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Stock ETFs Completely Decouple From U.S. Economic Concerns

When it comes to things like valuation alongside the promise of additional central bank intervention, small company exposure in the eurozone is a better "deal" than what one might want to pay for small-cap U.S. equities. That is why I have chosen to ride the relative strength run-up in iShares MSCI Small Cap EAFE (SCZ).

Still, decisions based on volatility, economic data, business cycle investing and/or regional valuation have not truly mattered. U.S. stock ETFs have completely decoupled from concerns about the U.S. economy. While a great deal of this is clearly attributable to central bank policies, Josh Brown of the Reformed Broker blog may have come up with another savvy explanation.

He wrote, "The vast majority of this snowballing asset base being reported by both wirehouse firms and RIAs is being put to work in a calm and methodical fashion: long-term mutual funds, tax-sensitive separately managed accounts and, of course, index ETFs. In fact, Vanguard's share of all fund assets -- now approaching 20% or $2.3 trillion -- is the vexillum behind which the entire do-less movement marches. It means that, almost no matter what happens, each week advisers of every stripe have money to put to work and they're increasingly agnostic about the news of the day."

How might one sum up the implication of this commentary? If Brown is right, the surging popularity of the fee-only management structure itself, where less transaction-based trading is the norm, cash goes into Vanguard stock indexing and it rarely leaves.

I'm not so sure. ETFs were meant to be traded, including Vanguard ETFs. It follows that there will be a bear market someday... and neither Fed policy nor fee-based registered investment advisers will be able to stop it from occurring. That said, the sensible registered investment advisers will have a plan in place to minimize losses when the inevitable bear shocks do-nothing participants.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

Gary Gordon, MS, CFP is the president of Pacific Park Financial, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC.
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