen substantially causing growth stocks to retreat in the early weeks of 2022. As the U.S. economy continues to reopen post pandemic, GDP growth remains strong and importantly, S&P 500 earnings remain strong. Supply chain issues and lack of available labor have caused disruptions in most businesses, but most company’s ability to raise prices has more than made up cost overruns. This is one reason our inflation numbers have been high.


It’s hard not to look back to 2019 and see a similar situation to where we find ourselves today. Without making political statements, it would appear that the mid-term election outcomes look fairly certain, but this appeared to be the case in early 2020 as well, but then Covid 19 arrived in March and everything changed. We may see an outcome shifting event this year, we may not. Again, this is just another point of uncertainty that will effect the markets in the short term.


While there are still daily cases of Covid across the globe and US, Covid in large part seems to be moving to the rear view mirror and something we will have to work around and with versus dominating headlines and our daily lives. Covid restrictions across the country are largely ending or have already ended and should allow the US to return to closer to pre-pandemic life. This will be good for the economy and the markets. We should see supply chains open back up, factories fully reopen and host of other restrictions lifted that will only be positives for the economy. All of this should be a good for economic growth and Markets in 2022.

Russian/Ukrainian Conflict:

Obviously this has been the major news over the last 7 days. We are very hopeful that this conflict comes a quick and peaceful end and both sides will walk away from this war. The US and Western World has taken a strong stance against Putin and short of engaging in direct fighting with Russian troops, we have used every tool to inflict maximum pain on Putin. Our sanctions will no doubt impact the Russian economy and could have long-term effects in Russia. The largest impact to the US Economy, and the global economy, could come from Russian oil. If Russia decides to stop supplying the west with oil we would see an increase in gas prices which will no doubt have far reaching impacts to the global economy. The second largest impact will be if Russian stops exporting grain/wheat. This would also have a large impact on the global economy as we would see the price of wheat increase overnight. Again, we are hopeful that this conflict comes to a quick and peaceful resolution with minimal long-term impacts.

With all this uncertainty, so far in 2022 markets have been extremely volatile and predominantly negative. This year will have some major changes in some long-term trends that have fueled the markets higher. First, as mentioned above, interest rates have been trending down for decades and 2022 will undoubtedly see rising interest rates for the entire year and rates hikes will likely continue into 2023 and 2024. Second, the avalanche of liquidity provided by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government will slow dramatically. Third and most important, corporate earnings will likely remain strong in 2022, but after the economy is fully reopen, the rate of growth will likely return to a long-term trend of 2%-ish. Even though earnings will still be rising, the market doesn’t particularly care for decelerating growth and will add to volatility.

2022 will most likely be headlined by national and global events leading to increased volatility. But, we feel in spite of this the markets should have positive returns this year. Fundamentally the market should reflect earnings and the broader economy. With unemployment at almost pre-pandemic levels, GDP growth between 3-5% and corporate earnings still positive we see the market responding positively to these as the year progresses.

As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

All the Best,

Bryan, Gary, Thane and the Cascade Team

Cascade 2020 Year End Review

Wow, what a year is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s almost hard to imagine that 12 months ago life was without Coronavirus, the election hadn’t really begun and the economy was continuing to run at a historical rate. Fast-forward to January 1, 2021 and it feels like the world took a collective breath as we sighed “Whew, glad that’s over.” While 2020 is definitely in the rear view mirror, the effects of a global pandemic are still being felt.

2020 began with an incredible start. Through February the global financial markets were hitting all time highs and economies everywhere were running at an incredible pace. Then as we all experienced in March, we saw something we never thought possible. In over 20 years investing I have never seen something so strong come to such a quick stop. The S&P 500 dropped over 30% from February 10th to March 16th, just over 4 weeks time. To give some historical context the 2008 financial crisis from high to low took over 11 months. The speed of the decline in 2020 was unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Despite this rapid decline and massive economic impact if you were invested in the market you had a good year. March was obviously a very difficult month, but government responses around the globe were not only swift but large in scale. The US Government pumped trillions of dollars into the economy, the Fed provided massive liquidity to the capital markets and because of moves like these the US economy was brought out of what would have been a prolonged and crushing downturn. In Q2 we saw GDP drop over 32%. This was more than three times larger than the previous record of quarterly contraction. As the government and Fed intervened we saw Q3 expand at over 33%. Q4 again provided growth at 6%. All total the US economy did contract last year, but everything that transpired, it could have been much worse. With stay-in-place orders in effect in March and massive uncertainty, we easily could have faced a prolonged recession or even depression. We are obviously very pleased with the outcome thus far.

So what to expect in 2021 and beyond?

As many of you have heard us jest “our crystal ball stopped working about 15 years ago,” and we obviously can’t provide an exact picture of what things will be this year. There are a number of things we do feel good about.  

First, we feel that the companies that come out of the pandemic will be stronger and better prepared for any future type event that may be similar. While we don’t expect that to happen, it is reassuring to know that companies will have gone through this and better know how to manage it.

Second, the companies that did well last year will continue to do so in 2021. Companies that saw little interruptions in their business as employees worked from home, others that provided infrastructure for remote working, all saw large increases to their bottom lines. We feel this will continue into 2021 and beyond and may be a large part of the “new normal” going forward.

Third, companies that relied heavily on in-person interaction or travel had a brutal year in 2020. This will continue into early 2021 and will be one of the limiting factors of our economy early in the year. We do feel however these businesses are poised to grow significantly as economies open back up. We expect to see restaurants return to more normal operations, travel to increase and things like concerts and sporting events to return. Companies that service these industries will definitely benefit as things reopen.

Fourth, opening back can only happen as vaccines are distributed. Currently the US is on pace to reach the new administrations goal of 100 million doses in the first 100 days. This is great news. As the vaccine to Covid 19 gets administered globally we anticipate this will help industries like travel, entertainment and the like, return to 2019 levels. The vaccine should continue to be a massive contributor towards growth as the year moves on.

Fifth, low interest rates. The Fed has said they will continue to maintain low interest rates for the foreseeable future. This benefits industries across the economy and will be another significant factor to economic growth in 2021. We are glad to see the Fed maintaining this policy.

Sixth and finally, we have a new administration in Washington. With Democrats now controlling all three branches of government we expect to see a bent towards legislation favored by the Democrats. However, with a razor thin margin in the Senate we don’t expect to see sweeping legislative changes. In the 2022 mid-term elections there are a greater number of Democratic senators up for reelection and many of those senators come from either “conservative” or moderate states. This will probably influence voting until those elections. We are hopeful the rhetoric out of DC will be more along the lines of compromise going forward.

2021 will be an interesting year, most likely the tale of two halves. The first half will be much like 2020, lock downs still in place in many cities and states, limited gatherings and minimal travel. The second half should look much closer to the “days of yesteryear” in our opinion. The vaccine should be largely distributed by summer. This should allow most everything to resume and we are cautiously optimistic that by late summer/early fall life will look much more like it did in 2019 than in 2020. There are of course things that can disrupt this and we will continue to plan, react and reallocate accordingly. We continue to look for diversification strategies that protect your capital and find high quality companies that can weather storms and perform well over the long haul.

Thank you for your continued trust in us and allowing us to work with you through an unprecedented year. We know it wasn’t easy, but we have all come out stronger knowing we can handle what is hopefully the greatest collective challenge of our lives. Stay Safe. Stay Strong.

Bryan, Thane, Gary and the Cascade Team

COVID, The Election and 2020 Update

Cascade Wealth Group

Late Year Update: November 2020

2020, what a year it’s been. To think 12 months ago the words Corona Virus and COVID 19 didn’t even exist in our vocabulary is almost impossible to wrap one’s mind around. How things have changed in just a few short months. Throw in racial and social unrest coupled with an election and you have more than enough ingredients to create turmoil around the globe. Just one of these events would typically be enough to add volatility to the markets, but combine all three and we get the ups and downs that have become almost commonplace this year.

As we have stated in previous letters, the market doesn’t like is uncertainty, which has been the single biggest contributor to volatility this year. Beginning in March and April the impact of the virus both short or long term was unknown and the markets reacted violently. As the year moved on and more data was acquired, the market began to price in what looks to be a relatively shorter-term event than a multi-year protracted impact. Now we don’t believe that the virus will “be gone by Easter” as once famously stated, but we also do feel a vaccine is likely in the coming months especially given the announcement this week from Pfizer. Looking 6-12 months out it’s hard not to see life and the economy returning to a more “normal” and pre-pandemic level. Will it reach the full levels of January 2020 in that time frame? Unlikely, but we do feel that things will continue to improve moving forward. Unemployment continues to decline, GDP numbers are improving and corporate earnings are largely ahead of expectations. It is important to take these numbers in context and understand the surprises to the upside are in large part due to surpassing numbers that were adjusted down, but either way this is positive. Things are not as bad, or put differently, better than expected.

The Two Elephants In The Room: COVID and an Election…

One: The rising COVID cases both globally and in the US.  We see a few positives to this. First, the overall case fatality rate continues to remain really low. While cases continue to increase hospitalizations and deaths have largely remained unchanged. Meaning that as the cases have gone up, deaths have not correspondingly spiked. Second, as we mentioned above, we feel a vaccine is likely in the coming months. Will it be before January? Again, unlikely, but before May, we feel this is a more realistic expectation.

Two: The election. This past week has been a surprise with the market rally for many investors and while the election is still partly unknown it appears there will be a divided government. As of the writing of this update it looks as thought the Senate may have a slim majority for the GOP and the Democrats in the House and Biden winning the White House. Georgia will be at the center of the political universe for the next 2 months as we await a final outcome in their two Senate races. If Senate control does go to the GOP, it will force compromise in order to move forward legislation.  The markets the past 5 days have clearly seen this as a positive and have moved up with their largest gains since April.

Overall the next 6 months should continue to provide good news and improving trends in the US and globally. A vaccine, declining COVID Cases, and election behind us are all positive contributors to both the economy and the markets. This year has been one we will probably all look forward to having behind us, but we remain optimistic about what 2021 and the future holds.

As always if you have any questions about anything above please don’t hesitate to reach out. Stay safe and healthy.

Best Regards,

Bryan, Thane, Gary and the Cascade Team.

Coronavirus: The Market and What We Expect

Given all that has transpired over the last few days, we wanted to send out an update and provide our thoughts on what has transpired. As you know, the market has been historically volatile over the last 10 days and even more so this past week due to the unknown impact of the Coronavirus and its impact to the economy. Monday morning has provided more of the same as the Fed has lowered short-term rates to almost 0% and market volatility has continued. As we have said over the last few weeks we expected the market to most likely get worse before it got better and that is exactly what we are seeing. Last week the government announced a new series of travel bans, the NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons, a number of state and local governments have begun putting restrictions on large gatherings and events and major corporations have begun closing their retail stores.

All of this will impact our economy, but the length and depth is still unclear. We feel at this point there is a likelihood that the US Economy may enter into a “technical” recession (2 quarters of negative GDP growth) in Q2 and Q3, but that largely will depend on the continued spread of the virus in the US. If we begin to see the number of cases decrease in Q2 or early Q3, and restrictions begin to lift, the 3rd quarter could move out of negative territory and back to the positive, but we are a long way from being able to determine that right now. We feel it’s also possible that Q2 could be much worse than expected if travel bans and quarantines become more prevalent or restrictive.

So, is there good news in all this? We believe there are some positives.

1. This is very different than 2008 in that it is not a “financial crisis.” Banks are solvent and are not concerned about a liquidity crunch or crisis. Part of what made 2008 so bad was that the banks were on the brink of collapse and there was no money moving in the economy. In part our economy depends on the flow of money and in 2008 there was almost no money flow. Fortunately the Federal Reserve was able to step in and provide that necessary liquidity. We do not see this scenario in the capital markets right now. Cash is flowing and while the economy will slow down, we don’t see things coming to a complete stop. Additionally, the Fed has shown and stated that if a major credit issue does occur they will step in and provide liquidity.

2. Once we begin to see the number of new cases decline and event bans and other restrictions start to lift, we feel the markets should respond positively and most likely over a relatively short period of time. Again, unlike 2008, there is not a large systemic problem that needs to be corrected and flushed out. Spending should return. Things like air travel, vacations, postponed conferences should resume and the market respond in kind. An additional catalyst that could happen is a significant government intervention. While the government has stepped in to some degree last last week, it is unclear how far they are willing to go. Initially everything from a payroll tax cut to paid sick leave to further extreme measures have been mentioned. The Federal Reserve stepped in early last week and again over the weekend. We feel there could be additional support from them. The timing of this remains uncertain and the market does not like uncertainty, which is one of the factors contributing to volatility. We may see recovery in the 3rd quarter, but it could also be at some point in 2021 or possibly beyond.

It is important to focus on the long-term results of the market, and not focus on the short-term. Think of the missed returns and opportunity if at the end of 2008 a decision was made to pull out of the market. In early 2009 you would have avoided additional downside, but the market then rallied significantly finishing up over 26% for the year and up over 50% from the lows. We have been through volatility like this before and we don’t know where or when the bottom is, but sticking to the long-term plan becomes even more important even when it’s difficult to do so. We believe the markets will recover. Exactly when we don’t know, but as always we feel we are positioned to weather market storms and continue to be in the best position for the long-term. We are also not set in stone and set in our ways. As new information becomes available we will continue to evaluate and make informed decisions. 

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call. We would be happy to help in any way we can. 

The Cascade Team

Gold: A Key to Riches or a Yellow Brick Road to Losses?

“Should I buy gold?” or “I heard that now is a good time to buy gold…”  is typically how the conversation starts. We are frequently asked by clients about gold and if there is a place for it in their investment allocation. While there is definitely a place for gold the most important question we ask is “why do you want to own gold?” In our opinion there are two primary reasons. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Reason One: An Economic Collapse

The argument usually starts with, if everything goes to hell in a hand basket then at least gold will be worth something. We couldn’t agree more. If you’re truly looking for protection in a major economic collapse then we absolutely support anyone looking to buy gold, but don’t buy gold investments, buy the actual raw material. You can buy gold bars, mini bars, coins, jewelry, there are a lot of different options. We would steer clients towards coins because they are small, easy to store and easy to actually use if needed. Most of all they are easy to purchase.  It is very unlikely this will ever be the case and most people actually don’t think along these lines, but if you want to be prepared, go for it. The reality is if you do by a bag of gold coins, lock them in your safe and forget about them for the next 20 years it will probably work out to be a fine investment. Just don’t buy them for that reason.

Reason Two: An Investment That’s Not a Stock/Diversification

This is the primary reason we get asked about buying gold. Clients want to have something that’s tied to a commodity and not corporate earnings and shareholder equity. We often find two things with this strategy: One, most people buy a gold ETF that is full of gold companies, thus defeating the purpose. Two, you may not be getting the diversification, or reduction in risk, you’re thinking. Here’s why.  

When you buy a gold mutual fund or ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) it is typically full of companies that mine gold, are part of the manufacturing process, etc. While these companies will typically trade higher and lower as the price of gold rises and falls, they are subject to the same scrutiny of every other publically traded company. If gold rises by 5% in a quarter, but the company looses 12% due to mining operations, much, if not all, of their gains could be wiped out. Again, you are not getting the diversification you are looking for. You end up buying more stocks that happens to be in the gold business.

The second thing to consider is are you truly getting the diversification and reduction in risk you really think you are? There are ETF’s that are solely based on the price of gold. IAU, iShares Gold Trust, is one example. But, look at the charts below. The first chart compares the S&P 500 to IUA over the last 12 months. The blue line is the S&P 500 and the Gold line is well, Gold. As you can see total returns over the period are not that much different (5% vs. a 2% respectively), but what typically surprises clients is the volatility of gold.  During the run up of early last year and the subsequent fall in the fall of 2018, the two largely moved in opposite directions, which is what you would hope for in a diversification strategy., but their volatility was almost equal.

Now consider the second chart. This shows again the S&P 500 over the last 10 years.  Two things to point out: First, largely until 2011 gold and the market moved in very close proximity, the gold line and the blue line almost overlap. Not much diversification. After that point look at how the gold line moves. Pay less attention to its overall direction, but more to the size of the peaks and valleys. They are frequently two and three times that of the S&P. Second, it is worth noting the difference in return over the last 10 years, 133% vs. 44% cumulative return over the period.

This could flip flop the next decade, which brings us back to our original question of “why do you want to buy gold?” The advice we give clients is if it is for the “just in case scenario”, go for it, but buy the coins. If it is for diversification purposes or chasing return, we hope you now know that it might not be all that you’ve heard.

Hopefully that’s some advice that’s worth its weight in gold…

The Cascade Team