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Conscious Capital Perspectives: February 2020 Portfolio Update

| February 28, 2020
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COVID-19, popularly and generically referred to as “the (novel) coronavirus” has become that X factor we look for that comes from outside the markets and the normal news cycle to disrupt the status quo. While issues we have previously discussed like Brexit, the Hong Kong protests, and Iranian conflict are meaningful, markets generally take them in stride and try to price the risk. It may result in days or weeks of volatility, but eventually investors settle on how to value it. COVID-19, like Zika and SARS before it, is different. Brexit or HK are the product of people making active decisions. They may be decisions with adverse outcomes, but they are understandable, observable, and follow some kind of reasoning, whether or not we agree with it. Something like this virus introduces another dimension of uncertainty, because for now, we do not fully grasp the impact it will have on global health. So, even though we can observe and predict human decisions on how they are likely to respond to set information, the responses are and will continue to be dynamic based on the emerging understanding of and consequences of the virus.

We are not doctors, nor do we play them on TV, but we have been closely following not just the news cycle, but the output of expert organizations tasked with addressing this challenge. Indications continue to be that it is more easily spread than SARS and the bird flu, but the health impact appears to be less for healthy populations and the fatality rate lower for at-risk individuals, although most definitely and regrettably not zero. That does not mean this is something we take lightly either as investors or as global citizens. But it does help us chart a path forward. In the near term, the containment efforts are aggressive and the impact on society and commerce severe. As we have seen in China and now in South Korea, this has had an enormous impact on daily life and stopped business more or less in its tracks. The latest round of market reactions was triggered by a cluster of cases in Italy, which brings developed Europe into play. Emerging clusters in other areas like Iran suggest that with China as the vector, anywhere globally they have engagement and influence is a likely launch point for more cases. Inevitably this will lead to spread in parts of the world that either do not have the autocratic control of China or the health care infrastructure of Italy or Japan to address them, and we could see this accelerate to a global pandemic. 

But, as counterintuitive as it sounds, from the investor’s perspective this may not be the worst thing. The economic damage being done is mostly from the preventative measures being taken to slow or stop the spread of the virus. Public transit is halted, air travel grounded, borders closed, events canceled, factories shut down, etc. 

If we find ourselves at a moment where these measures no longer restrain the spread of the illness, the focus will shift to healthcare and hygiene, as with seasonal flu and other communicable illnesses, and business ought to return to some semblance of normal. But in the near term, we are observing the volatility that comes with uncertainty, and also expect some degree of repricing as global economies absorb the consequences of lower activity. It is also not out of the realm of the possible that central banks will follow China’s lead and intervene to keep the economic engines running.

Against this backdrop we took the step of lowering our commitment from an equity overweight to ‘neutral’, which is to say we own global equities in roughly the same proportions as our benchmarks. We sold primarily US large cap equity through various mutual funds and ETFs depending on the model in order to achieve this. The proceeds were committed to the safe harbor of cash instruments while we evaluate conditions and markets further. As always, we are continuously assessing changing conditions both for the better and the worse and will act appropriately on those insights.

DISCLOSURES

Conscious Capital Wealth Management, LLC is a registered investment adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.  Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

It is important to remember that there are risks inherent in any investment and that there is no assurance that any money manager, fund, asset class, style, index or strategy will provide positive performance over time.

Diversification and strategic asset allocation do not guarantee a profit nor protect against a loss in declining markets. All investments are subject to risk, including the loss of principal.

The information contained herein is based upon the data available as of the date of this document and is subject to change at any time without notice.

Portfolios that invest in fixed income securities are subject to several general risks, including interest rate risk, credit risk, the risk of issuer default, liquidity risk and market risk. These risks can affect a security’s price and yield to varying degrees, depending upon the nature of the instrument, and may occur from fluctuations in interest rates, a change to an issuer’s individual situation or industry, or events in the financial markets. In general, a bond’s yield is inversely related to its price. Bonds can lose their value as interest rates rise and an investor can lose principal. If sold prior to maturity, fixed income securities are subject to gains/losses based on the level of interest rates, market conditions and the credit quality of the issuer.

Foreign investments are subject to risks not ordinarily associated with domestic investments, such as currency, economic and political risks, and may follow different accounting standards than domestic investments. Investments in emerging or developing markets involve exposure to economic structures that are generally less diverse and mature, and to political systems that can be expected to have less stability than those of more developed countries. These securities may be less liquid and more volatile than investments in U.S. and longer-established non-U.S. markets.

An investment in small/mid-capitalization companies involves greater risk and price volatility than an investment in securities of larger capitalization, more established companies. Such securities may have limited marketability and the firms may have more limited product lines, markets and financial resources than larger, more established companies. 

Portfolios that invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs) are subject to many of the risks associated with direct real estate ownership and, as such, may be adversely affected by declines in real estate values and general and local economic conditions.

Portfolios that invest a significant portion of assets in one sector, issuer, geographical area or industry, or in related industries, may involve greater risks, including greater potential for volatility, than more diversified portfolios.

Important Disclosures: Exchange-Traded Funds

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are investment vehicles that are legally classified as open-end investment companies or unit investment trusts (UITs) but differ from traditional open-end investment companies or UITs. ETF shares are bought and sold at market price (not net asset value) and are not individually redeemed from the fund. This can result in the fund trading at a premium or discount to its net asset value, which will affect an investor’s value. Shares of certain ETFs have no or limited voting rights. ETFs are subject to risks similar to those of stocks. 

ETFs included in portfolios may charge additional fees and expenses in addition to the advisory fee charged for the Selected Portfolio. These additional fees and expenses are disclosed in the respective fund/note prospectus. For complete details, please refer to the prospectus.

For additional information regarding advisory fees, please refer to the Fee Summary and/or Fee Detail pages (if included with this report) and the program sponsor's/each co-sponsor's Form ADV Part 2, Wrap Fee Brochure or other disclosure documents, which may be obtained through your advisor.

Certain ETFs have elected to be treated as partnerships for federal, state and local income tax purposes. Accordingly, investors in such ETFs will be taxed as a beneficial owner of an interest in a partnership. Tax information for such ETFs will be reported to investors on an IRS schedule K-1. Investors should consult with their tax advisors in determining the tax consequences of any investment, including the application of state, local or other tax laws and the possible effects of changes in federal or other tax laws.

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