4th Quarter Forecast and Opinion

The growth outlook for the fourth quarter is opaque, because there is no way to determine when supply chain disruptions will begin to unwind. A reluctant recognition of higher inflation by the Federal Reserve is developing, as supply chain bottlenecks are holding up inflation longer than previously thought. There are currently 72 container ships off the port of Los Angeles which cannot deliver some 550,000 containers coming from Asia. This is due to a lack of investment in US ports over the past 10 years, as well as a shortage of qualified truckers, and may continue into 2022.. Consumers have been warned that Christmas shopping may be severely impaired by empty shelves this year.


Third Quarter Forecast and Opinion

The predominant theme in the second quarter was inflationary pressure in the financial markets, and how this might impact the Federal Reserve’s policy decisions on interest rates. The inflation rate in May was 5% compared with a year earlier. Year-on Year price increases in almost all commodities have been very elevated, evidenced by the copper market (+51%), wheat (up 21%), US median home prices (up 23%), and oil (up over 50% this year).

The Federal Reserve believes that this inflation is transitory, and appears elevated due to the “look-back” effect, i.e., the fact that the basis of comparison was so low last March, April, and May.

In June, the Fed raised its expectations f...

Second Quarter Forecast and Opinion

The US savings rate is very elevated at 13.6%, compared with a pre-Covid average of 6% since 2000. Americans have been saving during the pandemic at an unprecedented rate; as the pandemic abates, they will begin spending with pent up demand. This, combined with a rapidly recovering economy, an unprecedented increase in money supply, a Federal Reserve which seems committed to unlimited economic stimulus, ever expanding fiscal stimulus from the government, and a new sense of optimism about a successful vaccination program are keeping spirits high in the stock market.

The Fed has repeatedly committed to keeping the overnight Fed funds rate low, and there has been an unprecedented increase in the...

First Quarter Outlook and Forecast

One year ago, GDP growth was expected to be 4.8%. Instead, it’s now projected for 2020 at -4%, the largest drop in modern history. Simultaneously, world stock markets increased in value from $80 trillion to $100 trillion even as S&P earnings per share dropped by 15% last year.

This strange stock market behavior can be explained by the sheer size of the stimulus thrown at the Covid-19 crisis. Essentially, the Fed threw $4.5 trillion at the $300 billion problem of lost Covid-19 wages. The enormity of this government stimulus overcame any economic downturn, uncertainty, or political tension. Another $1.9 trillion of stimulus was announced last week by president elect Biden. Two other facto...

Fourth Quarter Outlook and Forecast

Extreme uncertainty is driving investor sentiment as we approach the 2020 elections, and this uncertainty may be driven by more than the voting outcome. A view of the implicit volatility curve on the S&P 500 options demonstrates that Wall Street is pricing in this volatility after the elections and well into December. The reader may draw their own conclusions about what this means, while remembering that the stock market likes neither uncertainty nor constitutional crises.

Covid-19 has put an end to the economy’s expansion at a time when the nation is deeply in debt. According to the Wall Street Journal, “borrowing spurred by years of low interest rates adds up to $64 trillion in ...

Third Quarter Outlook and Forecast

Investors wondering why the stock market continues to rise as we face the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression need only look at the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, which has increased in size by $3 trillion since February.

That represents printed money which the Fed is using to purchase Treasury bonds, mortgage bonds, corporate bonds, and asset backed securities, which brings the total amount of printed money to $7 trillion. In doing so, they have driven bond yields down, which justifies a higher multiple for stocks.
This is currently the only reason for a rising stock market. Markets have become completely divorced from reality, and stocks in particular are ignoring th...

Second Quarter Outlook and Opinion

The coronavirus has thrown the world into chaos over the last quarter, and its impact on the economy was swift and devastating. It has been a health and financial crisis like no other, with substantial uncertainty and many unpredictable variables. The peak-to-trough decline in U.S. and European GDP is likely to be more than double the decline during the global financial crisis, or roughly -10%. The stock market slide experienced between February and
March was the steepest decline in the S&P 500 ever, even steeper than in 1929.

Since 1870, downturns of this magnitude have happened mostly because of either world wars or depressions, taking on average, five years for output to regain its peak. Ou...

First Quarter Outlook and Opinion

Stock market indices have shrugged off Iran, and begun the year by moving higher. Unless Iran chooses to somehow disrupt the supply of oil to the West, it is unlikely to have much of an impact.

There has been consistent selling in the U.S. by retail investors in 2019. Flows have been drifting out from retail investors and into the hands of companies buying back their own shares. Assuming that there is no recession in 2020, and assuming that Donald Trump is re-elected, retail investors may experience FOMO, or a fear of missing out. Historically, the period of mid-October through May is a good period for stocks, but January is, on average, particularly good for small cap stocks. The relative pe...

Fourth Quarter 2019 Forecast and Opinion

In September, Trump tariffs were imposed on $112 billion more of Chinese imports. Trump now threatens to increase this to $550 billion. As a result, the World Trade Organization has now slashed its forecast for 2019 trade growth to 1.2% from 2.6%. The Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and U.S. economies are slowing. The European economy is slowing dramatically, and is now seen growing at zero in 2019. Germany is slowing because as Chinese companies export less to the U.S., they purchase less German machinery. This, plus the uncertainty of Brexit, has German companies nervous about investing.

In the U.S., the ISM manufacturing index, an important indicator for the health of the economy, contracted in...

Third Quarter 2019 Forecast and Opinion

The New York Federal Reserve now sees a risk of recession at 33% in the next twelve months. When this indicator rises above 30%, a recession typically follows, although sometimes with a delay of 12-24 months.

The global economy is slowing nearly everywhere, but the U.S. is perceived by many as being in great shape, particularly if measured by the stock market. However, signs of a slowdown are looming in housing, construction, automobiles, and the industrial sector, in the latter case due to trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Purchasing manager Indicators are slowing, both in services and manufacturing, and the rest of the world is cause for concern, with Chinese, South Korean, Japanes...