Quarterly Client Letter – 1st Quarter 2020

It would’ve been hard to imagine at the end of 2019 how much the world could change in just three months’ time.  We entered this year with near-full employment, a goldilocks economy (not too hot, not too cold), low interest rates, low inflation and equity markets near record levels.

Today, we are mired in a bear market, almost certainly in a recession (though that won’t become official for months), facing a near shutdown of the economy, and staggering numbers of newly unemployed.  The declines in your account balances this quarter, as shown on your enclosed reports, are steep (albeit well off the lows).  Volatility has been so extreme that several of the biggest single-day moves for U.S. stocks, ever, in both directions, occurred within a two-week period.  The decline from record highs to a “bear market” (i.e., down at least 20% from the peak) was the fastest ever.  The 3-day, 17.5% rise in the S&P 500 from the recent lows, was equally historic.  It’s been a month or so full of superlatives. 

Of course, we all know what the culprit is – a novel coronavirus now officially known as COVID-19.  A devastating pandemic and a true “Black Swan” event.  The sort of thing that can lay waste to an economy that Goldman Sachs had recently referred to as “recession-proof.”  The sort of thing that gives new meaning to “uncertainty.”      

We believe, in due course, the pandemic will peak and the stock markets will trough.  And by the time the data confirms the recession we are most certainly in the midst of, we’ll already be on the road to recovery.  The stimulus that the government has put in place won’t have an immediate impact, due to the forced nature of the economic shutdown, but it will lay the foundation for extremely favorable conditions for rapid recovery when the situation turns. 

We don’t know how much further equity markets might decline, how deep the recession might be, how many will be unemployed, nor, most importantly, how steep the toll on humanity will be.  On the other hand, we do think we can make some reasonable assumptions about the duration.  The upside, as we see it, is that the worst of this crisis will be relatively short.  Most models show the curve peaking over the next 2-4 weeks, and that’s without the benefit of any positive developments in terms of treatment or vaccine.  A breakthrough of that sort would obviously be a significant additional positive.  Either way, we think it’s highly likely we’ll see meaningful signs of recovery in the economy and the market later this year. 

We are digesting all the information we can to help us provide you with the most well-informed investment counsel we can during these trying, uncertain, and volatile times.  Continue to expect frequent updates by email, which are also posted to our website, and please reach out to your advisor with any questions or concerns. 

Medley Brown

Investment Advisors 

SoundPath

SoundPath

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Sissy Moreland

Client Services Trading

A graduate of Mississippi State University, Sissy joined Medley & Brown in 2017, but her career goes all the way back to 1990 when she was the merchandise director for four years at Phi Theta Kappa. She was also Customer Service Manager and Marketing Development Manager at Crystal Springs Apparel from 1994 to 2005. From 2005 to 2017, she was Manager of Sales Administration at Skyhawke Technologies. Thanks to her considerable operations and administrative experience, Sissy oversees trading and assists with most back-office operations for the firm. Staying so busy at work requires Sissy to recharge her batteries outside the office from time to time which she does by running, reading, enjoying a leisurely brunch, and watching the Saints play football.

Beth Braswell

Client Services Coordinator

Beth spent four years in the investment world before joining Medley & Brown in 2004 as our operations coordinator. She and her husband Robbie are busy parents to identical triplet daughters, so not surprisingly, some of Beth’s favorite things to do are napping and relaxing on the beach when she actually finds the time. Beth also enjoys taking short walks to the pool, attending concerts, and going out of town for long weekends. Beth loves her Mississippi State bulldogs and currently has four dogs, three cats, and three grandcats because having three children simply isn’t enough. No wonder her operational skills are so exceptional.

Doug Muenzenmay, CFA, CFP®

Senior Advisor   |   Principal

When he’s not enjoying the outdoors or attending his children’s school and sporting events, you can find Doug studiously researching investments for his clients. His career began in 1991 after graduating from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He spent 17 years in trust investments at three different banks before joining Medley & Brown in 2010. Doug also got his MBA from Mississippi College and served as an adjunct professor in finance there from 2007 to 2013. Married to his wife Sharon since 2001, Doug is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and a board member of the CFA Society of Mississippi.

Eddie Carlisle, CFP®

Senior Advisor  |   Principal  |  Chief Compliance Officer

Eddie’s extensive education includes a B.S.B.A. in accounting, with special distinction, from Mississippi College in 1994, along with a J.D. from Vanderbilt University and LL.M. (Master of Laws) in taxation from the University of Florida. But it’s what he’s learned outside of school and work that really stands out. He’s an Eagle Scout, which taught him a great deal about honesty and hard work from an early age. He learned even more earning black belts in Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Hanmudo. Oh, and he studies the Korean language in his spare time as well. Additionally, Eddie serves as an adult leader for Scout Troop 164 in Madison. He is a past board member of Hope Hollow Ministries, the Central Mississippi Down Syndrome Society, and the Mississippi Corporate Counsel Association. Eddie is currently a board member of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah, and their three children—Andrew, Caroline, and Emma. 

Julius Ridgway

Senior Advisor   |   Principal

Judging from his background, you’d think investments and other financial matters were all Julius cares about. After all, he has two decades of direct investment experience and spent the previous ten years involved in banking and real estate. Julius also received a masters degree from the London School of Economics in 1998, an MBA from Millsaps College in 1993, and a history degree from the University of Mississippi in 1990. But his true passions include driving sports cars on racetracks or twisty mountain roads, running ultramarathons, and taking road trips with his wife and son. He’s worked here since 2002 as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and member of the CFA Institute while also serving as an adjunct instructor at Millsaps College and board member of New Stage Theatre. It takes major dedication to tackle all these responsibilities—sort of like training for all those long distant runs—but Julius enjoys every minute of the grind. And when it’s time to slow down, Julius finds the best way to clear his head is taking long hikes in the mountains on all those road trips.