Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 3

Defending First Amendment Freedoms, Part 3

Gretchen Morgenson delivered the keynote address, titled “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” at Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III, the annual major conference that Cumberland sponsors at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM).

Morgenson is Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at the Wall Street Journal. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist notable as the longtime writer of the Fair Game column for the New York Times. In November 2017 she moved from the Times to the Journal.

Following the conference, she signed copies of her book Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon at an event that benefited the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. The CPJ “defend[s] the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. around the world.” Learn more about the CPJ here: https://cpj.org/about/.

Here is a YouTube of Morgenson’s keynote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoFDUbQdsBo.

She then engaged with the audience in a Q&A session. Here is a YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGNxZcSV3Ss.

Financial Literacy Day III was open to the public, and the auditorium was packed. Registration cost was just 50 bucks, which included lunch. Our partners for the event were USFSM, the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), and the Financial Planning Association of Florida (FPA).

We are proud supporters of all three partner organizations and were pleased to bring this high quality dialogue to the greater Florida Westcoast region and to the rest of the world via the event livestream. From our email flow we see that viewers responded from five of the seven continents – we are not sure about the Antipodean realm or Antarctica.

Part one of our Defending First Amendment Freedoms is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms/. Part two is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms-part-2/. For future GIC program plans see https://www.interdependence.org/events/.

We hope you found the conference and the First Amendment series worthwhile.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Cumberland Advisors Week in Review (April 8, 2019 – April 12, 2019)


Week In Review
The Cumberland Advisors Week in Review is a recap of news, commentary, and opinion from our team. These are not revised assessments, and circumstances may have changed in the market from the time of original publication. We also include older commentaries that our editors have determined may be of interest to our audience. Your feedback is always welcome.

MATT MCALEER’S WEEKLY RECAP

As part of Cumberland Advisors’ continuous effort to maintain strong customer relationships, we offer this week’s short video discussing current market conditions and how we are positioning portfolios.

Interesting week in the equity market. A couple of things jump out at us. Continued strength in the equal weighted indexes vs. cap weighted. We like to see that. That’s showing capital spreading out in the market. What else we noticed and like to see is some underperforming sectors like energy and financials getting a little bid in here.

There are multiple ways to trade a tough position. Financials! The “dogs” of the last 24-36 months. We look at them. And how things relate to pricing power.

On April 11, 2019, Cumberland Advisors’ held the event, Financial Literacy Day III: An Update on Financial Markets and the Economy. We really enjoyed this opportunity to connect with our friends, clients, and the community that live and work near us in Florida.

If you couldn’t attend or you did attend and want to re-experience this information packed day, we’re posting talks and panels from the event on our YouTube channel. Included in this email is Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address and Q&A session from the conference. We’ll be posting more videos over the next week or so. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience

 

See and read more of this at MailChimp’s site:
https://mailchi.mp/cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-week-in-review-april-8-2019-april-12-2019




Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 2

Dear Readers,

I got praise and punishment on “Defending First Amendment Freedoms” part 1. As expected, the deep and intense political division in our nation showed itself again. And there was the usual “blowback” about my writing about something more than just market analysis. For those critics who are money-only focused, I’ll start this piece with a prefatory comment that applies directly to your wallet.
Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary by David Kotok
Just think for a minute. Without an unrestricted free press, would you be able to read Gretchen Morgenson’s story on insurance regulation in the WSJ? (“A State Investigator, the Financial-Adviser ‘Heir’ and an Elderly Client: How Lines Get Blurred in Insurance Regulation,” April 6, 2019: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-state-investigator-the-financial-adviser-heir-and-an-elderly-client-how-lines-get-blurred-in-insurance-regulation-11554548401) Or could you find Heather Long’s reporting in the WAPO on Steve Moore? (“Trump’s Fed nominee Stephen Moore was found in contempt of court for failing to pay ex-wife more than $333,000,” April 5, 2019: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/06/trumps-fed-nominee-stephen-moore-was-found-contempt-court-failing-pay-ex-wife-more-than/?utm_term=.14176d11ed50)

The free press tells investors about a large aircraft maker in trouble or about a huge bank misbehaving or about an auto manufacturer’s misdeeds. First Amendment rights are the most basic underpinning of American life, our economy, and our financial markets.

Now let’s get started on free speech.


Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Part 2: Freedom of Speech

First Amendment rights are a big part of what has made America great; and yet, tragically, for most of their history the US government and the states have systematically and legally denied the fundamental rights of many of our citizens. Early American governance was white, land owning and male. Indeed, until the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, African Americans were not even recognized as citizens; and citizenship was not extended to Native Americans until 1924. Remember that women’s suffrage was ratified as the 19th amendment in 1920, and we will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year in conjunction with the presidential election.

The yawning gulf between America’s aspirations as the Land of the Free and its political realities, especially with respect to race and religion, was so obvious that when, in 1935, the German National Socialist Party sought to codify the Third Reich’s race-based legal philosophy, it dispatched a team of 45 lawyers to the US, to gain “special insight into the workings of American legal and economic life through study and lectures.” The delegation was warmly received at a reception organized by the New York City Bar Association.

This disgraceful episode in our history is detailed in a November 2017 article in The Atlantic, entitled “What America Taught the Nazis,” by Ira Katznelson, a professor of political science and history at Columbia University. Katznelson focuses on the work of James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School and author of the book Hitler’s American Model. Katznelson writes:

“Every day brings fresh reminders that liberal and illiberal democracy can entwine uncomfortably, a timely context for James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model, which examines how the Third Reich found sustenance for its race-based initiatives in American law.”

Let’s recall that even as the Nazis were relocating and then exterminating vast numbers of Jews and other ethnic and socially marginal populations in Europe, the US, under the guise of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, was stripping tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry of their property and forcing them to relocate to internment camps (even as many of these loyal citizens enlisted in the US armed forces and went on to fight bravely against the Axis powers). Tom C. Clark, retired Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court wrote:

“The truth is – as this deplorable experience proves – that constitutions and laws are not sufficient; they must be given life through implementation and strict enforcement. Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of laws, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied under Executive Order 9066.”

And not just in shaky legal underpinnings has the US failed its citizens and given comfort and support to the forces of racial, political, and economic oppression; we have done so in the public arena as well. For instance, on February 20, 1939, 20,000 people filled Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism. This largely forgotten event is recounted in a documentary film titled A Night at The Garden, directed by Marshall Curry and produced by Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook. The seven-minute film, which consists entirely of archival footage of the event, premiered at Sundance in 2018 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/237489146. See also https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/american-nazi-organization-rally-madison-square-garden-1939/.

At this gathering, Nazi Fritz Kuhn, a German-born, naturalized American citizen, calls for America, assuredly a nation of immigrants, to be controlled by only a subset of the myriad citizens who built and defended the country:

“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Americans, American patriots, I am sure I do not come before you tonight as a complete stranger. You all have heard of me through the Jewish-controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail. We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it. If you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter, first, a socially just, white, Gentile-ruled United States. Second, Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish, Moscow-directed domination.”

There is something quite familiar today about this language of exclusion, this valorizing of one group paired with the systematic disparaging of others, including those who raise their voices to object. Do take the time to watch this short film. Then ponder this question: if American Nazis were to pack Madison Square Garden for a rally today, would their First Amendment right to free speech be protected? An article on History.com explains,

“The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what types of speech is protected. Legally, material labeled as obscene has historically been excluded from First Amendment protection, for example, but deciding what qualifies as obscene has been problematic. Speech provoking actions that would harm others – true incitement and/or threats – is also not protected, but again determining what words have qualified as true incitement has been decided on a case-by-case basis.” (Source: https://www.history.com/topics/united-states-constitution/first-amendment#section_3)

We may get a sense of the current limits to free speech by examining the Unite the Right rally that was held in Charlottesville, VA, from August 11 to 12, 2017. According to Wikipedia (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally),

“Protesters were members of the far-right and included self-identified members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and various militias. The marchers chanted racist and anti-semitic slogans, carried semi-automatic rifles, Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols (such as the swastika, Odal rune, Black Sun, and Iron Cross), the Valknut, Confederate battle flags, Deus Vult crosses, flags and other symbols of various past and present anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic groups.”

The march was allowed to proceed; but on the morning of August 12, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, stating that public safety could not be safeguarded. Then, within an hour, the Virginia State Police declared the rally to be an unlawful assembly. By then, however, the event had turned violent after protesters clashed with counter-protesters, leaving more than 30 injured. And a couple hours later, at around 1:45 PM, self-identified white supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr., deliberately drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters about half a mile away from the rally site, killing one person and injuring nearly 40 others. Readers are invited to read the rest of the documentation of this recent history for themselves. There is much political debate from all sides about Charlottesville.

Fast forward, and on March 22, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order requiring colleges to certify that their policies support free speech as a condition of receiving federal research grants. The president had promised earlier in the month in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he would do something about what he called a political climate on liberal college campuses that discourages discourse. His executive order makes research funding conditional on “compliance with the First Amendment” and directs federal agencies to ensure that institutions receiving federal research or education grants “promote free inquiry.” (Source: https://www.npr.org/2019/03/22/705739383/trump-and-universities-in-fight-over-free-speech-federal-research-funding)

Political posturing aside, we agree with President Trump’s use of the words “compliance with the First Amendment.”

It takes freedom of speech to defend the First Amendment and articulate why you are doing so. This essay is an example. And it takes freedom of the press to investigate and report. It takes a citizenry willing to think about issues and engage in civil debate for a democracy to succeed. If we, the public, are lazy or distracted, we end up with the government we deserve. History says we won’t like the government we get if most of us are passive about it.

I personally defend the rights of writers and media personalities, even when I disagree with them. I use their work in my time-consuming effort to sort out facts from opinions. At Cumberland, we constantly review all media in our daily effort to comprehend finance and economics. In the opinion category, we watch the pro-Republican Fox trio of Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham and the pro-Democrat CNN trifecta of Cooper, Cuomo, and Lemon. We see or hear Maddow and Limbaugh. We can list many others. Watching or hearing or reading all of them is to get a more holistic view of the divided America we have become.

Only a vigorous defense of the US Constitution, and the First Amendment in particular, stands between our repeating history and suffering further tragic outcomes. That is why freedom of speech and of the press are so important. George Santayana’s famous dictum applies: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

On April 11, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, is the keynote speaker at Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event in Sarasota, Fla. Gretchen champions the free press; it’s not a left-right issue. Pertaining to her Fannie Mae investigative reporting, she cited the secrecy at the Obama White House as yet another sign of a pattern that Margaret Sullivan (public editor at The New York Times) identified as the administration’s “unprecedented secrecy and attacks on a free press.”
FINANCIAL MARKETS & THE ECONOMY Financial Literacy Day III Keynote Gretchen Morgenson (Book - Reckless Endangerment)
We encourage you to join us April 11th at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and hear Gretchen Morgenson’s accounts of exercising our cherished First Amendment to uncover truth at the highest levels of government and business. Details below.


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
•    The Stock Market
•    Health Hunger and Philanthropy
•    How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
•    A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
•    Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.Aa




International Stocks Off to a Strong Start in Q2 Despite a Heavy Fog of Uncertainty

Global stock markets are continuing to advance following one of the best first-quarter performances in years, with the global iShares MSCI ACWI ETF, ACWI, gaining 14.9% year-to-date April 5th.

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary

That increase includes strong advances in US stocks. Excluding the US market, the gains in international stock markets have also been impressive. The iShares MSCI ACWI ex US ETF, ACWX, is up 12.9% on a total-return basis. This continued equity market strength is occurring in the face of the heavy uncertainty clouding the outlook for the second quarter and beyond. Important issues for investors include the outcome of the convoluted Brexit drama, the US-China trade talks and other trade disputes, and the dimensions of the moderation underway in global economic growth, in particular growth prospects for China, the US, and Germany. Positive outcomes for these issues would validate recent market gains and provide a tailwind to stocks. Downside risks, however, are significant. Until the fog clears, we can expect volatile markets.

We, of course, do not know how these matters will develop, but recently we have noted some favorable signs. The White House and Chinese sources are signaling that a trade agreement between the two countries may result during the coming weeks, with a signing event involving Presidents Trump and Xi looking increasingly likely. Both parties appear to want a deal. This agreement, which President Trump suggests will be “very monumental,” will most likely have to leave some of the more difficult issues to further negotiations. There are other trade disputes that create uncertainties for investors. The administration’s agreement with Mexico and Canada on revisions to NAFTA is under challenge in Congress, and the US and Europe have yet to resolve their trade disputes.

With respect to the economic outlook, concerns about the slowdown in China have been eased by some positive data. The Chinese government’s efforts to stimulate the economy appear to be having productive effects. If the Chinese economy, the globe’s second largest, does manage to advance at a still-robust 6%-plus pace, this momentum will deliver an important boost to the global economy. It would certainly help the largest economy in Europe, Germany, where the recent slowdown is due in part to weakness in exports to China. Concerns about the strength of the US economy, including some predictions for a recession, also appear to be overdone. Recent data suggest continued strength. Another reason for cautious optimism is the accommodative stance of US monetary policy, which is being followed by the world’s other major central banks.

No one knows how the three years of uncertainty since the June 2016 “Brexit” referendum in the UK will be resolved. The situation changes daily, and it now appears that this uncertainty will likely continue for months and maybe longer. The inability of United Kingdom’s politicians to agree how to leave the European Union has already seriously harmed the British economy. Investment decisions have been deferred or redirected. Britain’s reputation as a desirable host for foreign investment has been damaged, and financial institutions are moving staff and operations to other EU countries.

The date of April 12, when the UK could be forced by legal default into a no-deal departure, is getting perilously close. The effects of such a break would likely push the UK economy into recession, and European Union economies would also suffer. Realizing this danger, both sides are seeking to kick the can down the road. Prime Minister May has written to the EU requesting a delay until June 30. She indicates that this postponement will mean the UK will have to prepare to participate in the EU elections on May 23–26 with the provision that the UK could withdraw from the elections if a deal can be finalized earlier.

The European Council president, Donald Tusk, is proposing a much longer extension that would be “flexible” in that the UK could leave earlier if the UK Parliament reaches an agreement on a deal. Any such extension would have to be agreed by all 27 remaining EU members at their emergency summit meeting next Wednesday, April 10th. The EU has said they would need to see some real progress in the UK’s development of a separation deal to be willing to grant an extension. It is looking likely that an extension will be agreed. If indeed significant progress on reaching a deal can be demonstrated, the EU may be willing to agree to the shorter extension requested by the UK. Otherwise, the EU may insist on a longer delay. The possibility of a disagreement on this point presents an additional risk of an unintended no-deal Brexit.

It is difficult to follow the daily developments in the disarray in Britain’s Parliament over Brexit. This is particularly the case for most US readers who are unfamiliar with the UK’s parliamentary system, which is very unlike the US system, even though the inability to reach decisions may sound familiar. The European Union’s political system is also quite different from that of the US. The deadlock in the UK Parliament reflects sharp divisions within both major parties, the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party. The lawmakers of both parties in the House of Commons include both strong proponents of leaving the EU (some of whom are willing even to suffer crashing out with no arrangements for what follows) and strong proponents of a “soft” Brexit that involves maintaining a close trade relation with the EU, perhaps in the form of a customs union. Some of the latter would like to cancel the decision to leave. Many would like to see a second referendum held to check the current preferences of the public. Efforts to find a plan that could gain a majority vote have failed, including the plan of Prime Minister Theresa May, which she had negotiated with the EU.

In desperation and against the wishes of some fellow Conservative Party cabinet members, May last week entered into discussions with the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, attempting to find a compromise withdrawal deal that the House of Commons could support. Following an initial meeting between the party leaders, Conservative and Labour teams are engaged in intensive negotiations aimed at developing a compromise withdrawal agreement that will include a political declaration. It is the latter, nonbinding declaration that might contain the idea of a customs union or a Norway-model option. It may well also contain the idea of a second referendum. If these talks succeed, the plan would be presented to the EU at the Union’s emergency summit Wednesday, April 10th. If there is no progress before the April 10 summit, May will likely be forced to accept a lengthy delay to avoid a no-deal crash-out. Investors and businesses would then face an extended period of continued uncertainty about the UK’s future relations with the EU countries.

Despite the continued uncertainties about the eventual outcome of Brexit, which involves far more complexity than we could summarize above, investors appear to be increasingly optimistic. The iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF, EWU, is up 2.4% over the past five market days and 15.1% year-to-date April 5th. This performance is better than the Eurozone’s, as the iShares Eurozone ETF, EZU, has gained 13.4%. We are more hesitant with respect to UK stocks at this time. The possibility of a no-deal exit still remains. In addition, the harm already done to the UK economy does not appear to be fully appreciated. The New York Times reports that economists estimate that the British economy is 1.0–2.5% smaller than it would have been without the referendum vote. One can question this analysis, but the 1% decline in business investment expected this year will be evident to all. The financial jobs already lost to Europe will not likely return. The longer Brexit uncertainty persists, the more damage will be done to the UK economy and its reputation. Certainly, a smooth separation process followed by continued strong trade relations would be an important plus for the UK and EU markets, but this outcome is not yet assured.

Bill Witherell, Ph.D.
Chief Global Economist
Email | Bio

Sources: Financial Times, New York Times, Action Economics, cnn.com, BBC News, CNBC.com


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Cumberland Advisors Week in Review (April 1, 2019 – April 5, 2019)

Week In Review
Dogma! As traders and investors, dogma is something we always have to fight against. Dogma is the enemy of traders and investors. Group-think and thinking you know the answer to an outcome that is in the future is a quick way to the poor-house. One of the things we like to do here at Cumberland Advisors is try to understand the other side of our trades as well as our own trades. We share thoughts on the noise around the inversion of the yield curve. Does it mean recession? And is it 12, 18, 24, 36 months out? What does automatic thinking tell us and should we follow it? Don’t forget about our event on April 11, 2019, Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III.

Read the full Week in Review here.




Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary
Part 1: Freedom of the Press
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [emphasis ours]

Early last month we learned that journalists who covered the migrant caravan that approached the US border in late 2018, seven Americans among them, have since repeatedly been singled out for unusual scrutiny by the Border Patrol at the US-Mexico border. On March 6, NBC 7 of San Diego revealed the Border Patrol’s intelligence gathering behind extra interviews, demands to examine laptops and phones, and even instances in which two photojournalists and an attorney were denied entry to Mexico. (For that televised report, see https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.) The US government has been collecting intelligence on Americans who accompanied the caravan as journalists, attorneys, witnesses, social media influencers, and activists. Screenshots of that database of “Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media,” supplied by an anonymous source in the Department of Homeland Security, show that alerts were placed on several journalists’ passports, triggering the extra scrutiny they encountered. (See screenshots at https://www.nbcsandiego.com/multimedia/PHOTOS-Leaked-Documents-to-NBC-7-Investigates-506782041.html.)

Some journalists felt that Border Patrol agents were attempting to use them and their devices to glean intelligence on the caravan, jeopardizing confidential sources and their rights as journalists to do their jobs. Phones and laptops have been requested, along with the passwords needed to inspect their contents. In fact, there have been complaints from other Americans about similar warrantless searches going back as far as 2011, and not just those leveled by journalists and others traveling with the migrant caravan. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/us/politics/us-border-privacy-phone-searches.html.)

But laws that enable warrantless searches for Homeland Security purposes can collide head on with the work of a free press, as journalists must now resort to handling the security of their data at the US-Mexico border just as they would handle it in hostile nations, and they must plan on the possibility that they will be detained for lengthy interviews or even denied access.

In fact, it was the very fact that they were documenting the caravan’s arrival when violence broke out at the border in San Diego that resulted in alerts being placed on their passports. (See the 4:20 p.m. update in the NBC 7 article: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.)

But, according to one Homeland Security source, the dossiers created on journalists and others were, in fact, illegal. “We are a criminal investigation agency; we’re not an intelligence agency. We can’t create dossiers on people, and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.” (https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html) Targeting people according to their presence and their profession also constitutes overreach. To be targeted and tracked and profiled simply because you are in a particular place at a particular time doing your job should not be a situation any member of the press faces. To implement such a practice is effectively to discourage coverage of events at the border altogether. It is intimidation and interference, and Amendment I forbids that practice in the United States of America.

Let’s make this clear: Whatever CPB’s intentions and purposes may have been, the pragmatic effect of its actions amounted to interference in journalists’ ability to do their jobs and without compromising sources. The press cannot rightfully be impeded in its work or subjected to warrantless searches simply for witnessing and reporting. This is, however, what has been happening, though journalists are not alone. (Information security and warrantless searches are sometimes issued for business travelers, too, as one Apple employee learned last fall: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/03/apple-employee-detained-by-us-customs-agents-after-declining-unlock-phone-laptop.) Details of the experiences of journalists covering the migrant caravan have been reported in several sources. See https://cpj.org/2019/02/several-journalists-say-us-border-agents-questione.php and https://wamu.org/story/19/03/07/u-s-reportedly-compiled-database-of-journalists-working-along-southwest-border/.

After the story broke, CBP responded with a statement (which can be viewed in full at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5759650-CBP-Full-Statement.html), noting that “Criminal events, such as the breach of the border wall in San Diego, involving assaults on law enforcement and a risk to public safety, are routinely monitored and investigated by authorities. These activities could result in a more thorough review of those seeking entrance into our country. It is protocol following these incidents to collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if the event was orchestrated. CBP and our law enforcement partners evaluate these incidents, follow all leads garnered from information collected, conduct interviews and investigations, in preparation for, and often to prevent future incidents that could cause further harm to the public, our agents, and our economy.”

According to a report in the Guardian, “Andrew Meehan, CBP’s assistant commissioner of public affairs, said the agency identified individuals who may have information related to incidents where CBP agents were attacked in November and January. ‘CBP does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting,’ Meehan said in a statement.”

The CBP’s mission to investigate, however, cannot overstep its reach to trump the country’s First Amendment right to a free press.

Esha Bhandari, an ACLU staff attorney, quoted in a recent article in the Guardian, sees the practice of targeting journalists among others not only as violating freedom of the press, but as deterring free speech more broadly: “It means that the debate about immigrants’ rights, about the treatment of immigrants, about the treatment of asylum seekers, is going to be suppressed or censored because the people who are speaking out with a voice that’s critical of the government are going to be singled out for harsher treatment or punished.” Advocates for immigrants’ rights also feel this pressure under an administration particularly aggressive about curbing immigration and deporting undocumented immigrants already in the US (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/20/leaked-database-targeting-journalists-immigration-activists).

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has tracked warrantless searches and documents regarding the extent to which their overall use has expanded: “CBP figures show that over the past three years the agency has increased the number of electronic device searches from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 30,000 in 2017. This more-than-threefold increase comes as journalists report being concerned about their ability to protect sources and amid growing hostile rhetoric toward the press” https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-search-phone-press-freedom-cbp.php.

The CPJ has made a series of recommendations to Congress, to DHS, and to the media, designed to ensure that freedom of the press and the rights of journalists and others are not violated by CBP practices. Those recommendations are laid out in full at the CPJ website: https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-press-freedom-recommendations.php.

Highlights of CPJ’s recommendations follow:

Recommendations

To Congress

  • “Pass legislation that would require DHS to obtain a warrant before searching devices at the border, which is essential to protecting the privacy of journalists who are traveling into or out of the United States.
  • “Pass legislation that requires DHS to report the number of basic and advanced electronic device searches conducted at the border, along with demographic breakdowns of who these device searches affect, and the number of searches that result in evidence later used in a criminal case. These reporting requirements should include the number of people subject to device searches who object to device searches on the grounds that they are members of the media.
  • “The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs should hold a hearing to ask detailed questions of DHS about electronic device searches, including their impact on journalists, any guidelines the agency has in place regarding interactions with the media, and the number of device searches conducted pursuant a request by another agency, with statistics from each requesting agency….”

Department of Homeland Security

  • “DHS should not use secondary screenings at the border to question journalists for the purpose of intelligence gathering that goes beyond the purpose of facilitating lawful travel entry for that individual.
  • “DHS should modify its policy on electronic device searches to require a warrant and probable cause before searching digital information contained on devices. In the case of journalists, it should work with media organizations to establish clear guidelines on when a warrant can be issued to search devices belonging to a member of the media, similar to those established by the Department of Justice.”

Newsrooms

  • “Newsrooms should ensure that journalists are trained in digital security when crossing the border. They should work with legal counsel and security experts to provide guidance for how journalists should respond to questioning at the border or requests to search their electronic devices.
  • “Journalists should take steps to minimize the amount of sensitive information that they are carrying across the U.S. border and ensure that they take appropriate steps to safeguard their digital security and that they are aware of their rights.”

Warrantless searches, especially of journalists who are mere witnesses doing their jobs to document events, are a disturbing trend in the US. Constitutionally guaranteed rights do not preserve themselves. Americans must exercise vigilance and demand accountability from every agency in our government. It is, after all, a free press that affords us the reporting that enables us to hold our government accountable.

The famous words often attributed to Edmund Burke remain a riveting reminder for our times: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” (See https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/.)

To speak out against CBP interference with journalists’ work, call your Senator and your Representative:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To donate to the Committee to Protect Journalists, access this link: https://donate.cpj.org/page/28608/donate/.

Note that on April 11, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, is the keynote speaker at Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event. Gretchen is a champion of the free press. Pertaining to her Fannie Mae investigative reporting, she cited the secrecy at the Obama White House as yet another sign of a pattern that Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at The Times, has called the administration’s “unprecedented secrecy and attacks on a free press.”

If you’re a proponent of the First Amendment and its importance to our republic, please join us April 11th at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

The conversation continues at “Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 2


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address, “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary –  Trump Tax Reform: Looking Backward and Forward

Two members of the research department of the Banque de France have published an interesting note important to US investors. We applaud the work of Cristina Jude and Francesco Pappada. The title is “Does the Trump corporate tax reform impact the composition of the US current account?” Here is a direct link to their paper: https://blocnotesdeleco.banque-france.fr/en/blog-entry/does-trump-corporate-tax-reform-impact-composition-us-current-account . We thank the authors and the Banque de France for permission to share this work with our readers.

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary

The implications of their findings give us reason to pause and reflect on the impacts on US markets. Note how they describe the issue of “profit hoarding” and “profit shifting.” Also note the roles of “small jurisdictions,” which they list as Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Switzerland. Their paper is well-documented, and links to their backup citations are in the paper.

I have been mulling over the implications of their comments on repatriation in particular. They present data to suggest that the transitory effects are nearly over. That development has implications for portfolio management. It also means that there are second-derivative implications as multinational corporations return to a baseline allocation approach to their foreign-sourced profits.

So the activity in stock buybacks and dividends and internal corporate decisions attributable to repatriation are shifting. Note that if repatriation had a positive effect on your portfolio, their research suggests that the positive force is spent or nearly so.

There is another secondary effect on the short end of the yield curve.

A multinational corporation that was engaged in “profit hoarding” parked cash in special types of accounts in order to qualify for deferral of tax to the US. Those accounts were often held in Treasury bills. The repatriation of those monies caused the Treasury bills to be sold and the cash to be moved into the US-based banking system. The entire process usually happened in one day. Note that the aggregate of Treasury bills and banking system aggregates was unchanged. It is the ownerships that changed.

Those changes occurred in the very short end of the yield curve. They happened at the same time that other forces impacted short-term interest rates, so there is no way to know how much of the volatility in the front of the yield curve was attributable to this transitory effect. What we do know is that the transitory effect is ending, if the researchers are correct in their observations.

Only time and retrospective research will reveal the impacts.

Our final takeaway is that the repatriation flows provided a tailwind to the US stock market. That tailwind happened coincidentally with other tax-code changes and with policy changes. It seems to be ending.

Without a tailwind, the US securities markets have to realign to its absence. We will see what that means this year.

At Cumberland we maintain a cash reserve in our US ETF portfolios. In our bond accounts we have been taking profits as the rally in the Treasury market has steamrolled and yields have dropped precipitously. We think it is time for more defensive posturing in bonds. Yields don’t fall forever, and stocks require earnings growth rates to rise.

Also note that the number of listed stocks in the US has been declining since the late 1990s (see Where Have All the Public Companies Gone? https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-04-09/where-have-all-the-u-s-public-companies-gone). The average age of the remaining listed companies has nearly doubled. So we have a shrinking and older cohort of listed companies trading on the US exchanges (see How Did the U.S. Stock Market Get So Old? https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-05/how-did-the-u-s-stock-market-get-so-old).

Fewer stocks, which are older and therefore more mature companies, combined with a post-repatriation paradigm – that is what faces the stock market in 2019–2020.
David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Cumberland Advisors invites you to our “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, to be held April 11, 2019, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

Our focus is “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
•    The Stock Market
•    Health Hunger and Philanthropy
•    How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
•    A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
•    Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Cumberland Advisors Week in Review (Mar 25, 2019 – Mar 29, 2019)

The Cumberland Advisors Week in Review is a recap of news, commentary, and opinion from our team. These are not revised assessments, and circumstances may have changed in the market from the time of original publication. We also include older commentaries that our editors have determined may be of interest to our audience. Your feedback is always welcome.

Week In Review

MATT MCALEER’S WEEKLY RECAP

As part of Cumberland Advisors’ continuous effort to maintain strong customer relationships, we offer this week’s short video discussing current market conditions and how we are positioning portfolios.

Big Shakeup in the fixed income market. What did Matt see in Utilities? We talk about how was John actively managing our bond portfolio. John gives his thoughts on inflation, what it means for an active portfolio manager, where to be positioned, and thoughts on raising cash for opportunities. Are taxes at play in the bond market’s moves? Will there be  shakeout relating to high-tax states? How about the inverted yield curve? John weighs in.

For our local clients, friends, and fellow advisors, on April 11, 2019, Cumberland Advisors’ holds the event, Financial Literacy Day III: An Update on Financial Markets and the Economy. It’s open to the public and we really enjoy this opportunity to connect with so many of you that live and work near us in Sarasota, Fla. Folks in the financial advisor community are eligible for CEUs. See specific topics and the scheduled agenda at this link or in the section below: http://USFSM.edu/FinancialLiteracy

See the rest of this Week in Review (Mar 25, 2019 – Mar 29, 2019) on our Week in Review Email Archive Page.




1Q2019 Review: Tactical Trend

The Tactical Trend strategy is designed to allocate capital to the strongest primary asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, and cash. The strategy will always allocate to a minimum of two asset classes in an attempt to diversify risk.

CA-Matthew-C-McAleer

A solid bounce in the equity markets off the late December lows has continued through March. The initial move higher was led by small- and mid-cap stocks, but recently large-cap has rallied strongly. Over the past 12 months, growth stocks have traded with higher relative strength than value stocks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) remains our largest broad index holding, while small-cap is represented by the S&P Small-Cap 600 Growth ETF, IJT.

Our sector and industry exposure leans on technology, with allocations to the S&P 500 Tech Index ETF, RYT, as well as to Microsoft stock. The holding in RYT is equal-weighted, which allows us to get further down into the mid-cap space and not duplicate the weightings in QQQ. The strategy has also been helped by our biotech investment. After a brutal Q4, XBI has rallied well as one of the leading sectors YTD.

After a difficult 2018, international emerging markets began to rally late in the year and bottomed ahead of domestic stocks. Our allocation to emerging markets through the IEMG ETF provides the strategy exposure to the Asian and Latin American markets. While an added dose of volatility can be present in emerging markets, it is difficult to ignore their impressive growth forecasts.

Matthew C. McAleer
Executive Vice President and Director of Equity Strategies
Email | Bio

__________________________________________________________________

Cumberland Advisors invites you to our third annual Financial Literacy Day, to be held April 11, 2019, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Our focus is “Financial Markets and the Economy,” featuring:
Panels –
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook
Special Presentations –
• A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
• Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.
We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients. The cost is only $50 to register, and includes coffee, pastries, catered lunch, and a light reception with Gretchen Morgenson. Please reserve your spot soon – we expect a full auditorium. Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/



1Q2019 Review: Tax Free Municipal Bond – A Shining First Quarter for Munis

The first quarter of 2019 was a good one for the tax-free bond market, with yields falling during the quarter.

There are two main reasons that munis have had a good run so far this year.

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary

Muni supply is down. The drop last year has carried over to this year. Remember, 2018 supply was down almost 25% compared to 2017 supply, in part due to the glut that was issued at year-end 2017 to beat the tax bill. The market has struggled with lower supply since. A great deal of the drop in supply can be traced to the 2017 tax reform act, which prohibited advance refundings of older, higher-coupon municipal bonds. Refundings were an important source of supply in past years, particularly in 2014 and 2016.

Demand is also higher, particularly in the high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, and California. Because of the SALT provisions of the tax bill, the cost (in terms of foregone yield) of owning out-of-state bonds in these states is much higher. We don’t see this demand factor changing. (See our February piece regarding the SALT conundrum: http://www.cumber.com/the-salt-state-and-local-taxes-conundrum/.)

In the past few weeks, longer-maturity munis have also declined in yield as investors have moved further out on the yield curve to secure incremental yield. Also, the more dovish stance by the Federal Reserve since year end, reinforced in the March Federal Reserve meeting, has seemed to ease retail investors’ normal reluctance to invest in longer maturities. The tax-free muni yield curve is also much steeper than the Treasury yield curve is, with the difference between 10- and 30-year AAA munis at approximately 80 basis points while the difference between 10- and 30-year Treasuries is only 44 basis points.

What does all this positive movement in the muni market mean?

Clearly there has been a reversal in bond market sentiment since last October, when the 10-year Treasury reached nearly 3.25%. The 10-year is back to a 2.45 yield, but the drop of 80 basis points has been accompanied by almost no drop in the rate of core inflation (nor any rise). And even though headline inflation has fallen (mainly due to oil), the drop in REAL yields has caused us to reassess bond markets in general and tax-free bonds in particular.

We think the SALT provisions are resulting in people – particularly in high-tax states – paying MORE this year in income taxes. In a market that has seen a resumption of bond fund inflows, we are concerned that the approaching tax deadline may see some bond selling, either directly or in bond fund form, to pay for the taxes.

We are also concerned that state and local governments – again, particularly those in high-tax states – will be under pressure from their citizens to cut taxes to make up for the extra taxes being borne because of the SALT provisions. If high-tax states oblige but don’t cut expenses, debt-service coverage could suffer.

Last fall, we thought REAL rates were high, bond selling was overdone, and the muni yield of 4%-plus was a giveaway. That yield bogey is VERY hard to find in a bond market that has done an about-face in the past four months. Thus, we are getting more defensive at the margin to make sure we are positioned to take advantage of any volatility accompanying April 15th. When it gets crowded at our end of the boat, we generally start moving to the other end.

John R. Mousseau, CFA
President, Chief Executive Officer & Director of Fixed Income
Email | Bio

____________________________________________________________________

Cumberland Advisors invites you to our third annual Financial Literacy Day, to be held April 11, 2019, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

Our focus is “Financial Markets and the Economy,” featuring:

Panels –
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook
Special Presentations –
• A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
• Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.
We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients. The cost is only $50 to register, and includes coffee, pastries, catered lunch, and a light reception with Gretchen Morgenson. Please reserve your spot soon – we expect a full auditorium. Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/