The Economy: Economic numbers have turned mixed as the hurricane effect kicks in. Whatever economic bump may occur as a result of the disasters will be temporary. The longer-term effect will be a headwind for the economy; though how much is an unknown. Last week the Fed continued tightening monetary policy. Fed Chair Yellen is sounding more hawkish as labor-market hiring is strong and global growth is recovering. As such, odds are for another quarter point rate hike come December. 8-years on, financial markets continue hitting new highs. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these markets. Global Central Banks have bought up a majority of government debt. They have been buying and now own trillions in stocks. Now, on par with The Bilderberg Group and Nibiru, comes word of The Plunge Protection Team (PTT). Hear tell, the PTT is a shadowy coalition of officials and bankers. They rush to the rescue at the slightest sign of market weakness; pumping in billions of taxpayer dollars to keep markets from ever going down. Yep … and I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell ya.
Food for Thought: Robotics and demographics are trends with lasting impact. The first generation of bots eliminated factory jobs. The latest generation is replacing CPAs, analysts, doctors and other professionals. Stepford husbands and wives may be next. The economy is increasingly becoming two-tiered: Do it your selfers (DIY) and those willing and able to pay for personal service. Boomers are out and millennials are inheriting the earth. Out with Tim Allen and in with Jenna Marbles.
Music of The Week: Craig Chaquico’s “Shadow and Light”
The Economy: The Fed finished its two day meeting today with historic action: They announced a specific plan for shrinking their bloated balance sheet. This is a tightening of monetary policy. The plan goes into effect next month; October. The details are straight forward and, in an economist’s perfect world, would result in interest rates moving up. However, the economist’s model doesn’t account for market forces. One reason that U.S. interest rates have remained stubbornly low is because of those very market forces. U.S. Treasuries are treated as a safe-haven in an increasingly volatile world dominated by the lowest interest rates in history. Global demand for Treasuries drives prices up and yields down.
Food for Thought: Bitcoin has been in the spotlight as the best-known of the cryptocurrencies. But rather than focus on which cryptocurrency will eventually emerge as the benchmark, focus on the underlying technology which is Blockchain. Blockchain is the next example of technology’s creative destruction. When you hear Blockchain think “Trust.” Blockchain technology will dramatically reduce or eliminate the plague of knockoffs and false or hard to verify information that has corrupted our everyday lives. Blockchain technology users will have access to an independently verifiable trail that allow anyone to validate the subject at hand. Examples are consumer products, food, shipping data, news, trade data, financial information, personal information … the list is endless. All verifiable to whatever granularity you desire. Blockchain technology is trust. Cryptocurrencies will validate Blockchain just as email validated the internet. Bitcoin may prove to be like the Netscape Navigator. Focus on Blockchain.
Music of the Week: Elton John’s “Rocket Man” from the album “Honky Chateau”
The Economy: The Fed’s Beige Book, a measure of the national economy, was released last week. It showed a soft economy. The preamble was optimistic but the details were less so. Combined with the economic hit form Harvey and Irma, the Fed is likely on hold through year end. This continues the “lower for longer” interest rate scenario we had for the past several years. The hurricanes have dominated the headlines for the past week. NAFTA, the White House half-life of Gary Cohn and North Korean threats have faded to black … at least for the moment. Since the world didn’t end with either NOKO’s nuclear war threats or the hurricanes, stocks are again on a rocket-ride to infinity and beyond. This despite comments by the following scaredy cats: 2017_09_06: Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer John Cryan “We’re now seeing bubbles everywhere”; 2017_09_06 Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs: … (world financial markets) “have been going up for too long”; 2017_09_11 Seth Klarman of Baupost Group: “… plans to return capital to investors by year-end due to a lack of opportunities”; 2017_09_12 John Hussman of The Hussman Funds: “I view the market as having no investment merit at all here.” Like I said, scaredy cats! They should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail for thinking that stocks could possibly do anything other than go up forever.
Food for Thought: Taki Magazine reports that in a tip of the hat to globalism, multiculturalism and identity politics, “… the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has launched a website in Pidgin English. The BBC points out that Pidgin English is ‘an informal lingua franca. It is a language that really unites people and cuts across all sorts of barriers—ethnic, regional and socio-economic.” The new site’s headlines feature Pidgin droppings such as “Indian woman divorce husband because dem get no toilet,” “Why dem dey call Hurricane human being name,” “How Tanzania dey kill mosquito,” and our personal favorite, “Why China dey chop African Donkey.” Nothing new here. Anyone who’s had children in school recognizes this patois as proficient english for graduating seniors. Next up, Gullah.
Music of the Week: Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain”
The Economy: Uncertainty has increased recently. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will lower economic numbers going forward. The hydrogen bombs and loose-cannon missiles of the North Korean Crisis create their own questions. The issue of raising the debt ceiling has been kicked out to December. Inflation remains stubbornly below its 2% target. As a result, the Fed is probably on hold for any action for the remainder of the year. Both further interest rate increases and any balance sheet reduction would serve as a brake on an economy that is now more opaque than usual. Lower for longer; so mortgages and loans should remain near their historic lows. Our informal polls continue to confirm that a majority of respondents expect some type of an economic slowdown and a market pull-back. But stock markets continue to toy with their highs and bonds reflect the on/off of the flight-to-quality, safe haven depending on the geopolitical story of the day. September is historically the worst month for stocks. But with the current environment, all bets are off.
Food for Thought: Families with a net worth of $10 million or more have special needs. Taxes of all kinds, especially estate taxes are a major concern. Intergenerational wealth transfer is another issue. Many families are asset rich and cash poor. Wills, trusts, insurance and family businesses further cloud prudent action. Fees for these services frequently run to 6-figures. But the return is often several times that amount. Think about it.
Music of the Week: Peter White’s “Smile”