January 2, 2017, 4:00pm EST
Happy New Year! We’re off to what will be a very exciting year for markets and the economy. And make no mistake, there will be profound differences in the world this year, with the inauguration of a new, pro-growth U.S. President, at a time where the world desperately needs growth.
I’ve talked a lot about the “Trump effect.” Clearly, when you come in slashing the corporate tax rate, creating incentives for trillions of dollars of capital to come home, and eliminating overhead and hurdles associated with regulation, you’ll get hiring, you’ll get spending, you’ll get investment and you’ll get growth.
But there’s more to it. Ray Dalio, one of the richest, best and brightest investors in the world has said, there is a clear shift in the environment, “from one that makes profit makers villains with limited power, to one that makes them heroes with significant power.”
The latter has been diminished over the past 10 years.
Clearly, we entered the past decade in an economic and structural mess. But while monetary policy makers were doing everything in their power (and then some) to avert the apocalypse and, later, fuel a recovery, it was being undone by law makers and a lack of fiscal support, swinging the pendulum too far in the direction of punishment and scapegoating.
With that, despite the continued wealth creation of the 1% over the past decade, and the widening of the inequality gap, the power of the wealth creators has been diminished in the crisis period – certainly, the public’s favor toward the rich has diminished. And most importantly, the incentives for creating value and creating wealth have been diminished.
With all of the nuances of change that are coming, and the many opinions on what it all means, that statement by billionaire Ray Dalio might be the most simple and clear point made.
Another good point that has been made by Dalio, as he’s reflected on the “Trump effect.” It’s the element that economists and analysts can’t predict, and can’t quantify. The prospects of the return of “animal spirits.” This is what has been destroyed over the past decade, driven primarily by the fear of indebtedness (which is typical of a debt crisis) and mis-trust of the system.
All along the way, throughout the recovery period, and throughout a tripling of the stock market off of the bottom, people have continually been waiting for another shoe to drop. The breaking of this emotional mindset appears to finally be underway. And that gives way to a return of animal spirits, which haven’t been calibrated in all of the forecasts for 2017 and beyond.
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November 17, 2016, 4:30pm EST
As the Trump rally continues across U.S. stocks, the dollar, interest rates and commodities, there are some related stories unfolding in other key markets I want to discuss today.
The Fed: Janet Yellen was on Capitol Hill today talking to Congress. As suspected, she continues to build expectations for a December rate hike (which is nearly 100% priced in now in the markets). And she did admit that the economic policy plans of the Trump administration could alter their views on inflation — but only “as it (policy) comes.” I think it’s safe to say the Fed will be moving rates up at a quicker pace than the thought just a month ago. But also remember, from Bernanke’s suggestion in August, Yellen has said that she thinks it’s best to be behind the curve a bit on inflation — i.e. let the economy run hotter than they would normally allow to ensure the economic rut is left in the rear view mirror. That Fed viewpoint should support the momentum of a big spending package.
The euro: The euro has been falling sharply since the Trump win, for two reasons. First, the dollar has been broadly strong, which on a relative basis makes the euro weaker (in dollar terms). Secondly, the vote for change in the America (like in the UK and in Greece, last year) is a threat to the euro zone, the European Union and the euro currency. With that, we have a referendum in Italy coming December 4th, and an election in France next year, that could follow the theme of the past year — voting against the establishment. That vote could re-start the clock on the end of the euro experiment. And that would be very dangerous for the global financial system and the global economy. The government bond markets would be where the threat materializes in the event of more political instability in Europe, but we’ve already seen some of this movie before. And that’s why the ECB came to the rescue in 2012 and vowed to do whatever it takes to save the euro (i.e. they threatened to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds in troubled countries to keep interest rates in check and therefore those countries solvent). With that, the events ahead are less unpredictable than some may think.
The Chinese yuan: As we know, China’s currency is high on the priority list of the Trump administrations agenda. The Chinese have continued to methodically weaken their currency following the U.S. elections, moving it lower 10 consecutive days to an eight year low. This has been the trend of the past two years, aggressively reversing course on the nine years of concessions they’ve made. This looks like it sets up for a showdown with the Trump administration, but as history shows, they tend to take their opportunities, weakening now, so they can strengthen it later heading into discussions with a new U.S. government. Still, in the near term, a weaker yuan looked like a positive influence for Chinese stocks just months ago — now it looks more threatening, given the geopolitical risks of trade tensions.
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November 14, 2016, 4:45pm EST
We talked last week about the Trump effect on stocks. With a new President promising aggressive growth polices and a supportive Congress in place to make it happen, the Trump plan is now being coined as Trumponomics.
As we discussed last week, the markets are reflecting this hand-off, from a Fed driven economy to a pro-growth government driven economy, positively — pricing in a period of hot growth. And it couldn’t come at a better time — in fact, it may come at the perfect time.
The Fed has been able to manufacture stability but not demand and inflation. Fiscal stimulus is designed to fill that void — to boost aggregate demand and inflation. That’s why the bond market has shifted gears so dramatically, now reflecting a world with a trillion dollar infrastructure spend on the table, tax cuts, deregulation and incentives to get $2.5 trillion of U.S. corporate capital repatriated. Prior to last week, despite all of the best efforts from global central banks, and a Fed that was telegraphing a removal of emergency policies, the bond market was reflecting a world that was in depression, with the 10-year yield well below 2% in the U.S. and negative rates throughout much of the world. Today the U.S. 10 year traded above 2.25%, returning to levels we saw last December, when the Fed made its first post-crisis rate hike.
As we’ve discussed, growth has a way of solving a lot of problems, including our debt problem. Politicians and economists love to scare people by emphasizing the enormity of our debt (close to $20 trillion). But our debt size is all relative — relative to the size of our economy, and relative to what’s going on in the rest of the world.
Take a look at this table…
| General Government Gross Debt as % of GDP
Source: Billionaire’s Portfolio, TradingEconomics.com
You can see, in a major economic downturn, debt tends to rise. And it has for everyone. The downturn has been global. And the rise in debt has been global.
The fears that a big debt load will lead to a dumping of the dollar, hyper-inflation and runaway interest rates don’t fit in this picture of a broadly weak recovery from a paralyzing global debt bust. Coming out of the worst global recession since World War II, inflation hasn’t been the problem. It’s been deflation. Inflation will be a concern when the structural issues are on the mend, employment is robust, confidence is high and the real economy is working. That hasn’t happened. But an aggressive and targeted government spending plan can finally start changing that dynamic.
And the markets are telling us, an inflationary environment is welcomed – it comes with signs of life.
Gold is the widely-loved inflation hedge. And gold isn’t rising out of concerns of overindebtedness. It’s falling hard in the past week, in favor of growth.
With this in mind, we may very well be entering an incredible era for investing – after a long slog. And an opportunity for average investors to make up ground on the meager wealth creation and retirement savings opportunities of the past decade, or more. For help, follow me in our Billionaire’s Portfolio, where you look over my shoulder as I follow the world’s best investors into their best stocks. Our portfolio is up 16% this year. That’s 2.5 times the performance of the broader stock market. Join me here.