1st Quarter Update Summary – Covid & Inflation, and now War

This was a rough start for the year in account performance. The markets are being hit with a triple whammy of Covid surges, rising inflation and interest rates, and war in Eastern Europe. Covid has become relatively benign here in the U.S. but has been surging in Europe and Asia. This surge has caused additional lock-downs that complicate production and efforts to revive supply chains. It puts new pressures on distribution channel bottlenecks. All of this has exacerbated otherwise modest inflationary pressures and puts the Federal Reserve in a precarious bind. All this while a new hot war has broken out in Eastern Europe that threatens to disrupt energy supplies and distribution of the most important raw material while also re-arranging global trade and geopolitical alignments for decades to come.

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Year-end Summary 2021

Our accounts have performed very well again this year. Despite economic headwinds from Covid related restrictions, distribution channel disruptions and labor shortages, the economy ended the year very strong albeit with some inflationary pressures. The Federal Reserve is becoming increasingly concerned that this inflation is not merely a temporary transitory effect from supply disruptions, but that we are running the risk that inflation is becoming entrenched.

The Fed has been quite vocal that in the near future it will be winding down its quantitative easing monetary stimulus operations and will also start to raise interest rates possibly as soon as March. The strong reaction from the markets in response to these comments indicates that these anticipated monetary tightening actions will likely result in severe negative market and economic consequences beyond taming inflation. Intuitively, it seems unwise to try to contain inflation shortly after a massive Omicron surge that has already been a disruption to the economy and a cause of some degree of the inflation. As long as the Fed persists in its projected course of action, we believe the markets will continue to be highly volatile.

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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.

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