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: Eight years into the current economic expansion there is nothing on the horizon likely to disrupt things for the next 6-12 months. Of course this could change at any moment. However we don’t see anything at present. The geopolitical situation could change at any moment. Some unforeseen event could trigger a meltdown in any number of national economies. But at present we see the immediate future as a continuation of the recent economic past. Central banks appear to be on a synchronized path of higher interest rates. Eventually this will impact global stock markets. But when that occurs is an unknown. For every economic number released there are pundits in support and opposed. Choose your poison. We continue to emphasize that you should keep an eye on the horizon while staying focused on your own specific situation.
Food for Thought: Stocks remain on a rocket ride with new records set almost every day. We’re 8-years into what is now the second longest bull market in history. It is crystal clear that regardless of age or valuations, this market will continue to go up until it doesn’t. Like the global economic expansion, there is nothing on the horizon that spells the end. We may see a correction that ushers in a final run to the top. … or there may be several corrections that eventually end the institutionalized Buy-The-Dip reaction to all pullbacks we’ve seen in the past 8-years. Of interest is that on separate occasions I was told by individual investors that the Dow will go to 30,000 before the ride is over; another stated that the Dow would be at 100,000 in 10-years. Reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies: “Never saw the sun shining so bright, Never saw things going so right …”
Music of The Week: Ken Navarro’s “Smooth Sensation”
We Quarterback Money®
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: 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: High jinx at the Circus on the Potomac highlighted this week. On Tuesday, Wells Fargo’s CEO was excoriated by Senator Elizabeth Warren. Her roasting included comments that the CEO should resign and that he should face criminal prosecution. She pointed out that he has made hundreds of millions as a result of the fraudulent account shenanigans at Wells. But if the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis is a guide, the Wells Fargo board will probably give their guy a raise and millions of additional stock options. Today saw the Fed report out of their latest 2-day meeting with no change in interest rates. This was the expected outcome. Asked if this was a political move inspired by the upcoming presidential election, Fed Chair Yellen denied that she leads a Clinton Fed. Lower for longer remains the name of the game.
Food for Thought: Financial markets usually lead the real economy both up and down. Here in San Diego, our ongoing street poll has begun to show weakness is some sectors of the San Diego economy. There is some evidence that the uncertainty in the financial markets is bleeding over into the real San Diego economy. What we’re hearing is that new money is slowing down. Business owners and executives appear to be taking more of a wait and see attitude towards new endeavors. Increasingly we’re hearing folks say, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” A recent San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce poll shows San Diego business confidence at a 3-year low.
Music of the Week: Atlantic Five Jazz Band’s “Bar Music Moods – The Piano Edition Vol. 1”
The Economy: At some point, news on the economy will focus on the fundamentals of data rather on the whims of Central Bankers. But we’re not there yet. So with the Fed meeting next week, life is on hold while we await more dissembling opacity. There is a growing sense that 7-years of monetary policy have failed and that continuing down the same path is a mistake. How this plays out is anyone’s guess. But one thing is certain, markets don’t like uncertainty. Talking heads and other blithering, blathering idiots are having a field day in front of the last Fed meeting prior to the election. Our call remains that the highly politicized Fed will do nothing to diminish the chances of a Clinton victory. So we say, “No Change; Lower for Longer” on interest rates. … continue to kick the can down the road and hope that somehow, the bubble of extreme asset inflation, can be pricked and deflated without an implosion. Tellingly, former Fed Chair Greenspan has said, that this, “… is the worst economic and political environment …” he’s ever seen.
Food for Thought: The equity markets have demonstrated how chaotic and fragile they truly are. Simply the whisper of a ¼ percent rate hike sent markets down over 2% on Friday. On Monday, the whisper that the ¼ percent hike was off the table sent markets up over 1%. On Tuesday, markets dropped again. We don’t think this is a healthy investing environment. We are focused on protecting assets. We continue to sell positions that are at a profit and put the proceeds into the money markets. You want to have funds available for investing when the opportunity presents itself. We’re not doom and gloomers. Rather we’re veterans of several market sell-offs, crashes and bear markets. At this type of inflection point, investments can often be reallocated to take advantage of opportunity or to make up significant losses.
Music of the Week: Big Mountain’s “Resistance”
The Economy: No news is … no news. The Fed released their July minutes last week. It was met with a yawn. Lower Forever remains the mantra. Though Fed targets have been consistently met, Lower Forever is the only game in town for interest rates. Likewise stocks will go up forever or as Buzz Lightyear put it, “To infinity and beyond.” This week is the Central Bank Lovefest in Jackson Hole. Fed Chair The Janet caps the frenzy with a speech on Friday. Talking heads are blathering about a breakthrough policy speech. We disagree. The Fed is no more apolitical than The Supremes as witnessed by Justice Ginsberg’s inappropriate comments. The Janet is a partisan of The Hillary so no tightening will occur that might adversely affect financial markets. They will do nothing to upset markets until after her preordained ascension and the firm establishment of a hereditary American political dynasty. With 75 days till the Greatest Show on Earth closes, there’ll be no action on interest rates till at least December … if then. Further supporting our call is that The Donald has said that he’ll replace The Janet if he’s elected. So she’ll do nothing to increase his odds of a win.
Food for Thought: A MIRVed Chicxulub asteroid taking out the 100 largest cities on the planet wouldn’t change the complacency in global financial markets. The asteroid strike would elicit cheers from investors as Central Bankers opened the floodgates to eternal easy money. Negative interest rates would be expanded throughout the land and the disappearing middle class would be forced, by our militarized police, to pay the Too Big To Fail Banks on funds deposited. Absurd, yes; farfetched no. In Japan, sales of home safes are skyrocketing as depositors chose to stash money at home rather than pay banks to hold it. If this isn’t a grassroots revolt against centralized planning, then what is? Meanwhile, The Janet is said to have a proposal to double the Fed balance from $4 trillion to $8 trillion in the next round of Quantitative Easing. The message from on high: Debt is good, crushing debt is better, debt that impoverishes our great-great-grandchildren is best.
Music of the Week: Paul Taylor’s “Burnin'”
The Economy: As has been the case for a while, economic data has been mixed. Examining the data results in the Rabbit Hole story getting curiouser and curiouser. For example, blow-out automobile sales were recently reported. But then you find that sub-prime auto loans are at all-time highs. So auto makers are moving product in the same risky way that the housing market was propped-up with sub-prime loans before the financial crisis. The economy continues to expand at a historically slow pace. But after 7-years of zero interest rates you’d expect something more. Central bankers have embraced negative interest rates without consideration to the damage being done to savers or financial institutions. Now the vaunted US consumer may be voting with his/her feet. The retail sector has been reporting first quarter earnings this week. Most have been dismal. Nordstrom missed earnings with the stock getting crushed in the after market; down 17%. Pundits are beginning to wonder if the consumer is pulling in its horns. While there are sectors that are doing well, it’s very much a case by case basis. With the current economic environment look to your specific organization and region.
Food for Thought: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince recently died without a will. He left a $250 million estate that will now be fought over for years. Absurd. Get your will done or updated. Create or update your trust while you’re at it. The Grim Reaper doesn’t respect the loose ends in your estate planning. The larger your estate the more it will draw bums and gold diggers out of the woodwork. Spare your family and your estate.
Music of The Week: Strunz & Farah’s Album “Primal Magic”