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The Top Sources Americans Use to Make Investment Decisions (2001-2019)

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Investment Decisions

investment decisions

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How People Make Investment Decisions

When you’re making investment decisions, there can be a lot of different things to consider. Which types of asset classes should you hold? How much risk are you comfortable with? How much will you need to retire?

It’s no surprise, then, that few Americans make these decisions on their own. This Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments shows which sources of information families rely on for investment decisions, and how their popularity has changed over time.

The Main Sources of Investment Information Over Time

According to data from the U.S. Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, here is the percentage of families who reported using each source.

Source200120102019
Business professionals49%57%57%
Internet15%33%45%
Friends, relatives, associates36%40%44%
Advertisements and media27%26%20%
Calling around19%16%13%
Other15%8%9%
Does not invest9%12%8%

Other consists of nine options: don’t shop, material from work, past experience, personal research, other institution, self or spouse, shop around, store or dealer, and telemarketer.

Business professionals, such as financial planners, accountants, and lawyers, remain the most relied upon source. Their popularity has remained stable since 2010.

Traditional advertisements and media, such as through TV and radio, have dropped in overall popularity. The percentage of Americans who call around to financial institutions for investment information has also declined.

Conversely, friends, relatives, and associates have grown in popularity as an information source. Meanwhile, the internet has been the fastest-growing source, used by three times more families in 2019 compared to 2001.

Digital Investment Decisions

A separate survey conducted by consulting firm Brunswick revealed the specific places people go online when making investment decisions.

Digital Investment Decisions

Search engines, blogs, and specialist email newsletters are the most popular sources. Among blogs, Seeking Alpha is the most popular, used by 34% of those surveyed.

Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly-used social media platforms. The proportion of investors using Twitter for information has grown by 36 percentage points since 2014.

Implications for Investors and Advisors

If you’re an investor, this information can help you gauge how your research process compares to the general American population. Is your preferred information source popular with others, or is it less common? For those who have yet to get started investing, this may give you some ideas on where you can start looking for information.

If you’re an advisor, these research trends can have important implications for your business. While business professionals remain the most-used source, other sources of information are shifting. Traditional advertising and inbound calls from potential clients continue to be less common. Instead, advisors may want to shift their focus to building an online presence and increasing referrals from existing clients.

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Markets in a Minute

Visualizing the History of U.S. Inflation Over 100 Years

Is inflation getting higher? In this infographic we explore how inflation rates have evolved over the last century, putting current numbers into context.

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Inflation

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Visualizing the History of U.S. Inflation Over 100 Years

Is inflation rising?

The consumer price index (CPI), an index used as a proxy for inflation in consumer prices, offers some answers. In 2020, inflation dropped to 1.4%, the lowest rate since 2015. By comparison, inflation sits around 2.5% as of June 2021.

For context, recent numbers are just above rates seen in 2019, which were 2.3%. Given how the economic shock of COVID-19 depressed prices, rising price levels make sense. However, other variables, such as a growing money supply and rising raw materials costs, could factor into rising inflation.

To show current price levels in context, this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments shows the history of inflation over 100 years.

U.S. Inflation: Early History

Between the founding of the U.S. in 1776 to the year 1914, one thing was for sure—wartime periods were met with high inflation.

At the time, the U.S. operated under a classical Gold Standard regime, with the dollar’s value tied to gold. During the Civil War and World War I, the U.S. went off the Gold Standard in order to print money and finance the war. When this occurred, it triggered inflationary episodes, with prices rising upwards of 20% in 1918.

YearInflation Rate*
19141.0%
19152.0%
191612.6%
191718.1%
191820.4%
191914.6%
19202.7%
1921-10.8%
1922-2.3%
19232.4%
19240%
19253.5%
1926-1.1%
1927-2.3%
1928-1.2%
19290.6%
1930-6.4%
1931-9.3%
1932-10.3%
19330.8%
19341.5%
19353.0%
19361.5%
19372.9%
1938-2.8%
19390.0%
19400.7%
19419.9%
19429.0%
19433.0%
19442.3%
19452.3%
194618.1%
19478.8%
19483.0%
1949-2.1%
19505.9%
19516.0%
19520.8%
19530.8%
1954-0.7%
19550.4%
19563.0%
19572.9%
19581.8%
19591.7%
19601.4%
19610.7%
19621.3%
19631.6%
19641.0%
19651.9%
19663.5%
19673.0%
19684.7%
19696.2%
19705.6%
19713.3%
19723.4%
19738.7%
197412.3%
19756.9%
19764.9%
19776.7%
19789.0%
197913.3%
198012.5%
19818.9%
19823.8%
19833.8%
19844.0%
19853.8%
19861.1%
19874.4%
19884.4%
19894.7%
19906.1%
19913.1%
19922.9%
19932.8%
19942.7%
19952.5%
19963.3%
19971.7%
19981.6%
19992.7%
20003.4%
20011.6%
20022.4%
20031.9%
20043.3%
20053.4%
20062.5%
20074.1%
20080.1%
20092.7%
20101.5%
20113.0%
20121.7%
20131.5%
20140.8%
20150.7%
20162.1%
20172.1%
20181.9%
20192.3%
20201.4%
20212.5%

Source: Macrotrends (June, 2021)
*As measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

However, when the government returned to a modified Gold Standard, deflationary periods followed, leading prices to effectively stabilize, on average, leading up to World War II.

The Move to Bretton Woods

Like post-World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s coincided with deflationary pressures on prices. Due to the rigidity of the monetary system at the time, countries had difficulty increasing money supply to help boost their economy. Many countries exited the Gold Standard during this time, and by 1933 the U.S. abandoned it completely.

A decade later, with the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944, global currency exchange values pegged to the dollar, while the dollar was pegged to gold. The U.S. held the majority of gold reserves, and the global reserve currency transitioned from the sterling pound to the dollar.

1970’s Regime Change

By 1971, the ability for gold to cover the supply of U.S. dollars in circulation became an increasing concern.

Leading up to this point, a surplus of money supply was created due to military expenses, foreign aid, and others. In response, President Richard Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971 for a floating exchange, known as the “Nixon shock”. Under a floating exchange regime, rates fluctuate based on supply and demand relative to other currencies.

A few years later, oil shocks of 1973 and 1974 led inflation to soar past 12%. By 1979, inflation surged in excess of 13%.

The Volcker Era

In 1979, Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker was sworn in, and he introduced stark changes to combat inflation that differed from previous regimes.

Instead of managing inflation through interest rates, which the Federal Reserve had done previously, inflation would be managed through controlling the money supply. If the money supply was limited, this would cause interest rates to increase.

While interest rates jumped to 20% in 1980, by 1983 inflation dropped below 4% as the economy recovered from the recession of 1982, and oil prices rose more moderately. Over the last four decades, inflation levels have remained relatively stable since the measures of the Volcker era were put in place.

Fluctuating Prices Over History

Throughout U.S. history. there have been periods of high inflation.

As the chart below illustrates, at least four distinct periods of high inflation have emerged between 1800 and 2010. The GDP deflator measurement shown accounts for the price change of all of an economy’s goods and services, as opposed to the CPI index which is a fixed basket of goods.

It is measured as GDP Price Deflator = (Nominal GDP ÷ Real GDP) × 100.
Inflation using GDP Price Deflator

According to this measure, inflation hit its highest levels in the 1910s, averaging nearly 8% annually over the decade. Between 1914 and 1918 money supply doubled to finance war efforts, compared to a 25% increase in GDP during this period.

U.S. Inflation: Present Day

As the U.S. economy reopens, consumer demand has strengthened.

Meanwhile, supply bottlenecks, from semiconductor chips to lumber, are causing strains on automotive and tech industries. While this points towards increasing inflation, some suggest that it may be temporary, as prices were depressed in 2020.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve is following an “average inflation targeting” regime, which means that if a previous inflation shortfall occurred in the previous year, it would allow for higher inflationary periods to make up for them. As the last decade has been characterized by low inflation and low interest rates, any prolonged period of inflation will likely have pronounced effects on investors and financial markets.

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How Rising Treasury Yields Impact Your Portfolio

Treasury yields have climbed to pre-pandemic levels. Here’s why they are important, and which investments may go up or down as yields rise.

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Treasury Yields

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How Rising Treasury Yields Impact Your Portfolio

Since the start of 2021, the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note has climbed to pre-pandemic levels. But what exactly does this mean, and how could it impact your portfolio?

In this Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we explain why Treasury yields are important and which investments may go up or down when yields are rising.

What are Treasury Yields?

Treasury yields are the total amount of money you earn from U.S. debt securities, such as bonds and T-bills. Yields depend on both the security’s price, relative to its face value, and its “coupon” or interest payment.

The 10-year yield is important because it is closely-watched indication of market sentiment. Here’s what leads to changing Treasury yields:

  1. When investors expect the market to drop, they look for safer investments.
  2. Due to higher bond demand, prices rise.
  3. This lowers their yield, as bonds become more expensive than they were before.

The opposite occurs when the market is bullish.

  1. When investors expect the market to rise, they look for riskier investments.
  2. Due to less bond demand, prices drop.
  3. This raises their yield, as bonds become more cost effective.
    1. Currently, Treasury yields are in the latter scenario because investors are confident in a sustained recovery as vaccines are rolled out and the economy reopens.

      Investments That May Go Up During Rising Yields

      Rising yields can have a number of knock-on effects in the market. Here are the investments that could increase in value when yields are going up.

      InvestmentWhy could returns potentially increase?
      U.S. dollarRising yields attract income-seeking investors, who must purchase U.S. debt in U.S. dollars
      Savings accountsIf the economy is growing at a rate that may lead to hyperinflation, the central bank may raise interest rates 
      REITsWhile rising rates pose challenges, economic growth typically translates into a higher level of real estate demand
      Cyclical stocksStocks that move with the economy, like banks, tend to do well during economic recoveries

      Cyclical stocks, such as banks, travel, and energy, may all benefit from an economic recovery. This is particularly true for banks if the economy is growing at a rate that exceeds inflation targets, as the central bank may raise interest rates. In turn, this allows banks to earn a higher profit margin because they can charge a higher rate on their loans.

      While it is commonly said that real estate investment trusts (REITs) underperform during rising interest rates, the data tells a different story. In four of six periods of sustained rising yields, REITs earned positive returns—and they outperformed stocks in half of them.

      REIT Performance During Rising Treasury Yields

      Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices

      Rising rates do pose challenges, including higher borrowing costs and lower property values.

      However, it’s evident that rising rates also have a positive influence on REITs. For instance, rising rates are typically associated with economic growth, which translates to higher real estate demand and higher occupancy rates. This means REITs can see increased earnings and dividends.

      Investments That May Go Down During Rising Yields

      On the flip side, there are some investments that could decrease in value when yields climb.

      InvestmentWhy could returns potentially decrease?
      BondsTo remain competitive, newly issued bonds offer higher interest rates—making existing bonds less attractive
      Dividend-paying stocksRising rates give an edge to newly issued bonds, creating a historically safer alternative for income-seeking investors
      GoldAs a safe haven asset, gold is less desirable during market optimism
      Some growth stocksRising interest rates make borrowing more expensive, which may slow company growth

      Existing bonds will likely see declining performance, with higher volatility among long-term government and corporate bonds. Short-term bonds typically see smaller drops. This is because they have less interest rate risk: there’s a smaller probability that interest rates will rise before a short-term bond’s maturity, and they have fewer interest payments that could be affected by rising rates.

      Growth stocks, such as those in the technology sector, may also see weaker performance. In fact, value stocks have been outperforming growth stocks since the fourth quarter of 2020, a significant shift from growth’s strong historical performance in recent years.

      U.S. Treasury Yields: One Part of the Picture

      In addition to being a barometer for investor confidence, Treasury yields can have an important impact on your portfolio.

      However, investment performance can vary depending on a number of other economic factors such as inflation and interest rate levels. For example, climbing inflation could lead to higher gold prices, since gold is seen as an inflationary hedge. You may want to consider the full economic picture when you are reviewing your portfolio.

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