The Economy: Economic data released this week confirmed a growing U.S. economy: Pending home sales up; Personal income up; Consumer spending up; Home prices up; Consumer confidence up; ADP Employment report in line. But the headlines belonged to Fed Chair Yellen and her speech on Tuesday. Yellen assured markets that the Fed would go slowly on any future rate hikes … if in fact they occur in 2016 at all. The expanding U.S. economy is no longer reason to hike rates. Yellen cited global uncertainty and potential fallout from recent events as justifying a slower path of rate increases. She made it clear that the Fed still has room for additional stimulus but that it can hike if the economy grows faster than expected. Global financial markets were ecstatic over the prospect of continued easy money.
Food for Thought: In the 1970s we had “stagflation.” The economy was stagnating with little growth but inflation was a problem. Eventually inflation rocketed and it was the Volcker Fed that whipped inflation with 21% money markets and a 15% 30-year U.S. Treasury. Now we have a Fed beholden to zero interest rates (ZIRP), considering negative interest rates (NIRP) and thinking about helicopter money. Our concern is that the Fed induced financial engineering, which has driven stocks higher, will end with the gravy train going off a cliff. The first 10% correction in 4-years was met with panic by global central bankers intent on continuing to inflate asset bubbles. In this investing environment, know what you own and why you own it.
The Economy: Recent economic data has been like the weather in Indianapolis: If you don’t like it, wait a couple of minutes and it’ll change. Conflicting data continues to point to a slowly expanding US economy. 7-years into this same slow motion movie and you have to ask, “What next?” Global Central Banksters have given us more than 600 interest-rate cuts and $12 trillion of asset purchases during the past 7- years. With the latest meetings of the ECB and the Fed, the answer is more of the same. Events
outside of our borders are now dictating the course of Fed policy despite the fact that within our borders the economy has demonstrated that removal of monetary accommodation is overdue. Today it was reported that bonds yields of Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, and Royal Dutch Shell have turned negative. This is nonsense.
Food for Thought: We’ve had five years of a bull market in the San Diego commercial real estate rental market. Now it may be over. 2016 has seen office space availability increase dramatically. Year to date, 570,000 square feet of office space has come on the market. This is in addition to the 360,000 square feet of space vacated by Qualcomm in 2015. This supply does not include new construction. Rather, it is due to slowing demand and additional space becoming available in existing buildings. In addition, many start-ups are beginning to struggle and their deaths will add more inventory to the market in 2016. The maturing demand for office space is expected to limit rent increases. While the tenants market of 2009 is still in the future, the landlord’s market we’ve seen for the past 3-years is over. The exception to this scenario is Downtown’s Class A buildings. That market is hot with limited availability. However, the offshoot is that rents in Class B and C buildings, some of which are functionally archaic, are under pressure.
Music of The Week: Susie Arioli’s Album “That’s for Me”
The Economy: Super Mario Draghi continues his legacy of Shock and Aw Shucks. We haven’t seen this kind of Italian Brass since Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Today Mario announced an aggressive expansion of ECB stimulus. Interest rates were cut further into deeper negative territory. Quantitative Easing was expanded by 30% from 60 Billion/month to 80 Billion/month. But the biggest change was adding corporate bonds to assets that the ECB can purchase. Global financial markets were not impressed. Moving into private sector debt is a Rubicon. What next? … Central Bank ownership of stocks, then real estate? Perhaps the ECB’s solution to slow growth is for the Central Bank to own all member assets and means of production. Nice way to come back to Marxism. Stalin and Mao must be gloating. Break out the Hammer and Sickle and fire up The Internationale.
Food for Thought: This week marks the 7th anniversary of the Bull Market. Stocks celebrated by trading down and breaking a 5-week rally. We continue to recommend that investors take profits and raise cash. The selloff that marked the first 6-weeks of the year has been arrested. But as we look out over the environment, we find it difficult find the drivers of growth that would power financial markets to meaningful new highs. Selling positions and moving into a money market fund is particularly prudent with retirement plan assets or annuities. In many cases investors can cherry-pick positions to sell within the same mutual fund. This is called a “Versus Purchase” transaction (VSP). We’re into tax season, now is a good time to review and protect your retirement assets. Buy and hold has worked for the past 7-years. Nothing lasts forever.
The Economy: Data released this week shows a US economy that is continuing to slowly expand. Consumption, GDP and employment appear to be growing. The Beige Book, which is the Fed’s summary and analysis of economic activity, confirmed a mixed picture of slow growth. Manufacturing is flat and productivity growth is questionable. Confusing? Yep. The question is: Can the US avoid the fallout from the confirmed slowdown in China, The EU, Russia, Brazil and Venezuela … to name a few. Think Global Act Local. It’s hard to feel your pain in San Diego, the land of eternal sunshine. Here we have booming tourism, real estate, biotech and massive defense spending as the US reorients its focus from NATO to our “Strategic Competitor” China. (Shoutout to Glenn for the PC euphemism. Back in the day when men were iron and ships were wood, they were called enemies).
Food for Thought: Annuities can be an effective part of your investment and retirement planning. Their features and benefits continue to evolve with the changing economic environment. Like any investment, they must be reviewed periodically to confirm they are still relevant to your goals. Contact us if you’d like help in evaluating these complex instruments.