Trumponomy: Make the Economy Great Again?

Income Tax Cuts
Republicans want to simplify income tax brackets from 7 to 3 and allow everyone to pay less. It could be like an economic sugar rush. The question is: Will it turn into enough growth that it will help not hurt the national debt?

Corporate Taxes
Currently at 35 percent, a drop to 15 percent could be a shot of adrenaline to profits (according to The Wall Street Journal, with deductions, companies average 29 percent). There is also a plan to help corporations bring cash home from overseas. Do companies boost productivity or just spend on dividends and stock buybacks? Good for investors either way, but long-term we need productivity.

Infrastructure Spending
Trump promised a $500 billion stimulus, but more debt isn’t popular. Implementation will take some time and the actual budget may be smaller than promised (unless President Trump gets support from Democrats who have been working to pass infrastructure stimulus for years).

U.S. Debt
Americans are not watching this as closely as they were a couple years ago, but our debt is about to reach $20 trillion. If we ignore it, interest rates will rise and our debt will only get worse–Time to balance the budget?

 

The Promise of Prosperity

Americans want a strong country and growing economy. That much we agree on. Of all the promises we heard this election year, none may be more difficult to keep than the commitment to boost growth up to levels last seen decades ago.

Since 2009, the U.S. economy has increased at a rate of 2 percent. Many countries envy that number, but Americans expect more. Our increases were twice as big 20 years ago.

In all of human history I know of no other time with such miraculous growth as post World War II. We have come to accept boom times as normal.

From 1948 to 1973 the average economic output of an American worker doubled. That productivity trend continued until the early 2000s when it suddenly slowed.

prosperity

Consumers Carried the Economy
The “Great Recession” of 2008-2009 complicated things further by drastically altering Americans’ perception of stability and diminishing their tolerance for government debt.

This led to tighter limits on government spending, which has been a huge drag on economic growth. The federal government has cut spending 4 of the last 5 years. This is good short-term because it reduces debt. The long-term impact is less certain.

How much can our economy grow when the government is cutting spending? Who picks up the slack? Businesses have been hesitant to reinvest large amounts in long-term projects. So the responsibility for economic growth has fallen on the shoulders of the U.S. consumer.

Politicians Turned to Spending
Today, politicians and economists are calling for stimulus. What form this takes is yet to be seen, but the popularity of such an idea is rising. Both presidential candidates announced plans to increase government spending to improve infrastructure and stimulate an atmosphere of growth. Donald Trump plans to increase spending by $500 billion. (Hillary Clinton proposed bumping it up by $275 billion.)

Will Stimulus Work?
The answer for decades following the Great Depression was “yes.” The theory is that for every dollar the government spends it can boost the economy by several dollars—creating more wealth than was spent as the dollars circulate through the country.

It fell out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s. Now it’s back.

If stimulus is going to work then it should be concentrated on “fiscal multipliers.” These are the best places and they are often described as levers that can be pulled to actually create growth in the economy.

For stimulus to work it should be focused on the most effective area: infrastructure. Why?
1. Immediate creation of jobs
2. Jump in demand for construction materials
3. Greater efficiency for the entire economy
4. Investment in the future of America

Our bridges, airports, and freeway systems are in need of repair. Our electric grid is outdated and vulnerable as well. Technological advancements have redefined living. It may be time to apply some innovative American ingenuity to our infrastructure.

If there ever was a time that Americans could benefit from this stimulus it would be following a lack of spending—a situation we now find ourselves in.

 

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Subzero Rates Freeze Growth and Hold Back Your Portfolio

Crazy things are happening in the world! There is a chronic shortage of demand for goods in global economies. For years, governments have been fighting back—fighting back by dropping interest rates. Recently, rates overseas have fallen to subzero levels.

Negative rates—where lenders pay the borrowers—seemed unimaginable and foolish a few years ago. Now, they are beginning to feel like the new normal. How can individuals and countries flourish in such an environment? They can’t!

What is it like to live in a subzero-rate world?

1. The subzero world is so crazy that global interest rates are at their lowest level in 500 years of recorded history.1

2. The subzero world is so crazy that if you want the German government to borrow your money you have to pay! Hold that bond for ten years until it matures and the government promises to pay you back less than it borrowed.

3. The subzero world is so crazy that many homeowners in Denmark are no longer paying interest to banks for their mortgages. The banks are paying interest to them!

Hans Peter Christensen, a recipient of a check from his mortgage company in Denmark, said this after receiving his first payment: “My parents said I should frame it, to prove to coming generations that this ever happened.”2

The biggest borrowers in the world include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. The figure below shows how low these rates have become.

rates

Negative Rates Matter to Americans.
Low rates overseas make positive rates in the United States more attractive for investors, which pushes U.S. rates down as well. This makes it less expensive for us to take out a mortgage or a car loan. It creates opportunities for businesses to borrow and grow. On the surface, these low rates seem like a benefit.

Low Rates May Have Helped. Now They Hurt.
During the recession of 2008-2009, there was an economic emergency that required extraordinary effort to infuse calm and confidence.

The emergency is over. The economy should come off life support. The reluctance to move forward is now harming the very confidence it was meant to create.

Artificially low rates are also destroying natural incentives to borrow and lend.

Consumers and businesses do better when banks are healthy, but banks are not healthy. There is little profit to be made and a low incentive to offer loans when interest rates are so low. Why take the risk when the potential reward is so low?

Subzero and near-zero rates also encourage transactions that would not take place in a rational world. For example, many corporations now borrow just to pay dividends. Of the 500 largest companies in the country, 44 have paid more in dividends in the last year than their respective net income.3 This financial engineering helps investors now, but does nothing to strengthen a company or its employees.

End the Pessimism.
Despite all the positives in the economy, consumer confidence is low. Investor sentiment is terrible. Most Americans believe we still have not recovered from a recession that officially ended over six years ago.

Look around. Americans are in a good financial place. Most people who want to work have a job. Unemployment is at just 4.9 percent. In Salt Lake City, where SFS is located, that rate is just 3.6 percent.4

then-and-now

A Day of Reckoning Will Come.
The next financial scare could come after fantastic economic growth, leading to inflation and central banks would have to rapidly raise rates—shocking the economy. Or the storm could blow in from the opposite direction: economic slowdown.

If the Fed and other central banks don’t normalize rates now then there will be fewer options in the future to help keep the world economies going in a real emergency.

It’s Time to Begin Moving Back to Normal.
Central banks around the world should stop experimenting. The United States is strong enough to handle a more normal business environment. The Fed can do that by slowly bringing U.S. interest rates up.

The U.S. economy is not perfect, but it is good enough to handle borrowing one quarter of one percent higher. It could even help by sending a signal of confidence to the world—confident workers, businesses, and consumers.

Higher rates may cause the U.S. dollar to strengthen, and that could hurt American businesses that export. However, the United States has the best economy in the world and we are growing faster than any other developed country. Keeping our dollar artificially low may not be a good idea.

We can allow the dollar to rise a little as we bump up interest rates from their near-zero levels. This message of confidence may help increase demand worldwide—giving investors something to cheer about as well.

 

1. Bill Gross, “Negative Interest Rates a Supernova,” Janus Funds, June 2, 2016.
2. Charles Duxbury and David Gauthier-Villars, “Negative Rates Around the World,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2016.
3. Mike Bird, Vipal Mongaand, Aaron Kuriloff, “Dividends Eat Up Bigger Slice of Company Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2016.
4. Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.

Research by SFS. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

Is the Dollar in Danger?

The dollar has ruled supreme as the global reserve currency for over seven decades. It is the preferred means of payment, value, and reserve. As the most trusted currency on earth, it rewards Americans with lucrative privileges. While the dollar’s dominance is unlikely to last forever, a change would be difficult.

Dominant Dollar
The dollar’s source of power comes from trust and economics. We have a stable government a deep financial system. Against these benchmarks, other currencies fail. Our economic production represents 23 percent of global GDP.1 It is safer, easier, and less expensive to trade assets here than any other place on earth.

Profitable Privileges
The U.S. dollar is roughly 5 percent stronger than it would be if it were not the global reserve currency because foreign investors, corporations, and governments purchase dollars.2 This raises the value of our assets (real estate, stocks, etc.) as Americans and helps us enjoy a higher standard of living. Imported goods and overseas travel are especially more affordable. The impact of this wealth effect is estimated to be as high as 0.5 percent of GDP,2 which would be an increase of $900 billion for Americans this year.

In addition, almost 90 percent of world trading is done in dollars.3 This saves U.S. corporations money and lowers financial volatility.

The dollar’s status also increases demand for our government debt. According to Wikipedia, 63 percent of all reserves in the world are dollar-denominated debt. This demand lowers borrowing costs and saves our government an estimated half of one percent on interest.2

Greenback Drawback
In order to maintain the greenback’s place at the top, our government must borrow from and pay interest to everyone else. In addition, our strong dollar makes labor more expensive here. That is one of the reasons why jobs have been going overseas for decades.

Approximately 30 percent of S&P 500 companies get half their revenue from outside the United States. The strong dollar makes exports more expensive in foreign markets and may shave 0.4 percent from the U.S. economy this year.4

Challenging Change
Dethroning the dollar would be a process. It is not something that any group of individuals could change with a vote (Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried).

China is the world’s second largest economy. Should its yuan be considered a strong alternative? It is doubtful because the Chinese government wants a weak currency. It decided to lower the yuan’s value by 2 percent in August. This deliberate devaluation destroys trust, and no country has ever established the global currency through devaluation. This helps explain why the yuan is used in less than 3 percent of world trade while the dollar is used in 45 percent.5

Now What?
Extremely positive things are happening for the dollar and many experts are worried that the dollar may be too attractive. Between April 2014 and April 2015 the dollar appreciated 13 percent6 (a massive move for currency). Now, the Federal Reserve is conflicted over whether to raise rates because it may cause the dollar to strengthen even more.

The so called “experts” and conspiracy theorists will continue to beat their drums. No matter how logical their arguments appear, their poor predictions are meant to create fear.

Discussing the dollar’s status into the future and working hard to maintain its credibility is vital. If we do this, I believe it is safe to say that the days of the strong dollar will be with us for many, many years to come.

 

1. Derek Bacon, “Dominant and Dangerous,” The Economist, October 2015.
2. Richard Dobbs, David Skilling, Wayne Hu, Susan Lund, James Manyika, Charles Roxburgh, “An Exorbitant Privilege? Implications of Reserve Currencies for Competitiveness,” McKinsey & Company, December 2009.
3. Milton Ezrati, “Currencies: Yuan Wrong to Rule Them All,” Lord Abbett, November 2015.
4. Chris Matthews, “The Strong Dollar: Your Enemy or Friend?” Fortune, March 2015.
5. Fion Li, “Yuan Overtakes Yen as World’s Fourth Most-Used Payment Currency,” Bloomberg, October 2015.
6. Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.

Rising Rates Will Impact: Your Income Your Spending Your Investments

Federal Reserve (Fed) members are making plans to raise interest rates and it is going to affect your wallet! Individuals do not borrow from the Fed, so you may be wondering how it could impact you. The Fed’s rate increase will start economic ripples that are going to hit your income, your spending, and your investments.

The Fed
The Fed was established by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913. It has two objectives: seek maximum employment and maintain stable prices. (It is a highly sophisticated organization with over 300 Ph.D. economists.)

In simpler terms, the Fed is less like a surgical tool and more like a hammer. A hammer is blunt and its impact can be powerful. It doesn’t perform a lot of functions, but it is extremely useful for the right problems.

The Fed has power to perform a limited number of actions. It can strike hard and fast because it does not need congressional approval and its officials are not elected. The Fed is not focused on individuals as its actions have worldwide implications.

Why the Fed Changes Rates
The purpose of changing rates is to influence decisions that will help control unemployment and inflation.

In a slow economy: If spending decreases then companies become less profitable and may choose to layoff workers, which will further decrease spending and profitability. The Fed will try to reverse the cycle by lowering rates. When the Fed rate changes, other rates follow. This may encourage spending as it makes it cheaper to borrow for education, cars, homes, etc.

In a healthy economy: When the economy is thriving and the job market is good there is a lot of pressure on companies to raise wages. Confident consumers will spend more even if prices rise a little. When prices increase beyond a “healthy rate” of around two percent, the Fed gets worried. It may raise rates to decrease borrowing and spending.

Rates will Rise
Rates have been low since 2008 when the Fed brought short-term rates down near zero percent. Those who were able to borrow benefited from low interest rates. Right now the Fed is not worried about price inflation, but it does want to get rates back up to “normal.”

bag of money

Your Spending
The result will be higher rates when you take out a mortgage or get a loan for a new car. Anything with a variable rate, like some credit cards, will probably see an increase. Debt is going to get more expensive. Paying debt off and living within your means will be important.

Your Income
The labor market is improving. Many companies have announced plans to raise wages for workers, but the expected improvement has not yet hit. It’s coming!

briefcase

Wage growth was just around 2 percent in the last year and the Fed believes the country is headed towards 3.5 percent. This is good news for workers and it gives the Fed confidence to slowly raise rates to normal. However, if wage growth is too high the Fed will become uncomfortable and will really drop the hammer down—acting quickly, with force just to make sure prices don’t get out of control.

Your Investments
Back in 2013, Ben Bernanke, then Chairman of the Fed, suggested the Fed might end (taper) its stimulus. The stock and bond markets went crazy! The event even has a name: “The Taper Tantrum!” In the end, the Fed continued its stimulus.

The Fed is unlikely to catch investors by surprise when it finally does raise rates. Its members have been quite open about its plans and the economy is able to withstand a very gradual rise in rates.

percentage

Investors should expect more volatility, but in spite of the choppiness, the returns should still be positive. That’s what we have seen in the past.

Prepare Your Personal Economy
Make sure you are saving some income for rainy days even if it means cutting back on a little spending. Make sure the risk you are taking in your investments matches your ability and willingness to handle it. Finally, align your portfolios for the future.

Will the Fed hike rates in September? Will it be just 0.25 percent? How long will the Fed wait to make its next move and will it go too far too fast? The answers will be “data dependent,” a phrase the Fed members have been using lately. It will depend on U.S. economic growth, wage growth, and price inflation.

A gradual economic improvement will allow time to digest the news and act slowly—waiting months between each rate increase to see the impact. There are no signs of overheating for now. If that changes, the Fed is not going to sit idle. It would have to act. After all, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

 

*Research by SFS. Data from public sources. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is often considered to represent the U.S. market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based on market and other conditions, and should not be construed as a recommendation of any specific security or investment plan.

NASDAQ Come Back Why 2015 looks stronger than 2000

business roller coasterThe NASDAQ surpassed 5,000 on March 2, 2015. The last time this tech-heavy stock index hit this level was March 9, 2000. Those were exuberant investment days that would not last forever. Are we destined to repeat the past or is the stock market more stable this time?

Prior to June 1998, there is no record of a company having “.com” in its name. However, there was a dramatic change in the next 18 months as 95 companies changed their names to be “.com” related. One example was Computer Literacy, Inc. It changed its name to fatbrain.com in 1999.

Dr. Michael Cooper, now at the University of Utah, studied what happened to companies that changed their names in 1998 and 1999. He discovered those that had an Internet-related change in name experienced a 74 percent jump in value in just 10 days! This phenomenon was observed regardless of what the company did. Many did not seem to have anything to do with the Internet.1

Let’s go back to our example. In the 10 days surrounding fatbrain.com’s name change, the value of its stock popped a whopping 33 percent!2 Expectations were out of this world.

In 2000, investors celebrated what was then called “The Economy.” In those dot.com days the Internet was all that seemed to matter. Then the NASDAQ hit 5,000 and the exuberance reached a tipping point.

The index only stayed above 5,000 for two days before the bubble burst and a bear market began. By the time the NASDAQ hit bottom in 2002, it had lost more than 75 percent of its value.

In 2015, as the NASDAQ reached its old peak, there was much less celebration. In fact, it raised many questions. Is the market value too high? Is the current bull market too old? Is the economy strong enough to continue?

While some market measurements resemble the past, the foundation looks better now. Corporate profits are three times larger than they were when the NASDAQ first reached 5,000. Then, around 14 percent had profits over $50 million. Now, around 78 percent have surpassed that benchmark.

In 1999, less than 15 percent of companies going public even made a profit. Now, the market is largely dominated by more stable companies like Apple, which made over $44 billion in profit in one year.

Then, the average technology company had been in business only four years. Now, the average for these companies is closer to 13 years.

Bull markets don’t die of old age. The current bull market did turn six years old this month, which for bull markets is above average in age. In comparison, by January 2000 that bull market was over 9 years old. A major change will likely need a catalyst.

The U.S. economy is strong and getting stronger. In the last two years, oil production is up 3 percent globally, but up over 20 percent in the United States. This is pushing down gas prices and according to Bloomberg, a 10 cent drop in gas prices saves U.S. consumers roughly $1 billion. This is boosting confidence, spending, and savings in our country.

The coming year is likely to have its hiccups as investor attitudes shift suddenly and often. This emotional volatility will show up in the numbers as well.

For example, the Dow crossed the psychological level of 10,000 for the first time in 1999. It crossed that level 33 times before what may have been the last time in 2010. The NASDAQ may likewise revisit its historic breakthrough many more times.

Just remember, if you stay invested in a well-diversified portfolio, you should be less affected by the wild roller coasters, especially those focused in one sector like technology or energy.

A diversified portfolio also should perform better over the years. In fact, if you stuck with your well-diversified strategy you probably didn’t have to wait 15 years to get back to old levels. Your diversified portfolio has probably had better returns and reached numerous highs over the last 15 years.

This brings me back to fatbrain.com—a quick search on the Web produced no results for this once hot company!

(1) Michael Cooper, Orlin Dimitrov, and Raghavendra Rau, “A Rose.com By Any Other Name,” Journal of Finance, Dec 2001.
(2) Nick Wingfield, “It Can Become a Pain to Shift Your Name,” Wall Street Journal, March 29, 1999.
This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. One cannot invest directly in an index like the NASDAQ. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based on market and other conditions, and should not be construed as a recommendation of any specific security or investment plan. SFS is not affiliated with any companies mentioned above.

The Virtuous Cycle of Rising Prices

Imagine waking up tomorrow to discover gasoline prices have dropped in half. What if milk, eggs, and all your groceries cost less as well? Suddenly, your money would be worth more. Sounds great, right? It wouldn’t take long for the heavy weight of reality to hit you.

Consider how knowledge of tomorrow’s pricing might affect today’s behavior. Assuming no shortages, we would be crazy to buy today what would cost less in 24 hours. While falling prices (deflation) sound nice on the surface, they can have disastrous consequences.

Deflation's Destruction

Deflation has been present in most economic depressions in history, including the Great Depression. The initial causes may include productivity increases, oversupply of goods, or scarcity of money.
A rise in productivity has been occurring for centuries with greater education and technology. In fact, a U.S. worker today, on average, can produce twice as much as a worker in 1975 and 50 percent more than a worker in 1995! Outsourcing to cheaper foreign labor has a similar effect on productivity as technology.

Supply of goods fluctuates, especially with food and energy. For example, a drought in 2012 led to a rise in grain prices like corn, which made feed cattle more expensive in 2013, which led to higher dairy and beef prices in 2014 (see Price Changes table).

Price Changes

Scarcity of money is where the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) comes in. The Fed encourages low unemployment and low inflation by managing the money supply.

The Fed cannot control the weather in the Midwest, extract more oil from Saudi Arabia, or raise the minimum wage in China. But the Fed will do everything it can to avoid deflation. Since 2008, it has spent over three trillion dollars to stabilize falling prices.

Rising prices are normal in a healthy economy. The 50 year average for inflation is 4.1 percent. This reasonable rate encourages spending and creates a virtuous cycle of economic growth (see Inflation’s Value graphic).

Inflation's Value

All the current numbers in this cycle are good, but below average. Over the last twelve months inflation has been 1.7 percent, wage increases averaged 2.8 percent, and consumer spending grew 3.6 percent.
The most recent U.S. growth rate showed an increase of 4.2 percent. That is a great number. If it is followed by another increase in another category like wages the growth cycle could pick up speed. The result could help the current bull market continue.

Definitions

3 Myths of the Market

Every year we find reasons to question the future prosperity of America. We wonder whether investors’ prospects are dimming. Last year, our minds were occupied with government slowdowns and shutdowns. This year, we are more focused on the question, “Has the stock market come too far too fast?” While the problems are real, they should not derail us from our plans. Most difficulties are overcome and the myths of the market are not true. Keeping proper perspective will help us make better financial decisions.

Myth #1: Investing is rigged
The U.S. stock markets are the most efficient in the world. All investors have the potential to build their wealth as they participate in it. The longer we invest in a diversified portfolio, the more likely we are to have success.

There is a related question, “Is investing like gambling?” The clear answer is no. When we invest we purchase part of a company (stock) or a promissory note (bond). We become owners of these and we have rights to future cash flows that may come from them. The risks and outcomes are determined by the free market. If a company is successful then all investors that own it have the potential to benefit.

This does not mean that markets are perfect. There have always been some who try to take advantage of others. However, investors become their own worst enemies when they make poor financial decisions. Saving too little and trading too often are two of the most common mistakes. Save sufficiently and invest wisely to attain your goals.

American Manufacturing

Myth #2: America is broke
The United States is in better shape now than it has been for many years. The unemployment rate is down to 6.3 percent and consumer confidence is up. Workers are expecting raises, and according to surveys of executives it looks like it may actually happen this year. Household debt is at record-low levels and corporations have more cash than ever.

Some people may argue that we don’t make anything in this country. This is false. U.S. manufacturing is up 22 percent since 2009 and near record levels. We have an abundance of natural resources, educated workers, and innovation. We have laws to protect and promote business.

Worries over ballooning government debt (over $17 trillion) are diminishing for now. The expanding U.S. economy has led to greater tax revenue (up 8 percent) and a lower deficit ($306 billion). These numbers may not sound great. We still have a long way to go to reach a surplus so we can pay off some debt, but these are the best numbers since 2007. The future appears brighter.

Myth #3: A market crash is imminent
Herbert Stein famously said, “If something cannot go on forever it will stop.” We all know that when the market stops climbing, it can be painful. Two stock-market crashes in the last 15 years are still vivid in our memories. However, just because stock prices have increased doesn’t mean a crash is coming this year.

What can we expect?
The Dow Jones index had double-digit increases in 2012 and 2013. This has happened more frequently than one might think. In the last 99 years, returns of this magnitude have occurred back to back 22 times. What happens in the year that follows two positive, double-digit years? The average return is a positive 5 percent. That would be a reasonable expectation for 2014.

When we examine critical factors for a healthy market, we see more positives than negatives right now. Of course, there are no guarantees.

Impact of War on Stock Markets

War Graphic

As the Sochi Olympics ended, many eyes turned to the other side of the Black Sea and the threat of war in Ukraine. With each successive turn of good or bad events, our U.S. stock markets1 seem to react in like manner. That begs the question, what impact do wars have on stock markets, and how should an individual react?

To see the impact of war, let’s first examine the most recent war that started on American soil. The impression that many people have is that the recession of the early 2000s started with the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. The reality is that stocks were already on a downward trend when September 11th happened. Yes stocks dropped sharply in the 10 days following that awful event, but once America grasped the reality of the situation, stocks rebounded, recovering the losses directly related to the shock of that event.2

There is a similar pattern for each conflict involving the United States. “In 14 shocks dating (back) to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the median one-day decline has been 2.4%. The shocks, which also include the September 11th terror attacks and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, lasted eight days, with total losses of 7.4%…The market recouped its losses 14 days later.”3

Similar patterns of decline occurred during several Middle Eastern conflicts such as Desert Storm in 1991, the Iraq War in 2003, and the Syrian Conflict in 2011. Leading up to each of these events, the market dropped, but recovery happened shortly thereafter.4

Mark Luschini, the Chief Investment Strategist for Janney Montgomery, put it this way, “It’s not that it’s welcome, but once it gets underway, you can quantify what the situation might look like. When you’re left in the dark about when it will start, what will be the result, it gives investors trepidation.”5

Short-term shocks to the system cause short-term consequences for the stock market and the economy. On the other hand, major periods of conflict can have more lasting effects on the economy and the stock market.

One of the most harmful economic effects of war is a supply shock. A major shock in the supply of goods or labor can severely impact economic productivity. Sources of these setbacks include economic sanctions, manufacturing destruction, infrastructure damage, etc. This has not been a factor of major concern within the United States as it has been a long time since there has been a war fought on American soil.

Public opinion supports the belief that war and its associated spending creates positive economic outcomes for the U.S. economy. This is mostly due to the higher GDP growth that was exhibited during conflict periods like World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The only outliers have been the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars.6

While war tends to generate some positive economic benefits, it is more of a mixed bag for stock markets. “During WWII stock markets did initially fall but recovered before its end, during the Korean War there were no major corrections while during the Vietnam War and afterwards stock markets remained flat from the end of 1964 until 1982.”7

Another typical impact of major conflicts is inflation. This is due to the increase in government spending through various financing methods. “While inflation may be good for reducing debt burdens, high inflation has many harmful effects, such as wealth redistribution and erosion of international competitiveness.”8

Short-term conflicts typically have a short-lived impact on the stock market. As such they shouldn’t change an individual’s investment philosophy or cause one to “abandon ship.”

A more prolonged conflict may cause an individual to take a more judicious approach by reevaluating his or her goals and making adjustments based on the current market environment. As always, it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced investment professional that can help you plan for and navigate your own voyage through our uncertain world.

 

Learn more about Smedley Financial>

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1. Research by SFS. Please see stock market disclosure at the bottom of page three.

2. Adam Shell, “What Wall Street is Watching in Ukraine Crisis,” USA Today, 3/3/2014

3. Adam Shell, “What Wall Street is Watching in Ukraine Crisis,” USA Today, 3/3/2014

4. Chris Isidore, “Impact of War On Stocks and Oil,” CNN Money, 9/3/2013

5. Chris Isidore, “Impact of War On Stocks and Oil,” CNN Money, 9/3/2013

6. Michael Shank, “Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy,” Institute for Economics & Peace, 2011

7. Michael Shank, “Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy,” Institute for Economics & Peace, 2011

8.Michael Shank, “Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy,” Institute for Economics & Peace, 2011

Escape Velocity: What Will Fuel Our Economic Breakout?

Escape Velocity is simply the speed required to escape gravity’s pull. An object on earth’s surface would need an initial speed of 6.96 miles per second (Mach 34) to get out of the gravitational range of the planet.

As we continue to recover from the 2008 recession the question looms; “What will it take to escape the unseen gravitational pull of what is called the new normal economy?”

Slow economic growth has given Americans a feeling that the economy is destined to grow at 1 to 2 percent. The decades-long average prior to the 2008 recession was 3 to 4 percent.

Liftoff

Let us be clear. This article focuses on the economy, not the stock market. The market as measured by the S&P 500 formed a bottom 5 years ago. That index has reached around 50 all-time highs in the last 12 months. From January 1, 2009 to January 1, 2014 the S&P 500 went up over 100 percent.

Should it bother investors that the market has been making new highs? No, making new highs is normal for American stocks. Should we worry that five years is too long for a bull market? No, it is a healthy sign to have long periods of growth interrupted by smaller drops.

The question is “How long can the bull market in stocks last if the new normal continues?” Furthermore, what kind of rocket fuel will propel this economy beyond its current trajectory?

As the Federal Reserve stimulus winds down, something else will have to take its place. The U.S. economy needs to transition from a government-induced to a consumer-driven expansion.

Can consumers afford to spend any more? It has taken a long time, but unemployment levels are getting closer to pre-recession levels (currently 6.7 percent). Household debt payments are at an all time low as a percent of income, which is also really good. Unfortunately, the average income of American households is one economic measure showing no improvement over the last 5 years.

Household income may be the most important ingredient to current growth. It may improve soon. As unemployment numbers get stronger, the labor market will tighten. Employers will raise pay for their workers. When that begins to happen in the U.S. workforce, consumers will finally have more spending power to propel the economy.

While stock returns have been great in recent years, they cannot rise forever without better economic growth. The gravitational pull of the new normal is just too strong. Keep an eye on improving income in the United States. It may fuel the next breakout.

As the Sochi Olympics ended, many eyes turned to the other side of the Black Sea and the threat of war in Ukraine. With each successive turn of good or bad events, our U.S. stock markets1 seem to react in like manner. That begs the question, what impact do wars have on stock markets, and how should an individual react?

To see the impact of war, let’s first examine the most recent war that started on American soil. The impression that many people have is that the recession of the early 2000s started with the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. The reality is that stocks were already on a downward trend when September 11th happened. Yes stocks dropped sharply in the 10 days following that awful event, but once America grasped the reality of the situation, stocks rebounded, recovering the losses directly related to the shock of that event.2

There is a similar pattern for each conflict involving the United States. “In 14 shocks dating (back) to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the median one-day decline has been 2.4%. The shocks, which also include the September 11th terror attacks and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, lasted eight days, with total losses of 7.4%…The market recouped its losses 14 days later.”3

Similar patterns of decline occurred during several Middle Eastern conflicts such as Desert Storm in 1991, the Iraq War in 2003, and the Syrian Conflict in 2011. Leading up to each of these events, the market dropped, but recovery happened shortly thereafter.4
Mark Luschini, the Chief Investment Strategist for Janney Montgomery, put it this way, “It’s not that it’s welcome, but once it gets underway, you can quantify what the situation might look like. When you’re left in the dark about when it will start, what will be the result, it gives investors trepidation.”5

Short-term shocks to the system cause short-term consequences for the stock market and the economy. On the other hand, major periods of conflict can have more lasting effects on the economy and the stock market.

One of the most harmful economic effects of war is a supply shock. A major shock in the supply of goods or labor can severely impact economic productivity. Sources of these setbacks include economic sanctions, manufacturing destruction, infrastructure damage, etc. This has not been a factor of major concern within the United States as it has been a long time since there has been a war fought on American soil.

Public opinion supports the belief that war and its associated spending creates positive economic outcomes for the U.S. economy. This is mostly due to the higher GDP growth that was exhibited during conflict periods like World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The only outliers have been the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars.6

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While war tends to generate some positive economic benefits, it is more of a mixed bag for stock markets. “During WWII stock markets did initially fall but recovered before its end, during the Korean War there were no major corrections while during the Vietnam War and afterwards stock markets remained flat from the end of 1964 until 1982.”7

Another typical impact of major conflicts is inflation. This is due to the increase in government spending through various financing methods. “While inflation may be good for reducing debt burdens, high inflation has many harmful effects, such as wealth redistribution and erosion of international competitiveness.”8

Short-term conflicts typically have a short-lived impact on the stock market. As such they shouldn’t change an individual’s investment philosophy or cause one to “abandon ship.”

A more prolonged conflict may cause an individual to take a more judicious approach by reevaluating his or her goals and making adjustments based on the current market environment. As always, it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced investment professional that can help you plan for and navigate your own voyage through our uncertain world.

*Research by SFS. Data is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is often considered to represent the U.S. market. One cannot invest directly in an index Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based on market and other conditions, and should not be construed as a recommendation of any specific security or investment plan.