2nd Quarter Update Summary – Inflation, Fiscal Stimulus, Covid

The economy continues to grow and expand in recovery from the economic covid shocks inflicted on employment and production last year. Following a flat first quarter, the market has resumed an upward but volatile trend. Some recent inflation is sending warning signals across the economy, however, this inflation does not necessarily derive not from excess cash in the economy, but significantly from insufficiently restored production and supply chains, and from other distribution bottlenecks. The Federal Reserve is convinced the inflation is transitory and insists its expansionary policies will not change until at least 2023 or until the economy reaches full employment together with signs of overheating. This means, importantly, that going forward Fed policy in response to inflation will be more reactive vs predictive.

The housing boom, mostly caused by historically low mortgage rates, appears to have stabilized (interest rates truly cannot go much lower). Lumber prices, widely publicized to have tripled since the pandemic began, have now fallen precipitously since May to pre-pandemic levels. Other commodity prices are normalizing as production continues to ramp up. The traditional broad based inflation indicators remain persistently stable showing expected low inflation similar to that of pre-pandemic levels.

The Biden Administration is making some progress on two fiscal fronts in an effort to ensure ongoing fiscal stimulus for at least a few years. The first is a vital and necessary infrastructure funding measure that both parties agree is necessary but disagree on size and scope. The second is the federal budget that includes substantial increased and new spending in most areas of the Administration’s agenda. If the infrastructure package grinds to a halt, the budget will certainly incorporate many of the important elements of infrastructure. This twin pronged fiscal approach together with expansionary Federal Reserve monetary policy is aimed achieving the twin economic goals of full employment together with stronger wage growth in coming years.

Covid remains a concern. The unusual and unexpected politicization and dissemination of vaccine misinformation is preventing us collectively from reaching our vaccination goals, thereby resulting in covid case surges in areas where vaccination levels have been weak. The unnecessary politics of the issue together with new highly transmissible and dangerous covid variants are making any prognostication of the ultimate resolution of the epidemic very difficult. The markets are watching and reacting accordingly. This is contributing to the previously mentioned market volatility. We are not out of the woods.

As always, we remain cautious and vigilant. Please remember that because these quarterly thumbnail sketches are very brief, do not hesitate to call me if you wish to discuss your account or our outlook in greater detail.

Very Best Regards,

1st Quarter Update Summary – Deficits and Infrastructure

The economy at present is finally emerging from our pandemic constraints. During March, employment was remarkably strong as unemployment continued to fall. The lowest interest rates in a century together with massive pent-up demand backed up by stimulus liquidity is creating a perfect storm for rapid short-term recovery and growth. There is little uncertainty that the pandemic will retreat. Our scientific knowledge base of mRNA techniques will grow and our producers will quickly refine and distribute vaccines for emerging covid variants as necessary. We may be looking at upcoming annual booster vaccine shots for these variants along with the seasonal flu.

Many people have expressed concern that the huge deficits will cause inflation and a subsequent collapse of the dollar. However, these massive deficit spending policies have successfully been deployed in our past but under very different circumstances, so let’s briefly review them.

Massive deficits (or money printing) were of necessity liberally deployed in the service of Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary – Deficits and Infrastructure

Year-end Summary 2020

The economy at present is performing as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Housing is booming given the lowest mortgage interest rates in a century. The main factor holding back the economy is not a lack of disposable income; indeed areas where people are free to spend are also doing quite well. Rather, the curtailed growth is heavily concentrated in services where social distancing is a problem. The Fed continues to be as accommodative as possible and recognizing its own constraints to stimulate growth, is literally begging Congress for more fiscal stimulus and is encouraging even more than that which Congress is presently considering. The Fed, after trying and failing for a decade to get inflation to rise enough to meet a meager target of 2%, and now in the midst of a pandemic, has virtually abandoned any inflation concerns it may have had.

Congress at present is trying to agree on

Continue reading Year-end Summary 2020

3rd Quarter Update Summary

The monetary and fiscal stimulus packages that began last spring effectively halted the meltdown taking place in the economy and in the financial markets. The markets revived quickly as they always do when money is being pumped into the economy, but in the economy, the stimulus could at most mitigate in some degree the paralysis that was taking place from the effects of efforts to contain the epidemic.

Those efforts generally succeeded and bought us some time to supply our medical system with PPE and testing capability. The economy also largely survived the state-by-state scattershot approach to various lockdowns and is poised for future growth in the form of pent-up consumer demand. Although given this haphazard approach, the epidemic is returning yet again in another wave of infections further delaying a full economic recovery. The Federal Reserve has deployed

Continue reading 3rd Quarter Update Summary

2nd Quarter Update Summary

The economy at present is finally emerging from our pandemic constraints. During March, employment was remarkably strong as unemployment continued to fall. The lowest interest rates in a century together with massive pent-up demand backed up by stimulus liquidity is creating a perfect storm for rapid short-term recovery and growth. There is little uncertainty that the pandemic will retreat. Our scientific knowledge base of mRNA techniques will grow and our producers will quickly refine and distribute vaccines for emerging covid variants as necessary. We may be looking at upcoming annual booster vaccine shots for these variants along with the seasonal flu.

Many people have expressed concern that the huge deficits will cause inflation and a subsequent collapse of the dollar. However, these massive deficit spending policies have successfully been deployed in our past but under very different circumstances, so let’s briefly review them.

Massive deficits (or money printing) in the past were of necessity liberally deployed in the service Continue reading 2nd Quarter Update Summary

1st Quarter Update Summary – Pandemic

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Following our interim email update last month the Federal Reserve charged headlong into the financial system very fast and very big. While we predicted a quick rate reduction, the Fed instantly dropped its target rates to zero and additionally announced massive liquidity facilities to flood the banking system with cash. At the same time, we made the prediction that given entrenched partisanship, it would take Congress many months to respond with the necessary fiscal stimulus. But lo, within two weeks, Congress unanimously passed not one, but two stimulus packages totaling over TWO Trillion dollars for small business, corporations, and remarkably, also for American workers and consumers. The Fed again then followed that up with Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary – Pandemic

Interim Update – Coronavirus

The market declines of these past two weeks have erased six months of recent gains. Although we are closely monitoring the situation, we may take action in your account quickly if needed in order to reduce risk if conditions continue to deteriorate and alter the long-term investment outlook of your account.

The corona-virus is currently the focus of the market’s attention. The novel coronavirus Covid-19 is now out in the wild; containment in the U.S. seems to be a long-lost hope. In the near term, the authorities are hoping to suppress Continue reading Interim Update – Coronavirus

Year-end Summary 2019

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Our accounts performed well this year, again outperforming the major market indices. However, as with the indices, some of the large gains were the result of a sharp market recovery early this year following a sharp downturn late last year. The market quickly stabilized and continued its upward trend as the Fed successfully took strong measures during the year to avoid economic weakness in the face of the weakening manufacturing sector.

The current economic indicators show the economy continues to grow, that manufacturing remains modestly weak, but the Continue reading Year-end Summary 2019

3rd Quarter Update Summary -Slow Growth?

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Despite some weakness in the manufacturing sector, the overall economy continues to grow. The markets on the other hand have been wandering aimlessly at the same level as that of one year ago. Our accounts similarly show a small gain over that same twelve month period. Despite rising deficits, all of the inflation indicators are soft or declining. The Fed, having clearly overshot its interest rate targets, has been Continue reading 3rd Quarter Update Summary -Slow Growth?

2nd Quarter Update Summary – Soft Landing?

550c441a6bb3f776218b4568-750-562Inflation, despite historically high deficits, stubbornly refuses to rise to the Fed’s relatively modest target of a mere 2%. In our last report, we noted that the Fed was finally ready to “stand pat” on further interest rate increases. We also addressed the importance of the yield curve in predicting future economic growth. At the time it was partially inverted (indicating an economic slowdown) due to the Fed’s aggressive interest rate increases last year. Since then, commodity and energy prices have modestly declined and labor costs have been rock steady. This week the Fed Continue reading 2nd Quarter Update Summary – Soft Landing?

1st Quarter Update Summary – Stand Pat?

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We continue to focus on the growth of the economy and the one variable of greatest impact on economic growth, interest rates and money supply. Fortunately, the markets rebounded and weathered quite well the Fed’s aggressive interest rate increases of the past year. In December, the month of the last rate increase, the markets were Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary – Stand Pat?

Year-end Summary 2018

Our accounts turned in exceptional performance this year with positive returns while the market indexes were all down for the year. Our largest holding, Amazon, was up 28.4% and contributed substantially to those gains. The merger of our second largest holding Oclaro, was a 24% gain for the year and was completed in December with a cash payout together with Lumenthum stock. Consequently we are starting this year with large cash balances in a tumultuous market environment.

As you are likely aware, there are several important issues (shutdown, Brexit, tariff trade disputes, etc.) that all could significantly Continue reading Year-end Summary 2018

3rd Quarter Update Summary – The Economy Chugs Along, But Whither the Markets?

While the Fed continues to increase short-term interest rates as the economy chugs along, we had a new wrinkle appear this quarter. Previously, long-term rates remained relatively stable as short-term rates rose. This had the effect of a flattening of the term structure of the yield curve, an indicator that future growth may slow. This month however, those stable long-term interest rates have begun to rise sharply in pace with short-term rates controlled by the Fed. The cause of this is quite unknowable at this point, but we note that oil and some commodity prices have been rising together with wage increases finally showing signs of life. The takeaway here is that the economy remains robust and that a slowdown or recession does not Continue reading 3rd Quarter Update Summary – The Economy Chugs Along, But Whither the Markets?

2nd Quarter Update Summary

Last quarter, the markets largely stabilized in an upward trend again following a rambunctious first quarter. Amazon continues its upward surge and Oclaro stockholders last week overwhelmingly approved the merger with Lumentum which will be completed in a few months in a distribution of both cash and Lumentum stock. The capital gains and tax effects of the merger are still not clear.

We continue to focus on monetary policy. The Fed continues to raise short-term interest rates but long-term interest rates, largely controlled by market forces, remain quite stable resulting in a flattening of the yield curve. A flat, or worse yet, an inverted yield curve is a proven precursor to Continue reading 2nd Quarter Update Summary

1st Quarter Update Summary

Despite the fact that the markets began the year in verifiably volatile fashion, they wrapped up the first quarter about where they began. Despite this however, our accounts successfully turned in significant gains for the quarter. This was due primarily to our two largest holdings: Amazon was up 19% and Oclaro was up 45% due to a buyout merger offer from Lumentum Holdings, a leading-edge fiber optic provider. The buyout offer of part cash and part Lumentum stock will likely be completed within a few months. We do not yet know the tax effects of this transaction.

The economy appears to be moving forward on firm footing. Although the current economic cycle is one of the longest on record, economic growth cycles normally don’t merely die of old age and recessions usually have specific causes. This growth cycle, with the recent tax cut and approval of the federal budget containing a sizeable deficit, now has these two additional growth stimuli to continue the expansion. Our economy has yet to explore Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary