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Guidance on Choosing a Trustee

by Jim Ferraro, March 2017

It is easy to be passionate when speaking of our families, businesses or other life achievements. However, conversations can become uncomfortable when asked about what plans are in place to protect those things that are most important to us.

“Should I do any estate planning?” or “When should I start my planning?” are not the hardest questions. Often the harder questions are “What do I want to have happen to all that I have worked so hard to achieve?” and “Who do I trust to understand my goals and to carry-out my wishes?”

Successful people delay such planning for many reasons, among them that they would rather enjoy what they have made today and continue to achieve new goals rather than think about the unavoidable future and consider the more challenging questions.

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Monthly Reflections-Populism and Productivity

Populism and Productivity
by Ken Alderman, May, 2017

Populism is a political doctrine that espouses a commitment to the good of the common citizen. It is typically viewed negatively in that it appears to, or is assumed to, appeal to the prejudices and emotions of people of less means and educational attainment and portrays a dark and pessimistic vision of the future. Maybe it’s neither positive nor negative, but rather a reflection of the reality of growing income inequality, an aging population, the impact of globalization and the growing trend of replacing workers with automated devices. Add to this the inability of societies to continue to support a large and expensive social contract due to high debt levels and low economic growth and much of the governed becomes very dissatisfied. So, what’s the solution?

One solution that would clearly help is raising productivity. In general terms, productivity measures how much is produced per unit of input, with inputs being both capital and labor. Since labor and capital are in limited supply, how efficiently an economy uses these resources is important to growing household incomes and to raising standards of living for the population as a whole. A typical example of increased productivity is replacing workers with machines in manufacturing. Machines don’t get tired, don’t make mistakes, perform a task repeatedly with the same quality of execution and don’t take vacations, need sick leave or go on strike. There are many more subtle ways productivity is enhanced, such as writing a computer program to automate the input of data previously entered into the system by a team of people. Next time you get frustrated with the automated call system when calling your cable provider, think of it instead as a productivity enhancer (for the cable company, not you).

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Monthly Market Brief-May 2017

Each month, our Heritage Investment team publishes a market brief to provide an overview of the major factors influencing the US economy, including a summary of key sectors and the current positives & challenges.

Click Market Brief May 2017 for May 2017 updates.

Here are some key highlights:

POSITIVES:

  • The April employment report surprised to the upside as the U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs
  • Increased earnings growth along with slowly rising interest rates still make equities look relatively more attractive
  • With revenue surprises ex-financials the highest since 4th quarter 2014, company EPS growth in the 1st quarter 2017 has not been driven by cost cutting efforts alone
  • Even with a strengthening U.S. dollar, growth prospects abroad suggest international exposure remains attractive

CHALLENGES:

  • With equity and bond valuations running above average levels, investors should adjust near-term return expectations
  • With a lack of investment in new equipment and relatively soft innovation, productivity throughout the expansion has remained low
  • Because wage pressure is lacking, income growth remains relatively soft; thus, expectations for a big consumer spending spree in the 2ndquarter of 2017 seems unlikely

Monthly Market Brief-April 2017

Each month, our Heritage Investment team publishes a market brief to provide an overview of the major factors influencing the US economy, including a summary of key sectors and the current positives & challenges.

Click Market Brief April 2017 for April 2017 updates.

Here are some key highlights:

POSITIVES:

  • Construction spending rose 0.8% in February with a 1.2% increase in residential construction spending on single-family homes driving the results
  • Initial jobless claims declined a sharp 25,000 to 234,000 while the unemployment rate declined two tenths to 4.5%

CHALLENGES:

  • Non-farm payrolls added just 98,000 jobs in March, but the weaker-than-expected results may be at least partially explained by the winter storm that swept the Northeast
  • The continued contraction in vehicle sales points to weakness in consumer spending as the annualized rate fell to 16.6 million in March
  • The increasing trade deficit in response to period dollar strength and strong U.S. demand for foreign goods is not a positive indicator for first quarter GDP
  • With an unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare last month, the market appears to be scaling back its growth expectations with declining demand for stocks and increasing demand for long-term treasuries.

Investment Outlook – April 2017

The current equity market is the thirteenth bull market for the S&P 500 since 1928. At 96 months, it is the second longest bull run over the period: the longest, from 1990 to 2000, lasted 120 months and appreciated about 425%. The current market has appreciated “only” about 250%. The bull market in bonds began in the early 1980s when ten year Treasuries were yielding close to 16% and T-Bills were paying over 20%; currently, ten year Treasuries are yielding about 2.5% and 90 day T-Bills are paying .75%. The lowest bond yield in two and a half generations was breached earlier this year at 1.4%. Are we at an inflection point? Have interest rates finally begun their long anticipated reversal? And if interest rates are beginning to rise, can the equity market possibly survive?

WALL STREET
There is a theory, recently expressed in the Wall Street Journal, that low U.S. Treasury yields have provided the support for current valuations in the stock market. At the risk of oversimplification, the argument runs something like this: as long as bond yields are lower than stock dividend yields, income sensitive investors will continue to pour money into the stock market, thereby supporting prices. The dividend yield on the S&P 500 index, until very recently, exceeded the yield on ten year Treasuries. With some of the more recent increases in long term interest rates and the post-Trump run-up in stock prices, this premium has evaporated. According to the argument, the disappearance of the stock yield premium knocks the support out from under the market. There is substantial validity for this argument, particularly during periods of low earnings per share growth (not unlike the experience of the last eight years). But when there is some expectation of growth, or increased awareness of risk, the simple comparison of dividend yields to bond yields loses meaning. The math can get very complicated and highly dependent on estimates and assumptions, but the basic framework for evaluating stock dividend yields, as well as price to earnings ratios (P/Es), relies on three variables: growth, the risk free level of interest rates and risk. Growth is the expected growth rate of earnings or dividends (dividends tend to follow earnings); the risk free rate is usually the interest on U.S. Treasury Bills or Bonds; and risk appears as points added to the risk free rate as compensation for the uncertainty of earnings and dividends. Dividend yields tend to be elevated during periods of very low growth expectations. In such an environment, an increase in interest rates, and/or an increase in perceived risk, elevates the required rate of return on dividends and thereby raises the dividend yield by reducing the price of stocks. However, even in an environment of increasing required rates of return, if growth expectations rise more rapidly than rates, yields will fall and P/Es will rise with increasing prices.

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That Was Easy

by Ken Alderman, March 2017

One thing we can say for sure is that the political drama in Washington is definitely not boring. This month the long awaited “Repeal and Replace” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made its first appearance in the form of proposed legislation. The legislation stalled amid no Democratic support and a lack of support from the most conservative element of the Republican party. Many experts argue that the ACA is failing and something must be done and virtually everyone agrees the goal should be affordable quality health care for all.ken-alderman-website

While not an expert on the subject, it is clear premiums are up significantly in several states and insurers are leaving markets. It’s one thing to have coverage, it’s another to get quality care (just ask a veteran) and it’s still another to be able to afford the premiums, deductibles and co-pays to take advantage of the insurance coverage.

Unfortunately, our political process encourages politicians of all stripes to make promises without fully funding the costs of those promises. Since our nation lacks a balanced budget requirement, politicians can promise a new benefit, not raise taxes to pay for it and defer implementation–and the resulting economic pain–until after their next election.

Typically our politicians are very wide of the mark when it comes to fully funding a government program or understanding the effects of legislation affecting major portions of our economy. That’s how we have arrived at a national debt of nearly $20 trillion dollars with little hope that it can ever be seriously reduced. If politicians had to fully fund their promised programs and benefits, the programs and benefits would never get passed and re-election would become more problematic. But, once passed into law, how does any politician of any party take away a benefit from a voter? The answer is, they can’t and they won’t. As voters, we share the blame for allowing poor management of our country’s balance sheet.

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Monthly Market Brief – March 2017

Each month, our Heritage Investment team publishes a market brief to provide an overview of the major factors influencing the US economy, including a summary of key sectors and the current positives & challenges.

Click Market Brief March 2017 for March 2017 updates.

Here are some key highlights:

POSITIVES:

  • The PCE Price Index advanced sharply to 1.9% in January; as inflation approaches the Fed 2% target along with full employment, the Fed will have met economic health goals necessary to begin the advancement of rate hikes
  • Personal income along with wages & salaries rose a solid 0.4% in January
  • The health of the labor market appears relatively good as jobless claims remain unusually low

CHALLENGES:

  • Even with consumer confidence reaching highs not seen since the Reagan years, the post-election surge has yet to spark much traction in economic data
  • Driven by an unusual weakness in service spending and a reversal in auto sales, consumer spending posted the weakest result in 5 months, up only 0.2% in January
  • Both the ISM Manufacturing Index & the Philly Fed Index have been making headlines regarding strong advancements, but actual data has yet to confirm these positive assessments
  • Ongoing strength in the U.S. dollar continues to weigh on exports & drive imports higher as U.S. products are more expensive to foreign buyers & foreign products less expensive to U.S. buyers

Deidre Waltz Announced as New Managing Director

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (February 22, 2017) – Argent Financial Group and its subsidiary Argent Family Wealth Services (AFWS) are pleased to announce the addition of Deidre Waltz, CFP®, CIMA, CPWA as Managing Director.Deidre Pic 3

In her new role, Waltz will continue to develop AFWS’s services and collaborate with other Argent professionals to deliver these services to Argent’s high net worth client families. With over 30 years of experience in trust and investments, Deidre has overseen fiduciary relationships of wealthy multi-generational families and complex family office structures.

Waltz has distinguished herself by becoming a Certified Financial PlannerTM, a Certified Investment Management Analyst and a Certified Private Wealth Advisor. She is a graduate of Oklahoma City University and National Graduate Trust School focusing on trust and estate law and taxation.

“Deidre’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge make her a key addition to Argent Family Wealth Services.  Her hiring shows the firm’s commitment to being a leading services provider. We are very fortunate to add someone of Deidre’s caliber to fulfill this role,” said Mark Hartnett, AFWS President.

“Bringing family office solutions to our clients is a natural evolution for us and a perfect complement to our family wealth consulting practice. Deidre’s deep experience will help us develop a family office model that is pioneering and sustainable, and that meets the unique needs of our clients,” said Bond Payne, Argent’s Vice Chairman, Corporate Development.

“I am grateful Argent is able to continue to attract exceptionally talented individuals. Deidre’s highly specialized skill set and professional leadership enhance Argent’s ability to serve families with effective, long-term solutions.” added Kyle McDonald, CEO of Argent Financial Group.

 

David Luke Announced as President of Argent Mineral Management

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, February 14, 2017 – Argent Financial Group, Inc. has announced the promotion of David Luke to President of Argent Mineral Management, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary. Luke was named Managing Director of Heritage Mineral Management in 2014, and he led the group through its combination with Argent Property Services in 2016.David-Luke

Luke played a vital role in combining and renaming Argent Mineral Management and the entity has seen substantial growth under his leadership. In addition to his management role, he will continue to foster client relationships by providing industry analysis, negotiation, decision making, and financial oversight for mineral owners. Argent Mineral Management has offices in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Southlake and San Antonio, Texas, and Ruston and Shreveport, Louisiana. The firm’s team manages more than 2 million acres of mineral interests across 29 states.

“Argent Mineral Management is committed to employing highly qualified professionals who are willing to listen first so that we can best understand and serve our clients. David has demonstrated these qualities which have resulted in his attracting a large client base to Argent. We are pleased that he will be leading our Mineral Management group” said Kyle McDonald, CEO of Argent Financial Group.

“We are committed to growing our mineral management group. The promotion of David to President was an easy decision as he is a natural leader to our seasoned team and exemplifies the standard we hold for client service,” added Bond Payne, Vice Chairman of Argent Financial Group and chairman of Heritage Wealth Management. “I am grateful we were able to promote the best in class talent.”

“I am extremely excited for the future of Argent Mineral Management and its offerings, especially as we continue into a historic period in North American energy development,” says Luke. “The strength of this organization is its team, which has experience based in the oil and gas business and is located throughout the heart of America’s energy belt. I’m certainly appreciative of the opportunity.”

About Argent Financial Group Argent Financial Group, domiciled in Ruston, Louisiana, was formed in 1990 and traces its roots back to 1930. Responsible for more than $14.5 billion in client assets, Argent Financial Group provides individuals, institutions and businesses with a broad range of wealth management services including trust administration and related services, investment management, family office services, retirement plan and charitable organization administration, mineral (oil and gas) management, and financial, retirement and estate planning. For more information, visit www.ArgentFinancial.com.

Monthly Market Brief February 2017

Each month, our Heritage Investment team publishes a market brief to provide an overview of the major factors influencing the US economy, including a summary of key sectors and the current positives & challenges.

Click Market Brief February 2017 for February 2017 updates.

Here are some key highlights:

o POSITIVES:
o January non-farm payroll jobs came in at a solid 227,000 for a pace 50,000 jobs greater than the monthly average reported in 2016
o Inflation data remains tame but continues to trend higher as year-on-year total PCE increased 1.6%
o Consumer spending ended 2016 up 2.5 percent with spending on durable goods, particularly autos, reflecting the biggest gain in consumer spending followed by a 10.2% pop in residential investment
o Manufacturing posted strong gains in January with both the ISM & PMI, Manufacturing Indices reporting strength in new orders and increasing input costs in
response to demand
o CHALLENGES:
o Even while job growth continues at a relatively strong pace and the unemployment rate of 4.8% is at target, there is still apparent slack in the labor market as wage pressure remains relatively weak at 2.5%
o Consumer spending increased 0.5% in December; however, the increase is likely lower quality spending as a 0.2% decrease in consumer savings likely helped fund the increase

INVESTMENT OUTLOOK- JANUARY 2017

2017?

by Jim McElroy, jmcelroy@argentfinancial.com

Summary
 A calendar-year forecast for 2017 is even more difficult than usual because of the uncertainties accompanying the new regime in Washington
 Proposed tax reform, deregulation and fiscal stimulus could be good for the economy
 Despite Republican control of Congress and the White House, there is no guarantee that such reforms will occur
 Potential trade wars and the ballooning deficits from unfunded military and infrastructure spending are significant risks
 Interest rates and inflation will need to be monitored closely
 The strengthening of the dollar has beneficial and detrimental effects to the U.S.
 Despite the uncertainties, we are positive in our outlook and expect equities to outperform cash and bonds

investment

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Heritage Institutional- January 2017 Retirement Report

Each month, our Heritage Institutional team publishes the Retirement Report, which provides timely news and updates for plan sponsors and fiduciaries of defined contribution plans.  This month’s topics include:

  • To Bond or Not to Bond?
  • Complying with ERISA 404(c)

To read the full report, click here.