May 1, 2020
So, let's talk about the expectations that have been set for the reopening of the economy.
I think it's fair to say that the policymakers and the government officials have set some very conservative expectations. If fact, I would argue that it leans more toward pessimistic.
And just as we evaluate the probable outcomes for markets, based on the way sentiment is leaning, we can also evaluate probably outcomes for the economy.
And after being in the business of markets for 24 years, I can tell you that the best trading opportunities are found in situations where sentiment is heavily leaning in one direction or another – and/or when the expectations bar has been set at an extreme level (either overly optimistic, or overly pessimistic). These are opportunities to bet against sentiment, because these situations set up for the element of surprise. And with surprise we tend to see sentiment violent swing from extreme levels.
I think we are set up for this swing in economic sentiment. Public officials have set the bar very low on expectations of getting back to normal life. And they've set the game plan accordingly for the re-opening of businesses – slow, and in stages. And the broad belief is that the behavior of people will follow this very conservative path.
This is set up for a surprise, related to how both businesses and consumers behave. And I suspect we're going to get it.
Once people are out of the house, returning to some day-to-day life and interactions, I suspect the life-learned patterns and behaviors won't be changed after just two months of sitting at home. I suspect we will all slip back into normal behaviors sooner rather than later, and possibly very soon – especially if hospitalization rates in the coming weeks are stable to lower. If that's the case, it will be a “rip the band-aid off” scenario for the economy, and a return to normalcy.
If that’s the scenario, we may see very quickly how a big bounceback in demand will overwhelm supply, following two months of supply disruption and production stoppages. That would be the first signal that inflation is coming.