The Economy: The economy appears to be expanding quite nicely and business optimism continues to rise as it approaches new records. The Left Coast, with its gateway to Asian trade, technology and Pentagon spending continues to boom along. Construction cranes fill the skies. New homes are stuffed into every nook and cranny. Roadwork and infrastructure projects are everywhere. New cars abound. Recently launched multi-million dollar yachts overwhelm the docks. Planes are jammed. Restaurants are packed. Exotic vacations are booked years ahead. The stock market confirms this rock ‘n roll fantasy narrative with many indices at or near their highs. Understand that only 3 tech stocks account for 70% of index gains this year. So the question is, “Can you be a cockeyed optimist and a contrarian at the same time?” The answer is yes. Now we’re entering earnings season with projections for year-over-year increases of 20%, Is this the beginning, the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end. Only Elon Musk knows for sure. China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Turkey, UN, NATO, Trade Wars, Immigration Wars, SCOTUS Wars, Mid-Term Election Wars, Culture Wars, Religious Wars … and rising interest rates. Not to worry.
Food for Thought: Youth is wasted on the young and the wisdom of the ages is simply wasted. We will continue to emphasize the importance of interest rates and what the yield curve is telling us. While there will always be a bull market somewhere, most investors have a significant portion of their financial assets in fixed income. The old saw, “Stocks, bonds and cash.” The beginning point for most portfolio allocations is about 40% in fixed income; e.g. the bond market. So when I emphasize having an exit strategy, I’m particularly talking about having an exit strategy for fixed income. Contact me if you have questions on how to risk proof your portfolio.
The Economy: Economic numbers come in two broad categories: 1) Hard data such as trade balances or housing starts and 2) Soft data such as sentiment or confidence surveys. Hard data is based on numbers. Soft data is based on how the respondent is feeling at that moment in time. You can dispute the numbers but the argument will remain grounded in statistics. Surveys based on feelings are completely subjective and should be taken with a dose of skepticism. Numbers this week neatly fell into these two categories. Hard data was mixed with initial jobless claims up, existing home sales and durable goods down. Soft data and surveys were positive with optimism and odds of a December rate hike falling below 50%. Geopolitical concerns have continued to weigh on markets as NOKO, Iran and trade wars remain unresolved. Stocks swooned over the Italians … But it’s officially summertime so don’t worry be happy. Grab the beach toys and head for the water.
Food for Thought: In keeping with the never-ending 73-year old Italian Opera Buffa, check out the Video of the Week link below. Few know that Christopher Walken is an accomplished hoofer. Lighten your day and watch him here or there. Courage! The latest Sign of the Apocalypse is another Italian Meltdown. Financial markets are having a hissy fit. It’s almost as if traders are trying to stay relevant in a world where the only thing that matters is what the Central Banks are doing. … and that remains unchanged . The 2012 ECB vow that they will do “whatever it takes” to keep the punchbowl full of moonshine remains in force. With the exception of the Fed, global central banks remain committed to free-money, for all, forever. How this ultimately plays out is anybody’s guess. Many investors see asset bubbles in both stocks and real estate. Others see compelling bargains. Both have seen years of gains. But while we know that all trends reverse, we don’t see anything to indicate an inflection point. Pick your poison. … onward into the Summer Doldrums.
Music of The Week: Beegie Adair’s “Dancing in the Dark”
Video of The Week: Christopher Walken Dances
We Quarterback Money®
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 over mixed economic numbers continued this week with Housing Starts unexpectedly weak and Industrial Production unexpectedly strong. Looking ahead, one has to ask if U.S. political turmoil will be reflected in the economy. Today, Texas Representative Al Green, speaking from the floor of The House, called for Trump’s impeachment. So it’s official; the knife fight is on. Consequences be damned. Ideology Rules Supreme. The drama weighed on stock markets as a minor pull-back took hold. Indices were down 1 1/2 to 3% on the day. The VIX (S&P500 Fear Index) was up 46%. But this is not a Black Swan; nothing unexpected here. If the past 8-years are any indication, We can expect today’s losses to be erased before the week is out. Failing Buy-The-Dip, we can expect the Fed to announce another round of stimulus programs to save stock markets. If not a stimulus fix like a QE-4, perhaps a suspension of any further interest rate increases for 2017. After all, Nixon’s Watergate only shaved 45% from stock market valuations. So the Fed has its work cut out for it.
Food for Thought: “If The Glove don’t fit, Impeach!”
Music of the Week: Frank Black’s “Frank Black”
Bide your time.
There’s no time like the present
Forgive and forget.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.
You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
A word to the wise is sufficient.
Talk is cheap.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.
Hitch your wagon to a star.
Don’t bite off more that you can chew.
Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the soup.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.
The Economy: Economic numbers have surprised to the downside this week. Oil is off 20% from its high of a few weeks ago. Home ownership is at its lowest since 1965. GDP came in 50% below expectations. Some are saying the U.S. economy is stalling. Central bank activity has likewise been muted. The Bank of England and the Bank of Japan were both supposed to initiate massive stimulus programs. It didn’t happen. The Fed met this week and did nothing. Ennui, exhaustion or summertime blues, no matter. Financial markets took the poor numbers as confirmation that slowing economies would keep interest rates lower for longer. Poor economic numbers should keep the monetary printing presses running full-out.
Food for Thought: Thank you Talking Heads, Supreme Court Justices, former Mayors and other professional blowhards. We get it. The Donald is dangerous and The Hillary is a criminal. The Donald is the most dangerous man in the history of the planet. Worse than Cain, worse than Attila, worse than Stalin. The Hillary is the worst criminal in the history of the planet. Worse than Jezebel, worse than Bloody Mary Queen of Scots, worse than Bonnie Parker. That’s why as Americans we’ve selected them to be our Champions. Because warts and all, they are Our Champions. Now, let’s get on with it.
Music of the Week: The Essential Etta James.
The Economy: The U.S. economy is continuing on its path of sluggish growth. Once you dial-out the incessant noise you find that there’s been little change in trajectory. The End-of-The-World spasm that we saw with Brexit has been replaced with the usual complacency that central banks will provide additional trillions in debt to keep the global economy moving forward. Yet the Central Bank Follies are dwarfed by the global political circus. It’s May Day in Great Britain as the first woman PM since The Iron Lady, takes the helm. The Chinese claim to the South China Sea was slapped down by The Hague; a first step to internationally sanctioned military action. Our apolitical Supreme Court has jumped into Presidential Politics with one Justice proclaiming that The Donald is unfit to be President. In short, it’s business as usual.
Food for Thought: We continue to advise you to trust your personal experience as a guide to the direction of the economy. From a top-down perspective, the global economy appears to be slowing. Global stock markets are rallying in anticipation of increased central bank stimulus. To us, this is akin to giving a heroin addict more heroin. Though some indices have rallied to new highs, we find it noteworthy that many individual stocks and mutual funds have not participated in the party. For example: Citigroup is down 28% from its 2015 high; Boeing down 18%; Walmart down 19%. We remain cautious and advise taking profits. Restructuring your portfolio may be a prudent move.
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!
The Economy: BREXIT!?! … or did it? Our poor Cousins across The Pond continue to spasm in the wake of last week’s vote. The end of the world scenario has been replaced by confusion, second guessing and dismissal by the Brits themselves. Talking heads are reveling in mindless chatter. The EU’s reaction has gone from “OMG No!!” to “Ok, if this is what you want, then get out now. We don’t want you hanging around.” Nature abhors a vacuum so the vacuous nonsense we’re hearing will eventually end. The consensus is that Brexit is an additional headwind for a global economy that’s already struggling with deflation. As with all things in life, there will be winners and losers. Because of this, we continue to emphasize that your personal experience is paramount. If Brexit is another headwind, then you must ask yourself which side of these headwinds am I on … With the Wind or Against the Wind?
Food for Thought: Preserving capital should now be your primary concern at this point in the economic cycle. Stock market indices are mixed as we end the first half of 2016; some up some down … and despite all the noise, multiple attempts to move to new highs have repeatedly failed. Investors should be leery of this repeated failure to move above year-old highs. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to achieve in a 7-year old, long-in-the-tooth, bull market. Clint Eastwood famously asked, “ … you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”
God Bless America. Land of the Free; Home of the Brave! We have the best and brightest future at the dawn of the American Century. Have a Great 4th of July!
The Economy: Fed Chair Yellen appeared before Congress this week; Tuesday before the Senate, Wednesday before the House. Hostility towards Yellen was palpable with House members reducing her to confusion and gestures of helplessness. Global distain for authority in general and Central Bankers in particular was evident in spades. But the Mother of All Events was the Brexit vote on Thursday. Pollsters and pundits got it all wrong with their incessant predictions of a landslide win for “Remain.” Flashing the Longbowman’s “V” the Brits moved to reestablish their national sovereignty and leave the EU. Financial markets crashed in shock and awe on Friday. (Only fools are going to buy this dip.) The uncertainty of Brexit was quickly on display. Though the process is supposed to take 2-years, British politicians began to call to immediately disregard many EU laws; particularly those on immigration and banking. Political parties throughout Europe began to call for Exit Referendums in their own countries. This is the death knell for the EU. Great Britain is the second largest economy in the EU. Saying the EU will survive is akin to saying that a marriage is still intact after one of the spouses has left after leaving an “I’m thru with U” note nailed to the front door. It’s gonna get messy.
Food for Thought: For over 70-years global bureaucrats and central bankers have pushed the secular, one-world agenda characterized by multiculturalism, globalization and the tyranny of the minority. These mostly unelected officials, while deriding the Divine Right of Kings, have ruled with the arrogance of dictators. They have ignored the social contract based on the consent of the governed. Brexit signals the beginning of the end of their failed reign. Despite the near universal, and very vocal, support of “Remain” by global politicians and despite the total support by the mainstream media for “Remain” the Brits revolted against the overlords and their propagandists. Political ramifications were immediate with British Prime Minister Cameron resigning. The ripples are beginning to roil outwards from ground zero with economic changes in the wind. If a slowing global economy, negative interest rates and the failure of global monetary policy weren’t enough, Brexit adds to the uncertainty that has so paralyzed Janet nd the Seven Dwarfs. However, we see opportunity in chaos. Contact us for how to protect your assets in the coming roller coaster ride.
The Economy: Economic numbers have disappointed this week. Housing disappointed. Manufacturing disappointed. The Fed met and as expected, maintained the status quo; no change to interest rates for the foreseeable future. Lower for longer or never forever. With respect to oil, for decades the mantra was that low oil prices were good for the USA. In the past 6-months policy wonks have championed the idea that low oil prices are bad for the ol’ USA. Oil prices are up almost 50% in the past few weeks. That must be a good thing as we spend more on everything petroleum. So who’s on First? Oil is up 50% and that’s now a good thing. So, oil moving back up to $140 must be a great thing. Confused? You should be. The mindless noise is deafening. Here’s a sample of recent headlines from the chattering media class courtesy of the “Daily Reckoning” website:
4/5: Dollar Rises as Investors Anticipate U.S. Data
4/6: Dollar Falls on Fed Minutes
4/13: Dollar Climbs Before Data Forecast
4/15: Dollar Falls on Lackluster U.S. Data
4/21: Dollar Rises After Solid U.S. Data
4/25: Dollar Sinks After Q1 Growth Takes Another Hit
You got that?
Food for Thought: We’re midway through the first quarter earnings reporting season. Stock buybacks and dumbed-down earnings expectations have given us earnings that again are beating those reduced expectations. Lower the bar enough and any caveman can stumble over it. Financial markets are lovin’ it. But for many investors this seems to be the stock market rally to hate. Beware. We believe that the US economy is fundamentally sound but until the Fed decides to stop supporting asset bubbles, we’re leery. Protecting your assets should be at the forefront of your decision making.