Displaying items by tag: economy
Barron’s has just interviewed a prominent economist—Stephanie Pomboy—and she has some very interesting opinions about the economy. Rather than seeing the economy’s recent growth as a good performance, she analyzes the data to show that this pickup in growth is actually the last gasp of American consumers before a big recession. Digging into corporate spending data, she shows how the US consumer has been stretched by everyday expenses even as discretionary spending is weak. Consumers have had to pay for extra everyday costs, such as on food and energy, from savings or credit. Now that the savings rate is starting to rise, Pomboy thinks we are headed for a recession.
FINSUM: This is an entirely different way to read the tape, but may not be that far off the truth.
One of the big risks for the current market regards the economy. The big fear is that the Fed may raise rates too quickly, which could bring on a recession that would in turn sink stocks. However, there is another risk to the economy that is not as well understood. That risk is one of a labor crunch that curtails economic output. Demographic shifts mean there will be a shortfall of 8.2m workers over the next decade. As Barron’s puts it, the implications are broad and easy to explain: “Oil and gas stay in the ground because there aren’t enough workers to extract it; homes aren’t built because builders can’t find enough laborers. In Maine this winter, the state couldn’t find enough people to drive snowplows”.
FINSUM: We think this is a just another reason why inflation and rates are not going to rise significantly. While workers are short, wages aren’t rising that fast, and if economic production also stays weak, then we just don’t see a bond bear market coming. Stocks are another story, however.
Wall Street is getting nervous about the changes occurring in the White House. Over the last week, President Trump has lost or fired both Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson, former Goldman Sachs COO and former Exxon CEO, respectively. Both Cohn and Tllerson were considered the business-friendly part of Trump’s White House who would look after corporate and investor interests. With them gone, investors are betting the odds of a trade war are getting more likely. One equity strategist summarized the situation, saying “We’ve gone a long time with a zero percent chance of a trade war, it’s now higher than that -- probably significantly higher than that … The internationalists have lost and the nationalists have won”.
FINSUM: We agree that a trade war is getting more likely. If it occurs, we think it will be poor for equities markets, but not necessarily terrible for the economy.
Few remember how this very long bull market started, but it happened with some very badly blown earnings forecasts. At the grim bottom of the Financial Crisis in 2009, analysts were expecting double digit declines in corporate earnings. Instead, earnings rose, starting what is a bull market entering its tenth year. Now, Bloomberg says, blown earnings forecasts will be what turns this bull into a bear. Analysts tend to be comically wrong on earnings forecasts at the most pivotal moments, and with sentiment looking very strong, it may very well be a similar miss to 2009 that sends the bull market off its lofty perch.
FINSUM: A big earnings miss right when the economy looks strong would be very jarring for investors and sow a lot of doubt about the future. This call seems plausible to us.
Many who are worried about the future of the stock market take solace in the fact that the US economy looks strong. If the economy is doing so well, the market is less likely to fall, or so the logic goes. However, looking at history, that understanding is unwarranted, as stocks lag well in advance of economic downturns. In fact, the market usually tops out well before any economic downturn begins, and by the time a recession actually starts, stocks will have long since been in a bear market.
FINSUM: This is an excellent point. Just as the current bull market started during the fallout of the Financial Crisis, the bear market will probably start when the economy looks like it is in full swing.