The Economy: “Synchronized Global Expansion” is the latest buzzword describing our global and national economy. While the Fed begins reducing their balance sheet this month, the rest of global central banks continue to print money with abandon; piling on more debt for future generations. How this house of cards ends is anyone’s guess. While we shake our heads in wonder, the flip side of the coin is that the Good Ole USA might actually pull it off. Natural and man-made disasters aside, Armageddon may not occur. Not to sound like a shill, but as a nation we have a history of coming back from the brink. While Americans appear to be more divided than ever before, the numbers show an optimism that can’t be denied. Consumer confidence is at all-time highs. Manufacturing indices are surging. Inflation remains historically low. Last but not least, the stock market continues to set new records. You can argue that the economic expansion is in the 7 or 8th inning. You can debate equity valuations or comparisons. You can read the tea leaves till you’re blue in the face. But one thing is clear; stocks are saying that the good times will continue.
Food for Thought: “Bless her heart” is Southern Belle code. Spoken in sympathetic tones, it translates into “That gal is out of control!” Such is the case of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s quixotic effort to put Wells Fargo out of business because of its ongoing regulatory problems. Bless her heart! Liz confuses herself with Moses and the Golden Calf. Bless her heart. First, there’s the matter of elevation: There is no Mount Sinai; she’s in The Swamp. Second, the Golden Calf is the Federal Reserve which is the Titanium Transformer; stronger than dirt and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Bless her heart. Third, hurling tablets don’t work no mo. The good Senator from Massachusetts would be more effective chasing Salem witches than tackling a TBTF bank.
Music of The Week: Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” Tom Petty passed away this week at 66.
The Economy: Economic news has been positive this week. Of course this doesn’t mean that Janet and the Seven Dwarfs will raise interest rates anytime soon. While the rest of the planet teeters on the verge of another banking crisis, the U.S. has already moved beyond the Wells Fargo Follies and on to other jollies. Wells Fargo finished up revelations of fraudulent accounts with revelations that they illegally repossessed automobiles of servicemen and women; many of whom were serving overseas. The Wells Fargo culture has obviously taken a page from the leadership manual of Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian who famously said that what is best in life is, “To crush your enemies (customers), to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” Then there’s the parallel saga of Deutsche Bank with more than $30 TRILLION in derivatives exposure. Huh?!? That’s twelve times the GDP of Germany. Lehman Brothers was leveraged 21:1 when they blew up. According to some wags, Deutsche Bank is leveraged 40:1. Someone’s laughing, Lord, Kumbaya Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya; Someone’s praying, Lord, Kumbaya; Oh Lord, Kumbaya.
Food for Thought: The next episode of Circus Maximus comes to you this Sunday when our American Gladiators again face off in their second “Ruder Than You” slug fest. The hapless moderators have been swept-up in the noxious atmosphere and are now part of the show as they struggle for the perfect amount of uncivilized behavior. As Americans we’re guaranteed that whoever wins this odious election will be able to swagger in to any international confrontation with their bones made.
Music of the week: Ruder Than You’s Album “Philly Stylee”
The Economy: Call it Deer-In-The-Headlights week. First up was The Donald and The Hillary. Each took a turn to be stumped on the stump. But this week’s prize goes to Wells Fargo CEO Stumpf who was grilled, roasted and vilified by lawmakers who wanted Stumpf’s neck on a stump … headlights or no. The fallout from the Wells Fargo morality play is expected to advance the agenda to break up the TBTF banks. The state of California has suspended all official dealings with Wells Fargo following the bank’s scheme that created phony bank and credit-card accounts to collect fees. Oversight committees of other organizations are questioning their relationships with the bank. For the duration, Stumpf has collected more than $250 million in compensation. Senator Elizabeth Warren condemned Stumpf for his “gutless leadership.” Watch the video of the hearings to see the fury of lawmakers. No admission of guilt yet.
Food for Thought: When you change jobs, analyze whether you should take your 401k with you. This is a detail that sometimes falls through the cracks or is postponed. The assets in your 401k belong to you. Your best course of action may be to roll those assets into an IRA. By doing so you exercise more control over your retirement planning. We can help with your analysis. Transferring your 401k is a simple process. Contact us if you have questions.
Music of the Week: JJ Cale’s “Closer to You”
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”