4th  Quarter 2004 Newsletter

For a year overshadowed by a high level of uncertainty, 2004 turned out to be all about optimism.  Investors who stayed the course were
rewarded in 2003 and 2004 with the first consecutive calendar years of positive equity returns since 1999.  Although many investors
were focused on concerns about the outcome of the U.S. elections, geopolitical events in the Middle East, and the fear of rising interest
rates, the fourth quarter saw uncertainty give way to optimism, and the equity markets staged a strong year-end rally.  

Both the equity and bond markets were reassured by the Federal Reserve, who followed through with their commitment to a slow-and-
steady policy of interest rate hikes.  The Fed raised rates twice during the fourth quarter (five times during the year), leaving the Federal
Funds Rate at 2.25% at the end of the year.  Despite the 1.25% increase in the Fed Funds Rate, long-term rates remained largely
unchanged, allowing the Lehman Aggregate Bond Index to show reasonable performance for the year.   
































As we move into 2005, two areas to keep a close eye on are the continued weakening of the dollar and growing U.S. trade and budget
deficits.  Many economists are concerned that a continued erosion of the dollar’s value in 2005, coupled with expanding deficits, could
have an inflationary effect on the U.S. economy, which would trigger an increase in long-term interest rates.

An additional factor likely to impact the markets in 2005 will be the continued emergence of China and the rest of Asia as consumers of
energy and metals. Both of these
sectors were driven higher in the fourth quarter due to increasing overseas demand.  Steel and copper
prices have increased and crude oil hit an all time high of $55 per barrel in October.  Since that high, crude prices have receded by over
20%, but continued demand in the region will likely keep pressure on these markets for the foreseeable future.
1

The 2004 year-end rally has given the markets a positive push into 2005.  Global events including the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and
the upcoming Iraqi elections will give the markets new challenges in the months ahead.   With most equity indices providing double-digit
returns for 2004, many market analysts are calling for more modest expectations for 2005.  We believe that our capable team of
Managers and Strategists are well positioned to guide your portfolio through these markets, allowing us to maintain our steady focus on
your long-term goals.  



Regards,




Robert Valentine



Endnotes:
1  CNBC Market Dispatches:  “How ‘04’s 7 big themes will affect stocks in ‘05”  MSN Money website
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