What do you get when you put a Harvard psychologist on stage at the same Hollywood venue where they hold the Academy Awards?
The answer is one gigantic dose of feel good. That was my takeaway last Wednesday night after attending a discussion given by Harvard University Professor Steven Pinker, a psychologist and best-selling author who just released a new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.”
The central thesis of this work is that by nearly every metric that matters — health, lifespan, inequality, environment, knowledge, safety, quality of life, happiness and especially wealth — the world has never been better than it is right now.
The cause of this human progress, argued Pinker, is the embrace of enlightenment values, chiefly reason and science, and the real-world application of these principles toward enhancing human existence.
In one truly dramatic chart from the book, Pinker shows the rise of Gross World Product from the year 1 through 2015. Here’s a snapshot of that chart that I took from my own copy.
As you can see, up until the late 1800s, the world made little-to-no progress in terms of economic growth.
Then, the graph goes parabolic, as the rise of capitalism, the industrial revolution and the growth of cities creates an undeniable and stunningly dramatic surge in economic flourishing.
It is charts like this one, some 75 of them, that make this book so beautiful, and so uplifting.
It is not often that you get to see how great human beings are, and how well we’ve done with our world. And despite all our Shakespearean flaws, bellicose urges and tribal tendencies, we’ve managed to continually improve, enhance and recreate our societies in an onward march toward more human flourishing.
Yes, there are some things we haven’t got right along the way (two world wars in the 20th century, for example). But the evidence of progress is undeniable, and it’s presented brilliantly in this must-read work.
So, in the spirit of Professor Pinker’s work, consider that over the past 12 months, the Dow is up more than 20% while the S&P 500 is up nearly 17%. The NASDAQ Composite has surged some 27.5%.
Looking further back, the Dow is up 72% over the last five years while the S&P 500 is up 77%. The NASDAQ Composite is up 129% in that span.
I could go back further, and the results would be even better, but I’ll stop here for now as I suspect you get my point.
The thing to realize here is that while there is no guarantee that human progress, and equity market progress, will continue in an upward trajectory, history clearly shows we’ve done a stellar job of making fools of the purveyors of doom and gloom.
Keep this in mind whenever you hear from those warning about the next devastating market crash.
ETF Talk: An Advanced Commodities Fund for the Ambitious Investor
The PowerShares Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 Portfolio ETF (PDBC) is, in the management’s own words, an “actively managed exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in commodity-linked futures and other financial instruments that provide exposure to some of the world’s most heavily traded commodities.”
PDBC is the sister fund of PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund (DBC). Both funds are managed by Invesco PowerShares, a longtime professional investment management firm with a total of 155 ETFs under its watch.
With $1.11 billion assets under management, PDBC is dwarfed in size by DBC and its $2.68 billion in assets. But PDBC charges a much smaller fee (expense ratio of 0.59% vs. 0.85%), while also paying out a distribution yield of 3.86%. PDBC trades in strong volume with small spreads and offers excellent underlying liquidity.
The fund is structured in a way for investors to avoid filing the K-1 tax form, which often can be much higher than the 15% or 20% long-term capital gains rate for dividends. The specifics will vary from investor to investor, so it’s important to do your own research before you attempt to take advantage of PDBC’s tax structure.
PDBC tracks the DBIQ Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Index (DBIQ), which is 55% invested in energy, 23% in agriculture, 13% in industrial metals and 10% in precious metals. All in all, PDBC provides investors with diversified commodities exposure and a portfolio hedge against inflation.
PDBC uses a sophisticated formula to maximize the yield of its portfolio and provide long-term capital appreciation. Year to date, the fund is down 0.46%, but over the last year it has returned 5.28%, as you can see in the chart below.
PDBC’s top commodity holdings are WTI Crude, 4.41%; Brent Crude, 4.16%; NY Harbor ULSD, 3.93%; Gasoline, 3.87%; and Gold, 2.64%.
For advanced investors who are seeking a play on the commodities market, I encourage you to look into the PowerShares Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 Portfolio ETF (PDBC).
As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
On Freedom, Fast Money and Sin City
What’s the one thing you can do to increase your freedom?
While some might say it’s getting politically active and working to enact legislative change, I say there’s something much more personal — and eminently easier — that you can do to increase your freedom quotient.
And, the best part of this freedom-enhancing move is that you’re also going to have a lot of fun in the process.
You see, the one thing you can do to increase your freedom is to get richer.
Yes, accumulating wealth is perhaps the best way to increase your personal freedom. The reason why is that having financial peace of mind allows you the freedom to do what you want — and to do it on your own terms.
Fortunately, increasing your wealth doesn’t have to be a mystery. In fact, all it takes is a little discipline, a little confidence and a little knowledge.
And, when it comes to the knowledge component, I am proud to announce that I, along with my investment advisor partner and world-renowned economist, Dr. Mark Skousen, will be teaming up to help provide you with the knowledge you can use to supercharge your freedom.
Along with Eagle Financial Publications Publisher Roger Michalski, Mark and I will be holding a special event we’re calling the “Fast Money Summit” at this year’s FreedomFest conference.
Known as “The World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds,” FreedomFest takes place July 11-14, 2018, at the Paris Resort, Las Vegas, NV.
Dr. Skousen and I will start the summit with a special session of our Fast Money Alert service, revealing our winning formula for successfully maneuvering through the treacherous market place by using our own special brand of fundamental and technical analysis.
In the past year, we’ve used our system to make substantial profits, including a stock that rose 120% in only six months.
Our session will include a specific stock recommendation that has equal potential to double in price in 2018.
Then you will meet with our experts in the “Eagle’s Nest,” a designated room for subscribers, and hear them reveal their most valued secrets to make you a much better investor and speculator. Roger Michalski, Eagle’s publisher, will be the moderator.
The Fast Money Summit also will feature some of the best and brightest of the investment field, including such luminaries as Jim Rogers, Donald Smith, Rob Arnott, Gary Smith, Doug Casey, Peter Schiff, George Gilder, Mark Mobius, Keith Fitz-Gerald, Alex Green, Robert Kiyosaki and many, many more.
If you want to put yourself on the path to achieving more personal freedom, then this event is aimed directly at you.
And, if you register for this event by March 31, you’ll get a very special discount price — and one that increases your freedom even more by increasing your savings!
We hope to see you there.
A Theory of Happiness
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
— Albert Einstein
It might seem a bit contradictory that a man of such profound genius and intellectual productivity would offer up this rather humble advice on happiness. Yet if you pause to consider it, a calm mind and a sense of modesty are critical components to achievement in life. That’s because both allow you to be happy “in the moment.” And when you’re happy in the moment, that is when you’re at your best. It is what athletes and artists sometimes describe as being “in the zone.” Strive for calmness and modesty, and success is more likely to come to you. Finally, big thanks to reader J.B. for sending me this week’s quote.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.