Tom Armistead's  Instablog

Tom Armistead
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I am a retired accountant, having spent the early years of my career in the insurance industry and the later part in the field of accounting. My insurance experience has given me the willingness to accept investment risk if I feel the return justifies it; also, an interest in applying risk... More
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Tom Armistead's Instablog
  • Looking At Nonfarm Employment After Jackson Hole 6 comments
    Aug 25, 2014 7:31 AM | about stocks: SPY, DIA, QQQ

    This morning I located and read the text of Janet Yellen's speech delivered at Jackson Hole. What I saw was a very careful discussion of complexity, resulting in the conclusion that the Fed will not be relying on a single variable of any type in assessing the level of employment and the resulting indications for monetary policy.

    She also mentioned, which got my attention, that we only recently passed the previous peak of nonfarm employment.

    Monetary policy is a driver of economic activity as well as asset valuations. We don't know the exact relationships: in point of fact, there is considerable animated debate on the topic. As a way of getting away from the fuzzy thinking and forming an opinion for my own use in directing my participation in the market of stocks, I looked at nonfarm payrolls, using FRED, the graphing facility at the St. Louis Fed. Here's the chart:

    (click to enlarge)

    Because of shifting demographics and structural changes in the workforce, it's not that useful to use the information going back 50 or 60 years. So the analysis is, how long was it from the time that nonfarm employment exceeded the previous peak until the downturn heralding the crash of 2008/2009?

    It was 3.0 years, from 01/01/05 to 01/01/08. Now nonfarm payrolls most recently matched the previous peak on 05/01/14. If you add three years, we could look for the cycle to turn down in the Spring of 2017, with the market following in due course.

    My take: barring an exogenous event, employment will grow at a rate between 1.5% and 2%, carrying the economy along at a comparable pace, for the previously developed 3 years. Add some inflation and there will be nominal growth around 4%.

    The Fed, relying on fuzzy thinking, will remove accommodation at a deliberate pace, and will subsequently tighten less rapidly than during previous expansions.

    Prudential regulation will slow the onset of wretched excess in US financial markets, but will not prevent it.

    My reaction to this potential scenario is, to leave my Vanguard index funds fully invested, and to focus my attention on extracting market-like returns from my discretionary portfolio. Using options for risk management, I'm taking exposure to high quality dividend payers by means of LEAPS, selling covered calls for income, and holding substantial cash, as a cushion on personal spending, and to be deployed in the event of a decline in the market.

    Disclosure: The author is long SPY.

    Additional disclosure: As a retail investor, I don't give investment advice. I blog to expose my investment thinking and process to critical examination and comment from readers, as a way of accessing the collective wisdom of market participants.

    Stocks: SPY, DIA, QQQ
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Comments (6)
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  • dancing diva
    , contributor
    Comments (2753) | Send Message
    Tom - You might consider UPS leaps. They are trading at a very low implied volatility considering the stock isn't particularly defensive. I am long a small position and will buy more if the stock corrects further.
    25 Aug 2014, 10:11 AM Reply Like
  • Tom Armistead
    , contributor
    Comments (6225) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » I'll take a look at it. I've controlled by means of LEAPS it in the past with good results, I like the company for the fact they have invested effectively in their spoke and hub system, cost effective, plus they should do well if the economy continues to grow, particularly if JIT leads to expedited shipping.
    25 Aug 2014, 10:15 AM Reply Like
  • Economic Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (3780) | Send Message
    Nice writeup Tom, I like the way you think. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
    25 Aug 2014, 10:58 AM Reply Like
  • Tom Armistead
    , contributor
    Comments (6225) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » EA, thank you for your kind words. I got a C in economics my freshman year, and never returned to the subject.


    I like to take a limited number of variables and some simple logic and push it as far as possible, to make readers think and question their assumptions.
    25 Aug 2014, 01:45 PM Reply Like
  • jhooper
    , contributor
    Comments (8198) | Send Message
    "Prudential" & "wretched". Like the "Pure" Food and Drug Act, or the words "proper" or "good" or "efficient" or "too". All are reminders that economics is not science.
    25 Aug 2014, 11:06 AM Reply Like
  • Tom Armistead
    , contributor
    Comments (6225) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » hoop, if it were a science, it would be a dismal one.
    25 Aug 2014, 01:45 PM Reply Like
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