The Economy: Happy New Year! … and a happy new year it is for global economic numbers with Germany growing at a blistering pace with the best employment numbers in years. The U.S. economy is likewise continuing to expand with no end in sight. Stocks are up, bonds are up, real estate is up, oil is up, manufacturing is up, optimism is up. Chicken Little is running in circles screaming about high asset valuations. But investors are looking at the Trump income tax trump and singing Happy Days Are Here Again. After all, in addition to the endless self-praise from The Swamp, Central Bankers have proven that at the slightest hiccup, inventive new types of monetary stimulus will rain down like Helicopter Money. Manna!
Food for Thought: Year end and into tax season. Financial planning rewrites. Annual portfolio reviews, document updating. What is the status of your wills, trusts, POAs, medical directives? Get them updated now! We do Monte Carlo Simulations for retirement planning. If we can help, please give us a call.
Music of The Week: Luna Blanca’s “Guitar Island”
We Quarterback Money®
The Economy: Synchronized global growth, central bank easy money and politics as usual remain the norm. China finished up its Party Conference and deified Xi alongside Mao and Deng. The ECB and the Fed met and left their respective rates unchanged. No surprise there, as global growth is still viewed as delicate. So Synchronized but delicate would be a more accurate description of global growth. But the Fed is taking the lead in normalizing monetary policy. In October it did shrink its balance sheet by about $10 billion. They also indicated that another interest rate hike was on tap for December. Thursday, Trump is expected to announce Powell as the new Fed Chair. Powell is seen as dovish and if selected is expected to maintain the lower for longer policies we’ve come to know and love.
Food for Thought: Stocks continue to march higher. A week without new records now feels like a personal insult. The rally may continue through year-end as investors pile into the markets to make up for lost time. Algorithms are appearing daily that show how markets will go up for years to come. Everyone is an aggressive risk-taker when they are making money. But how do you feel about losses? Know your risk profile.
Music of The Week: Tim Bowman’s “Circles”
We Quarterback Money®
The Economy: “Synchronized Global Expansion” is the latest buzzword describing our global and national economy. While the Fed begins reducing their balance sheet this month, the rest of global central banks continue to print money with abandon; piling on more debt for future generations. How this house of cards ends is anyone’s guess. While we shake our heads in wonder, the flip side of the coin is that the Good Ole USA might actually pull it off. Natural and man-made disasters aside, Armageddon may not occur. Not to sound like a shill, but as a nation we have a history of coming back from the brink. While Americans appear to be more divided than ever before, the numbers show an optimism that can’t be denied. Consumer confidence is at all-time highs. Manufacturing indices are surging. Inflation remains historically low. Last but not least, the stock market continues to set new records. You can argue that the economic expansion is in the 7 or 8th inning. You can debate equity valuations or comparisons. You can read the tea leaves till you’re blue in the face. But one thing is clear; stocks are saying that the good times will continue.
Food for Thought: “Bless her heart” is Southern Belle code. Spoken in sympathetic tones, it translates into “That gal is out of control!” Such is the case of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s quixotic effort to put Wells Fargo out of business because of its ongoing regulatory problems. Bless her heart! Liz confuses herself with Moses and the Golden Calf. Bless her heart. First, there’s the matter of elevation: There is no Mount Sinai; she’s in The Swamp. Second, the Golden Calf is the Federal Reserve which is the Titanium Transformer; stronger than dirt and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Bless her heart. Third, hurling tablets don’t work no mo. The good Senator from Massachusetts would be more effective chasing Salem witches than tackling a TBTF bank.
Music of The Week: Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” Tom Petty passed away this week at 66.
The Economy: Central Bankers dominated this week with the ECB’s Draghi reiterating that more stimulus is sure-fire Nirvana. Then Yellen and her crew called the stock market expensive while continuing to talk up higher interest rates. They ignore that higher interest rates have been the death knell of every bull market. Now that he’s in the Oval office and staring down the barrel of the Federal debt, The Donald has become an advocate of low interest rates. Higher interest rates jeopardize all of his campaign promises and programs. History teaches us that when the Fed begins to talk about stocks being expensive, the bull has further to run. Yet, we’re perplexed that the Fed would warn of an overpriced stock market. After all, they have finally achieved their objective of a runaway stock market that continues to race higher. Risk has been banished as investors have finally accepted that Central Bankers will always do whatever it takes to keep stocks going up forever. … to infinity and beyond!
Food for Thought: 4th of July! All Citizens are Patriots; regardless of which side of the aisle. Just ask us. So we can safely say, without being accused of hate speech, “My Country right or wrong, still My Country.” Have a great 4th of July!
Music of the Week: Rod Stewart’s “It Had to be You”
The Economy: Steady as she goes with our heads firmly planted in the sand … or elsewhere that the sun doesn’t shine. Global economies continue to report they are expanding … with the ongoing Central Banks stimuli of hundreds of billions. So the logical question is, “How healthy is the patient in an induced coma with 9-IVs and a ventilator?” The answer is that it depends on who you’re talking with. A sunny, weekend walk around La Jolla shows streets paved with gold, crowded with exotic cars, full of laughing shoppers swilling $4,500 Haut Brion while lighting their smokes with $100 bills. The local lululemon says that business has never been better. But the company founder says the stock has crashed and wiped $10 billion in equity off the books. Chicanery or the drunken revelry of those untouched by hardship, convinced of their moral superiority? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make noise? The smart money didn’t pay attention to Vulcan at his anvil inside Vesuvius either.
Food for Thought: You can run but you can’t hide. The consensus is that financial markets are insane but still the only game in town. … game being the operative. Central Banks have manipulated markets beyond any point of recognition. So what happens next? Good question. Everyone agrees that when things end it will be the Mother of All Ugly (MOAU?!?). Everybody except you is going to be wiped out. You’re going to be in cash when the end comes and then jump into the greatest buying opportunity in history. Of course, everyone is planning to do this. So beware Bob Farrell’s Rule #9 “When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen.”
Music of the Week: Steven Kummer’s “Nice ‘N Easy”
The Economy: Global economies appear to be improving with Germany and France leading the way in Europe. The U.S. continues to present a mixed picture. The Fed released its minutes on Wednesday. They looked through the data to indicate another interest rate increase in June. While some see the Fed as increasingly hawkish, actions speak louder than words and the Fed has been unwilling to inflict the pain that rising rates will bring. With the explosion of information provided by the internet, a solid case can be made for any position that suits your fancy. Believers who warn of bubbles are countered by equally sage adherents on the other side of the argument. While we’re awash in the rhetoric of change, it’s questionable how much will be legislated given all of the animosity. The Trump budget proposes the largest cuts in decades. But like the rest of the agenda it’s so steeped in emotion that its final form is impossible to discern. Add the Special Prosecutor to this witches brew and you can almost hear the wheels of government grinding to a halt.
Food for Thought: Financial markets are unfazed by this circus and continue their 8-year bull run. Interest rates remain at historic lows. Bond yields remain suppressed. Investors are convinced that Central Banks will continue to inflate asset bubbles into the foreseeable future. Terrorism remains a blight; though the vernacular has morphed from calling them Freedom Fighters to calling them Losers. That’s an accurate step in the right direction. Never give in; never give up; never stop dreaming; never stop believing. Enjoy your Memorial Day Holiday!
Music of the Week: Bob Mamet’s “Day Into Night”
The Economy: Caution best describes the economy. Mixed economic data is being released into the most toxic political environment in decades. Global central bankers continue to add liquidity at unprecedented rates. $1 trillion in liquidity was injected into the global system in the first quarter 2017. Central bankers are committed to supporting real estate and stock markets at all costs. Tens of billions of dollars have flowed into U.S. stock markets from European Central bankers. As with the binary political landscape, economists and investors are split on how the economic landscape will play out. Will there be a day of reckoning based on historic metrics or have interconnected global markets evolved to a new and unknown model. The result of this is that each data release creates more questions than it answers. Banks are easing lending standards but loan demand is down. Why? The Fed is tightening into the weakest recovery in history. Why? Automakers are coming off a huge selling cycle; but incentives and liar loans have fueled sales. Why? The EU is reporting record growth in many areas yet the ECB keeps interest rates at historic lows while continuing to pump record stimulus. Why? Consumer confidence is up but retailers are closing stores at a record pace. Why? These macro questions eventually filter down to local decision making. Hence our emphasis on how your organization views the horizon.
Food for Thought: The S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) is known as The Fear Index. It’s used as an indication of investor complacency. The VIX is now at multi-decade lows; recently touching lows not seen since 1993. In the course of the past 8-years Central Bankers have rescued stock markets with such frequency that “Buy The Dip” has become a sound strategy for many investors. After a 3% pullback stock markets have regularly rebounded to new highs. Black Swans have ceased to be meaningful as investors have accepted that Central Bankers will always, successfully come to the rescue. Investors have the constitutional right to make money by investing in stocks and real estate. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been replaced by The Four Horsemen of Guaranteed Investment Profits. Risk is Dead and markets will go up forever. Yet, as Bob Farrell famously noted, “When all the experts and forecasts agree – something else is going to happen.”
Music of the Week: Dire Straits’ “Dire Straits”
The Economy: “Veni Vidi Vici” is the new Black and it couldn’t be more appropriate for the Ides of March. It rightfully belongs with Caesar but this week has seen a bevy of contenders who deserve participation trophies: Shia LaBeouf, Rachel Maddow, John McCain and Bruce Loveless were joined by Fed Chair Yellen. Uber Dove Yellen continued to lead from the rear with a ¼ point interest rate hike. Yellen’s comment to consumers was, “The simple message is the economy is doing well.” 3 or more rate hikes are expected in 2017; roughly one every other meeting till year end. Analysts were quick to call it a Goldilocks Rate Hike with a dovish statement. The Trump Animal Spirits provide the perfect cover for the Fed to reload monetary policy before the next recession hits. Having kept interest rates at zero for almost a decade, the Fed must now scramble to hike rates enough that they have room to ease when the economy eventually slows. Let’s keep those zombies and buglies dancing around the bonfire. Maybe no one will notice that credit is tightening. Bored? Try this Thought Experiment: Enter a Prime Rate of 7% into your operating calculations. What does that that do to your organization? … only a matter of time.
Food for Thought: Quantitative Easing (QE) is alive and well. While the Fed has cut back, nothing is being done to shrink its bloated balance sheet. Equally important, Central Banks continue to pump $200 billion per month into the global financial system. The EU alone pumps $80 billion per month and “We’ll Do Whatever It Takes” Draghi shows no sign of easing off. If global growth is accelerating, why is $2.5 trillion in stimulus still needed? … that is the fly in the Animal Spirits’ ointment. Next up, raising the U.S. Debt Ceiling from its 2008 limit. This used to be cause for government shutdowns and hand wringing. Maybe it’ll get some play when The Donald issues his budget.
Music of the Week: Jimi Hendrix “Axis: Bold As Love”
The Economy: The latest numbers appear to support an improving global economic picture. That certainly seems to be the case in the U.S. There are issues with Italian Banks but the ECB is determined to do whatever it takes to preserve the EU regardless of how they have to jigger the numbers. There’s more transparency in the U.S. but conflicting data or opposite interpretations of the same data creates confusion. These conflicting interpretations are not fake news. It appears to be how the data is parsed. We continue to urge that you evaluate your personal and professional situation to properly evaluate how events will impact you. With the flurry of activity from the Trump administration, it’s impossible to know how markets will ultimately react. Caution is advised.
Food for Thought: The Trump agenda continues to quickly unfold. Executive Orders have been announced almost daily. Cabinet officers continue to be approved. All branches of the Federal Government are on notice that budget cuts and profound change is coming. Global governments are struggling to make sense out of the new and developing U.S. foreign policy. The Main Stream Media (MSM) has been and continues to be demonized; officially branded as “The Opposition.” With less than 2-weeks in office, there is greater uncertainty than we’ve ever seen. Some say the deep state is immune to change. I think it’s premature to assume that the leviathan can’t be moved in a new direction. The challenge is to skate to where the puck will be.
Music of the Week: Huey Lewis and The News “Greatest Hits”
The Economy: Happy Holidays! It’s all good. Home prices up 5% year over year. The U.S. economy expanding at the fastest pace in 3-years. Consumer confidence far above expectations. On the near horizon: Votes in Italy and Austria that may see more exits from the EU. Expectations that the Electoral College will confirm the U.S. Presidential Election. Anticipation of a ¼% Fed interest rate hike in mid-December. Prospects that we’re on the verge of another leg up in equities.
Food for Thought: Holiday joy is offset by the aftermath of the election. Partisans on both sides have sharpened their knives and created their lists. Though Republicans have The Hill and the White House, no one is calling it a mandate with the popular vote having eluded them. However, Trump is a man of a different color; arguably the first Man on Horseback since Teddy Roosevelt. Obama has established the precedent of rule by Executive Order; bypassing the Constitution, Congress and the Courts. Expect this to continue; first with the unwinding of the Obama agenda and then with its replacement. As The Circus leaves town, it looks to be replaced by The Wild West Show.
Music of the Week: Elwood Brothers “Jazz Tannenbaum”