Posts tagged ‘gdp growth’

Fed Ripping Off the Inflation Band-Aid

Inflation rates have been running near 40-year highs, and as a result, the Federal Reserve is doing everything in its power to rip off the Band-Aid of insidious high price levels in a swift manner. The Fed’s goal is to inflict quick, near-term pain on the economy in exchange for long-term price stability and future economic gains. How quickly has the Fed been hiking interest rates? The short answer is the rate of increases has been the fastest in decades (see chart below). Essentially, the Federal Reserve has pushed the targeted benchmark Federal Funds target rate from 0% at the beginning of this year to 3.25% today. Going forward, the goal is to lift rates to 4.4% by year-end, and then to 4.6% by next year (see Fed’s “dot plot” chart).

Source: Trading Economics

How should one interpret all of this? Well, if the Fed is right about their interest rate forecasts, the Band-Aid is being ripped off very quickly, and 95% of the pain should be felt by December. In other words, there should be a light at the end of the tunnel, soon.

The Good News on Inflation

When it comes to inflation, the good news is that it appears to be peaking (see chart below), and many economists see the declining inflation trend continuing in the coming months. Why do pundits see inflation peaking? For starters, a broad list of commodity prices have declined significantly in recent months, including gasolinecrude oilsteelcopper, and gold, among many others.

Source: Trading Economics

Outside of commodities, investors have seen prices drop in other areas of the economy as well, including housing prices, which recently experienced the fastest monthly price drop in 11 years, and rent prices as well (see chart below).

Source: Calculated Risk

Anybody who was shopping for a car during the pandemic knows what happened to pricing – it exploded higher. But even in this area, we are seeing prices coming down (see chart below), and CarMax Inc. (KMX), the national used car retail chain confirmed the softening price trend last week.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Pain Spread Broadly

When interest rates increase at the fastest pace in 40 years, pain is felt across almost all asset classes. It’s not just U.S. stocks, which declined -9.3% last month (S&P 500), but it’s also housing -8.5% (XHB), real estate investment trusts -13.8% (VNQ), bonds -4.4% (BND), Bitcoin -3.1%, European stocks -10.1% (VGK), Chinese stocks -14.4% (FXI), and Agriculture -3.0% (DBA). The +17% increase in the value of the U.S. dollar this year against a basket of foreign currencies is substantially pressuring cross-border business for larger multi-national companies too – Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), for example, blamed U.S. dollar strength as the primary reason to cut earnings several months ago. Like Hurricane Ian, large interest rate increases have caused significant damage across a wide swath of areas.

But for those following the communication of Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, in recent months, they should not be surprised. Chairman Powell has signaled on numerous occasions, including last month at a key economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that the Fed’s war path to curb inflation by increasing interest rates will inflict wide-ranging “pain” on Americans. Some of that pain can be seen in mortgage rates, which have more than doubled in 2022 and last week eclipsed 7.0% (see chart below), the highest level in 20 years.

Source: Calculated Risk

Now is Not the Time to Panic

There is a lot of uncertainty out in the world currently (i.e., inflation, the Fed, Russia-Ukraine, strong dollar, elections, recession fears, etc.), but that is always the case. There is never a period when there is nothing to be concerned about. With the S&P 500 down more than -25% from its peak (and the NASDAQ down approximately -35%), now is not the right time to panic. Knee-jerk emotional decisions during stressful times are very rarely the right response. With these kind of drops, a mild-to-moderate recession is already baked into the cake, even though the economy is expected to grow for the next four quarters and for all of 2023 (see GDP forecasts below). Stated differently, it’s quite possible that even if the economy deteriorates into a recession, stock prices could rebound smartly higher because any potential future bad news has already been anticipated in the current price drops.

Worth noting, as I have pointed out previously, numerous data points are indicating inflation is peaking, if not already coming down. Inflation expectations have already dropped to about 2%, if you consider the spread between the yield on the 5-Year Note (4%) and the yield on the 5-Year TIP-Treasury Inflation Protected Note (2%). If the economy continues to slow down, and inflation has stabilized or declined, the Federal Reserve will likely pivot to decreasing interest rates, which should act like a tailwind for financial markets, unlike the headwind of rising rates this year.

Ripping off the Band-Aid can be painful in the short-run, but the long-term gains achieved during the healing process can be much more pleasurable.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in MSFT, BND and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in KMX, XHB, VNQ, VGK, FXI, DBA or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 3, 2022 at 2:24 pm 4 comments

Consumer Confidence Flies as Stock Market Hits New Highs

As the economy starts reopening from a global pandemic that is improving, consumers and businesses are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The surge in the recently reported Consumer Confidence figures to a new one-year high (see chart below) is evidence the recovery is well on its way. A stock market reaching new record highs is further evidence of the reopening recovery. More specifically, the Dow Jones Industrial Average catapulted 2,094 points higher (+6.2%) for the month to 32,981 and the S&P 500 index soared +4.2%. A rise in interest rate yields on the 10-Year Treasury Note to 1.7% from 1.4% last month placed pressure on technology growth stocks, which led to a more modest gain of +0.4% in the tech-heavy NASDAQ index during March.

Source: MarketWatch

Comeback from COVID

With a combination of 150 million vaccine doses administered and 30 million cumulative COVID cases, the U.S. population has creeped closer toward herd immunity protection against the virus and pushed down hospitalizations dramatically (see chart below).

Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Also contributing to investor optimism have been the rising values of investments and real estate assets thanks to an improving economy and COVID case count. As you can see from the chart below, the net worth of American households has more than doubled from the 2008-2009 financial crisis to approximately $130 trillion dollars, which in turn has allowed consumers to responsibly control and manage their personal debt. Unfortunately, the U.S. government hasn’t been as successful in keeping debt levels in check.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Spending and Paying for Infrastructure Growth

Besides focusing on positive COVID trends, investors have also centered their attention on the passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill last month and a new proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden unveiled details on yesterday. At the heart of the multi-trillion dollar spending are the following components (see also graphic below):

  • $621 billion modernize transportation infrastructure
  • $400 billion to assist the aging and disabled
  • $300 billion to boost the manufacturing industry
  • $213 billion to build and retrofit affordable housing
  • $100 billion to expand broadband access
Source: The Wall Street Journal

With over $28 trillion in government debt, how will all this spending be funded? According to The Fiscal Times, there are four main tax categories to help in the funding:

Corporate Taxes: Raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% is expected to raise $730 billion over 10 years

Foreign Corporate Subsidiary Tax: A new global minimum tax on foreign subsidiaries of American corporations is estimated to raise $550 billion

Capital Gains Tax on Wealthy: Increasing income tax rates on capital gains for wealthy individuals is forecasted to raise $370 billion

Income Tax on Wealthy: Lifting the top individual tax rate back to 39.6% for households earning more than $400,000 per year is seen to bring in $110 billion

Besides the economy being supported by government spending, growth and appreciation in the housing market are contributing to GDP growth. The recently released housing data shows housing prices accelerating significantly above the peak levels last seen before the last financial crisis (see chart below).

Source: Calculated Risk

Although the economy appears to be on solid footing and stock prices have marched higher to new record levels, there are still plenty of potential factors that could derail the current bull market advance. For starters, increased debt and deficit spending could lead to rising inflation and higher interest rates, which could potentially choke off economic growth. Bad things can always happen when large financial institutions take on too much leverage (i.e., debt) and speculate too much (see also Long-Term Capital Management: When Genius Failed). The lesson from the latest, crazy blow-up (Archegos Capital Management) reminds us of how individual financial companies can cause billions in losses and cause ripple-through effects to the whole financial system. And if that’s not enough to worry about, you have rampant speculation in SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), Reddit meme stocks (e.g., GameStop Corp. – GME), cryptocurrencies, and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).

Successful investing requires a mixture of art and science – not everything is clear and you can always find reasons to be concerned. At Sidoxia Capital Management, we continue to find attractive opportunities as we strive to navigate through areas of excess speculation. At the end of the day, we remain disciplined in following our fundamental strategy and process that integrates the four key legs of our financial stool: corporate profits, interest rates, valuations, and sentiment (see also Don’t Be a Fool, Follow the Stool). As long as the balance of these factors still signal strength, we will remain confident in our outlook just like consumers and investors are currently.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (April 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in GME or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

April 1, 2021 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

GDP Figures & Election Jitters

Ever since the beginning of 2020, it’s been a tale of two cities. As renowned author Charles Dickens famously stated, “It was the best of times and worst of times.” The year started with unemployment at a “best of times” low level of 3.5% (see chart below) before coronavirus shutdown the economy during March when we transitioned to the “worst of times.”

Source: Statista

With the recent release of record-high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures of +33.1% growth in Q3 (vs. -31.4% in Q2), and a +49% stock market rebound from the COVID-19 lows of March, a debate has been raging. Is the re-opening economic rebound that has occurred a V-shaped recovery that will continue expanding, or is the recovery that has occurred since March a temporary dead-cat bounce?

Source: Business Insider

For many people, the ultimate answer depends on the outcome of the impending presidential election. Making matters worse are the polarized politics that are being warped, distorted, and amplified by social media (see Social Dilemma). Although the election jitters have many stock market participants on pins and needles, history reminds us that politics have little to do with the long-term direction of the stock market and financial markets. As the chart below shows, over the last century, stock prices have consistently gone up through both Democratic (BLUE) and Republican (RED) administrations.

Source: Yardeni.com

Even if you have trouble digesting the chart above, I repeatedly remind investors that political influence and control are always temporary and constantly changing. There are various scenarios predicted for the outcome of the current 2020 elections, including a potential “Blue Wave” sweep of the Executive Branch (the president) and the Legislative Branch (the House of Representatives and Senate). Regardless of whether there is a Blue Wave, Red Wave, or gridlocked Congress, it’s worth noting that the previous two waves were fleeting. Unified control of government by President Obama (2008-2010) and President Trump (2016-2018) only lasted two years before the Democrats and Republicans each lost 100% control of Congress (the House of Representatives flipped to Republican in 2010 and Democrat in 2018).

Even though Halloween is behind us, many people are still spooked by the potential outcome of the elections (or lack thereof), depending on how narrow or wide the results turn out. Despite the +49% appreciation in stock prices, stock investors still experienced the heebie-jeebies last month. The S&P 500 index declined -2.8% for the month, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite index fell -4.6% and -2.3%, respectively. It is most likely true that a close election could delay an official concession, but with centuries of elections under our belt, I’m confident we’ll eventually obtain a peaceful continuation or transition of leadership.

Regardless of whomever wins the presidential election, roughly half the voters are going to be unhappy with the results. For example, even when President Ronald Reagan won in a landslide victory in 1980 (Reagan won 489 electoral votes vs. 49 for incumbent challenger President Jimmy Carter), Reagan only won 50.8% of the popular vote. In other words, even in a landslide victory, roughly 49% of voters were unhappy with the outcome. No matter the end result of the approaching 2020 election, suffice it to say, about half of the voting population will be displeased.

Despite the likely discontent, the upcoming winner will be working with (or inheriting) an economy firmly in recovery mode, whether you are referencing, jobs, automobile sales, home sales, travel, transportation traffic, consumer spending, or other statistics. The Weekly Economic Index from the New York Federal Reserve epitomizes the strength of the V-shaped recovery underway (see chart below).

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

It will come as no surprise to me if we continue to experience some volatility in financial markets shortly before and after the elections. However, history shows us that these election jitters will eventually fade, and the tale of two cities will become a tale of one city focused on the fundamentals of the current economic recovery.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (November 2, 2020). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFS), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

November 2, 2020 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment


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