The markets gave us a very strong portfolio performance in this first quarter this year. We trust and hope that this is not merely a so-called relief rally but an emerging market recovery foretelling future sustained economic growth. The two interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in recent moths were the smallest of the nine hikes this past year. It is becoming apparent that remaining hikes if any, will have little impact on the markets. The the market’s focus has decidedly shifted from stock price valuations driven by interest rates, to stock prices driven by earnings and economic growth. The market’s upward trend has stalled out in recent weeks but has provided sufficient breathing room to accommodate a sharp drop in daily volatility to normal levels.Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary – Markets Now Driven by Interest rates or Earnings?
Year End Summary 2022 – First Ever Soft Landing?
This past year has been an extremely difficult year for stocks and financial instruments in general. The Federal Reserve has been aggressively raising short-term interest rates to try to slow economic growth and contain inflation. Although the 12 month annual inflation rate remains relatively high, the last six months of monthly inflation rates when annualized are very near the Fed’s target range. Also recently, economic growth has slowed significantly as consumers have curtailed their previous aggressive spending. Surprisingly, job creation continues at a modest pace while unemployment has barely budged from its historic lows.Continue reading Year End Summary 2022 – First Ever Soft Landing?
3rd Quarter Update Summary – Market Forming a Base
Although the stock market has suffered immensely from higher interest rates, there are now signs that inflation has peaked and is beginning to recede. The backup in container ships at ports has ended and container rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Lumber prices have returned to normal. Oil, gasoline, natural gas and commodities prices are returning to normal. Gold and precious metals prices have been falling most of this year. However, despite dramatic increases in mortgage interest rates, the housing market has slowed significantly and, somewhat surprisingly, has been modestly resilient. The largest component of economic growth, consumer spending thus far remains unfazed and together with the retail industries are contributing to the on-going stability of employment and jobs market. Consumer spending and the services industries have proven to be sufficiently steady to contribute to inflations stubbornly high levels.Continue reading 3rd Quarter Update Summary – Market Forming a Base
2nd Quarter Update Summary – Global Inflation, the Fed, and the Fed.
The financial markets since the beginning of this year have been some of the most volatile that we’ve seen in several decades. And not without good reason. The post-pandemic post-stimulus economic rebound together with supply channels straining at the limits to meet the pent-up demand was further complicated by sanctions imposed on Russia. This strain on our supply channels have sent global inflation to the highest levels in decades. Add in the energy disruptions of the Ukraine war, gasoline and energy price increases have taken a big toll on the markets and the economy. Take note, inflation is not just a U.S. domestic phenomenon. It is global. This fact alone tells us this is not necessarily a dollar monetary problem for the Federal Reserve alone to deal with. It involves many factors beyond those mentioned above and which are largely beyond its control. The Fed however, has no choice but to make its best effort to deal with it with the few tools at its disposal.Continue reading 2nd Quarter Update Summary – Global Inflation, the Fed, and the Fed.
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.Continue reading 1st Quarter Update Summary – Covid & Inflation, and now War
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.Continue reading 2nd Quarter Update Summary – Inflation, Fiscal Stimulus, Covid
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 deployedContinue 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
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?
Market Meltdown? Foreshadow? Not Likely…
The market meltdown in the previous few days was unmistakably a reaction to sharply rising bond yields which previously were rising slowly if at all in response to Fed rate increases. It was not likely a response to inflationary fears as leading inflation indicators (metals and commodities) were unmoved if not down. Add it all together and present value theory of stock prices required a downward move in prices in response to those bond yields. The consequence? The Fed, now chaired by a Wall Street insider, has no reason to be too aggressive in raising short rates and may even temper its planned sales and reductions of its massive bond portfolio.
Do Deficits or National Debt Really Matter? No. But Yes, Only in Rare Circumstances.
Anytime a given economy has excess unused labor or plant capacity, deficits and federal spending are essentially mandatory to revive and expand the economy. The greater the excess capacity, the greater federal spending (deficit) is required to employ that excess. The is especially crucial in times of economic stress where private money creation (bank lending) is either dormant or in collapse. In addition, the only constraint on money creation ought to be, and must be, inflation. And inflation, in monetarily sovereign economies generally is not evident in economies with excess labor, plant and resources.
Here’s some background to help you understand a little better:
During the Great Depression, a small recovery had begun in 1936. Unemployment had dropped from Continue reading Do Deficits or National Debt Really Matter? No. But Yes, Only in Rare Circumstances.
Basic Investment Dogma, or, When Is It Safe to Get in the Pool Again?
Yes. There’s yet another cardinal rule that tells you when to get into the market and when to get out (more or less). It has never failed us and following it, helped us avoid entirely the catastrophic markets last year and turn in positive performance for 2008. You’ve all heard it before but let’s restate it because it’s important and it works. Herewith: “Don’t Fight the Fed!”
Fifteen years ago, Continue reading Basic Investment Dogma, or, When Is It Safe to Get in the Pool Again?