Last quarter we commented on the four E's grabbing headlines at the time: Ebola, Europe, Energy, and Earnings. We suggested that the negativity could quickly change, perhaps by the year end. The major market indexes recovered over 7% in the fourth quarter and our stocks outperformed. For the year our results were approximately in line with the 13+% return of the benchmark.
Today's issues are focused on "global decoupling" and declining commodity prices. The U.S. economy is recovering while Europe has stalled and China's growth has slowed. The strong dollar is one consequence of these developments. Energy prices have continued to decline and copper, gold and other commodities are moving lower.
The increased volatility with the backdrop of a strengthening US economy has made it confusing for investors. Overall, we believe that most U.S. stocks are beneficiaries of a strong dollar and lower commodity prices as long as Europe's economic troubles don't "spill over" to our shores.
We are pleased to announce that both Jeff Travis and Mac Muirhead will become shareholders of Winslow this quarter. All six professionals will thus be owners, an important milestone.
In addition, Mac has taken on the responsibility of Assistant Chief Investment Officer. He will be working closely with me in all aspects of the research and investment process. For those who have not met Mac, he has been with us for three years. He graduated from Princeton with an engineering degree and started his career at Boeing (a true rocket scientist). He has an MBA from Johns Hopkins and worked at a Hedge Fund in New England as well as a local sell side research firm.