Insights

Expert Commentary. Personal Conversation.

At Astor, we create high-quality content with highly specialized commentary for our investors. Explore our blog for insightful articles, informative videos, and vast ideas that inspire action. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and news, as we translate economic information into investing insights.

20May

May 2020 Update on the U.S. Economy

As expected, April brought new lows in the data we monitor, and with it our first full view of the economic impact of the pandemic. In many cases, the data are historical and record breaking. However, several green shoots have begun to emerge, although it is much too early to call the beginning of the…

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20Apr

Letter to Investors: Brief Update on Astor Strategies

For A PDF Version of the Letter: Letter to Investors_April 2020 Dear Investors: On March 10th, I published my first ‘Letter to Investors’ of 2020. The U.S. and Global economies continue to change rapidly as the impact of COVID-19 ripples across the globe. At Astor, our job is to assess the amount of risk in…

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21Apr
13Apr

April 2020 Update on the U.S. Economy

As the pandemic and response escalated last month, we left this blog with several crucial watch points for the weeks ahead. In the intervening period we’ve begun to receive some early answers to the queries we posed regarding the trajectory of the disease and the U.S. economy, although much remains uncertain. The economic impact of…

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9Jan

Protected: Astor Conference Call

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

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23Mar

What Now?  How about a plan……

Click here for PDF version The markets and the economy have taken an unprecedented hit.  The size and speed of the downturn are like nothing we’ve witnessed before.  There was little anyone could have done unless they were prepared beforehand.  Even a portfolio like our flagship Astor Dynamic Allocation, which prior to this crisis had…

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20Mar
17Mar

A 10-Step Response Plan To The Overall Health & Economic Emergency

As state and federal governments weigh the most effective responses to COVID-19 and the economic disruption resulting from efforts to flatten the contagion curve, it is clearly time for some new approaches. The old playbook of the Federal Reserve adding liquidity is unlikely to have an immediate impact. As was written in Astor’s Outlook 2020:…

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17Mar

March Update on the U.S. Economy

The Astor Economic Index declined throughout 2019 to a level consistent with approximately average economic growth, and as a result, Astor entered the month of March with substantially less ‘risk’ exposure compared to 12-months ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses throughout the United States and the world, our approach to investing mirrors that of the…

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16Mar
11Mar

Letter to Investors

        03/11/2020 Dear Investors: We are certainly witnessing unprecedented times in the global financial markets. My career in the financial markets spans 30+ years with time spent on the Federal Reserve (Chairmanship of Paul Volcker), managing trading desks for some of the financial industries largest banks, to starting Astor in 1994. The…

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10Mar

Astor Investment Management Wins Two 2020 Lipper Fund Awards

CHICAGO (March 6, 2020) – Astor Investment Management LLC is pleased to announce it is being honored with two 2020 Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards in the United States. TO READ OUR FULL PRESS RELEASE, CLICK HERE

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10Mar

Discussion on Recent Volatility—Episode 8

Founder and CEO, Rob Stein and Senior Managing Director, Mac O’Brien discuss the current market environment. 2020-74 Astor Investment Management LLC is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment adviser. All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any…

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3Mar

Fed Action: Rate Cut Immunity?

As was telegraphed to the market last Friday and over the weekend, the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate by half a percentage point today. In a press conference, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, “We saw the risk to the outlook of the economy and chose to act.” That action was fully anticipated by…

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3Mar

It’s Visibility—Not Uncertainty

The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to shake the financial markets, with major stock indices dropping into correction territory. (As of Thursday’s close, the S&P 500 was off 12% from its Feb. 19 peak.) While some observers want to chalk it up to “uncertainty” I beg to differ. This problem has more to do…

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28Feb

Keeping the Coronavirus in Perspective

The major indices are clearly taking the coronavirus more seriously now, with the S&P 500 selling off by 3.4% on Monday, after seemingly ignoring the threat previously as the indices marched to new high after new high. The virus, known as COVID-19, has proven more difficult to contain than previous health scares such as SARS….

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20Feb

Rob Stein joins hosts Jeffrey Sherman and Sam Lau on the Sherman Show Podcast discussing MACRO +MARKETS + NOWCASTING!

On the Sherman Show, Rob Stein, CEO of Astor Investment Management discusses his proprietary Astor Economic Index, designed to give a “now-cast” of the U.S. economy and used by the Astor team to set portfolio asset allocations. Rather than relying on economic forecasts, Rob and his team use contemporaneous reads of jobs, output and other…

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18Feb

February Update on the U.S. Economy

The Astor Economic Index improved to slightly above average economic growth in January, buoyed by consistent jobs growth and a return to expansion in the manufacturing sector. U.S. payrolls increased by a solid 225,000 in January, supporting the notion of a durable expansion and labor market. The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 3.6%, and…

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31Jan

Astor’s 2020 Outlook

Click here to read Astor’s Outlook for 2020. Founder and CEO, Rob Stein, looks back at 2019 in the markets, as well as what could be in store for 2020.  

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24Jan

Wealth Management.com 2020 Inside ETFs Outlook Launch

Sectors for Economic Inflection Points By Nicholas Porter ASTOR INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT Investors have long looked to sectors to add value within a portfolio, most notably looking for additional alpha during advancing markets. Sectors have also been used by investors seeking equity exposure but wanting to dial down risk during times of market stress… To read…

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16Jan

January Update on the U.S. Economy

This month we’ll take the opportunity to look back at both 2019 and the data as they stand at year end. It will come as no surprise to prior readers of this blog that the data has moderated substantially throughout the year, but in aggregate the current economic situation for the U.S. (and increasingly, abroad)…

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16Jan

Navigating Market Uncertainty With Economic Data And ETFs

JANUARY 10, 2020 – BILL HORTZ – Uncertainty & fears of recession have many advisors and RIAs climbing a wall of worry as markets continue to reach new highs – How do you navigate this environment? – Astor Investment Management LLC explains their macro strategy, proprietary index and offers to share research. [We are in…

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3Jan

The Brain, Heart and Soul of Astor Investment Management

As the CEO and founder of Astor, I am often associated with its success. But just like a living organism is more than a face, so is a firm. It has a brain, a heart, and a soul—all of which are needed to stay alive and thrive. Reflecting on the year, which marks more than $2.6…

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11Dec

December Update on the U.S. Economy

The Astor Economic Index moved upwards in November, its first month-end improvement in half a year and broadly consistent with a U.S. economy growing at about trend. As we’ve noted in prior months, the durability of this stage of the expansion has been solidly on the back of consumers. As a result, labor market indicators…

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9Dec

Remembering Paul Volcker, My “Boss”

While I am known for being the author of Inside Greenspan’s Briefcase: Investment Strategies for Profiting from Key Reports & Data (McGraw-Hill, 2002), my career began under the tutelage of another Fed Chairman: Paul Volcker, who passed away on Sunday, December 8, 2019 at the age of 92. In 1984-1985, as a project analyst for…

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6Dec

Rob Stein Discusses Unemployment Rate on TDA Network’s Morning Trade Live – December 6, 2019

Watch Astor’s CEO and Founder, Rob Stein, on TDA Network’s, Morning Trade Live with Oliver Renick,  as they discuss the current unemployment rate.   Click the image above or click here to watch the video! All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services…

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6Dec

What’s Really Behind the New Highs

We entered the last month of the decade with the major stock market indices at new highs: the Dow closing over 28,000, the S&P 500 over 3100, and the Nasdaq Composite over 8600. While market pundits searched for reasons for the euphoria—from expectations of a China trade deal to fading fears of a near-term recession—the…

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6Nov

November Update on the U.S. Economy

The Astor Economic Index, our proprietary nowcast of the U.S. economy has remained somewhat range bound for the past several months, and printed again this month at a level consistent with slightly below average domestic economic growth. We delve into some of the recent drivers of the AEI below. The Labor Market and Manufacturing In…

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8Oct

October Update on the U.S. Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® deteriorated somewhat last month and is showing slightly below average growth in the U.S. economy.   Labor Market The labor market is the strongest thing going for the U.S. economy.  While the pace of jobs growth has slowed meaningfully since last year at this time, it’s important to recognize that…

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16Sep

September Update on the U.S. Economy

Recent Economic Data Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® was slightly changed last month and remains consistent with average economic growth in the U.S. In aggregate, economic data points towards a weakening but durable expansion.  The ISM Purchasing Manufacturers Index headed into contraction territory at 49.1, down from 51.2 last month and the lowest reading since…

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7Aug

August Update on the U.S. Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® deteriorated slightly last month and is showing about average growth in the U.S. economy. Labor Market My interpretation is that the labor market is slowing somewhat and in the next few years, we will not enjoy the regular robust gains we have seen since the Global Financial Crisis. For example,…

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31Jul

Rob Stein Discusses Fed Rate Cut on TDA Network’s Market on Close – July 31, 2019

Watch Astor’s CEO and Founder, Rob Stein, on TDA Network’s, Market on Close,  as he discusses the FOMC announcement and  Jerome Powell’s press conference.   Click the image above or click here to watch the video! All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any…

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30Jul

Q2 in Review: Eyes on the Fed’s “Medicine”

  Q2 ended with a continuation of the 2019 rally, marking one of the best half-years in recent memory. That said, at of the close of Q2, the broad U.S. equity market was roughly 8% higher from one year ago. Given how far the market traveled in that 12-month period, a 8% gain is no…

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25Jul

Understanding the Recent Decline in the Astor Economic Index®

2019 has seen a marked deterioration in the Astor Economic Index® (the AEI) from levels we associate with strong growth to levels which we see as more representative of average growth.  This long-term chart of the AEI shows that while not unprecedented, the sharp decline in the AEI over the last few months is unusual….

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12Jul

July Update on the U.S. Economy

The Astor Economic Index is largely unchanged since our last reading of the U.S. economy in early June, remaining at levels consistent with average domestic economic growth. Both the ISM Purchasing Manager’s Index and ISM Non-Manufacturing Index continued their downward trend, although both remain in growth territory. ISM manufacturing ticked down to 51.7 from 52.1,…

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12Jun

June Update on the U.S. Economy

In June, our proprietary Astor Economic Index has continued the slide it began in late 2018. The AEI now corresponds to a level of activity slightly above average growth for the U.S. economy. Although the deterioration in our reading of the current US macroeconomic state is troublesome, it is worth noting that average growth is…

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30May

Dimensioning the Impact of the U.S.-China Trade Dispute

There is no shortage of whiplash-providing economic and geopolitical risks to pay attention to these days. For some time, market participants were focused on Federal Reserve policy and the (still) ongoing Brexit negotiations. Of late, however, the market narrative and risk tolerance are driven more and more by growing concerns around the U.S.-China trade war….

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9May

May Update on the U.S. Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is showing slightly above average growth in the U.S. economy. The index deteriorated last month despite the upward surprise in first quarter GDP growth. While still showing above average growth the index is below where it was during the energy bust of 2016. First Quarter Growth The first reading on…

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10Apr

April Update on the U.S. Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing above average growth in the U.S. economy. The index recovered somewhat in line with the more positive payroll report released last week. Payroll rebound The payroll numbers in March rebounded from February’s low number which is now looking like an aberration and not the beginning of a…

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27Mar

Is the Yield Curve Signaling a Recession?

As parts of the yield curve begin to stay inverted, more investors start asking the same question: Is a recession finally coming? As an economist, I do value what the yield curve says. However, in my view, the current shape is still inconclusive as the curve is only inverted at certain points along the line….

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15Mar

March Update on the U.S. Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing above average growth in the US economy, though the index dropped significantly last month, partly in response to the payroll report. I characterize US growth as being good – somewhat above average – but below the strong growth we saw in 2018. Note that part of this…

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27Feb

The Deep Breath Before the Plunge: FOMC Forward Guidance on the Balance Sheet

The January 2019 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting gave market participants a welcome respite from what many viewed as a decoupling of rate expectations between the Federal Reserve and the market.  As a result, we expect the Fed’s balance sheet normalization to end sooner than previously expected and at a level greater than previously…

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6Feb

February update on the U.S. economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing good growth in the US economy.  The index rebounded somewhat from last month as jobs growth continued strong and the purchasing managers surveys became more optimistic.  The shutdown did not affect the market moving measure of private payrolls with the rate of job creation increasing solidly compared…

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25Jan

Rob Stein discusses his outlook for 2019 on TDA Network’s Morning Live

  Is It So Good It’s Bad? Watch Astor’s CEO and Founder, Rob Stein, on TDA Network’s Morning Live. Rob discusses how Astor is monitoring the current economic data as well as his outlook for 2019. Click the image above or click here to watch the video! All information contained herein is for informational purposes…

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23Jan

Rob Stein Talks About Translating Economic Information Into Investing Insights on Business First AM

  All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any state where to do so would be unlawful. Analysis and research are provided for informational purposes only, not for trading or investing. Astor and its affiliates are not liable for the accuracy,…

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18Jan

Astor’s Outlook for 2019

Click here to read Astor’s Outlook for 2019. Founder and CEO, Rob Stein, looks back at 2018 in the markets, as well as what could be in store for 2019.

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11Jan

Factor Investing: Here to Stay?

Factors have entered the mainstream of investing.  Factor investing was once limited to academic finance and institutional investors, but strong returns have driven a proliferation of factor (also known as smart beta) products (1025 ETFs with over $823 Bn AUM), allowing individual investors to access factor investing as never before.  Of late, however, factor performance…

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11Jan

Astor’s Bryan Novak featured in Wealth Management Magazine’s 2019 Market Outlook

  In the 2019 Market Outlook published this month by WealthManagement.com, Astor portfolio manager, Bryan Novak, highlights key factors that impact rates, credit, and the economy. Click here to read more! All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any state where to…

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10Jan

January update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing good growth in the US economy relative to its recent average, though the index dropped significantly last month, partly in response to weaker purchasing managers surveys.  The fading fiscal stimulus from last year’s tax cut may be partially responsible for a downshift (though not a reversal) in…

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31Dec

Current Market and Historical Context

Market volatility of the past few weeks/months has created anxiety for investors who can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next. The economic backdrop, while moderating a bit, is not exhibiting recessionary indications. Nonetheless, trade, the Fed and other geopolitical issues domestic and abroad have created an environment of concern for investors. What this…

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11Dec

December update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy, though the index is near its low for 2018.  The economy as we measure it has thus far proved itself resilient to escalating trade tensions and steadily rising interest rates. Labor market The pace of hires slowed slightly last month –…

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6Dec

Does an Inverted Term Structure Lead to Recession?

Given the yield curve has been in the news as of late, we wanted to re-share Astor’s views. Much has been made of the flattening yield curve trend that has developed over the past year or so.  Yield curves that are inverted, with short-term rates higher than long-term rates, have historically preceded recessions in the…

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12Nov

The Recession is Coming, The Recession is Coming . . . Or Is It?

Although the impossibility of predicting future recessions seems almost axiomatic, a growing crowd of economists, pundits and market participants have added their voices to the chorus proclaiming an impending recession in 2019 or 2020. The next recession is unlikely to mirror the 2008 financial crisis in duration and severity, but several of the more plausible…

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6Nov

November Update on the US Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy, though the index is near its low for 2018.  The economy has thus far proved itself resilient to escalating trade tensions and steadily rising interest rates. Financial stress in October The most dramatic event in October was the selloff in global…

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31Oct

Market Turbulence: Why Passive Needs Active

Did your passive index fund call you this month?  NO, it did not! Imagine a scenario of sitting on a plane.  After some turbulence, the pilot came back and asks you if everything seemed ok. He tells you he has the plane on auto pilot and was not fully watching. Imagine the shock/concern/fear!  The assumed professional…

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18Oct

Uncertainty and the Market

The market hates uncertainty. Well, perhaps not hates, but dislikes for sure. The market climbs a wall of worry and falls down the wall of uncertainty, as we saw this week with the S&P 500 losing more than 6% earlier this month (October 2018). There is no shortage of uncertainties on the list; to name…

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16Oct

What Recession? Why the Sky Can’t Fall in the New Economic Reality

The recession is coming, the recession is coming – or, maybe not. Even as the market marches steadily higher, and the economic data print is consistently at or above the level indicating economic growth, the cry being heard is that a recession is coming.[i] Some even predict that the next downturn will be as severe…

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11Oct

October update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy. The index is currently at the bottom of a fairly narrow range it has been in during 2018.  The economy has thus far proved itself resilient to escalating trade tensions and steadily rising interest rates. Has the Fed shifted According to…

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9Oct

Emerging Market Turbulence: Here to Stay?

Normalizing US rates and higher oil prices have begun to expose persistent macroeconomic imbalances in emerging markets.   As returns begin to look more appealing in developed markets, we expect elevated levels of volatility to continue in emerging markets, especially those with large twin deficits, high external borrowing needs, reliance on portfolio flows for financing and…

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12Sep

Why the Economy Provides the Right Roadmap for Mitigating Risk

Click on the image above or click here to download the PDF.

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11Sep

September update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy. The index is currently in the middle of a fairly narrow range it has been in during 2018.  The economy has thus far proved itself resilient to escalating trade tensions.     Various of the regional federal reserve banks produce nowcasting…

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10Sep

Rob Stein Assesses Economic Strength and the Opportunity for Growth

  Should you be worried about GDP, jobless claims, or durable goods derailing the economy in the near future? Astor CEO, Rob Stein, evaluates the US economic strength, opportunities for growth, and supply and demand questions in the housing market. Click the image above or click here to watch the video! All information contained herein…

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24Aug

Which sectors are defensive?

As the current recovery ages and trade tensions garner headlines, a money manager’s thoughts turn to defensive sectors.  But how have the defensive sectors actually done in recent recessions? We examine the record in this post. For an investment manager, there is an obvious appeal in knowing how sectors of the economy perform in recessions…

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9Aug

August update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy. The index is currently at near top of the fairly narrow range it has been in during 2018. The labor market continues to add more jobs than is required to keep up with the natural growth of population.  We can see…

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18Jul

Astor Investment Management CIO, John Eckstein, on Bond Markets

Play Video   All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any state where to do so would be unlawful. Analysis and research are provided for informational purposes only, not for trading or investing. Astor and its affiliates are not liable for…

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12Jul

If the yield curve talks, should investors listen?

A favorite indicator among economists for predicting recessions is the yield curve—the difference between long-term rates and short-term rates.  As of this writing, the difference between 10-year Treasuries and 2-year notes is 0.30%, a decrease from just under 1% a year ago. When this relationship flattens and goes below zero, it’s believed that the economy is likely…

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10Jul

July Update on the US Economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy. The index is currently near the top of the fairly narrow range it has been in the last twelve months. The labor market continues to add more jobs than is required to keep up with the natural growth of population and…

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27Jun

Does an Inverted Term Structure Lead to Recession?

Much has been made of the flattening yield curve trend that has developed over the past year or so. Yield curves that are inverted, with short-term rates higher than long-term rates, have historically preceded recessions in the United States, and so it is useful to explore the term structure as a potential signal of economic downturns. To continue reading, click…

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22Jun

The “voice” of the economy and what it’s really saying

The buzz around the internet these days has been a computer-generated voice and whether it’s saying Yanni or Laurel. As it turned out, the computer was saying both, and the difference in auditory perception was due to the frequency of the playback and how well people’s ears perceive different frequencies. To continue reading click here.

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6Jun

June update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing strong growth in the US economy. The index is currently near the top of the fairly narrow range it has been in the last twelve months. The labor market continues to add more jobs than is required to keep up with the natural growth of population and…

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10May

May update on the US economy

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing solid growth in the US economy. The index is currently near the top of the fairly narrow range it has been in the last twelve-month range. The labor market continues to add more jobs than is required to keep up with the natural growth of population and…

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27Apr

Economic Update

Watch Rob’s latest economic webinar 2018-82

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1May

Q1 GDP first look, and more…

The initial read on GDP was released on 4/27/18 and it was better than expected (2.3% reported vs. 2.0% expected).  Although this report is lower than the pace set in the previous 3 quarters, I believe the Fed will continue on the path of raising rates.   Concern of rising rates will continue into the…

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24Apr

What? Me Worry?

The first quarter of 2018 is ‘in the books’ and investors may still feel a little woozy from the ups and downs they experienced. The volatility in Q1 seemingly reminded investors what ‘fear’ feels like and, in my opinion, the financial news mediums started to help investors find the fear they were looking for. To…

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24Apr

Astor Investment Management CEO Robert Stein on Economic Data

Click here to watch our CEO Rob Stein on Morning Trade Live! All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any state where to do so would be unlawful. Analysis and research are provided for informational purposes only, not for trading or…

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11Apr

U.S.-China Trade Wars: Talk and Market Impact

Your diligent economic blogger is struggling to keep up with the news on the trade war front. Last week the US and China traded threats of additional proposed trade sanctions – to be imposed after the still-theoretical initial set of mutual tariffs announced earlier in April. Recall that the world’s two largest economies will soon…

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14Feb

Market Questions: Less Why, More What

Given the stock market’s 10% drop over about the past two weeks, the question we’re left with now is less about “why” and more about “what.” What to do from here? First, we must keep in mind that the S&P 500 has appreciated by almost 30% in three years with little volatility and only minor…

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7Feb

Bond triple whammy

US ten-year bond yields have increased about 70 basis points to 2.8% over the last several months which gotten the attention of investors.  While ancient market specimens like myself have a hard time seeing 2.8% as “high,” the change from the last several years is interesting.  There is a good argument to be made that…

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5Feb

Comments on Recent Equity Market Pullback

It’s been a very long time since the stock market was the lead news story. That changed quickly as the stock market declined almost 10% (from intraday high to intraday lows) in the course of two days (2/2 ‐ 2/5/2018)—a big move, no matter how you slice it. The question everyone is asking is, “What’s…

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4Feb

Volatile Markets? What Investors Can Expect

Given a recent escalation of questions from advisors and their clients about current market activity, we at Astor wanted to take a few minutes to outline what all of this means for investors. First, it’s important to pause and consider these changes in the overall economic schema. We at Astor have previously discussed in our…

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19Oct

AI in my ETF!

Artificial intelligence continues to move into the ETF space. On October 18, 2017, the Artificial Intelligence run ETF powered by IBM’s Watson launched on the NYSE. The fund, AIEQ, is managed by EquBot and brought to market by ETF Managers Group. It’s hard to deny the lure of such an elegant concept behind an ETF in…

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21Jul

Fed Outlook H2 2017

Our proprietary Astor Economic Index® is still showing good growth in the US economy. The index improved substantially this month to near its highest levels of the year. The bright spot of the economy continues to be broad labor market improvements for such a late period in the cycle. Direct measures of labor market slack…

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16Jun

Why You Need to Care About This Amazon Deal

I was speaking to someone early this morning. Their exact words were “no big headlines on my phone this morning…that’s unusual”. Of course, they were referring more too political headlines, but the point was taken. Then the Amazon/Whole Foods deal hit the tape. By in large it was a surprise to see and exciting. Amazon…

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2Jun

How To Tell If A Smart Beta Trade Is Crowded?

Featured in ETF.com May 23, 2017 With smart beta and factor strategies growing in popularity, getting in and out of them has become a real concern for today’s investors. Are they getting too crowded? How long is too long to be in a strategy? Can I bet against these factors and make money? Deepika Sharma,…

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13Apr

Investing: Put First Things First

At Astor we often say that we focus our attention on the most important question: asset allocation.  For the typical US investor that means primarily the ratio of equities to fixed income and secondarily allocations to diversifying assets to smooth the portfolio returns.  Once you have decided these broad allocations your ultimate returns are –…

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13Mar

This time we mean it – Janet Yellen reviews and previews monetary policy

One of the problems in this business is picking the few relevant pieces of information out of the endless stream of financial news, opinion and speculation.  Like a prospectors looking for a slightly shinier flake of stone among the silt in our pans we occasionally pick out promising pieces we think have not gotten enough…

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14Feb

February Quick Read on the US Economy

I interpreted last few month’s economic releases as showing somewhat stronger economic growth in the US.  Our latest reading for the Astor Economic Index® (“AEI”) is higher over the month and has been moving steadily higher since the election to its highest level in about 18 months.  I still see the US as currently growing…

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26Jan

Prediction 2017: The End of the “Great Experiment of the Managed Economy”

As we look ahead to what 2017 may hold, I’m predicting the end of  what I call “the great experiment”—the managed economy that has dominated the fiscal and economic landscape for nearly ten years. The reason, as we state in the Astor Outlook 2017 Report, is not political. Rather, it’s time! Given where we are…

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18Jan

The Astor Pulse: How To Talk to your Clients about….

How to Talk to Your Clients About …. Dynamic Asset Allocation For many investors, the phrase “asset allocation” brings to mind the traditional 60/40 split between stocks and bonds. In today’s low-return market environment, however, the standard 60/40 asset allocation may not suffice.  At Astor, we believe the solution for investors is to include dynamic…

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19Dec

An Active Approach to Diversify Fixed Income Portfolios

“Active” may not be the approach that immediately comes to mind in income investing. But as the fixed income markets have reminded us recently, taking an active approach can be key to both controlling risk and capturing yield. Click here to learn more about Astor’s Active Income Strategy Consider the recent move in the 10-year…

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13Dec

The Fed and the Economy – What’s Next?

Navigating the low-return environment has been one of the top concerns for fixed income investors throughout 2016. Consider the fact that 35% of the global treasury market (as of this writing) is trading at negative nominal yields, which begs the question: Why are interest rates so low? Read below to find out why…. or watch…

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13Dec

Is This Really a “Trump” Rally?

The latest market surge, as the Dow powers toward 20,000, is being called the “Trump stock market rally.” But as an economist and a realist, I have to question whether stocks would rally this much just on hope and expectations for a new administration, without the help of some other catalyst. Granted, since the election,…

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6Dec

What Investors Got Wrong in 2016

As we look back on 2016, a notable theme is just how wrong the markets were when it came to predicting events and risk drivers. The year began on a pessimistic note. By the February 11 low, the S&P 500 had lost more than 10%, and high-yield bonds were down more than 5%. A major…

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6Dec

Last Economic Update for 2016

For my last economic update of the year I will review where we are today and try to read the tea-leaves of the incoming Trump administration.  The president elect is lucky in inheriting a solidly growing economy.  His penchant for decisive action may run into procedural roadblocks in Washington which could significantly delay actions which…

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30Nov

Astor Refines Strategy Names: Providing a “solution focus” for current and prospective clients

Effective December 1, 2016, Astor Investment Management is changing the name of its flagship Astor Long/Short Balanced strategy to Astor Dynamic Allocation. Over the years, the term “long/short” has changed so much, we believe “Astor Dynamic Allocation” is more accurate and reflective of our investment philosophy and approach. In addition, we are changing the name…

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28Nov

Operations As a Vehicle for Business Success

All investment advisers have an asset target in mind. In order to reach that finish line, you need to have a solid vehicle. Having a qualified portfolio manager (i.e. the driver) is a large part of the race, but it is certainly harder to accomplish without efficient and effective systems and processes in place. A…

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21Nov

Revisiting Active Investing: Is the Trend in Passive Over?

Over the past few years, financial advisors and their clients, in search of low-cost ways to capture market performance, have piled into passive investment strategies. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, for the three years ended Aug. 31, 2016, nearly $1.3 trillion flowed into passive mutual funds and ETFs. For investors, it seemed like…

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9Nov

Analysis: The 2016 Presidential Election

In light of Donald Trump’s win and the GOP hold of all three branches of government, the question on most minds today is, what is the outlook for the US economy? My short answer is that it is too early to tell. At Astor, our philosophy is to be guided by actual economic data rather than…

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7Nov

Politics and Economics: Linked—or Not?

A U.S. presidential outcome, one way or the other, likely will lead to some extrapolation of how economic policies might change—for example, higher/lower taxes or changes/continuation of trade policies—and, therefore, the impact on the stock market. But such policy changes take time; consider the agonizing on Capitol Hill over passage of major legislation, such as…

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28Oct

Q3 GDP Beats Estimates

Real GDP for Q3 2016 came in at a better-than-expected rate of 2.9%. This “advance estimate,” released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, was above consensus/economists’ estimates of around 2.5-2.6%. In Q2, real GDP increased by an annualized rate of 1.4%. As Astor previously observed, a Q3 GDP report that at least met expectations, along…

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25Oct

Will September’s Economic Pickup Mean a Reason to Hope for Q4?

Readings on September’s economic output pointed to a bounce back after a disappointment in August. We see these as hopeful signs that the economy, which has been growing slowly but steadily, may be positioned for further gains in Q4 and as we head into the end of the year. ISM Manufacturing A drop in PMI…

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18Oct

Passive Investing Grows in Popularity—But No Panacea

As the investing public, from institutions to individuals, moves away from stock picking and other traditionally active strategies, the beneficiary is passive investing. As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, pension funds, endowments, 401(k) retirement plans, and retail investors are opting increasingly for passive investing that tracks an index. For the three years ended Aug….

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17Oct

Invest Like an Economist—Not a Stock Picker

While the expansion of the $3 trillion ETF industry continues to attract attention for the sheer size and popularity of this investment vehicle, there is yet another reason to favor ETFs—one that’s near to my heart as an economist and investment manager. ETFs allow you think and invest like an economist, and not a stock…

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11Oct

The Tension between Reacting and Overreacting: One Number Does Not Make a Trend

In asset allocation and investing, there is a natural tension between reacting and overreacting. The goal is to ensure you are skilled at the former, while avoiding the latter. At Astor Investment Management, we believe our macroeconomics-based approach to asset allocation helps us react to what we determine to be real change in the economic…

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5Oct

What Are You Looking At?

Fed-watching. Oil prices. The latest geopolitical headline. All sources of anxiety, some of them manufactured. The real question is, what should you be focusing on? Even as markets persist near all-time highs, volatility not indicating too much concern, the subconscious anxiety appears to be growing. As we’ve seen in recent years (and, more recently, during…

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27Sep

A Mixed Picture – Economic Snapshots

The U.S. economic picture is mixed, with some signs of slowing, along with areas of strength. Let’s take a look at the current snapshots to gain a more comprehensive view. To learn more about The Economic Picture, watch this video. ISM Manufacturing In our opinion, the most worrying data have been ISM Manufacturing Index readings….

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18Sep

Eyes on the Fed: No Urgency for a Rate Rise

All eyes are on the Federal Reserve this week and the often-discussed question: Will they or won’t they raise rates? Here at Astor, our prediction of what we believe the Fed will do (spoiler alert: we don’t expect a rate rise in September) comes down to two important data points: employment and inflation. To learn…

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9Sep

September Quick Read on the US Economy

I interpreted last month’s economic releases as somewhat weaker.  Forward looking surveys were concerning though consumer spending in the US, the most important single component of GDP, seems to be stable.  Our latest reading for the Astor Economic Index® (“AEI”) is lower over the month, though I see no discernible trend over the last twelve…

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22Aug

Breaking up is not that hard to do: Real Estate (RE) classification

Effective September 1, 2016, the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS®) will undergo its first major change since its inception in 1999. As a result of the evolving investment landscape, not to mention the global economy, real estate will be carved out of the financial sector. The new 11th sector will primarily contain equity REITs. All…

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12Aug

US Consumer Update: Continuing to Drive Economic Growth

US Consumer Update: Continuing to Drive Economic Growth. Today’s July retail sales report was unchanged but still consistent with the theme of strong consumer resilience continuing in Q3 2016. The headline print at 0% was below Bloomberg expectations of 0.4%.  Digging into the retail categories, it seems auto sales took away demand from other retail…

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10Aug

August Quick Read on the US Economy

My view on the economy is little changed over the month.  I still see the US in an environment of modest economic growth.  A second strong payroll number should quiet the concerns that a period of weakness is beginning. Our latest reading for the Astor Economic Index® (“AEI”) is still near the highest level posted this…

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8Aug

STAR Gazing

We see several themes playing out this year for US domestic sectors, with regards to sector fundamentals, factor selection and the overall direction of the US economy. In our STAR mid-year update, we seek to answer following questions: How have the sector economic fundamentals evolved and how does that guide allocation? So far this year,…

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5Aug

July’s Jobs Number Supportive of Steady Growth

The July Employment report came in with an upside surprise—255,000 jobs created during the month, which was well above expectations of 179,000. Making the jobs picture even rosier was the upward revision for June, to 292,000 from 287,000. Strength in the labor market for June and July has helped bring people back into the workforce,…

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28Jul

The Answer to the Question on Investors’ Minds: Stay the Course

For much of the year, beginning in January when the stock market had its worst start of a new year in history, we’ve been asked periodically why our portfolios haven’t been materially more defensive. The question has arisen at other times during the year, such as in aftermath of the UK’s “Brexit” vote, an event…

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27Jul

U.S. Manufacturing Update

The report on Durable Goods today: New orders for Durable goods decreased 4% in June making this the biggest drop since August 2014. The core measure of new orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircrafts is up 0.2% in June but still down -3.7% YoY. While the overall new orders decline of 4% looks bad,…

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13Jul

July Quick Read on the US Economy

The economic news improved somewhat from my last update.  The labor market looks more solid than it did a month ago and there are some signs the manufacturing sector may have found it footing.  I believe the Brexit vote will likely have only a modest direct impact on the US, but will make all observers…

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1Jul

June/Q2 Recap: Beyond Market-Rattling Events, the Data Prevail

If you were to look only at where the market closed out June, with the S&P (SPX) at just under 2100 (2098.87 SPX) and compare that to month-end for May (2096.96), you’d see that little had changed. Quarter-to-quarter, the rise from the Q1 close of roughly 2060 to the Q2-end is nearly a 2% gain….

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28Jun

Brexit Fallout Puts Next Round of U.S. Economic Data in Spotlight

As fallout from the Brexit vote continues to be felt—most acutely in currency and confidence—attention on this side of the pond turns to the next round of economic reports for clues as to how the U.S. economy will withstand the inevitable headwinds from the event. From a market perspective, Brexit is best understood as an…

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24Jun

Brexit – First impressions for the US and world economy

This morning our CEO Rob Stein wrote a good overview of the our view of the US after the British vote to leave the EU earlier.  As Rob said, at Astor we are alert for signs of a deteriorating US economy, but we will wait to see them before we further reduce our exposure to…

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24Jun

The Brexit ‘Event’: Uncertainty and Volatility But Not the Dot to Connect to a U.S. Economic Downturn

News that the U.K. voted to leave the European Union sent a shockwave through the markets, which reacted—as markets do—to the unanticipated with a sharp selloff from the Nikkei to the FTSE 100, with the U.S. markets opening sharply lower [down about 3% at the time of this post].  Given that polls had predicted the…

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16Jun

Fed Watch: Welcome to Square One

The Federal Reserve’s decision this week to hold short-term interest rates where they are and to reiterate its uncertainty about the pace of rate hikes in the future came as a “shock” to some. The Wall Street Journal called the Fed’s inaction a “sharp reversal” from a few weeks ago when even Fed Chair Janet…

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13Jun

Second Fed Rate Hike? Much Ado About Not Very Much

Imagine this scenario: You are at the next regular board meeting at Apple, Microsoft, Tesla or some company of your choosing. As you glance down the agenda, where do you picture the discussion of the Federal Reserve’s expected interest rate hike? At the top? Somewhere near the bottom? My guess is that it isn’t mentioned…

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8Mar

March Quick Read on the US Economy

In my opinion, the latest numbers on the US economy were positive last month. After plummeting for the first half of February, stock markets became markedly more positive over the second half. International equity prices seem to have regained their footing and oil prices are well off the lows of the year as well. I…

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9Feb

February 2016 Quick Read on the US Economy

Our outlook for the economy deteriorated slightly in the last month.  Mainly our measures of output are showing weakness, while our measures of employment continue to show a solid recovery.  The risk is the manufacturing sector’s weakness spreads to the broader economy.  Most economists would agree the chances of this event happening are small, though…

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24Aug

August 2015 is to October 2014 is to Fall 2011

Bringing it back to Rob Stein’s 2015 Outlook Report and discussion about the Fed and the expected rate hike for 2015. The possibility of this change in the rate dynamic would, in his opinion (and the rest of the Investment Committee’s), introduce volatility into the market. The report ended with this statement: “Whether the market…

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2Jul

Jobs day read on the US economy

• My current view of the economy is for continued, modest expansion in the US. The proprietary index we track as a primary gauge was modestly stronger over the second quarter, though still below the levels of the fourth quarter of 2014. Likewise, the Atlanta Fed’s current estimate • The jobs market continued to improve…

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8May

Employment day economic read

Employment day is a good day to check in with the economy.  Overall, we remain cautiously optimistic and hopeful for stronger growth in the second half. This month’s payroll number came in at 233,000 net new jobs, only slightly below its one year average of 250,000 jobs and at a pace to move the economy…

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2Feb

World PMIs January 2015 – Widespread softness

Looking at the worldwide Purchasing Manager’s Indexes (most surveys conducted by Markit) we can see widespread softness, though levels still show expanding manufacturing orders. We are still seeing PMI levels showing decent growth in the US and, less convincingly, in the rest of the world. The US, UK, Canada, China and Japan all show lower…

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18Jan

An exciting start to 2015 in Europe

January is off to a brisk start for traders and central bankers in Europe. I see no quick turnaround to Europe’s economic malaise. The ECB is widely expected to announce a well telegraphed QE announcement this week. The hints going around are slightly higher than I expected, at around 600B Euros. If the ECB is…

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17Sep

FOMC Quick Reaction

[Before press conference] There is the danger of inconstancy in the Fed’s communications. On the one hand, the language in the FOMC statement about the “considerable period” is still there, which Chair Yellen described as six months. On the other, the FOMC median expectation for fed funds at the end of 2015, which after all…

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19Jun
8Jun

June Quick Read on the US Economy

The economic news softened somewhat from my last update.  The payroll numbers for May were especially weak, following a modest April.  However, we should not exaggerate one reading of a volatile series Overall the economy still looks like it is on a decent heading, but evidence has accumulated of at least a small pause in…

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13May

May Quick Read on the US Economy

Economic news softened somewhat from my last update.  The most recent readings for employment (as measured by the non-farm payrolls report) showed a slightly weaker pace of growth.  Additionally, much of the bounce in the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index was given back last month.  However, we should not exaggerate the weakness.  The current…

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11Apr

April Quick Read on the US Economy

The latest numbers on the US economy were positive. As a promising sign for the future, the global manufacturing environment may be showing signs of stabilizing – coincident with a stabilizing of commodity and international equities prices. I still believe the Fed will continue to hold and will not raise rates in April. Our Astor…

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12Jan

January Quick Read on the US Economy

The US continues to post moderate growth, though pockets of weaknesses remain.  Global financial markets started the year trying to read the magic eight ball of the Chinese equity and currency markets – a recipe for emotional distress.  Overall, my judgement about the current expansion remains unchanged with slightly above-average growth. The US economy ·        …

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15Dec

How the Fed Sees Inflation

The Fed sees inflation a bit differently than many in the markets do.  In this note I will discuss some of the folk-economics that get talked about casually on the trading floor. I will contrast that with how Janet Yellen has recently described her view of US inflation dynamics (mainly as expressed in her very…

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11Dec

A Rebuttal

This week an article entitled “Should You Fear the ETF?” was written by Ari Weinberg of the WSJ. While I would prefer not to give this type of article any attention (as that seems to be the main goal), I feel like it cannot be left to exist without an industry participant’s opinion attached to it….

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9Dec

December Economic Read

The US economy continues its pace of modest expansion. Though self-sustaining growth continues to be the most likely outcome, a few soft spots – mainly related to weak growth overseas – continue to worry. I expect the economy to adapt well to the beginning of a shallow and gradual rate hike cycle. Our Astor Economic…

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10Nov

November Economic Read

• Early indications are that October was another month of slow but positive growth in the U.S. and abroad. The monthly nonfarm payroll number for October was the strongest of the year, suggesting that weakness in August and September’s numbers was just noise. Emerging markets continue to be a small drag on the U.S. economy,…

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7Oct

October Economic Read

• The most recent readings on the U.S. economy show a moderating pace of growth. Both points are worth emphasizing: the US is still growing but at a slower rate than a few months ago. We see support of this statement in the recent nonfarm payroll and ISM Manufacturing report releases. Even at the more…

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7Sep

September Economic Read

We see a slightly weaker U.S. environment this month than we did last month, though we still see growth as being above the recent average. The most notable change was in the ISM Purchasing manager’s survey which showed a slower expansion than last month. While this shows manufacturers’ orders continue to expand, this gauge is…

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26Aug

Economic Durability

Data for July Durable Goods Orders was released today and provided further support for a positive view on the U.S. economy.   On a headline level, orders rose by 2.0% from June which was revised up to a 4.1% increase from the initial report of 3.4%.  Great news there, especially considering expectations were for a -0.4% decline….

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20Jul

Portfolios of ETFs and Liquidity

I have gotten questions about the liquidity of ETF portfolios, especially in times of market stress. I think they make sense for most investors even taking these risks into account.   I think there is decent evidence that liquidity is changing. However, this does not seem to be an issue which is peculiar to of…

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30Jun

Grisis… Graccident… Grexit?

Time is running out for Greece as the Euro-area backed bailout extension expires at 6pm ET and $1.8bn of payments to IMF are due. A technical default will trigger further repayment and Greece will lose $18bn in funding overnight, 60% of which comes from a Greek bank rescue fund. Greece is on the precipice of financial…

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16Jun

Part 3 of Smart Beta

I posted the final entry of my smart beta series for ETF.com. Check it out here.

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5Jun

Quick read on the economy, June 2015

• Today’s payroll number adds a bit of evidence for the idea that the first quarter’s economic weakness was temporary. The gain of 280,000 jobs was the best reading of the year, tough still below the average for the second half of 2014. The secondary numbers from the report were also either steady or slightly…

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20May

Facts and factors

I am a fan in principle of the idea of smart beta funds. These funds eke out a bit of extra return by moving beyond capitalization weighted indexes. Many of these funds use some sort of alternate factor to weigh their exposures such as dividends, growth or value. I have discussed some pluses and minuses…

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18May

The myth of the dollar safe haven

I went to an interesting conference put on by the Society of Quantitative Analysts last week. The first speaker was Alessio de Longis of OppenheimerFunds, slides here. He made several interesting points, two of which I want to highlight. First, he dug into what happens in a global flight to quality episode where an increase…

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27Apr

Is the economy returning to moderation?

I heard a comment at the Volatility Institute’s annual conference last week which made me want to do a little digging. Charles Himmelberg of Goldman Sachs wondered aloud if the US is returning to what economists call the Great Moderation. This is period of a fairly stable economy as measured by the volatility of macroeconomic…

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7Apr

More on Smart Beta

The second installment of my three part series on Smart Beta funds is up at ETF.com.  Check it out!

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7Aug

August employment day economic read

My view of the US economy is for continued modest expansion. Our proprietary Astor Economic Index was essentially unchanged for the month and still showing that the US is solidly in an expansion. Today’s employment report was almost exactly as expected with 215 thousand net jobs added and a steady unemployment rate of 5.3%. These…

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5Mar

Fixed income outlook for a Fed hike

On Wednesday March 18th the Fed will have a quarterly Press Conference meeting. Since being instituted a few years ago these have quickly become significant as the meetings where new policies are announced. On I expect further measured progress toward higher short term interest rates. This note covers My analysis of the Fed’s likely actions…

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7Jan

Notes on oil

The oil market has grabbed the headlines for the last month and this week I made a presentation at the request of a client so I thought I would share a few notes on the blog. We are in an example of the classic commodity boom and bust cycle. This cycle holds for commodities who’s…

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10Dec

The Fed’s Inflation Problem

As 2014 draws to a close the Fed is presented with a problem. Based on recent speeches, a substantial part of the committee seems eager to raise rates. At the same time. some of the Fed’s preferred metrics suggest this may be premature and the market is trapped in between. Market participants are on the…

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10Dec

U.S. Stocks Shake Off Global Selloff – WSJ ft. Bryan Novak

“The U.S. economy continues to improve,” said Bryan Novak, senior managing director with Astor Investment Management, which manages $1.1 billion. “Anyone who has maintained that view has been rewarded over the past couple of years.” (READ MORE)

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21Nov

Some international equity ideas on ETF.com

I have a note on some international ETF ideas on ETF.com.  You’re not going to like it but there is a case for buying France.

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20Nov

No good news in the preliminary Markit PMIs

As always, the Markit Purchasing Managers Indexes are some of the first data we receive about a month. The November preliminary readings came out today and from the perspective of the global business cycle, it is hard to find good news in there. All the PMIs released were lower than their final number for October….

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17Nov

A tale of two markets

Two authors I respect very much have post I would like to argue with a bit. The different response to the US economy to dramatic stock market declines in 2000-2002 and 2007-2008 is very interesting, what does it tell us about the US economy? Cecchetti & Schoenholt say that the story is all about leverage…

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14Nov

New directions for the Fed in 2015

The big decision for the Fed next year will be if they should start raising interest rates. Remember that the fed is charged to try to maintain price stability and full employment. This chart shows unemployment and inflation along with the Fed’s inflation target (in blue) and the unemployment rate consistent with stable prices (in…

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28Oct

Link roundup

Here are some recent market-related posts which I have enjoyed The Economist on The Dangers of Deflation FT Alphaville:  stop waiting for the great rotation into equities University of Texas’ Nathen Swem: Information in Financial Markets: Who Gets It First? The Richmond Fed on why young people seem to hold “too few” stocks Duke’s Campbell…

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30Jan

Navagating “Smart Beta” ETFs

Up on ETF.com is part one of my three part post on “smart beta” ETFs.  Check it out.  This part deals with dividend-focused funds and the indexes that underlay them.

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27Oct

FOMC preview

I am expecting little news from the FOMC this week. The committee should take the final tranche of QE off, which might have been an unfavorable surprise amid the financial market volatility two weeks ago, but which is likely to go unnoticed this week. Some of the regional presidents have been advocating their views towards…

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23Oct

World PMIs (October 2014, preliminary) – steady as she goes

The October preliminary Markit PMIs for major economies were somewhat stronger, on balance, than September’s. The US is off its peak but still quite strong. The Eurozone recovered a bit, thanks to Germany is my guess, though the reading is still around the 50% expansion/contraction line. In Asia, Japan’s manufacturing PMI posted solid progress and…

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17Oct

Worrying about the Wrong Things

Fever. Chills. Cold sweats. Nausea. Ebola? No, these are the classic signs of a market-induced malaise caused by rampant fear and worry over the wrong things. The market, which seemed to be itching for a downturn, scared itself into one over a rash of unconnected symptoms.  From Ebola fever (the media-induced variety), to concerns over…

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15Oct

Don’t Panic

The recent stock sell-off certainly has our attention. Yesterday, October 14th, the S&P 500 closed about 6.6% off its high, set only a month ago. And writing before the opening of October 15th, it looks like another bad day. As always, there is a chance of a further stock market decline, but we think the…

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7Oct

New Astor post on ETF.com: Inflation hedges

We have a new post on ETF.com: The mixed record of inflation hedges.  You might be surprised by the best choice!

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21Aug

World PMI update for August – Weakness in Europe

With the flash update for selected Markit PMIs for August, here is our monthly heatmap of worldwide manufacturing PMIs. A few observations: The Markit PMI for the US jumped to its highest level since 2011. While this is an encouraging sign, the link between the Markit measure and the more familiar ISM measure is not…

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21Aug

Astor on picking a fixed income ETF today

We have a note on ETF.com discussing the fixed income ETF world as we see it today. Check it out!

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20Aug

Fed Watch – Jackson Hole

The Kansas City Fed is hosting its annual Jackson Hole conference this weekend (motto: “interrupting Wall Street vacations since 1978”) . Several times in the last few years we have gotten a good preview of the Fed’s concerns for the year ahead by listening to the Chair’s speech. The last two rounds of Quantitative Easing,…

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5Aug

Money Flowing Amid Selloff – Bloomberg ft. Rob Stein

The money added to the SPDR S&P 500 ETF this week may reflect more complex strategies than simply bullish investors buying stocks, according to Robert Stein, who helps oversee $900 million as president of Chicago-based Astor Investment Management LLC. “People could be selling options against it,” Stein said in an interview. “They could be selling…

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24Jul

World PMI Update: Weakness in Europe?

Manufacturing growth throughout the world increased at a solid, if unspectacular pace in July, the preliminary releases of the Markit PMIs show. The chart shows manufacturing PMIs across many of the more important countries in the world, the rightmost column, July 2014, is the preliminary data released July 24. The highlights of the July data:…

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17Jul
15Jul

Yellen testimony confirms view of labor market slack

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave her semi-annual report on monetary policy to the Senate today. Its content is consistent with our interpretations of both monetary policy and the labor market. The key phrase from our standpoint is: “we currently anticipate that even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some…

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11Jul

Secondary labor market indicators show improvement, slack

From time to time we also like to highlight some secondary labor market indicators to gain a deeper insight into the economy. The chart below shows both labor market improvement as well as continuing slack. The red line shows the quit rate, the percentage of the labor force quitting each month. It is at its…

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10Jul

A clever example of the difficulty of applying statistical models to the real world

Guardian columnist Andrew Steele blends soccer, math and finance in answering the question How shocking was Brazil’s 7-1 defeat, mathematically speaking?

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8Jul

Tech stocks weigh on S&P 500: MarketWatch Live Blog ft. Rob Stein

Rob Stein, CEO of Astor Investment Management said that Tuesday’s pullback is mostly due to technicals rather than fundamentals. “When markets reach new peaks, investors tend to take opportunity and lighten up and rebalance. We think the economy is in its mid cycle and has more room to grow. All recent economic data point to…

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24Jun

Janet Yellen’s Report Card

Listening to FOMC Janet Yellen’s press conference last week, we were struck by the same comment that the always-insightful Gavyn Davies noticed: When we see some conflict between achieving the two objectives …we would consider … just how far we are from achieving each of the objectives and if the distance from achieving an objective…

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24Jun

Stock market rally is more than a big number: Investment News interviews Rob Stein

“We think the probability is high for risk assets to appreciate over the next several quarters because of economic fundamentals. We have a pretty low hurdle of what we need fundamentally from the economic data to continue to push stock prices higher.” (READ MORE)

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23Jun

Stocks climb in face of global upheaval: Investment News ft. Rob Stein

The market’s resilience should be considered against the backdrop of what is now a stronger U.S. economy than it was just a few years ago. (READ MORE)

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23Jun

Just a Regular Day of Record Highs, No Big Deal: The Street ft. Rob Stein

Despite the shadow of tension in the Middle East, Astor Investment Management CEO Robert Stein assures the economic fundamentals remain sound. “Drama, politically, sometimes causes markets to correct or have spikes and volatility so that could happen but I would suggest … that [it] would not derail where the expected path is for risk assets…

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17Jun

Will tumult in Iraq unnerve clients?: Investment News ft. Rob Stein

“These same geopolitical events against a different economic backdrop would produce different outcomes.Right now the U.S. economy is solid, even if it isn’t accelerating the way it could be. But a few years ago, this same news out of the Middle East would have a much larger impact on the markets.” (READ MORE)

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16Jun
3Jun

S&P 500, Dow retreat from records as stocks edge lower: MarketWatch live blog ft. Rob Stein

The economy is growing very slowly, but still growing. The fact that the economy contracted in the first quarter does not matter at this point because it is not the beginning of the recession, as there is enough evidence of a snap-back in the second quarter.(READ MORE)

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30May

World PMI Update: US shows strength, concerns about Asia

The chart shows manufacturing PMIs across many of the more important countries in the world, the rightmost column, May 2014, is the preliminary data released in the last week of May. While manufacturing in the developed world is not what it once was, at Astor our sense is that the business cycle tends to play…

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16May

“3 Views On Where US Stocks Are Headed” – ETF.com article ft. Rob Stein

The U.S. stock market continues to forge new highs, but the upside momentum doesn’t seem to be inspiring the same level of confidence investors had in 2013, when U.S. stocks rallied about 30 percent. (READ MORE…)

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13May

“Dow, S&P 500 End at Records” – WSJ article ft. Rob Stein

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 edged up to fresh records, as investors maintained their focus on a stable U.S. economy and better-than-expected corporate earnings. (READ MORE…)

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13May

“S&P 500 briefly crosses 1,900 for the first time” – AP Markets article ft. Rob Stein

NEW YORK (AP) — The Standard & Poor’s 500 index briefly crossed 1,900 for the first time Tuesday as investors assessed news on retail sales. Keurig Green Mountain jumped on reports that Coca-Cola had raised its stake in the company. (READ MORE…)

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3Apr

Portfolio Commentary – April 2014

[wpvideo 9a0TMu7k] Astor’s Investment Committee comments on the portfolios of the firm’s three strategies: S.T.A.R. featuring AlphaDEX® (long-only sector rotation) Long/Short Balanced (multi-asset tactical) Active Income (tactical unconstrained income)

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3Apr

Market Commentary – April 2014

[wpvideo 6rQUDAPi] Portfolio Managers Rob Stein, Bryan Novak and John Eckstein provide their insights on the market, including John’s comparison of the Fed’s targeted funds rate and his plans to go to the gym.

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8Apr
4Apr

“Combining Fundamental ETFs With Traditional Ones” – S&P Capital IQ article ft. Astor

Astor’s Long/Short Balanced ETF Fund was featured in S&P Capital IQ. (READ MORE…)

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2Apr

“Cap-Weighted, Smart Beta ETFs Can be Friends” – ETF Trends article ft. Astor

The ascent of smart beta or intelligent index exchange traded funds is undeniable. Astor’s Long/Short Balanced strategy is profiled. (READ MORE…)

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21Mar

“Stocks Could Stay Stuck in a Tight Range” – WSJ article ft. Rob Stein

Even as the S&P 500 has carved out new records in 2014, the U.S. stock market is struggling to match the big strides made last year. (READ MORE…)

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6Mar

“U.S. Stocks Rise as Jobless Claims Fall to 3-Month Low” – Bloomberg article ft. Rob Stein

U.S. stocks rose, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to an all-time high, as data showed jobless claims fell to the lowest level in three months and investors watched developments in Ukraine. (READ MORE…)

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4Mar
21Feb
21Feb

“Stock funds worldwide attract $13.4 billion over week: BofA” – Reuters article ft. Rob Stein

Fund investors worldwide poured $13.4 billion into stock funds in the week ended February 19 on confidence thatstocks could head higher, data from a Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report showed on Friday. (READ MORE…)

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12Feb
12Feb
12Feb
12Feb
12Feb
6Feb

“Stocks Sputter as Traders Sit Tight” – WSJ article ft. Bryan Novak

U.S. stock benchmarks edged lower Wednesday, as traders paused after a volatile start to the week. (READ MORE…)

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11Feb

“Stocks up after Yellen remarks; debt ceiling news” – Yahoo Finance article ft. Rob Stein

Stocks rose in midday trading Tuesday as the new head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, signaled that the central bank would continue to dial back its stimulus program if the U.S. economy keeps improving. (READ MORE…)

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28Jan

“Stocks regain footing; Nasdaq swings back to slight gain” – MarketWatch live blog ft. Rob Stein

“It looks like markets reacted too much too fast in the past few days and now realizing that it was slightly overdone. This kind of bounce is expected when markets are oversold and calm returns.” (READ MORE…)

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8Jan

Why and How to Pick Tactical for your Portfolio

This note seeks to make two points about why and how to pick a tactical manager. Section 1 shows that Tactical can provide better returns and better risk-adjusted returns than a static allocation to asset class buckets. Section 2 shows that within tactical, picking a diversified portfolio of managers is vital to achieving Tactical’s promise….

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6Jan

“U.S. Stocks Pare Losses” – WSJ article ft. Rob Stein

U.S. stocks pared earlier losses to trade little changed, continuing the market’s lackluster start to the new year as investors digested data showing the services sector expanded at a slower rate than expected. (READ MORE…)

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6Jan

“Where the Markets are Headed in 2014” – CNN Money survey ft. Rob Stein

CNNMoney survey of investment strategists and money managers for 2014 year-end targets (SEE HERE…)

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1Jan
20Dec
13Dec

Cleaning Up After the Party is Over: How the Fed Will End Quantitative Easing

With tapering in the air along with holiday cheer, we are getting a lot of questions about how the Fed will end its Quantitative Easing program. This note quickly reviews the QE program and then discusses how the Fed’s asset purchase program will be unwound. Our expected scenario is that sometime in the next few…

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13Dec

“High-Yield Bond ETFs Worth Risk” – IndexUniverse interview w/Rob Stein

The U.S. economy is on the mend, and 2014 should bring another year of positive market action if economic fundamentals continue on their strengthening path. (READ MORE…)

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10Dec

“Stocks Slide as Investors Take Profits” – WSJ article ft. Rob Stein

U.S. stocks edged lower as investors looked to cash in on some of the year’s strong gains and weighed the potential impact of reduced Federal Reserve stimulus. (READ MORE…)

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22Nov

Looking Beyond the Taper

Sometime soon the Fed will reduce its current level of asset purchases. Let’s look quickly at why the Fed will be taking that action and then move beyond that day to think about how monetary policy might evolve over 2014. Since September 2012 the Fed has been buying $85 billion per month in treasury and…

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14Nov

“DJIA, S&P 500 at Records; Yellen is Focus” – WSJ article ft. Bryan Novak

U.S. stocks closed at new record highs Wednesday on rising hopes for continued central-bank stimulus efforts. (READ MORE…)

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8Oct

“Stocks Finish Lower as Stalemate Drags On” – WSJ article ft. Bryan Novak

Stock investors stepped up the pace of selling Tuesday, sending major market indexes to their lowest levels in more than a month amid the stalemate in Washington. (READ MORE…)

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8Oct

“Debt Ceiling Worries Press U.S. Stocks Lower” – 4traders article ft. Bryan Novak

U.S. stocks extended recent losses as the continuing stalemate in Washington prompted stepped-up selling from investors looking to cash out of the market after a year of big gains. (READ MORE…)

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18Oct

Doctor, what’s the Prognosis?!

At Astor, we have an analogy we like to use from time to time to put into perspective our view of economic/political/fiscal, etc. events and how the market and economy may react to them. When a healthy person contracts pneumonia, they get sick no question, but through normal processes of the immune system, they resume…

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8Oct

“LinkedIn, Tesla, Netflix: ‘Momentum’ Plays Get Bruised Tuesday by Debt Ceiling Concerns” – WSJ article ft. Bryan Novak

What goes up a lot, must come down a lot. Amid a sea of red in the stock market Wednesday, some of the names seeing the biggest losses are stocks that have been huge winners this year, favorites of the so-called momentum crowd. (READ MORE…)

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16Jul

Grow or Get off the Pot

Even though the U.S economic picture is viewed as modestly improving, we’ve experienced two straight quarters of GDP under 2% and Q2 looks to follow suit. Empirically, that just doesn’t happen in expansions, but it’s what we’ve lived for almost two years now. The minutes from the June FOMC meeting continued on the thesis of…

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10Jul

“Stocks Seesaw, Then Jump on Bernanke Remarks” – WSJ article ft. Bryan Novak

Stocks ended the day barely changed after the Federal Reserve’s latest policy-setting meeting minutes showed a divide among officials over when to end stimulus. (READ MORE…)

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1Jul

“Asset Managers’ Top 3 Picks for Q3” – IBD article ft. Bryan Novak

A new quarter marks a new beginning for a market facing rising interest rates and uncertainties about monetary policy. We asked three money managers to share their best ETF investment ideas for achieving outperformance in the third quarter. (READ MORE…)

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24Jun

“Stocks Sink in Broad Selloff” – Wall Street Journal article ft. Bryan Novak

Stocks closed broadly lower but escaped the worst of the day’s declines after a selloff in Treasury bonds lost steam midday. (READ MORE…)

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20Jun

“Investors poured $4.5bln into stock funds ahead of Fed – BofA” – Reuters article ft. Rob Stein

Investors worldwide poured $4.5 billion into stock funds in the latest week, reversing the prior week’s outflows on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would keep its bond-buying steady, data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch showed on Friday. (READ MORE…)

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20Jun

Oops… I Bernanked Again

As the Fed continues to be “transparent”, markets are left roiled in the wake. First, we had the fiasco on May 22nd and now we have this week. Comments from Chairman Bernanke during yesterday’s testimony caused an afternoon selloff that strengthened into the close. Not surprisingly, the selling pressure continued through today’s open with a…

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19Jun
19Jun
17Jun

“Rising Rate Fears Keep Stock ETF Action Volatile” – ETF Trends article ft. Bryan Novak

The equities markets and stock exchange traded funds experienced a tumultuous week on fears that central banks will cut back on their stimulus measures. (READ MORE…)

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17Jun

“Of the Fed and Tapering” – Financial Post article ft. Bryan Novak

For investors, this week may as well start on Tuesday afternoon and end on Wednesday afternoon, the period in which the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee starts and finishes its two-day policy setting meeting. (READ MORE…)

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14Jun

“U.S. Stocks Fall on IMF Outlook, Warning on Stimulus Exit” – Bloomberg article ft. Bryan Novak

U.S. stocks fell, after yesterday’s rally in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as the International Monetary Fund cut its 2014 outlook for America and urged the central bank to carefully manage its exit from stimulus plans. (READ MORE…)

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14Jun

“S&P 500 Falls on IMF Growth Forecast as Treasuries Rise” – Bloomberg article ft. Bryan Novak

U.S. stocks fell, extending a weekly loss, as the International Monetary Fund cut its 2014 American growth forecast and warned that tapering of Federal Reserve stimulus may be risky if not handled properly. (READ MORE…)

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12Jun

“SMAs of ETFs See Assets Jump 12% in Q1” – Fund Fire article ft. Bryan Novak

A good start to the year drove assets in separately managed accounts built with exchange-traded funds up to $73 billion by March 31, a 12% rise for the first quarter, according to Morningstar. (READ MORE…)

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6Jun

Business News Network segment ft. Rob Stein

“Betting on Bonds” (WATCH HERE…)

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6Jun

Harvey Dent’s Market

The current stock market is fit for Harvey Dent of the popular Batman comics. On certain days, positive fundamental data is cheered and on others it is booed. Harvey Dent was nicknamed Two-Face and it is precisely that reason why I am labeling it Harvey Dent’s Market. Two-Face based outcomes off a coin flip using…

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5Jun

Financial Times article ft. Bryan Novak

“Material losses send US stocks lower”

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30May
30May

The Problem with Buying is You Have to Sell at Some Point

Buy Low, Sell High is the mantra of the investment world. The Federal Reserve’s motto seems to be Buy More, Sell Never. First we had QE. When QE failed to stoke growth, the Fed extended the program into what is now known as QE2. When QE2 gave similar results, Big Ben initiated QE3 (or QE-to-Infinity)…

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28May

Reuters article ft. Bryan Novak

“Stock Futures Gain after Central Bank Comments”

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24May

Watching Risk-Reward Ratios: Economic Data Still Positive – But Rate is Slowing

Risk-reward ratios are on our radar screen these days as we review the most recent economic data against the backdrop of recent market movement. This is not to say that we are in any way suggesting a top, a bear market, or even that a correction is on the horizon, even taking into account this…

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23May
23May
23May
22May

The Street article ft. Rob Stein

“Stocks Reverse Course, Drop on Worries of Fed Pullback”

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20May

CNBC article ft. Bryan Novak

“Dollar Rising With Equities is Bullish Sign for Stocks”

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15May

WANTED: Growth… and Inflation

The first quarter of 2013 defied many prognostications as growth tracked faster than most had expected. We noted in our outlook report that the sanguine Q4 GDP number would most likely produce a bounce back effect as we transitioned from uncertainty to an “identifiable risk” environment. However, in the face of ongoing concerns and the…

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5May

Marketwatch Interview ft. Rob Stein

“U.S. stocks rise; S&P 500 extends record climb”

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17Apr
17Apr
15Apr
15Apr
15Apr
15Apr
31Mar
31Mar
31Mar
31Mar
26Mar

Risk: A Four-Letter Word. That’s Good for the Market

The stock market has posted a solid start to the year, with the S&P 500 up some 6.5% in January and February. The reason (at least in part) is—risk. That four-letter word is good news for a market that, since the financial crisis, has been beleaguered by “complete uncertainty”—which left many investors with the sinking…

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All information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This is not a solicitation to offer investment advice or services in any state where to do so would be unlawful. Analysis and research are provided for informational purposes only, not for trading or investing purposes. All opinions expressed are as of the date of publication and subject to change. Astor and its affiliates are not liable for the accuracy, usefulness or availability of any such information or liable for any trading or investing based on such information. Please refer to Astor’s Form ADV Part 2 for additional information regarding fees, risks and services.