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”
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The Economy: Data continues to confirm that the global economy in general and the US economy in particular are accelerating. Industrial production is the latest metric to blow through expectations. The Fed’s Beige Book also confirms expansion and modest inflation. Euphoria continues to build support for increased consumer/business spending as the US tax cuts bring the bacon home. Not surprisingly, members of the Fed are beginning to voice caution about the economy overheating. The Fed has also expressed concern that markets are ignoring the interest rate tightening cycle which has already increased the Fed Funds rate by 125 basis points. When the Fed raises rates, its intention is to tighten financial conditions. Borrowing gets harder and more costly at all levels. Investors and banks become less willing to lend and borrowers become less reckless. Credit cools off and the economy slows. … not that we’ve seen any of this yet. By contrast we seem to be at the beginning of a new phase of “Damn the torpedoes; full steam ahead” in business.
Food for Thought: Retirement. One of life’s major events. Some start thinking retirement in high school. Others not until AARP comes calling. Most retirees are shocked at how inflexible their overhead is when they retire. The solution for many boomers is to try to make up for lost time by being aggressively invested in this stock market. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Bitcoin is the latest example of how quickly things can change. Bitcoin has lost 50% of its value since reaching a high in December. A 50% loss in less than one month. US stock markets have been on a rocket ride since Trump was elected. Those approaching retirement and those who are retired should be especially cautious of this market. Structuring an income producing portfolio should be your priority.
Music of The Week: Elvis “Elvis Forever”
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The Economy: The numbers were again mixed and eclipsed this week by politics. Housing starts and building permits were down. Jobless claims up, Industrial Production down. Fed minutes were, as usual, a sleeper … watching Yellen kick the can down the road is tedious at best. The excitement was reserved for the NOKO Doughboy, who blinked; for the rewriting of U.S. history that occurred in North Carolina and for the continuing Circus on the Potomac. With the exit of Steve Bannon from the White House, Chief of Staff John Kelly appears to have consolidated his control. If true, we may begin to see a unified message from the Trump Administration. Even if that message is via tweet, it may be an improvement over the noise that has become a distraction. With the uncertainty of the past few weeks, stocks have weakened while bonds have been in a holding pattern.
Food for Thought: Stocks are making some investors nervous. After relentlessly moving up this year, markets have stalled. Is it because August is usually a weak month, or is something else at play? U.S. markets have failed to hold their highs and the FANGs are down about 10%. Bulls see Dow 30,000 around the corner. Bears are salivating for a 20% correction. Central Banks continue to pump trillions into the global economy. As long as Fed Policy is “Free Money Forever” there will be an upward bias to stocks. Yet warnings abound. Fiscal policy along with Trump Initiatives are DOA. Political gridlock under Obama was astonishing; under The Donald it is simply unbelievable. Clearly stocks can’t go up forever. This begs the question for investors who are on the sidelines or short, “Do you want to be right or do you want to make money?” Which of course leads to the caveat, “Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”
Music of the Week: Shakira’s “Can’t Remember to Forget You”
The Economy: Central Banks have again re-emerged as the biggest influence on financial markets. This follows a period, earlier this year, when global politics ruled. Since then, global and national politics have resumed their traditional role of all talk, no action; all hat, no cattle. Gridlock. Obstructionist, Stumblebum Democrats. Obstructionist, Stumblebum Republicans. “This time is different” turned on its head once again. So we’re back to relying on Fed Chair Yellen to provide us with our daily diet of comedic relief. This year the Fed has convinced markets that interest rates were going up to preserve the integrity of the financial system. In last week’s Congressional testimony, Yellen backtracked on that carefully crafted plan. Now markets are convinced that we’ll see lower for longer in interest rates. The Fed’s inability to adhere to any type of Monetary Policy other than whimsy, has again proven to be the case. Stocks and real estate continue their run to infinity and beyond.
Food for Thought: Free money continues to be the official policy of the Fed. Savers have gotten crushed for 8-years. Markets have levitated. According to some, the FANGs now account for 30% of stock market returns. We saw it in the 60s with the Nifty Fifty. Stocks and real estate have been immune to shocks of any kind. So there is now an entire generation of investors who are convinced that markets only go up. There are bold investors and there are old investors but there are no bold, old investors. We continue to see a disconnect between an expanding economy and the need for unceasing stimulus. More Cowbell! It is a no-win situation. With markets relentlessly rising you have to stay on the dance floor. Keep dancing but do it closer to the door.
Music of the Week: Steely Dan’s “Everything Must Go”
The Economy: The Fed’s latest buzz-word is the “High Pressure Economy.” … as in The Fed is going to run a “High Pressure Economy.” The High Pressure Economy is one in which inflation is allowed to run beyond levels deemed prudent. It’s the latest Fed-Speak for managing a sluggish economy that refuses to respond to 8-years of unbridled stimulus and low interest rates. While the focus is on whether the Fed will raise interest rates in December, attention might be better placed in the future. Another ¼ point hike in rates isn’t going to do much more than blow marginal players out of dubious deals. But keeping interest rates artificially low for several more years will have a significant impact on many aspects of society. Pension plans are especially at risk. Yellen rules until at least 2018 possibly 2022. Bigly. Come the new year, the voting members of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) who are hawks, reach the end of their terms. Coincidently, their replacements are uber-doves who will play into Yellen’s “lower for longer” policy. Inflation is persistently running below target. The U.S. and global economies are showing weak to inconsistent metrics. Why would the Fed feel compelled to raise rates at all?
Food for Thought: Finding safe income in a zero interest rate environment is a desperate challenge for investors in general and retirees in particular. Bank deposits and money markets are losers when you figure in taxes and inflation. The long treasury at 2.49% is a bust as well. Dividend paying stocks are now being touted as the answer. But the dividend can always be cut and the stock can always plunge in value; even when inside an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) or a mutual fund.
Music of the Week: Halie Loren’s “After Dark”
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.
1. Know yourself.
2. Know the system.
3. Do your homework.
4. Keep history in mind.
5. Acknowledge luck.
6. Stick to your timeframe.
7. Beware of forecasts.
8. Don’t follow the herd.
9. Be flexible
10. Be nimble
Turn the other cheek
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
Money isn’t everything.
Money makes the world go round.
Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Don’t beat your head against a wall.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The early bird gets the worm.
Haste makes waste.
All good things come to those who wait.
Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.
Two heads are better than one.
Paddle your own canoe.