The Economy: The State of The Union clearly showed the sharp divide in the U.S. electorate. Pick your flavor. Markets have cheered Trump since the election. Given the ongoing economic expansion, expect the Fed to continue to tap-the-brakes with further interest rate hikes. Jay Powell replaces Yellen as Fed Chair at cob today. Yellen was the most dovish Fed Chair in history. Powell, by contrast is on record as saying, “… it is not the Fed’s job to stop people from losing money.” This in itself will be a sea-change, if there is follow through, since the Fed has been stock market driven since the Financial Crisis. Markets, the media and investors in particular have been enamored with synchronized global growth, tax cuts, profit repatriation, one-time bonuses and historically low unemployment. The Fed interest rate moves have created every expansion and every recession; every bull and every bear market. Party on Garth!
Food for Thought: What is your long-game? Gonzo Hunter Thompson spoke for some when he said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” For most however, there are more prosaic goals such as planning for retirement, creating an estate or other bequeaths to family, friends and charitable organizations. Annuities may be the appropriate way to achieve funding needs. Contact us if you have questions about Annuities.
Music of The Week: Chaka Khan “Chaka”
We Quarterback Money®
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”
The Economy: 3rd quarter earnings season began this week but it’s too early to tell whether this will be a good or bad metric. Of more immediate focus were the Fed minutes that were released today. As expected the minutes showed the Fed slowly moving towards an interest rate hike at some point in the future. Hawks have jumped on a December hike. Doves push it out into the indeterminate future. Low interest rates and slow growth have become embedded in the global economy. Something extraordinary will have to happen to change that dynamic. Governments and central banks have proven adept at containing immediate damage and pushing the day of reckoning into the future; if in fact there is one. While the list of the Gloom and Doom Crowd grows longer, they’ve been wrong for so long that their voices have faded to insignificance.
Food for Thought: 4th quarter is here with its annual tax planning and year end strategy sessions. This is a good time to review all aspects of your financial picture. Are you on target? … do you have a target? Has your tolerance for risk changed? Is your financial documentation up to date and in a location that is known to someone other than yourself? Are wills, trusts and health care directives current? Contact us if we can help you.
Music of the Week: Vanessa Williams’ “The Real Thing”
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”