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: Economic data was light last week; what was released was weak. The stream of conflicting data continues unabated with Europe flipping between Teutonic Strength and Greco/Italian Tragedy. Japan is showing strength while dodging North Korean (NK) missiles. China boasts of their booming economy while trying to contain their Haircut-Impaired-NK-Doughboy. Geopolitics again stole the spotlight from the economy as Fed-Speak was absent except for comments from The Bernank. Big Ben opined that the Fed might keep its bloated balance sheet for the foreseeable future. … couldn’t shrink it without tanking the economy. Rumor is that Grandma Yellen is trying to apply the Art of the Deal to The Donald himself. The Trade: She stays at the Fed for another term in exchange for keeping interest rates low. … not bad if she can pull it off … and why not. The Federal budget has little room for an increase in debt service … might take away from all those shiny toys that The Pentagon wants.
Food for Thought: “Peace through strength” was a phrase championed by Ronald Reagan. The current “America First” rhetoric apparently does not mean withdrawal from the world. Rather, it appears to be a policy of strongly protecting American interests, with force. North Korea is problematic but hardly a Gordian Knot. As we look out on the investing landscape we see geopolitical risk as increasingly likely to effect financial markets. Stock markets have stalled as this reality comes home.
Music of the Week: Tom Jones’ “Tom Jones”
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: The Song Remains The Same. Global slow growth; China head-in-the-sand; Europe in Brexit Denial; the Russians ignoring sanctions to re-establish their traditional presence in the Middle East. Macro data seems to confirm a global economy that is continuing to slow. What this means at the local level is more difficult to determine. With 60% of the U.S. budget going to entitlements, there is direct taxpayer support for the U.S. economy. As the world’s 6th largest economy, California is awash in money. Yet, in our ongoing, informal poll, people continue to say, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” If this is optimistic-unease it may explain why most financial markets have gone nowhere for the past 15-months.
Food for Thought: Only 18-days till the Theater of the Absurd closes. One Champion is accused of being a Russian puppet. (Huh?!?) The other Champion is accused of being the darling of a corrupt Justice Department and the FBI. (Please!?!) In a more genteel age, “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sex with that woman” were seen as the epitome of lowbrow. No more. As the greatest economic and military power in history, as the world’s beacon of hope and enlightenment, we have set new benchmarks for gutter crawlers, petty dictators, morons and idiots.
Debate #1: Stupid
Debate #2: Stupider
Debate #3: Stupidest
Father, take this cup from me.
Music of the Week: Halie Loren’s “After Dark”
The Economy: The Fed concluded its 2-day meeting today with its usual inaction. This time it was because “the labor market has slowed.” Next month it’ll be due to the shrinking icepack in Antarctica. TGISummerTime. The dull, monotone of the Fed press conference seemed to confirm that no-one expects anything from these Amos and Andy dissimulators. Financial markets rallied into the Fed’s press conference then reversed course and sold off at its conclusion. It was as if markets were rattling their sabers and shouting, “enough with the tofu, give us some real meat.” The message remains the same: The Fed doesn’t believe that the economy is strong enough to survive without continued support. If the Fed is right, then financial markets have no business being near all-time highs. If the Fed is wrong then markets should be much higher than they are. So who’s on first?
Food for Thought: BREXIT!!!!!!!!!!! British Exit. Next Thursday, June 23, our cousins across the pond will vote on whether to remain in the European Union (EU). Global markets will go haywire, regardless of the vote, before settling back into their somnambulant complacency. The EU was founded in 1951 and has never had a member state leave the club. Brexit will shatter the illusion of Union. It will also establish a guidebook for other nations itching to ditch Brussels. Great Britain has always had a love/hate relationship with its EU membership. Polls show about a 50-50 split on the issue with screamers on both sides saying it’ll be the end of the world. Britain has always been of Europe but not in Europe. So their disenchantment with EU monetary policy, immigration and unelected EU officials ruling by diktat has been brewing for a long time. Take note then retire to the beach to enjoy the summer.
Music of The Week: The Beatles “Rubber Soul”