Rising rates, bank failures weigh on investors’ psyche

Stocks offered cold comfort to investors last year, but equity markets have begun to thaw as inflation pressures slowly subside and the Fed inches closer to the end of its rate-hiking cycle.

The S&P 500 gained 7% in the first quarter and finished higher in March despite some panic about regional banks. That resilience was a positive sign for the overall health and direction of the market. Concern still outweighs confidence in the latest surveys of investor sentiment, and anyone looking for an excuse to sell certainly found one with the recent bank failures.

Nevertheless, stocks persisted. The Nasdaq especially has flipped the script year-to-date, increasing 16.8% through the first three months of 2023 (after losing 33% last year). The Russell 1000 Growth index gained 14% in Q1. The Russell 1000 Value, meanwhile, was flat. Some of the Growth-Value performance gap can be attributed to the most battered stocks bouncing higher off their lows, but it also suggests financial conditions will get better in the year ahead despite the strong likelihood that a recession is looming.

First-quarter earnings, which began last week, will offer a glimpse of whether such optimism is justified.

By one measurement, expectations seem modest. Consensus forecasts suggest S&P 500 earnings will decrease 7% from a year earlier. That would be the largest year-over-year decline since Q2 2020, in the immediate aftermath of a COVID-triggered economic shutdown.

But if earnings are declining while stock prices are going up, that means equities are trading at higher valuations. A glance at the Price-to-Earnings ratio confirms this. The forward 12-month P/E for the S&P 500 sits around 18. That’s nearly 20% higher than the P/E during the market lows last October (15.4).

Earnings in the financial sector will be highly scrutinized in the wake of high-profile bankruptcies, though it’s probably too early to quantify any longer-term fallout. The fact that 7 of 11 equity sectors finished positive in March suggests we avoided widespread contagion, but it’s too soon to declare an official “all clear.” There will be some aftershocks.

Something else to be mindful of is the market’s conviction that Fed policy will ease significantly in the next 18 months. Fed Funds futures suggests the benchmark interest rate is near its peak and that the Fed will cut rates by 100 basis points (think: 0.25% x 4) by April 2024 and 200 basis points by October 2024. Markets, in other words, are pricing in the effects of a much more friendly Fed. This could prove correct, but if the Fed only hits pause and ignores the rewind button, equity prices would need to recalibrate.

Seasonality, for what it’s worth, is favorable. Since 1950, April is the second-best performing month for US stocks (only November is better). In 17 of the last 18 pre-election years, equities have been positive in April (1987 being the only outlier).

Still, this is an uncertain economic environment that warrants a more cautious approach. Be mindful of your target allocation and rebalance if the year-to-date rally has left you overweight equities. Avoid chasing returns. Our hunch is that the gap between Growth and Value is likely to narrow.

Positive stock returns are something to be thankful for, but in this case, it also raises the bar. If economic data weakens and corporate earnings fall more than expected, stocks will likely give up some of their recent gains.

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

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Ben Marks & Brett Angel

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Director of Asset Management

Jeremy Schmidt, CFP®

About Jeremy

One of several Certified Financial Planners on our team, Jeremy’s in-depth knowledge of retirement planning is an invaluable resource to our advisors and a benefit to every client relationship. He coordinates the use of our planning software to help families organize the non-investment aspects of their financial lives like budgeting, insurance, and banking. As Director of Asset Management, Jeremy is instrumental in the macroeconomic decisions that govern the positioning of our Marks Group investment strategies.

A native of Bismarck, ND, Jeremy went to college at the University of North Dakota where he graduated with a degree in Financial Management and a stubborn devotion to UND hockey. Jeremy is also an alley cat who bowls a 165 average. He lives in Plymouth with his wife Brooke, daughter Bryn, and sons, Lucas and William.

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Founder/Chief Investment Officer

Ben Marks

About Ben

Ben’s tenacious commitment to our clients’ prosperity rightfully makes him the namesake and founder of our firm. Decades of industry experience and a nuanced understanding of the capital markets make him well-equipped to be our Chief Investment Officer. Ben oversees the composition of our client portfolios and drives the strategic direction of Marks Group. He co-authors our monthly newspaper columns in the Star Tribune and has received accolades from the Wall Street JournalBarron’s, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and others.

Ben regularly volunteers with Minnetonka High School’s “Vantage Professional Studies Program” as a mentor, Shark Tank judge, and guest instructor teaching financial literacy. An avid mountain biker and cross-country skier, he is passionate about supporting healthy outdoor activities. Ben spearheaded a community effort to build mountain bike trails at Lone Lake Park in Minnetonka. He is also a Trustee for the American Birkebeiner ski race Endowment.

Ben and his wife Brenda enjoy spending time with friends and family at their Lake Namakagon cabin in northern Wisconsin. Always up for a challenge, Ben began learning German during the pandemic. It’s a skill that comes in handy when visiting their daughter Amanda, who lives and works in the Bavarian Alps. Ben’s other adult children, Adam and Rachel, live near Minneapolis. He and Brenda recently welcomed their first grandchild.

Founder/President

John Feste

About John

Dating back to his time as a 17-year-old Marks Group intern, John has committed nearly 30 years to our company and to his clients. His contributions to our firm’s strategic direction helped Marks Group be named one of the 50 Fastest Growing Private Companies in the Twin Cities by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2022

John has a big heart and leads our company’s charitable and community efforts. He served on the board of directors at St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development for many years. He has coordinated fundraising efforts on behalf of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, where he was a patient as a child. John is also a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

A lifelong Minnesotan, John enjoys spending fall mornings in a duck blind. He lives in Deephaven with his wife Katie and their three children, Frank, Jane and Catherine.

Principal

Pat Deeg, CFP®

About Pat

Pat sets the standard at our firm for hard work and dedication to his clients. He also has a knack for developing deep, trusting relationships. After nearly two decades of advising clients, Pat remains committed to honing his skillset and finding new ways to add value to the families he serves.

Pat leads our firm’s new business initiatives and spends most of his time creating complex solutions for high-net-worth families and institutions. He is detail-oriented and takes a holistic approach to the sophisticated needs of each client. Pat’s knowledge and proficiency around multi-generational planning, trust and estate matters, tax minimization strategies, and philanthropic giving helped land him on Forbes list of “America’s Top Next-Gen Advisors” (2021) and “Best-In-State Advisors” (2020-2024).

A Minnesota native, Pat makes time for wakesurfing, golf, and pheasant hunting as much as possible. He graduated from St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN. Pat and his wife Kelli live in Deephaven with their two daughters, Grayson and Logan.

Senior Wealth Advisor

Matt Arnold, CFP®, MA

About Matt

Leadership, expertise, and a commitment to improve the people he works with are the attributes Matt brings to Marks Group. His approach prioritizes financial planning in every relationship to make sure investment strategies align with client needs, even as those goals change through the years. The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation next to Matt’s name demonstrates his knowledge of our industry, but it’s the desire to educate others that sets him apart.

With a Master’s degree in Education from St. Mary’s University, Matt is a natural teacher. He created Marks Group Retirement University to make it easier for families to educate themselves on retirement-specific financial topics. He also holds a Journalism degree from the University of St. Thomas, where he was a starter and captain on the Tommies basketball team.

Matt grew up in Hopkins and currently lives in Chanhassen with his wife Jessica and their two daughters, Lauren and Kate. Both girls play basketball and it’s no surprise that Matt volunteers his time as coach.

Senior Wealth Advisor

Brett Angel

About Brett

In his 12 years with Marks Group, Brett has become a leading voice in our client communications. His journalism degree from the University of Minnesota and professional experience make Brett well-suited to share insight about investing, economic trends, and personal finance. He authors or co-authors the majority of our Marks Group publications, including newspaper columns in the Star Tribune, our Monthly Market Recap, and our economic Perspectives & Outlook

Clear communication is also at the heart of Brett’s client relationships. He is a big believer in one of our core principles that investors need to understand exactly what they own, as well as why they own it. This applies to the families he works with as well as our institutional clients who have partnered with Marks Group.

Brett grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, working summers in the bindery of his family’s small printing business. His personal resumé includes paid employment as the lead performer in an opera, country club sous chef, and college football beat writer. He is a lifelong soccer player, dedicated Gopher fan, and occasional golfer. Prior to joining Marks Group, he spent five years as an investment advisor in UBS Financial’s downtown Minneapolis office. Brett lives in Edina with his wife Kristen and their two children, Walter and Genevieve.

Wealth Advisor

John Hanten, CFP®

About John

John describes himself as an “extreme extravert,” which makes sense when you consider he grew up as the youngest of six kids. He learned at an early age how to stand out in a crowd. John was recruited to Marks Group in 2021 after spending two years at Carlton Investment Services Group. He has also worked at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. 

The most recent CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ added to our team, John works closely with John and Pat managing client relationships and developing new business. Engaging with new people and helping them tackle financial challenges is what he enjoys most about our business.  

John attended high school at St Thomas Academy and graduated from Creighton University with a finance degree. He is a past president of the Saint Thomas Academy Alumni Association. He is also a member of the Minnesota Zoo Associates Board and involved with the Alzheimer’s Associations. John and his wife Maddie live in St. Louis Park with their two Labradors, Millie and Lou. 

Director of Operations/CCO

Erica Lewerenz

About Erica

When we began our search for a Director of Operations, we knew we needed someone with a serious attention to detail. Sure, Erica has 12 years of public accounting experience, routinely worked 60-hour weeks during tax season, and earned a double-major from Concordia College (in Moorhead, MN). But when she explained to us the difference between knitting and crocheting, then clarified the intricacies of cross-stitching vs needlepoint? Well, she got the job. She is proficient at all of them, by the way.

Erica’s responsibilities include: Managing our Human Resources, leading the firm’s accounting responsibilities, and striving to ensure that Marks Group remains compliant with all the industry rules and regulations. She has also proven most adept at resolving the inevitable IT issues. Before joining our team in 2016, Erica spent the prior three years as a Senior Associate at national accounting firm BDO.

If knitting isn’t your thing, Erica is equally happy to discuss the merits of whether James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard was the better captain of the Starship Enterprise. She and her husband Mike own every film in the Star Trek series and originally met at a local science-fiction convention. They live in Shakopee with their two cats, Dresden and Dax.

Wealth Advisor

Samantha Thorn, CFP®, CPA (inactive)

About Samantha

One of the many benefits of hiring Sam was that our team got younger and smarter at the same time. When Sam joined Marks Group, she brought with her a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting (St. Cloud State), a Certified Public Accountant license (inactive), and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation. You would never guess she grew up on a farm in Byron, MN, racing Go-Karts with her four siblings.  

Sam’s passion for research and analytics add a new dimension to our Marks Group expertise. In addition to her professional certifications, Sam has taken classes in data science, a field of study that seeks to organize large quantities of information in a way that leads to more efficient solutions. Sam will tell you she likes numbers and appreciates how even small inefficiencies can have a big impact over time. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to high-quality financial planning for our clients.

Sam’s work experience includes time as a staff accountant at two local accounting firms. She also spent nearly six years at Murphy Pohlad Asset Management before joining Marks Group in 2019. She and her husband Tony live in Byron with their daughter Mackenzie.

Lead Trader

Nick Slettum

About Nick

With more than 20 years working in trading and operations, Nick’s attention to detail, analytical eye and problem-solving skills are invaluable to Marks Group. As our lead trader, Nick ensures timely execution of all securities transactions in clients’ accounts. He constantly monitors our proprietary investment models and is a member of our Marks Group Investment Committee.

Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in Finance, Nick worked with Norwest Bank, US Bancorp and Piper Jaffray before joining our firm in 2014.

His knack for precision execution also serves Nick well on the softball diamond and as acting Grillmaster for the postgame tailgate. Nick and his wife Sara live in Maple Grove. They have two daughters, Sofia and Sabella.

Portfolio Manager/Sub-advisor

Seth Cogswell, MBA

About Seth

Seth took over as portfolio manager for Marks Group Core Equity, our flagship strategy, in Spring 2017. His management style includes a rules-based method of managing risk that added more discipline to the process of screening, selecting, and monitoring individual stocks on behalf of our clients.

Before joining forces with Marks Group, Seth lived in New York for 14 years, where he was a lead portfolio manager at Trillium Asset Management. He graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in Operations Research and earned his MBA from The Wharton School in Pennsylvania, whose alumni include Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Seth is the founder of Running Oak Capital, where he refined his efficient growth investment strategy and earned the attention of his Wharton professors.

Seth was born in Maine and spent his early years in Ohio, though he considers himself to be from Asheville, North Carolina, where his family moved when he was 9. Despite his accomplishments, Seth will tell you his wife Jena, a Minnesota native, has the more impressive resumé. Jena was an All-American soccer player at UNC and played midfield for the US National Team. Together, Seth and Jena have celebrated the birth of three children (Raleigh, Finn, and Isla) and two National Championships for the Tar Heels. They now live in Edina.

Portfolio Manager/Consultant

Bill Patterson, CFP®, MBA

About Bill

Since January 2015, Bill has served as lead portfolio manager of our Marks Group Tactical Equity strategy. His approach focuses on “stalwart stocks,” meaning high-quality companies with strong franchises run by shareholder-oriented management. Our most actively-traded strategy, Tactical Equity also contains several “special situation stocks,” including some more likely to be involved in mergers or acquisitions.

Bill’s investment style is agnostic to traditional benchmark weightings. He is comfortable concentrating exposure in specific sectors or asset classes to maximize value. He is a student of the global economy and believes macroeconomic trends are an important contributor to investment returns.

A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®), Bill is the founder of Second Avenue Capital and previously managed a long/short equity portfolio at Deephaven Capital. He graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and has more than 35 years of experience in the financial industry.

Bill enjoys golf, CrossFit, hockey, and skiing with family and friends. He and his wife Joanne have three adult children and live in Edina.

Director of Client Service

Jeremy Netka

About Jeremy

When Marks Group had a job opening for a client onboarding specialist, our Chief Investment Officer already had his ideal candidate in mind. Jeremy worked five years as a senior banker and brokerage associate at Wells Fargo’s Minnetonka branch and Ben, who lives down the road, was a frequent visitor. Jeremy made such a positive impression that Ben recruited him (successfully) to Marks Group in early 2018.  

Jeremy quickly distinguished himself at Marks Group and was promoted to Director of Client Service in 2021. Our company’s transition to a new custodian (Fidelity) would not have been possible without Jeremy’s hard work. He remains instrumental in helping new clients get up and running quickly and efficiently. New account paperwork, 401(k) rollovers, establishing online access, beneficiary info, statement preferences, and banking info… Jeremy has you covered. 

He grew up in Mound, MN, and has a degree in Finance from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Jeremy and his wife Katie live in Plymouth with their son Hudson.

Client Service Coordinator

Janet Jakobitz

About Janet

The first person you see when visiting our Minnetonka office is likely to be Janet, who joined Marks Group in 2017 after five years at another local investment firm. As our Client Service Coordinator, Janet works closely with the rest of our team to satisfy a wide range of client needs including deposits, IRA contributions, and rollover checks. We also have Janet to thank for keeping the office’s candy dishes and beverage fridge well stocked. 

Janet and her husband Dan have lived in Minnetonka for more than 30 years and when something in their house needs fixing, word is Janet’s the one willing to get her hands dirty. The two of them spend summer hours in their backyard garden and, if the harvest is good, giftwrap jars of homemade raspberry jam to fortunate friends and family. They’ve also been season ticket holders to Gophers basketball games for more than a quarter-century. Now that’s loyalty. 

Client Service Associate

Jesse Gamble

About Jesse

Jesse started at Marks Group in 2021 after three years as an investor services representative at Sit Mutual Funds in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with an Economics major from Iowa even though he grew up in Ames and his mom went to Iowa State. Exceptional service has long been the expectation at Marks Group and Jesse is a big reason why that remains the case. “I like helping people out,” says Jesse. “Being someone they can rely on to provide support and solve problems.” 

If you think keeping clients happy requires heavy lifting, you should see Jesse in his off time. His pandemic project was powerlifting, a commitment that requires waking up at 4:30am four days a week for gym sessions. He “sleeps in” until 6am on weekends before tuning in to Formula One racing.

Jesse grew up playing hockey and has played in the Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis. He’s also a pro hockey fan and an avid gamer. He lives in Golden Valley.