The Deleveraging Era Is Over, Growth Is Coming Back

October 30, 2017, 4:00pm EST                                           Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr

BR caricatureSince the election, almost a year ago, we’ve talked about the great passing of the torch, from a monetary policy-driven global economic recovery (which proved dangerously weak and shallow) to a fiscal stimulus-driven recovery (which finally gives us a chance to return to trend growth).

Now, almost a year in, policy execution on the fiscal stimulus front is moving. The Fed has hiked rates three times. In the past week, the ECB has signaled the end of QE in Europe is coming. And this Thursday the Bank of England is expected to raise rates for the first time in a decade.

Again, if you can block out the day-to-day noise, this is all confirming the exit of the post-crisis deleveraging era of the past decade – it’s all playing out fairly close to script.

With that, I want to revisit my note from early January of this year, which argues the case for this “passing of the torch” and emphasizes the value of having some bigger picture perspective…

From my Market Perspectives piece: JANUARY 18, 2017

“Two weeks ago, in my daily Market Perspectives note, I talked about the five reasons, even at Dow 20,000, that stocks look extraordinarily cheap as we head into 2017.

Today I want to talk a bit more about the idea that the timing is right for a pop in economic growth.

For the past ten years, we’ve heard experts pontificate about ‘what inning we’re in,’ during the crisis era. I think there are good reasons to believe the game is over, and it was ended on election night–that was the catalyst.The policy responses and regime shift have more to do with the evolution of the global financial crisis and human psychology, than it does with the character behind it all.

I want to focus on a study from Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff – the two economists that laid out the script, back in 2008, for precisely what the world has experienced over the past ten years. Fortunately, Bernanke was a believer in it. That’s why the Fed kept its foot on the gas, even in the face of a lot of scrutiny from people that blamed the Fed on extending the crisis.

Reinhart and Rogoff studied eight centuries of financial crises and they found striking commonalities in the aftermath. They found that financial crises tend to lead to sovereign debt crises. And sovereign debt crises tend to be contagious. Clearly, we’ve seen it.

Reinhart went on to look at the 15 severe financial crises since World War II and found that they were typically driven by credit bubbles. Check.

Importantly, they found that the credit bubble typically took as long to unwind (or de-lever) as it took to build. And the deleveraging period tends to mean ultra-slow economic activity as consumers, businesses and governments are paying down debt, not spending. And because of this, the research suggested that throughout this ten-year deleveraging period we should expect: 1) economic growth will trend at lower levels than pre-crisis growth, 2) housing prices will remain anywhere from 20% to 50% below peak levels and 3) unemployment will hover around 5% higher than pre-crisis levels. Check, check and check.

In the current case, Reinhart and Rogoff said the credit bubble was built over about a decade. That means we all should all have expected a decade long deleveraging period.

Now, with that, you can mark the top in the bubble as the 2006 housing top, or in 2007 when we the first big mortgage company and Bear Stearns hedge fund failed, or 2008, when consumer credit peaked. We’re somewhere in the middle of this window now and major turning points in markets tend to come with significant events. It’s a fair argument to make that the Trump election was a significant event for the world. With that, we may find that the crisis period officially ended with the election, when the history books look back on this current period of time.’

So that was my take back in January. It’s not easy to watch the process play out. It can be slow and ugly. But we’re seeing the reaction in stocks to this thesis – now at 23k in the DJIA. And we’re getting some momentum building on the policy making side that further supports this structural turning point is here (or has been here).

Join our Billionaire’s Portfolio subscription service today to get your portfolio in line with the most influential investors in the world, and hear more of my actionable political, economic and market analysis. Click here to learn more.