For years, investors have profited living by the credo “Don’t fight the Fed.” So, when the central bank made changes in its verbiage last week– hinting that it could raise rates later this year – it sent investors into a bit of a tizzy. That said, investors might be better off trying to live by their own version of the Federal Reserve’s words, rather than focusing on its actions.
“Fedspeak” first came into the public lexicon under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was famous for making cryptic comments using obtuse word choices.The latest focus on Fedspeak has revolved around one word, “patient,” but in the past the spotlight has been on everything from “irrational exuberance” and “policy accommodation” to “measured” and “data-dependent.” Individual investors, of course, are their own central banker, setting their own policies.
If that policy is “don’t fight the Fed,” then you typically would be backing away from stocks now, because when the Fed increases rates, it takes that step to prevent the economy from overheating, which could fuel inflation, and rising rates historically have preceded bear markets and recessions. But rather than focus on your strategy in the face of the Fed’s wording change this week – because even with the change in language this week, plenty of observers don’t think the Fed will actually hike rates until 2016 – consider instead the Fed’s words that should be the linchpins of your personal policy.
From central bank to your bank account, they don’t change much; what matters is how you define them and apply them. With that in mind, here are six examples of Fedspeak and how they might apply to your own investments:Patient: In Fed world, this is a euphemism for “things aren’t changing.” While the Fed was being patient, rates were not going to rise. It’s important to recognize, however, that excluding the word did not mean the central bank was moving all the way to “impatient.”In an individual’s lexicon, being patient, therefore, amounts to sticking with an investment versus putting it on the “watch list.” When patience starts wearing thin, it’s a sign that you might want to reconsider an investment, shorten the leash that you give a fund manager or a stock when it comes to disappointing performance, and start to think of what your next move might be.
Data dependent: In Fedspeak, this means that any decision made today holds until there’s some quantifiable reason to change the policy. Someone who is not data-dependent considers rebalancing – where holdings are adjusted to put the portfolio back onto its target asset allocation – a regular chore and does it annually, regardless of market conditions. A data-dependent investor would say the move isn’t necessary until the portfolio is 5% or more off of its targets and profit-taking seems prudent.
Measured: Dating back to the Greenspan days – when the former Fed chairman said low-rate policies could be reversed at a measured pace – this is a term that, for individuals, describes slow, considered movements. For example, an investor nervous about the market being near all-time highs and having been without a significant downturn in more than six years could take the measured response of taking some profits, culling winners and slowly making their portfolio more defensive.While investors would always like to believe their responses to market conditions are measured, the truth is that many are knee-jerk, in-or-out, all-or-nothing moves.Considerable time: In Fedspeak, this was used by former chair Ben Bernanke and current chair Janet Yellen to signify “for the foreseeable future.”For individuals, however, a considerable time is more like “enough time.” You want to stick with a new fund manager for enough time to prove that he or she can do as well as the predecessor, you want to make sure your investment strategy is not over-reacting to the nearly random day-to-day machinations of the market. Ideally, any time an investor makes a move that moves their portfolio in a different direction, they would have given the old strategy – and they’re prepared to give the new one – considerable time to work.Accommodation: This is what Greenspan called a policy that was making the most people happy. For individuals, sometimes you need to make your own accommodations, taking actions that might not be textbook perfect, but that work for you. For example, if you have a diversified portfolio but you’re not comfortable with investing in, say, emerging markets or small-cap stocks, you can avoid those asset classes.Irrational exuberance: Perhaps the most famous example ever of Fedspeak, it was Greenspan’s way of warning that excessive enthusiasm for a roaring bull market was short-sighted.
lle at Natick Stages Comeback on Condo Market
There was a time when Nouvelle at Natick was a laughing stock. It was the downtown-Boston-style high-rise built over a suburban mall that couldn’t find any buyers.
But seven years after opening, it is Nouvelle condo owners who are having the last laugh. The value of their units has skyrocketed, and the luxury building’s condos have long since sold out.
One three-bedroom, two-bath unit on the 11th floor fetched nearly $800,000 at the end of December, up from $544,000 in 2010, real estate records show.
Other Nouvelle owners, who got in on the ground floor of the tower once scorned as a white elephant, have also pocketed nice gains over the past few years, notes Rhoda Ostrer of Century 21 Commonwealth.
Ostrer should know. She has not only sold several units at Nouvelle, but also liked it so much she bought a condo there in 2009, noting a sense of community that includes and active social committee and pizza parties.
“I kind of refer to myself as the Nouvelle resident realtor,” Ostrer said. “There has been a tremendous turnaround over the past several years.”
Things didn’t look so rosy though in 2009, when luxury condos were suffering amid the Great Recession and there was a collapse in real estate values across the country.
At that time, Nouvelle was newly opened. And the pricing on the condos – including $1.7 million sought for one penthouse – suddenly looked ridiculous at a time when even the downtown Boston condo market was off its game.
General Growth Properties, the company that owns the Natick Mall and built Nouvelle, managed to sell just 37 of the development’s 215 units over the first two years.
Its retail empire reeling amid the downturn, General Growth decided to hire an auction firm in the fall of 2009 to start selling off units.
The aforementioned $1.7 million penthouse sold for $626,000 that year – a discount of more than a million dollars. Other units sold for roughly $250,000, just over half their original asking price.
But Nouvelle has since come roaring back. And once derided, its location connected to the Natick Mall has proven to be a significant selling point, Ostrer said.
A three-bedroom, two-bath condo on the 10th floor sold for $725,000 last fall, up from $455,000 back in 2009. A three-bed, two-bath unit on the seventh floor recently fetched $590,000 – a gain of $40,000 over the last time it sold in 2011.
Meanwhile a three-bedroom, three-bath penthouse is now on the market for nearly $900,000, up from the $569,000 it sold for back in 2009.
When condos come on the market now at Nouvelle, they often draw multiple bids, Ostrer noted.
The Nouvelle condos have the standard luxury package of stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, hardwood floors, and a 24-hour doorman, among other amenities. There is a 1.2-acre rooftop park as well.
Access to one of the largest malls in New England has also been a plus. Nouvelle residents can go for a stroll around the mall through a special entrance.
The ability to get out of the house without getting in a car has been an added selling point after a winter of record-breaking snowstorms and arctic temperatures, Ostrer said.
Access to the region’s major roadways – Nouvelle is just off Route 9 and right around the corner from the onramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike – has been anothe