If you’re the kind of investor who likes to worry, then October has given you plenty of stimulus. After this week’s declines in the popular S&P 500 index, the index has lost 8.8% in this month alone, wiping out all the gains that we’ve enjoyed this year, putting the index in negative territory. The once-soaring Nasdaq Composite Index of technology companies tumbled 4.4% on a single day this week. It’s time again to remind ourselves of some tried and true investment wisdom.
Capitalism, succinctly described, is characterized by the singular drive of corporations, entrepreneurs, and all business entities to maximize short-term income. When business seeks to maximize short-term income as its primary goal, societal wealth grows, but other bad things happen too….. This isn’t theory. It is happening right now, right here in the U.S. and everywhere, all of it.
SRI investors endeavor to invest in the best parts of the economy, that part of the economy that supports more people, more often, and more fairly, while damaging the environment less. Inevitably, though, their investment results are not that different from broader markets that reflect the overall economy.
You might have read, or even heard me say, that we are experiencing a very long bull market. Indeed, it’s the second-longest bull market since World War II – it started in March of 2009 and has continued without a bear market (defined as a decline of 20%) since. Well, yes and no.
“Our communities are experiencing unprecedented levels of gun violence. Enough is enough. First Affirmative will continue to avoid investment products that hold positions in firearm manufacturers, and has added screens to avoid retailers that do not meet high standards of care in the sale of these products,” said George Gay, CEO of First Affirmative
In its 28th annual Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) discovered that 64% of today's workers feel very or somewhat confident in having enough money to retire comfortably, up from 60% in 2017. And although far more retirees are very confident in their retirement prospects than workers, retiree confidence in their ability to meet basic expenses and medical expenses dropped from the previous year. Moreover, both workers and retirees question the role Social Security will play in future retiree income.
SRI investors like electric cars for obvious environmental reasons. Many have flocked to Tesla*, for example, despite some of its current cash flow statistics that might frighten some more conservative non-SRI investors. These Tesla fans might well be motivated by the company’s electric car models, but their investments are also supporting another fast-developing, and proliferating, technology – namely cars that drive themselves.
During the week of April 30, a short documentary show about socially responsible impact investing, and featuring SRI Investing and me, will be distributed nationwide to over 200 PBS TV stations, to be aired periodically over the coming year.
When Mr. Trump was elected President, I cautioned against panic (although I was feeling some of it myself). I wrote the vibrancy of the global economy and the securities markets that reflect it transcend any U.S. administration and its policies. Privately, I remember thinking that even though that might be true, a Trump administration would almost assuredly create chaos and an increase in short term market volatility.
But that didn’t happen – at least not right away. Instead, the markets focused on an improving economy both in the U.S. and abroad and yielded a banner year in 2017. So far, the narrative for 2018 is different, and yes, Trump is finally causing the economic and market chaos I feared.
In light of continuing gun violence and mass shootings in the U.S. involving semi-automatic assault weapons, the undersigned investors representing US$634BN in assets are calling on gun manufacturers, retailers and distributors, as well as companies with financial ties to these industries, to review their operations, supply chains and policies and take meaningful action on this public safety concern.