A surprising number of investors lack a rudimentary knowledge regarding the nature of stock dividends. This knowledge gap contributes to a perpetual misunderstanding regarding security performance. Filling this knowledge gap will help foster an understanding of where dividends fit in an overall portfolio strategy.

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Earnings season for the first quarter of this year is virtually complete. We are witnessing consecutive quarters of earnings contraction not seen since 2009. The hope that revenue and earnings growth would have resumed by now has been postponed until the second half of the year.

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Since we began reducing exposure on July 15, we have been monitoring the market to determine a relatively low risk re-entry point. Our intent is to put cash back to work over time, as we sense the market is looking to start a new up-trend. In this Market Update we wish to update you, our clients, on our perspective of the current markets and our near term outlook as these relate to how we manage your portfolios.

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At Coherent, we conduct our own research for managing our clients’ wealth. We compile objective data from respected sources, apply our own analysis methods, and conduct investment operations based on our own conclusions. As investment professionals, we feel we owe this to ourselves and more importantly to our clients whom we feel privileged to serve.

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The stock market is as much a study in human behavior as it is a study of fundamental trends. Neither changes very much over time. As we started the new year, I reflected on how often some things stay the same. My favorite philosopher Yogi Berra might say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

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When I piloted airplanes, I taught my passengers how to avoid motion sickness. “Don’t focus inside the cockpit. Pick a distant stationary object like the horizon and fix your eyes upon it.” That’s well and good in clear weather when there is seldom cause for motion sickness.

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Managing one’s investments is challenging enough without the endless cacophony of fear that rains down from the financial media every minute of every day. Greece! China! Iran! Bond bubble! The Fed! It never ends. So, let’s instead focus on what really matters.

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In any worthwhile pursuit, one cannot ignore the fundamentals. Proactive investment managers pay close attention to the primary trends affecting market prices. In recent quarters, trends in company earnings have taken a sharp turn.

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I live in Peoria, Arizona where we experience two seasons – pleasant and unpleasant. The market too has its own seasons. Since the October Manager’s Message, I feel we’ve been experiencing an “Indian Summer”. This implies that perhaps winter is around the corner, and might explain why our portfolios are sporting sweaters.

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You’ve often heard me say that I manage risk rather than return. I view risk in two categories: (1) being aggressive and risk a market decline, or (2) being defensive and possibly miss a market rally. Recently we’ve been doing some managing of the second kind. Below is a picture of the “why”.

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